7th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at11 a.m., and read prayers.
Exclusion of Press
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether, yesterday, that right honorable gentleman held a secret meeting, from which the press was excluded, with certain persons likely to be affected by the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill,, and whether it is the policy of the Win-the-War Government to hold secret -meetings with persona likely to be affected by its taxation proposals.!
– I do not know what happened yesterday in the matter referred to, but, speaking generally, it is the rule of this Government to seek information on any subject of public importance wherever- that information may be available. As to the secrecy of conferences, I would remind the honorable member that he, while Treasurer, held many secret conferences.
– By way of explanation, I wish to say that the press was never excluded from conferences held when I was Treasurer. I asked my question because I saw the statement in the newspaper that yesterday a deputation, headed by the honorable member for Corangamite, waited on the Treasurer to discuss the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill, and that the reporters were not permitted to be present at the proceedings. The Minister for the Navy says that I frequently held conferences, with the public of a secret character. That is a misstatement. I have been misrepresented by the Minister for the Navy, and, unhappily, be frequently misrepresents me. The public will remember that when a deputation of bankers wished to wait on me secretly, I refused to discuss public matters with them in secret, and invited the press to. be present, subsequently circulating copies of the report of the proceedings. Is the Prime Minister prepared to let us have a report of the proceedings which took place yesterday,, when the pastoralists waited on the Treasurer?
– I shall bring the request under the notice of the Treasurer as soon as I see him. X am sorry if I misrepresented the honorable member. If he did not seek conferences with persons able to inform him on matters of. public policy, except on the occasions when, no doubt for political reasons, he had the limelight turned on–
– Is the right honorable gentleman making a statement If so, he should get permission. He is making an attack on me, against which I ask for protection, Mr. Speaker.
– I have been asked a question, and am answering it. I ~ very much regret that the honorable member did not consult those who were able to inform him on matters relating to his administration.
– I did not say that.
– Is the Government aware that the reason why the Age newspaper is seeking by deliberate falsehoods to weaken the Win-the-War party is that its control has been handed over to a man born in Germany 1
– I am not aware.
– Is it not a fact that the only son of the man alleged by the honorable member for Echuca to have been born in Germany was killed at the war while fighting for the Allies?
– I believe that is so.
– I desire to address a question to you, Mr. .Speaker. Is it a fact that you have named certain persons as persons not to be admitted into this building, even though accompanied by honorable members of this House, and bearing the tickets of admission to the gallery which are distributed in your name by the Serjeant-at-Arms?
– In consequence of the disturbance that occurred within the building yesterday, I have issued the instruction that no person who was engaged in that disturbance yesterday - and information was conveyed to me that arrangements had been made for a demonstration in force at Parliament House to-day - shall be admitted within the precincts of the House during its sittings, and I have taken steps to prevent any unseemly interference with the . proceedings of Parliament in other directions.
– I desire to know, Mr. Speaker,, if I have the same privilege as any other honorable member of the House? If bo, I wish to know why two of my constituents to whom I gave tickets of admission obtained in the ordinary way have been refused admission to the gallery ?
– Perhaps the House will permit me to make a statement in answer to the question.
– I think that some explanation ought to be made..
– Under the Standing Orders the Speaker must be heard in silence. Yesterday afternoon an unseemly disturbance, in which a number of persons took part, occurred within the precincts of the House. Some of these persons, breaking through the barriers, entered portions of the building which are reserved for the sole use of honorable members, and forced themselves as far as the doors of this chamber, thus attempting to interrupt the proceedings of this Parliament. No Parliament could permit occurrences of that kind. I look to honorable members- to support me - in preserving their rights and privileges from the invasion of individuals or bodies of persons, either inside or outside the House. I have given instructions to those who are in charge of the doors that such persons as may be recognised as having taken part in yesterday’s disturbance shall not be permitted within the precincts while the House is sitting, and that the passages and entrances are -to be” kept clear for the ingress and egress of members. I have done this in the interests of all honorable members, for the sake of decency and the proper conduct of our proceedings, and to preserve the rights of Parliament from infringement, and I am supported in my action, not only by the precedents of this House, but also by the practice of the House of Commons. In support - of my statement I refer honorable members to page 183 of the 11th edition qf May, where, in a chapter relating to obstruction, it is set out that -
To facilitate the attendance of members without interruption, both Houses, at the commencement of each session, by order, give directions, that the Commissioners of the police of the metropolis shall keep, during a session of Parliament, the streets leading to the Houses of Parliament . free and open, and that no obstruction shall be - permitted to hinder the passage thereto of the lords or members. And, when tumultuous assemblages of people have obstructed the thoroughfares, lobby, or passages, orders have been given to the local authorities to disperse them.
I sincerely trust that no honorable member has knowingly given tickets of admission to anybody who was responsible for disturbing the proceedings of the House yesterday. If that has been done, I regret it, and hope that it was done in ignorance of the fact that certain persons to whom tickets were given were concerned in the disturbance.
– I deny that I gave my tickets to any one who caused the disturbance.
– I neither admit nor deny it.
– I think that I am voicing the general sense of the House in insisting that our proceedings shall be conducted with decorum, and be kept free from unseemly interruption.
– In view of my not being able to give tickets to any one, may I ask, sir, if you have given the order that citizens outside are not to be allowed to send in written requisitions to their members? I know that there are fellowcitizens and constituents of mine outside, but I have not received cards from them.
– I have given no such order.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I submit that you, Mr. Speaker, have misrepresented me in suggesting that I have desired to facilitate the entrance into this chamber of persons who were responsible for the disturbance here yesterday. I do not know who, if anybody, was responsible for the disturbance, if any, which is alleged to have taken place within the precincts yesterday.
– The honorable member is going beyond a personal explanation in making a reflection on the Speaker. I made no charge or insinuation against the honorable member. What I said was that I trusted that honorable members had not knowingly given tickets of admission to those responsible for the disturbance. I mentioned no honorable member by name.
– If I was out of order, I am sorry. I desire to conclude what I rose to say. It is that the present order in excluding the lady friends of honorable members-
– The honorable member is not now making a personal explanation, but is reflecting upon, and misrepresenting, the Chair. Personal explanations must refer to matters in which an honorable member has been misrepresented or misunderstood, and must relate to proceedings which have taken place in the House. The honorable member is out of order.
– I apologize if I have transgressed the rules. I wish to draw a distinction between what you imputed to me,, in the remarks you made, and what I wished to elicit from you by the question that I addressed to you a little while ago. My question was - and this is where I wish to show that I was misrepresented - whether you, sir, take it upon yourself to say that certain persons, ladies or gentlemen, to whom tickets have been issued in the ordinary way, are to be excluded, although accompanying members of the House?
– When my attention was drawn to the fact that tickets had been issued to certain members of the public, who were concerned in a disturbance in this building yesterday, I gave instructions that those persons were not to be admitted to the precincts of the House. That instruction will be carried out, I hope, with the concurrence and support of every member of the House.
– I have been outside the chamber, and have ascertained from the doorkeepers that the blue tickets issued by honorable members to give admission to the chamber are not being honoured. There is a general refusal by the doorkeepers to admit any person with tickets; no discrimination at all is being shown. The fact that these tickets have been issued by members on this side of the House is sufficient to prevent anybody entering the building. Is that your intention, sir?
– I shall not allow a general debate on this question. The Speaker exercises his discretion in these matters. I have given no orders which will exclude everybody in the possession of tickets issued by honorable members. My instruction related only to those who were responsible for creating a disturbance yesterday.
– I rise to a question of privilege. I asked you, sir, whether citizens are prevented from sending in their names to honorable members. The parliamentary officer informed me that there was no such embargo. I went outside, and found that there were only policemen at the front door, and they said that no names were allowed to be sent in to honorable members. I asked, “ Is no arrangement made whereby people can get cards to send to their members?” and the answer I received was “ No.” I then told the people waiting outside that you, sir, had said they had the right to send their cards in to honorable members. As every citizen has a right to send his name and a request to a member of this House, I ask you, sir, to give instructions that cards be provided at the front door on which citizens may address their messages to their representatives in Parliament.
– I have issued no inistructions that the constituents of honorable members are not to send their names in to their representatives. The instruction I gave refers to the admission of people who were known to have attempted to make a disturbance in the House, and later it was reported to me that, apparently attracted by the prospects of disorder, some undesirable male characters found their way into the House yesterday, and were in evidence outside its precincts this morning.
-Names! “Who were they? ‘
– It is not the province of the Speaker to debate matters “with honorable members.
Mr.Fenton. - This is a wholesale insult to the public.
– So it is.
Mr.Fenton. - You have mentioned no names.
– The honorable member must not interrupt me while I am on my feet, or I shall name him.
– There is a gross insult; it is general.
– As the honorable member for Maribyrnong will not obey the instructions of the Chair I name him, and I ask the Prime Minister to take the necessary action.
– The honorable member is out of order, and I ask him not to interject . again.
– Name him.
– I never rise without great reluctance to perform this most painful duty which devolves upon the Prime Minister. I trust that the honorable member for Maribyrnong will make such amends to the Chair as will render it unnecessary for me to take further action.
– What does the Speaker want? He is insulting citizens.
– I make that suggestion to the honorable member; happily, I have made it with some success on former occasions, and I trust that it is not necessary to point out to a man like the honorable member more than that the Speaker must he obeyed, and that we have to pay that respect ‘to the ‘Chair . which is essential for . the orderly conduct of a deliberative body like this. In payingrespect to the Chair we really pay respect to the institution of which we aremembers.
– What do you wish me to do?
– What I ask the honorable member to do is what he ought todo - to obey the Chair.
– What do you want?
– The honorable member should apologize to the Chair for having disobeyed Mr. Speaker.
– All right: I regret my action, and apologize.
Unemployment and Cost of Living.
-I desire to move theadjournment of the House, in order to draw attention to a definite miter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The great amount of misery in our midst caused through want of employment and the increased cost of living.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I regret exceedingly that, in a country like Australia, there should be any necessity for moving a motion of this kind. Having regard to the great number of men who, having enlisted, are absent from Australia,: there ought to be for those who remain at home unequalled opportunities of obtaining employment. Some honorablemembers may ask, “ Why do not thosewho are unemployed go to war?” Thewriter of a recent letter to one of the newspapers argued that there was no» need to find employment for the people who are seeking it, because there is . a chance for everybody to go to the war-. I understand that one factor which has drawn particular attention to the unemployment difficulty is the dismissal of 1,200 employees from the Colonial Ammunition Company’s works.Of that total, . 700 are women. I do not know what is the -.station in life of the other 500, but I -do know that there is . not one- honorable* member representing a metropolitan constituency who keeps in touch with his constituents, or lives, as I do, in the metropolitan area, but has many unemployed persons coming to him - men who are equally as good citizens as any in the community. 1 could mention many cases of unemployment on the part of married men and returned soldiers. Some of the latter are slightly incapacitated, and are receiving & small pension; but, as honorable members know, these pensions do not last for ever, and can be reviewed from time to time. Many of those men are unable to get work. Numbers of married men who have large responsibilities have endeavoured to enlist. One man who came to me the other day had three times tried to enlist, and each time had. been rejected. He is a married man with three children. He had been employed in one of the Departments for a few months, but was given notice that his services would be dispensed with to make room for a returned soldier. That, of course, is the Government’s -policy ; but I contend that married men who have responsibilities, and are unable to go to the Front, have as much claim to be looked after as has any other member of the community.
– Would you give married men preference over returned soldiers ?
– I would not turn out a married man with responsibilities in order to make room for a single man. If I were asked to dismiss a man with from three to six children dependent on him in order to give place to a single man, I would not dp it, and I do not care what use is made on the public platform of my attitude in that respect.
– Does the honorable member believe in the converse of that - that when men have to be discharged, single men should go first?
– I say that a married man has larger responsibilities than has a single- man. We are told that when men go to the Front their dependants are protected sothat their rents shall not be increased. On the 3rd May of this year, I wrote to the Secretary of the Attorney- General’s Department as follows: -
Mr.- , Richmond, has three sons at -the Front, and one has returned. He has had his rent raised 2s. per week; and desires’ to &now whether the’ raising of rent in a case like this i» contrary, to the Moratorium Regulations. I shall be glad if you will advise’ me if that is the case.
The Secretary replied, on the 9 th May, as under -
I have the honour to acknowledge the re cent of your letter of the 3rd instant re the case of Mr.- , Richmond, and to inform you that the question of the raising of rents is not covered by the War Precaution’s ( Moratorium ) Regulations.
On the 9th May, I again wrote to the Secretary, to the following effect: -
I desire to invite your attention to my letter of the 3rd instant relative to inquiries made by Mr.- , Richmond, regarding the raising of his rent. Mr.- - , has seen me again, and told me that he is. going into camp_ immediately, also that he has had notice to quit the house. He would like to know, as early as- possible, whether the landlord is entitled to- raise the rent. The case seems very hard. Mr.- has three sons at the Front, and one returned, and now he is going into camp.. I shall be much obliged if you will- treat, this matter as very urgent.
The Secretary to the Department replied on the 11th May -
In reply to your letter of the9th instant, relative to Mr.- , I desire to inform you that neither the War Precautions (Moratorium) Regulations, nor the War Precautions (Active Service Moratorium) Regulations, preclude a landlord from raising the rent of a property.
Careful consideration was given to the question of dealing,, in the interests of soldiers, with the question of the increase of rent of dwelling-houses, but the difficulty was to prevent such a regulation reacting to the detriment of soldiers’ dependants desiring to rent a dwelling-house. it may be added’ that no proceedings for ejectment can be brought against a soldier’s dependant without leave of the Court.
