6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs if tie Commonwealth Government is in negotiation with the Government of New South. Wales, or of any other State, regarding a proposal by the Government of New South Wales to acquire the wheat of that State. Has the Minister made inquiries as to the effect, if any, that such action by the Government of New South Wales must have in interfering with the supplies of other States, and infringing the provisions of the Constitution relating to the maintenance of Inter-State Free Trade?
– The Government has not entered into negotiations with any State Government regarding the acquisition of wheat. All I know of the proposals of the Government of New South Wales has been learnt from the newspapers. If the Government of New South Wales buys or takes the wheat of the State, it will have the right, I suppose, to say that that wheat shall not pass out of the State; but, as the question is a legal one, I am not competent to deal with it.
– In the event of negotiations between this Government and the Government of New South Wales regarding the seizure of New South Wales’ wheat, will the Prime Minister, before finality is arrived at, inform this Parliament of the nature of the negotiations, and let us know what is proposed to be done?
– If the Government thinks the matter of sufficient importance, it will do what the honorable member aska.
– If the negotiations are’ likely to result in the fixing of a certain price to producers, will the Prime Minister inform this Parliament of’ what is proposed before taking definite action?
– I have the greatest doubt whether the Commonwealth Government has the right to fix prices. From what I have heard from the other side, I gather that we have not. Therefore, I cannot give an answer to the question.
– It has been stated here, and in the press, that the Government of New South Wales proposes to acquire all the wheat produced in the State during the coming harvest, and to retain it within the State. In view of a possible infringement of the Constitution regarding the maintenance of- InterState Free Trade, does the Prime Minister think that the people of one State should be assisted with’ the money of the people of the whole of Australia to do what is proposed ? Several of the States, New South Wales amongst them, have applied to the Commonwealth for financial assistance, and have received it. The buying up of all the wheat now in sight ‘in New South Wales will require the expenditure of a considerable sum of money.
– This Government agreed to lend to the New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania State Governments £18,000,000 to enable them to proceed with public works, and thus to prevent unemployment, but the Commonwealth cannot interfere with the exercise of the powers of a State which is acting within its own sphere. If Commonwealth interests are interfered with, this Government will take action.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that bond fide contracts have been entered into by Victoria for the purchase of wheat in New South Wales? Will the right honorable gentleman, if the matter comes under his notice, take steps to protect the interests cf these purchasers?
– I am not aware that contracts of the kind mentioned have been made, and it is not my business to become acquainted with such facts. If Commonwealth laws are infringed, it will be the duty of the Government to see that the interests affected are protected, so far as our Executive powers can protect them.
– I ask the Minister of Home Affairs if the Government has yet reconsidered its decision not to proceed with the matter of the competitive designs for buildings for the Federal Capital? If not, when will the matter be reconsidered?
– The Government lias not yet come to a decision on the matter.
– The Minister gave me that answer yesterday. What I desire to know is when the Government proposes to reconsider the matter. The Minister told me upon a previous occasion that it would be done at an early date?
– It will be done at an early date, but I am not in a position to say when.
– There are many country telephone propositions whose prospects of financial return are not regarded by the Department as warranting their construction under the regulations. Such propositions are often undertaken .privately. Where that is done, will the Postmaster-General make available the necessary material, such as wire, insulators, spindles, instruments, &c, at cost price?
– The matter will have consideration. All construction must be under the control of the Department.
– Have steps been taken to meet a far-reaching want in country districts, the simplification of telephone construction, with a view to the reduction of cost, so that more places can be linked together by telephone than is now possible under the stereotyped, costly methods of the Department?
– I do not know to what the honorable member refers. All steps are being taken to make our lines as effective and as economical as possible.
– Can the Prime Minister tell us when we are likely to adjourn for the Christmas holidays? Will he say - so that those of us who represent big electorates may be able to make arrangements for the coming year - whether we are to re-assemble after Christmas for a Tariff session?
– I am not able to speak definitely yet, but my view is that Parliament should adjourn in the early middle of December, and re-assemble in the New Year to deal with urgent and important business. There might be a holiday of, say, two months.
– As Great Britain, with an adult male population of 11,000,00C, is sending about 2,000,000 troops to the front, and Canada, with an adult male population of about 2,000,000, is sending, or has offered 150,000 men, I ask the Prime Minister if he considers the Australian contribution of 40,000 men sufficient. It is only one-sixth proportionally of the British contribution, and only one-fourth of the Canadian contribution. Does the right honorable gentleman consider that we are doing our part as an integral portion of the Empire ?
– The policy of this Government is that as many men shall be sent as may be needed.
– Why not promise to send a definite number ?
– An unlimited promise has been made. I invite honorable members generally, and the honorable member in particular, to ascertain the facts before comparing other countries with ours.
– Has the Minister of Defence noticed in this morning’s newspaper cables a statement that a certain number of the members of the Expeditionary Forces of Canada have been rejected because they are of Austrian or German descent?
– Not descent - birth.
– In view of this fact, will the Defence Department make inquiries as to how many men of these nationalities are in the camp of the Expeditionary Forces of Australia at the present time, so as to prevent the possibility of their rejection by the Imperial war authorities ?
– I shall bring the question under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
– I ask the Prime Minister to point out any inaccuracy in the statement of the question put to him a little while ago, or, in the absence of any inaccuracy, to withdraw the reflection he made upon me.
– The honorable member made a statement regarding the number of troops that was to be sent to the front by other Dominions, and I asked him to make sure of his facts before he instituted comparisons to the disadvantage of the Commonwealth.
– Can the Assistant Minister of Defence give the House any assurance as to when the Government is likely to bring down a Bill to make provision for the relatives of those who have gone, and are going abroad to serve with the Allied Forces?
– Almost immediately.
– Is it a fact that the Expeditionary Force being raised in Western Australia is to be transferred to Melbourne for training ? Does the Assistant Minister think that such a step is desirable, seeing that there is a branch of the Military Forces in Western Australia, and that the removal of the Expeditionary Force for such a purpose will be resented by the people of the State?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Minister, and obtain a reply.
– Will the Prime Minister, who, as head of the Government, is primarily responsible for the Defence of Australia, tell the House definitely, at the earliest possible moment, what he and his Government have in mind regarding future contributions of troops and munitions of war? We get nothing but vague statements; and the declaration about “ the last man, and the last shilling “ means absolutely nothing.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the question.
– Nobody worried the honorable member for Parramatta with such questions when he was Minister of Defence !
– I hope I am not worrying anybody now.
– Order ! Will the honorable member ask his question?
– Perhaps it would be better for me to move the adjournment of the House, and say a word or two about the matter.
– I point out that the honorable member cannot move the adjournment of the House unless he informs me in writing of his intention to do so.
– In a cable in last Monday’s Age it was stated that in the Supplementary Estimates for Canada provision is being made for raising 100,000 troops.
-Order ! A practice has grown, almost since the inception of the Federal Parliament, of founding questions on newspaper reports and rumours, and this is not at all in accordance “with parliamentary practice and procedure. While every reasonable latitude may be allowed, I have to intimate that I shall, if the practice be continued, take very strong steps, similar to those taken by my predecessor, to prevent the time of the House being thus occupied.
– I presume that it is competent to quote news from overseas as the foundation for a question, and I shall put the matter in another way. In the newspaper cables from overseas this week it is stated that the Canadian Government are providing in their Estimates for sending 100,000 men to the front if the war lasts for twelve months, and for increasing that number to 150,000, with further regular supplies, should the war continue longer. Does the Prime Minister challenge that statement, and declare it is inaccurate ?
– ‘The honorable member is founding a question on what may or may not be true; and if such a course were permitted questions could be founded on almost every cable that arrives. I ask the honorable member not to persist in asking such questions, or something will have to be done to curtail the practice.
– I desire to avoid moving the adjournment of the House, because I am sure my action would be misinterpreted, and I wish it to be understood that everything I say or do in this connexion has no hostile intent whatever. But we ought to know whether the Government have in their mind anything definite regarding the future conduct of the war. Will the Prime Minister, at the earliest possible moment, make a definite statement to the House and the country, not as to “ the last shilling and the last man,” but as to whether it is intended to translate these intentions into the concrete form of numbers of troops and quantities of munitions ? The information is due to the country.
– The Government are taking every step to provide for the training of an unlimited number of recruits that may offer. Financial and other provision is being made to enable us to send contingent after contingent - as many as are necessary, and more than are asked for.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Defence take into his immediate consideration, and let us, at the earliest moment, have the Minister’s decision as to the advisableness of continuous training of Artillery Batteries, with a view of their attaining some proficiency?
– The honorable member brought this matter under my notice last week, and I have to inform him that the suggestion will be adopted.
– Has the Prime Minister observed in to-day’s newspaper a report of the reply by Mr. Griffith, a Cabinet Minister of New South Wales, to a deputation which asked that relief works might be established at the Barrier? The Minister is reported to have said that, in his opinion, single men should not apply for employment on relief works, but should enlist for the front, where they could fight for the principles of Democracy. Is that the attitude which the Federal Government are going to take up?
– I do not think that the question is such a one that I ought to answer. I have not seen the newspaper report referred to, but if the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper he shall receive an answer. As to the attitude of this Government compared with that of any other Government, I have already told the House what we have done, and what we propose to do.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether any part of the £18,000,000, which it is proposed to lend to the States, is for redemption purposes, or whether it is intended solely for public works in Australia ?
– The Commonwealth has been able to raise £18,000,000 through the Imperial Government. We hope to be able to finance our war expenditure out of our own resources, and to be able to lend this £18,000,000 to the States to enable them to proceed with their several public works policies. None of it is intended for redemption purposes.
– Can the Prime Minister or Mr. Speaker inform the House who is responsible for the hanging of the cartoons in the Queen’s Hall, and how much has been expended on them? Honorable members seem amused, but I am informed that the cost has been some thousands of pounds, and that it is intended to plaster all the, walls of the building with similar productions.
-The honorable member had better put the question to the Prime Minister.
– Then I ask how much has been expended on the cartoons ?
– I am not able to say, but if the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper I shall give him an answer.
– The honorable member for Wentworth yesterday asked me a question regarding information set forth in the postal guides of Canada and the United States of America. I regret that I am unable to supply him with the information, because it concerns lines owned by private companies, who issue private guides.
– How did the Commonwealth officials get the excerpts?
– Our own officers, of course, have secured the guides of the private companies.
– Could the information the officers have obtained not be laid upon the table of the House?
– It is not a question of a copy, but of a great number of copies. The information we have is from an authoritative source.
– Can the Assistant Minister of Defence inform the House whether anything has been done regarding the production to-morrow night of a play which I mentioned last night? Has the production been prohibited?
– I shall give the honorable member an answer in the course of a few minutes.
– What is the reason for not proceeding with the construction of the two lighthouses, one at Eclipse Island, near King George’s Sound, and the other at Point D’Entrecasteaux, between King George’s Sound and Cape Leeuwin? Why is it not proposed to proceed with this work during the financial year ?
– The policy of myself and of my predecessor has been to carry out a certain amount of work each year, undertaking the most urgent first. The two lighthouses mentioned are not considered so urgent as other work that is being proceeded with.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether the Minister has any information as to -
– The information desired in the first paragraph of the honorable member’s question was given on Wednesday in reply to a previous question, and is now published in Hansard. The following are the replies to the rest of the honorable member’s questions: -
and (c). The information is not at present available, but an effort will be made to obtain it.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
No site has yet been selected for a miniature range at Kilmore. Inquiries have been made, but so far the only site suggested has been, as stated, on private ground, and has for that reason not been approved by the Commandant pending further investigation into possibility of securing a site on publicly-owned ground.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the reports of the Director of Fisheries of successful trawling by the F.I.S. Endeavour, showing that there are ample supplies available to not only give the public fresh fish at 4d. per pound, but to take the place of imported canned fish, and his further statement that private enterprise does not seem disposed to embark upon the industry, although the outlay would be returned in two years, inclusive of working expenses, will the Minister favorably consider the question of making the estimated capital of “£12,000 per vessel available, so that a new fresh fish distribution and canning industry may be started with the twofold object of providing the public with regular supplies of cheap, wholesome fish, and affording work for men at this particular time of stress?
– The matter will receive consideration.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will obtain from the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank the number of borrowers from the Bank on fixed loan of sums of £2,000 and under, on 20th November, 1914, and the total amount of such advances?
– I do not think the Commonwealth Bank should be called upon to disclose its business to a greater extent than competing banks.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon, notice -
– The desired particulars are furnished in the following return : -
Tenders Accepted FOR the Supply of Military Boots since the Commencement of tub War.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained. I will supply it to the honorable member as soon as it is available.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he place on the table of the House the recent correspondence between the late Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland in regard to the connexion by railway between the railway terminus at Cloncurry, in Queensland, and Port Darwin?
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act-
Appointment of J. P. Kirk as Assistant Engineer, Class D, Electrical Engineer’s Branch, New South Wales.
Promotion of J. P. King, as Postmaster, Grade IV., 3rd Class, Ballina.
Queensland Railway System - Correspondence re connexion of, with Port Darwin.
Debate resumed from 18th November (vide page 765) on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I do not propose to engage in a very long discourse on this second reading, but I feel that there are one or two things which it is incumbent upon us to consider at this stage, and which it is especially incumbent on members of the Opposition to point out at this, possibly the only, opportunity of adequate discussion. I may say at the outset - and I wish to be very brief in this section of my remarks - that I do not think the Government are adopting an altogether frank or straightforward way of dealing with the great evil of existing Commonwealth arbitration - excessive expenditure and delays in the Court. The provision in the Bill that has been already so ably exposed by the honorable member for Flinders and others, is only another trick winch the unions will eventually realize has been played to encourage them to go before the Court, which has no constitutional power to deal with other than purely Federal disputes. I cannot help thinking that the constitutional provision dealing with industrial legislation is faulty, if not absurd. If we wish to discriminate between local employment and employment that is Federal in its nature, it does strike me as being absurd to make the dispute, instead of the nature of the industry in which the dispute is, the basis of the difference.If honorable members wish to have State Courts and Federal Courts, then I would suggest that we should allow the Federal Courts to deal with only Federal industries. Do not let the dispute be the passport to the Court; let the nature of the industry be that. Then an industry once declared to be Federal will remain Federal, and the workers will know exactly where they stand.
– Determine what a dispute is, if you can.
– I agree with the honorable member. Under present conditions a dispute is very often engendered, and regarded as the only means whereby any particular body of men can get before Mr. Justice Higgins. And in order to insure their getting their grievances heard by him, emissaries have to go throughout Australia stirring up other bodies of men to come forward with a similar grievance.. That is the very reverse of promoting industrial peace. The whole system has become a tonic for industrial discord. I agree that this question of industrial disputes, and the interpretation of what is a dispute, has become an absolute anachronism, and the sooner some means of obviating that costly and futile procedure is adopted, the better it will be for all concerned, for employers and employes, and especially the community at large. However, I do not think we shall get over that difficulty by the provisions in this Bill. We cannot, without an alteration of the Constitution, take away the power of the High Court as a Court of original jurisdiction on questions of constitutional law. You may have any roundabout way you may care to put on paper in order to try to get round the Constitution, but, ultimately, you come back to the fact that the High Court is the interpreter of the Constitution, and nay at any moment interpret what is a dispute, and wipe out any judgment which the Arbitration Court has given in any case which the High Court does not regard as a genuine dispute within the meaning of the Constitution. Consequently, I think that honorable members opposite should take this matter seriously to heart. If they pass this Bill, their own friends outside will be afterwards accusing them of merely devising another trick to get them to embark on all the costs of organization and representation before the Arbitration Court, for no benefit to any other persons than those lawyers who represent their interests and the interests of the other Bide, in the costly proceedings before the Court. So far as these clauses are concerned, no more comment is necessary. But there is another portion of the Bill to which I may appropriately draw attention at this stage. I notice that there is an amendment proposed to enable others than those actually employed in an industry to become members of an organization. The actual proposal reads -
Section 55 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end of paragraph (6) of subsection (1) the words “ together with such other persons, whether employes in the industry or not, as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof.”
The whole purpose and nature of the Act we are amending was to secure collective bargaining and community of interests among employes and employers; and, consequently, men who were not connected - that is the broad term used - with any industry were debarred from joining any particular union for registration before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. If there was a desire to form a union of another kind there was nothing in the Act to prevent it; but any union which desired the assistance of Commonwealth Arbitration must be composed homogeneously. I now find that it is proposed to amend that provision. The words “ whether employes in the industry or not, as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof “ seem to point to an endeavour to find a way to get round the original Act in regard to the exclusion of paid agents and lawyers who appear in the Court. I ask honorable members why they desire the lawyer to be a member of the association. Why do they desire some glib person who is, perhaps, only a bush lawyer-
– What sort of bloke is he ?
– I think the honorable member could point to many. “ I refer to some person who makes it his business to go before the Court for fees. He would not be a member of the association because he was employed in the industry, or because his soul was in the association, but only because he would be a paid agent. He would not be there to promote industrial peace; on the contrary, he would actually gain by industrial discord. This evil may be on both sides - the employer’s as well as the employe’s - but the amendment alters the Act, so far as the employes only are concerned. Honorable members wish to stop a committee of employers from having a lawyer connected with it, but they seek to allow lawyers to join their organizations, and, as officers of those organizations, appear for them in a Commonwealth Court. I do not know that such a proposal altogether carries out those broad principles of fair play and Christianity of which the AttorneyGeneral is at times a very fitting apostle.
– At any rate, it should be allowed on both sides.
– Bub I prefer to have none on either side. The Bill, however, discriminates, because honorable members wish to gain the advantage of being able to pay for brains that are not in real sympathy with them, while denying to employers a similar opportunity. The proposal is not the clean potato; it is not a fair deal; it is like something else to which I wish to refer, and which is the worst feature of the legislation before us at this particular juncture.
I refer to the provision dealing with the cancellation of registration. I was interested the other day in noticing in the attitude of the Prime Minister an indication of his belief that this Bill was specially urgent and should’ be passed without consideration or delay. I believe that he would have liked to get the Bill passed on the night it was introduced- a huge Bill that required a special print in order that its provisions might be explained. I ask my honorable friends opposite, especially the honorable member for Maranoa, whether they are aware that there is a ease pending before the Arbitration Court, if it is not already there, dealing with the cancellation of the registration of the Australian Workers Union.
– I did not know of it, but that is an additional reason why the Bill should be urged on.
– The honorable member is too late. I was talking about Labour lawyers a few moments ago.
– Is this the reason why the honorable member is “ stonewalling” the Bill?
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it.
– Would the honorable member for Maranoa have us believe that he does not know that there is a case pending between the Australian Workers Union and the Pastoralists Association in Melbourne?
– I admit it.
– Now we know that there is such a case. It was hoped that the case would have been dealt with before the Bill passes. What is to be the effect of this measure upon that case? I have no desire to deal with the merits of the case. I merely wish to say, as I am compelled to do, in view of the provisions of this Bill, that the case for the cancellation of the registration of the Australian Workers Union is based upon the belief and the claim that the union, among other things, has not provided reasonable facilities for the admission of new members.
– As I understand the honorable member to say that this case is now before the Courts, I do not think that the honorable member should deal with it.
– I am not dealing with the merits of the case, but I can get at my point equally well in another way. Honorable members will find that section 60 of the Act, which this Bill is intended to amend, says -
– (1.) If it appears to the Court, on the application of any organization or person interested or of the Registrar -
For these offences, the cancellation is mandatory.
– Do you think that that is wise?
– I think that it is very unwise to amend the provision while a case is pending. It may be unfair to deal with a case that is pending, but how much more unfair is it to amend the existing law, and thus deprive the claimants in that case of the rights given them by existing legislation ?
– And also amending the existing law without debate !
