8th Parliament · 1st Session
The Clerk reported the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Hon. J. M. Chanter) took the chair at 3.1 p.m., cud read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he will defer the further consideration of the Industrial Peace Bill until a conference representative of organized Labour has been called to discuss it? I ask the question because I realize that without the hearty cooperation of both sides, and particularly of the industrialists it will be impossible to frame a satisfactory measure.
-I regret that Icannot agree to that course. Only the other day the honorable member chided me for not having introduced sooner remedial legislation for the settlement of disputes. I understand that it is not he personally who is now asking that the discussion of the measure be deferred, but organized Labour outside.
-Itis impossible both to proceedwith legislation and to defer itsconsideration at the one and the same time. . I wish to stress thepoint that, at least three months have elapsed since I invited the representatives of organized Labour and of organised Capital to meet in conference to discussthe best means of settling industrial strife and promoting industrial peace.Oneimportant Labour organization the Melbourne Trades Hall- rejected the invitation, and neither party has evinced any particular anxiety to give effect to it. This Legis lature, however, is charged with a duty which it may not evade merely because parties outside evade their duty. Organized Labour could not hold a conference for, I think, at the very least six weeks.
– Three weeks.
– A conference meeting within three weeks would not be an instructed body; it would have no authority. To confer the necessary authority all the bodies that were to be represented must first meet, and discuss the matter, before their representatives could be definitely instructed what to do. An uninstructed conference would have to refer its conclusions to , the respective bodies of which it was representative, to be considered by them in their turn, and thus at least three months would elapse before we could know Labour’s attitude towards the measure. There would be the same delay if a special conference representative of Capital were called to consider the Bill. Curiously enough, this very day I have had a request for delay from representatives of both sections of the community.
– I made the request on behalf of the industrialists.
– Yes:; and another honorable gentleman has informed me that the Chambers of Manufactures throughout the country are greatly perturbed about the Bill. This intimation that both parties desire the deferring of its consideration, because each thinks it against their interests, is the best evidence that they are mistaken. Parliament must proceed with the measure. A conferencewill be called, and will meet as soon as theparties are ready; that it did not meet long ago is not the fault of the Government. At this conference both parties must be represented if opinions of any value to Parliament are to result. Should the conference approve of the measure, and suggest amendments, they will be made law; but in the meantime the Bill mustbe passed. We must have a means for appointing tribunals to deal with disputes. It is the intention of the Government to avoid uncertainty in industrial matters by relying.no more upon its war-time powers. It must, therefore, havestatutory authority to appoint tribunals in order that it may fulfil its election promises, to afford Labour an opportunity of settling its disputes speedily and economically.
– The conference you are now refering to is not that for which I have asked.
– No; I am referring to the conference of both parties that I have already summoned. There is, of course, not the slightest objection to the holding of a preliminary conference by Labour. My proposal is that this legislation should pass, the Government promising to give effect to any recommendation of the conference modifying the measure. We want a measure which will reflect the opinion of those whose interests are chiefly concerned.
– With respect to a circular issued to German nationals throughout Australia, and for public information, and in order also to allay anxiety affecting some good citizens in Capricornia, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if he will state what is the object of that circular.
– The honorable member, before rising to ask his question, informed me that he had sent me a previous notification on this matter. As I would like to give him a considered reply, I would be glad if he will place his inquiry on the notice-paper for to-morrow.
Country Mail Contractors: Addresses Upon Envelopes
– . Can the PostmasterGeneral inform me if the subject of giving country mail contractors a drought allowance is still under consideration ?
– Yes, it is.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral consider the acceptance of a suggestion that, upon envolopes addressed to citizens of Melbourne, the letter “ C “ shall be taken as meaning Central, or City, and that the letters “ N,” “ S,” “ E,” and “ W “ shall be taken to mean, respectively, North, South, East, and
West - so saving an infinite amount of time to citizens generally?
-I will consider the matter.
Payment of Half-Profits
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to a cabled paragraph in this morning’s press to the effect that, in the House of Commons on Monday, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions made a statement regarding an interim dividend to the Australian woolgrower, the amount mentioned being about £6,000,000? In view of the fact that that sum is considered to be an altogether paltry amount, compared with what was expected, and that there is some misunderstanding,’ I wish to know if the Prime Minister has any further information to supply to the House and to the country.
– I noticed the cablegram to which the honorable member has referred, and that the amount mentioned was £6,483,901. I understood, however, that that represented Australia’s halfshare of profits up to March, 1919. The honorable member has referred to that amount as being paltry. Perhaps he does not quite appreciate what the position was during that year, and prior to March, 1919. To the date of the armistice the amount of wool sold for civilian purposes - that is, the amount upon which we were entitled to half -profits - was most inconsiderable; indeed, it was negligible. It was only after 11th November, 1918, and not until some months after, that the demandfor wool for military purposes began to fail off and the demand for wool for civilian requirements began to increase rapdily. Up till March, 1919, therefore, there was very little by way of profit. The amount due to March of 1918, was, I think, about £1,900,000; while up to March of 1919 it had reached - according to the British Ministera total of £6,483,901. I can add nothing further to the statement made by the British. Minister, whose name, for the moment,I have forgotten.
Mr.Parker Moloney. - Mr. J.F. Hope
– Well, I think that is a veryappropriate name, for that is all the Australian wool-grower is living on just now, so far as our half profits are concerned. I distinctly hope we shall be able to announce, without further delay, that this sum has been made available. As for making a more complete statement upon this subject, I can only add that I saw the members of the Australian Wool Council on Friday last, and supplied them with the latest information. This, I might state, did not coincide with the figure mentioned in the press cablegram. The amount quoted in a telegram received by me from the British Chancellor of the Exchequer was in excess of that amount - not very considerably, but still it was larger. The telegram involved other matters, but I asked that the money should be paid without delay. I asked, further, that it should be paid through the Central Wool Committee, so that it could be distributed. There is no other agency by which it can be distributed. Honorable members will appreciate that the half-profits are not paid at large, but on specific parcels, or bales, of wool; therefore, the Wool Committee is the proper party to distribute the money, and I have asked that the amount shall be made available to that body for that purpose.
– I do not know whether the attention of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) has been called to an item of news in the Melbourne Herald of Tuesday, to the effect that an unfortunate returned soldier, aged forty, had committed suicide. It was shown in evidence at a coronial inquiry that the deceased exsoldier had possessed a war gratuity bond valued at £95, which was realized on at Ludbrook’s stores. This firm, it appears, got the deceased to purchase £48 worth of goods, and gave him the balance in cash. In view of a comment by the coroner, that it would be interesting to know what the deceased got in his £48 worth of goods at Ludbrook’s stores, I ask if the Minister will make some inquiry so that cases where suspicion has been raised may be cleared up.
SirGRANVILLE RYRIE. - Yes, I shall have inquiries made in the matter.
Dr.MALONEY asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
When does the Government assistance for the rain experiments of Mr. Balsillie terminate?
Will the Minister inform the House if any tangible benefits have been obtained for the £5,273 already expended?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Negotiations in London - Wool Tops Contract.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am in close touch with the Council of the woolgrowers in all matters relating to the Wool Pool accounts and payments in relation thereto.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he table the report of the Central Wool Committee, dated the 16th April, 1020, dealing with the agreement between the Colonial Combing and Spinning Company and the Central Wool Committee?
– Yes, together with the correspondence between the Central Wool Committee and the Prime Minister’s Department.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he intends to take any further action in regard to providing pensions for returned soldiers suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis?
– I would invitethe honorable member’s attention to the provision set out in the second schedule to the Australian SoldiersRepatriation Act 1920 in regard to this matter: -
The Commission may grant a pension not exceeding the special rate of pension (£8 per fortnight) to any member of the Forces who is suffering from tuberculosis, and who has been for at least six months an inmate of an establishment for persons so suffering, and has been discharged from that establishment: Provided that this paragraph shall not authorize the grant of a pension to such member of the Forces unless upon his discharge from the establishment the medical officer in charge of that establishment has certified that such discharge is not a menace to public health.
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1.There are no such persons other than nationals of enemy or lateenemy countries who were interned during the war.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What is the clause and page in the Peace Treaty to which the Minister referred in the Senate on the 21st July instant, on the subject of deportations, when he said, “ The Peace Treaty provides for such deportations “?
– The hon orable member’s attention is directed to the statement made by the Minister for Defence in his speech in the Senate on the 21st July, which was as follows : -
If honorable senators will turn to the Peace Treaty, signed at Versailles, they will find in Articles 214 and 220 of Part VI. that Germany has agreed to the deportation of enemy nationals, and is prepared to take the necessary steps to receive them when they arc expelled from other countries.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– This matter has, for some time, been, and still is, receiving the earnest consideration of the Government.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he place on the table of the House a letter received by him dated 16th April, 1910?
– As I receive from 50 to 100 or more letters per day, I shall be glad if the honorable member will indicate the subject-matter of the communication referred to, and by whom it was written, in order that I may be able to’ furnish him with a reply to his question.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– As both clerks and telegraphists are included in the Clerical Division, I shall be glad if the honorable member will indicate whether he has in mind an examination for clerk or for telegraphist, and the State in regard to which he desires the information, when I will furnish him with a reply.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives are only “temporarily adopted,” and have continued in the same temporary condition for about nineteen years, will the Government appoint a Committee to bring the rules of debate up to date, specially with reference to the shortening of speeches on private members’ day?
– The proper Committee to deal with the Standing Orders is the Standing Orders Committee. In the sessions 3901-02, 1903, and 1905, the Standing Orders were very carefully revised by the Committee, under the chairmanship of Mr. Speaker Holder, and, as amended by it, were recommended to the House. Pressure of other business has hitherto prevented the consideration by the House of the Standing Orders as submitted by the Committee.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos.111, 123.
Electoral Act and Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 126.
Public Service Act - Appointment of E. J. Dowling, Home and Territories Department.
Shale Oil Bounty Act- Return for 1919-20.
– Before calling on the motion standing in the name of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls), I think it only proper that I should place the facts of the matter before the House. The motion, as proposed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) on Friday, was -
That on each sitting day, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of general business.
The honorable member for Macquarie then moved an amendment as follows: -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following: -
On each day save one, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of general business, and that there shall be an additional sitting day on Tuesday of each week.
The amendment haying been seconded, I ruled it out of order on the ground that it was not relevant to the motion (standing order 130), the main purpose of which was to give Government business precedence over general business on each or every day of sitting, irrespective of the number of sittings, which was not. mentioned in the motion. The words “ save one “ were not relevant to the motion, being a direct negative, and a negativing of the motion would have had the same effect as if the amendment had been approved. The proposal to increase the number of sitting days, incorporated, as it was, with the proviso that one day should be savedfor general business, would, in effect, have defeated the main principle of the motion, namely, that of securing priority for Government business over general business, irrespective of the number of sittings. Any proposal to increase the number of sittings should form the subject of a separate motion. It is the usual practice for the Government only to propose such a motion; but, of course, I do not suggest that it would be incompetent or out of order for any private member to do so upon motion after notice. My interpretation of the standing order was, and is, that the words “save one” were not relative to the motion, being a direct negative of it, and the proposal to add other words increasing the number of sittings was not in order, because the motion made no reference to the number of sittings. Upon a question analagous to this, there has been a decision by Mr. Speaker Holder. In Vol. VII. of Hansard of the 1901-2 session, it is recorded that a motion had been submitted -
That the House, at its rising to-day, adjourn until Tuesday next.
In the course of a long discussion -
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH said We shall have another opportunity to discuss it, because the House has already carried a motion making Monday a sitting day.
Mr.SPEAKER. - The general question of sitting on Monday is not before the Chair. The question is whether we shall sit next Monday.
– Would it be in order for me to move, as an amendment, that the House meet at half-past ten a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays?
– No. The motion now before the Chair is, in effect, that the House do not sit on Monday next, and Icannot allow the honorable member to discuss the question of sitting on Mondays generally.
– Would it not be competent for the honorable member to move, as an amendment, that, after next Monday, we do not sit on Mondays at all? It will not be necessary for the Government to move in the matter to insure further Monday sittings, because of the motion which we have already passed, and no private member will have an opportunity to raise the question.
– Such an amendment as the honorable member suggests could not be moved. The only amendment permissible on the motion before the Chair would be an amendment fixing Tuesday or some other day as the next day of meeting, or altering the hour of meeting. The only amendment that
I can accept is an amendment relating to the next sitting day. Standing order No. 41 provides that a motion for fixing the next day of meeting may be moved at any time, without notice, by a Minister of the Crown; but there is nothing to prevent any other member of the House from moving a similar motion upon notice.
– But he could never reach it.
– That is not a matter which I am called upon to consider. Upon the motion now before the Chair I cannot allow more than an incidental reference to anything beyond the next day of sitting.
Further debate took place, and Mr. J. C. Watson, who was member for Bland,, put this suggestion, which is practically the same as that made in the case we are dealing with-
I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it will be in order to move an amendment, adding to the motion the following words: - “ And shall thereafter, until otherwise ordered, meet on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays only.” I would urge that standing order No. 41 does not preclude the possibility of an amendment being moved. My sole desire is to have the matter discussed in. an orderly way, and there is no suggestion of want of confidence in the Government, or any desire to take the business out of their hands.
Mr. Barton, who was then Prime Minister, said -
On the point of order, might I suggest that this is a motion for a special adjournment, and that the sole question before the Chair is as to what shall be our next sitting day? Therefore, any mention of the other sitting days would be irrelevant to the motion.
This is the ruling of Mr. Speaker Holder-
I am prepared to give a ruling at once.; and I desire to give it forthwith, because it is practically a repetition of the ruling I have already given. Standing order No. 41 does not preclude the moving of an amendment. I quoted standing order No. 41 in connexion with quite another point; but the whole practice of Parliament is entirely against permitting any such amendment as that suggested by the honorable member for Bland. Further, the amendment is irrelevant to the question at issue, which is whether the next sitting day shall be Tuesday. I would suggest to honorable ‘members that, if it is the desire to ascertain the will of the House upon the general question of sitting days, there is a very easy way of doing so. If the Government discern that it is the will of the House that an opportunity should be given for discussing the question of sitting days generally, they can easily afford that opportunity next week, on an honorable member bringing forward a motion specially dealing with the matter.
I find, on reference to the practice of the British House of Commons, quite a number of decisions in conformity with the ruling I gave. I now quote from Peel’s Decisions, 1884-95, page 8,- on the relevancy of amendments -
An amendment to a question before the House must be relevant thereto. In this case, on a motion “ That the House at its rising do adjourn until Thursday next” (Derby Day adjournment), an amendment was moved to leave out all the words after “ That,” in order to add, “ to-morrow Government business have precedence over all other Orders of the Day.” Mr. Speaker ruled that the amendment was out of order as irrelevant.
There are other decisions in regard to amendments which are a negation of the motion itself, and another decision, on page 10, of Denison & Brand’s Decisions, 1857-84, dealing with relevancy. I might quote quite a number of other decisions, but I have given the House the information at mv disposal as to Mr. Speaker Holder’s ruling, and I now leave the matter to honorable members for their decision.
Mr. NICHOLLS (Macquarie) “3.35”.The decisions quoted by you, sir, may come from very reliable authorities on standing; orders; I take it for granted that they do, but I draw your attention to our standing order No. 128, which is as follows -
A question having been proposed may ‘be amended (i) by leaving out certain words only; (ii) by leaving out certain words, in order to insert or add other words; (iii) by inserting or adding words.
The amendment which! you ruled out of order was to insert certain words in the motion by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and add others at the end. I have no desire to take up the time of the House, but I must say that, in my opinion, your ruling was not in conformity with the Standing Orders. There did not appear to me anything in the amendment which was not permissible, and, consequently. I moved that your ruling be dissented from. The amendment was certainly not a direct negative of the motion, and the words proposed to be inserted and added appear to me quite relevant, and should have been accepted by you. However,. it is for the House to decide, and I shall not delay honorable members any longer. I move: -
That Mr. Deputy-Speaker’s ruling - that on the motion of the Prime Minister - “ That on each sitting day, unless otherwise ordered, Government Business shall take precedence of General Business “ - the amendment moved to insert “save one” after “day” and to add at the end of the motion “ and that there shall be an additional sitting day on Tuesday of each week “ - was out of order - be disagreed to.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
On the calling of the Order of the Day for the resumption of the debate from the 29th July (vide page 3110) on the motion of Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare the Industrial Peace Bill to be an urgent Bill, and move -
That the Bill be considered an urgent Bill.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker–
– There can be no debate at this stage.