I submitted the matter to the Prime Minister on the 11th. July, and received an acknowledgment from the Secretary to his Department on the same day, but I have not heard anything further on the subject from the Prime Minister.
Unemployment is’ rife in our midst. I am sorry that I was not able to remain at the deputation that . waited on the Prime Minister yesterday,, but according to the Argus report the Prime Minister is reported to have said to the deputation -
There were some men in Australia who did nothing but stir up disorder, and the sooner the Trades Hall cut them out the better.
– Hear, hear !
– That remark applies to both- sides - to the Employers Federation as well as to the workers. There are men among the employers who do their best to stir up strife. Speaking with a very great deal of experience, and as a trade union official in at least three continents, I can say that I have never known of the case of an official of a trade organization advocating a strike; but I have been locked out by employers on more than one occasion. I appeal to honorable members opposite who were Labour members, and who were connected with Labour organizations, to bear out what I say. I have never known of the officials of Labour organizations advocating strikes.
– What about the walking delegates in the country ? The man who opposed me during the recent election created a strike.
– The honorable member has never been in a Labour organization, but I appeal to other honorable members on his side who have been connected with Labour organizations. They will admit that they have never known of instances of officials of Labour organizations, or of the executive committees of those organizations, advocating a strike.
– I do not admit anything of the sort:
– When industrial trouble occurs, in nine cases out of ten it is due to the rank, and file compelling the executive officers of the . organization to take action, even though they have been doing their best to prevent it, and to settle the dispute amicably. We are told by the Prime Minister that there are some men whom it would be better for the Labour organizations to cut out. I am not going to say that a man, no matter whether he be a member or an official of a trade union or of the Employers Federation, will not make mistakes; but I would rather be on the side of the officials of the trade union who make mistakes than, on the side of the Employers Federation, some of- whom are doing their best to create unemployment.
– Why is the honorable member raising this question now ? Will doing so give relief ?
– No; but when these people are attacked I have the right to defend them, as they are not here to defend themselves. The Prime Minister is reported to have said that these men should be cut out of the Labour organizations. I, did not hear him say it, because I was unable to remain at the deputation.
– The honorable member introduced the deputation,, and promised that it would not last more than a quarter of an hour. He was seven minutes late, and he brought in 200 people when I expected half-a-dozen, and then he went away.
– I certainly did not promise that the deputation would last no longer than a quarter of an hour. If I made that promise, it was given three weeks ago in regard to a deputation of three secretaries from the Trades Hall Council. That deputation waited on the Prime Minister and endeavoured to arrange for the subsequent deputation which I asked the Prime Minister in the precincts of the House to receive. I certainly did not make any promise in regard to the latter deputation.
– It may be as the honorable member says.
– The deputation was originally fixed for 11 o’clock, but the hour was altered by the Prime Minister, as he had a right to do, because he had a meeting to attend. I also had a meeting to attend, and I told the conveners of the deputation that I had to get away. I deliberately cut out the whole of my remarks, and those of other honorable members of Parliament, and let the members of the deputation put their case before the Prime Minister.
According to a report in the Melbourne Herald, the Prime Minister said that agitators have stirred up strife, and thus created unemployment in our midst. Let us take the case of one Victorian factory, from which larger numbers have been discharged and thrown out of employment than have been discharged from other factories. I refer to the ammunition works. I have yet to learn that there has been an industrial dispute in that particular factory for the last eighteen years. The employees in that factory have gone right through’ the war without any industrial trouble. It is certainly not due to any industrial strife that they have been thrown out of work. I understand that the statement was made yesterday that so many cartridges were not required because Australia was not sending so many troops to the Front. ‘ That statement is absolutely absurd, because there are just as many Australian troops in the firing line to-day as there have ever been. If. on the other hand, the reason that we cannot manufacture so many cartridges as formerly is because the raw material cannot be obtained, there is a greater responsibility on the Government. They claim that they will allow capital to be invested only as they direct. With that policy I have no fault to find; it is the proper attitude for any Government to take up during war time; but when a Government will not permit capital to be invested except as they direct, the duty is cast upon them to see that people are not turned out of employment when opportunities present themselves for finding employment for them.
Here let me quote from some remarks made by the Prime Minister in “ The Case for and against the Federal Referendum,” issued in September, 1915 -
The war is largely responsible for the greatly increased cost of living; it has already caused much unemployment. As time passes this must inevitably increase.
He proceeds on other pages of the pamphlet to show in very fine language how the cost of living had gone up as it is going up to-day, and I claim that this increased cost of living makes things more difficult for the people who are unemployed. In his figures relating to the cost of living, Mr. Knibbs deals with foodstuffs and rent only, but are there no other things that people require? We all know that the cost of foodstuffs used by the average family has increased by at least 50 per cent. Mr. Murphy, the Chief Inspector of Factories in Victoria, who cannot be said to be a man connected with the Labour party, delivered an address on Monday evening last, in which he proved that, while the cost of living in Victoria had increased by 50 per cent. - what applies to Victoria applies all over the Commonwealth - the increase in wages had been 39 per cent. only. Mr. Murphy said that the workers were 11 per cent, worse off to-day than in pre-war days. If the position in Victoria and in the other States is bad in relation to those who are employed, how much worse must it be for those who are not able to find employment ? . That is why I ask the Government to realize their responsibility in this matter.
– Did Mr. Murphy make the comment that the workers are worse off ?
– Yes, to the extent of 11 per cent.
– I know that he pointed out the difference in the figures, but did he go on to make the comment that the worker was so much worse off ?
– It does not matter whether Mr. Murphy made that deduction or not; the figures are absolutely plain. The cost of living has increased by 50 per cent., whereas wages have only increased by 39 per cent., and I think that Mr. Murphy said that the workers were worse off than they were before the war.
– I think that the increase in wages was given as 39 per cent.
– I am not particular as to a few decimal points. I believe that the figures which Mr. Murphy gave ranged between 38 per cent, and 39 per cent. My point is that if the people who are employed are 11 per cent, worse off than they were before the war, what is the position of those who are unemployed ? While we all regret what has happened in Russia, and rejoice that women have stepped into the breach, surely we in Australia are not going to say that our women should step in and fill the breaches. These women are unemployed, but they cannot go to the war.
– Does the honorablemember mean “ breeches “ ?
– This is too serious a subject for the Postmaster-General to try to be funny about. It is all very well for a man to sneer at the workers, and talk about a difference of 1 per cent, in certain figures, when he gets into such company that he is sure of the support of the Employers Federation and the squat- ters. If I were the honorable member I would be ashamed to be found in such company or to sneer at the workers as he is doing. I have no intention of occupying the half-hour that is allowed to me by the Standing Orders, but there are other honorable members, not only Victorian, but also representatives of other States, who realize the seriousness of the position as I do. Eighteen months age, some fourteen months after the war had started, the Prime Minister said, in better language than I can use -
Many have made, and are still making, great fortunes out of the war; many more are making higher profits than in peace time; and, despite protestations to the contrary, surprisingly few great companies and capitalists have been seriously affected by the war.
Yet we are asked why these people complain because they cannot find employment and because the cost of living has increased.
– Why does not the honorable member admit that much has since been done to ameliorate that condition of affairs?
– I am prepared to admit that something has been done, but I am looking ahead, and am anxious to know what will be done in the future.
– Why did you not do it when you were in office?
– One man in the Cabinet cannot do much against the others. I did my share, . and, . at any rate, I took the step of giving up office. When the honorable member for Corangamite was addressing his constituents he said, “ We can thank the conscription campaign for one thing - it got rid of Frank Tudor from the Customs Department.” He was speaking in a butter-producing district, and the inference was that, with my departure from the Department, they would be able to put up the price. The price of butter in Australia this year is higher than it was during a year of . ray term of office. This year 72,000,000 lbs. have been exported oversea, while last year only onefifth of that quantity was sent away. I regard as a good testimonial to my administration the statement that these people were glad that I had left the Department. I am not sorry for what I did as Minister for Trade and Customs in connexion with the regulation of the export of butter, meat, and other commodities.
– The honorable member does not regret what he did to prevent the dairy farmers getting the full reward of -their labour ?
– I do not regret the efforts I made to see that the people of Australia as a. whole got a fair deal by preventing speculators from creating an. artificial shortage in the Commonwealth with the object of raising the price of butter to the local consumer. I did my best to prevent anything of that kind while I was in office, and I do not hesitate to say that if the opportunity ever offers I shall do so again.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I remind honorable m’embers once again that when the Speaker calls for order it is not permis sible . that interjections should immediately follow. If honorable members persistin interjecting the . good order and procedure* of the House will be entirely disturbed.
– This is a subject on which honorable members doubtless feel keenly, and judging by what has happened this morning, together with yesterday’s occurrences there are many people in the community who feel just as keenly concerning it. There are amongst the supporters of the Government honorable members; who, like members of the Opposition, know what it means for the head of a household to be out of work. When there is no money coming in - when once a week the landlord keeps knocking at the door, when household goods have to disappear, and the little ones have to go short - I am not going to say to people so circumstanced, “ You must not indulge in any demonstration with the object of making known your plight to the whole community, and of showing what is going on here.”
My chief complaint against the people who have suffered, and are suffering, in this community, is that they suffer too long in silence. The great bulk of the unemployed do nob come forward to make their troubles known. It is left to the few who feel the pinch most severely to voice their troubles. As one who has known what it is to be unemployed - who has been willing to sell his skilled labour, not to the best advantage, but practically on any fair terms, and has been unable to do so; as one who has gone out day after day and week after week looking for work, and has had to return home with the same old story of the impossibility of finding any - I do not object to people making public the fact that they are unemployed. I have dealt with the case of married men with three, four, and five children to be maintained - some -of them have as many as five sons at the war - and surely they have a right to have their claims voiced in this House. In view of the fact that the prices of not only foodstuffs, but practically every article of household use to-day have increased, is it any wonder that the people complain ? I invite honorable members opposite to ask their wives what increases have occurred in the prices of various household commodities, apart altogether from foodstuffs. Let them ask for the increase in the prices of various imported goods.
– Take the increase^ in the price of boots and clothing…
– I was about to mention that.Hosiery for instance, costs three times’ as much as it did in pre-war days. The skeins of wool which our wives, daughters,. agid sisters use in’ knitting socks for soldiers- cost nearly treble as much as they did in pre-war time. That increase- is not due merely to the increase’ in. the price of wool. “Then again,, the price of boots and leather goods generally has gone up. Prices all round have- increased. As the Primes Minister said, in the pamphlet to which I have referred,, prices are increasing, and some men who pose as patriots give £5 to the patriotic funds, and fleece, the public of £5,000 by high prices.”
The grievances under which the people are labouring to-day are unemployment on the one hand, and the increased cost of living- on the other. While I appreciate as much as does any honorable member the- difficulties that confront a Government in dealing with such a problem, I recognise-, at the same time, that, as- members of this Parliament, no matter on what side of the House w.e sit, we have a responsibility to the people which cannot be disregarded. Men and women who are able- and willing to work to-day should not be ‘feeling the pangs of hunger in a country like Australia which in these war times is practically producing more in the way of foodstuffs than is any other country in the world.
– I do not complain of the action of the Leader of the Opposition in moving the adjournment of the House to discuss this matter, since it affords an opportunity of discussing one phase of this dreadful war and of driving home to all sorts and conditions of men and women in the community what are and must be its inevitable consequences.
I said yesterday to a deputation of men ajid women who came to see me that they seemed to have forgotten that we were at war, and to have imagined that during this struggle things would go on precisely as they had before. I would say to the House and the country, as I said to a meeting of business- men yesterday afternoon, that we have- much to be thankful for. Of all the belligerent countries we have- suffered the least. We- may well be thankful for this when we compare our situation with that of our Allies in Belgium .
It is impossible to convey by words any adequate idea of the sufferings, the hardships, and the horrors those people have endured. I urged organized labour to respond to Van der veldt’s appeal to the working classes of the world to help the organized labourers of Belgium who had been, and were then being forcibly sent out of their country like dumb driven cattle, sold in Germany, and compelled to work for 3d. per day. I fully expected that Australian organized labour would respond to that piteous appeal. Not one responded. Organized labour throughout Australia has callously ignored the appalling condition of organized labour in Belgium, suffering- under the lash of this cruel monster Germany. What does it mean to those in Australia ? Nothing ! It does- not affect the political fortunes, of the junta. It. puts nothing into the hands of those who are- running industrial unionism in Australia. It meant nothing to such men. They looked upon it as upon a cinema show passing on the screen.
I said yesterday, and I say now, that all sorts and conditions of men and women in this country have much to be thankful for. War has passed over us and has done us little harm. I am not going to say for that reason that we should not consider and deal with such conditions of unemployment as exist and not do what we can to relieve those who suffer from unemployment. I can say as much as most men can about unemployment and poverty. I have felt their effects. I know what they really mean. I do not think any member of this House has had a wider experience than myself of what they mean. I have ‘ been down into the abyss. The passage of years can never obliterate, my memory of those days. I can never, and shall never, look on the picture of unemployment and poverty except through! the atmosphere created by the memory of. that time.