– Yes, and not even allowing the public outside to know the steal that is taking place.
– What do you mean by “steal”?
– Stealing an individual’s rights. Every man has the right to sue under existing legislation.
– We are taking nothing from them.
– The honorable member can hardly be serious. Assume for the sake of argument that a union has broken its rules, and requires its members to join political associations which are of great benefit to honorable members opposite.
– I plead guilty to the soft impeachment.
– The honorable member is delighted at what is happening - that men are driven at the peril of losing their livelihood to provide funds for the political organization to which he belongs.
– Is the honorable member particularly desirous of obtaining an industrial upheaval, because I am afraid he is going to get one?
– This is the ordinary chorus that invariably greets one the moment he asks honorable members whether they are going to give people a fair deal.
– If it were not for this terrible war I question whether there would be a tramway running in Australia at the present time.
– I hear nothing from the honorable member for Maribyrnong. Can he paint some further awful catastrophe that is about to happen?
Mr.Fenton. - I think that the honorable member for Flinders can tell you about that case to which you have referred; because he is in the case.
– The honorable member again speaks with his usual accuracy.
– I do not think that any honorable member on this side is connected directly or indirectly with the case. All that concerns me is that specially amending existing legislation, in order to spoil the chances of claimants in a case brought forward under that legislation, is public indecency.
– The honorable member is now going beyond a fair discussion of this matter. I have allowed him ample opportunity, but he is now accusing Ministers of doing something indecent.
– May I say a word on a point of order ? It seems to me that you, Mr. Speaker, are limiting freedom of discussion more than has ever been done before. My friend, without entering into the merits of the case to which he referred, said that the introduction of a Bill which would materially affect a case pending in the Courts was an indecent use of legislative authority, and I submit that he was quite in order in so doing. Why should he not say it? Is it not an indecent use of legislative authority to pass a Bill directed mainly and immediately to a particular case pending before the Courts? Therefore, I submit that you, Mr. Speaker, should not impose such a general rule.
– If there is a case before the Courts it is generally considered not the correct thing to do to deal with it.
– Not with the merits of it.
– The honorable member was not merely making a reference to the case ; he was going beyond that, and making a statement to the effect that the Government had deliberately done something of an indecent nature, and unworthy of them, by bringing in a Bill to influence a case before the Courts. I am not here to know definitely whether the Government have done this, or to know whether there is a case before the Courts. I simply know that the honorable member says that this is so, and, in the circumstances, I expect the honorable member, in common courtesy from one side of the House to the other, to restrict his remarks as far as possible.
– May I be permitted to submit one distinction, because this is an important point? I can quite understand the ruling that no honorable member is entitled to impute motives to the Government, and in so far as my friend’s language may be construed in that direction, I say nothing. I ask, however, whether an honorable member is not entitled to say that the effect of bringing forward a measure is to directly interfere with the decision of a matter that is before the Courts without that honorable member attempting to do what I believe you would prevent him from doing, that is, entering into the merits of the case, or prejudicing it in any way? He is simply stating that there is such a case, and that the effect of the legislation, if passed, will be directly to impinge on the rights of the parties to the case. I submit that the ruling invades the rights of honorable members.
– It has always been my practice to allow the fullest possible discussion. I would not allow the honorable member to enter upon the merits of the case, but I allowed him ample latitude for casual references to it.
– I do not wish to deal with the merits of this particular case. I know nothing of the case. I only know what is contained in the existing Act, and that it requires that unions should do certain things, and that the claimants in this case - I merely mention the statement of claim submitted without saying whether it is just or unjust - say that the provisions of the section of the Act now sought to be amended have not been complied with by the Australian Workers Union. If the claim is upheld, and is a just one, the Judge, under the existing legislation, will have no option but to order the cancellation of the registration of the union ; but, at this time, when this case is before the Courts, ur is just about to come before the Courts, a Bill is submitted to us which we are asked to pass without reasonable discussion or reasonable checks. It seeks to take away from the Judge the obligation to cancel the registration of the union, and provides that he “may” cancel the registration, or if he is not satisfied that the registration should be cancelled, order the organization to alter its rules within a specified time. My point is that if we have an Act which is clear and unambiguous, and gives certain persons certain rights before the Courts, and that if certain persons exercise those rights, and undertake large expense, and go to considerable trouble to approach a Court, then it is not only grossly improper, but something much worse for the Government to step in and say while the case is actually pending, “ No, we are going to alter the rights under which these men have gone into Court and entered upon their initial expenditure.” It is not right; it is not the clean thing. I do not think that any honorable member opposite is proud of it. I do not think there is one of them who in his heart is not ashamed of it; but, apparently, it had to be done. If the good name of this Parliament is to be retained, I hope that there will be inserted in the Bill a clause making its provision inoperative so far as existing or pending actions are concerned. Such a provision is often found in Acts of Parliament. If the Government insert it in this Bill they will get over the charge that they are actually using the powers of the sovereign people of Australia to help the defendants in a proceeding in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Such a charge is one against which no Government could stand. I think that the sense of fair play and decency of the Australian people would rise up against it. I know nothing of the merits of this case. I do not know what the Australian Workers Union or the Pastoralists Union has been doing, nor do I care ; but, as a matter of common decency, this Parliament ought not to handle existing legislation to the detriment of either party before any Court in the country. I do not wish to occupy further time in discussing this matter at the present stage; but I implore honorable members to consider the point I have urged. I do not urge it in any bitterness. Honorable members have heard me before on arbitration matters, and we have had more fun than we have had thiB morning. I ask my honorable friends opposite to consider their own good name, the good name of their party, and, above all, the reputation of this Parliament.
– By way of personal explanation, I wish to say that, in view of the emphatic denial given by the honorable member for Flinders to my statement, made by way of interjection, that he was connected with a certain case before the Courts, I have very much pleasure in withdrawing the remark.
– I do not propose to walk with an incautious step into that Serbonian bog of legal technicalities by which the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court is surrounded. As a layman, I was interested in the characteristic manner in which the Attorney-General introduced this measure. Speaking in nautical language, he towed into port his Commonwealth super-Dreadnought of the union movement. He told us that the vessel, in effect, had been rammed and torpedoed by an uncharitable High Court, and he went on to pronounce upon the judgments of that Court. The honorable gentleman gave us what he claimed to be the mind of the Judiciary, but what really was the view of the dissenting Judge in the recent judgment in the Tramways case, and he told us that certain amendments of the law should be brought about. I think we are all agreed that in respect of any genuine Inter-State industrial trouble - any dispute that is legitimately Federal in character - the too great difficulties which to-day beset industrial unionists in approaching the Central Court should be removed, and greater facilities afforded them to have their disputes settled with less cost, and more definitely than in the past. Every honorable member who has the welfare of the industrial community at heart - and the industrial situation affects every form of enterprise - must desire some reasonable and practical amendments of the principal Act ; but it is to be regretted that the Attorney-General should have given us what I think is a partial view of the industrial situation. As a Minister of the Crown, as a trustee of the people, he is expected to give the House and the country the fullest and fairest view of it. The honorable gentleman told us that if Australia was to have industrial peace - if we wished to preserve the nation from internal upheaval - we must give easy access to the central Arbitration Court. It seemed to me that the honorable member, in fairness to the House, should have put the whole industrial situation before us. Each of the States has, at enormous cost, set up industrial tribunals for the speedy and economic determination of industrial disputes within its boundaries, and this super -Dreadnought, which the AttorneyGeneral has towed into port with the intention of repairing it, is now to be patched up. The honorable gentleman said that this was merely the caulking of a leak - the painting over of punctures caused by its enemy. This having been done, he is going to put out to sea, pretending that she is sea-worthy, and to encourage a fresh crew to board her, although he knows, apparently, as the lawyers in the House have been able to point out, that by so doing he will endanger the lives of not only those who in the past have been forced to use her, but those who, by the force of true unionism behind them, will be led to venture upon this one craft-
– Has the honorable member heard of any losses?
– Their corpses are strewn all over the industrial sea. We had the honorable member for Bendigo in the closing days of last session pathetically telling us that after years of patient waiting, and after spending much money, the Federated Miners of Australia had approached the Central Court, but by reason of technicalities, which’ might, I think, have been avoided, had been unable to secure redress.
– The technicalities which this Bill removes.
– Technicalities which this Bill cannot remove.
– It does remove them.
– With all due respect to the Attorney-General, I feel inclined in this matter to be guided by the weight of legal opiuion on the Opposition side of the House.
– But they were speaking of a different matter.
– I am speaking generally of the techuicalities which bestrew the path to the Central Court. It is well that Australia should call a halt and view the entire industrial situation from both a State and a Federal standpoint. We should examine the Constitution, and ask ourselves whether it was intended when we federated that the control of the whole of the industrial forces of the States should be handed over to a central Arbitration Court. Many of the difficulties which have confronted unionists in their attempts to reach the Court, and, indeed, many of their failures, are due to one: or more of theses too many efforts on the part of the Labour movement, under the Australian Constitution, to do indirectly that which the Constitution does not permit them to do directly. It will perhaps be no information to the House to be told that the awards made by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court have been only twenty-eight in number. If there is one matter in respect of which the trade unionists of to-day have made clear their intention, and the Government behind them has emphasized its downright conviction, it is that preference shall be granted to unionists. The Government have expressed their determination, as far as possible, to grant unionists who enter the Labour movement preference, not only in Commonwealth employment, but in all branches of industry in Australia. Might I ask the Attorney-General what hope of this he holds out to the various unions that will be registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act? What assurance can he give trade unionists whom he invites to go before the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, that that Court will grant them preference? In only one case has preference been granted by it. That was the Tramways case, where the President held that victimization on the part of the employer had been indulged in. In every other case the learned Justice has. declined to grant preference to unionists. In the Engine Drivers and Firemen’s case, in refusing to grant preference, Mr. Justice Higgins delivered himself as follows: -
I am very loth to interfere with the employer’s absolute discretion in choosing his employes, without the employer’s consent. This absolute power of choice is one of the recommendations of the minimum wage system, from the employer’s point of view; he can select the best man available when he has to pay a certain rate. This freedom of choice tends to the efficiency of industry, bracing up the mon to show their powers.
In the. Boot Trade case he said -
I cannot undertake the responsibility of telling every employer in the Commonwealth what he ought to do in the case of every employe. I conceive it to be my duty to leave every employer free to carry on his own business on his own system, so long as he does not perpetuate industrial trouble or endanger industrial peace.
In the strain of competition the pressure on the employer is often very great, and he ought to be free to choose his employes on their merits.
I invite honorable members to consider for a moment the position in which industrial unions stand to-day. They have extended to them, by the Labour party, the invitation, “Join us and you will secure preference in employment. In the administration of the public affairs of the Commonwealth, and also by means of the organized Labour movement, we shall make every effort to secure preference for you.” It has been pointed out here, more particularly by the honorable member for Brisbane, that the goal of the Labour movement is the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and we have clear evidence that in all cases where that Court has been asked to discriminate, it has, with one exception, resolutely set its face against the doctrine of preference. Where, then, does the Labour party stand? Where would it lead the industrial unions?
– Have not the trade unionists abided by the decisions of the Court in every case where preference has been refused?
– That is quite beside the question and overlooks the point I am trying to make.
– It is exactly the point.
– No. I ask, what has the Labour party to say to unionists and others whom they invite to join their ranks, under promise of preference, seeing that the Central Court before which they ask them to go has in only one case granted preference, and in that case its decision was annulled by the High Court ?
– The unionists have loyally abided by that decision.
– I am not saying that they have not. What I desire to know is how the Labour party reconcile the promise to secure preference for unionists - a promise made by every one of their candidates on the hustings, and made also by all the unions - with the fact that at the same time they invite the industrial unions to bring all their claims before the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, which has resolutely set its face against the principle of preference. Let us consider the treatment industrialists have received at the hands of State industrial tribunals, as opposed to that meted out to them by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. I wish to compare, not the decisions of the two tribunals, but the cost of getting those decisions. In Victoria, under the Wages Board system, all workers are given the benefits of our industrial legislation. The State has, in effect, laid down the rule that any man engaging in an industry who requires workmen to assist him must be willing to submit the conditions of his industry to an examination by a Wages Board. Such boards are constituted of representatives of employers and employes, and an impartial chairman, often a police magistrate, whose fairness is beyond question, many of whom have been credited by my honorable friends opposite with having assisted materially to end industrial disputes. The time when the individual employer could set the clock for himself has passed, and the time of collective bargaining has come. In Victoria it does not cost a union one penny to secure the award of a Wages Board, and workers who gain such an award need not be members of a union. All the workers in any trade or calling have the same rights under our Wages Board system. It is the Government that pays the representatives constituting the Wages Boards, and the inspectors who are appointed to see that awards are observed. The whole cost of administering the Wages Board and Factories Department falls on the Government of the State, which thus guarantees a living minimum wage to the 150,000 workers in Victoria whose industry is governed by Wages Board awards.
– If it costs practically nothing to appeal to Wages Boards, why are unionists in Victoria making such a determined effort to bring their cases before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, where it may cost from £500 to £2,000 to obtain an award?
– No one is better able than the honorable member to answer that question. It is owing to the persuasion of himself and his colleagues. The unionists are told that they will get better conditions from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Unionism is the body and limbs of the political Labour movement. I admired the candour of the honorable member for Fawkner in stating, in his first speech in this Chamber, that there is to-day no difference between an industrial unionist and a political Laborite.
– We were told to adopt the constitutional method, and to send men to Parliament. Now that we have done so, the honorable member and others are not satisfied.
– I take no exception to what has been achieved. My present complaint is that an attempt is being made to operate central machinery when the States can best be left to deal with their own affairs. I listened to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports the other night as to the value of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court in standardizing and equalizing conditions throughout the States; but if the honorable member for Maranoa wished to go shearing, to what State would he go ?
– To Queensland, because that is where my home is.
– Where would the honorable member go to make the biggest cheque ?
– To Queensland, because that is where the biggest cheques are to be made.
– The honorable member would not go to Tasmania, because that State is the home of the wrinkled sheep. That fact clearly shows that it was a grave injustice to the sheep-owners of Australia to make the rates for shearing uniform throughout the Common wealth. It means that sheep-owners whose sheep are not wrinkled have to pay more than they ought to pay in order that the rate shall be high enough to cover the cost of shearing wrinkled sheep. Where the conditions of an industry are such that the arising of a dispute brings it pro- perly within tha jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, it is right that the central authority should determine wages and conditions, and I am prepared to give all proper facilities for approaching that Court, and for the settlement ‘of disputes by it with as little cost and friction as possible. But disputes which are not Federal in character, which are manufactured and bogus, should not come beforethe Court. In recent years the wages of Victorian workers have been increased by millions of pounds by the adoption of the peaceful methods of the State Government. When trouble arises in an industry, a majority of those concerned may approach the State industrial tribunal, and obtain a Wages Board award. This can be done without direct cost to the worker, and both unionist and nonunionist benefit by the betterment of wages and conditions which follows. But a man joining a union registered under the Commonwealth Act must pay taxes and levies. It costs him not less than £1 per annum to get the benefits of the Act. The delays that have occurred in the hearing of cases have been such as to break the hearts of many of the workers. Indeed it is only the swell, flash, autocratic unions whose affairs are controlled by honorable members opposite that are able to obtain the benefits of the Act; the smaller unions cannot do so.
– Any union may register, but only a strong union can get an award.
– Only a strong union can afford to brief the lawyers required, as my honorable friend knows well. An army of witnesses has to be summoned, and organizers must play their part. No doubt industrial organizers, and organizers generally, have done a great deal for the benefit of society generally, though some have overstepped the mark. Then lawyers must be feed. On the other side there is a body of organized employers. You thus have a fight of moneybags against moneybags, or organized effort against organized effort. There is no spirit of conciliation, but merely the determination to fight to a finish.
– While that fight is proceeding, the wheels of industry continue to revolve. That is the difference between the new and the old system.
– The wheels of industry continue to revolve under the Victorian system.
– Would the honorable gentleman appoint a Wages Board to deal with a dispute in which the Australian Workers Union was concerned ?
– I have said that all questions which are strictly Federal should be dealt with by the Commonwealth Court, and that it should be made easier and less expensive to go to the Court. I do not desire that an army of industrial lawyers shall suck the earnings of the workers of Australia. The efforts of the Labour party are being directed to the elimination of ihe individual, and to the securing of a great federation of unions on the one side, and a great federation of employers on the other. Surely, in that way the spirit of industrial conciliation is not likely to be stimulated. I understand that arbitration means compulsory unionism, but not that absolute preference to unionism is a necessary corollary.
– We never asked for it.
– I have already quoted two cases where unions applied for preference.
– Not the Australian Workers Union.
– I did not refer to the Australian Workers Union; unlike the honorable member, I am not always dreaming about that union.
– It is a nightmare to the honorable member !
– A union that is declared to go the length that that union does is no worry to me.
– This Parliament passed a law giving the President of the Arbitration Court power to grant preference, and under that law unions ask for preference; if it is refused, the unions will willingly abide by the decision of the Court.
– That is the case honorable members opposite like to present.
– It is the actual fact.
– But it has no logical application to my argument. The Labour movement, through its leaders, promises to the workers social and industrial ad vantages with preference, but how is it possible to “deliver the goods” in regard to the latter? Unionists are compelled to contribute, at least, £1 a year in order to obtain the benefit of the Federal Arbitration Court.
– There are levies in addition.
– I am confining myself to the mere subscription. In New South Wales the State Arbitration Court has, in the majority of cases, granted preference to unionists, and I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he intends that the trade unionists of that State should give up that direct preference, and all the other advantages they enjoy under the State tribunal, in order to take their chance in the Federal Court. The honorable gentleman talks about “ steering the ship into port”; but what if that “ port “ should prove inhospitable - what if, as a result of his efforts, unionists find an absolute negation of the doctrine of preference? I think it will take much effort on the part of the Labour movement to wean away the workers from the cheap and quick advantages of the State Courts, which are provided, not at the direct cost of the industrial workers, but at the cost of the people as a whole.
– Honorable members must be getting pretty tired of the continual controversy over amendments of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Although the New South Wales State Arbitration Act was an accomplished fact before that of Western Australia, I think I was, as the Premier of the latter State, the first, in 1900, to introduce such a measure into an Australian Parliament. I was in favour of a Conciliation and Arbitration Act because I was assured and believed that it would mean no more strikes, and thus prove a great boon to the community. The idea was that reason and judgmentwould be brought to bear on differences of opinion in the industrial world, and that there would be no necessity to resort to the brutal method of starving one another out. Since that time, there have been Conciliation and Arbitration Acts in the various States, and also under the Commonwealth; and the result has been most disappointing.
– Not in every case.
– The honorable member will admit that, in many cases, the awards have not been complied with, and that general dissatisfaction prevails when the decision is not altogther in accord with the wishes of the industrial workers. We have to remember, however, that almost without exception the awards have been favorable to the employes and against the employer. I wonder what the honorable member for Maranoa - who takes a reasonable view of these matters, when he allows himself not to be hampered by other considerations - thinks will be the result if, not as during the past ten years, the awards in the future are in the other direction. Does he think that they will be implicitly, quietly, and loyally observed ?
– I think so.
– I had arrived at quite the opposite opinion, and I am glad to hear on the authority of the honorable member that he does not agree with me. This Bill is another effort to extend the law in the direction of assisting the workers. There are two sides to every question; and I should have liked to see a little sympathy expressed and shown to those who have to bear the burden of continuing our industries: those who have every week to find the money to pay their employes.
– They do not find the money out of their losses do they?
– The Minister of Home Affairs likes to be considered a practical man, and he knows that, whether there be losses or not, there is in many cases great difficulty in finding this money every week.