– When can the question be debated ?
– When a motion to allot the time for the consideration of the measure is submitted.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Limitation of Debate.
– I move -
That the time allotted shall be -
For the second reading af the Bill, until 3.30 p.m. on Friday, the 6th August ;
For the Committee stage of the Bill, to the end of Part III. until 6 p.m. on Thursday, the 12th August.
For the remainder of the Committee stage of the Bill, until 10 p.m. on Thursday, the 12th August.
For the remaining stages of the Bill, until 10.30 p.m. on Thursday, the 12th August.
It is proposed that a week shall be given to the consideration of the measure. A great deal, no doubt, could be said upon it on the second reading in the way of generalities; but its provisions are such as must be discussed in the main in Committee, and therefore a longer time has been allotted to the Committee stage than would otherwise be given. The second reading, and the consideration of the measure in Committee up to and including Part III., are the’ stages that are of the most importance. The rest of the Bill is made up chiefly of machinery clauses, so that the final stages must be largely formal when the opinions of honorable members have been thoroughly ascertained on the matters of substance. It cannot be said that the measure is being rushed through. I am sure honorable members would not like me to dive into the recesses of my memory for a striking example–
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I have repeatedly called for order, and no notice has been taken, of the call. I ask honorable members to allow the Prime Minister to proceed without interruption.
– I do not wish to ob- trude my remarks upon the House. Hon-, orable members opposite have very little manners, and if they have not manners they have nothing. I do not interrupt when they are speaking, and it is most unmannerly of them to prevent me from being heard.
.- I do not think that what has occurred in regard to the measure so far is a good augury for it. This afternoon I asked that the consideration of the Bill - which is one for securing industrial peace - might be deferred with a viewto consulting those persons outside who are more vitally interested in its provisions than any others. That request met with approval from various parts of the House ; but now a majority of honorable members has declared that the measure is an urgent one, although when they did so they did not know what time was to be given for its consideration. Do they say, in view of the motion which the Prime Minister has just moved, that sufficent time is being given for the consideration of a measure of this importance ? We are told that the Bill is to do what the Arbitration Court has failed to do. The Bill which established the Arbitration Court was discussed in 1904 for some months, and two or three Ministries we’re unseated in connexion with it.
– There will be nothing like that this time.
– No; because the Government has a lot of subservient followers, men who feedout of the hand of the Prime Minister, and say, “ Yes, Mr. Hughes.”
– The honorable member says “Yes,” to certain persons outside.
– I have consulted those people outside who are vitally interested in this measure. There can be no industrial peace unless the industrial organizations support our legislation. A Bill taking from them rights that they have at present ought not to be rushed through before they have had an opportunity of considering it. Some of the honorable members opposite have belonged to the Labour movement, and they know that the Labour organizations do not meet more frequently than once a week. Probably a number of them will meet tomorrow, or on Friday, but they cannot discuss the Bill then. Some of the members of the Corner party said when the Prime Minister was introducing the Bill that it was to do away with the Arbitration Court. No doubt those honorable members who are well circumstanced do not care how the rank and file have to struggle, at a time when £3 per week is not worth as much as £2 was worth five or six years ago. The toilers will find that what they have won is being taken from them. Yet you ask them to support the Bill blindly. The present Arbitration
Act is based on organizations, and there is not an honorable member on this side who would not fail in his duty if he did not protest against this haste to abolish it before the_ workers, who produce the wealth of the world, have had an opportunity of considering the question.
– How often is the primary producer consulted before legislation is passed?
– The honorable member can speak for the primary producer. I do not represent a constituency of primary producers,- though when I have held Ministerial office I have always been ready to’ consult them. This measure is not concerned with primary producers.
– Yes, it is.
– Not as much as with the great body, of workers who are employed in other places than in the country- We were told , by ‘ the Prime Minister in his second-reading speech that it dealt with organized Labour - I shall quote his exact words when I come to speak on the secondreading motion. On the present motion I have ten minutes only, though fortunately I cannot be cut short by the closure. I protest in the interests of the workers against the rushing through of the Bill before they have had an opportunity to consider it. It is generally admitted that without “ the hearty co-operation of both parties the measure must be a failure. If honorable members opposite do not vote in accordance with party ties, the Prime Minister cannot carry this motion. Under the circumstances the people who will be directly affected by the measure will have no opportunity to consider it as fully as they should if it is to be successful.
.- I direct the attention of the Government to the seriousness of the situation which is now developing. I hold the maintenance of industrial peace dear to my heart, and I am prepared to go a long way to secure its maintenance. One thing which is essential to the establishment of industrial peace is that the good-will of the workers shall be gained. If the unionists in Australia’s industries are given cause to look upon this piece of legislation with suspicious eyes the Government will fail to achieve their object. I know what is about to happen in this House. Unfortunately, partyism is going to force honorable members’ hands; it is going tostifle full and proper discussion.
– ls the honorable member prepared to discuss the Bill tomorrow ?
– I am prepared to discuss it now. I am out for the achievement of industrial peace throughout Australia; and the Government should know that the first step towards bringing that about would be bv giving honorable mebers sufficient time to discuss this measure, and by permitting a long enough period to elapse for the great trade organizations outside to discuss the principles of the Bill and furnish their suggestions either direct to the Prime Minister or to honorable members on this side, who represent the Labour organizations of Australia. If such a course is prevented, however, the Government will be left in no doubt as to what is bound to happen. If full and fair opportunity is not given to the organizations and their representatives in this Parliament .to express their considered views upon the Bill, then, if the Government want to kill the Bill, they can do it in no- way more effectively than by proceeding as they now propose. I represent - one of the largest industrial constituencies in Australia. ,1 have been in conversation and consultation with prominent members of trade organizations; and, above all, they have asked me to endeavour to secure sufficient time to permit their members to consider this Bill. I want to be frank and fair. These representative men were not bitterly hostile to the Bill, and to the principles which it enunciates, merely because it has emanated from the Prime Minister. They were prepared, if given an opportunity, to adequately consider and discuss it, to give Parliament the benefit of their views. This assistance, I feel convinced, would have been of great benefit in the direction of bringing about and maintaining industrial peace. But the procedure now -launched by the Government can only create suspicion and distrust. The Government have caused me to doubt their bona fides. Their actions make me believe that there is a trap set - a pitfall somewhere - to catch the great trade organizaions; and when I am suspicious of the actions of the Government it is a reflexion of the suspicions created in the minds of the leaders of the bulk of trade unions throughout the Commonwealth.
The Government, of course, can pass any piece of legislation they choose to introduce. They may use their numbers to bludgeon through as many Bills as they desire in order to hamper and tie down the trade unions movement. But they must not forget that the organizations will maintain and increase their strength. They will protect their own dignity and their own rights. If, however, the Government are prepared to meet the unions fairly and honorably, and to endeavour, with them and their representatives, to bring about peace by way of an honest legislative effort, then now is the opportunity. But the Government must give honorable members and the organizations outside full opportunity to consider and discuss their proposition
Mr. GREGORY (Dampier ) T4.10].- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was quite incorrect in his assumption that honorable members on this side were not aware that this Bill was to be treated as an urgent measure. Honorable members were consulted, and the only point we had to consider was whether the time specified in the Prime Minister’s motion would provide ample opportunity for the discussion of a small measure of this nature.
– A small measure, but important.
– It is small, but is a most important Bill. However, in this Chamber there are more than twenty direct representatives of Labour, all of whom are quite prepared, and ,well equipped, to see that the interests of the workers of Australia are properly safeguarded. Those honorable members must be well aware, also, that for the past few years there have been great efforts to ‘bring about some means of guaranteeing industrial peace. I may say that I, myself, am not committed to this Bill, and that I may be found voting with honorable members opposite upon some of its features.
– But, with all its defects, you want it quickly.
– Does not the honorable member think that till Thursday of next week ample time will have been provided ? Does the honorable member want to go around the country consulting all his trade union people before venturing; to express his own views in this Chamber ?
– I am quite prepared to go on now, and to criticise the Bill, but I want time to be allowed before it is passed.
– There is to be ample time provided. I realize that the Bill is one that should not be delayed. We must have some system in order to try to bring about industrial peace. To my mind, honorable members opposite should feel quite satisfied that the time allotted for the consideration of a small measure such as this is sufficient.
.- This may be a small measure, but it will probably prove to be the most important passed ‘during this session. I do not know of any other foreshadowed, or likely to be introduced, which will be so farreaching as this Bill, which is intended practically to control the whole of the industries of Australia. It is of no use for any body to imagine that the Arbitration Court will remain in existence after this Bill, has been passed. There will be no such thing as’ the Arbitration Court. No Judge in Australia will be prepared to give an award which will be liable to be superseded by an award made on the day following by a body which - by the way - will not be representative of the trade organizations. These tribunals will be a. motley collection, got together . by the Prime Minister himself. The Bill does not provide for the representation of trade union organizations. If there is a “ scab “ organization^ if there is a small body of men acting in conjunction with the employers, it will be called upon to appoint its representatives on the tribunal. But bond fide organizations will find themselves outside. One thing which may be said in favour of the Arbitration Act, at any rate, is that it provides for the bond fide trade union organizations. If this Bill is passed the safeguards contained in our arbitration legislation will have completely disappeared. The organizations will find themselves in the hands of the Prime Minister. The Government are about to kill the Arbitration Court. It will not be killed by its own defects, but by the Government who, after all, are out not so much to kill the Act itself as to settle the man behind it ; I refer to Mr. Justice Higgins. I warn the Government that unless they have the trade unionists behind them, in agreement upon this measure, it will never work. The Government may pass legislation - coercive or otherwise. They may pass Bills by the hundred, but such actions will get them nowhere. If this Bill is hurried through Parliament, without full and fair opportunity for discussion., iL will be wrecked by the weight of opposition outside. There are twenty-six honorable members in this Chamber directly representative of the great organizations of Australia. All could find,, in the Bill, subject matter sufficient for them to address the House for at least an hour each, and in that time each honorable member could furnish helpful suggestions. But the time to be allowed will not be sufficient to permit of re-drafting in any effective sense. The outcome of this measure will be that four distinct and separate bodies will be able to deal with a dispute. That, on the face of it, -must create confusion. As it now stands, the Bill indicates a desire to hurriedly create something which will bring about the end of the Federal Arbitration Court and substitute something else which will _ be under the control of the Prime Minister. The Arbitration Act, and the Court behind the Act, are to be killed, not because of their defects or demerits, but as an outcome of the Government having allowed as many as forty-two organizations to go before the Court, so congesting and choking it that it is bound to succumb to the very weight of work heaped upon it. If the Government will not provide a sufficient number of Judges to do the work awaiting the Arbitration Court, what is there by way of guarantee that they will not also p slow in the (matter of appointing their chairmen to the various tribunals under this Bill ? I repeat that unless the Government are prepared to fairly meet *’ trade unionists of Australia, and to give them an opportunity to forward suggestions, and them to consider and accept those suggestions, the era of direct action will have commenced from the date of the passing of this Bill.
– Does not the honorable member represent those trade unionists ?
– I have endeavoured to do so. I am the president of an organization numbering some 112,000 members.. We have been associated with the Arbitration. Court since its inception in 1907. We have done all in< our power to make that Court a workable institution.’ Now our members are taking a vital vote - it will be conducted after the passage of this Bill - and I personally will be unable to recommend to them the method of conciliation and arbitration set forth in tue Bill, unless it is considerably amended. The Australian Workers Union may decide this year that they will have nothing more to do with arbitration. They will not accept the principles laid down in this measure. Thus, in one swoop, the Government will have practically compelled more than 112,000 trade unionists to resort to direct action. The coal miners, in their many thousands, have already practically decided upon that course. Then there are the waterside workers, numbering about 15,000. There is a danger that the large organizations may decide that they will have nothing to do with arbitration and conciliation as at present in force, or with this peculiar and cumbersome subterfuge to get rid of Mr. Justice Higgins. If the Government are willing to take the responsibility of passing this Bill in a comparatively few hours, they must accept responsibility also for bringing about direct action in this country. In portions of New South Wales members of my organization are compelled, by the defects of the arbitration laws of this country, to take direct action to-day, and they will win a forty-four hour week. The Prime Minister and the members of the National and Country parties should pause before they impose a time limit to this Bill, which will prevent the representatives of industrial organizations discussing the proposals in all their bearings. Unless the workers, who have to live and work under the proposed legislation, are given an opportunity to consider it they will refuse to have anything to do with it. Then the position will be that the ArbitrationCourt will have been set aside, and the Government will have this extraordinary Bill, which could emanate only from the mind of such a man as the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), left on their hands, and nobody taking any notice of it. The Government should not attempt to pass this piece of legislation so quickly. If they insist on treating it as a matter of urgency, those who support them must accept responsibility for the consequences.
– The honorable member for Darling began by condemning the Bill, lock, stock, and barrel. He said it is a trap, a trick, and a conspiracy against unionism. He said that we are proposing to bludgeon through the House a measure that will produce dire consequences to the country. Listening to him,’ one would imagine that the Government were a set of fools who were trying to light a fire that will lead to disaster in this country.
– I believe that the Government are doing that.
-What rubbish all this talk is ! I remind the honorable member that only last week the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) declared that the question of industrial legislation was so urgent that it could not be delayed a day.
– But. he did not say that the legislation should be before the House for only a day.
– From the time of its introduction, till it is disposed of under the motion of urgency, the Bill will have been before this House for fifteen days. Is it of any use to refer this Bill to any outside body when all honorable members opposite who have spoken have already made up their minds that it is no good ?
– I did not say that.
– Not all of us made that statement. I have never said that the Bill was no good.
– There is before us a fortnight, the whole of which will be devoted to the consideration of this measure.
– There is not a fortnight.
– All this week and the following week can be devoted entirely to the consideration of this measure. If the unions were so feverish and anxious last week that this legislation could not be delayed a day, do honorable members mean to tell me that the outside organizations do not already know all that the Bill contains ? It has been published in the newspapers, from end to end of the continent, and the unions can easily send along their approval or objection to their representatives within the next fortnight. Honorable members opposite are protesting too much.
– Would it hurt the Government to allow the Bill to wait another week ?
– I suggest that nothing can be gained by postponing this matter for a week. If honorable members will settle down to discuss the measure seriously and properly, and at the end of the fortnight it is found that the proposal in its present form is likely to prove abortive, the Government must take notice of such a state of affairs. I am now contesting the statement that the Government are attempting to bludgeon this Bill through the House for a sinister purpose. Here is a bond fide attempt to meet a new order of industrialism in this country, and the sooner honorable members opposite, with - all their experience and ability, bend themselves to the task, the better for all concerned. Such an effort on their part will do infinitely more good to the unions outside than all the empty talk to which we have just listened.
.- The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) said that honorable members on this side must regard the Government as a set of fools. I tell him that if the Government desire * to establish industrial peace, which is essential to the welfare of the country, they will have to go about this business in a different manner. By using the Standing Orders to limit the debate upon this measure they are not consulting the best interests of Australia. I do not say that if the Government treated this Bill in the ordinary way it would not be disposed of at the end of next week. But by this very motion of urgency, the Government will, create an adverse feeling in union circles. Industrialists have no fixed opinion yet in regard to this measure; they are desirous of giving it a fair chance if they can agree to the principle it embodies. The Bill contains a new set of principles in regard to industrial arbitration, and involves a complete change from any system of which we have had any experience in the past. It is essential, therefore, that the people who are vitally concerned in the measure, and whom we desire to settle their disputes according to the principles adopted by Parliament, should have the fullest , opportunity to consider the effects of “ the Bill. Unionists have no time for the “gag,” and when they read in the press that the Government are applying tho “ gag “ in regard , to this measure, that will be the end of the Bill so far as they are concerned.