When these men and women came to nae yesterday I said- I was ready, and I am ready now, to do anything that -is open to me, as a practical man, to relieve the distress. Whether or not that; distress be as great as depicted is immaterialIf it exists at all it ought not to exist for a day longer if we can prevent it. We should go on with all the work at our disposal. I spoke yesterday of some of this work - the work of building silos for the storage of wheat and flour - which will shortly be put in hand. Although there is some conflict of opinion among the union 3 concerned with regard to ship building, I feel fairly confident that before very long we shall be able to start this great national enterprise. That, however, is in the womb of time. Shipbuilding is au industry that would - so far at all events as boilermakers, engineers, and metal workers of various kinds are concerned - absorb all the available labour. And having done that it would make a very .material difference in the condition of the labour market generally.
Another gentleman at the deputation said that a lot of men and women were reputed to be suffering. He handed me a piece of iron ore, and he said that as a panacea for immediate unemployment in Melbourne we should develop the iron deposits of Gippsland. I ask any practical man -
Ur. Hughes. any one who has a knowledge of the world j - to say’ how many human beings would be relieved by the development of a project which cannot mature for years. Supposing we did start to develop the iron mines of Gippsland, how long would it be before men living in the constituency of the Leader of the Opposition would get employment? One of two things is obvious - either this distress is acute or it is not. If it is acute, there must be some employment to give immediate relief. Anybody could propose, for instance, that we develop our brown coal, our iron fields, or this, that, or the other industry ; ,but while the development is going on the people are starving.
– What about the Federal Capital? Is there no employment there ? ‘
– I am not going to say anything about the Federal Capital; that obviously does not fall into the same class as the iron mines.
Having stated that we are prepared to push on with all despatch with the erection of wheat silos, flour stores, and, I hope - the unions consenting - with shipbuilding - which three projects together will have a material effect on unemployment - I desire to very shortly review theposition in which the country finds itself. We are told to provide employment, and do this, that, or the other; but every honorable member knows that the financial position in which the States and the Commonwealth find themselves to-day is such as to compel the most rigid economy. The supply of money has been cut short; and it is now practically impossible to borrow anywhere except for war purposes. The necessity for economy is obvious; and I think I am entitled to point out that during the past three years money has been circulated in Australia more freely, perhaps, than during any other similar period.
Something has been said about providing employment by starting new industries; and on this two observations have to be made. One is that, in order to start new industries, new capital is necessary, and capital is not easily obtained at this juncture. The other is that the State, as such, can do little or nothing; and in order that new industries may be developed in this country, we must turn over a new industrial leaf. It is absolutely essential that the present continual interruption of work must cease. I do not now speak of those great upheavals which, from time to time, shake the industrial edifice, but of the frequent stoppages which disorganize industry, discourage enterprise, and are, in fact, a sort of creeping industrial paralysis. I take the coal industry as a type. It will be remembered that about eight or nine months ago there was a great strike in the coal industry, when the men demanded an eight-hour day from bank to bank, and certain other conditions. A Board was appointed, and the men got all they asked for, without, practically, the cost of a penny to themselves. That tribunal has proved a convenient and effective instrument, ready at the beck and call of any lodge to settle every dispute; and the wages that the miners have since earned are very much higher than they” were before. The men have not stopped altogether, but first “one lodge, then another, aird another, stopped, and the effect has been just the same as if *a general stoppage had occurred. I am not going to say that this is part of a conspiracy or plan, but I do say that the effect on the coal industry has been deplorable. While on this matter I wish to say that the men actually threatened to stop work because the Government were piling up stacks of coal. In this very House, both the honorable member for Hunter and the honorable member for Newcastle asked me to provide employment for the Newcastle miners. We did that, and we have given such orders on behalf of the Imperial Government for coal for the overseas Fleet as would keep the mines going. But because we did this the miners threatened to strike.
Extension of time granted.
– I am sorry I was led into the subject of coal stoppages, but it has relation to what I was about to say. The question of whether we are to launch out on any new industries depends entirely on whether, if a man, or it may be a Government, when they put capital into any enterprise, can have the assurance of that enterprise being carried on uninterruptedly. All this arraignment of private enterprise is so much bunkum, because strikes are just as frequent in Government employment as in private employment. Curiously enough, at the very moment of this discussion - and it is a scathing comment on the whole business - there is a great strike in New South Wales. That strike is not against the private employer - it is not against a reduction of wages, or starvation or sweating wages, but a protest against the introduction of some card system, about the merits of which I know absolutely nothing, and, I venture to say about which very few people know anything.
I lay it down as a basic condition precedent to the industrial health of this country, that there must be continuity of industrial operations. If the Government, or the individual employer, is assured that men will work continuously, and that an industry will not be stuck up at the sweet will of the employees, or of one or two of them, there will then be a readiness to take those proper and ordinary risks incidental to industrial and commercial operations. Why should a man launch out, and take any risks beyond those he has to take, in any case? At present, if a man ventures his capital in an industry, he does not know from day to day whether there will be a strike.
As the result of long negotiations, we have been able to sell the output of Australian zinc. This has been the means of securing the employment of thousands of miners who otherwise would have been idle. But it is well within the bounds of possibility that these mines may close any day. One day last week, or the week before, the men there had a day off. I do not know what that dispute was about - I have forgotten; but it was a protest about something. They closed the mines; they did not bother about the industry, or realize that, in order to induce men to invest large capital, it is essential there should be continuity of operations, and that the market, once obtained, should be diligently nursed.
Take, again, the coal export trade. How are we going to keep the South American and Eastern trade when, directly the market has been obtained, a strike occurs? This gives an opportunity for America and Japan, and other countries, to step in ; and when we have settled our domestic differences, the market has disappeared.
– The* South American coal trade’ has not been lost on account of any trouble with the men, but on account of the’ high freights that are ruling. ThePrime Minister knows that as well as I do.
– Whatever differences the. Leader of the Opposition may have with me, he is very well aware that there are very few things connected with’ the handling of goods, and water-side business generally, that I do not know. I do not wish to tread on any one’s corns, but I say that hardly a day goes by without a stoppage of work on some wharf or other in Australia.
One of our greatest industries is the pastoral industry. Britain requires our frozen beef and mutton. The Runic and the Medic were loading, the one at Newcastle, and the other at Brisbane; and, although freight is very scarce, and this trade is of the most vital importance to the pastoralists, the country, and the Empire, the men absolutely refused to work after a certain, hour unless they were paid a rate in excess of the minimum. That sort of thing occurs every day; and, no matter what is done, we cannot get a settlement of industrial conditions. I ask unionists whether this is a sensible, business-like’ way of carrying on their affairs. It is. not. The truth is that in every union 95 per cent. of the men would go on working uninterruptedly but for the 5 per cent.. who seize hold of any pretext to cause a stoppage! These men are parasites on unionism, they live on it; they are leading it to destruction, and, if any man dares to raise his voice in favour of peace, he is called a “scab” and a “blackleg.”
I have been concerned in strikes with the honorable member for Barrier. I know the kind of man he is. There never was a movement amongst the wharf labourers in Sydney while he was there in which he was not one for “knocking off “ rather than for knocking on.” Such men are an absolute curse to unionism. The unionists of Australia, taking them by-and-large, are loyal men; and I venture to say they can do more work than the average English workman, and would do it, were it not for a lot of pestiferous persons who instil the poisonous doctrine of “go slow” into their ears. Now that the movement has become powerful, and- can be lived on, these men, unlike the men of old who suffered for unionism, batten upon it and suck out its life’s blood. There is now much talk of unemployment, but if the unions would only get rid of these men, there would be very little unemployment in the country, and great good would accrue to the community as a whole.
The honorable member for Barrier has now moved from Sydney to Broken Hill ; and, certainly, the people there stand a great many things. What, between the great heat, the dynamite fumes, and their other conditions of life, and now on top of all these the honorable member himself, I have a soft -spot in my heart for the Broken. Hill miner. No matter what foolish things he does, I feel always inclined to deal leniently with him when I remember the circumstances under which he r lives and works’. Unemployment arises too largely from those conditions about which I have spoken.
A word as to high prices. I shall not retract one word I ever said, against men who exploit the people. There are men in this country who mouth about patriotism and fill their pockets, and I am not going to mince, words in my remarks’ about them. They fall into the same class as those parasites on ‘unionism of which I have spoken. They are a disgrace to the class to which they belong, and to society, which in the main is healthy. That great body of public opinion in this country which partly expressed itself on 5th May last in favour of sane, rational government, will rejoice in the downfall of both those -sections - the men who live on the people and the men who prey upon unionism. They are both a curse to the co”” try, and the sooner they are put out of it the better for the welfare of Australia. I would rejoice in the opportunity, if I had it, to deport both classes.
The Government will do all in its power to push on with work that will give immediate relief to the people. I cannot credit that there is any actual want in Melbourne, but if there is, and there are means of relieving it, we will relieve it.
– The Prime Minister sneered at the paucity of the arguments and suggestions of the deputation yesterday. Immediately they arrived in the room, at twenty-five minutes, to eleven, the Prime
Minister said, “ Ladies and gentlemen, I must be out “of here at ten minutes to eleven,” so that the deputation was allowed exactly a quarter of an hour to explain the existence of unemployment and to offer suggestions to relieve it. In the face of that fact how can the Prime Minister say that there was a paucity of suggestions? How about the paucity of his own suggestions on the question today ? From start to finish his speech was wholly and solely a condemnation of unionism for the attitude it has taken up in the endeavour to benefit the conditions of the workers, and the Prime Minister makes that attitude an excuse for not attempting to alleviate the unemployment in our midst to-day. That is the sort of thing we have to expect from him; and it is quite worthy of him. We are at war, and the whole of the war ought to be financed out of borrowed money if it is necessary to use local taxation to keep the people in employment. But we are told by this Government and every State Government that the only way to square the finances is to economize, and their idea of economy is to throw thousands out of work. Australia, in the southern seas, is far away from the rest of the world, and we are not getting money expended here for supplying commodities to the troops. A cable was published recently to tie effect that the Allies were spending in America £2,000,000 per day for commodities required by the armies in Europe.- By contrast, how few pounds are spent in Australia for the supply of commodities to our own men at the Front? The Prime Ministeryesterday said to the deputation, “You don’t want men to enlist, and you won’t let them enlist. How, then, can you expect us to get the necessary commodities^ for the troops here?” If the Ministry liked to’ make inquiries, they would find that Australia is not manufacturing enough clothing,, underclothing, boots, saddlery, and other leather work to supply one division, let alone the whole of our 300.000 men at the Front, with goods which it, is essential for them to have. The dearth of employment here is practically economic conscription, but it is not men able to go to the Front who are being thrown out of work. _ Those who are being thrown out of work through the cry for . economy are men whom the military authorities will not accept for service, and women. We all know that at the . back of this policy is the desire of the Government and those who placed them in power to create in Australia such an economic position that men and women will be prepared to take any wages. The Prime Minister knows that the object of every strike instituted in this country by the workers’ organizations is to better their conditions, and not to allow any inroads by . the employer, Government or private, upon the rights and privileges that they have obtained in the past. Yet during the whole course of his speech he threw on the workers’ organizations the onus of responsibility for the want of employment in Australia to-day. He told the deputation yesterday that until every union with which he has conferred about ship-building agreed to the conditions he had laid down no attempt would be made to build a single ship in this country. He is endeavouring at one fell swoop to wipe out the whole of what has been achieved by the unions of the past. They must come down to his terms and accept his wishes, or there will he no work for them. I ask any man on the other side who at one time represented Labour, Is that the way to approach a body of men - to say, “ You must come to my way before “I will give you one day’s employment”?
– That is a grotesque travesty of the whole case.
– We heard the Prime Minister make the statement yesterday that until the unions agreed to the conditions he laid down not one ship would be built here. What a remark from the brains of Australia, or, as some people would have us believe, from the brains of the Empire - -that the workers of Australia will get no work until they agree to the whole of the conditions laid down by the man who to-day is the Prime Minister of Australia. -
We know the Government are keeping back the manufacture of commodities required by the men at the Front, for the very purpose of creating dissension, yet the Prime Minister tells us that he cannot do anything. I can give him many suggestions. Instead of whittling down the expenditure by Commonwealth and State Governments, the Government ought to go on with necessary construction and provide money for the States to encourage necessary production. The Victorian Government state that they have to economize because they cannot go on to the loan market to raise’ the money necessary to carry on the railway works that they require. They are crippling their railway facilities’ by economizing, as they call it, and the reason they give is that the Federal Parliament has control of finance and will not allow them to borrow. It is the duty of the Federal Government to provide the States with the necessary money. If they cannot do this, they should say to the British Government, “ We in Australia are doing our share, but we are in a different position from any one else. We are not keeping our men and women employed in manufacturing the commodities necessary for the war. You must not make a scapegoat of us. You must assist us, and you should, and shall, provide money,, seeing that we are doing, our full share in the present fight.” Honorable members opposite laugh, and I quite understand the position. Their attitude is, “I’m all right, Jack; damn you ! It does not matter about you a bit so long as we are getting all the meals we want.” I do not want to become dramatic, but there are men and women outside in regular work who have not much consideration for those who are not in regular work, or out of work altogether.
I quite understand the feeling of many, honorable members here; but I say, without fear of contradiction, that the Government -could be preparing for shipbuilding if they intend to go on with it. If they do not intend to place obstacles in the way, and then to blame the workers’ associations, they should immediately make preparations here to tear down the establishment at the Naval Depbt to make provision to build more ships there, and they could get on with the work at the Naval Base. We want timber, and, therefore, they could say to the millowners, “ Put up more mills.” There are a lot of mills closed down in Victoria, particularly in the district of the honorable v member for Flinders, and the Government could say to the mill-owners, “ Re-open the mills you have closed, and begin to prepare the timber for, the ships.”