– Men are not employed for philanthropic reasons.
– I know that; but, at the same time, there is often a great deal of difficulty in finding the cash every week. It is ridiculous to suppose that a man can continue to carry on a business unless he makes a profit; but he has to face outstanding debts, and so forth, and is entitled to every fair and reasonable consideration. I hope the Minister of Home Affairs, now that he is in a position of responsibility, will extend his sympathy to both sides, and no longer be a partisan, though there never was a greater partisan than he when in Opposition. Ever since the beginning of Federation, the Labour party have exercised their ingenuity in efforts to invade the arena retained in the Constitution by the States. The fact that the States have’ always had these powers, and that these powers absolutely belong to them, is never emphasized when proposals are before us for extending the activities of the Commonwealth ; indeed, from arguments that are advanced in this House - and I have been a listener rather than a talker upon such subjects - one would imagine that there was no Federation, or that there were in existence State Courts with plenary powers in industrial affairs. I cannot understand why some of these provisions, at any rate, have been introduced into this Bill, and, further, it is rather difficult to see the urgency that is claimed for the measure. I may say, however, that outside I have heard that a case is coming before the Court, and that this Bill is devised to give advantage to a certain organization concerned. Discretion is proposed to be given to the Judge where none was given before, and there is a further amendment granting membership to persons who up to the present have not been able to stand in that relation to the unions. I know nothing of the facts myself, but I have heard on reliable authority that a great organization, of which, I believe, the honorable member for Darling is the head, has broken the law, and that the Bill is intended to get it out of the difficulty.
-The honorable member must not attribute unworthy motives to the Government.
– I do not think that the Attorney-General will deny the facts.
– The honorable member is now attributing motives to the Government.
– I do not think that the motive I attribute is a bad one. It may, in fact, be a good one, and fully justified.
– I must ask the honorable member not to follow that line of argument.
– I protest against the remarks of the honorable member. A case is pending, and the honorable member ought to make no reference of any kind to it.
– I do not take any exception to the Legislature-
– The honorable member said just now that the organization had broken the law; that is for the Judge to decide, and not for the honorable member.
– I said that 1 had heard that that was the case.
– Yes- that you had heard on good authority.
– I really know nothing about the matta: myself, but I have heard of it. I do not, as a matter of fact, take exception to the Legislature, with its plenary powers, even interfering in a case before the Court if it is necessary to do so in the public interest.
– I must ask the honorable member not to pursue that subject.
– The amendment referred to is proposed at the instance of the Justice who is to hear the case. I refer the right honorable member for Swan to the case of Australian Actors Union ex parte J. C- Williamson.
– I do not think that the Attorney-General need get out of temper.
– Indeed, I am not getting out of temper.
– The honorable gentleman knows that there is _ a case coming before the Courts .that this Bill will affect, and because I referred to this fact in a gentle way the honorable member -takes exception. My reason for referring to this matter is that this House should have been fully informed of the reason for urgency in passing this Bill. A great deal has been said during this debate in regard to the question of arbitration itself, and threats have been made that if this or that were not done arbitration laws would be done away with altogether. Arbitration was not introduced by the Legislatures of the States or by this Parliament in the interests of the employers, or at their instance. It was introduced at the great desire of the workers, and honorable members opposite in using threats to abolish the principle know very well that their threats are mere pretence, because they are aware that if the matter were put to the vote to-morrow the employers v/ould not care two straws whether there were arbitration or not. In fact, I suppose they would rather not have arbitration, because they have suffered financially, and in many other ways, through it. Arbitration was brought in to prevent strikes, but I am sorry to say that it has not achieved that object. I remember very well representatives of unions waiting on me as a deputation when I was Premier of Western Australia in 1900, and urging the introduction and passing of an Arbitration Bill into the local Legislature. I had introduced a Bill in the previous year, but it had not gone beyond the first reading. The members of the deputation said to me, “ We desire you to introduce the Bill again, and we can assure you that if you do that, and the measure is carried, your name will be for ever honoured by the labouring people in Western Australia, and you will be remembered for all time as a great benefactor.” I thanked them and said, “ Apart from that consideration, I introduced the Bill last year, and I propose to bring it forward again, and to pass it.”
– Their appeal would have melted a stone man.
– We introduced the Bill, and it became law.
– Did they offer to present you with an iron cross ?
– No, but twelve months afterwards one of the men who had spoken in that way at the deputation made a speech, in which he said, “ If Sir John Forrest thinks that we owe him anything for this Bill he is mistaken; we owe him nothing.”
– That was their way of handing you down to history.
– Section 30 of that Act absolutely prohibited strikes, and provided for a penalty of £500 against a union, and of £25 against an individual. Those provisions looked all right, but they have been practically a dead letter; there has been no fine of £500 inflicted, or even of £25, and strikes have not ceased in that State, nor have the decisions of the Court been always obeyed. Still, I have not altogether lost faith in arbitration, for, although it has not succeeded, and there have been many strikes, and more industrial trouble and discontent, the strikes have not been more numerous because of the existence of that Act. The difficulty is that the workers have had the best of the Act up to the present time, but whether they will continue to do so I cannot say. The decisions have nearly always been favorable to them.
– No doubt, and so they ought to be.
– That is not a judicial or proper observation, for they cannot always continue to be so. That is like the man who wants more pay every year. There must be a limit to it, because those who have to pay the increases will not be able to afford them.
– They pass the increase on to the public; it is the public who pay.
– But the public must be considered, surely. I confess that it is very Iamb-like in bearing burdens. The industrial workers having benefited so largely from the introduction of Arbitration Acts and the decisions given under them, it looks unreasonable as well as unlikely that they should be willing to abolish such legislation. It recalls to my mind the man who, having had a surfeit of oranges, said that he did not like them. The workers, having got much more than was anticipated through arbitration, still have little to say in its favour. The worst feature of all is that the men do not seem to be more satisfied now than when their wages were much lower.
– Hear, hear! And they are not going to be, either.
– Another judicial utterance from a Minister. In the course of this debate a great deal has been said as to what is a dispute, and it is desired that some simple means should be found to determine that question. My suggestion for ascertaining what is a dispute is to cease the present attempts to devise manufactured or bogus disputes. There have been such cases, and the timber workers’ citation was a gross instance. People must be pretty gullible to believe that the timber workers in Western Australia, a comparatively isolated State, 1,000 miles away from other Australian centres, where the workers have far higher wages than in any other part of Australia, and have local Arbitration Courts open to them, which they avail themselves of with advantage, could have any connexion with workers in the sheds in Melbourne, and in Queensland, to the extent of creating a genuine dispute of the nature referred to in the Constitution. In that case, if there had been any dispute it could have been settled by the local tribunal. We ought to do something to encourage the dissatisfied workers to approach the local Arbitration Courts. I should like to see a means devised for ascertaining whether there is a real grievance as the foundation of a dispute. If there is not”, a severe penalty should be imposed. It is all very well to induce a few people in Queensland and Western Australia to strike, and then say that there is a dispute extending beyond the boundaries of one State. That is, as the Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith, has said, “ a fraud on the Constitution.” It is doing something which was never intended, and something that is absolutely unreasonable, and not in the public interest. From an intimate acquaintance with the timber industry in Western Australia, I know that the workers there are quite able to manage their own affairs. They have a local Arbitration Court, and they do make use of it. Why, then, should they come over here and try and create a bogus dispute and mix themselves up with a similar class of workers in Queensland? Such a proceeding is not in their interests or in the interests of Australia. One great advantage which local tribunals in industrial matters have is that the environment of an industry is known to those who are sitting in judgment. In order to better ascertain the facts they can visit the locality, as, indeed, they sometimes do. But if tie case is heard in another part of Australia, it is impossible for the Court to do that. No doubt a point of law can be decided by a Judge if he is sitting in England, Australia, or anywhere else; but when it is a question of fact regarding the nature of the work, the mode and cost of living, and the general environment, the local tribunal is better than another Court far distant from the locality that cannot know anything about those conditions.
– Have you never heard of an application for change of venue?
– That ia not much of an argument. The honorable member for Flinders found serious fault with sub-section xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution. I do not find much fault with that provision. I was at the Convention when it was discussed, and the intention is as clear as possible. It is to deal with disputes that extend beyond the limits of one State. That ought not to be a hard matter to decide. I agree, that it would be very much better that the question of whether a dispute exists or not should be decided before any other question. But there ought not to be any difficulty, if the dispute is a. genuine one, in coming to a conclusion as to whether it extends beyond the limits of a State. I think that, perhaps, we may go a long Way before finding words which better express the intention tha: local disputes should be heard by local tribunals, and Federal disputes by Federal tribunals. It was never intended by the framers of the Constitution that disputes of the kind which it has been sought to bring before the Federal Court should ever be taken there. It was thought that the State Courts would deal with them. But we 11OW find that an attempt is made to bring every little dispute to the Federal tribunal. Honorable members opposite never seem to me to even infer that there is a local Arbitration Court with plenary powers to deal with these matters. Many Justices in the State Courts are just as eminent, just as able, and have just a3 high a reputation as the Justices of the High Court. Why is it, then, that the State Courts are ignored whenever possible, in order that the workers may get their cases before the Federal Court? The reason is that the workers of the country, aided by honorable members opposite, have been taught to believe that they can get better terms from Mr. Justice Higgins than they can get from the State tribunals.
– That is unfair.
– It is not unfair. The belief all over the country amongst those who are seeking to get to the Federal tribunal is that they will get better terms from Mr. Justice Higgins than from the State tribunals.
– We have just as much right to say that that is the reason why you do not wish them to go to the Federal tribunal.
– I do not think so. The State tribunal is on the spot, and close to the dispute. Look at all the trouble and expense put upon people through this effort to get away from the local tribunals, which, knowing the environment, should have better knowledge of facts and have better means of giving judgment and holding the scales of justice between the parties. Honorable members have fed the unions with the belief - it may be the poison of belief - that they can get bet ter terms from the Federal tribunal, so that all the efforts of the unions are directed towards getting away from tho local tribunals.
– Why do you attack Mr. Justice Higgins?
– I have not said one word against Mr. Justice Higgins or any other Judge. I simply say that there is this belief among the unions. They have manufactured bogus disputes which are a fraud on the Constitution. I am not singular in making that statement. The greatest man on our High Court bench is in accord with that view. I cannot help thinking that under this Bill, which will enable certain matters to be settled in Chambers, endeavours will be made to have them referred to a particular Justice. There is nothing worse than the desire of people to get their cases heard by a particular Judge or before a particular tribunal, or to get into Chambers before a sympathetic Judge; the desire is insulting to the Judges, as well as discreditable to those seeking it. The Bill itself is one of several measures having for their object the destruction of enterprising employers of labour and the establishment of State enterprise, State employment, and State production, distribution, and exchange. All citizens are to be State employes; no man must have ambition or the desire to excel; all must go along in the same groove. This should not suit some Ministers that I see in front of me. Fancy the Minister for Home Affairs, who is said to be a man of great ambition, being in a groove, and told that he cannot get out of it! We all believe in individual enterprise and the desire to excel, we all desire to be ambitious and to do our best; but I do not think that honorable members opposite will gainsay me when I say that, though they themselves believe that there should be individual enterprise, they dare not denounce the object of all or any part of this legislation as Utopian or foolish. Are there any members opposite who will boldly announce that they are opposed to universal State enterprise, State employment, and State production, distribution, and exchange, or that they are opposed to the ideal that everyone should be an employe of the State? Will they clare say that they are in favour of individual enterprise and a desire to excel ? Honorable members of the Labour party dare not say what their true feelings are. I believe in just the opposite to the object honorable members have in the legislation they submit. To my mind, one enterprising man is worth a dozen of those who have no enterprise. The progress of the world has been made by enterprising and thoughtful nien who have made those great discoveries and appliances that have led to the advancement of civilized humanity. I repeat that the Attorney-General has not told us exactly what was in his mind as to the reason for the amendments proposed in this Bill. Whether the reasons for any Bill are palatable or unpalatable, the honorable member, as a Minister, should always be perfectly open. Nothing is to be gained by keeping back anything. The more open a Minister is with his colleagues and his opponents the better it is for him. I have found out something about the Bill of which I very much disapprove at present. What I have ascertained has been gained from conversation with friends outside instead of from the Minister. Had I heard all about the measure from the Minister I might not disapprove of the measure at all.
.- Why the Government at a period like this, when there is so much unemployment throughout Australia, and when the public mind is centred on matters far away from the Commonwealth Parliament, instead of dealing with administrative work and endeavouring to cope with the industrial difficulties of Australia, should submit such a controversial Bill as this, is difficult to understand. Some very strong reason must have actuated them.
– We want industrial peace.
– But only a moment ago we heard interjections to the effect that no matter how sympathetic Judges might be, and no matter how wages might be increased, the Labour party would continue their fight until, to use their own words, they abolished the wages system altogether. Of what use is it for an honorable member to say, “ We want industrial peace,” when we know perfectly well that it is the duty of a certain section of the community to be all the time promoting discord between employers and employes. I have very grave objection to this Bill. I contend that the States are quite able to look after their own industrial concerns. Where disputes are of an Inter-State character, as provided in the Constitution, they should be controlled by the Commonwealth Parliament, but it seems to me that this Parliament has initiated legislation with the object of securing full and absolute control of all industrial matters throughout Australia. Surely that cannot be for the betterment of the Commonwealth. Any one who understands our industries, and has any regard for them or the future of this country, must realize that a single Justice sitting in Melbourne cannot control industrial conditions better than the State tribunals who now have control over State industries. To ask one man, no matter how clever or bow capable he may be, to define the conditions that should be observed in all the varying industries all over Australia, is an absurd proposal. How can we ask one Judge to fix the industrial conditions for such a large territory as Western Australia? I cannot understand why it is that honorable members seek to bring about such a system. Many of the technicalities that now stand in the way of the President of the Arbitration Court dealing with cases are due to the endeavour of the Labour party to take power which they know does not, under our Constitution, belong to this Parliament. We are told by the Attorney-General that he does not know what will be the effect of the Bill before us. Honorable members on this side know perfectly well what its fate will be. The High Court will say that its provisions are ultra vires. The proposal to refuse to employers the right to appeal to the High Court other than to one Justice is an extraordinary one. It is strange that, though this Bill deals with such a grave subject as the right of appeal to the High Court, almost immediately after the measure is brought into the Chamber the Attorney-General gives notice of amendments to it, showing that there has been little consideration given to the drafting of the measure. It was also amusing to hear the Attorney-General come to us and ask us to amend an Act of Parliament when the measure was not really an Act; because though it had been passed by both Houses, at that time it had not received the assent of the GovernorGeneral. When we are asked to pass amendments to an Act which is not in existence, and when the Attorney-General immediately after introducing another Bill brings down amendments to its provisions, people must wonder whether that careful consideration that should be given is devoted to the drafting of Bills. I feel quite satisfied that the AttorneyGeneral himself knows that the clause in which we are invited to give one Justice of the High Court full power, in spite of what the Constitution provides, to deal finally and conclusively with any question of law arising in relation to a dispute or to proceedings or any award of the Court, is not worth the paper it is printed on.
– That is why the Governmen are introducing this Bill.
– Quite so. They wish to be able to say later on that they have passed amendment after amendment and are unable to go any further with this legislation.
– Would it not be a fact ?
– But why do that which is futile? Why not wait until the people give the Parliament the power, which honorable members opposite desire, to legislate in this direction ? The honorable member is satisfied that we have not the power which is embodied in clause 5.
– We have not the power, but we are seeking for it.
– We shall not secure it by passing this Bill. The Constitution stands in our way.
– We cannot say that that is so until the point has been decided by the High Court.
– The Court has given some strong decisions on this very question. The Attorney-General himself has told us that he does not know what will be the effect of this clause. I hold the view that the States are best able to manage their own affairs.
– With the assistance of the Legislative Councils.
– We have a very good Conciliation and Arbitration Act in Western Australia. Members of tha Legislative Council there were anxious to pass a measure which would bring about industrial peace, and a Labour AttorneyGeneral in that State has declared that the State Act is as complete and as good as any in force in Australia.
– And the Legislative Council passed it.
– I understand that it is so good that there is no strong desire to go to the Arbitration Court in Western Australia.
– I do not know that that is so, but I am becoming somewhat doubtful as to the effect of all this legislation, and the strenuous efforts of our honorable friends opposite to secure industrial peace. In New South Wales, with a. Labour Government in power, during the quarter April to June last there were no fewer than 51 new disputes, involving directly 6,167 work people, and indirectly 5,088, or a total of 11,255. The total estimated loss in wages, as the result of these new disputes during that period, was £62,506. During the same quarter, in respect of the whole Commonwealth, there were S3 new disputes, involving, directly or indirectly, 16,859 work people, and an estimated loss in wages of £156,415. In the first quarter of the present year there were 113 new disputes in the Commonwealth; in the second quarter of 1913 there were 49 ; and in the first quarter of 1913, 39 new disputes, with an estimated loss in wages totalling, in respect of these four periods, over £470,000.
– If the men connected with those particular trades had submitted a case to the Federal Court we should have had the Justices of the High Court deciding that there was actually no dispute in existence.
– That is quite possible since these were not Inter-State disputes. I am complaining now of the desire of the Labour party to bring all industrial troubles before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. A great deal of delay is experienced in getting before the Court at the present. time. Plaints are filed, but owing to the pressure of business, great delay is experienced, and much expense is incurred in having them heard. When a complaint is heard in the Central Court the witnesses and representatives of the parties have to be brought from all parts of Australia, and this in itself tends to delay and expense.
– And there is a determination on the part of the honorable mem- ber’s party to prevent men getting before the Court at all.
– Our point is that the Constitution is against the Labour party’s proposal. I do not believe in this Bill. Why not wait until the Constitution has been amended 1 If the people grant the power for which the Government ask, then we can make no complaint, but must help them to pass this legislation.
– The time, of course, is not yet ripe for it.
– The people have said that it is not. They have twice rejected the proposals of the Labour party for amendments of the Constitution, and I believe that the Government, when they again appeal to the people, will meet with another rebuff. Knowing that the people have refused them the power, they are trying now to obtain indirectly that which they cannot secure directly.
– Where is the honorable member’s desire to assist them ?
– I do not believe in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. I regard the Wages Board system as being much preferable. Under the Wages Board System, in the case of a dispute, the men directly affected - and not the promoters of agitations - are brought together. The employers and employes who know the whole of the details of the industry affected have equal representation on a Wages Board. Their representatives know the business from A to Z, and it stands to reason therefore that they are in a better position to frame a workable award than is a Justice of the High Court.
– The honorable member’s opposition to an amendment of the Constitution means that he would deny this Parliament the power to bring in such a system ?
– I have no objection to purely Inter-State industrial disputes being dealt with by the Commonwealth Parliament, but the States Parliaments, in my opinion, are in a better position than we are to deal with purely State industrial disputes. They know more about them than we do, and should be able to frame laws and regulations more likely to bring about industrial peace than any measure we might pass. A little while ago I read of a system, such as the Victorian Wages Board system, which was brought into force some twenty-five years ago in the Old Country.
It had not the effect of law, but it was adopted by the Durham miners. An association of some 90,000 miners entered into an agreement with the employers under which they appointed a central executive on which employes and employers were equally represented. They also had district councils.
– Was the sliding scale which they adopted a good thing for the miners ?
– I have never heard that it was.
– The honorable gentleman’s information may not be complete. Under this agreement, any dispute that occurred was referred to a district council. If that council failed to settle it then it was referred to the central executive. There could be no strike or lock-out. The agreement provided that if the central executive in turn could not arrive at a settlement the whole matter should be referred to a Judge of the Supreme Court, who should act as arbitrator. Time after time there was a reference to the arbitrator, and no strike or lock-out took place.