– There is no “ gag “ in this motion.
– It is contended that this Bill is urgent, owing to the congestion of work in the Arbitration Court. Is it not strange that although the House has been sitting for two or three months the Government made no effort to introduce the Bill earlier? Other measures which were not of such importance to the community - the Bureau of Science and Industry Bill, for instance, a measure that will not affect the industrial workers to any great extent - were given full discussion, whilst-upon the discussion of this important Bill the Government immediately impose a time limit. At the present moment industrial organizations are studying the contents and likely effects of the Bill; they have received copies of it only this week. Their members must be called together in order to obtain an opinion upon the proposal. Admittedly in regard to the machinery of the Bill there is a difference of opinion, and if the Government allow sufficient time for the proposals to be digested by the people whom they most closely concern, some support for them might be forthcoming. The time has arrived when any Government before drafting industrial legislation should consult those most directly concerned in it. We cannot keep in touch with the industrial movement as those engaged in it can, and both employers and employees should be given an opportunity to express their views in regard to any proposed remedial arbitration legislation.
– Such consultations have taken place in many cases.
– Yes, but in regard to this most important Bill no such opportunity is to be given. It is possible that had the urgency motion not been proposed by the Government the Bill might have been disposed of by this day next week. But as the Government have decided to “ gag “ the Bill through the House the influence of the trade unions outside will be brought to bear on Labour members in the House, and probably the discussion will be prolonged. The second reading must be carried by a certain day, and time limits are fixed for other stages of the Bill. Some honorable members may have vital amendments to submit - proposals which, if they could be explained to the Committee, might be ac cepted to the betterment of the Bill. But the whole of the time allotted to the Committee stage may be used in the consideration of prior amendments of lesser importance, and those members who wish to put forward later amendments which would improve the Bill and make it acceptable to the big industrial unions, will be shut out by the operation of the guillotine. Honorable members who have had previous experience of the guillotine know that the whole of the Committee stage may be occupied in the discussion of a few clauses, and amendments to later portions of the Bill are never reached. By this proposal the Government are tying the hands of honorable members who might be able to submit proposals which if adopted would prevent the dislocation of the whole of the trade of this country in the near future. That possibility is staring us in the face ; there is no escape from it. None of us wish to delay the passing of this Bill. We are all anxious to pass at the earliest possible moment legislation that will be acceptable to industrial unions and. prevent strikes. We do not desire to see industrial disruption; it is no good to anybody. Surely we should give the workers an opportunity to state what legislation they require; but how can that be done when from the very outset of the passage of the Bill through Parliament the Government create an adverse feeling towards their proposals? There will be strong feeling outside when the workers read that the Government are applying the guillotine to this Bill, and are not allowing adequate opportunity for their representatives to get in touch with industrial organizations in order to ascertain unionistic opinion. I take it that the Government are desirous of passing a measure that will be acceptable to the workers in order to prevent any stoppage in industry. That can be done only by all parties working together. I have some objections, not many, to the Bill in its present form. It could, I think, be considerably improved, for, , in my opinion, it does not go far enough in certain directions. If amendments were made in the way that myself and others desire,, they 1 might be the means of having the Bill readily accepted. If, on the other hand, the closure be applied, because some honorable members -take up more time than is considered necessary on certain clauses, we shall be deprived of the opportunity of getting the fullest information regarding the wishes of those most nearly concerned.
– The Government are just as anxious as the honorable member is to- have this measure sifted and discussed.
– I can quite believe that; but the present action of the Government” will, I suggest, have the contrary effect. The Government are entering upon a mistaken policy, and they ought really to reconsider the position. I think that the Bill could be got through in a fortnight in the ordinary way; but even if three weeks were occupied in its discussion the Government would be amply repaid for the time devoted to it. It would be much better to have a good feeling amongst those outside who are concerned, than convey to them an idea that the Government desire to have the measure put through irrespective of any improvement that might be made in it.
.- I deplore the atmosphere into which this Bill has been born. The world is groaning under industrial unrest, and Australia presents no exception. I appeal to honorable members opposite to bury that feeling of suspicion of the Bill they are engendering, and to give the Government and the House the benefit of their considered judgment and advice in framing a measure that will give us industrial peace. The president of the Australian Workers Union (Mr. Blakeley^ is a man who could, in this connexion, give us great help, and I am sorry that he should convey to us that he is not going to give the assistance we need.
– He is not given sufficient time.
– I am only judging from the’ speech made by the honorable member, who threw the Bill on the table, as much as to say that he would have nothing more to do with it. Personally, I should have liked a little more time to look into the Bill; but surely, honorable members opposite, as Labour representatives, mixing practically every day of the week with those who are so vitally interested, know what their supporters re quire in order to secure industrial peace? If the consideration of the Bill were postponed for another three weeks or a month, would honorable members opposite know more than they do now of what is desired by the workers? I doubt it very much. If those honorable members have ideas which would tend to the improvement of the Bill, they can express those’ ideas when we are in Committee. The Bil] proposes five tribunals before which the parties concerned in industrial matters may be brought together. The round-table conference is the only -solution of industrial unrest - the bringing together of employers and employed, and abolishing that suspicion which has always existed between capital and labour. Unfortunately, that suspicion is gaining ground and strength by the statements made this afternoon by honorable members opposite. Let us try to get rid of this air of suspicion. I am open to conviction as to the merits of the Bill, but it is certainly an earnest attempt to bring the parties together.
– Do you think twentyfour hours is sufficient time?
– It is not twenty-four hours, because the Minister in charge (Sir Joseph Cook) says that if extra time is needed later on it will be granted. If it should prove that the time allotted is not sufficient/ I beseech the Government to grant an extension, for something must be done in ‘order to bring about industrial peace. I may tell honorable members that just- before I left England T got to know that £5,000,000 in the hands cf a few men was waiting for investment m Australian industries, but that money has not yet come here, and will not come until we have more stable Labour conditions.
– Where could they get more stable labour conditions ?
– That money is still waiting to come here; and this Bill is, I think, an honest attempt to create conditions to attract it. Capital cannot do without labour, nor labour without capital ; and I ask honorable members to restrict their speeches and. in Committee, do their best to make this an effective measure.
Mr. RILEY (South Sydney) “4.41]I have been- waiting to hear the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) give some reasons why this Bill is made one of urgency. What is there in the industrial world that requires its immediate application? Is there any industrial upheaval that it is required to settle?
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) said the other day that the measure could not wait a day.
– The honorable member for Dalley is not running the country; it is the Government who tell us that this Bill must become law within the next fortnight, although no more important measure could come before us.
– We are told that there are some forty or fifty cases which cannot be dealt with by the Arbitration Court.
– I agree with some of the provisions of the Bill.
– Will not the promised upheaval in the coal industry in New South Wales require this Bill in a hurry ?
– The coal agreement will be in existence until about April next. This is a new machine for the settlement of industrial disputes ; and, as I say, I agree with a good deal of the Bill, but to force it through will only create suspicion - a most injudicious thing to do for the sake of gaining a week or two. What is the reason for the present action of the Government? Is it that the Government desire to visit German New Guinea, for a trip for which, I understand, the Australia, the Brisbane, and other warships are being fitted up ? Surely such a visit as that is not reckoned of more importance than a Bill of this kind ? I am prepared to give all fair and reasonable help to make this Bill a success, for I know a little about industrial arbitration, and recognise the defects of the present Act; but, if we are to look for industrial harmony, we ought first to have harmony in this Parliament. The Government, however, throw down the Bill like a bone and tell us to take it or leave it.
– How can you say that, when there is a fortnight allotted for its consideration? .
– We do not sit on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays or Tuesdays, and, therefore will have only about five days and a-half to consider the measure.
– You can have as many hours as you like to consider the Bill within the next fortnight.
– Millions of money are invested in the industries of the country, and thousands of workers are interested; and this is a Bill which will put all into the “ melting-pot.”
– Let us sit longer and do the work.
– I am quite prepared, so long as we look after the interests of the people. When I go to Sydney at the week end, I wish to consult those who are interested in the Bill, but the second reading will then have been passed, and we shall thus be placed at a great disadvantage. The Government have discussed the Bill in Cabinet and with their party, and yet they demand that we shall dispose of it within a fortnight. Tomorrow, Thursday, is “ grievance “ day.
– Another day gone !
– It is not another day gone; honorable members opposite wish to waste half of every day, as they have been doing for the last month. Let us get to some useful work.
– I ask the Minister not to get heated, . and I suggest that, when the Government have a party meeting to-morrow, they reconsider the position and ask the House to be united in evolving a proper measure. In the meantime I protest against the haste that is being displayed.’
.I say at once that I believe some legislation on the lines proposed would be somewhat of an improvement on existing legislation, so that I do not approach the question in any mood of hostility. Like others I think that the Bill does not, in some respects, go far enough; but that is no reason why it should be treated differently from any other measure. It is proposed to completely change the system’ of industrial arbitration ; and surely that is a matter important enough, not only for free and fair discussion on the second reading and in Committee, but to permit those outside who are interested to have some time to consider it.
– Three days are set down for the second-reading discussion.
– I remember that, when the Minister was in opposition, he would never consent to an important measure passing its second reading in three days.
– Some of us happen to have memories. During the war period some very important legislation had to be introduced affecting the wheat, wool, sugar, shipping, and other interests, and, in every case, those concerned were called together and consulted in the first place. The Bill before us will be of vital importance to the whole community during the next few months; and yet it is proposed to limit debate, and at the same time to take away any opportunity to hear the opinions and advice of those concerned.
– We represent people of all sections of the community.
– There were members here representing the farmers, squatters, and. others, who were consulted before important changes were made in the legislation affecting their welfare. I can see no difference between the position now, as affecting trade unions, and the position during the war as it affected those other interests. When we asked the Prime Minister to consult the people interested in such a complete change in the manner of settling industrial disputes, he said, “ Pass this measure, and then we shall call a conference.”
– And afterwards amend the measure on any point necessary.
– But why not allow it to be done now, before we run the risk of turning people into a frame of mind that will induce them to say, “We will not work under this class of legislation” ? I think the Government would be well advised to delay the measure in order to allow those people who will be obliged to work under it to give some sort of consideration to a proposal affecting them so vitally. I hope that the motion will be withdrawn, and that the measure will be allowed to take its ordinary course. If this is done, there will be no undue waste of time on the part of honorable members, whose main concern is that the people who are vitally interested in the measure should have some time in which to consider how it may affect them.
.- I wish to voice my protest against the decision of the Government to press this matter to finality at the early period suggested in the motion. I am sincerely desirous of finding a medium by which to overcome the difficulties confronting us in the industrial sphere; but the unrest in the industrial world is not on the surface; it is an economic disease which has invaded the whole system of social life throughout the wide world; and before we can obtain that peace in the social and economic conditions of life, so much desired by all people, there will need to be a decided change of system. One way of overcoming the difficulties confrontingus may be by the passage of legislation which will find favour, and be accepted as a sincere effort on our part to achieve the desired object; butthe Government are very unwise in not accepting the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition to delay this Bill in order that organized labour may be consulted concerning its merits or demerits. No Bill has been presented to us more skeleton in form than this is; no Bill has come before us requiring more consideration and attention than this does.
– All the more reason why we should get on with the consideration of it.
– To do justice to such a measure, honorable members will require a greater length of time than the Government have provided.
-Is that why honorable members have wasted an hour of the time that ought to have been devoted to the consideration of. the measure ?
– It is not a question of wasting an hour. We are anxious to obtain from the Government consideration in respect to further time, so that the merits and demerits of the measure may receive the attention they should have and in order that organized labour may be consulted, for only in this way can we arrive at unanimity in the framing of a Bill that will guarantee industrial peace in the future.
– Order! The time allotted for the discussion of the motion has expired.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- Honor able members across the chamber have taunted the Opposition with the fact that we consult outsiders. I frankly admit that I have done so in regard to this Bill. Last Thursday, before the Prime Minister moved the second reading, I telephoned to the secretary of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, the most important body of organized labour in Victoria, and told him that I would like to have a talk with members of his executive in regard to the measure. As a result of that message, I had a conversation with the president and secretary of the Trades Hall Council, and, strange to say, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), when moving the second reading, went out of his way to compliment the Victorian Industrial Disputes Committee, which is practically the Trades Hall Council executive, for the manner in which it had exercised its powers in the interests of maintaining industrial peace.
– Was it not a welldeserved compliment?
– Yes ; yet honorable members taunt me with having consulted outsiders. It is true that I have consulted the men who have done more to preserve industrial peace in Victoria than has been done by any other body of men. At their invitation I attended a meeting of the executive last night, where it was unanimously agreed that it would be advisable to have the Industrial Peace Bill deferred until a conference of organized labour could meet.. The existing facilities for travelling permit of such a conference meeting in Melbourne early next week. There need not be more than three representatives from each State. I remember that when a conference of representatives of all sections of the community throughout the Commonwealth was convened, all the parties to it assembled in Melbourne within four days of the call being made.
– Who should call the conference which the honorable member suggests should be convened?
– The Government.
– The Government have already called one.
– That is not so as far as a Labour Conference is concerned.
-For the last three months the Prime Minister has been endeavouring to have a conference held.
– I asked the Prime Minister if that was the conference I requested, and he said “No.” I shall deal with the conference the Government have called. I do not wish to misrepresent the position, because this matter is too serious to make party capital out of it. But the measure is being dealt with in a manner that will generate, whereas our endeavour should be to allay, suspicion.’ I have approached its consideration with a view to securing harmony, or at least trying to make things better than they are. There is no need to create discord to-day, be- -cause there is already enough of it in the world. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) said that he knew persons in England, who had £5,000,000 to invest, but would not invest it in Australia, because there was too much unrest here. To what country will they take it? Is there any other where there is less unrest? The Prime Minister stated in his opening remarks that the securing of industrial peace is a wide-world problem.
– We are lamb-like compared with the people of other countries.
– I do not say that the workers of Australia are lamb-like; they stand up for their rights just as do others elsewhere ; and good luck to them. The Prime Minister said to-day that he had called a conference of organized labour and organized employers, and that the Melbourne Trades Hall had declined to attend it. I went to the Trades Hall Executive last night, and I know that they were unanimous in wishing for a Labour Conference to consider this Bill.
– The conference that the Government endeavoured to get to review the legislation before its presentation to Parliament was a conference of Labour and employers. The honorable member is talking of a conference of labour organizations only.
– That is so; I am not referring now to the conference that the Government has called. The Prime Minister has said that both bodies have asked that the consideration of this measure may be deferred, which, he says, is evidence that the Bill is satisfactory. If there is anything that should prove that it is unsatisfactory, it is that both side3 ask for the opportunity to consider it. The measure goes to the bed-rock of. our industrial and social conditions ; but, in my opinion, three weeks would allow of its consideration in the manner I have asked for. The Prime Minister tells us that a representative on the opposite side of the House has also asked for the deferring of the consideration of the measure. He went on to say that if a conference representing Labour and employers met and suggested amendments, those amendments would be carried into effect. In my opinion, it would be better to make our legislation as perfect as possible in the first instance. I have a fairly intimate knowledge of industrial conditions in Vic toria, but it is impossible for a man who has to attend in his place here to have as intimate a knowledge of them as is possessed by those who are working in the trade unions. Twenty years ago, when still working at my trade, I knew a good deal more about the industrial conditions of the day than I do now; and that is true, not only of the trade at which I was employed, but of other industries.
– But if there is anything wrong, the unions keep you in touch.
– That is so. On only two other occasions has a time limit been fixed for the consideration of a measure. The consideration of the Electoral Bill and the last Constitution Alteration Bill was limited in this way. This Bill is of the greatest importance to the workers. I make no apology for speaking as a representative of the workers. I do my best to represent them as I think they would desire to be represented. I have asked that they- shall have an opportunity . to consider the Bill, but the reply is that the Bill must be passed by a certain hour next week. The trade unions are not very keen about arbitration, and at some of the State Labour Conferences resolutions have been passed for the taking of the arbitration plank out of our platform.
– Does not the Bill practically provide for that?
– It will, in effect, wipe out the Arbitration Court.