The Prime Minister uttered a sneer about the munition workers. He referred to people who prate of peace, and want to increase the manufacture of death-dealing commodities. That was a cheap and unnecessary sneer, but we say that we pay for every cartridge that is fired. Other nations are getting the manufacture of their own commodities, but we are told that the formation of the cartridge has been altered, necessitating the alteration of the sight, because the trajectory of the new rifle is very low. They tell us that we cannot make the cartridges here, because we have not the aluminium essential to their manufacture. If that is so, the Australian Government should demand from, the British Government a supply of the aluminium necessary to manufacture all the cartridges required to supply our own men at the Front, instead of allowing men and women to be thrown out of work. The onus is on the Government to overcome difficulties, not to look for them.
I know all about the labour unrest, but not a word has been said about the scoundrels who are dragging excessive profits out of the pockets of the people during the war. Is there as much harm in men and women endeavouring to improve their conditions as there is in men making large profits out of the war? The Government come down with a Bill to extract about £400,000 per annum from these exploiters, although the Prime Minister himself condemns them. That Bill, as he knows,, is altogether inadequate as an instrument of taxation on war-time profits.
– And even that Bill is thrown overboard now.
– There are men who ought to be made to disgorge their profits, because there are cases of unemployment caused by the raising of the prices of commodities. These people should have their profits extracted from them to give work to those who have been thrown out of work, and the price of commodities should be regulated by the Government I do not say that they have done nothing in that direction, but much more could be done if they so desired.
Plans and specifications have already been prepared, and are available in the Works Department, and work could be begun to-morrow, or at the very latest next week, if the Government would give the necessary order to the Minister for Works and Railways. He would not need to fritter money away upon works that would not be useful. It is possible for him to undertake necessary works. The building and other trades in Melbourne are at present in a very bad condition. The Minister for Works and Railways might, if he chose, give employment to hundreds of men at the Flinders
Naval Base, or in clearing away structures at Williamstown, in order to prepare for shipbuilding.
– - The place is no good for shipbuilding even if these structures were removed.
– The honorable member for Henty says that the place is no good for shipbuilding, but I am not talking of the building of 10,000-ton boats, but of the construction of boats; that were suggested some time ago of about 3,000 tons.
– The place is not suitable for boats of that size.
– I have been told that it is. I have been told by men who have worked at the trade, and who are not merely theorists, that boats of 3,000 tons could be built and launched at Williamstown. These .are suggestions I am making which, if adopted, would provide immediate employment, for a’ great many.
– The practical men the honorable member refers to have suggested that we should cut into the bank of the river to make shipbuilding yards.
– They have told me that boats of the size I have referred to could be built at Williamstown.
– Never mind ! ‘ We can do this work in Sydney !
– I wish the honorable member for East Sydney, would not raise the provincial cry. I have done my best to prevent that. The question is too serious for such talk. We are told that we have not the necessary shipping, but we have shipping on the coast which is used, not in the interests of Australia, but in the interests of .the capitalistic section. It is being used now to get together stores of coal, not for the purpose of assisting the miners, but in order that the employers may” be prepared for some fancied labour troubles in the future. These ships could be used for the carriage of general cargo. We know tha,t we must have shipping to transport the commodities we produce, and I say that the Government have no right to threaten any one that they will not build ships in this country unless those who will do the practical work of building them are prepared to accept their terms. Shipbuilding should be undertaken because ships are essential for the transport of our produce, not only in the interests of the workers of the community, but of the Conservatives on the other side who represent all the moneyed interests in Australia.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I rise at the earliest possible moment to try to remove the impression the honorable member is seeking to create as to the conditions imposed by .the Prime Minister in connexion with shipbuilding. Before doing so I should like to pay the honorable member for Melbourne Ports the compliment of saying that he did at least get upon practical ground in making suggestions which I shall take care are investigated with a view to seeing whether their adoption’ might give relief to the unemployed.
– I could give the right honorable gentleman one suggestion by which he might employ 2,000 men in his own Department.
– I know something about the honorable member’s suggestions. It is the easiest possible thing in the world to put men to work. I could put 2,000 men to work at the Cockatoo Island Dock, as the honorable member for Dalley suggests, but I should be only throwing public money away in doing so until we are ready.
– If I have an opportunity to speak I shall let the House know whether the honorable gentleman would or hot.
– I want to say further that work is being done at the dock now at a greater cost than it should be. The honorable member for Dalley may make what he pleases out of that.
– On account of the rotten management.
– It is so easy to abuse the management.
– It is easy for the right honorable gentleman to abuse the workers.
– I should like to give the honorable member some information. He does not appear to know what is going on. I am always ready to meet the honorable member. I have in my hand particulars of what looks like an undoubted case of the adoption of the “ go slow “ principle at Cockatoo Island. This has reference to a case the honorable member came to see me about the other day. I obtained this information for him. By a simple change in the control of a particular work, I am informed the difference in the cost of that work was the difference between 29s. and 12s.- 9d. per cubic yard.
– What was the class of work ?
-COOK . - Excavation. I say that if my information be correct it is that damnable kind of thing that is causing unemployment in the country. You cannot have private employment if those who wish to give it cannot make some profit out of it for themselves as an incentive to giving employment.
Now let us see what are the conditions which the Prime Minister is seeking to impose regarding shipping.- He proposes this, and only this : That in t-he making of the standards the men shall have as much say as the management. His proposal is to appoint a Board iu connexion with every work, on which there shall be a representative of Labour and a representative of the management. If the two cannot agree he proposes .that they shall appoint an arbitrator, and that, failing the appointment of an arbitrator by them the Government shall appoint one for them.
– The same old thing.
– Can the honorable member for Barrier suggest anything fairer than that?
– I suggest that the Government representative would reflect the opinions of the Government, and I do not accuse them of having any sympathy with the workers.
– It is that kind of silly tripe that is causing the men outside to suffer, and is responsible for a good deal of distress in the community.
– The honorable gentleman’s troubles about the men.
– I shall not bother about the honorable member for Dalley. He knows better than to talk like that. He knows that only the other clay I ordered the construction of storehouses at the Cockatoo Island Dock, and at a very greatly increased cost, for the purpose of providing work for unem-. ployed carpenters. My own advisers had turned the scheme down on the score that the cost was too great, but those unemployed men came to see me, and I gave them ‘the work.
– That is the honorable gentleman’s side of the matter. . The House will hear our side later -on.
– There is no other side to this matter. I gave .these men the work. ‘ They are to-day doing the work, and all I get from the honorable member for Dalley is a sneer for what I have done.
– I should like to be able to sneer as well as the right honorablegentleman does.
– The honorable member for Cook says that nothing is being done.
– Very little.
– May I remind the honorable member of the load the Government are carrying to-day?
– Unemployment and high prices have existed from the moment the present Government came into office.
– Of course. Why bother about that ? That goes without saying.
– It does, certainly.
– I remind the honorable member and the public generally of the load the Government are carrying. What would become of the rabbiiters to-day but for the action the Government are taking?
– The rabbiters are out of work.
– Some, of them may be, but they would all be out of work but for the fact that the Government are keeping them in work. There are £500,000 worth of rabbits stored in our store-houses to-day, and the Government are advancing money to keep the rabbiters at work.
– But the right honorable gentleman turned down my proposition.
– Never’ mind the honorable member’s proposition. We are talking about unemployment just now. The honorable member would refer to some details of it, and I am speaking on the main question. There is, further, the zinc industry and the interests of the tanners, the shearers, and the agricultural labourers. The Government have to-day upon their shoulders the task of keeping in employment those engaged in the main industries of the country, and but for the action they are taking and the responsibilities they are incurring, this country would be pretty well brought up standing.
– That is only natural in the circumstances.
– Of course it. is only natural.. But is that any reason why we should he accused of doing nothing? The honorable member- for Cook said that we were doing nothing.
– I did not. I said that the. Government were doing very little.
– The action taken, inconnexion with most of the matters to which the- right honorable gentleman hasreferred has been at the instigation of the Home authorities, and not upon the initiative of this- Government.
– I see. There is to be no merit for anything we may do; Hay I suggest that the present Commonwealth Government are carrying about. as much as they can carry to-day in the way of financial obligations and responsibilities for keeping the industries of the country going. If anything more can be done in facilitating the construction of public works, I hope we shall be able to do it, but I hope that the responsibilities will not rest mainly on the shoulders of the Federal Government. Our opportunities for providing employment are limited, and the best has been done that could be done. It is idle for honorable members to get up here and say we should employ men at this or the other work if they do not make some reasonable and economic proposal by which we may do so.
– Why do the Government propose to shut down works at the Federal Capital?
– Because we want the money that would be expended upon those works for more urgent purposes at the present time. Every pound spent in expenditure which might be avoided represents a pound which should be expended in connexion with undertakings which cannot be avoided. Every pound wasted upon an uneconomic ship or an uneconomic enterprise of any kind tends only to create, and not to prevent, unemployment. Honorable members opposite know that just as well as I do, but they talk of the Government doing this, that, or the other irrespective of the cost of the works suggested or their utility. The first thing to do before embarking on a ship-building enterprise is to see that our ships, when built, will have a chance of competing successfully in the marketsof the world with the ships of other nations. Otherwise the whole scheme willbreak down. Our industry can only exist if our ships can be kept afloat alongside of those of other nations all over the world.
– Cheap labour.
– Cheap claptrap. That is what the honorable member is always talking.
– From the honorable, gentleman it is cheap.
– I know why the honorable member is making these in- .terjections, and in whose interests- they aremade.
– Of course, in the interests of the workers-
– In the interests of the workers with a full mouthful. I shall be able to talk with, the honorable, member and the workers at the dockyard. He need, not worry about them here. But the first thing to be done in connexion with our ship-building scheme is to lay down lines which will insure that the industry shall succeed. This Government intends to do that, no matter what criticism may come from honorable members opposite.
– The Government are looking for a quarrel with the unions. That is what they are looking for.
– What do the Government estimate will be the cost per ton of building these ships ?
– We have many estimates, and they are all extremely high.
– Do they exceed £40 per ton?
– They do. They are a great deal higher than that figure. We should be lucky, indeed, if we could get steel ships for £40 per ton. The- honorable member may rest assured that the Government wish to set this industry going. The work is well worth doing, apart from every other consideration. It is necessary that it should be done. But the first thing to do is to insure that the industry shall not be broken down at its very inception by unnecessary cost. Let us put the matter on a proper economic basis, not on the basis of cheap labour of which the honorable member speaks. That is not contemplated, and the unions know that it is not. The honorable member can get no man who attended the conference to say that that is our objective. It is left to those outside to make intelligent criticisms of what occurs inside that gathering. 1 wish to say to my honorable friends, in reply to their interjections, that if a secret ballot were taken to-morrow, I believe our terms would be accepted by every union.
– It is a secret ballot.
– Is it? The honorable member does not know anything about the matter.
– I do. It has been a secret ballot.
– The unions which voted openly have accepted the Government proposals, but those which have conducted secret ballots have turned them down.
– I do not accept that statement, and I do not think it is correct. Notwithstanding all that has passed, I am very hopeful that even yet we shall be able to set this industry going, that a sufficient number of men will realize the responsibilities we have to carry and at the same time the opportunities confronting them, to enable them to accept the scheme in the spirit in which it is offered - a spirit of fair play all round, efficient work, and good pay for that work.
.- I desire to say a few words on this motion. During my brief acquaintance with this House the statement has been made many times that the workers of Australia are such an unpatriotic, disloyal, and lazy crowd that they will strike on every opportunity.
– Every word of that is a misrepresentation.
– It is not.
– Who made that statement ?
– It has been made by the Prime Minister to-day, and on two occasions previously. Judging from the speeches of honorable members opposite, the general consensus of opinion among them seems to be that the working classes of Australia are not prepared to work.
– Order! Will the honorable member resume his seat? I must ask honorable members to recollect that the honorable member who is addressing the Chair is entitled to be heard without interruption. It is usual to show more consideration to a new member.
– I do not require any more consideration than is extended to other honorable members. I repeat that the inference to be drawn from the speeches of honorable members opposite is that the workers of Australia strike at every opportunity. Now, it is a fact well known to most honorable members that the Australian worker compares favorably with any worker in the world - that he does even more than does the average worker of the world. Yet most honorable members apparently lose sight of thai fact. Good God ! Can it be seriously suggested that the workers of Australia, strike for the mere fun of striking ? That the man who throws down his tools and wanders about the streets of the city, returning home to find his stock of foodstuffs becoming more scanty every day, and to witness his children lacking necessary clothing - does so for mere sport? Certainly not. Whenever a strike is entered upon the men have some legitimate grievance. Personally, I was baptized inindustrial strife at the age of thirteen years, and during my experience I have not known of a strike in which action was taken by the men without reasonable cause. The plight of the workers of Australia to-day is deplorable. Only this morning the Prime Minister told us that, these persons will not work. He said that whilst a deputation was waiting upon him in Melbourne, clamouring for employment, in New South Wales the me” were refusing to work. It is utter rot for him to say that 5 per cent, of the workers control the other 95 per cent. Out upon such damnable nonsense!
– I rise to a point of order. I would like tq call your attention, sir,, to the language used by the honorable member, and to ask whether it is seemly that such words should be uttered here?
– I was just about to call the honorable member’s attention to the matter, though I had hoped that it was merely a passing slip.