– Another point is that the wages and conditions are regulated quarterly.
– And also the output of coal, I suppose.
– This agreement provided for the settlement of disputes by the men who were familiar with the industry concerned.
– Why have the Durham miners turned it down ?
– They have not.
– I do not think they have. The Wages Board system is a good one.
– The bosses can sack the representatives of the employes on a Wages Board, and they do so.
– I am tired of hearing such statements. For fourteen years I represented a gold-fields constituency in the Parliament of Western Australia,, and no one knows more of the tyranny of the other side than I do. Business people were forced out of the town, in some cases, because they dared to support me. It is unfair to suggest that the employers alone are guilty of- tyrannous acta when we know that where the workmen can obtain control they are quite as tyrannous as some employers of labour may have been. I do not wish to give rise to any dissension in the House; but when I hear our party attacked in this way I am strongly tempted to mention some things that have come within my own knowledge. Under the Arbitration Court system, when a plaint is lodged, we have the employer on’the one side and the employe on the other calling witnesses to make out the best case they can for their respective sides. The employes call witnesses, nob to show the true position, but to try to get the very bestaward they can. On the other hand, we have the employer, who may desire to oppose the demands that have been made upon him, and he will do all that he can to induce the presiding Judge to believe that he cannot afford to pay the wages asked by the men. There is a fight, and a very bitter fight, between the two parties; and, finally, a third party, who, perhaps, does not understand anything about the industry, makes an award. Under the Wages Board system the position is different. The representatives of employers and employes on a Wages Board are familiar with every detail of the industry.
– The honorable member has never been a member of a Wages Board, or he would not say that.
– I have not.
– In Victoria no chairman of a Wages Board has a knowledge of the trade concerned.
– The employers and employes have equal representation on the Board, and it is only when they cannot agree that the chairman is called upon to give a decision.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I desire to inform the House that the Government considers the Bill of such importance that the sitting must be extended to enable it to be passed through: the second reading and Committee stages to-day.
– What is the particular urgency ?
– The Attorney-General knows more about it than I do.
– The announcement of the Prime Minister is one of the most extraordinary ever made in this chamber. No one can say that the Bill has been debated at undue length. Why should it be forced through the House this afternoon ? We have a right to ask what underlies the demand of the Government.
– The Bill carries no urgency on the face of it.
– Nor was urgency alleged when it was introduced.
– It is extraordinary to be told on a Friday afternoon, when honorable members assume that they will be able to return to their homes, that the Bill must be forced through.
– We ought to be told the reason.
– Why is the honorable member “stone-walling “ the measure?
– It is not being “ stonewalled.”
– I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether the Minister of Home Affairs is iu order in suggesting that I am “ stonewalling “ the Bill.
– The Minister, if he made that suggestion, is out of order. I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– This is a Bill of great importance, as it affects the powers of the High Court, which was created to deal with all constitutional appeals. Speaking on a Judiciary Bill in 1910, the Attorney-General said of the High Court -
Under Federation the Judiciary occupies as it were a position of lofty and superior censorship of our legislation.
Yet the Bill now before us gives to one Justice the right to determine the powers of this Parliament. Honorable members opposite have maintained a strange and ominous silence regarding the measure, and when the debate on it has hardly begun, we are told that tEe Bill is to be forced through the House at this sitting.
– We can only assume reasons, and we have no right to do that. The Prime Minister, or the AttorneyGeneral, should have told us why it is essential to pass the Bill this afternoon. The House has a right to demand a full explanation of the position. The AttorneyGeneral also said, in the speech from which I have just quoted -
And, of course, obviously, it must also exercise those functions which belong properly to the highest judicial Court in the country. It is, on matters of law - and to this no possible exception can be taken - the last Court of Appeal. But in another direction it exercises functions of quite a different nature. Although nominally inferior to this Legislature, in reality it has shown, over and over again, not merely in this country, but more particularly in the United States of America, that it is above and superior to, not only the Parliament, but, what is yet more important, the constitutionally expressed will of the people.
To-day we are asked to allow a Bill to be forced through which takes the power to hear an appeal from the High Court and gives it to one Justice -
I admit at once that it is inevitable that there must be such a body to determine the respective limitation of the States aud the Commonwealth.
Is it not important that there should be an appeal to the High Court in connexion with legislation transferring many of the industrial powers of the State to the Commonwealth ? -
It will never do for us to contemplate for a moment a condition of things in which the States and the Commonwealth may make what laws they please irrespective of the extent to which either may trespass upon the other’s sphere.
The Bill trespasses upon the sphere of the States, and is to be forced through without due consideration. Yet it was introduced by a Government which only a short time ago amended the Judiciary Act so as to provide that a Full Court consisting of less than all the Justices shall not give a decision on a question affecting the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth, unless a majority of all the Judges concur in the decision. The Bill now under discussion takes from the High Court a power which a few years ago the Attorney-General said was necessary for the protection of the Constitution and of the people. The public will feel that there is some special motive actuating the Government, and some very ugly rumours are abroad. It would be wise, therefore, for the Government to make a declaration as to the real necessity for the Bill.
– The peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth.
– Did one ever hear such absurdity?
– Is that the real reason ?
– Yes, the only reason.
– An honorable member told us to-day that but for the war none of the tramways would be working. It is not the war that has prevented a general tramway strike, but the bad season, and the consequent unemployment. Ministers would do better if they gave attention to Departmental business, with a view to finding employment, instead of forcing measures of this kind through Parliament. In Perth yesterday some 2,000 unemployed went through the streets asking for food. I have a strong objection to the Arbitration Court. I am satisfied that, no matter how the Act is amended, demands for further amendments will be made to still further favour the party that is in power at the present time. It is strange - if these arbitration laws are designed, as the Prime Minister says, to secure the peace, order, and good government of the people of the Commonwealth - that there should be so much industrial turmoil in Australia. The Scottish Commissioners who visited this country a few years ago reported that in no other part of the world is there so much antagonism between the employers and the employed as exists here. This is due in part to the two parties having to constantly fight each other In the Arbitration Court. This creates animosity, which would not be created by appeals to Wages Boards. No doubt, political trade unionism is also greatly responsible. Mr. Mitchell, general secretary of the English trade unions, who represents some 470,000 workers, says -
Our policy has been to obtain the confidence of employers, no less than that of the men, by taking a strictly impartial attitude in our investigations, and making both sides understand that we are more desirous of justice and lasting benefits than mere temporary advantages gained through the use of arbitrary power.
Could the trade union leaders of Australia make a similar statement? Has their desire been to promote good feeling between employers and employed ? On the contrary, it has been the effort of nearly all trade union leaders in this country to cause as much discord as possible, and they care not what action they take to secure a temporary advantage when they have the power. There is also their policy of preference to unionists. I am surprised that there is not in this Bill a provision which was introduced some years ago regarding the disposition of union funds. Mr. Jabez Dodd, one of the most important and respected leaders of the trade union movement of Western Australia, and a Minister in the present Government of the State, writing to the Worker some time ago, said -
We have been fighting somewhat bitterly, and I hold rightly, for the right of political action under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The resolutions of Congress have nullified all our arguments in fighting for this- principle, inasmuch as preference to unionists is asked for, and no provision is made for the consciences of the unionists. I contend that to assert that all workers should be unionists, which is what preference means, and then to assert that all members subscribe to the political belief of the majority, and must financially support that belief, is tyrannical, unjust, and illogical. No body of men can uphold such a contention, and no freedom-loving community will tolerate it.
He said further -
Every worker should be a member of a union because his wages and conditions of labour are regulated by the union. When we go further to say that every unionist shall contribute to our political funds and shall, as far as we can force him, vote and work for our candidate, we are seeking our undoing; but when we say further that only unionists shall be employed we are using tyrannical means of coercion of which the parallel would be hard to find. Congress asks for preference and the right of political action. I say the country cannot accede to such a demand, and I am disappointed at a representative body of Labourites asking for it.
I do riot think I need add one word to those words, because the opinion expressed is that of every person in the country who believes in freedom. I ask the Leader of the Government what promises have been made to those nonunionists who are leaving the country to fight the battles of the Empire?
– About 80 per cent, of the men are unionists.
– My own belief is that the great majority of them are nonunionists, but, even if there were only 20 per cent, of them, are they to be told that, because they will not sacrifice their political freedom, they are to be debarred from employment by the Commonwealth? Such a position would be discreditable to all concerned; and, in any case, I do not believe that 80 per cent, of the men are trade unionists.
– Thank God, not 80 per cent, are “ scabs “ !
– I take it that a * ‘ scab “ is a man who declines to refuse a fellow-man employment. Many object to join a union on account of the funds being devoted to political purposes; and my opinion is that, as in New South Wales and Western Australia, unions should be compelled to show how their funds are expended. In Western Australia, in 1913, the unions received £75,486 from members in special levies and ordinary subscriptions. The expenditure was £8,045 in sick and accident allowances, £5,029 in death claims, and £1,809 in other relief. Under these heads the total payments amounted to £14,883, or less than 19 per cent, of the total of £75,486. Management absorbed £31,687, including incidentals amounting to £10,122, while” arbitration cost £1,069, and other payments - honorable members should note this - were £19,634. It should be clearly provided in section 60,” which it is now sought to amend, that all unions registered under the Federal Act shall publish returns showing how their funds are spent. In New South Wales the revenue of the unions for 1912 was £199,000, of which only £24,000, or less than 12£ per cent., was returned to its members in sick, accident, and death claims. How much was expended in fighting the political battles of honorable members opposite? On this point we may have some explanation from the Labour party Whip. There is a great difference between unionism in the Old Country and unionism here. According to the figures used by Mr. Lloyd George, when introducing his insurance scheme, no less than £1,400,000, or 78 per cent., of the total contributions to the unions in England was returned to the members in the way of benefits in 1909-10. In the Old Country the aim of unionism is the bettering of industrial conditions, while in Australia the aim is to build up organizations, the chief duty of which is to foment trouble between employer and employes. No wonder one of the Scottish Commissioners said that, in no country in the world was there so much antagonism between the employer and the employe as in Australia. One peculiar amendment to the Act proposed in this Bill provides that every association now registered as an organization shall be deemed to be registered. Apparently it does not matter under what conditions the registration has taken place. I was not able to follow the whole of the evidence in the Tramways case, and, therefore, it would be unfair on my part to express any definite opinion ; but I read a portion, and it appeared to me that there was something radically wrong, and, according to the judgment, that there was no dispute. Are we to be told that, whether an organization has or has not been properly registered, the mere fact that it has been registered prior to this Act shows that it has been properly registered ? Is it not a fact that a very im- portant case is coining before the Arbitration Court in Sydney next week? Has the great desire for haste on the part of the Government any connexion with that fact?
– I have already called honorable members to order for referring to that matter.
– I beg your pardon, sir, but you will remember that I previously asked the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General to make a statement explaining the urgency of this Bill, and failed to get any response. However, I sincerely hope that the Government will not unduly press the passing of this measure, which is of very great importance, especially when we consider its retrospective character. There is only one other matter to which I need refer. According to one amendment that is sought to be made, no employer may dismiss an employe because of the fact that he is a member or an officer of an organization. It has, of course, been contended by honorable members opposite that equal consideration is shown to the employer, inasmuch as it is provided that an employe shall not cease to work by reason of the fact that his employer has appeared as a witness in a case affecting the industry in which they are engaged. Can honorable members imagine such trash being placed in an Act of Parliament? But the whole measure bristles with absurdities. The Attorney-General is evidently quite satisfied that the Bill will prove ultra vires and useless, and I hope that the Government will hesitate before placing such legislation on the statute-book.
.- The question of preference to unionists has been discussed ad nauseam, and it is strange that it should be under discussion now, seeing that the country, and particularly this House, were given to understand by the Government that, in view of the war, no measures of a contentious nature would be introduced during this session. We found, however, that one of the very first proposals of the Government was to give preference to unionists in the Public Service, and now they are supporting that action by proposing legislation to give preference to unionists in the Court. If an employer happens to dismiss a man who is a unionist, then the onus is on the employer to prove that the dismissal was not on that ground ; and this opens the door to a great deal of mis chief. Why should a man, because he is a unionist, have rights or privileges over another who happens to be a nonunionist? Why should preference of any sort be given to any citizen for such a reason ?
– Because a citizen who is not a unionist is an unworthy citizen.
– Why is such a citizen unworthy? The interjection of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports would imply that the only worthy citizens are the 500,000 unionists, to the exclusion of the 1,500,000 non-unionists. No arbitrary privileges should be given to one class of civilians over another in the Court or out of the Court; and I raise my objection to this proposed amendment particularly. On this point I recollect hearing the present Prime Minister and the Attorney-General say that a man who belonged to a union was infinitely better than any man outside a union.
– Is the honorable member a member of the Farmers Union?
– If I am, I do not profess to be a better man than any outside the union, and do not claim any preference on account of my membership. The statement that a unionist is necessarily a better workman, or more deserving of the consideration of his country, is worthy of a barbarian. In regard to preference, let honorable members consider this argument, and follow it to its logical conclusion. I could never play cricket very well, but I have an ambition to do so. A friend of mine says, “ If you desire to qualify as a good cricketer, all you need to do is to join the cricketers’ union in Sydney; having done that, you will be immediately possessed of all the accomplishments of a good batsman.” Very foolishly, I take his advice. I join the union, and am picked to play in a first class cricket match. To my astonishment, the first ball carries away my middle stump. The membership of the union has not qualified me one little bit as a batsman. I want honorable members to consider a parallel case. I understand that there are doctors, lawyers, publicans, shopkeepers, and all sorts of people belonging to the Australian Workers Union. I believe Dr. Maloney, a gentleman for whom I have every respect, is a member of that organization ; but, much as I respect him for his professional attainments, I venture to say that if I were to give him a job at sinking post-holes or straining wires, I should have to class him as a very big quack. Preference operates in this way - that there may be an honest, hard-working, intelligent man seeking a position which he can fill with greater advantage to the employer than a doctor, or any other professional man, yet the doctor must receive preference over the other man because the doctor belongs to a union.
– What would you say of a banker who became a politician ?
– That is a very different matter. I know that many of us politicians think we are professional men, but the outside public do not think so. This Bill always makes a very big appeal for centralization by seeking to centralize all industrial disputes. We have been told that the objection to Wages Boards is that they break down under their own weight, and that the people cannot get justice quick enough. But this Bill proposes to place the whole responsibility of settling industrial differences in one centre and in charge of one man. I always thought that the Government professed to be the champions of the Democracy, but I notice that in the conduct of all their concerns they like to vest full authority iu the hands of one man. In their banking enterprise they have a Czar behind the institution.
– Order I The honorable member must confine his remarks to the subject-matter of the Bill.
– I was only mentioning banking as an illustration. Instead of the workers bringing their disputes before a full Court, which was established at their behest, we find that that Court is to be set aside, and the case must be taken before one Judge in Chambers. I think that proposal savours of the reactionary. I hold the Wages Board system in high esteem. When the system was first introduced in New South Wales by Mr. Wade, the then Premier, there existed the ordinary Arbitration Court, and none of the unions would bring their cases before the Wages Boards. At last the Typographical Society had the temerity to bring their case before the Wages Board, and for that action the union was regarded by the other unions as a scab organization. After the case had been heard, the advantage of going before the Wages Board was appreciated, with the result that before many months 120 unions had made applications for Wages Boards. The operation of the Boards was so satisfactory that in the first year of their existence the increments to the workers in New South Wales amounted to something like £500,000, and, in addition, the working hours were greatly improved.
– In Victoria the Boards have increased wages from £10.000,000 to £13,000,000.
– What better system could the workers have ? Honorable members wish to bring their industrial disputes before an academic authority, a man of university education, and without experience of the rough-and-tumble of life. Is it not better to have these cases heard by a tribunal consisting of representatives of employers and employes ?
– That is real conciliation and arbitration.
– I venture to say that men who are experienced in a particular trade or line of business will be better able to deal out justice on strictly humanitarian lines than any Judge of an Arbitration Court. Legal technicalities are eliminated, and the Board gets down to the bedrock facts of the dispute. For that reason, the more we can extend this principle throughout Australia the better it will be for the workers. The honorable member for Parkes brought under the notice of the House last night the instance of the bakers objecting to night baking. Their union cited a case before the Arbitration Court, which turned the application down. What did they do then? The New South Wales bakers immediately brought a case before the Wages Board, and what had been denied them by the Arbitration Court was granted by the other tribunal. How, then, could those workers proclaim from the housetops the advantages of the Federal Arbitration Court as against Wages Boards, seeing that by one tribunal they were denied justice, and by the other their demands were satisfied. I believe, also, that the nearer we can bring justice to the people the better. It is not desirable that justice should be centralized, and that witnesses and advocates should have to be brought for hundreds of miles to the Court. If we establish Wages Boards, we can deal out justice to them at their doors, and that would be a great advantage to the working classes. I do not wish to labour the question any longer, because I know that the Prime Minister is anxious to take the second reading to a division, but 1 do hope that this one-sided class legislation will not find its way on to the statute-book.
.- I move an amendment -
That all the words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words - “no Bill relating to industrial arbitration will be satisfactory to this House which does not maintain intact the principle of registration of associations consisting exclusively of employers and employees respectively, for the purpose of industrial agreements and of the settlement of industrial disputes.”
That amendment attacks one important and vital principle of the Bill. There are many principles in the Bill that have been discussed, if not at sufficient length, at least at advantageous length, but the one that excites my opposition most of all is the principle embodied in clause 10, to which the amendment refers. As far as my reading and experience of the Arbitration Act goes, the whole principle of it is the open association of identical interests, either for agreement or award. The Act contemplates that the employer and employe shall alike be in associations, which alone can be recognised by this industrial tribunal. The object is a laudable one, because I can conceive of no better way of attempting to work an Arbitration Court than by these exclusive institutions. For the first time, however, there is attempted in this measure a fusion of interests that are not necessarily identical. One of the greatest unions of this continent has, as far as my observation and learning go, arrived at new methods, and has been roping in, so to speak, a large number of other interests not hitherto identified with it. Whether those interests be those of employer or employe, if this Bill goes through in its present shape, they all form part for award purposes of the great Australian Workers Union. I think that is a mistake, and that it will do a good deal to increase industrial coercion, and destroy the effect of an industrial decision or determination. I am not a great lover of the Arbitration Act, or the Court which it sets up. To my mind, we have made a profound blunder in paying so much homage to the system of compulsory arbitration. In America, for example, most of the great unions, which dwarf into insignificance even the largest organizations in Australia, through the lips of their leaders, have told us times out of number that they do not want voluntary or compulsory arbitration. They say that they have got a stage past that, and they reckon that, if compulsion is introduced into the law of the United States of America to compel obedience, either by the employer or by the employe, to industrial mandates, it will mean harking back to a position through which they have already passed. They have attained the higher form of collective bargaining, which has done so much to establish peace in the greatest industrial nations of the world. I need not labour the arguments of men like Mitchell and Gompers, who, at successive Conferences of Labour in America, have pointed to the inherent disadvantages of arbitration and the great advantages of collective or co-operative bargaining; and I hope that the unions of Australia, more wisely led in the future than I consider they have been in the past, will look forward to the time when they will attain the same efficiency from an industrial stand-point- as their coworkers in America. Somewhere in Siberia there is a race of men known as Yakuts, who have a peculiar form of religion. They believe in worshipping one supreme deity, but they have also to propitiate secondary deities. The Labour leaders of Australia are political Yakuts; they believe in worshipping the great god Demos and getting gifts from his hands, but they also think it necessary to propitiate secondary deities, the leaders of the great unions who have so much influence in determining the course of the Labour movement in Australia.
– Your crowd ai-e Yakuts.