– It will wipe out the Arbitration Court, or, at any rate, it will make it very ineffective. But the Prime Minister does not say that. He says that its object is to strengthen the Arbitration Court. His strengthening of the Arbitration Court reminds me of the remark of the man who, when it was proposed to cut off the tail of a dog, suggested that it be cut off just behind the ears. That is how the Prime Minister proposes to deal with the Arbitration Court. His are back-handed methods. If honorable members who support the Government think that the Arbitration Court is wrong, let them move to repeal the Act which established it, and -let them point out the decisions which they regard as unsatisfactory. The Bill does not purport to wipe out the Arbitration Court. Many years ago Sir George Reid, when in Opposition, said that he would not care who passed the laws of the country, or what sort of laws were passed, so long as he might have the administering of them. No measure has ever been before Parliament in regard to which administration will be of more importance than this Bill. Everything will depend upon its administration. The last election showed that organized Labour polled three-sevenths of the total votes, although, according to the Prime Minister, many had left its ranks. Honorable members who are desirous of stamping on trade unionism, who would wipe it out–
– No one wishes for that.
– Some honorable mem bers do. The Prime Minister says that the Bill is to give the trade unions a status. He says that the proposed tribunals will give organized Labour a recognised status and influence in this country. But what clause of the Bill recognises organized Labour at all? At the present time only organizations can get to the Arbitration Court, and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) says that the Bill will wipe out that Court. Therefore, the Bill wipes out a power which organized Labour has to-day. There is not one word here for organized Labour.
– That is not correct. Clause 11 says that the powers and functions of a district council shall include the power to inquire into any industrial matter brought before it by any employers or employees or by any association of employers or employees.
– We have had bogus organizations of employees in Victoria.
– The Bill does not shut out bond fide organizations.
– They are not mentioned from the beginning to the end of it, as I shall show. When the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) was manager of the Worker, before he left the Labour party–
– Before he was expelled fromit.
– Before the Labour party illegally put me out.
– That newspaper used to denounce the bogus organization that was kept in existence by the pastoralists of New South Wales.
– And of Queensland.
– Yes. I refer to the Machine Shearers Union. The former representative of Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) said that the Machine Shearers Union would take the place of the Australian Workers Union; but history has proved that the Australian Workers Union is stronger than ever, and the bogus union is not now in existence. In Victoria a man named Packer has run a number of bogus organizations, such as the bogus Agricultural Implement Workers Union, and the bogus Tramway Employees Union. These were always patted on the back by the Nationalists, and were kept in existence with their money; I say that deliberately. To-day you will see advertisements in the newspapers on behalf of the National Labour party, run by a man named Glance, calling for nominations as National Labour candidates. Are these to be run against any Nationalist? No; they are to beused as they were used at the last election, when such candidates were run against me, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr.Fenton), and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and it is the same on this occasion ; they are only being run against Labour members. Under the Bill the organizations have to be recognised. By whom? By the Governor-General in Council. He could recognise the bogus Glance organizations, and refuse to recognise the genuine Labour organizations. Do honorable members think that industrial peace is to be got in that way?
– Nothing you have said supports your contention that the Bill excludes the Labour organizations.
– Under the Standing Orders my time is limited to an hour and five minutes. Had an honorable member on this side interjected as often as the honorable member has done, he would be outside now. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) had to retire for making fewer interjections than the honorable member has now indulged in.
It would have been advisable if the Government had consulted organized labour. I am informed that organized employers were also anxious to be consulted. We have been told by political opponents that this measure merely introduces a third tribunal to which the employees may appeal. It is emphasized that they already have the Arbitration Court, and, in some of the States, a Wages Board system. It has been stated that manufacturers will not know where they are if this latest Bill is put into operation. I am anxious that any means shall be adopted - so long as it is fair to the workers and, indeed, to all sides - for the bringing about of that state of affairs which Australia ishopeful of seeing. I am familiar with the attitude of many employers at the time of the passing of the Factories Act in Victoria. I was then a member of the executive of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, and, at the time of my election to this Parliament I was President of that body. When Victoria passed its Factories Act many of the employers endeavoured to secure the election of non-unionist employees to the Boards. In industries where there was no trade union organization the employers often dismissed employees who even attended meetings called for the purpose of selecting representatives to Wages Boards. I recall the circumstances surrounding the appointment of the Whiteworkers Board, over which the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) presided as its first chairman.
– And 12s. 6d. a week was held to be good enough as wages.
– I know all about that, but I do not propose to go into that phase of the matter now. I do know that at one of the big whiteworking establishments in this city the employers dismissed several hands for attending a meeting which had been convened to create a Wages Board for that industry. Those employers who opposed the creation of Boards under the Factories Act are just as anxious to-day to kill any measure which contains any proposition for the improvement of the worker’s lot. Some honorable members opposite have stated that the Bill now before the House has been introduced to wipe out the Arbitration Court. Whether or not honorable members have said that, in so many words, I am sure they are hopeful that the effect will be to wipe out the Court.
– A great many of your people will not go before the Court to-day.
– That is not correct. As far as I know, there is only one large organization in the Commonwealth which refuses to go to the Court. I hold in my hand a paper containing a list of fortythree organizations, among which there are ten or a dozen which, if any one of them took action, could hold up the whole of Australia’s industries. Any system that will prove more expeditious than the Arbitration Court in bringing about settlements of trouble will receive my hearty support, but I do not intend to vote for a measure under which a bogus organization may receive recognition and representation in place of a bond fide trade union organization. There were various bogus unions in those days of which I have spoken. There was a bogus gas workers union; there was a bogus agricultural implement workers union, and a bogus tramways employees organization. The donations received by those bodies were much greater than the actual contributions of their members. I have belonged to trade unions in Australia and in other parts of the world, and my experience has been that we have never received one penny from outside by way of donation. A former president of the Employers Federation, Mr. Blackwood, who was at one time a, member of this Chamber, once admitted having sent money to bogus organizations. Under this Bill the Government can give recognition to bogus unions. The Machine Shearers Union can be recognised and the Australian Workers Union ignored. Fortunately, organized labour to-day is strong enough to demand that it shall be recognised.
– Is not the honorable member beating the air if that is true?
– No; the unions to-day are strong, but not owing to the work of honorable members behind the Government. Those who speak for organized labour are rightly suspicious of what may be the outcome of this Bill, so far as recognition of bogus bodies are concerned. They rightly claim that before this measure is passed they should be consulted. I warn the Government that unless bona fide labour is brought within the four corners of this measure they cannot expert it to be a success.
– That is provided in this Bill, as I understand it.
– If there is such provision I shall have pleasure in moving, in Committee for the inclusion; of a definition to the effect that the word “ organization” means an organization registered in accordance with the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and means also organizations recognised by the Trades Hall Councils of the various States as being the bond fide Trade Union in that particular industry. There cannot be industrial peace if bond fide labour organizations are kept outside the scope of this Bill. We cannot, within this Bill, extend the powers possessed by the Commonwealth under the Constitution. As the Prime Minister himself pointed out -
It is now quite clear that the powers of the Commonwealth in relation to industrial matters are covered entirely by the words of paragraph xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution, which reads as follows: -
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
The Prime Minister admitted, in his second-reading speech, that practically every organization can go before the Arbitration Court to-d’ay.
– Will not this Bill . perhaps prevent organizations from going there?
– No, I do not think it can prevent them. The honorable member may remember that, in the early days of Federation, Mr. Mauger - representing at the time, I believe, Melbourne Ports - gave notice of a motion to the effect that the Wages Boards system should be made a Federal matter. The proposition was supported by honorable members on both sides. The then Acting Leader of the Opposition, Sir William McMillan, who had been a member of the Federal Convention, remarked that if the Convention had been sitting at that time it undoubtedly would have handed over industrial matters to the Federal authority. More than once since that date the people have been asked to confer that power upon the Commonwealth, but they have not so far consented.
– The forthcoming Convent:on may give that power.
– Even so, such a decision must be confirmed by the people. When moving the second reading of this Bill the Prime Minister stated that the in- .dustrial problem: was a great one and had been intensified owing to the war. That is quite true; but why?’ I (propose to quote the president of the Employers Federation (Senator Fairbain), who stated that the chief cause of industrial disputes at present is the ever-changing cost of living, and that power should be granted to the Court to make awards contingent on the rise or fall of the cost of living. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) some time ago moved the adjournment of this House in order to present reasons why the Arbitration Act should be amended. This occurred during last Parliament, before the Prime Minister had returned to Australia from attending the Peace Conference, and after the decision of the High Court to the effect that once an award had been made there was no power to vary it. Every Judge of the Arbitration Court has asked that that position should be reversed, and . every Judge of the High Court has supported the request. The Arbitration Court should be superior to the tribunals proposed to be set up by this Bill; but clause 17 states: -
Notwithstanding anything in this Act, if a special tribunal is satisfied that abnormal circumstances have arisen which affect the fundamental justice of any terms of an award made by the Court, the tribunal may set aside or vary any terms so affected.
That means, in effect, that these tribunals are to be given power which is not possessed by the Arbitration Court. When the Prime Minister gave notice of motion for the introduction of this Bill, T remarked that he should first introduce the Bill to amend the Arbitration Act. There should not be. as is the fact to-day, forty-three organizations waiting to go before the Arbitration Court. The employers should not be in a position to place obstacles in the way of organizations of employees going before the Court.
One feature of the Bill that meets with my approval is the fact that it does away with lawyers in connexion with arbitration. I am in favour of that. Lawyers merely raise legal objections and technicalities, and often prevent justice being done. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley”) could tell the House how much the Australian Workers Union has had to pay in order to pet an award from the Arbitration Court. I have been informed that it cost the boot trade organization over £5,000, and some other organizations have paid very much more than that. Our duty is to make arbitration simpler and less costly; but I do not think this Bill will do it.
– Oh, yes !
– Oh, no! If the pastoralists of New South Wales are able to get men to work in their sheds upon conditions not acceptable to the organized workers, what is to prevent them forming a bogus union, as they did in the past, and the Government giving recognition to the bogus union and not to the genuine one?
– There is no provision in this Bill that will give a right to any particular body to represent the workers in an industry.
– The Bill provides that the Governor-General may establish a Commonwealth Council of industrial representatives, consisting of a chairman and an even number of other members not exceeding six, but that the chairman shall be appointed by the Governor-General. Many organizations have doubts about that provision.
– They are very unreasonable.
– Are they? I pointed out last week that on the Advisory Council of the Institute of Industry and Commerce, established by the Commonwealth, there were eighteen anti-Labour representatives and only three spokesmen for Labour. Judging by that experience, what type of man will the Government select as chairman of the Commonwealth Industrial Council?
– Does the honorable member ‘call everybody anti-Labour who does not belong to a Labour organization ?
Labour Members. - Hear, hear!
– The members of the Council of the Institute of Science and Industry comprised squatters, insurance agents, shipping agents, and others as to whose political sympathies there could be no doubt. What sort of chairman would be appointed under this Bill by the present Government? No measure that has ever been introduced into this Parliament leaves more to administration than does this Bill. Under it, the Government could really do anything.
– The Commonwealth Council will only investigate and report; it will be the special tribunal that will do the trick, and the chairman of the special tribunal will- be chosen by its members.
– Or, in default of agreement amongst the members, by the GovernorGeneral. I would sooner leave the appointment , of the chairman to the President of the Arbitration Court. Honorable members say that they want conciliation and the principle of the round-table conference. Why make an appointment of the chairman a part)’ matter ?
– Is not the President of the Arbitration Court appointed by the Governor-General ?
– Yes, but his appointment took place so long ago that it can have no party significance to-day.
– The present Judges will not live for .ever.
– The honorable member is apparently anxious to justify any support he gives to this Bill, including the appointment of a party man as chairman of the Commonwealth Industrial Council. I repeat that I would prefer the appointment to be made by the President of the Arbitration Court. I agree with the statement made on the 12th April last by Senator Fairbairn, President of the Employers Federation, that the chief cause of industrial disputes at the ‘ present time is the ever-changing cost of living. Industrial unrest is due to profiteering. The Prime Minister promised to shoot the profiteer, but he has not done so. We have not got rid of the profiteer. When some of us in this Parliament proposed to deal with profiteering, we were told ‘that this matter must be left to the States. Honorable members opposite shirked their duty and their responsibilities by asking, in effect, “ Am I my brother’s keeper?” We have our responsibilities in regard to profiteering, and we should shoulder them. If honorable members think that this Bill contains anything to cure or allay industrial unrest, I am surprised at them agreeing to rush it through the House faster than any industrial measure that has ever been before the Parliament. Organized labour is to be prevented from’ having an opportunity to consider the Bill, and we were told by the Prime Minister that a Government supporter also had asked that the consideration of the Bill should be deferred, in order to allow the Chambers of Manufactures and the Employers Federation a chance to study its bearings.
– Does not the honorable member think that those bodies had an opportunity to consider it?
– Apparently, from what the Prime Minister said, they had not. Some honorable members opposite, before the Prime Minister spoke, applauded the suggestion that the matter should be deferred, so that the Bill might be considered in detail by the organizations outside. The Melbourne Trades Hall Council refused the invitation of the Government–
– What is the use of waiting for people who will not do anything ?
– The honorable member must have been asleep or out of the chamber when I stated earlier that that is the very body that asked that it should be given an opportunity to consider the measure.
– Certainly, the speeches are sufficient to send one to sleep.
– I have never known the honorable member’s head to burst with excess of brains. He could not get into Parliament until he was taken up by the anti-Labour party.
The TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Atkinson).- Order !
– The statement happens to be absolutely true, and I do not know that it is out of order.
The TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER.- I have ruled it out of order, at any rate.
– The Arbitration Court has been responsible for a good deal of delay in the hearing of plaints. The Australian Institute of Marine Engineers, which, by striking, could hold up industry throughout Australia, lodged a plaint twelve months ago. The Amalgamated Society of Engineers, which could hold up the whole of the commerce of Australia, lodged a plaint ten months ago; the Waterside Workers Federation, seven months ago; the Australian Workers Union, in January of this year; the Federated Marine Stewards and Pantrymen’s Association, and the Federated Engine Drivers’ and Firemen’s Association, in April of this year. If any one of those organizations were to go on strike tomorrow, on account of the difficulty of getting their cases heard by the Arbitration Court, the wheels of industry throughout Australia would be stopped. Will this Bill improve the position?
– I should like to be as optimistic as the honorable member, but I claim to be more closely in touch with the industrial organizations to-day than is the honorable member.
– The honorable member cannot claim to have a closer knowledge of industrial organizations than I have.
– I have been for many years, and am still, closely connected with the industrial organizations of Australia, and I believe that this Pill can be made more effective for good than it is at the present time. I suggested one means, but the Government rejected it. If honorable members could have voted as they honestly believed–
– The honorable member is always insinuating that there is no honest man but himself. I claim to vote just as honestly as does the honorable member.
– There are other members in the House besides the chatterer from Illawarra. I am more closely in touch with industrial organizations than the honorable member is to-day, and I say that, unless honorable members opposite work whole-heartedly with us, the Bill cannot be the success it should. I know what party ties mean as well as does any honorable member in the House; and I wish the Bill to be thoroughly considered by both sides. I desire separate conferences; of employers and employed, to be followed, perhaps, by a joint confer- ence, and I am doing my best to put the workers’ side.
– It would be better to have the recommendations of a joint conference than conflicting recommendations from separate conferences.
– It would be well to have recommendations from both sides, because it does not matter whether it be a Judge or member of Parliament, he cannot have that knowledge of any particular trade that those engaged in it have.
– That has been the difficulty.
– It has.
– The difficulty is not got over by this Bill.
– Of course, it is not. If there are special tribunals, and recognised labour is left without representation, and bogus labour is allowed to take part, we cannot have the success desired. It is this lack of representation that recognised labour is tired of. The Trades Hall Council’ in Melbourne is, at least, as representative of organized labour as any Trades Council in Australia; it may safely claim to represent at least 95 per cent, of organized labour in this State, but if any one were to go to the union representatives to-night and tell them that they need not be alarmed about the closure being applied to prevent inquiry or examination, does any one think that such a statement would be accepted?