– I withdraw, and apologize. The class which it is alleged is always striking is 11.1 per cent, worse off to-day than it was in 1901, from which period industrial trouble has been experienced in the Commonwealth. Of course, I am now speaking of those workers who enjoy the awards of Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards, and not of those whose wages have not been increased at all. The latter class are infinitely worse off. We have been agitating with a view to securing better conditions for years, but so far our efforts have not been, successful. One thing, however, is certain, namely, that in our midst to-day there is a commercial class who, flushed with their political victory, are endeavouring to bring about industrial trouble. At the present time there is a gentleman journeying towards this city to confer with the Prime Minister, who, for the past four months has been dragging his coat before every trade unionist in New South “Wales, and inviting him to tread upon it. He is simply spoiling for a fight. Not only is Mr. Beeby spoiling for a fight, but so also is the Employers Federation. Every pin prick which it can administer to the working classes it has no hesitation in administering. I know of the misery and suffering which is caused by strikes, and I realize that most of the workers who participate in them have learnt from experience the sufferings which they involve. The Government should take immediate steps to provide work for the unemployed. We do not want charity from the National Government. We do not want a soup kitchen established. We want work. It was said by the Prime Minister yesterday that the deputationists who waited upon him would not allow the men to go to the war. When one sees a young, clean-shaven man walking along the streets one is not justified in concluding that he is eligible for military service. He may not be. There are a large number of individuals in our midst who cannot go to the Front.
– We have the figures.
– The figures are available to the honorable member at any time, and if he peruses them he will see that there is a very large number of men who cannot go to the war. If he will add to these the numbers of their wives and children he will find that they make up a very formidable list. The honorable member for Cook has suggested that operations at the Federal Capital should be proceeded with. For that work we are informed no money is available, but it will be far more costly for the Government to provide soup kitchens and charitable doles than to proceed with reproductive public works. There are many ways in which unemployment can be relieved in Australia. Between Melbourne and Sydney, and between other points throughout Australia, our railway gauges need unifying. Uniformity is absolutely essential in this connexion. The Commonwealth will have to undertake this work because the States are not carrying out their agreements.
– They cannot undertake it because they have not the money.
– The Commonwealth Government will ultimately have to undertake the work, and they could not do better than commence -it now. We have. the necessary plant on the east-west line. In a short time that plant - unless it be utilized in the direction in which T suggest - will be left to rot. There are no railways in progress on which it can be employed, and the sooner it is utilized in widening or lessening the gauges of our railways throughout Australia the better. I have already said that the Government should at once resume operations at the Federal Capital. That is one of the easiest works to proceed with.
– And it will prove reproductive, too.
– Exactly. Then there are the questions of the unification of our different railway gauges, of water conservation, and of- the construction of railways. Many of these works are of a national character, and the Government might very profitably investigate them.
Debate interrupted wider standing/ order No. 219.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether, in the event of a soldier at the Front committing a breach of discipline, the military authorities can deduct ls. per day from the allotment left for his wife?
– The regulations provide that, when a soldier forfeits any pay due to him, the amount of pay so forfeited shall include the whole of his daily pay, including deferred pay. In such cases where any allotment is being paid to a bond fide dependant, provision exists for its continuance, provided that such allotment does not exceed the maximum compulsory rate for a private, i.e., for wife only, 2s. per diem; and for wife and children, 3s. per diem. Therefore, where a wife is in receipt of an allotment in excess of 2s. per diem, such allotment would in consequence be reduced to that rate during the period of the soldier’s forfeiture.
Mr.WALLACE asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the loss of the s.s. “Waitotara. by fire in the Pacific, the Government will take steps to see that cargo of an inflammable nature is not stowed adjacent to or near the stokehold, as it is alleged that the above-mentioned steamer loaded copra in the side bunkers- in Suva?
– The Commonwealth Government has no control over the stowage of cargo in vessels outside Commonwealth waters.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he is aware -
That the selling price of sulphate of ammonia in Australia has advanced from £12 per ton (the pre-war price) to £20 and to £25?
That the selling price of sulphate of ammonia exported from Australia remains at about £12 per ton?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– Yesterday, the hon orable member for Corangamite asked the following questions : -
The Deputy Postmaster-General, Melbourne, has now furnished the following replies : -
Kingdom, and American mails to be made up by the day staff, who were retained for three hours beyond their usual hours of duty. This work could not have been done by the night staff, who were- fully, employed on their current work, and no assistance would have been available from other sections in consequence of the large incoming mail, which had. also to be dealt with. It was not, therefore, practicable, under the circumstances, to give a later clearance than 5 p.m. It might,however, be added that subsequent, arrangements made with Sydney the following morning enabled supplementary mails to be made up closing, at 2 p.m. on the 1st instant, the public being notified by exhibiting notices outside the city offices, in addition to a number of business places, being specially advised by telephone.
Attendance at Drill.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice-
Whether inquiries, were made into the complaints raised by lads employed in the Bathurst Railway Workshops in connexion with sufficient’ time not being given to them to attend their drill?
– Inquiries are being made, and the honorable member will be informed as soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
For what reason was the offer of Mr. Neil Featherstone for the free use of his dysentery remedies’ refused by the Defence Department?
– Inquiries are being made, and the honorable member will be informed as- soon as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers . to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the questions asked on the 1st instant by . the honorable member for Capricornia relative to the agreement between the Government and wool- top manufacturers, is it not a fact that the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Co. Ltd. during the continuance of the said agreement, is precluded from declaring a dividend, and must invest its share of the profit in the extension of the business ?
– The agreements clearly indicate that all profits made by the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited must be invested in extensions of plant and conduct of business.-
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 2nd August, vide page 765) :
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Subject to this Act, a person who is appointed Commissioner shall hold office, during good behaviour, for the term for which he is appointed.
No person shall be appointed Commissioner for a term exceeding five years.
.- I move -
That the word “ five “ be left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the word “ seven.”
I believe it will be in the interests of the Commonwealth to alter the term from five to seven years, because the Commissioner appointed will not then be disturbed in the development of his railway administration so soon. This course would be preferable even to that giving power to the Governor-General in Council to extend the term for another five years. A change of Ministers might take place at any time, and thus possibly cause the whole system to become disorganized.. If we make the appointment for seven years I am confident honorable members will nob desire to revert to the shorter term in the future.
.- I could understand that in ordinary circumstances the reasons given by the honorable member for Wide Bay would be regarded as sound, and that it would be difficult to oppose his views. In the case of a well established institution the longer period would no doubt be preferable; but, following on the lines of my argument last night, I think it possible that the whole position might be quickly changed on account of rapid development in Commonwealth railway coiistruction. The adoption of the shorter period’ will give us an opportunity not only to consider the reappointment of the Commissioner, but also the emolument of that official. The salary of £2,000 as now proposed can only be looked on as a temporary provision for an office . carrying with it a somewhat restricted . authority, and with the development of the Commonwealth railway policy the responsibility of the Commissioner must necesarily increase. Consequently the amount allotted to him as salary should be reviewed.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 (Commonwealth’ Railways, &c., vested in Commissioner).
.- I would suggest to the Minister the desirability of affording the House some opportunity in the future of considering on what basis the Oodnadatta line should be run. In the agreement with the South Australian Government, the State, authorities, I think, are not dealing quite fairly with the Commonwealth with regard to the charge for managing the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta section. At the same time we cannot overlook the fact that, if we have to carry the whole organization on our own shoulders for the sake of handling traffic for only a month or two in each year the expenditure will be particularly heavy. It would be fax better if this traffic could be fitted in with the requirements of the northern railway system of South Australia, and thus ensure the more economical management of the Oodnadatta line. During the time that the Oodnadatta railway is in full traffic it is the policy of the South Australian Department to draw on the northern 3 ft. 6 in. system for all rolling-stock and railway staff required to deal with it. If we had our own rolling-stock for that line, we could only use it for about one-sixth of each year.
– I think I can satisfy the honorable member as to the question he asks. The position about the Oodnadatta line is not an easy one to settle at this distance. I appreciate the views of the honorable member for Wakefield and the natural apprehension of the honorable member for Wentworth. What I propose to do is to have a look at this proposition, and I hope that I shall be accompanied at a suitable time by representatives of South Australia who know the history of the line best. I promise my honorable friends that we shall nob take over this line, which at present is being operated under an agrement by the State Governments, before Parliament has had an opportunity of debating the matter.
– That is all right.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 -
No rates, tax, or assessment shall he made, charged or levied upon any railway or other property vested in the Commissioner, except as may he sanctioned by the Minister.
– I desire to obtain some information from the Minister. As all honorable members know, the Commonwealth has a strip of land on either ‘ side of the transcontinental line. I have been led to believe that so far as Western Australia is concerned there will be no interference with that land or with property thereon; in other words, that the Commonwealth will have sole control. But on the strip of land in South Australia I understand that, when the agreement was being arranged between the two Governments, the State Government of the day did place some embargo . on the Commonwealth. Suppose that a town is established on either side of the border, and that a community settles there. If a State school is needed it will be quite the right thing that the State should come in and provide educational . facilities. Or certain businesses may be conducted on the Commonwealth land which will need to come under the purview of State officials and within the province of State legislation. I would like to have a statement from- the Minister that the Commonwealth property, and the leasing of land on either side of the line, will not be unduly interfered wit1 or taxed, and that leaseholds will not be improperly harassed by any State.
– They cannot be harassed, except that the only invasion of the Commonwealth right is in the agreement itself, which restricts to the State the mining rights on the whole of this land.
– That may be. Otherwise, for all propositions it is essentially under the control of the Commonwealth, except where educational facilities may have to be supplied, and then naturally we will call upon the State Government to provide them, even if the Commonwealth should have to pay something. I want to know what will be the position of lessees on the land, because undoubtedly at certain points small communities will be established. No doubt they will be contiguous to the line, and naturally they will look to the Commonwealth to protect them under certain conditions.
– I have not had much opportunity to look at the law on this question since it was first raised in Committee. But the position in Western Australia is that we have been granted the land in fee-simple except for certain mining purposes, and that must be at the discretion of the Executive Council of the Commonwealth.
– It is something like a Crown grant.
– The strip of land is a quarter of a mile wide on each side of the line. In Western Australia there are no leases appreciably affected, if affected at all, which run along this narrow ribbon of land from Kalgoorlie to the border. In South Australia the situation is somewhat different. I am not in a position to assure the honorable member precisely what it means, but I take it broadly to mean that we get for all railway purposes that one-eighth of a mile strip on either side of the line and, by the way, some other land for watering purposes which may be required. There has been some difficulty in settling whether the State or the Federal Administration is to decide as to the requirements. If land subsequently becomes suitable, and is settled by townships, then an alteration of the conditions of the grant is made. It looks as though the land for township purposes reverts to the State. At a later stage, perhaps, I may be able to give the honorable member full information about this matter.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 18 and 19 agreed to.
Clause 20 (Delegation of powers by Commissioner) .
.- It may be convenient here,- as the Minister suggested in discussing the powers of the Commissioner, to refer to a power which ~I think ought to be given to him, and that is the power to provide land on lease, and housing accommodation to railway -employees. In an ideal State, the condition of the man who is farthest down would be looked after.
– Has he not that power now ?
– I think not.
– Of course, they are doing that now.
– The man who is out on a long stretch of railway line in Australia, and has to attend to maintenance work, is engaged in what I consider one of the worst paid and most disagreeable occupations in the Commonwealth.
– May I suggest to the honorable member that his remarks should be addressed to clause 22. The present clause deals with the delegation of powers by the Commissioner.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 21 to 28 agreed to.
Clause 29 -
– I desire to make a slight verbal amendment. I move -
That after the word “ charges,” line 4, the words “ and impose such conditions “ be inserted.
That deals with the conditioning of the tolls; a power which I think ought: to be given to the Commissioner.
– The Minister knows that the agreement with South Australia for the transfer of the northern railway provides that the fares and the rates to be charged by the Commissioner shall not exceed those charged by South Australia. I do nob want any provision in this Bill to be in conflict! with that agreement. I admit that possibly there should be some qualification of the agreement mutually arrived at by the two parties.
– This is not in conflict with that agreement.
– It is in so far that it empowers the Commissioner to make such tolls, fares, and charges as he thinks fit and proper.
– What I meant by my interjection was that so long as the agreement remains in force, it will bind the Commissioner.
– The terms of the agreement are at present the subject of negotiations between the two Governments. I am hopeful thatwe may have an alteration which will give greater elasticity, but so loner as the agreement operates, the Commissioner will be bound by it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as’ amended, agreed to.
Clause 30 -
Notwithstanding anything in this Act contained, the Commissioner may fix a special toll or charge for the conveyance of any special article or parcel of goods’.
– In order to make sure that preferential or differential rates shall nob operate, as provided in other parts of the measure, I move - That the following words be added to the elause: - “provided that the same toll or charge shall apply alike to all persons using the railways under the same conditions.”
That is the governing condition of such railway charges, and it was omitted from this clause in drafting.
Amendment! agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 31 (Sale of spirituous- liquors on railways) .
– I see the honorable member for Brisbane with all his batteries aimed at me. There are probably only two debatable clauses in the Bill to be considered. This is one of them, and if my honorable friend and others will agree, we can postpone it till later. I am hopeful that we shall run the other clauses through.
Clauses. 32 to 43 agreed to.
Clause 44 (Carrying out of matters of policy).