– The honorable member is very rude in describing such a great body as the Liberal union as a crowd.
– I agree with you. In the matter of numbers, it is not a crowd.
– The Liberal party did not emerge from the recent elections like those who emerged from Armageddon; they emerged regretting their defeat, but strong in their convictions. Our friends opposite fluked in. I am not in love with the arbitration system, either in principle or practice, as it has worked in Australia. When we compare the system with other systems that have been doing their work here alongside it, I do not hesitate to say that, either for Federal or for provincial purposes, the system of Wages Boards seems to me to be the best system to adopt. I have had the privilege of observing the working of a Federal Arbitration Court, and of watching the origin and development of the Wages Board system which has arisen in many parts of Australia, and I cannot see why we cannot adopt a Federal Wages Board system.
– The Constitution will not allow it.
– The honorable member has never lifted his hand to make it possible in the various Conferences that he has attended.
– That statement is quite inaccurate.
– It is accurate. The honorable member prefers his own amendments to the Constitution, which mean the apotheosis of the Arbitration Court in contra-distinction to the Wages Board system. If my judgment is wrong, I do the honorable member an injustice, but I am glad to gather from his interjection that I am to infer that he is more favorable to Wages Boards than to the Arbitration Court.
– Your inference is wrong.
– Then both- inferences are wrong. I ask the honorable member whether he would be agreeable to the supersession of arbitration methods by the establishment of an Australian Wages Board ?
– Continuous interjections are disorderly.
– And traps are to be avoided. I have no desire to drag the honorable member into a further scuffle on the floor of the chamber. He has already said what he has to say in regard to the Bill, and he will have many opportunities for replying, before my amendment is dealt with, and before the debate on the second reading is concluded.
– Do you know that you are now in a House where the “ gag “ can be applied?
– I know that I am now being addressed by an honorable member who has denounced the use of the “ gag.”
– So I do.
– All members of the honorable member’s party have, in season and out of season, attempted to show that the “ gag,” as the honorable member calls it, was a Liberal weapon which was used to destroy the rights of Democracy. If the honorable member is willing to use the “ gag,” let him do so. Despite their expressed view,s, I quite understand that his party is agreeable to that course. As I am informed by interjection that we are to have the “ gag “ applied in any case, it does not matter when the step is taken.
– Your inference is again wrong.
– How many captains are there on the other side? It is difficult to follow a connected line of thought when interrupted in this way.
– As I understand that the honorable member does not care for interjections while he is speaking, I ask honorable members not to interject.
– Nothing so upsets my mental equilibrium as interjections, especially such as those coming from the honorable member for Maribyrnong. Taking the tests of justice, cost, and pace, and comparing the two sets of tribunals, the result is all in favour of Wages Boards, either for a province or for the continent. The trouble about the Arbitration Court, presided over by the best man that can be picked in the nation, whether he be the present occupant of the position or not, is that he must act the part of a judicial interpreter, and base his decisions upon second or third hand information, second-hand if it comes from the lips of witnesses, or third-hand if it comes from the lips of counsel. Surely it is better to have men sitting at a Wages Board who are acquainted with the difficulties and intricacies of both sides of the trade concerned, employes who have spent nearly the whole of their life in learning the trade, and employers whose lifetime and capital have been devoted to the successful operation of the business. The first-hand knowledge of the members of Wages Boards, if properly drawn from employers and employes, should enable them to perform the duty of arriving at a decision with greater satisfaction to the parties than could a Judge, however judicial or however impartial he may be. As to the matter of cost, the advocates of the industrial Arbitration Court have ceased to talk about cost; the comparison is so unfavorable to them. We know what some unions pay in order to have cases tried in some tribunals in Australia, and . wo know how little, practically nothing, in roost of the States the submitting of disputes to Wages Boards costs. Workers, affiliated or unaffiliated, if allowed to work out their own salvation on the lines of their own thoughts, would prefer the cheapness and economy of the Wages Board system, to the high costing tribunals which heavily fee well-paid lawyers at the expense of the struggling worker. From the stand-point of pace, the argument is wholly in favour of Wages Boards. In Victoria there have been cases before Wages Boards, the determination of which has occupied some time, chiefly through the attitude of one recalcitrant man, and in many cases through the attitude of unsympathetic chairmen ; but in 95 per cent, of the cases determinations have been registered much more quickly than would have been the position had the plaints been heard before an Arbitration Court, and there was no other business before that Court. The pace is aided by the number of smaller tribunals that can be brought into operation. There can be 200 operating in one State. There are over 120 in Victoria, and the bulk of them have speedily arrived at determinations.
– Those Boards were fought by your friends in the Upper House and Lower House in Victoria for years.
– What does the honorable member mean by my friends? Ho surely knows that every resolution empowering the creation of these Boards was passed by both Houses, and that in nineteen years in only one case has there been a Wages Board refused by the Upper House, and that was for a small industry. Generally speaking, the resolutions have gone through with very little objection from either party or from either House. I shall pursue my argument, notwithstanding the agnosticism of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. There can be 500 Wages Boards in Victoria if the number of industries require them, and what the State can have surely the nation can have. In consequence, instead of having to take up a position on the cabrank before the portals of the Arbitration Court, as parties to arbitration now have to do, whether the desire for a settlement of the dispute be urgent or not, many different machines can be set working, and eight, ten, or twenty . determinations simultaneouly arrived at.
– Is it not a fact thai when a Wages Board determination is arrived at in Victoria, even though it takes two years, it is still subject to an appeal to a Judge?
– The Appeal Court still exists in Victoria, although the fact is not relevant to this discussion, and., theoretically, either side can appeal against a decision, whether the determination is arrived at in two weeks or two years. But as the Appeal Court may be abolished, that point does not bear on my argument. There can be Wages Boards without any central authority possessing appellate jurisdiction. After an extensive use of these machines in Victoria, we prefer a central authority, to which complaints can be brought for final determination. I admit, however, that the matter is an arguable form of Wages Boards on which honorable members opposite take a view different from mine. The facility of despatch displayed by the Wages Board system is denied to an Arbitration Court, if not wholly, at least largely. There are frequently a number of cases listed that cannot be tried, and when an emergency arises which threatens to devastate an important industry, the President of the Arbitration Court is very often asked to postpone all other cases in order to deal with this important one, and though, after consideration, a decision in that case is arrived at, the parties to the other cases must wait until that is done. The only way out of the difficulty would be to create a number of these Arbitration Courts with different Judges, but that would lead to different kinds of judgments springing from varying temperaments and different minds. If we took the present occupants of the High Court Bench, and put them all in Arbitration Courts, if the Constitution were amended and plaints increased, we would find different kinds of decisions, and then, from the workers and also from the employers, objection would arise to the lack of uniformity or lack of principle guiding the determination. The only way out of that difficulty would be to superimpose on this gigantic and costly machinery an Appeal Court to co-ordinate these decisions. That is one of the reasons why we have had to take similar action in regard to the determinations of Wages Boards in Victoria. We have had experience in many parts of Australasia of the objections that one of the two interests have so frequently taken to decisions of learned Judges sitting as Presidents of Arbitration Courts. Some three years ago we had, in New Zealand, a very strong objection offered by the operative unions “to a number of decisions given by Mr. Justice Sim. The Worker, and a number of other Labour journals, published quite frankly the resolutions passed by many trade unions in the Dominion, in which they freely said that unless Mr. Justice Sim showed himself more sympathetic to the claims of the workers they would decline to bring their cases before his tribunal.
– They made a demand for his resignation, I think.
– I believe that their opposition to him even went as far as that. Such a thing is possible here. The presumption lying behind an experience of that kind is that only a God-given Judge could stand erect, midway between the two interests, all the time; only an absolutely infallible judgment could hold the balance equally between both parties and with the approval of both. There comes a time when even the most upright and learned Judge will occasionally sway unconsciously from one side to the other, or lean to one side or the other, and just at that time, as the judgment is that of an individual, will inevitably come an objection from the side which feels itself oppressed or injured against the decision of the one man. These, I recognise, are rudimentary arguments. The Attorney-General, who is in charge of this Bill, has thought them over from his earliest political experiences; but it does no harm to refresh our minds by a reference to them, since they strike at the basic root of the principle of arbitration. The effective part of the Wages Board system, which stands in such favorable contrast to the arbitration system, is that the men concerned in the determination of an award, with the exception of the chairman, feel the direct personal effect of their determination.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member for Balaclava is dealing, not with the amendment of which he has given notice, but with something that is entirely irrelevant.
– So far as I have been able to follow the honorable member, I think he is quite in order in tho course he is adopting.
– I am glad to have your approval, sir, because I may say, for the information of the honorable member-
– Will the honorable member proceed?
– I do not desire to patronize you, sir. I was about to say that the application I wish to make of this argument is that if you have exclusive unions in the Arbitration Court, it is wise, as our experience, of the Wages Board system shows, to have representatives of the employers sitting on one side of the table, and representatives of the employes on the other. The fusion attempted in clause 10, which appears to be so vital to this Bill, seems to me to strike down that principle for the first time. The Government may have a reason for their radical and important departure, but I do not think it has been given. We are entitled to know if the infraction of what we have hitherto regarded as a vital principle of arbitration procedure is justified by the extraordinary circumstances existing at the present time.
– The House has already been informed of the reasons actuating the Government.
– I am aware of the honorable gentleman’s explanation, but there is floating round this House more than one rumour as to the condition of affairs respecting one important union. I have no desire to do the representatives of that union any injustice.
– The honorable member knows that Rumour is a lying jade. Why then believe her?
– I believe that remark was made by Adam in the Garden of Eden, and was known to most honorable members long before they entered Parliament. I do not altogether credit such rumours, but I wish to know whether there is any special significance in the application of this clause to the present condition of the Australian Workers
Union. I do not desire to wrest an explanation by way of interjection from the Attorney-General. But, before the amendment is disposed of, we should have some stronger reason than has been given for the inclusion of this clause, infringing, as I think it does, a vital principle of arbitration law procedure. I shall not further consume the time of the House. My amendment is clear and distinct. It asks that this measure shall restore the old condition under which associations that have to appear before the Court must be composed exclusively of employers and employes, and in the hope that honorable members on both sides will consider that a wise proposal I submit it to the House.
– I second the amendment. There can be no doubt that the recent decision of the High Court in the Tramways case has caused something in the nature of an upheaval iu union circles. Before the giving of that judgment, we had existing in Australia a state of affairs that was pretty well understood, not only by unionists, but by the public generally. The State Acts and State Wages Boards were primarily brought into existence to facilitate the early settlement of industrial questions by decentralizing, as far as possible, the hearing of all claims. The desire was to give every organization, whether it happened to be a union of employes or an association of employers, a direct means of reaching a Court in its own State, and there obtaining speedy satisfaction and justice. The New South Wales arbitration legislation was introduced to bring about a condition of industrial peace, and to do away with the turmoil and strife necessarily associated with the use of the terrible weapon of the strike. Those who believed that employers and employes should work in harmony welcomed such legislation. They believed that it would prove a panacea for many evils under which we suffered; that under it the lion would lie down with the lamb, and the workers and employers would pursue their industry in perfect harmony. The industrial legislation of the different States has brought about a certain measure of industrial peace. The decisions of the Wages Boards in certain cases have not met with the approval of the whole rank and file of the workers; but, having regard to the definition of the word “ arbitration,” surely the two parties to an industrial dispute should not be so carried away with the merits of their respective claims as to be hopeful of obtaining, through an award of a Wages Board, the granting of the whole of their demands. In almost every instance the awards made by State Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts have granted practically the whole of the demands of the workers; but I have been unable to discover any universal, or even isolated outcry, worth mentioning, on the part of organizations of employers. It must be admitted that the organizations of employers have been prepared to respect the decisions of these tribunals, whether they were distasteful to them or not. I have no desire to discuss the merit3 or demerits of any particular case. It is sufficient for me to say that the employers have loyally abided by the decisions given. Even where, under an award, wages, in their opinion, have been unduly raised, they have not hesitated to pay the increased rates; when certain restrictions have been placed upon them they have been prepared to conform to them, and have endeavoured to carry out the principles laid down. We now have a Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which tends towards centralization rather than decentralization. We see in this Federal legislation the cloven hoof. An endeavour is being made by means of it to bring the huge industrial operations of this continent within the control of one central Court. The desire seems to be that the Federal Parliament shall hold these vast industrial operations within the hollow of its hand, and that every industrial dispute shall be determined by one central Court. In Australia, with its vast expanse of country, its varying climatic conditions and conditions of employment, it seems to me a most hazardous procedure to draw the whole industrial affairs of the continent to one magnetic centre. Only one section of the community considers that a wise course. Those who have had experience of the Wages Board system say they are perfectly satisfied with the decentralized scheme for which it provides. The Wages Boards, by reason of the limitations to the disputes “which come before them, and by reason also of their environment, are well able to understand and to deal with local conditions. Is it wise, therefore, to make this drastic departure? Is it wise to overturn the social and industrial legislation of the States, and to adopt this system of centralization? I have no wish to criticise the judgments of the High Court. Far be it for me to say that any of its judgments display any partisan spirit. But there seems to be some outstanding object in view, on the part of the Attorney-General, when he displays such a marked anxiety, and so much fervour in his efforts to take away from the State Courts matters of social concern which can best be dealt with by them. In the celebrated Tramways case, in which judgment was given last month, four of the Justices declared that there was no dispute, while two held that there was a dispute. It was recognised that the Queensland industrial Acts enabled a case which wholly concerned the State to be properly dealt with by a State tribunal; but every endeavour was made to manufacture a case that would come within the cognisance of the Federal tribunal. Instead of seeking a remedy from the local authorities, every effort was made to discover a method of bringing the case before the Federal authorities. Officials were sent to New South Wales and Victoria to arrange a combination, and to bolster up rules, so that it might be claimed that the dispute was one which could come before the Federal Arbitration Court. The Chief Justice, however, held that the High Court could not allow an organization to get round the law by devious and winding means. He clearly pointed out that the Federal Court could not be used for trying cases which could be surely and quickly settled in the Courts of the States. Our arbitration law provides for preference to unionists. It has been urged by the Attorney-General and other good Labour supporters that, in granting preference to unionists, you grant preference to the best workmen in the particular trade concerned. That argument has been repeatedly used both here and on the public platform. It has been said that preference is necessary to secure the employment of the best Workmen. But under the Bill preference may be given to the members of an organization who may include among their number persons who are not connected with the trade or industry affected. Surely that strikes at what has been given as the main reason for preference. An organization may consist of painters, poets, politicians, policemen, lawyers, doctors, clergymen, and even ladies. It may contain members who are not connected with any particular trade, but have joined an organization to further their own particular ends. When an organization contains members who not only are not the best workmen in the trade with which it is connected, but perhaps have no knowledge even of that trade, it surely has no right to preference of employment on the score that, by giving preference, you provide for the employment of the best workmen. Clause 9 provides that an employer shall not dismiss an employe because the latter is an officer or a member of an organization or of an association that hae applied to be registered, and clause 2 speaks of industrial disputes submitted to the Court by an organization or by an association registered for the time being as an organization. Clearly the object is to get round the decision of the High Court in the Tramways case. That case revealed the existence of a make-believe organization or association. When its books and records were produced and scrutinized, it was discovered that it was not an association registered in accordance with the Act, but that it had endeavoured to obtain legislation for the sole purpose of bringing a case before the Arbitration Court. If we pass the Bill as it stands, we shall give a premium to irresponsible make-believe associations, and enable them to get the benefit of awards which should be granted only to bond fide associations. We cannot cavil at awards given to associations which are properly registered, but we ought not to assist fictitious associations in obtaining the benefits of legislation intended only for bond fide associations. The provisions of the Bill chiefly affecting the public at large are those of clause 5, regarding disputes. At the present time the Commonwealth Arbitration Court can deal only with disputes extending beyond the limits of one State. It may be said that it is hard for an organization to have to prove that a dispute which it wishes to refer to the Federal Court extends beyond one State. The Tramways case was a striking instance of the law’s delays, occupying as it did a year and nine months before various tribunals, both claimants and respondents being put to great expense in witnesses’ costs and counsels’ fees. After the case had been fought on its merits for a long time, the point was raised at the eleventh hour that the dispute in question could not extend beyond one State, and was, therefore, not within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. It is reasonable that a point like that should be settled by an interlocutory action before the application is dealt with on its merits. We on this side are not so narrowminded that we would refuse to facilitate decisions on important questions. But every endeavour had been made in the Tramways case to bring the dispute before the Federal tribunal, perhaps because it was thought that better forensic ability was there displayed, or that the Court was in a better position to deal with the big questions involved than the State tribunal; or perhaps to get the imprint of greater validity on the decision. The members of the Labour party in office previously passed industrial legislation in order to have questions of paramount importance dealt with by the Federal tribunal, and they recognised that the door was then open for review of the decision of that Court by the Full Court. An appeal to the Privy Council is the right of every British subject, from the man in the mansion of the rich to the man in the humblest dwelling of the poor; and that right has been exercised in. regard to questions which, while perhaps involving only a few pounds, also involved some great principle. Now, however, although we are living in a Democracy, and honorable members opposite are always speaking and prating about their democratic ideals, we have legislation confining an application under the arbitration law to a single Judge of the High Court sitting in Chambers. This Judge is to be permitted to decide matters which may involve thousands of pounds and the livelihood of thousands of men - which may involve invested capital amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds, while the decision may make or unmake an industry - without any right of appeal to the High Court or the Privy Council. Whether that Judge be right or wrong, the parties concerned must abide by his decision. Many of these questions of law are, after all, questions of opinion. In the Queensland Tramways case, some of the leading intellectual lights on the Bench decided that there was a dispute, while others, perhaps of equal ability, decided that there was no dispute.; and I ask whether it is reasonable and proper, under the circumstances, to place it in the power of one man, who is, possibly, not infallible, to deal with matters of, perhaps, even greater importance? I hope that when we get into Committee this particular clause will receive closer attention. Of course, it is quite possible that honorable members on either side may be altogether wrong in the view they take of the proposed amendments. Honorable members opposite may be quite mistaken in the idea that they have taken a road which will lead to industrial peace and the alleviation of industrial distress; while we, on the other hand, may be quite wrong in seeking to defeat the proposals before us. But, whether we are right or wrong - though I say we are right - the object of debating the second reading, if no other is attained, is to throw light on the problems before us, and to give our honorable friends opposite some food for reflection. I ask them to view the matter from an absolutely unbiased point of view, and to consider whether it would not be unwise to pass the provisions suggested here, and, above all, to take away that much-prized right of appeal to the higher tribunal. As to clauses 4 and 5, which deal with the question of the existence of disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State, we know that the matter has been under the consideration of the Judges for ten years; and that in the most recent case they were unable to arrive at a unanimous decision. I should like to direct the attention of honorable members to clause 8, in which an endeavour is made to overturn certain fundamental principles of common law, as apart from Statute law. This clause is intended to amend section 29 of the Act, and paragraph ba provides that the award of the Court shall be binding, not only on the parties before the Court itself, but “ any successor, or any assignee, or transmittee of the business concerned.” This seems to me to be n new departure, particularly in regard to arbitration; and I ask the AttorneyGeneral to consider whether it would not have the effect of abrogating certain common law rights, and prove to be absolutely unconstitutional. This is a matter well worth considering, because we do not desire to insert any provisions of a doubtful or dubious character, which only have the effect of offering a premium to people to test their validity. Our object in legislating should be to so draft a Bill as to show unmistakably what the rights of the parties are, and not, as it were, encourage appeals to the Federal Court. Then as to clause 10–
– 1 must ask the honorable member not to consider the clauses in detail at this stage.