– Some of tho unions have asked for a time-limit for the Arbitration Court.
– I believe that if lawyers were eliminated from the Arbitration Court we should have greater expedition. In the Court, at present, lawyers raise every; technical point as against the employees with a view of making this mode of seeking redress too expensive for them. It is claimed by some that the arbitration principle has failed, but I do not think that the Court has failed, though it has not been as successful as we hoped. Personally, I welcome anything that would lead to more expedition, but I do not propose to support any proposal which might lead to one-sided tribunals. We have had some experience in Victoria with Wages Boards and the representation that is given on them. The Factories Acts are an outcome of the efforts of the trades unions, without which we should have had no industrial legislation on the statutebook of any State ; yet the labour organizations have’ not the power of electing their representatives on these Boards. That, of course, is one of the weaknesses of the Factories Act, though I admit that in practically every case the unions are strong enough to control the representation. It may be said that in . pretty well all cases the unions have that control; but I remind the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) of an incident in connexion with the Wages Board of which he was chairman. In that case the proprietor of a big shop in Bourke-street, who was a prominent member of one of the Protestant churches, dismissed his employees who attended even the preliminary meeting for the selection of representatives.
– That is the first I have heard of it.
– I know it to be true, for my sister-in-law was one of the dismissed employees, and I took her to the Trades Hall Council, of which I was a member.
– The evidence had to be taken in camera, to prevent that sort of thing.
– What the employers have done in the past I am afraid they will do in the future. It ought to be specified that .the organization to elect the employees’ representatives shall be the recognised organization of the industry concerned, such as the Australian Workers Union, the Shale and Coal-workers Union, the Boot Trade Union, and so on; because, as I say, if bogus organizations are admitted we cannot hope for success. The manufacturers themselves take every care to see that they are properly represented; as witness cases in which the master carriers of Victoria were concerned. Their organization had a rule that no member was to quote against another member in the case of a contract, and that if any one got into difficulties, with horses down and so forth, others must not go to his assistance. That organization closed its books against fresh members, as did the timber merchants and master grocers. No member on this side of the House claims to represent any employers’ association; at any rate, I have never had to thank one for returning me, and I never shall. It is said that there is no danger in the representation that is proposed, but the employees’ organizations have fears on that ground. As I have said, I desire a definition of “ recognised organization,” and suggest that it should be the organization recognised by the Trades Hall. I do not think there are any organizations that are not registered at tie Arbitration Court or recognised by the Trades Halls, and we can have both admitted in order to prevent bogus organizations. There are four tribunals proposed - Federal, State, special and local - and in the case of the special tribunal there is no provision made for any particular number of representatives, so that it might consist of one from each side, whereas, in my opinion, there ought to be more. In the case of the shipping tribunal there is a representative of the workers, a representative of the employers, and an independent chairman, and the Prime Minister has told us that this tribunal has given 256 decisions. In a transport case, for instance, the carters and drivers, the seamen, and, perhaps, the waterside workers should have representation.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 6.7 p.m. in consequence of the failure of the electric light.
– Tn the few minutes remaining at my disposal I wish to point out the weakness of this Bill. For one thing, no power is given to call evidence upon some most important matters. No doubt, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), in presenting the case for the coal miners, will tell us why this section of workers have objected even to the’ Arbitration Court, and show that the Court does not take into consideration profits made and freights paid to-day. Honorable members will remember that a Justice of the High Court, in giving his decision in the Coal Vend case, admitted that the Coal Vend charged private firms more than others had to pay. For instance, the . Melbourne
Glass Bottle Works were charged more for their coal than the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, who consumed less coal, were asked to pay. In order to be effective, the proposed tribunals should be given greater power to compel persons to attend before them and give evidence. The tribunals should not be one-sided, which they may be under the provisions of the Bill.
Undoubtedly, trade unionists will view this Bill with suspicion because of the manner in which it is being rushed through, without a fair opportunity being given for the discussion of it. The workers protest against nothing more than they do against the use of the “gag.” Nothing had such a farreaching effect on the 1910 elections than did the impression the public had gained that the Deakin Government had sought to prevent the Labour party from being heard. It is possible that the contents of this Bill have not been published in Western Australia. How can the workers there, or the workers of Queensland, realize the effect the measure will have on industry? I think the Government would have been well advised to defer the consideration of the Bill in order to give both sides an opportunity to consider it, and, if necessary, make representations here through their respective representatives. The recognised organizations ought to have had this opportunity. I am not referring to bogus unions, such as the Machine Shearers Union, which the pastoralists brought into existence, and tried to keep alive, nor bogus organizations which the Employers Federation in Victoria have brought into existence, such as the bogus Agricultural Implement Workers, the bogus Tramway Union, and the bogus Gasworkers Union. If ever there was a measure depending on the hearty co-operation of both sides, this is one; but if it is rushed through without the workers being given the opportunity to consider it; if the bond fide unions get the impression that this Bill is being rushed through to “ sell the worker a pup” - borrowing an expression made use of by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) - they will have absolutely nothing to do with it, and what might have been a good piece of legislation will at once be pre- vented from being the success it would otherwise have been.
.- This is a very important Bill, because it seeks to alter the principle that has been followed in regard to arbitration legislation since its inception in the Commonwealth; and in order to get a grip of tho question, and deal with it in a proper manner, it is necessary for us to carry our minds back some years. As the result of the general wish, not only of industrialists, but also of the community as a whole, to have some means whereby industrial troubles might be settled without recourse to strikes or lockouts, an Arbitration Bill was introduced in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales by Mr. B. R. Wise in the year 1901. I had the honour of attending a Conference convened by Mr. Wise, comprising representatives of trade unions from every part of the State. It was called together so that Mr. Wise could become acquainted with the views of those who could guide him in framing his Bill, and had the same course been followed on this occasion the conditions surrounding the introduction of the Bill now before us- might have been more satisfactory. Honorable members know the history of industrial legislation in the State of New South Wales, and how it was that, on account of the great congestion of cases listed for hearing which the Court was unable to deal with, what is known as the Wages Board system superseded the Arbitration Court, and has ever since been in operation. But whether the system adopted be to have an Arbitration Court or Wages Boards, it is a fundamental principle of all our industrial legislation that the workers are given full recognition through their trade unions. No matter how good the machinery may be. for the settlement of industrial disputes, the workers will not accept it unless their unions have recognition. However, that fundamental principle of our industrial legislation of the past is absent from the Bill before us to-day. For the first time we depart from the recognition of industrial unionism, and make it possible for any bogus union which may come into existence, after the passing of this measure to secure a tribunal if it extends beyond the confines of any one State, and so come into conflict with existing bond fide trade unions. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was quite right in pointing out the omission of this fundamental basis of arbitration, which the industrial unions will assuredly claim ought to find a place in the Bill. It is idle for the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to say that these bogus unions already have the power under the existing Act. The power is not there. Let the Prime Minister compare the definition sections of the New South Wales Act and the Commonwealth Act, which makes provision for industrial unions to be registered. I would not go so far as that, but I claim that only the recognised trade .union in any particular industry should be the body to take part in the formation of a council, !Board, or tribunal, as the case may be. Unless that provision is made in this Bill, it will meet with strong opposition. Many of the coal miners in New South Wales who took no part in the industrial trouble brought about by the railway employees in that State, although it was claimed over here that they were parties to it, were victimized through the action of the State Government, and not permitted to return to work. When I raised my voice in this House, pointing out fiat injustice was being done to certain persons in New South Wales, my remarks were unheeded; but now the facts have become public property. Certain men who were engaged in Victoria to go to work in New South Wales turned out to be failures when they arrived there ; but if they were still working there, and others might be working in Victoria, under this Bill they could get a Board to decide the conditions of their employment. Also, in the case of the wharf labourers, the regular unionists were supplanted by other men, both here and in Sydney, and as it became an Inter-State matter, if the provisions of this Bill had been in operation, those men’ could have applied for recognition, and the appointment of a tribunal bo deal with an industrial dispute. The legitimate body of wharf labourers would have been shut out, and the bogus union might have accepted conditions of employment quite at variance with those applying in the industry before their time. As the members of such bogus unions only work when other people are in trouble, they really are not acquainted with the conditions applying to the particular industry they are following for the time being., Nevertheless, they can shut out the recognised unions, and have conditions of work fixed quite different from those applying right through the history of particular callings. I consider this the fundamental mistake of the Bill. No matter how disposed the unions may be to accept this form of legislation, I am sure they could not accept it without proper provision being made for the recognition of the bond fide unions that have been in existence in the various industries. It may have been an oversight on the part of the draftsman, or on the part of the Government, but certainly we are not justified in passing a measure whose provisions are contrary to the recognised customs of arbitration. I do not say that the machinery proposed to be set up might not be in some respects an improvement on the existing machinery, and I believe that the time has arrived when we must get machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes within a reasonable time.1 The chief cause of the failure of arbitration is that this has not hitherto been possible. Some of the more powerful industrial unions will not register as organizations, and will have nothing to do with the Arbitration Court. The miners, whom I represent, take that stand. They do . so because, in 1901, they registered, and found that it t6ok over two years to get some of their plaints heard. At the end of two years circumstances are often quite different from what they were when a dispute occurred, and it is idle to conduct an investigation. They found, too, that they had often to stop work in order to procure the hearing of their grievances. The Act was passed to prevent strikes, but it has really offered an incentive to the men to do something to get before the Court. I shall not say that the tribunals proposed to be. set up are exactly what are required, but I believe that the miners would welcome a measure providing for the settlement of their disputes locally and as they occurred. If a local Board could deal with a dispute at a particular mine, and settle it, ,or send it on to a special tribunal, the men would feel that their grievances were being heard within a reasonable time, and would be willing to continue at work. Therefore,, these tribunals, if put on a proper footing, may be acceptable. There is great unrest in the coal mining industry, and any stoppage in the supply of coal affects every part of Australia. The miners themselves are endeavouring to prevent a disturbance, and their leaders are anxious that there shall be no stoppage in the production of coal, because they know how necessary it is for the welfare of the country that sufficient coal should be available. I say this in justice to the leaders, because men in their position are often maligned when trouble occurs. The men desire to have their case fairly considered. The Bill does not provide for that, which is the chief objection they will urge against it. There is not sufficient power given to do what they desire. I believe that the miners could obtain an increase in wages; but what they desire is to know whether such an increase can be given to them without increasing the price of coal to the consumer. They are of opinion, rightly or wrongly, that at present prices their wages could be increased so as to make them equal to what they were prior to the war, having regard to the increase in the cost of living, and they ask for an inquiry into the facts. When a conference was held in Sydney recently, the Prime Minister was led to believe that the employers were prepared to agree to a tribunal which would have power to investigate every phase of coal production up to the point of distribution; but in Melbourne the proprietors would not agree to that. It is said that the miners have no right to know anything of the business of the proprietors beyond what is necessary for the -fixing of the hewing rates. In coalmining there is a system of payment by results. Prior to the war there was a declared selling price, according to which the miners’ wages were fixed on a sliding scale, under which they benefited by a certain percentage for every rise of ls. in the price of coal. They contended, however, that they should know exactly what price was got for the coal; that the coal might be sold at a higher price than the “ declared price.” That furnished matter for dispute for years, when the “ ascertained price “ was given. But that is not satisfactory. Circumstances have changed completely since arbitration was introduced in 1901. Since then the employers generally have combined, and by hiring the ablest brains have been able to use methods for gettingbehind the Act, and making it impossible to inquire into all the ramifications of their business. Formerly the miners had to deal only with the colliery proprietors; but to-day the steam-ship companies throughout Australia hold a controlling interest in many of the mines. They are chiefly the largest mines. The owners declare a price for coal at Newcastle - I am speaking of normal times, when the War Precautions Act is not operating - but when the coal is sold in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, or any other State, charges are made for freight, labour, and so on, which make its cost very high. Our men say that it is too high, and they ask for a full inquiry, to see whether they could not be given an increase of wages out of the profits which are earned without increasing the cost of coal to the consumers.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
-I desire to place on record particulars in connexion with the earnings of off-hand labourers, who are at present the principal cause of unrest, and in regard to whom there is a significant paragraph in this evening’s press, according to which the situation is very gloomy. I desire to show that these men have not been earning a living wage, notwithstanding the high price being charged for coal. The figures which I shall present are taken in respect of the wages of men who are paid at the rate of 13s. 6d. a day. At a recent conference with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) the proprietors offered 14s. 6d. per day, but the men refused this extra shilling on the ground that it was inadequate. They want a special tribunal to deal immediately with the matter of wages, and, thereafter, to hear their claims generally for better working conditions. Honorable members should remember that, in dealing with these miners, their wages must not be calculated by the day. They must be reviewed on the basis of annual totals, or of weekly earnings. In mining the work is by no means regular. It depends greatly upon trade prospects, and upon the demand for coal. It must not be forgotten, either, that when the men are not actually engaged they cannot pick up work elsewhere. They must be on the spot ready to begin when required. The particulars are as follow: -
It must be evident to honorable members that these day labourers are not making a living wage. They are very impatient, and, personally, I do not think it is possible to hold them for any length of time. We want to try to prevent an upheaval, but unless a tribunal can be created which will have power to inquire into every; phase of the industry, there is bound to be trouble. I emphasize that the offer of1s. a day more is regarded by the men- as quite insufficient. They are demanding the fullest inquiry to ascertain whether or not the present charge for coal warrants an increase in wages, still leaving a fair return upon capital invested. That is a fair request, and honorable members on this side had hoped to find provision in the Bill to meet that request ; but there is not such provision. The men have been advocating a tribunal of this kind for a considerable time. It is because the Bill does not provide necessary machinery for an investigation of the whole business of coal production from the first point of production to the final distribution, that it is regarded as being of no use.
– What is the period covered by those figures which the honorable member has provided ?
– They cover a term beginning on 5th May, 1919, and ending on 8th March, 1920.
– Who furnished those figures?
– The honorable member can get the particulars from the Mines Reports of New South Wales and work them out for himself, so checking my own figures.
– Is the amount per day calculated on the number of days actually worked or on the total of days in that ten months’ period ?
– The figures are based on the days actually worked. In order to fully inform honorable members of the situation, I will place on record the following press report of 3rd August : -
Representatives of the top-hands employed at the various collieries on the Maitland coalfield met at Cessnock on Saturday to deal with matters seriously affecting them, and to devise means of having them given the earliest attention’. Mr. W. North presided, and Mr. W. Lane was appointed secretary for the meeting. The delegates considered the position as it was presented from each colliery, and decided that the time had arrived for decisive action in reference to their claims for a living wage. It was pointed out that there was no desire or suggestion that they should break away from the federation, as some of the mine-owners and others interested wished; but,at the same time, while determined to do nothing that would weaken their forces by disunion, they were as equally determined that their cause was not going to be shelved, but rather that the federation would be called upon very plainlyto see that they received justice. The following resolu tions were unanimously adopted: - That a conference of delegates of top-hands employed on the Maitland coal-field be held at Weston on ‘Sunday afternoon; that the men working on the pit-tops at all the collieries be requested to send delegates; that this conference of top-hands recommends to the Weston conference to be held on Sunday afternoon that an aggregate meeting be immediately held, and that the position of the pit tophands be fully discussed and a plan of action mapped out; that this conference demands that at any conference betweenthe federation and the mine-owners direct representation be given the top-hands on the matter of wages scale for top-hands.
The top-hands admit having been told that they have been represented by top-hands at conferences, but they demand that they shall be represented by delegates selected by their conference or directly representative of it, in order that their views might be fully expressed and their claims urged by men fully authorized by the top-hands - themselves. The fact that many of them are not receiving a living wage is responsible for the unrest prevailing, and the reports presented by delegates show conclusively that there is more than talk in their contention. Every class of labour on the coal-field admits the justice of the claims made for a living wage by these men.