.- I. should like the Minister to make a statement regarding the relation between the powers of the Minister and the Commissioner under this and the following clause. When speaking on- the second reading, I pointed out what, to my mind, is a dangerous feature in the- Bill. It seems to me that we are giving the Minister too much direct control over the Commissioner, and are thus opening the door, to some extent, to the exercise of political influence in the administration, of our railways. The reason why Governments have so often failed in enterprises of this sort is that political influence has interfered, and I am afraid that the wording, of this elause gives1 to the Minister a power of control that may prove injurious. Clause 45 must be read in conjunction with clause 44, and it says that the Minister may direct the Commissioner to make any alteration in any existing practice, or carry out any system or matter of policy. The
Commissioner is to be paid for any- such alteration that adversely . affects- the accounts of the1 railways-; but: does not the Minister think that the provision may allow some future occupant of his office - not the- ideal administrator now in power - who- may be amenable to political influence, to interfere with the control of the Commissioner in a manner which cannot be beneficial to the interests of the Commonwealth?
– In my judgment,’ these clauses are the most delicate part of the Bill. They constitute a kind’ of bridge between the political control of former days and the practically independent control by a Commissioner of modern times. Who invented them,I do not know,, but in this State they, have been identified with Mr. Shiels, and have been incorporated in a number of State Acts dealing with railway administration. Broadly speaking, the Commissioner will control the railway property and sendees, and will have large responsibilities and definite duties. But Parliaments have said-,. “ We cannot hand over these large assets and responsibilities to a. permanent official’ whose voice is not heard in Parliament.”’
– New South Wales did that,and found that it was a mistake.
– Yes. It had. to draw back and frame its railway laws on lines similar to these that we are now adopting. In Victoria, sections similar to. these have been operating for twenty or twenty-five years; their effect being to provide a common meeting ground for Commissioner and Minister, to the satisfaction of Parliament and the public. There has been no abuse under them, a check against abuse being, provided in the provisions themselves. A Minister will not have power at his own pleasure to order a Commissioner to do what he likes, but if, after a dispute about policy, the Minister determines that effect shall be given to his wishes, the Governor-General in Council will have the right to provide fpr that. The Minister will have to obtain the consent of his colleagues to do what he wishes, and an Order in Council will then be issued instructing the Commissioner to do what is desired. If the carrying out of the Minister’s policy is disadvantageous to the railway from a cash point, of view, the Treasury willi have to make up any difference. It has been found in practice that no Ministry will wantonly play fast and loose with railway administration when it has to foot the bill. These clauses differ slightly from the provisions in some of the State Acts. The Victorian Parliament decided that if uri. alteration insisted on by the Minister involved a decrease of revenue or an increase of expenditure, the Treasury would have to make up the difference. It may be, however, that a policy having either effect would, in the end, be beneficial to the railways, and I think for that reason that the wording of this clause is better than that of the State Acts. The clause says that if a financial disadvantage is suffered by this change imposed by the Minister, the Treasury shall pay. These clauses provide checks and create a genuine equipoise of the responsibility properly resting on the Commissioner and the powers of the Minister responsible to Parliament.
– Does the Minister think that the Auditor-General is the best authority to settle the question of disadvantage? The Auditor-General is an expert in accounting. He knows what expenditure has taken place, and what revenue has been received, but is he, by virtue of his office, qualified to pronounce a determination upon a business proposition involving, perhaps, immediate losses mid future gains?
– I see the honorable member’s point. I am not prepared to say that the Auditor-General is the ideal official to deal with the ramifications of railway policy, but I know of no other official who could be better intrusted with this responsibility. The Auditor-General is the statutory buffer between an Administration and. Parliament, .and I cannot suggest any one better qualified to give the necessary certificate. We must presume reasonable honesty and fair dealing.
– An opinion on a business proposition is valuable only when it is that of an expert.
– The _ Auditor-General does this work in Victoria.
– In Victoria, the AuditorGeneral has merely to decide whether losses have been made; he has not to deal with the future effect of a policy.
– I .admit that there is that difference ; but I cannot suggest any other person who is likely to act with more skill, judgment, and honesty in .this matter.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 45 (Alterations made by direction of Minister).
– I am still not satisfied with this clause. It seems to give to the Commissioner an opportunity to obtain payment from the Consolidated Revenue for expenditure which should be debited against the railways. It might be that the Commissioner, finding that three trains a week did not pay, would, of his own motion, reduce the service to one -train, and the Minister might say, “ This will not do. You must run three trains.” Then the Commissioner might ‘reply, ‘ “ I will run three trains, but the loss must be met out of the Consolidated Revenue.” Thus the Commissioner might reduce services or interfere with conditions of employment with the object of getting payment from the Consolidated Revenue.
– Such a ‘Commissioner would not be likely to secure reappointment at the end of his term.
– And might be suspended.
– Perhaps I have put an extreme case; but it might happen that Parliament might say that certain accommodation should be provided for workers, or certain conditions given to employees. The Commissioner might reply, “ I am quite willing that this shall be done, but any expense to which the Department is put thereby must be paid out of the general revenue.” He might multiply those cases over a year or two, and in the end most of the revenue of the line would be coming out of general revenue instead of from the earnings of the system.
– The Minister would not allow .the Commissioner to spend money that way, just as he liked. /
– But suppose Parliament ordered that this accommodation should be provided 1
– Then Parliament would have to “ carry the baby.”
– It would be very easy for the Commissioner to make concessions at the -dictation of the Minister, and then ask Parliament to pav for it. If this applied to any one year, it would be all right, but if continued over several years, the lines, instead of showing ;a loss, might show a profit, on paper.
– The honorable member need not worry; all the earnings of the line will be on paper for some years.
– But this Bill is to provide a system of control for all time, and the Minister should not institute a system that may be used to the detriment of the Commonwealth in order to bolster up the railway accounts,, and, with the help of South Australian and Western Australian influence, to endeavour to show to the people of Australia that the line is paying when, in reality, it is not.
.- The honorable member for Indi has convinced me that this clause should be agreed to. When he commenced his remarks I was inclined to think that perhaps there was a good deal in his objection, because, undoubtedly, the Commissioner would be able to transfer to the Treasury the financial responsibility for extra facilities required on the line. But I remind the honorable member that he has fallen into an error, firstly, in overlooking the fact that this line is never going to pay, and that Parliament will have to foot the bill in any case, and, secondly, because he does not know our brethren from South Australia and Western Australia. I assure the honorable member that our brethren from those States, however . much they may be disunited on all questions of domestic policy, are on all matters affecting the welfare of their own States, whether to the advantage or disadvantage of the Commonwealth, united as one man. I think we are wise in having in the Bill a provision* that will enable the people of Australia to realize exactly how much this solid phalanx from South Australia and Western Australia is getting out of the Commonwealth.
.- I have no wish to delay the passage of the Bill, but I do desire to enter a protest against the extensive powers given to the Minister under this provision. From the interjection of the Minister, it is quite evident that he, having the power of suspension to hold over the Commissioner, in addition to other control, will be able to force the Commissioner to afford facilities that ought not to be afforded. If there exists that solid Western Australian and South Australian phalanx to which the honorable member for Wentworth referred, the Minister will require to walk carefully, in view of the fact that this united vote may be against him at any time when the management of the system does not please the two States interested. It seems to me that there is in these clauses a return to political control greater than exists in any State Railway Act at the present time. In New South Wales the various amendments made in that way have considerably weakened the control of the railways, and have not increased their efficiency. I protest against this power of political interference with the management of the railways, particularly in connexion with a line that is not likely to pay for some years.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 46 agreed to.
Clause 47 -
.- The Arbitration (Public Service) Act defines the Public Service of the Commonwealth as including “ the Public Service of the Northern Territory and of the Territory of the Seat of Government, ‘and the service of any public institution or authority of the Commonwealth.” Would that phraseology include the employees of the Commonwealth Railway Department, or will it be necessary to move an amendment in this Bill, in order to make it clear that they have the right of appeal to the Arbitration Court?
– When the Bill was being drafted, I was under the impression that the employees of the Department would come within the scope of the Arbitration Act. To all lay minds the words which the honorable member for Yarra has just read clearly convey that impression. I see no justification for preventing the officers and employees of the railway service enjoying the same advantages or disadvantages as are given to other employees of the Commonwealth.
– Sub-clause 2 says that the Commissioner shall pay such salaries and wages as he approves.
– The Minister himself has to sanction all regulations dealing with wages, and has to share in the responsibility for such regulations. Naturally, he would see that the other laws of the Commonwealth were duly observed.
– Has any other railway system in Australia the right to appeal to an Arbitration Court?
– I think not.
– Will the Minister consent to this proposal?
– It is not a question of consent. The Bill, as framed, expresses the view of the Government. As to whether the Arbitration Act does absolutely cover the employees of the Railway Department I do not know, but I am informed that it does. By this clause the Commissioner is given certain powers to employ persons and to pay them salaries and wages. And then the classification which embodies the rates of wages and appointments,, has to be dealt with in bylaws. They are called regulations under other Acts, but are called by-laws under Railways Acts. The classification has to receive the sanction of the Minister, and if the law of the land says that these men have the right to go to the Arbitration Court, that settles the matter quite apart from this Bill. That is the view of the Government in regard to this point.
.- Itis a very important point, and should be cleared up. The question is whether employees on these railways are to receive the benefit of the Commonwealth (Public Service) Arbitration Act, and the Minister has not made the matter clear. Any proceedings taken under this measure for compensation are initiated and taken against the Commissioner. The Crown does not appear in the proceedings in any way. The question is whether officers in the employ of the Commonwealth railways are to be employees of the Crown or employees of the Commissioner; if they are to be employees of the Commissioner they will not get the benefit of the Commonwealth (Public Service) Arbitration Act. It is quite clear that the Committee is divided as to whether they should get this benefit, but I should like to see it divided in fact as it is divided in appearance on the question of whether these railway employees are to get that benefit.
.- In order to make that point clear, I give notice to the Minister that I intend to move a new clause to the following effect : -
Employees in the Commonwealth Railway Service shall be taken to be employees within the meaning of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-11.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 48 agreed to.
Clause 49 (Commissioner to make appointments to certain permanent offices).
.- I move as an amendment -
That the following sub-clause be added : - “ 3. All such appointments shall be made by the Commissioner from persons who were at the commencement of this Act employed in connexion with railways work by the Commonwealth; but if the Commissioner certifies in writing to the Minister that there was no person so employed qualified for any particular office, the Commissioner may appoint some person who was not so employed to such office.”’’
No doubt the Minister has already found that the officers who have been temporarily employed in the railway service of the Commonwealth, and who have been taken from the various State railway staffs, are very capable men. One of my reasons for moving this amendment, which I hope . the Minister will accept, is the fact that the following regulation has been drawn up: -
In making the appointments to the staff preference shall be given in each grade to persons already holding positions therein as provided hereunder -
In respect to the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway preference shall be given to persons employed therein according to seniority in the service.
I am asking that men shall not be appointed to the permanent staff from the temporary staff on the simple ground of seniority, but that merit should also be considered. I hold that where seniority and merit are combined seniority should have the prior claim over those not at present in the service of the Department, but it should not be a case of judging on seniority alone. The provision that I have suggested is already to be found in various State Railway and Public Service Acts, and I hope that the Committee will agree to it, because there are many men now , employed in a temporary capacity who think that their claims will be overlooked if seniority alone is to be the guide to the permanent appointments.
.- To the principle underlying the amendment there can be no great objection, but . its wording would tie the hands of the Commissioner very badly. The regulations which have been prepared deal with the matter ina very fair way, and I am prepared to give the honorable member an undertaking that they will be acted upon. The regulation to which the honorable member has just referred goes on to say -
Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding sub-clause -
That is the one which the honorable member read -
No person will be appointed to the staff who is not up to the standard fixed by the Acting Commissioner in aural and visual senses, or who, in the opinion of the departmental medical officer, is not physically fit, or who fails to pass such educational or other test as the Acting Commissioner may impose.
It is not fair to ask the Commissioner to certify to his Minister that a certain officer is nob fit for the position he is occupying. The man so dealt with would pass out of the service far more discredited than if he failed to fulfil the requirement of this regulation.
– Why not leave the matter to regulations, instead of making a hard and fast rule?
– Precisely ! This is. the regulation, and it will be operative. I give that undertaking. What the honorable member suggests is really the spirit of the- law at the present time, but I do not think that it should be embodied in the Act and made a hard and fast rule.
.- The only objection that can be offered to the regulation which the Minister has read is that under it these men must pass certain educational tests. Is it not reasonable to assume that the men now in the ‘service hold their positions because the authorities aresatisfied that they are qualified? To require them now to submit to an examination might be to place them at a disadvantage.
– It refers to such men as operating porters at outback stations as well as to others who have been given a certain time to qualify. They would have to pass an examination for the signalling service, and so forth.
– Will they all be required ?
– . Some will be required, and those who are will have to be tested as to their efficiency.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 50 and 51 agreed to.
Clause 52 (Rights of employees previously employed by Commonwealth or State).
– I have another request to make to the Minister in regard to this clause. It provides that -
Any person -
Act, or any time thereafter employed in the railway service. . . . shall, subject to the clause, be entitled to ceitain things. I should like to have inserted after the word “employed” the words ‘ ‘ in connexion with any railway work by the Commonwealth or.”
– What would be the object of such an amendment?