– I merely wish to refer to the proposed amendment of the honorable member for Balaclava, an amendment which has my hearty support, and which ought to receive the approval of every unbiased member. In all industrial legislation throughout the world the fundamental principle and sole, objective is the benefit of the people engaged in particular industries. I see amongst honorable members opposite men who have fought in the Labour ranks and gained positions of fame and responsibility, and who to-day represent some of the greatest industrial organizations in Australia. When they put on their armour and set out to fight in their solid phalanx, I know they are imbued with the sole idea of helping on a cause which they have at heart. They are believers, I take it, in good Christian Socialism, which has for its object the uplifting of their fellow men. Are they to-day falling from that pedestal and that high ideal by saying that, although they have been fighting for industrialism and the members of the different organizations, they are going to disregard the traditions and high principles they have always held, aud are prepared to accept into their organizations with open arms people who are not operatives, people whom it was never intended that industrial legislation should assist, people of different callings, and with inclinations and ideals quite foreign to those of the genuine members of the organization, but who are anxious to become members in order, perhaps, to gain some doubtful end. I am sure that those knights of labour, who have won fame in fighting with the rank and file, will recognise that their principles are at stake, and that the history of those past fights is being besmudged and besmirched when they are accepting into their organizations and conferring their benefits upon people who do not properly belong to them, and are not entitled to receive the advantages of awards. For those reasons I say that, calm and dispassionate consideration should be given to clause 10, which endeavours to amend section 55, so that we may ask ourselves whether a great mistake is not being made in affording these outsiders opportunity to get the benefit of awards. By section 55 of the Arbitration Act a membership of 100 is necessary before a union can be registered. Surely an organization must be very small if it cannot count 100 members; aud what is the necessity for it to search the countryside to recruit outsiders so that the union may have a statutory right to approach the Court and obtain an award ? Industrial legislation is placed on the statute-book to bring about industrial peace, but is not this clause opening the door to allow into the unions people who may probably create industrial unrest and war? We do not desire to give that opportunity to paid organizers and others, who, perhaps, have some little axe to grind by gaining admission to the organization. Will the admission of those men conduce to industrial peace, or will it not be a premium on industrial warfare? In regard to organizations changing their names, I know that the law at present allows that to be done.
– The honorable member has been for some time discussing the details of the Bill. I have allowed him ample opportunity to deal with the general principles and the amendment now before the House.
– I bow to your ruling, sir, but I am dealing with the original Arbitration Act to which this Bill proposes an amendment.
– I would remind the honorable member that there is an amendment before the House, and that he seconded it. I ask him now to confine his remarks to that amendment.
– I was proposing to deal indirectly with the amendment in regard to the principle of registration of unions. We know that associations that are registered are entitled to change their names. If this amendment is not carried and the provisions in the Bill are adopted-
– The honorable member is again dealing with clauses of the Bill. I ask him to deal with general principles.
– I shall endeavour to do so. We must be careful that a system of Syndicalism does not creep into our legislation. There is an organization commonly called the Workers Union, which includes in its membership people of many different callings, employers as well as employes, and if it is allowable to alter the name of an organization, and to embrace different unions in certain groups, we shall be building up associations on the same lines as the Australian Workers Union, and will be permitting what is really a quick-time march towards Syndicalism. Surely, in a country such as Australia, we do not believe in organizations of that character. Do they benefit their members? Are they improving the conditions of the workers themselves ? Does it not mean that when we allow those associations to group together into one vast organization, we are really building up a system of Syndicalism, not on the same lines as in Continental countries, where such bodies are being created in opposition to the law, but by statutory rights conferred by this Parliament ? This is a matter which should be considered seriously, because its effects may be very far reaching. Surely it is not desired that we should establish continental conditions in this country, and give a premium to organizations to set up a system of Syndicalism, under the authority of a Statute. Is not this measure one of the most one-sided pieces of class legislation ever submitted in this Parliament? The Conciliation and Arbitration Act has been tested from many stand-points, and, as a measure to secure industrial peace, which was professedly the sole object of its introduction, it has broken down repeatedly. Will honorable members opposite contend that this Bill is not quite unfair to employers, or that it does not place them in an invidious and deplorable position? Is not its sole object to promote the interests of one section of the community by disregarding the interests of another? One of the objects of this kind of legislation should be to minimize as far as possible the inconvenience to the public arising from industrial dis- putes; but will not this Bill have a tendency in the opposite direction ? It is an indication of what employers will have to put up with. If this Bill is passed, and it is made possible to give such great powers to organizations under it, what sort of a poultice can the employers of Australia expect if the Attorney-General is able to carry his contemplated amendments of the Constitution ? The outstanding purpose of this measure is to absorb the whole of the industrial legislation of the States. Is that a wise thing to do? If honorable members believe in centralization and unification, they will regard that as a right thing to do, but if they believe in decentralization and the conservation of State rights, they will do nothing to intensify the existing evil. Our High Court is above suspicion. Its personnel meets with the approval of every fair-minded man, whether he agrees with all its decisions or not. We should leave it untrammelled. We should not attempt in any way to fetter its operation. Having informed the High Court of its duties and responsibilities under the Constitution, we should not now endeavour to pass legislation which is an attempt to clip its wings. When the services of the High Court are invoked, we should 110 by our legislation prevent that tribunal dealing with questions of prohibition which might involve the future well-being and destiny of the major portion of the workers of this community.
– I had intended to address myself to the second reading of this Bill, but the ukase issued by the Prime Minister makes it quite impossible for me to do so if the usual termination of the week’s work is to be respected. If honorable members are to address themselves to this Bill at this stage, they must remain in Melbourne over the week-end. That is what the ukase of the Prime Minister really means. I say that it is most unfair to attempt in dealing with a Bill of this kind to bludgeon it through in the way now proposed. It embraces questions which are amongst the most ticklish and delicate with which we have to deal, and their full discussion should not be prevented by any Government in any circumstances whatever. What the overpowering; urgency of this Bill is, I do not pretend to know.
– I have explained the urgency.
– I have not seen any explanation of it. It can only be urgent if it relates to a particular case, and, if this Bill does relate to a particular case, I say that it is indecent to bring it before this Chamber. If the measure has to do with a case pending before the Arbitration Court or the High Court, I say that it is an outrage on all the constitutional principles of this country to force it through at this time and in these circumstances. Clearly we should know what is in the mind of the Government. If there be a case pending which this Bill is intended to meet, I do not care how important it may be, its introduction outrages all our ideas of equity and justice as applied to these great questions. It is not enough to say that Mr. Justice Isaacs has suggested this and the other. I have read a modicum of the decision of the learned gentleman and his recommendations, and I want to say here and now that I see nothing whatever that is judicial in that deliverance. I say that it is a political oration from the Bench.
– The honorable member knows that he must not make references to a Justice on the Bench other than on a specific motion.
– The rule is that, while a Justice may not be attacked, his judgment may be attacked or traversed in any way an honorable member pleases.
– Only on a specific motion.
– Yes, without a specific motion. You yourself have held that, while an honorable member must leave the Justice alone, his judgments are before the House for discussion and for criticism. Why was the Minister allowed to put this statement into Hansard if it was not to be discussed ?
– The honorable member has accused a Justice of the High Court of having done something which would be wrong on the part of His Honour. The honorable member was not dealing with something in a judgment. He was accusing the Justice of taking some political action.
– Here is what His Honour said -
Claimants, however anxious to have the fundamental question determined at once, have no means of “ doing so, but must run their chance to the end. Respondents, on the other hand, can, if they choose, move at once, or, if they prefer to have a double chance of winning -
In this we have a clear statement that some of these individuals who come before the Court exercise all their influence and bring to bear all their resources in order to prevent other litigants reaching the Court in the ordinary way. No statement ever made in this House could be stronger than that by the learned Judge in reference to what takes place in connexion with the Arbitration Court. Here is a defence set up by one side, and a thorough and adequate and complete denunciation of the other side. How can one characterize such a statement? It upsets my opinion of what a judicial utterance should consist of.
– You are reflecting on a Justice in saying that.
– I do not think I am doing so. I am calling in question what His Honour said: and I think that the Chief Justice has held that the judgments of the High Court are in no way sacrosanct, but may be traversed by Parliament, and even by the public outside, to one’s heart’s content, so long as the personality of the Judiciary is left alone. There is nothing at all judicial in this utterance of a Justice of the High Court.
– The honorable member is distinctly making an attack on the Justice.
– Very well, I shall leave this precious Justice, if we are not permitted to discuss what he says.: but I maintain that if we are not permitted to express an opinion on this sentiment, it should not have been permitted to go into Hansard; because, once in Hansard, it becomes the subject of ordinary current political debate, and as open to be traversed as a statement made by a Minister or an honorable member. If any one is responsible for this Justice coming under criticism, surely it is the Minister who quotes him in favour of something that he is doing. However, I leave the matter. My point is that, while a case is pending - and if there is any urgency in the matter it must arise out of something which is pending - we should not have this Bill introduced. We have heard a statement from the Prime Minister that the Bill is urgent for the good and welfare of the Commonwealth. These are urgent matters now and at any time: but what is there that makes it absolutely necessary that this Bill should be pushed through, to the inconvenience of honorable members, and its incomplete and inadequate consideration ? There are statements circulating through the Chamber that the Bill is necessary because of a particular case pending in the Court; but again we are not allowed to discuss that aspect, because the case is said to be sub judice. The introduction of legislation for the purpose of correcting anything .that has arisen during the course of a judicial inquiry outrages one’s sense of propriety, and should not occur in a free and Democratic Parliament. Our Constitution lays down definitely and clearly the position of the Judicature, which is as much a part of the Constitution as is Parliament or the Executive.
– It is a case of passing a good law to win a bad case.
– Good law? Passing a law to win any case means that the law in itself must be bad. There cannot be a good motive prompting it. The industrial relationship of the community, the relations between men and master, are all of their very essence such as should preclude them from the possibility of consideration in the midst of party heat of any kind, and measures dealing with them .should be brought down when there are no cases before the Court or pending, unless we are threatened with some tremendous cataclysm - and we know of nothing of that nature that is threatening at the present time. I ask the Attorney-General to tell us the extreme urgency of the Bill, and what renders it necessary to put it through in .the present circumstances. My own impres- sion is that we should not be considering Bills like this at the present juncture. The Attorney-General himself has made that clear beyond the possibility of cavil. He has said that there is no room for party feelings here; yet he is now in the chamber in charge of a Bill dealing with a subject which always brings to the surface in Parliament arid elsewhere the fiercest of party contentions. There should be some very grave reason urging him to take this step, and I think he should tell us definitely and clearly what this urgency is. I cannot discuss the principles of the Bill now.
– You ask me to tell you something, but you are preventing me from doing so, seeing that the hour is getting so la/te.
– It is a great pity that I am not allowed to make a speech for five minutes.
– There is plenty of time.
– Apparently the honorable member has made up his mind to remain in Melbourne for the weekend, but I do not see the necessity for doing so. I hope that next week I shall have time to make my speech upon the principles contained in this Bill. I protest once more against the circumstances in which the Bill is being forced through. It is not fair to the House, nor to the supreme subject of the measure itself.
– I am entitled to take some notice of the statements .thai have repeatedly been made by honorable members as to the motives actuating the Government in introducing this Bill.
-The honorable member must confine his remarks to .the amendment. He will have ample opportunity of replying to any statements that have been made after the amendment is disposed of.
– The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition have been on the point with which I wish to deal. The right honorable gentleman asked me a question which I propose to answer ; however, I shall avail myself of my right of reply at a later stage.
– On a point of order, the Standing Orders are provided in order to facilitate business. Lt would facilitate the business of the House if, on speaking to the amendment, the Attorney-General should make his reply upon the point raised, and thus save a good deal of discussion in the dark. If the AttorneyGeneral could clear up the matter of the urgency for the Bill, not much discussion need be anticipated.
– The honorable member has made a statement, but has submitted no point of order.
– I should like your ruling as to whether the Attorney-General would not be in order in explaining on this amendment the reasons why it is so urgently necessary to dispose of the measure. The more rapidly the amendment is disposed of, the more rapidly will the Bill be put through. Consequently, I submit that at any period the AttorneyGeneral should be entitled to explain the need for urgency.
– If I permitted that course to be followed, there would be an endless debate on what the AttorneyGeneral said. He can speak to the amendment, but must confine his remarks to it. Any further remarks that he wants to make he must make in his speech in reply on the main question.
.- The Attorney-General was apparently prepared at this stage to state the reasons for the urgency of the measure, which I and others interested in the amendment are anxious to hear, and it is a great disappointment to me that his remarks were interrupted. I leave it at that.
– I wish, in order that honorable members may not be unnecessarily delayed, to deal very shortly with the main criticisms directed against the Bill and the Government’s introduction of it. As to the urgency of the measure, I said, on the second reading, that this arose from the recent decision of the High Court in the Tramways case. Practically every amendment proposed in the Bill has been suggested by one of the Justices or the Registrar of the Court. In particular the amendments in clauses 5 and 12 are urgently necessary. Three of the Justices of the High Court have declared amendment necessary in the most positive fashion. Mr. Justice Isaacs, in his judgment in the Tramways prohibition case, suggested that the Legislature should give jurisdiction to the Arbitration Court under the Judicature chapter of the Constitution to decide what is a dispute. Mr. Justice Powers, in the same case, said -
I do not see how the work of the Arbitration Court can be continued on present lines after the decision in this case until the Act is amended, and I felt it my duty, therefore, as Deputy-President of the Court, to point the position out at some length.
– What date?
– The judgment was given about six weeks ago. Mr. Justice Higgins has over and again declared the necessity for an amendment on these lines. The present position of the Court is obviously hopeless. So much for the amendment, in clause 5 of the Bill. Clause 12 has been the object of some special kind of criticism, in which the honorable member for Wentworth was the standard-bearer. To that kind of criticism I take the strongest exception. He said, in so many words, that the object of the Government in introducing the measure was to interfere improperly with the processes of the Court, to taint the fountains of justice. He attributed to the Government motives of the most contemptible character. These insinuations and hints as to what rumour is saying are absolutely without foundation. I resent them most strongly. I repudiate them. They are unworthy of every man who has uttered them, except the honorable member for Wentworth.
– I rise to order. Is the Attorney-General’s insult in order? I am personally not concerned with the opinion of the honorable member, but I draw attention to the remark in order that we may have something like reasonable feeling in the House.
– I did not catch what the honorable member said at the time, but if he said anything offensive to another honorable member I am sure he will withdraw it.
– I am unable to gather from the honorable member’s remarks whether he objects to being considered worthy or unworthy of this thing, but I withdraw it.
I come again to the reasons actuating the Government in introducing this Bill, and in particular to clause 12 . I have here the report of the Registrar of the Court as presented to the last Government, but not acted upon by them nor published by them. It contains this statement -
The President has frequently commented on the fact that, under section 60 of the Act, as it stands at present, it is mandatory for the Court to order that the registration of an organization be cancelled under certain circumstances. In his judgment in the case of the application of a cancellation of the Actors Union, the President said -
In this case I am compelled to do a stupid piece of injustice. No one has been hurt by the mistake, and all the material objections would be dealt with, if this objection were not taken; but I am obliged to (rive effect to the objection because it is taken. . . . The Act says that the Court shall order cancellation if it appears to the Court that an organization has been registered erroneously or by mistake. … I have no discretion.
I am not told I nm to make such order as may be proper under the circumstances. … I am very sorry for being forced into the position; but it is my duty to obey the Act at all costs, andI shall order that the registration of the organization be cancelled.
A slight amendment of section 60 would overcome the difficulty referred to by the President, and provision might be made that the cancellation may be ordered if the Court see fit.
Section 60 provides that if the Court, on the application of any organization or of the Registrar, thinks that for any reasons the registration of an organization ought to be cancelled, or that an organization has been registered erroneously, the Court shall cancel it. As clause 60 of the Act stands the President of the Court has no discretion, and it has compelled the Court, as we have seen in the Actors Union case, to perpetuate an act of stupid injustice. In the Federated Miners’ case the position was, if anything, worse. There, the Deputy President had to order the cancellation of an organization whose only fault was that it had not made provision for the investment of its funds. But this is a purely internal matter which did not concern the employers or the public. The Court, however, had to cancel the registration of that organization, and the effect of that cancellation was to gravely menace industrial peace. It was with the greatest difficulty that industrial strife was prevented. Such a position is in the last degree undesirable, and quite incompatible with the principle upon which the Act rests. We have created a Court to prevent and settle industrial disputes. We ask every organization to register. We ask every organization that can do so to go before that tribunal, to lay its disputes before it, and to abide the result. But no organization can file a plaint nor enjoy the benefits of any award unless it is registered. To cancel the registration of an organization is therefore to put it outside the pale of the Court. It has no alternative if it wants redress ; it must strike. That is the present position. It is a most undesirable one. And now to the remedy. We propose to restore to the President the discretion he exercised under the Act of 1904-11. It is not desired to introduce any novel principle. It is not intended to make an assault upon the judicial power of the President”. It is not proposed to limit his authority. On the contrary, it is proposed to extend it.
This amendment is, in its very nature, . strictly conformable to the basic principle underlying the exercise of the judicial function.
– No one has objected to that particular amendment.
– Very well. All that this particular amendment does is to restore the law as it was from 1904 to 1911. The objection has been raised that this law should not apply to a pending case. The public is asked to believe that this is a monstrous perversion of what is right and proper. It is said to be unprecedented, and our honorable friends opposite profess to be horrified.
– No; we say we ought to have been told about it.
– I am not referring to the right honorable member. Some unsophisticated persons in this assembly may be horrified. Some may pretend to regard this as an innovation. But there is no better settled principle of law than that an amendment in procedure applies immediately, nor is there any reason, generally, and certainly not in this case, why that principle should not apply. There is now filed, we are told, an application for the cancellation of the registration of a certain organization. Whether that organization has or has not done anything wrong is not for us, but for the Court, to determine. But the point I desire to emphasize is that the Court, as at present constituted, must order the cancellation of that registration, no matter whether it thinks that it should be cancelled or not. It has no option.
– That is not the important part of the Bill.
– I do not say that it is. But certain most objectionable criticisms have been directed against it. I shall come to the more important provisions later on. I am dealing with this point merely because it has been urged as one reason why the Bill should not pass. I was informed that if the Government would consent to attach to this proposed amendment of the principal Act a proviso that it should not apply to this case no opposition would be offered to the Bill. I wish the position occupied by the Government in this matter to be clearly understood. We are acting upon the recommendation of the Registrar. The President of the Court declared he was called upon to do “a stupid act of injustice” by ordering the de-registration of an organization that had committed no wrong. This had to be done because of a mere technical error, for which the Deputy Registrar, and not the organization, was responsible. An application for the cancellation of registration of an organization is now before the Court, and will shortly be heard, and I hope that we shall not lose an hour in enabling the Judge to deal with it as the evidence shows to be necessary. If he thinks the certificate ought to be cancelled, let him cancel it; if he thinks it ought not to be cancelled, let him not do so. It is to restore to the Court the power to deal with, the matter on its merits, and as justice dictates, that this particular amendment is being proposed.