That account shows plainly that while the top hands are a branch of the Miners’ Federation they are not satisfied with the existing condition of affairs. They say they do not want to sever their connexion with the Federation, but will insist that the Federation gives them justice, and does so promptly. They hold that action must be taken without delay to provide them with a living wage; otherwise, they will take certain steps themselves. It is difficult for men leading an organization, such as is the Miners Federation, to combat this kind of thing within the organization itself. It does not matter what arguments or promises are placed before these dissatisfied men; they have now reached a point where they are determined to force the issue. They say they are tired of promises about Arbitration Court action or the creation of special tribunals. They urge that the cost of living is constantly pressing down upon them, and thatthey positively must have relief. Whether the Miners Federation approves or not, the disquieting fact remains that if these men stop work the whole of the coal industry will be held up at once. The effect, of course, will be disastrous to Australia, to say nothing of those countries which are more or less dependent upon the importation of our coal to-day.
I urge that there should be a tribunal created to deal with the situation. I believe there is a feeling that if. an increase in the selling price of coal is authorized a more satisfactory increase in these men’s wages can be granted. At present the miners are working under a regulation, gazetted under the War Precautions Act as the outcome of a conference’ held some time ago. This agreement will not expire until the end of October. It provides that the miners shall receive so much per ton while the selling price is 17s. 9d. per ton at Newcastle; and no more than’ that amount can be charged. I have heard from fairly reliable sources that, while not more than 17s. ,9d. can be” charged for coal at Newcastle, yet, if one were to buy coal from a colliery owner at’ 17s. 9d., one could sell again immediately, and without handling it, at probably much more than that figure. It has been stated, with respect to Japanese steamers which have been carrying our coal away, that certain men have been buying at 17s. 9d. and selling to foreign buyers forthwith at 22s. 6d. per ton.. I have been supplied with the names of particular persons, who have adopted this practice, but I do not intend to mention them. .If they are receiving 22s. 63. per ton for the coal is it fair that the miners, who have to cut it, and the other lower paid employees, whose wages are fixed on a sliding scale according to the selling price of the article, should not participate ? I do not say that all the companies are receiving a price higher than that fixed, but coal is being sold by some persons at 22s. 6d. per ton.
– Are the sellers independent of the miners?
– Yes. The honorable member or I could go to> the mine and buy coal at 17s. 9d. per .ton, and simply transfer it to somebody else at a higher price.
– But do the mineowners get any benefit from that?
– I do not know about that ; the honorable member is asking me too much. I am urging that the special tribunal shall be clothed with sufficient power to discover all these things in the public interest. If the House will agree to the appointment of a tribunal comprising three or four representatives from each side and an independent chairman, and clothe it with the fullest possible power to investigate every phase of the industry, including the selling price and the profits of the companies, there will be no trouble in the industry. I give that guarantee now. The miners desire a complete investigation; they desire to know where they are, and they say that the time has arrived when the public, too, should be taken into consideration.
– Can that not be done under this Bill?
– The power is not contained in the Bill.
– Cannot we insert the power ?
– If I can get the support of a sufficient number of honorable members I shall move an amendment for the purpose of placing the requisite power in the Bill.
– Where in the measure is the limitation which prevents the full inquiry for which the honorable member asks?
– The Bill makes no provision for inquiry into profits and selling prices. It deals only with the employer and the employee.
– The Bill . does not say that the tribunal shall . not- inquire into these things, and surely the representatives of the workers will see that they are inquired into.
– If the power is not expressly stated in the Bill, the representatives of the employers on the tribunal will object to inquiry into certainmatters, and such an objection will be fatal. Let me read to honorable members what the coal miners are asking, so that the House may understand how far the miners have proceeded along the lines which this Bill proposes to travel - -
Employees’ proposed Basis and Scope of Inquiry fo)b Coal Tribunal.
Whereas it has been asserted, by and on behalf of the coal mine-owners, that the industry of coal, shale, and coke producing cannot under the present circumstances afford to pay to the employees engaged therein wages higher than those now being paid.
And whereas it is claimed, by and on behalf of the employees of the said industry, that the said industry can easily afford to pay substantial increases in the present rate of wages.
We are desirous that a complete inquiry bo held, into the matter by a representative tribunal, so that justice might be done between all parties, and are willing to recommend to the employees, members of our federation, to continue to work upon the present rates of pay pending such inquiry, provided always and subject to the following conditions: -
Thatproposal was submitted to the proprietors, who refused to accept it, and that is the reason why the parties were unable to come to an understanding with the Prime Minister, and is possibly the explanation of the introduction of this measure. The Bill does not give the power to make that full inquiry which is essential .
– I differ from the honorable member.
– Clause 7 empowers the Commonwealth Council “to consider any matters, conditions, and tendencies in any part of the Commonwealth leading, or likely to lead, to in dustrial disputes, or in any way affecting, or likely to affect, industrial peace.”
– That has nothing to do with the point I am arguing. The Commonwealth Council has only advisory powers and functions. The body that will inquire into the details of the industry is the special tribunal. The Commonwealth Council has only to inquire into and report upon any dispute that may arise in connexion with any industry or portion of an industry. If the Council fails to provide a settlement it will report to the Governor-General, and a special tribunal will be appointed. The special tribunal cannot be clothed under this Bill as at present worded with the powers which I say are necessary.
– What part of the Bill says that the special tribunal will not have those powers ?
– What part of the Bill says that it will have them? The onus of showing that the powers exist rests upon the Government.
– Cannot a special tribunal deal with any point of inquiry suggested by the Council?
– Sufficient power is not given to the special tribunal to deal with the selling price of coal,” for instance, in other States.
– Yes, if the question of price is referred to the special tribunal.
– No; the only power to be given to the special tribunal is equivalent to that now enjoyed by the Arbitration Court, and the Court has never dealt with these matters.
– The Bill contemplates that these matters shall be inquired into.
– Very often a Bill contemplates a certain thing, but lacks the power to accomplish it. Have not honorable members heard the argument advanced in this House that constitutional limitations prevent any such inquiry by a Commonwealth tribunal? The only judgment upon the point that I can recollect was given in the McKay case, - but that does not bear upon the point Iam arguing. It was held in that case that a Commonwealth Court could not fix the selling price of an article. We are not asking that a special tribunal should have power to fix the selling price, but we are asking that it shall have power to inquire as to the price which the companies are receiving for the coal, the cost of transport, and other charges, net profits, and as to whether the miners’ cannot receive a living wage without increasing the cost of the commodity to the public. We have been arguing that profiteering should be prevented. The miners are anxious to do something in that direction, and for that reason they ask that this power of full inquiry be given.
Apart from the case of the coal miners,
I wish to give the House an additional reason why greater power should be provided in this Bill than in any previous legislation to inquire extensively into matters pertaining to industrial unrest. The position to-day is different from what it was a few years ago. In almost every industry there is a closer combination of employers. We may read in the papers almost every day of companies having been reconstructed, but not by putting additional capital into the concern. They had carried so much money to reserves during the war that now, finding that legislation in the direction of regulating wages is against them, they are nominally increasing their capital by giving to their existing shareholders so many additional shares for each share now held by them. Unless a tribunal has power to inquire fully into all these things, the employers will show that a particular industry cannot afford to pay more than the present wages, because the profits are only 6, 7, or 8 per cent. They will not say, and the tribunal will not be able to discover, that that profit is reckoned on inflated or watered capital, and the result of an inquiry, therefore, will be that the industry cannot afford to pay more than a certain wage, because shareholders are entitled to a fair return on the capital invested.
– A very wide power is conferred in the last portion of the definition of “ industrial matters.”
– The power contained in that definition is not wide enough to cover the points upon which I am arguing. It reads - “Industrial matters” includes all matters relating to work, pay, wages, reward, hours, privileges, rights, or duties of employers or employees, or the mode, terms and conditions of employment or non-employment; and in particular, but without limiting the general scope of this definition, includes all matters pertaining to the relations of employers and employees, and the employment, preferential employment, dismissal, or non-employment of any particular persons, or of persons of any particular sex or age, or being or not being members of any organization, association, or body, and any claim arising under an industrial agreement”, and includes all questions of what is fair and right in relation to any industrial matter having regard to the interests of the persons immediately concerned and of society as a whole.
That definition applies entirely to an industrial matter, but it gives no scope to deal with the prices charged for an article after it leaves the producing industry. That is the point. The term “ industry “ is held to apply only to the particular industry in which the dispute has occurred; it does not extend beyond the direct employer and employee. I have already pointed out that in connexion with mining, in particular, the position is changed ; we cannot deal with the employer and employees alone, because the shipping people have got control of most of the mines, ..and can regulate wages and make handsome profits out of freight, and so forth. This .definition is not broad enough to touch that position. If honorable members think that my argument is a fair one, they ought to meet me in Committee by accepting an amendment, which would go far to settling the trouble. If the coal miners think that they will be granted an inquiry to cover all the ramifications of the trade throughout Australia, so as to ascertain its exact position, there will be no trouble, which is likely only because the belief is that such an inquiry will not be held. If the Prime Minister would say now that he will make some provision of the kind, he would relieve the tension in the coal industry.
– Is there not that power under the Arbitration Act?
– The Judge has the power, but not the parties to the dispute.
– The Prime Minister is not present; but I suggest that some of his colleagues might convey to the right honorable gentleman the ideas I have expressed. I go so far as to say that, in regard to trade secrets, profits, and so forth, if there were any objections to the proceedings being made public, they might be discussed in camera in the presence of the representatives of the men. That is another idea which, if carried out, will go a long way towards a settlement.
– -The special tribunal may sit in private.
– Of course. Under the New South Wales Arbitration Act, the Judge couldhear evidence as to the Belling prices, and so forth, in camera, for his own satisfaction; but there is no such power in relation to Inter-State disputes.
– There was a representative from each side present.
– That is so. The honorable member is familiar with these matters, having been a member of Wages Boards for a considerable time. I myself have appeared on many occasions to advocate miners’ cases before the Court, and we took such action as I have described. Industrial organizations, after nearly nineteen years’ experience of arbitration, will not accept any proposal which does not afford them the fullest protection, and permit investigation of every phase of the industry concerned, especially in view of the events of the last few years, during which exorbitant profits have been made, and certain people have become exceptionally wealthy. The miners contend that the time has arrived when their industry should be put on a proper and fair footing. If the miners are entitled to an increase of Wages, it does not follow that the extra cost should be placed on the general public. If the House takes no notice of the miners’ demands, we shall probably find coal going up in price, and the miners getting so much more in wages. Their contention is, however, that in , this industry we ought to get back to normal conditions, and if they are entitled to more remuneration, with the present prices, they ought to have it. In any case, coal here is the cheapest in the world to-day.
– At the pit’s mouth.
– No; free on board; the honorable member is speaking of the olden days. The idea now is to follow the coal from the pit’s mouth to its destination, because, as I have said, the shipping people are interested in the mines. It is not a matter of dealing with the colliery proprietors only, but also with the shipping people, who are easily making two profits.
Mr-. Maxwell.- That would protect the public as well as the workmen.
– Exactly ; that is their idea. The men thought that such an inquiry was to be agreed to, and I think that the Prime Minister himself was under the same impression. At the first conference, in Sydney, the proprietors raised no objection to it; from what I have been informed by miners’ representatives, and from other quarters, they tacitly agreed to the idea; and it was only when they came to Melbourne that they changed” their views. Now it appears they are prepared to accept ; and why should they do that if the results are going: to be what some honorable members think? It is because they know that the proposal does not give the power that the men think, but that the inquiry is confined to Newcastle.
– What was the prewar price at the pit’s mouth? .
-Speaking subject to correction, I think it was 12s. when the tribunal sat. We are all interested in the continuity of employment, arid desire no upheaval at the present moment ; we desire to increase production, so that we may be able to carry the burden of the war. If that be so, surely in a matter of this kind we can meet the men ? What is the good of complaining about the money that the men earn? The whole matter will depend on the tribunal, which may be relied on to do nothing wrong or unjust. There will be three representatives from each side, and, if they fail to agree on a chairman, the Executive will appoint one; and what could be fairer? Why rush a measure through that does not provide the proper machinery when we know what must happen if we do not give the power to hold a thorough investigation ?
– The honorable member may move an amendment in Committee.
– That is my intention; but the trouble is that I may be closured before we Teach it. Suppose that a long discussion takes place on a previous amendment, and the time allowed for that portion of the Bill elapses, I shall not be able to submit my amendment or argue my case.
– If you foreshadow your amendment it might be accepted.
– Only Government amendments are put under the standing order.
– The Government will accept an amendment if it is a reasonable one.
– I see that the House appreciates the position that I am taking up. This is important legislation in the face of a crisis we desire to avert. In view of the likelihood that 1 may not be able to place my amendment before the Committee, I am endeavouring to give honorable members now some idea of what is in my mind, and in the minds of the industrial leaders outside.
Mr.Fenton. - The Prime Minister ought to be present to hear all this.
– If the Prime Minister were present, he might agree to something like what I have put forward, and it is unfortunate for me that he is not, because it is of the greatest importance to the community that something should be done in this direction; it would minimize to a very large extent the objections to the Bill. The amendment I should propose in Committee would be to the effect that, so far as the special tribunal is concerned, it should be empowered to inquire exhaustively into every phase of coal mining or other industry, from the production of the commodity to its final destination. My object is to give the fullest possible scope of inquiry in regard to profits, selling price, and so forth; and, as I have said, if there is any strong objection to publicity, these matters may be taken in camera. I am prepared to go so far as that in order to avert trouble. Nobody knows better than the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) that, in the mining industry, once there is unrest, there is likely to be a breakaway in spite of the union officials. There are so many sections of the industry that, if one of them make a break the trouble is on. The suggestions I have made would materially help the official leaders of the miners, and, in my opinion, enable them to settle the business without any great difficulty.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) says that if we do those things we are making a vicious attack on unionism.
– The honorable member is under a misapprehension.
– The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) has handed me a proposal drafted to the effect that a Royal Commission be appointed to investigate and report on the conditions in the mining industry at Broken Hill, more particularly in regard to the cost of production, wages, hours and other conditions of “employees, the health of those engaged, selling prices, profits arising from the industry, and their methods of distribution. These are just the matters that the miners desire to have investigated by a tribunal, and no tribunal without such powers will give satisfaction.
Probably very few members will agree with me when I say that the time has arrived when we should, as far as possible, go in for conciliation only. This measure goes a long way in that direction, and I here suggest that it would be better if penalties were abolished. The whole of my experience shows that with a round-table conference more can be done than by any other means; do away with penalties and leave the parties to come together and effect a settlement.
– We are getting back tothe conditions of thirty years ago !
– It is admitted that we cannot possibly prevent strikes and lockouts - that all we can do is to hope to minimize them. No legislation will prevent either of these actions. I say, candidly, that for years, as an industrialist, I have been an advocate of machinery to deal with disputes as they arise in preference to any system leading to delay. If a dispute arises in the mining industry, for instance, and an immediate settlement is not arrived at, the trouble will magnify, and grow like a fire. Before I entered politics I worked in a colliery, and during the whole time I was there we had no strikes. That was because the proprietor, Mr. Duncan McGeachie, told me that if any trouble seemed likely I, as the miners’ representative, should see him; and when trouble did arise, two or three representatives of the men met the management, and we never failed to effect a settlement, although we had, during my employment there, as many as fifty matters requiring adjustment.
– I had an exactly similar experience at Lithgow during the whole of the time I .was there, but that method of settling disputes is now regarded as old-fashioned.
– The parties are brought together, and an endeavour is made to settle a dispute. If they fail, then a tribunal is created to deal with it. But we want that tribunal to be clothed with the fullest powers to sift all that is necessary for the settlement of a dispute.
– The power to inquire into profits and costs of distribution could not be exercised by a local body, which may readily settle a local dispute.
– It is true that the bigger questions which affect the whole of an industry, and which have an InterState character, can only be dealt with by a special tribunal. However, I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to make a declaration before the week is out as to whether machinery will be set up to enable the tribunal dealing with the coalminers’ dispute to have the fullest possible power to make such an exhaustive inquiry as may serve the purpose of preventing future trouble.