– I believe that in other parts of the Bill there is a provision dealing with the position of men who may be transferred from a State railway service to that of the Commonwealth. My suggested amendment would secure the position of those who have been working under the operation of Commonwealth railway regulations on railway work under the Commonwealth Engineer-in-Chief . As the clause now stands, it deals with any person who at the commencement of the Act, or at any time thereafter, is . employed in the “railway service.” The words “railway service,” I understand, refer to the railway service of a State.
– I desire to add the words I have read so as to include within this provision those who have been employed in connexion with any railway work by the Commonwealth.
– That is what the clause does as it stands.
– I have been asked to put this suggestion to the Minister.
.- The object of this clause is to provide that where men who have been employed in the railway service under the Construction Acts become permanent officers of the Department certain interests shall be conserved to them. I do not wish to make the clause wider than that. The words “ railway ‘service “ apply to the whole of the men employed by the Commissioner or by the Minister under his Construction
Acts. We do- not want to- confer privileges on men employed outside the Act.
. 1 should, like to have from the Minister a statement as to the meaning of the words in sub-clause % -
For the purposes of this section, employment in the railway service shall not be deemed’ not to be continuous with prior permanent employment by reason only that a period of not more than three working days elapsed, between the termination of the prior permanent employment of an employee and the commencement of his employment in the railway service.
An officer might be transferred from the Queensland to the Commonwealth Service, and if he had to travel from, say, Rock- hampton to Port Augusta, more than, three days would be likely to elapse between the date of his leaving the State Service and the date on which he took up his new work at Port Augusta, I wish to know whether this provision as to three days is intended to safeguard such a man’s interests.
.- This subclause is specially intended to allow a little time to elapse between the two appointments, in order to prevent what are known as broken -service disputes arising under pension and certain other1 Statutes. In the event of a Queensland railway servant being- transferred’ to the Commonwealth Service, if it took him longer than three days to travel from Queensland to his place of appointment in, say, Western Australia, he could be appointed to commence his– employment with the- Commonwealth before leaving Queensland, and under this clause he- would have a littlebreak of three days, which would not prejudice his interests.
Clause- agreed to.
Clause 53 (Appeal by officers).
– I move -
That the following sub-clause be inserted after sub-clause 3: - - (3a) The Board shall have power to take evidence on oath, and shall also have power to vary any punishment imposed.”
I believe this amendment would bring the clause into conformity with similar provisions in other Acts, and I submit it at the request of railway employees. If they are to be brought before a Board and to have punishment meted out to them for any offence> they would like that Board to have power to take evidence on oath. The Chairman of the Board is to be a police, stipendiary, or special magistrate, and its* finding may involve a man’s dismissal, which would be a very serious thing to* himself and his family. It is felt, therefore, that there should be power to take on oath the evidence given,, both, for and. against the person who isthe subject of any charge.
– I shall not object to the amendment, provided that the honorable member inserts before the word “ Board “ the word “Appeal.”
– Very well.
Amendment,, by leave, amended accordingly.
.- The honorable member’ for Maribyrnong, by his amendment, makes clear the intention of the clause, giving the Appeal Board the discretion to vary the punishment. The final decision will remain, with the Board, and the only real difference made is that evidence may be- taken on oath. To this I do not object.
Amendment agreed, to.
Clause; as- amended,, agreed to.
Clause- 54 agreed- to.
Clause- 55 -
The Commissioner may, for the’ purposes of the railways, engage such, temporary employees as he thinks fit:.
Provided that. the. Minister may direct that in respect of any grade no person shall be employed as a temporary employee1 for a longer period than six- months, or in exceptional casesnine months.
– I move -
That the following- words be added-, to theclause : - “ in any period of twelve months.”
This will make the Bill uniform with the law of the Public Service.. Without these words, a man. who’ had! worked for six or nine months would be finished for life. The object is not to do that, but to prescribe a maximum within . a minimum period.
– I cannot see why there should be this clause, because the great trouble in the Public Service is that, as soon as a temporary employee has been trained and become efficient, he has to be sent away, a coursethat would be- followed by no one inprivate business. ‘ Presumablywe should trust the- Commissioner to manage the: lines; and I cannot see why he should not be trusted to manage the question of temporary employees; It seems to me utterly ridiculous to transport a man 800 or 900 miles to his place of employment, and, when he has learnt to become useful, to have to transport him the same distance back again. There was, I know, a similar provision placed in the first Public Service Act, and it has been a perfect bugbear to the Departments.
– There is a similar provision in every Railway Act that I know of.
Mr.- KELLY. - I have never yet heard the reason for it. All that need be provided for is that the Commissioner shall not carry permanently a large temporary staff. The present is a wrong and wasteful system, and is particularly out of place in a Bill like this, which deals with men who have to be carried such enormous distances to and from their work.
.- I hope the clause will be struck out, or, at any rate, that part of it which has been objected to. At present, as soon as a man has shown his capacity for the work, he has to go, and, in my opinion, much of the mismanagement in the Poet Office is due to the movements of temporary men. If we allow history to guide us we see that the system has proved a failure, and, in any case, it causes a lot of heartburning. So far as I know, there is no similar provision in the New South Wales Railway Act, under which men are kept employed so long as they are suitable.
.- I hope the clause will be retained, because, after all, the efficiency of our railway service depends on the permanent staff, who are given their positions only after training and examination. The obligation should not be cast on the Commissioner to say how long a temporary employee shall remain. If there be no limitation we shall have these temporary men, after a few years’ service, making a claim for a permanent classification, and’ this would build up, in all probability, a new set of public servants, and leave the door open to the exercise of influence. Under the present law, temporary employees are restricted to temporary positions, though, of course, a period of six months may be a little short, and twelve months might prove the more advantageous. There ought, however, to be some limitation to relieve the Commissioner from responsibility, and afford him the opportunity to perfect the permanent staff. I am afraid that, unless there is some such clause, the Commissioner may find himself trammelled in the exercise of a free. hand.
.- The Minister would be well advised to withdraw this provision, the retention of which would really hamper the Commissioner in the discharge of his duties, rather than, as the honorable member for Wimmera suggests, give him a free hand. At the very moment that the Commissioner has got these men trained and can depend upon them, they have to be got rid of. No business man in any part of the world would run his business on those lines, and surely the Commissioner will run the railways on commercial lines in the highest interests of the Commonwealth. The best example we can follow is that of the commercial community, and the only standard they have is that of efficiency. If a man is an efficient servant they retain his services; if not, lie goes. The Minister would be wise to withdraw the provision.
.- - I strongly urge the Minister to drop the proviso, although I can understand the reason it was put in the Bill. It is a Victorian patent, and is not in any South Australian or Western Australian Railways Act, but there was repeated agitation in South Australia to have this Melbourne patent brought into force there.’ It had its origin in the old Trades Hall agitation for the unemployed. Their idea was that it was unfair that some men should have the ‘ luck to get temporary railway employment and others should be left walking about idle. They argued that it was fair to turn men out of the Department after six months, whether they were suitable or not, and give, the other fellow” a cut. To be logical, if it is such a wonderful practice, we should legislate to compel every private employer to follow it, but it is ridiculous on its face. The Railways Commissioner may get a very efficient man whom he does not want to lose, and he may not care whether he retains others or not, but under this provision the efficient man would have to travel, and the Commissioner would .probably get a far less useful man. If a private employer picks up the good man he keeps him, and the Railway Department loses all chance of get-j ting him again. There is absolutely nothing to justify this provision except the Labour howl to give an opportunity to those who are unemployed to obtain the jobs of those who are employed.
.- If we are to have an efficient Railways Department, this restriction on the right of the Commissioner to employ the men he thinks best qualified to render good service is most dangerous. The Commonwealth railways are likely for a considerable period to be isolated, and it will be scarcely worth a good man’s while to go to them for a six months’ job. The alteration the Minister suggests is an advantage, but the whole clause is so destructive of efficiency that the Commissioner might well be left to exercise his discretion as to whether a man is suitable or not. If he is not, he should nob be there a week, and if he is, his services should not be dispensed with. The more the Commissioner is left to his own discretion in this matter the better’ it will be for the efficient working of our lines.
.- The honorable member for Brisbane has stated the very reason why the. clause should be retained. If temporary work is available a considerable distance away, the Commissioner may want to send to it a good man from the central depot, and put in his place a temporary hand who is beyond the statutory age which would allow him to go on the permanent staff. Without this provision the Railways Commissioner would be debarred from appointing many men to temporary work, and numbers who are over the age would be prevented from obtaining it.
– Nothing prevents the Commissioner from putting a man on temporarily. We want him to have the discretion to keep him on.
– Has he not that discretion ?
– Not under this proviso.
– If the Commissioner find? that a man is an efficient officer’ after he has been employed for six months, and he is under the statutory age, can he put him on the permanent staff?
– In order to do that under this Bil], he has to increase the number of permanent officers.
– Would he not do so, if necessary ?
.- The Commissioner might not get the consent of the Minister to do so. This provision is not in- force in South Australia or Western
Australia; but it is in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. In New South Wales it is more stringent. There six months is the’ maximum time for supernumerary employees, and there must be a full six months’ break. The’ theory is, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh says, to make the work go round, but, as I am reminded by the honorable member for Kooyong, there is another reason;. Temporary employment used to be the side door into the Service in Victoria. If a man bad been continuously employed for five or six years, there was an agitation to make him permanent, and Acts were often passed conferring that privilege upon men, while others were let in by ballot selection later on. I see no fear of that in this case, and there is probably a geo-. graphical reason why we should not retain the provision, lt is a “ toss-up “ whether the Committee retains it or not, but I am going to vote for it.
– I ask the Minister to temporarily withdraw his amendment, that I may move a prior amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I move -
That the following words he left out: - . “ Provided that the Minister may direct that in respect of any grade no person shall be employed as a temporary employee for a longer period than six months, or in exceptional cases, nine months.”
That would leave the discretion absolutely with the Railways Commissioner.
– I think the object the honorable member for Wentworth has in view would be better served by striking out the whole of this clause, because in clause 47, in a general provision, the Commissioner is given complete discretion as to all kinds of employment, and may employ any person. If clause 55 be agreed to, even though the proviso be left out, the effect may be to hamper the administration of the Commissioner under clause 47.
.- I’ ask leave to withdraw my amendment, and suggest to honorable members who think as I do on this matter that they should negative the clause as it stands.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clauses 56 to 63 agreed to.
Clause’ 64 -
– Honorable members will recognise the object of this clause, but it is desirable to make a few verbal amendments. I desire to move -
That after the word “modifications” the words “ and adaptations “ be inserted.
I propose to move another amendment at the. end of the clause.
– I should like to move a prior amendment.
-Then I will not submit my amendments until the honorable, member’s amendment is dealt with.
– I move -
That after the word ‘” State,” line 3, the words “public parks, recreation grounds, roads, or lands which have been dedicated, reserved, or set apart for any public or other purpose, whether by the State or by any private person,” be left out.
My object must be perfectly clear, but I do not know whether I shall achieve it properly by this amendment. -
– The honorable member proposes to leave out too much, because there are occasions when it is necessary to take roads. We had to do it at Port Augusta.
– I. object very strongly to the inclusion in this clause of the words “ public parks and recreation grounds.” I protest against the Commonwealth having any power whatever to interfere, for railway purposes, with public parks and recreation grounds. The Lands Acquisition Act, which is referred to in this clause, clearly dennes that such areas shall not be included in lands that may be acquired by the Commonwealth. This is the definition of “ Land “ given in the Lands Acquisition Act: - “ Land “ includes any estate or interest in land (legal or equitable), and any easement, right, power, or privilege over, in, or in connexion with land, and includes Crown land, but does not include public parks vested in or onder the control of municipal or local authorities, and dedicated to or reserved for the re- creation of the people, or such other lands dedicated to or reserved for the use and enjoyment of the people as have been certified by proclamation.
– Would not the honorable member’s amendment cover such areas as stock reserves, for instance?
– I was coming to that. Large areas of country lands axe frequently reserved as timber and water reserves. It would, I admit, be foolish to refuse to give railway rights over such areas, but the clause under consideration is so worded that it covers specifically public parks and recreation grounds, and that is what I object to.
– I have realized the sentimental objection with respect to parks, and have safeguarded it partly by requiring Ministerial consent in such cases. If necessary, it might be provided that before anything of this kind was done a report should be made to Parliament, and honorable members would then have an opportunity of objecting to any proposal that might be made. If I undertake to embody such a provision as that in the clause, perhaps it will suit the honorable member’s purpose.
– That would certainly be a considerable advantage. The Minister has no intention, I believe, of encroaching upon public parks and recreation reserves?
-Unless it be absolutely necessary on public considerations. I know of cases of the kind in the City of Melbourne.
– It was necessary to take’ part of Yarra Park to widen the area available for railway purposes,, and the same kind of thing may have to be done again.
– The Melbourne instances in point that have been quoted to me since I made my remarks last night . have but added to the reasons why I protest against any repetition of this kind of thing.
– Sober sentiment in Melbourne approves of those instances, but some fanatical sentiment does not.
– It is not fanaticism that seeks to preserve open spaces for the people. There are far too few of them in our towns and cities at the present time. I protest against any power being given to either a State or the Commonwealth Government to interfere with’ public parks and recreation reserves. I am told that it would not be possible to get from Flinders-street station to any of the eastern suburbs of Melbourne without going through some of the lands that were previously park lands. That raises the question whether Flinders-street station is in the right place at all for a railway station.
– That is a sample of the considerations we find- ourselves up against in dealing with this question.
– If park lands are not encroached upon to such an extent as to destroy their utility, there may not be a great deal of objection, but honorable members may not be aware that authorities on town planning are all agreed that the Flinders-street railway station is in the wrong place.