I come now to clause 5. The honorable member for Flinders brings to the criticism of every measure affecting the Constitution all the subtlety and ingenuity of his well-trained mind. He has done so in this ease. I had hoped for some assistance from him, and in the earlier part of his speech we were promised it. The honorable gentleman said that the first part of the clause was distinctly good. Unhappily he damned the second part with such unsparing emphasis as to leave us no hope, and to create in the minds of the community the impression that their last condition would be worse than their first. Accord^, ing to the honorable and learned member the amendment will effect nothing, and is a delusion and a snare. I cannot agree with him. Let us take his objections to clause 5. The first part, which provides for a submission to the High Court to judicially decide the question of what is a dispute the honorable member for Flinders regards as desirable. I think we all do. The question whether that decision should be final and irrevocable, however, is another matter. We think it should be final. The honorable gentleman says that by no means at our disposal can we make the decision final. He says that the power of the High Court to issue a writ of prohibition cannot be ousted, and that prohibition will lie against a Justice of the High Court, as well as against the Arbitration Court. He, however, went on to say that, in this case, the writ would be useless, because the Judge will have decided the question before the writ can issue. I do not agree with either contention. Let us ask ourselves first whether prohibition oan be granted by the High Court against a Justice of that Court acting under the Bill, or against the Arbitration Court when the latter is making an award, or after it has made an award, based on a decision of the High Court under the Bill that an industrial dispute exists. It may be admitted that the High Court has already determined that a writ of prohibition will lie against a judicial officer, but that a Justice of the High Court is a judicial officer has not been determined. The honorable member for Flinders says that an attempt is being made to evade the Constitution by providing that a writ of prohibition cannot effectively lie against a Justice of the High Court exercising jurisdiction under the Bill, because such a Justice will have done his work before the writ can be issued, and the matter will be res judicata. My reply to that objection is that it took the Arbitration Court ninety-three days to get at the facts in the Tramways case, and that the Full Court was further engaged for twenty-three in considering whether therewas a dispute which would give the Arbitration Court jurisdiction. We must assume, therefore, that the business of the Justice of the High Court engaged in deciding whether a dispute existed would not be concluded within so short a period that an application for a writ of prohibition could not be made and granted, and theJustice restrained before a decision had been arrived at. So much for that contention, which must, in my opinion, fail. But I do not admit that a writ of prohibition can lie against a Justice of the High Court. I ask the honorable member to cite a case in which a writ of prohibition has been issued against a Court of unlimited jurisdiction. He will find it difficult to support his argument on this point. At page 489 of volume 10 of the Encyclopaedia of the Laws of England it is stated that -
The writ of prohibition is a prerogative writissued out of a Court of superior jurisdiction, and directed to the Judge of an inferior Court.
In Halsbury’s Laws of England, volume- 10, page 141, I find that -
The writ of prohibition is a prerogative writ, issuing out of the High Court of Justice, and directed to an ecclesiastical or inferior temporal.
Court, which forbids such Court to continue proceedings therein in excess of its jurisdiction or in contravention of the laws of the land.
So far as I have been able to ascertain, the writ of prohibition lies in every case from a superior to an inferior Court, an inferior Court being a Court of limited jurisdiction. What is an inferior Court? Halsbury’s Laws of England, page 150, says -
A Court is an inferior Court for the purpose of prohibition whenever its jurisdiction is limited.
The jurisdiction of the High Court is not limited, and, therefore, a writ of prohibition will not lie against a Justice of that Court. Again, there is no authority for the statement, made with such assurance by the honorable gentleman, that a writ of prohibition can be directed by a Court against itself. The writ of prohibition is based on the prerogative right of the Crown, and if the honorable gentleman’s contention can be sustained, it amounts to this : that a writ of prohibition can be issued by the Crown against itself. A writ of mandamus will not lie against the Crown, because it cannot be enforced by attachment, and the same thing applies to a writ of prohibition. Does the honorable gentleman say that a writ of prohibition by the High Court will lie against that Court itself ? If so, where does he get authority for the statement ?
– I shall attempt to answer these questions when we are dealing with the clause.
– The honorable gentleman devoted a great deal of time to destructive criticism of the Bill, and it is, therefore, important to show that the clause has a reasonable chance of being regarded as valid by the High Court. It has been asserted by members who say just what occurs to them at the moment that we have brought in the Bill well knowing that it must be futile. That is not so. The Bill has been introduced as a result of recommendations and suggestions by the Justices, and after very careful consideration. We have not been able to follow precisely the form of amendment suggested by the Justices. But I believe the amendment put forward will do what is desired. So far as I know it is valid, and will be effective, but in the light of past experience neither my assurance to that effect nor that of the honorable gentleman to the contrary is conclusive. I come now to the second contention of the honorable and learned gentleman, that a writ of prohibition would lie under the Bill against the Arbitration Court when the Court is proceeding to act on the decision of the High Court that an industrial dispute exists. I cannot agree with thisview. I would point out that the issue, of the writ under such circumstances would be, in effect, an appeal from the decision of trieJustice of the High Court. The existence of an industrial dispute having been judicially determined by the High Court,, the matter would be res judicata, and the High Court would refuse to entertain proceedings to again decide the same question. But even if prohibition would lie. to the Arbitration Court when that Court was proceeding to act on a decision of the High Court that an industrial disputeexisted, the issue of the writ would be discretionary where the absence or excess of jurisdiction was not apparent on the face of the pleadings, and it would not ordinarily be patent. The issue of the writ would, therefore, be discretionary, and there are special reasons, which do not at present exist in connexion with the issue of prohibition by the High Court and the Arbitration Court, why the High Court should not exercise its discretion to issue the writ. In the first place, there would have been a judicial determination of the question. That determination would be a determination of the High Court itself. By the issue of the writ, the High Court would, in effect, be calling in question a previous decision of the Court, and it has in a number of cases shown itself loth to overrule its prior decisions. Therefore, I contend that, even if the High Court will, under the Bill, have jurisdiction to issue writ of prohibition, it will not, in the circumstances, issue such a writ.
There is one other matter that I wish to mention. It has been suggested by, I think, the honorable member for Balaclava that section 55 of the Act ought not to be amended so as to include officers of organizations who are not at that time employes. He was good enough to tell us that we were departing from some sound and well-established principle in. that connexion, and were infringing the basic rights on which arbitration rested. But nothing could be further from the facts. It is well established in this country that in nearly all organizations of any size the proceedings and business are conducted, almost without exception, by persons who are not employed in an industry. The same thing applies to employers’ organizations, but with this difference, that the employer is, by virtue of his circumstances, in a position to employ a secretary who is not engaged in the business from which the employer gets his livelihood, but who, nevertheless, is thus in the employ of his employer. That cannot be so with the employes. The employes, therefore, naturally appoint as a secretary a person who is able to carry on the business of the organization, and, in order to enable him to have the time to do this, and to be independent of the censure and influence of an employer, they insist upon him leaving his former employment in order to carry on his secretarial work and no other work. This is a sensible and even necessary procedure, and no one who understands the matter will find any fault with it. And now to another matter. Something has been said about Wages Boards. They have been compared advantageously with Arbitration Courts. Those who make such a comparison are entirely ignorant of the basic difference which exists between the two systems. One deals with industrial disputes, the other has no power to deal with them at all; that is a basic difference. There are, of course, very many others. But this one is fundamental. The work of Wages Boards as existing in Victoria cannot be compared with that of the Arbitration Court. It has been asserted that on one hand you have a Judge who knows nothing of the circumstances of an industry, while on the other hand you have three employes and three employers, who, familiar with all the facts, and seized of every detail of the industry, hammer out expeditiously the terms of an agreement. This is the theory. But the facts shed a suggestive light upon it. I have here some of the reports of Wages Boards presented to the Parliament of Victoria in the second session of 1901. Two facts emerge. One is that the representatives of the employers and the employes never settle anything. In 90 per cent, of the cases it is the chairman, who knows nothing about the matter under consideration, who settles it. So much for that point. Next, as regards expedition, the Arbitration Court, restricted in its jurisdiction, hampered by technicalities, the approach to which is hedged about by a veritable Serbonian bog, barbed-wire entanglements, and what not, is expedition itself compared with the Wages Boards. Here are some of the facts. The Aerated Water Trade Board- took eleven months to gestate. The Agricultural Implements Board started on the 18th September, 1906, and arrived at their goal in April, 1909 - that is a period of two years and six months from the time from which they had lightheartedly set out. The Artificial Manure Board took only two years and ten months. The Boot Trade Board occupied fourteen months in coming to a determination. The Brass Workers Board took two years and eight months. The Carriage Board - this fact ought to be pasted in the hat of every advocate of Wages Boards throughout Victoria - started in 1901, and in 1909 they had not yet come to a determination. Expedition, thy name is Wages Boards ! The Clothing Board were relatively an express Board, for they arrived at something like a conclusion in thirteen months. The Fellmongers Board started on the 11th October, 1900, and the determination came into force on the 15th May, 1904 - that is, after a period of three years and seven months. The Ironmoulders Board took two years and ten months; the Underclothing Board, two years and eight months; and the Woollen Trade Board, two years and seven months. There are other Boards, but the facts I have quoted are typical of the whole system. It appears that, so far as expedition is concerned, the Wages Boards do not begin to compare with the Arbitration Court.
Let me briefly bring my remarks to a conclusion. This measure has been introduced to enable the Arbitration Court to exercise its functions, which now it is unable to do, according to the public, and oft-repeated, declaration of the President and Deputy President. The statement of the latter, made after the Tramways case, is, in itself, in my opinion, an amply sufficient reason why this Parliament should lay aside everything else and go on with this measure. The Bill has been introduced, and ought to be passed, because the amendments it contains are necessary for the effective and expeditious working of the Court. It has been introduced in order that a repetition of the Tramways case and of such an act of stupid injustice as the cancellation of the registration of an organization which had committed no wrong, shall be no longer possible.
I invited honorable gentlemen on the other side to help us with some suggestions to make the Bill better. I have waited in vain for any such suggestions. Of denunciation and hostile criticism we have had more than enough ; but of one useful suggestion not a trace. We have been told by the honorable members for Flinders, Wimmera, and Balaclava that we ought to amend the Constitution. The last-named member said that I have done nothing to enable this Parliament to establish a system of Wages Boards by an amendment of the Constitution. That, of course, is a supremely silly statement, because the amendment which was proposed by me on two separate occasions in this House would have given this Parliament power to establish, not a Wages Board system on the lines in Victoria, but an effective Wages Board system, if that was so desired. But we find that honorable gentleman and all those who speak in favour of an amendment of the Constitution vehemently opposed in attitude to amending the Constitution. The honorable member for Flinders is the apostle of an amendment of the Constitution when he is in Opposition, but the angel with the flaming sword was not a more effective defender of Paradise than the honorable gentleman is of the Constitution when he is in office. Most emphatically I charge that honorable gentleman with knowing the industrial impotence of the Commonwealth, and with doing nothing to remedy it. He knew before the last election that until the Constitution is amended our powers to deal with these matters are quite insufficient. He knew that perfectly well. He knew that there was an opportunity to submit these matters to the electors. He knows that they will have to be submitted to them. He stood up here the other night and said that they ought to be so submitted. When, he did not tell us. There is about the honorable gentleman a chronological impotence
– Do not be disagreeable.
– If those words hurt the honorable gentleman’s susceptibilities I am sorry, because I am not quite sure what they mean. At any rate, they were not intended to be offensive. But the honorable gentleman reminds me of a physician who comes with a bottle of medicine to one who is ill, but who tells the sufferer neither the amount of the dose nor when it is to be taken. Are we constantly to look at the label on the bottle; are we always to remain in rapt admiration of the cork? Are we never to open the bottle and take the medicine ?
– It is because the bottle is filled with such an unholy mixture that I dislike it.
– The honorable gentleman cannot escape his own constitutional disinclination to do anything “now.” Whilst it is perfectly true that the Constitution must be amended, and that this Bill is merely a patchwork measure, the fact remains that it is a necessary one, in order that the Court may not utterly break down. There is not an amendment proposed in it which is not necessary to carry us on to the time when the people will be afforded an opportunity of altering the Constitution. I hope that the Bill will receive the support of honorable members, and if we are to have any further criticism of it in Committee, I trust that that criticism will be of such a character as to assist us to make the measure better than it is.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section 19 of the principal Act is amended by inserting in paragraph (6), after the word organization,” the words “or by an association registered for the time being as an organization.”
– Will the Attorney-General explain what is meant by the words “by an association registered for the time being as an organization “ ? Under section 19 the Court has cognisance of all industrial disputes submitted to it by an organization. Under section 4 of the principal Act an organization means one that has been registered. What, then, is the reason for the insertion of these words ?
. -The reason for the amendment is quite clear. Where an organization is registered, and is subsequently de-registered, all things done while it was registered will not for that reason be rendered invalid. Let us suppose, for example, that an organization registers, and subsequently it is found that it ought not to have been registered - in fact, that it has not been properly registered - the association, although temporarily termed an organization, will not be an organization within the meaning of the Act. The amendment is intended to validate anything done by an organization, although it may be subsequently deregistered.
– But according to the definition clause, an organization means an organization which is registered.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
The Principal Act is amended by inserting after section 21 the following section : - “21AA. When an alleged industrial dispute is submitted to the Court -
– Upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill, I pointed out that subclause a confers a right upon only one party to an industrial dispute, and the Attorney-General promised to make- an amendment.
Amendments (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That after the word “ complainant,” para- graph a, line 7, the words “ or respondent “ be inserted.
That after the word “ State,” line 15, the words “or on any question of law arising in relation to the dispute or to the proceeding or to any award or order of the Court “ be inserted.
That in sub-clause (4) the words “or mandamus “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ mandamus or injunction.”
– I do not wish to delay the Committee in dealing with a- matter of law arising under this clause, but as I understand the Attorney-General will not be here on the third reading, I think I must redeem my promise, made by interjection, that I would shortly reply to his statements. The Attorney-General has spoken, of my ingenuity, and also of my addressing the Committee with an appearance of authority. 1 wish to deprecate that, idea ; and I think the Committee will bear me out when I say that I have never, in, addressing honorable members, presumed, to possess any authority whatever in a matter of law. I have on many occasionsaddressed honorable members on what I thought to be the law, and I have spoken emphatically when I have felt strongly. With this preamble I shall very shortly deal with the points the Attorney- General’ brought up in reply to my argument. First of all, he pointed out that my argument depended to some extent on thepower of the High Court to issue a prohibition against the High Court. Incidentally I mentioned that I thoughtprobably the High Court had that power, but that it was quite irrelevant to theargument to which I was addressing myself. The reason why I said that a prohibition would be utterly unavailing in this case was that the Judge in the High Court, to whom a question is referred, has’merely to give his answer to that question, and, no matter what his answer may be, there is nothing any Court can prohibit, because he has no further steps totake, and a prohibition only lies to prohibit a Judge from taking further steps.
– He can be prohibited from going on.
– No. That is where the Attorney-General, if I may say so, has fallen into another error. Let us take the Timber case, which was a . lengthy one, as a good example. Suppose, in that case, that the question of jurisdiction, instead of being reserved by the President to be heard by himself, had been reserved to the High Court, or a Judge of that Court, and it had come before the President or another of the Judges, no Court could prohibit that Judge from dealing with and answering the question of whether there was jurisdiction. The Judge is bound to answer the question, but, if he answers it wrongly, and if some Court then assumes jurisdiction on the wrong answer, the proceedings of that Court are subject to prohibition by the High Court. That is the point which the Attorney-General seems to have entirely overlooked. The point he brought forward was really irrelevant to my argument. In order to show that the High Court could not issue a mandamus against a Judge of the High Court, the AttorneyGeneral cited from passages familiar to all lawyers showing that the prerogative writ of prohibition only goes from a superior Court to an inferior Court. That is perfectly true, aud absolutely well established; but, unfortunately, the basis of the prohibition in that case, as decided unanimously by the Judges in the Tramways case, is that the power of prohibition, where the Constitution is broken, as in the Tramways case, for instance, arises not from common-law right, or the power of issuing a prerogative writ of mandamus at common law, to which his references were applicable, but from particular provisions of our Constitution, which say that the High Court has, as part of its original jurisdiction, the privilege of issuing a prohibition against any judicial officer. This, as I say, was unnecessary to my argument, but I am still inclined to think - though the matter has never yet been the subject of judicial determination - that, even if the High Court had something else to do that could be prohibited, the High Court, in another jurisdiction, could prohibit it from doing it. But that question does not arise. Under the clause before us, all the High Court has to do is to answer the question whether or not there is jurisdiction, or, under the amendment, is so-and-so a matter of law.
– The Judge must answer the question after hearing the facts.
– And does the honorable member say that, while he is hearing the facts, an application would not be entertained for a decree nisi?
– No; he has jurisdiction to entertain and answer a question, and determine a matter of law, but his determination is not final. He cannot be prohibited from answering a question put to him, any more than a County Court could be prohibited from proceeding to hear evidence.
– Is there no appeal from his decision ?
– No; because the right of appeal is taken away by the clause.
– Then where does the honorable member say there is a remedy against a Justice if he exceeds his jurisdiction ?
– He does not exceed his jurisdiction at all in answering a question as to whether there is jurisdiction. He may answer rightly or wrongly, but he has jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter. If he does so rightly, there is no prohibition, and, if he determines wrongly, there is still no prohibition against him, but there is a prohibition against the Court which proceeds to act on his determination.
– Where has the High Court power to determine or review a question that a Justice has settled ?
– To review a question ?
– Or in any way to quash his decision, or to prevent his Court being the final one in regard to the matter ?
– The High Court does not, and under the Bill cannot, issue a prohibition against a High Court Judge for determining whether there is jurisdiction. I have always said that, because there is nothing to prohibit. He has to answer a question. But on his answer, should it be a wrong one, or if the High Court ultimately, perhaps months afterwards, on further material, as in the Tramways case, where new evidence was brought up of a kind that was not before the High Court originally-
– The honorable member has said that an order of prohibition would not, in the circumstances, lie against the High Court Justice. In what procedure would this further evidence come before the High Court? In the
Tramways case it was on an application for prohibition.
– An application for a prohibition, not against the High Court Judge, but against the Arbitration Court. That is the whole point. The only Court you can prohibit from doing something is the Court that has the power to do something. Suppose I am a Judge, and the Legislature says that, before I decide to hear a case, I must ask the Attorney-General whether I have the right to decide. The AttorneyGeneral says I have the right, and I resolve to deal with the matter. No order of prohibition can lie against him, because he has only answered a question; the prohibition will lie against me for doing something that was wrong. I say that in stopping, or pretending to stop, an order of prohibition against a decision of a High Court Judge, you do not in any way affect the jurisdiction of the High Court, either then or ultimately, either on the same materials or on other materials.
– In other words, you say that this Parliament has no power to circumvent what has already been done.
– The only thing this Parliament cannot circumvent is the Constitution, and the Constitution says that the High Court is the final arbiter in the case of any other authority transgressing the bounds of the Constitution. I should not speak strongly on this question unless I felt clearly that I am right. As to one point to which the honorable member referred, I do not wish to be understood to be expressing a strong opinion. That is as to whether, if a High Court Judge were to be given the right to carry out a decree, the High Court in another capacity would issue prohibition. I think it would, but that question does not arise in this case, because all the High Court has to do is to decide a question of law.
– What would be the proper remedy of the High Court against the Arbitration Court 1
– The Arbitration Court is a tribunal which not only pronounces a decree, but carries it into effect. If its decree is not obeyed, the offender is brought up and fined, or, perhaps, put in gaol. It is these subsequent orders that are prohibited. That is the whole effect of a writ of prohibition. Now you have prevented the issue of a writ of prohibition against a Court that has nothing to do except answer a question, leaving the High Court with the full authority which it has now to issue prohibition against the Court that carries out the award, even if it does so on the authority of a wrong decision of the High Court itself.
– The position would be the same as if a Judge of the Arbitration Court proceeded straight away with the case, and determined the question of jurisdiction wrongly.
– That is the position. I make this statement, not aggressively, but with all due respect to the position which the Attorney-General occupies. It represents the conclusion I have come to, and I feel it to be my duty to state it to the Committee.