.- Arbitration in many phases has been tried in Australia; but, unfortunately, the attempts to bring about industrial peace by legislation introduced by Governments representative of the employing classes rather than of the employees, have not had the tendency to achieve the desired result. The primary object of the coercion Acts of New South Wales, and similar measures passed in other States, has been a regard for the interests of the employers. However, the force of public opinion and the growing strength of the unions have gradually compelled the various Administrations to recognise the necessity for industrial harmony. We have had a series of disastrous strikes in Australia during the last six years, such as the general strike of 1917, the seamen’s strike, and others, and although for the most part the losses have been borne by the workers, the nation’s interests have been most adversely affected. When introducing this B:ll the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that it must fail without the hearty co-operation of labour; but when we ask, first of all, that the trade unionists should be given an opportunity of discussing the measure and making suggestions, we are told that this is an urgent measure, and that a conference, in order to improve the Bill, could not possibly be called at this stage.
– Does the honorable member seriously think that there is a hope of getting anything like substantial unanimity outside on a Bill of this kind?
– Yes. For the last nine months the Government have promised repeate’dly that they would call a conference, but they have not yet got that conference together.
– The Prime Minister has tried hard to get a conference.
– The Australian Workers Union is ready, and I believe that most of the trades and “labour councils are -willing to attend such a conference. After all, the trade unionists will be called upon to bear the brunt of any trouble. No one goes on strike merely for the fun of the thing. There are people to-day who foolishly say that the Broken Hill workers, who have not enough clothes on their back or sufficient food to give them proper nourishment, had no right to go on strike. Do these people think that these unfortunate workers of Broken Hill are enjoying a strike which has extended over a period of fourteen months? It is only when the workers are driven to it that they take this action; they do not strike for choice. When the Prime Minister said that without the hearty co-operation of Labour the Bill could not succeed, he uttered a truth. If the Australian Workers Union, the coal miners, the transport workers, or the workers of other organizations are not prepared to accept this Industrial Peace Bill, that will be the end of the measure.
– Simply because the workers are in the position they hold to-day.
– That is only a threat.
– The honorable member may interpret the truth as a threat; that is his own lookout. I am merely giving utterance to a fact. If the honorable member knows anything of the industrial world he must recognise the truth of what I am saying. The Government, by allowing not more than twentyfour hours for the consideration of a measure such as this, are not giving the re- presentatives of the workers the opportunity of discussing the proposal or of helping them.
– That is not a correct statement. Within the next fortnight honorable members can devote forty-eight hours to the Bill.
– I have worked out the time, and a very optimistic estimate of the time which will be occupied in discussing this Bill is twenty-four and a half hours. But even if we should take forty hours, I am extremely doubtful whether at the end of -that period there would not still be a good deal to be said.
– The House has already decided that point.
– If the Prime Minister expects the hearty co-operation of the representatives of Labour in this House, he is going a peculiar way about getting it. If the industrial leaders of Australia attack this Bill, as no doubt many of them will do in its present stage, it will have so bad an effect upon tie measure that it will never do effective work as an Act, except in its application to small industries. I hope that that is not the sole desire of the Government. I hope that they are sincere in their endeavour to bring about true industrial peace. Their first effort in this direction apparently is an extraordinary document to set up four separate tribunals, council?, boards, or committees without giving those concerned the opportunity of discussing the proposal. There has hardly been a Bill introduced in this House since 1917 affecting the rights of employers and vested interests in regard to which those concerned have not been consulted. In 1917 the Pastoralists Union met with due solemnity and decided that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act should be amended. In fact, they drafted a Bill for the purpose, and forwarded it to the Government. That was the first attempt made to get rid of Mr. Justice Higgins, but apparently because of the outcry of honorable members on this side of the House the thing was too hot to hold, and now, instead of brutally saying to Mr. Justice Higgins, “ We are dissolving your Court and superseding your Act by another measure. Go back to the High Court ; your job as President of the Arbitration Court is abolished “ - instead of following that course a more roundabout method is adopted. Of course, the Prime Minister says very naively that this Bill will merely supplement the Arbitration Court; but I venture to say that immediately an award of that Court is superseded by a decision of a council or tribunal, we shall have the spectacle of an indignant President of the Arbitration Court wanting to know what his position is. In the past four years Mr. Justice Higgins has stood a good deal more than most men would have stood, and I can quite conceive what he would think of his position if a tribunal or council appointed with a Government nominee as chairman, and with representatives of organizations on it, gave a decision superseding an award made by the Court a few months previously. Of course, the President of the Court would resign, and thus all the strategy and planning of the past four years to get rid of his presence in the industrial arena will succeed. In 1917, resolutions poured in from all parts of Australia - from Chambers of Commerce, Chambers of Manufactures, farmers and settlers’ organizations, Employers’ Federations, and so forth - asking for the immediate removal of Mr. Justice Higgins from the Arbitration Court, and in this House the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston) and the then honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair) submitted questions antagonistic to that Justice. As a consequence, honorable members of the Opposition were obliged to take a course to counteract this agitation, and extracted the promise that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act would be amended. During the last four years we have moved in this direction no less than four or five times. I myself moved the adjournment of the House twice to deal with the matter, and in 1918, because of a High Court judgment which prevented the Arbitration Court from enforcing its awards, we asked the Prime Minister to amend the Act. It was not done. We also asked that the President of the Court should be given the power to compel the payment of fines, but the National Government would not give us that amendment. We were promised on several occasions by the Prime Minister that the Act would be amended, and on one or two occasions by the then Acting Prima
Minister (Mr. Watt). But the promise has not been fulfilled. Apparently the Government did not intend to carry out its promises. In his second-reading speech upon this Bill the Prime Minister said that the Arbitration Court was too costly and so cumbersome and slow that it might be regarded as having completed its life’s work. So far as he was concerned, he said that he could not give it any help. He mentioned that fortytwo unions are now awaiting the hearing of their claims. Whose fault is it? It is the fault of the Government. When I moved the adjournment of the House a few months ago on this very question of congestion in the Arbitration Court we were promised by the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) that a Deputy President of the Court would be appointed. Mr. Justice Starke was appointed to the Court, and has heard a couple of cases; but there is only he and the President to transact the business, Mr. Justice Powers having gone away. Those two Justices cannot hear all the cases that have been listed, and the Government has done nothing to give them assistance, although some of the cases have been awaiting a hearing for nine months. The Prime Minister says that the machinery of the Court is too cumbersome, and will not work; yet under this Bill only the same powers are given as can be exercised under the existing Act; no new power is conferred.
– To what powers do you refer?
– I am speaking of the powers conferred by virtue of the definition of industrial matters.
– The problem is not so much one of powers as of facilities.
Mr.BLAKELEY. - The definition in the Bill reads as follows: - “Industrial matters” includes all matters relating to work, pay, wages, reward, hours, privileges, rights, or duties of- employers or employees, or the mode, terms and conditions of employment or non-employment; and in particular, but without limiting the general scope of this definition, includes all matters pertaining to the relations of employers and employees, and the employment, preferential employment, dismissal, or non-employment of any particular persons, or of persons of any particular sex or age, or being or not being members of any organization, association, or body, and any claim arising under an industrial agreement, and includes all questions of what is fair and right in relation to any in dustrial matter having regard to the interests of the persons immediately concerned and of society as a whole.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) and the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) say that that definition is proof positive that everything necessary is provided to enable costs of production, selling prices, and similar necessary information to be obtained. As a matter of fact, it has beencopied word for word, and comma for comma from the existing Act, and according to the High Court there is not now the power to do whatis necessary, although those honorable members claim that it can be done under the Industrial Peace Bill. While the Government were copying from the existing arbitration legislation, they might well have copied those provisions which provide for the representation of organizations. They should not have provided a loop-hole for bogus organizations to get in and crowd out bona fide organizations. Bogus organizations are constantly springing up in this country. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned some of them. They are the tools of the employing class. There was the Machine Shearers Union, which was organized, subsidized, and carried on by the pastoralists in order to break up the Australian Workers Union; and it failed signally. Then there was Packer’s Union here, and a bogus union connected with the Brisbane tramways. Scab organizations are even now in existence in some parts of Australia. We had members of this Chamber and of the Senate - ex-Labour men - going round organizing a scab union of waterside workers. There are scab unions in New South Wales to-day, and there were recently scab unions in Western Australia. Under the Bill these organizations, though patently subsidized and kept going by the employers, may get preference over bond fide organizations. It is not necessary even to create a bogus organization to crowd out the bona fide organization. It is possible for the Government, through its nominee, the Chairman, to say who shall be called. At the present time there is a strike in the pastoral industry, and under the Bill some of the tools of the pastoralists could be called before the tribunal. Of course, the workers would not acknowledge the decisions of the tribunal; but it is a fact that the Australian Workers
Union could be disregarded by the tribunal, and unrepresentative persons allowed to pretend to speak for the industry.
– That would not shear the sheep.
– No ; and it should not be allowed. Had the arbitration law been amended as was promised on halfadozen occasions by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and by Mr. Watt, when Acting Prime Minister, the present strike would not be in progress. My organization, the Australian Workers Union, is fighting - and will win, because it is fighting for a dear principle - to secure a forty-four hours’ week. The pastoralists of Victoria, of SouthernRiverina, which is a fairly big slice of New South Wales, and those of West Darling, and of South Australia, have agreed to the forty-four hours’ week, with Queensland rates of pay - £2 per 100, and so on; buta few of the pastoralists of New South Wales - I should say less than 30 per cent. of all the pastoralists affected by the new conditions - have allowed themselves to be used by the Chambers of Commerce and Manufactures and the vested interests generally, and are putting up a fight. However, there will be no shearing upon conditions other than those laid’ down by the Australian Workers Union, to which practically the whole pastoral industry of Australia has agreed. The Bill provides for councils, tribunals, and Boards. There is to be the Commonwealth Council, consisting of three representatives of the employers and three representatives of the employees, who will not necessarily represent organizations. It is necessary that that should be made clear. I intend to move in Committee that no person shall be allowed to go before these bodies unless representing an organization. There is no industry in Australia that is not covered now by a bond fide organization. To allow the “rag-tag “ of the industrial world to pretend to represent the trade unionists, the genuine workers, will not tend to industrial peace. The chairman of the Commonwealth Council is to be appointed by the Government. I am not certain that that is a good thing, though if the Labour party werein power I would say that the provision was a sound one. I am quite frank in that statement. The worker creates all wealth, and, therefore, should have the greatest say as to its disposition. Again, there are district councils, to be nominated by the Government, and to consist of an equal number of employers and employees; on which, again, persons who do not represent organizations may have seats. That is not proper. Only representatives of bona fide organizations should be appointed. Then there are the special tribunals, the chairmen of which are to be elected by the parties if they can agree, failing which, the Government is to make the appointments. I think that the provision relating to the appointment of the chairman of a special tribunal should apply also to the appointment of the chairmen of the Commonwealth Council and of district councils. If it is a good enough provision for the special tribunals which are to be created to meet crises, it is a good enough provision for the other two bodies. Then there are to be local Boards, whose chairmen are to be appointed “as prescribed.” I object, as I have done before, to legislating by prescription, or regulation. To provide that the Governor-General in Council may prescribe the manner of appointing the chairmen of local Boards is practically to provide that the Government may nominate them. A local Board is to consist of its chairman, and an employer and an employee, and here again there need be no representation of organizations. It is an extraordinary coincidence that the scheme of this Bill - the various bodies to be created were given different names - was recently given publicity by a body calling itself the “ People’s Federation of Returned Soldiers and Citizens” of which Mr. Pimentel is president. I do not know whether it is a wing of the National party, though from his speeches I should think that it is.
– How many wings has the Nationalist party got?
– The honorable member belongs to one of them. So interesting is the coincidence, that I intend to read Mr. Pimentel’s proposals : -
Provisions Suggested fob Incorporation in a Bill to Normalize Industry and Eliminate Industrial Turmoil.
People’s Federation of Returned Soldiers and Citizens. 195 Little Collins-street,
Further to our previous correspondence on the subject of the campaign to normalize industry and eliminate industrial turmoil, I desire to draw your attention to a resolution of the executive at their meeting on 20th April.
Resolution. “ That the members of the Federal and
State Parliament in sympathy with the campaign be elected to the Parliamentary Committee, and that, the chairman be requested to convene a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee immediately.”
The meeting referred to will be held in the Masonic Hall on Tuesday, 25th May, at 11.15 a.m., and I would like you to let me know whether you will attend, so that arrangements may be made for your accommodation.
At the meeting the legislative aspect of the campaign will be considered. We are relying upon you to play a leading part in this urgent public campaign to normalize industry and eliminate industrial unrest. Please see attached.
I am wondering just where this idea came from. I am wondering whether, in May last, this wing of the National party was given a hint to get busy and do some propaganda work, just as in the case of the Farmers and Settlers Association, who were told to get busy in 1917 in order to get rid of Mr. Justice Higgins. The proposition set forth in the document emanating from the People’s Federation of Returned Soldiers and Citizens is, with merely a series of changes of names, a replica of the Bill; or, perhaps, I should say that the Bill is, with those same changes, a replica of the provisions contained in the document. For example, the statement refers to the Supreme Court; the Bill speaks of a Commonwealth Council. The statement alludes to State Courts; the Bill speaks of District Councils. In the document there is reference to Justices ; the Bill mentions Local Boards. In the former there is reference to a Court of Industrial Review ; whereas the Bill refers to special tribunals. The coincidence right through is altogether extraordinary.
– This is portion of a campaign which has been conducted for four years with the intention of getting rid of Mr. Justice Higgins. And the campaign will succeed. I venture to say that within four months Mr. Justice Higgins will not be President of the Arbitration Court.
– You must have got some inside information.
– That may be so. The Government have started out with a bludgeon to enforce industrial peace, whether the workers want it or not. The industrialists have not been consulted. No organization has been consulted regarding the provisions of the Bill. “Whether it is the intention of the Government to take action in that direction, I cannot say. I know that at Bendigo, some seven or eight months ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) stated that it was his intention to call an industrial conference immediately. It has not yet been called. While the Prime Minister will not call a conference of industrialists only, he states that when such a conference has been called, if those attending it agree upon suggestions, he will immediately amend the Bill in order to suit the wishes of the representatives gathered there. I wonder whether that promise is not on a par with the many promises made by the Prime Minister during the past three years, particularly in regard to amending the Arbitration Act in order to provide the Court with greater powers, and to give unions better facilities for having their cases heard. I am not sure that this Bill will do as the Prime Minister seeks to provide. I can see two tribunals overlapping, in respect of a particular industry, where the lines of demarcation may be very hard to define. Unless the Government are prepared to accept suggestions from the unions, and from honorable members on this side, how can they hope to bring about that industrial harmony so much desired, not only by the workers, but by the whole of the people? It is an effort worth while to achieve that harmony; but if it is sought by means of the guillotine, by means of curt refusals to permit consideration of the Government’s projects by those who will be most affected thereby, how can the Government expect to bring about industrial harmony? They will never so achieve it. Unless the Government are prepared to listen to suggestions, this Bill will not be worth the paper on which it is printed. Industrial peace cannot be secured unless the Government are prepared to listen to the views of the organizations. The Government have refused to do so. Therefore, this measure will go the way of those other Bills which have been passed, not in the interests of the workers, but of certain other people in the community.
– I cannot understand the opposition displayed to this measure. The debate, so far, has not been a criticism of the Bill itself, but a threat, or a warning, of what may happen. It has been a relation of what the Government may do in the direction of making appointments of certain biased men. If tribunals are to be appointed to settle industrial troubles, the proper authorities for bringing these bodies together are the Government, being the chosen representatives of the people themselves. The title of this Bill might well be, “ A Bill for an Act to prevent industrial trouble.” Prevention is better than cure. We should do all that is possible to aid arbitration.
– Arbitration has been killed by your Government.
– How ?
– Forty-two cases are now awaiting hearing by the Arbitration Court.
– I agree that those cases should not be waiting, that there should not be such congestion ; but it should not be forgotten that we have been passing through abnormal times.
– You have plenty of Judges.
– That may be so, but what encouragement is there when we listen to criticism of judgments and awards by the Arbitration Court? Mr. Justice Higgins may give a decision one way, and one side criticises it ; and, when his award goes the other way, it is abused from’ the other side. There has been a deal of innuendo and straight-out accusation to the effect that an organized effort is being made to get rid of Mr. Justice Higgins. I have never heard of any attempt in that direction. It appears to me to be a very stupid thing for any honorable member to endeavour to prove that a section of the community is trying to get rid of a Judge because that section is opposed to his work in the Arbitration Court.