– They are a little late,, are they not?
– The reference of such proposals to Parliament should be a sufficient safeguard. >
– Does the Minister propose . to introduce the safeguard to which he has referred when the Bill reaches the Senate?
– No; here.
– I am afraid it cannot be done here. The provision requires to be carefully drawn, but I give the honorable member for Brisbane an undertaking that in respect of the acquisition of public parks and recreation reserves Parliament will be given an opportunity to object before any proposal of the kind is brought into operation.
– My object is to protect parks and recreation reserves in the interests of the people, and on the understanding that the Minister will see that the provision he has suggested will be introduced, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments (by Mr. Watt) agreed to-
That after the word “ modifications “ the words, “ and adaptations “ be inserted.
That the words “the acquisition of any lands under this section,” in sub-clause 2 be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ lands acquired or to be acquired for the purposes of a railway.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 65 to 73 agreed to.
Clause 74 -
No person shall -
.- I move -
That paragraph (b) . be left out.
The man who drafted this provision did not know much about the railways of Australia. What does it mean? It means that if the sheep of a pastoralist stray on to this line he will be liable to a penalty of £50.
– What is the objection to it?
– Unless the Government are going to fence our railways-
– We are not going to do that.
– Then . under this provision every pastoralist whose sheep stray upon the line will be liable to a heavy penalty.
.- I think that the Committee should support the amendment. Most of us know that, at the present time, many of the railways in New South Wales are not protected by fences.
– This provision obtains in Queensland.
– Not in unfenced country.
– I can assure my honorable friend that it is part of the law of that State. A similar provision obtains in Now South Wales. There, anybody who allows his stock to wander on to the railways is liable to a penalty.
– I know different, because I had a lawsuit over the matter.
– Why not insert the word “wilfully”?
– If we did that, we might just as well strike out the provision. I think that we had better allow the paragraph to remain in its present form. A similar provision is already operating in the various States of the Commonwealth.
Question - That the words proposed to be struck out stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The matter will be attended to.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 75 to 79 agreed to.
Clause 80 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clause 81 -
Amendment (by Dr. Maloney) proposed -
That the following words be added to subclause 1: - “ And on the request of the injured person, where reasonable,- such examination shall be held in the presence of the private medical practitioner of such injured person.”
.- Whilst I agree with the spirit of the amendment, I think the Minister would do well to look into its phraseology so that any possible, misuse of the provision by litigants may be avoided.
– I accept the amendment, but propose to have its phraseology reviewed by the, drafting authority.
Amendment agreed to.
– Sub-clause 2 debars certain persons who may refuse to be examined by a medical man from any right of action. It has been thought from the experience in connexion with railway accidents that a shock may occur to a man, and the effect nob be discernible until sometime . afterwards. He may not have had reasonable grounds to be examined on the day of the accident, or on the” following day. On the arguments adduced by honorable members on the second reading, I move -
That the following words- be added to subclause 2 : - “ unless he satisfies the Court in which the action is brought that -
his refusal or failure to undergo examination was reasonable iu the circumstances.; and
the Commissioner is not prejudiced in his defence by the refusal or failure of the person to undergo examination.
If a person refuses to undergo an examination, he will have to satisfy the Court that he had reasonable grounds for his refusal. I think that this provision will amply safeguard the interests of the Crown.
.- I hope that the Committee will accept the amendment. I propose to cite one example to show how necessary its enactment is. A man named James Munn obtained his life’s ambition, namely, to be secretary of the Trades Hall Council. He was injured in that ‘terrible accident known as the Richmond railway accident. He settled with the Railways Commissioners for some £i0 odd. His mind waa so deranged, and he was so injured by the shock that he was not properly examined by the medical- men representing the Railway Department, to receive such a small sum. I do not think that he had a private medical man to examine him. He committed suicide within three days of obtaining his life’s ambition. I might add that shell shock is almost! similar to railway shock. Mr. James Page, possibly the greatest authority on railway shock in the European world, states in his lectures that if a medical man ever finds a spinal complaint or a nervous disorder which he cannot diagnose, iti will be well to go into the back history of the patient, even if he should have to go back twenty years, to see if the patient had been in a railway accident. I hope that this addition to the clause will be accepted.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 82 to 88 agreed to.
Clause S9 (By-laws).
.- I think that, as in the case of the by-laws made under most of our important enactments, the by-laws made under this measure should be placed before Parliament; but there is no such provision made here. I hold that as regards freights and fares and industrial conditions honorable members ought to be kept closely in touch with the alterations made from time to time. To achieve these objects, I move -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “ 4. All such by-laws shall be laid before both House’s of the Parliament within thirty days after the making thereof if the Parliament is then sitting, and if not then within thirty days of the next meeting of Parliament.”
– That is not necessary.
– The matters referred to are not provided for in the Bill.
– In sub-clause 3, it is provided that by-laws shall not be deemed to be statutory, rules within the meaning of the Rules Publication Act.
– I have looked at that Act, and ‘ I may tell the honorable member that it does not touch this pointy but deals with other matters.
– There is no real objection to this amendment! from the stand-point of practice, so long as it will not involve any delay in the working of the railway service, or any permission or approval, but merely gives the opportunity of disallowance. I do not object to the insertion of the -provision.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 31 (Sale of spirituous liquors on railways).
.- This is a clause to which I specially directed the attention of honorable members in my second-reading speech. I said that it was a debatable clause, and I might well have said it was a very debatable one. Recently the honorable member for Brisbane introduced a very representative, deputation to me as the Minister in charge of this Bill. I heard their arguments, and remained unconvinced, but I promised that I would remit the matter for the reconsideration of the Cabinet. The exigencies of politics compelled me to proceed with the Bill to-day. I thought that I would have had an opportunity to consult the Cabinet before we arrived at the clause. I intend to keep my promise. Therefore, with the object of going to the Cabinet with the provision, I ask the Committee to. allow me to withdraw, iti at this stage. If the Cabinet approves of the clause, I will endeavour to get it inserted in the measure in . another place, but if the Cabinet disapproves the provision will disappear.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 38a. The Commissioner may provide land on lease and house accommodation for railway employees.”
I hope that this proposal will receive sympathetic consideration from honorable members. It isi to meet the case of men who are employed on the maintenance of railway lines far away from centres of civilization.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 47a. Employees in the Commonwealth Railway Service shall be deemed to be employees in the Public Service of the Commonwealth within the meaning of the Commonwealth Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911.”
Honorable members will recollect that we have given to the public servants of the Commonwealth the right to appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and my intention in moving the amendment is to give the same right to our railway employees. I shall not debate the question now. Honorable members know the facts of the case. To my mind, railway servants have as much right as, and possibly more right than, other public servants to the benefits of such a tribunal.
– The amendment raises one of the most serious questions that can be debated in connexion with the Bill, its purpose being to bring under the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court all persons now, or in future to be, employed in the Railway Service of the Commonwealth.
– I think they are already under that jurisdiction.
– If so, the amendment is unnecessary, and the position so much the worse. Tha railway administration for which we are providing will control not only the lines which the Commonwealth has taken over in South Australia, and those which it is constructing, but possibly, in future, all the railways of Australia, and it will be agreed that in framing a law for the government of such a service we cannot be too careful. I am aware that Parliament has already placed the members of the ordinary Civil Service within the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court. Personally, I think that that was an unwise thing to do, but I need not discuss the matter at the present time. ‘ We are now asked to take a much bigger step, and to relinquish control of what at the beginning will be a big business undertaking, and ultimately will grow to huge proportions. To my mind, the working of the Arbitration Court has not been such as to afford much hope that its determinations regarding railway matters will conduce either to the satisfaction of the employees of the Commonwealth or to the efficiency of the Service. The Parliaments of the States, and, I think, this
Parliament, have always been willing at all times to do justice to those whom they employ; but we are now invited to give up our control of the conditions of employment of our railway servants, and to tell them that if they wish for any alteration of those conditions, they must begin with a strike, or something in the nature of a strike.
– That is the fault of the Constitution.
– I agree with the honorable member, and one of the first things that this Parliament, should set itself to do is to obtain from the people of Australia such additional power of legislation respecting industrial conditions as will destroy this anomaly.
– The honorable member voted against that.
– I have always maintained the view that I am now expressing. No one can deny that the operation of the Arbitration Court, as applied to the conditions of private industries, has not been satisfactory. If this great commercial Department that we are creating be placed under its jurisdiction, the reasons which have led to the bad working of this tribunal will be greatly magnified, and to them will be added others that do not at present apply. In the first place, we shall invite the railway servants of the Commonwealth, if they wish for a change in the conditions of their employment, to attempt to bring it about by the creation of an industrial dispute or strike.
– Not if the Minister will accept the request for an appeal to the Court.
– There has been no strike . in the Public Service of the Commonwealth, and yet half a dozen of our Public Service organizations have obtained awards from the Court.
– The provision in the law that there shall be no strikes has been without effect, though it may be true that there have not been strikes in the Commonwealth Public Service. There is another matter to which I think it my duty to direct attention. By agreeing to the amendment we shall be relinquishing one of our most important responsibilities. We shall say to’ our railway employees, “ We refer to a tribunal which is not responsible for finding the revenue necessary to pay for the services of Government the right to determine your conditions of employment, and your rates of pay.” Parliament is asked to hand over to a Judge, or to a tribunal, the control of its finances.
– To hand over this control to one man.
– Not only are we asked to hand over to the Arbitration Court the control of our finances, but we are asked to do this in respect to a huge undertaking, or series of undertakings, which are at the present moment in a hopeless financial condition. As honorable members desire to get away I shall not take up more of their time now in discussing this matter, but I cannot allow the amendment to be put without making the strongest protest against Parliament, on the initiation of a system which is to govern the railway administration of the Commonwealth, adopting so vicious and mischievous a principle as that proposed. We ought not to divest Parliament of the responsibility for determining the conditions under which the railway employees of the Commonwealth shall serve, nor should we transfer financial responsibility to whoever may, for the time being, preside over the Arbitration Court, giving him complete control of our railway management.
.- On the principle of this matter I find myself in complete agreement with many of the observations that have fallen from the honorable member for Flinders. I have never agreed with the proposal that either a State Parliament or the Federal Parliament should hand the question of the’ payment of its employees over to people who have nothing to do with the raising of the money out of which those payments are to be made. But while I express that opinion, I am bound to say that the advice, and the admonition of the honorable gentleman has fallen on me four or five years too late. We have done these things.
– You are asked to extend the principle.
– We are not.
– If the Bill contains the principle well and good, but you are dealing with the amendment of the honorable member for Yarra.
– If this principle were outside the existing law, and this amendment were introducing it for the first time, the observations of the honorable member would have my complete concurrence, but we have operated this principle ever since 1911, because the Arbitration (Public Service) Act defines the Public Service of the Commonwealth as including ‘’ the Public Service of the Northern Territory, the territory of the Seat of Government, and the service of any public institution or authority of the Commonwealth.” What we did, rightly or wrongly, by the enactments of the past was to include all then existing public services and authorities, and those to. be created thereafter. This Railway Department is one such authority. As was the case with the many things said about the 4-ft.-8½-in gauge, and the mode of construction, the remarks on this point are far too late to be of real practical value at this stage, and for that reason I have not thought it advisable to reply to them before . I do not say this because I regard the remarks of the honorable member as of no value; I think they carry a timely warning to the Parliament to think this matter out anew. The principle which has been in operation for the last six years will be hard to undo.
– And it would be criminal to undo it.
– I am not so sure of that. But it will be hard to undo a system that is already operative, and before it can be undone it must be thought out carefully, and the public must be convinced in regard to the wisdom of retracing our steps. I have taken counsel again with the AttorneyGeneral on the effect of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act in relation to this Bill, and I am again advised that the railway servants provided for in the
Bill are- already adequately covered by the . existing law.
– I am inclined to think that is so.
– That is the advice of the legal . members of the Cabinet. I ask the honorable member for Yarra not to press his amendment. I will undertake to- have the matter reviewed again before the Bill passes out of the reach of the Senate, and if there is the slightest doubt on this point, I will see that a clause bringing these men under the operation of the Arbitration law is introduced in another place.
.- As a layman I am not competent to express an opinion upon the effect of the Arbitration law on the Service to be created by this Bill. I am inclined to think that the railway servants of the Commonwealth will come under that law, and having ‘received the assurance of the Minister to that effect, with the additional promise that ho will consult the Crown Law authorities, and if it is found that the law is not as we read it, he will have an amending clause introduced in another place, I am contents I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
, - In moving
That the House do now adjourn.
I desire to thank honorable members for the facilities they have granted for the passage of the Railway Bill. Another ‘ place is, unfortunately, idle, and this Bill will give it work to do.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [4.43]. - I am sorry that the Prime Minister is not present, but I hope the Minister for Works and Railways will communicate to him the questions I am about to ask. I should like to know whether the Railway Association and the other unions connected with the strike in New South
Wales are to be brought under the operation of the Unlawful ‘Associations Act, and also, whether it ‘is a fact that telegrams between the Railway ‘Associations of New South Wales and Victoria are being held up I I hope the Minister will let -me have a reply, to those questions tomorrow morning.
– I will take the first opportunity of communicating the honorable member’s questions to the Prime Minister. I know nothing about the matters to which he has referred, but I shall ask the Prime “Minister to address his answers- to. the honorable member direct. .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bouse adjourned at 4.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 August 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170803_reps_7_82/>.