– As to the argument of the honorable and learned gentleman that prohibition will probably lie against a High Court Justice, it is admitted by both of us that that is not relevant to this particular case. I only desire to say that the contention of the honorable and learned member is not borne out by the language of the Chief Justice in the Tramways case, page 62 of the Commonwealth Law Reports, 1914. His Honour there says -
But when we consider that “ prohibition “ is not only a term well known to English law, hut the term specially used to designate the appropriate remedy for restraining inferior Courts or tribunals which usurp jurisdiction, and that the writ does not lie in any other case…..
With all due deference to the honorable member for Flinders, I think that the statement of the Chief Justice is against the honorable member’s contention that a writ of prohibition will lie to a Justice of the High Court exercising this jurisdiction. Now I come to the other point: that prohibition will lie against the Arbitration Court. On this point, although I have some doubts, I cannot agree with the honorable member. It is only fair to say that I have never contended that what is proposed would move the Arbitration Court entirely from the sphere of influence of the High Court, nor was I under the impresssion that the learned gentleman’s argument on the second reading was directed to that question rather than to the power of the Justices to make a decision which would be in fact irrevocable.
SirW illi am Irvine. - Then what is the good of sub-clause 4?
– We refer to the Justice all questions of law arising out of the Arbitration proceedings. If his decision is not in fact irrevocable the purpose of the amendment is defeated. I say his jurisdiction is unquestionable, and cannot be questioned, so far as a decision as to whether there is a dispute is concerned, or upon any other questions arising therefrom. Prohibition will not, in my opinion, lie against him. I do not agree with the honorable gentleman that, so far as his decisions are concerned, the High Court can question them by prohibition, injunction, or mandamus, but I do not deny that it is possible that the High Court may find some way of upsetting our superstructure. I can only say, however, that the opinion of the learned Justices I have quoted is against such a contention. I am giving to their recommendations the attention they deserve. I quite agree with the member for Flinders that the only remedy is an amendment of the Constitution. To that remedy we shall turn our attention shortly.
.- As the Government are determined to go through with the Committee stage of this measure, there is not much to be gained by dealing with legal arguments at this juncture. I cannot help thinking that in asking the Attorney-General to make a long legal statement, the honorable member for Flinders was unfair to the honorable gentleman and to the Committee. My gifted friend, the Attorney-General, is amusing upon every subject under the sun except law ; and on law he is amusing only to the lawyers. I suggest, in the circumstances, that we should push ahead as quickly as possible with : this Bill, which the Government regard as urgent.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 (List of members and officers to be evidence).
– I ask the Attorney-General whether he does not think that if the list of members is to be taken as evidence, it should be verified in some way by a sworn declaration, or some statement by the officer filing it.
Mr. HUGHES (West Sydney- Attor the Registrar that the list of members should be conclusive evidence, but I did not agree with that. I have made it primâ facie evidence. That is sufficient. It will be primd facie evidence, and as such upon a review of the facts the accuracy of the list may be questioned.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Section twenty-four of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in sub-section (1), after the words “ the parties “ where they first occur, the words “ all or any of.”
Amendments (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That after the word “amended,” “- (a)” be inserted.
That the word “after” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ before.”
That the following words be added at the end of the clause: - “and (b) by omitting from that sub-section the words ‘ the parties to the dispute,’ and the inserting in their stead the words ‘ the parties to the agreement.’ “
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 -
Section fifty-five of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end of paragraph (b) of sub-section (1) the words, ‘“together with such other persons, whether employees- in the industry or not, as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof.”
– This clause has been drafted in a lopsided way. A privilege is given to the employes which is not given to the employers. The principle of the Act is, of course, to give equal justice to both sides.
– I see the honorable member’s objection.
Clause amended (on motion by Mr. Hughes) to read as follows, and agreed to:-
Section fifty-five of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end of paragraph (a) of sub-section (1) the words : - “ together with such other persons whether employers in the industry or not, as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof,” and at the end of paragraph (b) of sub-section (1) the words, “ together with such other persons whether employees in the industry or not as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof.”
Clauses 11 and 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Registration deemed to have been duly effected).
– This clause makes the cancellation of the registration of an organization optional, as it was in the Act of 1904, which Act was amended in 1911 by the Labour Government in the direction of making the cancellation compulsory. I wish to know whether the clause is intended to cover every possible defect in connexion with the registration of an association so that it shall be deemed to have been fully registered, notwithstanding anything that may have been done.
– Where anything done which has to be done by a registered organization has been done by an organization whose registration is subsequently found to have been defective or has been cancelled, the thing done is to be deemed to have been properly done, but the powers of the Court under section 60 to cancel the registration from proper cause are not affected.
Clause agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “3a. After section nineteen of the Principal Act the following section is inserted : - “ 19a. A plaint by which an industrial dispute is submitted to the Court shall be deemed to have been submitted by the organization by which it purports to have been submitted unless evidence is given on behalf of that organization that the plaint’ was not in fact submitted by that organization.”
– I presume that this is another of the provision’s that have been necessitated by the Tramways case. At present the only persons authorized to lodge a plaint are an organization properly registered under the Act, but by this clause it would appear that a plaint may be submitted by any one, and afterwards the mere fact of its having been submitted is to be taken absolutely as a fact that it has been submitted by the organization on whose behalf it was alleged to be lodged, unless the organization itself comes in and says, “ We did not lodge it; there was no authority for it.” Unauthorized persons may start plaints, and later on organizations can come in and take advantage of them, and no one will be in a position to dispute the authority of those who initiated the proceedings. This is a most extraordinary clause.
– The clause is not an extraordinary one. The necessity for it has arisen, not only out of the Tramways case, but out of other cases. It does not seek to enable any person who happens to be casually passing along to file a plaint which will be deemed to have been filed by an organization, nor does it say that this is conclusive evidence that the plaint was filed by the organization concerned. The purpose of the clause is to do something very different. All that this clause does is to provide that any plaint that has been before the Court, or is to be before the Court, and has complied with the requirements of the Act shall be deemed to have been duly filed. That) is a sound principle. The question arose in the Tramways case. It was actually contended that this was not the plaint filed by the organization at all, and that, although the men were for months and months engaged in drawing up their log, it was really not the plaint of the organization at all, but of somebody else. It was contended that the members of the South Australian branch were not members of the Federal organization. All this clause does is to provide that where the Court, knowing all the facts, has given a decision, the award shall not be overturned, and the men shall not be robbed of the fruits of their effort by a mere technicality.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to-
That the following new clauses be inserted : - “6a. Section twenty-two of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following Bub-section : -
A certificate by the Registrar in accordance with paragraphs (a) or (b) or (c) of sub-section (1) of this section shall be conclusive evidence of the facts stated therein.’” 8a. Section thirty-one of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1) the words “ prohibition or mandamus “ and inserting in their stead the words “ prohibition, mandamus or injunction.”
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ Section 72 of the Principal Act is amended by adding ns sub-section (2) : - “ The secretary of every union registered under this Act shall, within one month after the completion of the yearly audit, and as may be prescribed, deliver to the Registrar a duly audited balance-sheet of the assets and liabilities of the organization, made up to the date of closing the accounts, and also a duly audited statement of the receipts and expenditure of the organization during the year, the subject of such audit, in such form as may be prescribed. Provided that such statement shall clearly and separately show the expenditure incurred in sick, accident, and other claims, management, arbitration, costs, and other payments.”
I dealt on the second reading with the advisableness of having in the Act a clause similar to that which appears in the Western Australian Act, and, I believe, in the New South Wales Act. This is, to a great extent, copied from the Western Australian provision, where we have in the reports published by the Registrar each year full and detailed statements of the receipts and expenditure of the various organizations working under the Act. Section 72 of the Commonwealth Act makes provision for accounts being submitted to the Registrar, but nothing is said as to the details of the accounts or their publication. I can see no possibility of objection to the clause, and hope the Attorney-General will agree to it.
– The honorable member has directed his amendment against unions. We have nothing to do with unions. We deal with organizations. What the honorable member aims at is clear. He wishes to know where the money of the unions goes to, but he does not tell us, nor does he propose to tell us, where the employers’ money goes. I should be delighted to obtain information on both points, because it would be very useful, but I submit that the amendment as it stands is lopsided and irrelevant, and that, therefore, we cannot accept it.
.- I submit that the clause is relevant. Part of the Bill deals with the cancellation of organizations. We can easily substitute “ organization “ for “ union “ in the new clause, which will enable the returns to be filed with the Registrar, so that they can be produced in Court and examined to see if there has been any breach of the law or not. Surely that is not an unreasonable request?
– Why did you not move the amendment yourself?
– I had nothing to do with it. Does the honorable member object to the accounts of organizations of employers and employes being audited ?
– Should they not be open to the members of the organization ? Why, then, does the honorable member find fault with the amendment?
– We are not finding fault with it. Every trade union in Australia is compelled to submit a balancesheet and have it audited.
– Many unions sent in returns under the Trade Union Act in Queensland, and it was reported by the Registrar of Friendly Societies there that in many cases large sums, instead of being used for the purposes of the union, were diverted to other objects, including political. Shortly afterwards some of the largest unions withdrew their registration, and are now filing no returns, and no account is published to show how the money is being expended. Section 60 of the Commonwealth Act requires that the accounts of organizations shall be duly audited, in pursuance of the rules; and that if they are not audited, or if they do not disclose the true financial position of the organization, cancellation may take place ; but, so far, no rules have been prescribed requiring the returns to be made. The honorable member’s object is to see if we cannot get these returns filed by organizations on both sides. It is an absolutely impartial amendment.
– Ask the honorable member for Dampier to tell us how the Liberal party in Western Australia spent the £500 that was sent over by Brookes.
– £24,000 was subscribed by some of the Labour organizations for the Labour party in Western Australia.
– What about the money that Mr. Denham received?
– I dare say that some political association provided the funds. I should like to know where the Labour party got all its money to fight the last election; but that has nothing to do with this matter. The honorable member for Dampier says that ‘the machinery of this legislation should be completed by providing for the making of returns which mav be inspected.
– Does not section 72 of the principal Act supply all that is needed ?
– No; because it provides that regulation may be prescribed requiring returns to be made to the Registrar, but such regulations have not been framed. If the Attorney-General would promise to prescribe such a regulation, we should be satisfied.
– That is all I want.
– If the AttorneyGeneral would give us that promise, the honorable member for Dampier would withdraw his amendment.
– Section 72 provides that -
Each organization shall as prescribed forward to the Registrar such returns of its members, accounts, and alterations of its rules as are prescribed.
Penalty : Two pounds per week for each week in default.
In schedule B of the Act of 1904-11 it is set forth that -
The affairs of the association shall be regulated by rules specifying the purposes for which it is formed, and providing for the following matters in relation to the association. . . . : -
The mode in which the property is to be controlled and the funds invested.
The yearly or other more frequent audit of the accounts.
The conditions under which funds may be disbursed for ordinary and extraordinary purposes…..
That, I think, is fairly wide. It is perfectly obvious that the reason actuating our honorable friends opposite in pressing this amendment is that they desire to find out to what extent the unions use their money for political purposes.
– I am not going to say that the community has not a right to know what every organization does with its money. I am rather inclined to . think that it has; but we must decide fairly by all parties. We have no power to make each individual employer state what he does with his money. He may employ a thousand men. Those men must tell the world what ‘they do with their money ; but he is not asked to do so. Take the case of Rockefeller. He employs a great many miners in Nevada. They belong to a union. Possibly they spend their money for, amongst other things, political purposes. They have to disclose that fact, but Rockefeller is not compelled to disclose the fact that he spends money in hiring Pinkerton irregular soldiers to go down to Nevada with machine guns and shoot the miners down. It is said that one organization of employers in this country spent £50,000 to defeat our referenda. We can discover nothing about that. If the Opposition could show us some constitutional means whereby we could discover how every person spent the money which he devoted to political purposes, I should agree to this amendment; but since that cannot be done, I cannot accept this proposal.
.- The Attorney-General is trying to draw a red herring across the trail. There is nothing in my amendment suggesting that we want to know howthe unions use their money for political purposes. It is only fair that an organization protected by the laws of the Commonwealth should submit from time to time to the Registrar a properly audited statement of its accounts. The regulations in this respect, for which the principal Act provides, have never been prescribed. The amount which every organization expends by way of benefits bo,. its members should be known to the public. As I pointed out this afternoon, 78 per cent, of the total money contributed by industrial unions in the Old Country is returned to the members by way of benefits. In New South Wales, however, only 12½per cent., and in Western Australia only 19 per cent., of the contributions of members is returned to them as benefits. These audited returns are required under the State Acts, and should be required under this law. The illustration cited by the Attorney-General as to the use to which Rockefeller may put his money is quite beside the mark. I desire, by leave, to amend my amendment by substituting for the word “ union “ the word “ organization,” so that every organization registered under the Act shall be compelled to furnish returns.
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly.
.- The honorable member for Dampier evidently fails to distinguish between a Trade Union Act and an Arbitration Act. If we were dealing with a Trade Union Bill requiring the registration of organizations, his amendment probably would be legitimate and proper; but we are dealing with a measure for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes, and I should like to know how any question as to the way in which the funds of an organization are spent could assist in the settlement of an industrial dispute. The honorable member, in submitting his amendment, has overlooked the purpose of this Bill.
.- I du not think that the honorable member for Brisbane has read the principal Act, nor considered this amendment. If, before making his speech in criticism of the honorable member for Dampier, he had read certain provisions in the Bill which was introduced by a Labour Administration in 1910, he would know that that measure provides for tlie framing of regulations requiring accounts to be furnished, and that the Minister has never prescribed what shall be done under tha-t particular provision; but there is actually an obligation that this publicity should exist with regard to the funds of organizations of both employers and employes. After all, what can happen under this legislation? One of the powers of the Court is to decide that preference may be given to members of organizations over persons who are not members. Thus a man may be required to join an organization, and surely such a man should have some reasonable, guarantee that the funds to which he is asked to contribute are properly expended.
– It is provided by Schedule b that he shall have such knowledge.
– The reply is another instance of what I may call the terpsichorean capacity of our most accomplished acrobat. The schedule says that the affairs of the association shall be regulated by rules specifying the purposes for which it is formed, and providing for matters in relation to the association, among them the mode in which the property is to be controlled and the funds invested, and the yearly or other more frequent audit of the accounts. It is enacted only that rules shall be made to provide for these things, not that the things themselves shall be done. A rule may provide that an audit shall be made for a committee, and shall be published to the committee, and to no one else. Such a rule would comply with the schedule.
– No. If the rules of an association did not give every member of it access to the balance-sheet and audit, the Registrar would not permit its registration.
– I do not know what the practice is, but there is no guarantee. From what I have read in the newspapers of the meetings of organizations in New
South Wales, I gather that there is the greatest dissatisfaction among their members as to the control of funds. These members seem to be in some doubt as to what is happening.
– They are in no doubt at all.
– Then why do honorable gentlemen object to the publicity that is asked for? They say that the Act already provides for what is proposed; but their casuistry is appalling. Their refusal to allow the members of an organization to obtain an accurate knowledge of what happens to its funds, and to allow the public to know what happens to them, is deplorable. It shows on what is based the plea of urgency for forcing the Bill through this afternoon.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments. Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the Bill be now recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 10.
In Committee: (Recommittal).
Clause 10 (as amended) -
Section fifty-five of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end of paragraph
of sub-section (1.) the words “together with such other persons, whether employers in the industry or not, as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof,” and at the end of paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) the words “, together with such other persons, whether employees in the industry or not, as have bee a appointed officers of the association, and admitted as members thereof.”
Amendment (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to-
Omit the words previously inserted after “ adding,” viz. : - “ at the end of paragraph (a) of sub-section (1.) the words ‘, together with such other persons, whether employers in the industry of not, as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof and “, and insert after “ amended,” line 2, the words “ (o) by inserting after the word ‘ industry ‘ (last occurring) in paragraph (a) of sub-section (1.) the following proviso : -
Provided that an association of employers may be registered as an organization notwithstanding that it contains, in addition to employers in or in connexion with the industry, such other persons, whether employers in the industry or not, as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof.” and ‘ (b) ‘ “
Bill reported with a further amendment.
Order and Conduct of Business. - The Closure. - Administration of Justice in Papua.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I may not be present at the sittings next week; but the order of business will be, after the disposal of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the consideration of the Lands Acquisition Bill, the Customs Bill, and the other measures of Government business as they stand on the noticepaper.
– I address myself to the Prime Minister in connexion with the peculiar position that we are in to-day. I wish to be loyal to my leader; but if we are going to have many repetitions of what has taken place to-day, I am afraid that I shall have to kick over the traces. I recognise that the Opposition is justified in fighting in its party interests, and for the policy that its members have placed before the country; but it should not contribute to the discomfort of the House generally more than is necessary.
– I rise to a point of order. The members of the Opposition cannot properly be subjected to criticism as to the discomfort that they may have caused members generally, when they have merely done their duty by the electors who sent them here.
– On several occasions I have warned the honorable member for Wentworth against taking the course he has just taken. He rose in the middle of another honorable member’s speech to make a statement which he had no right to utter. He did not attempt to place a point of order before the Chair. If that sort of thing is continued, I shall have to take steps to prevent the honorable member.
– The point of order which I intended to submit to you, sir, and which I thought I had done, was that it was no more in order for the honorable member to say that the Opposition had contributed to the discomfort of the House than it would have been for him to say that we had been “stone-walling” the passage of the Bill.
– Order ! The honorable member has not even now taken a point of order.
– I ask your ruling, sir, as to whether the honorable member is in order in stating that members of the Opposition, by what they have done, have contributed to the discomfort of the House?
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has made no statement which I can rule out of order.
– I think that the Opposition are justified in taking any stand they like within the limits of the Standing Orders, and they have, done so to-day. It has been the custom with most honorable members to assist one another so far as the meeting of their personal comfort is concerned. The position would be different if the Opposition had intended to fight the measure right through, but they waited till honorable members had missed their train, and then they climbed down. If the Opposition adopt that attitude on any future occasion, I shall expect the Prime Minister to help me in contributing towards the comfort of those who desire to leave Melbourne. I am one of those who believe in the closure. I think that the majority ought to be able to carry what they desire after due discussion. I ask the Prime Minister to see that the closure is applied when the Opposition are guilty of offering reckless opposition to a Bill which the Government desire to be carried at the sitting.
.- I do not propose now to deal wilh the question on which I desired to speak to-day, and that is the association of this Parliament with any effort on the part of a State Government to interfere with the wheat supplies in the coming harvest. ‘ I beg to inform the Leader of the Government that on the next day of sitting I shall move the adjournment of the House to discuss this matter, so that, in the meantime, he may furnish himself with information as to the wheat supply in each State.
– Make it a day later, otherwise you will interrupt the passage of the Arbitration Bill, and we shall have to apply the closure.
.- I want to make a protest, after reading in the Papuan Timet an article stating that a European had been tried for his liberty without a jury. If what is stated there is true, he well deserved the punishment. I never heard before that a man could be hanged and remain alive for six hours. I have very much doubt about the accuracy of the evidence which was given. I have no objection to any of my letters being censored, but I think it would be well if a censor was sent from the Intelligence Department, so that honorable members could have their letters opened and sent here in as little time as possible. . Strange to eay, the letter I hold in my hand carried a protest against the liberty of a white man being endangered without a resort to the fundamental basis of the English law, namely, trial by jury. He was accused of hanging a native, who, after hanging for six hours, escaped with his life. In the history of this world there is no record of that having ever been done. A doctor has said that it is absolutely impossible that a man could live if that were done. I have heard of. a case where a man, by the exercise of large muscular power, held up his own weight for thirty-eight minutes without being killed. Ultimately he died from practising that which he used to do at a public performance. Thirty-eight minutes was the longest time for which he could remain in that position. I have entered my protest, and I hope that the House will see that every person who is tried for life and liberty shall have the right to demand a trial by jury.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 6.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 November 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19141120_reps_6_75/>.