– If the Standing Orders will permit, I will bet you that Mr. Justice Higgins will not be a Judge of the Arbitration Court four months hence.
– It is apparent that the honorable member must have some private information. The men who ought to cavil at this Bill are agitators who get their living by promoting strikes. I hope and believe we have none of those ‘gentry in this House. If there are such, however, they have every right to criticise the Government for introducing a measure of this kind.
– Where are these funny individuals ? I have never yet seen any of these funny men who promote strikes.
– Then the honorable member could never have looked into a mirror. I was surprised at a statement by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) - who, however, does make wild statements at times - to the effect that some thousands of pounds have been spent by an organization in securing an Arbitration Court award-
– It cost the Bootmakers Union £5,000 to get its award from the Arbitration Court.
– That is a strong argument in favour of this Bill. When the system of arbitration was inaugurated it was not proposed that there should be brought into activity an army of lawyers. It had been considered that the arbitration process would be conducted around a table, directly between representatives of employers and employees. I do not think all the employees to-day are anxious for strikes and industrial trouble generally; nor are the employers. If the two parties were permitted to come together and agitators were left out, they would agree upon terms in nineteen out of twenty cases. It is generally recognised to-day that the worker is entitled to high wages; and we know full well that the Australian worker earns them.
Employers are commencing to realize that it is not the amount of wages, so much as the work done in return, that matters. They are content to pay good wages if they receive good value, and if men in most occupations are left alone they will give good value. High wages are no detriment to industry. The damage is done by the go-slow policy, and the whisperings of walking delegates, who say to the workers, “ You have matters in your own hands; you need not work hard unless you choose.” I have looked at this measure closely, and I am very interested in it, because I deny that the men who are striving to secure industrial peace and to provide good conditions of living for the workers are all on one side of the House. I know of men on this side of the House who are willing to go just as far as honorable members opposite to insure that the workers have a fair deal. If honorable members were to visit the station of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) they would find all his employees contented. Men. of his type have a strong sympathy with the working man. I appeal, to honorable members opposite not to be continually creating class prejudices, and persisting in the doctrine that, because a man employs labour, he has no sympathy with the labourer. I employ labour, but, having worked strenuously myself, I have a high regard for the Australian working man. Most employers realize nowadays that it does not matter how much they pav in wages so long as they get proportionate value. I ask the practical men on the Opposition side to assist the Government in making this measure perfect.
– We offered them, this morning, a conference with the trade unionists of Australia, and they turned it down.
– It seems to me that a conference with either trade unionists or employers would not be as effective as a round-table gathering of the parties at which each could ascertain the other’s views. We desire employer and employee to realize that capital and labour must work hand in hand if the country is to be successfully developed. The harm is done by those who seek to sow seeds of dissension, and they are not all on the side of the employees. Some employers are now reaping the harvest of their old Conservative ideas. I am strongly in favour of this Bill, because I think it represents a step in the right direction. It is an honest attempt to bring capital and labour together. If it is followed up by a consultation with men who desire to .put oil, and not vinegar, in the industrial machinery, good will result. It does not matter who appoints the chairman or umpire. If the Government appoint an official who is unfair, he will jolly soon be brought to book. Thank God in this country we get little of that “ boss-ism “ that is rampant in other countries. Government officials in Australia have a pretty good record, and it has always been a pleasure to me, as a member of Parliament, to find Public Service officials who will stand up to Ministers, and even to crowds, in order to do the thing they consider right. Many of the big public officials in this country are a credit to it; we ought to be proud of them, and this House ought to be chary of traducing their characters, even by innuendo. We should avoid, also, any incentive to industrial strife. Honorable members talk about the machinery of this measure overlapping existing machinery; even if there were double and treble overlapping, would that not be better than the wretched state of affairs that exists at Broken Hill to-day?
– Do not lose sight of the fact that forty-two unions are waiting to have their cases heard by the’ Arbitration Court.
– I agree that the Government ought to be taken to task over that matter. There are plenty of Judges to do that work, and it ought to be done at once. The Government take a big responsibility when they delay making adequate provision for the settlement of industrial strife, because any one of these unions could, by a strike, upset the commercial life of the community. The Bill will have my strongest support, and I appeal to honorable members not to regard it in a party spirit. Its purpose is to prevent industrial strife and to establish certain and settled conditions. The employee requires good wages and a certainty of working full time, but the capitalist also requires settled conditions. The surest way to meet those requirements is to give reasonable security against the possibility of industrial, disturbance. I appeal to honorable members to make an earnest effort to seriously consider the proposal and put forward any amendments that will tend to improve the measure. I shall be glad to vote with honorable members who propose anything that will mean better conditions for the man who toils, because, in the past, we have not given him the consideration to which he is entitled. To-day he is demanding it; let us give it to him without strife. I believe this Bill will tend in that direction, and for that reason it will have my support.
: - I regret the circumstances in which this Bill was introduced; it resembles very much an infant strangled at its birth. There was some hope of a successful outcome for it if the Government had proved their willingness to meet that body of the community which is directly concerned in the merits and - demerits of this legislation. But the door was practically slammed in the face of the organized forces of labour, and it will be found that they will show great reluctance’ to knock again. If the Government had a sincere desire to overcome the difficulties that confront us in the industrial sphere, they would have been only too pleased to avail themselves of the opportunity afforded them here this afternoon. I have been in consultation with leading representatives of organized labour in Melbourne, and I can verify the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), that up till this afternoon they had rather an open mind as to the possibilities of this Bill, although they recognised that its terms are very vague and indefinite, and will require considerable amendment before they will be satisfactory to the great forces of labour. After the experience of this afternoon, however, I am afraid there will exist an atmosphere of suspicion which will render the success of the Bill almost impossible. I have an honest and sincere desire to discover some solution for the very perplexing problem of industrial unrest, but I recognise that the cause of the trouble is . deeply rooted in the present economic ‘ system. Until such time as we adopt a system which will do greater justice to all parties, and observe the principles of equity to a greater extent than does the present system, and which will prevent avarice and greed taking- advantage of the misfortune of the humbler sections of society, we shall not achieve . that social and economic condition that we are so desirous of inaugurSting. Organized labour must not be regarded as simply a decreasingly important adjunct to the industrial machine, but as a council among councils, with rights and responsibilities. This afternoon, however, there was, practically, an intimation from the Government that it did not recognise that organized labour is entitled to claim any voice in respect to its responsibilities and rights. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) has said that the promotion of strikes is largely attributable to the agitator. If that is the impression of the honorable member, he certainly does not do credit to the working classes. I have been closely connected with industrial organizations since it has been my duty, as a unit of the working classes, to have to shoulder the responsibilities of providing for myself and later those dependent upon me; and I have recognised that the worker is not always prepared to accept the dictum of those who may be regarded, or spoken of, as alleged agitators. Very often the worker is apt to take rather a conservative view, and is very careful in taking any forward steps.In the organization to which I happen to belong, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, before we can take the extreme step which requires the leaving of employment, it is necessary to have a secret ballot, so that the rank and file may be able, without any influence of an undue character, to voice their opinions ; and that principle is observed in the majority of industrial organizations. Industrial unrest is not the consequence of the agitation, or - shall I say ? - the action of what are regarded as alleged - irresponsible individuals, but the consequence of a feeling within the heart and mind of the worker that he 13 subject to conditions that are unjust. We know what the circumstances and conditions of the working classes have been throughout the ages; and those classes recognise that there has been a tightening of the economic conditions under which they labour. They wish to be- free of the conditions which to-day are preventing them from enjoying the higher opportunities and privileges of life. Are there those who still think that the working man cannot appreciate the good things of life as well as can any other person? He does not, however, have the opportunity, nor do his wife and dependants, to avail themselves of these good things. These are among the causes of industrial unrest. It is not because a few ‘of advanced ideas speak to a “body of men and get them to follow blindly; it is because the working classes realize that they have been, and are, subject to great imposition - that they are the unfortunate victims of the greed and avarice of the financial and commercial institutions of this and other countries - that they are dissatisfied.
As to the Bill. I would not like to say there are not some redeeming features in it, but its indefinite nature makes it unacceptable to any honorable member on this side, without amendments, to amply protect organized labour.
– What amendments do you desire?
– A number has- been suggested in the course of the discussion. In my opinion, the appointment of the chairmen of the various tribunals, councils, and Boards should be free from any political influence; but the Bill practically gives to the Government the power to select those who are to be the judges in the cases that come forward. We need not endeavour to fool ourselves; we must know well that there are two factions in every community, more materially concerned in legislation of this nature .; there are those who represent the financial and commercial interests, and there are those who represent the workers.
– They are not necessarily enemies.
– There is a growing feeling that their interests are .diametrically opposed - and’ it will require every provision of candour on the part of employers, to bridge that difficulty that has been created. In the political life of the country, there are the representatives of the working classes, the great forces of organized labour, and there are those who are opposed to Labour, and the latter are those who at the present time hold the reins of administration in this country - the Government of to-day. I believe there are men on both sides of the House who have a desire to honorably find a way out of our industrial difficulties ; but I feel that, consciously or unconsciously, the appointments made by these persons will give one side an advantage over the other. That being so, the Bill in this respect is not acceptable to the forces of organized labour.
– Who should make the appointments?
– It would not do any harm if such important appointments were made by the people - if these chairmen were elected just as we are elected to this House.
– This Government claims to represent the people, because it is the Government in office.
– If the members of the Country party had done what might have been reasonably expected of them, the present Government would not now be in a position to claim that they represent anything like the opinions of the people of the country.
– Would you have trusted their successors to make the appointments ?
– Prom what we have seen since the inception of this particular Parliament, I am afraid that the Country party is almost impossible, and that we on this side, and those whom we represent, can look for little from them, so far as concerns the conservation and preservation of the interests of the working classes.
– That is only your opinion.
– It is not only my opinion, but the opinion of the great bulk of the community whom we represent; indeed, it almost appears as if there is some honorable understanding between the Government and the Country party when it comes to a vital issue.
– Do you say “honorable?”
– It would be distinctly unparliamentary for me to suggest any other term. A similar Bill to this was introduced in New Zealand just recently with a view to overcoming some trouble that was threatening in the coal industry there; but I believe that it has not provided the desired industrial balm. Then, again, the idea suggested in the Bill is not a new one, seeing that President Wilson introduced a somewhat similar measure in the United States of America during the period of the war; and we know how hopeless things became in America from an industrial stand-point. What is required is some means by which the prices of commodities and the necessaries of life can be fixed at the same time as are wages and conditions. It has been proved that no sooner does the working man obtain an improvement in his wages and conditions, than the advantage is taken away from him owing to the manner in which the cost of living is increased by the commercial institutions of the country.
– The employer passes it on?
– Absolutely, and adds more for himself; and the position thus becomes more acute. The Prime Minister has given us the assurance that this Bill is introduced with the idea of supplementing the Arbitration Court, but clause 17 is a provision for superseding that Court. It reads as follows: -
Notwithstanding anything in this Act, if a special tribunal is satisfied that abnormal circumstances have arisen which affect the fundamental justice of any terms of an award made by the Court, the tribunal may set aside or vary any terms so affected.
We ought to be able to establish a medium whereby there will not be so much overlapping.
– The Arbitration Court should have been given that power long ago.
– That is quite correct. If it had been given that power it could have dealt more effectively with the claims before it. The trouble is that there is so much duplication of evidence, which has to be given over and over again when one set ought to be sufficient to enable an award to be made in respect to several claims. The consequence is that it is sometimes two years before an award is given. The organization of which I am a member has had its case prepared for some considerable time past, but has not been able to submit it to the Court, and the possibility is that when it does reach the Court eventually a new set of circumstances may prevail. If we had concentrated our efforts on making the present forms of arbitration more effective by expediting the hearing of and the giving of awards, by enabling the Court to make its decisions more effective by controlling the cost of living, and by eliminating some of the great cost involved in approaching the Court, we would have achieved a greater measure of industrial peace than we have had in recent years.
– This Bill is intended to avoid a lot of that.
– In addition to the great amount of duplication in the hearing of cases, there are so many opportunities for appeal that the continual use of the power to appeal causes awards to be held in abeyance, and the maintenance of this power may be the means of creating greater industrial unrest than we have at the present time. The present position is that arbitration may be regarded as an economic fallacy, because we are endeavouring to smooth out industrial difficulties without removing the causes.
– Hear, hear ! We have here a Bill which says, “ Come and let us reason together.”
– But this afternoon the right honorable gentleman was not prepared to give an opportunity for that reasoning. He would not allow organized labour to meet the Government and give them the benefit of their advice and assistance. When we find that at the very inception the Government are not prepared to accept the advice and assistance of the workers, we have cause to doubt their anxiety to find a solution for industrial unrest, and may have cause to believe that there is something behind this Bill which may have the opposite effect. For a long time past the employers in Australia have not been too pleased with compulsory arbitration. I have with me a report of a lecture given by Mr. H. Y. Braddon on compulsory arbitration, in which he was any thing but favorable to the principle. A copy of the lecture was forwarded to honorable members, and the covering letter put forward the statement that “ in view of the unsatisfactory experience of compulsory arbitration some alternative method more likely to set up satisfactory relations between capital and labour should be evolved “ ; and the Government was urged to call a convention representative of employers and employees. I have come to the belief that this legislation now before us is the outcome very largely of that feeling of dissatisfaction which prevails among Chambers of Commerce and Chambers of Manufacturers in the Commonwealth. At a conference held in April last. Mr. H. V. McKay repeated certain words used by the Prime Minister to the effect that the Arbitration Act was perhaps the most unfortunate and futile effort that had ever come out of the laboratory of any industrial workshop, and said the time had arrived for the absolute abolition of the Act.
– Many tribunals would indorse that opinion, foolishly, I think.
– That may be so in regard to arbitration as we have it to-day, because of the congestion at the Court.
– No, they would indorse it in respect to the principle generally.
– I believe that there is a big section of the working community who favour the principle of arbitration, but that alone will not give us a complete solution of our industrial difficulties. Nothing but a change of those circumstances which allow one section of the people to take advantage of the other section, and to impose on them such exactions as merely help to satisfy their greed, will ever give satisfaction to those who have advanced thoughts upon industrial and economic matters.
– Do you not think a change of spirit will go a long way?
– There will need to be a great change, both of mind and heart, on the part of the employers. The working man is the person who has been subjected to grave injustice for many years.
– There must be a change of spirit on both sides.
– Sins of commission are more apparent on the side of the employers and the capitalistic forces generally of this and other countries, than of those whom I represent.
It appears that there is some desire to supersede the Arbitration Court. A feeling of dissatisfaction has prevailed among the employing section with many of the judgments given by Mr. Justice Higgins, and they think this is a favorable opportunity to rid themselves of one who has at least endeavoured to do his part in meting out justice to all sections of the community. This Bill could be made to do a great amount of good if it contained provisions safeguarding the rights of organized labour; but I want honorable members to recognise that it will not overcome all the industrial unrest that prevails, nor do I think it will minimize it to the extent that some honorable members opposite think it will. It gives a splendid opportunity to the one who is charged with administering it to determine its influence either for good on for evil. No doubt the Prime Minister himself will have a great say in the administration of the Act, but opinions have been expressed regarding him which do not fill us with confidence in the success of the measure if he has to administer it. His dictatorial manner does not give us assurance of his success in this capacity. Mr. O. C. Beale, speaking at the same conference of manufacturers as I mentioned earlier, said, “ They would agree that all the wisdom of the ages was not contained in William Morris Hughes.”
– What a fearful thing for him to say!
– I have no doubt that at one time the honorable member would have agreed with Mr. Beale, and even expressed himself in a more pronounced manner.
– I subscribe to every word of that sentence.
– The skeleton nature of this Bill is very unsatisfactory. It is certainly the skeleton in the industrial cupboard. The Bill will give little or no opportunity to establish industrial peace, unless it is considerably amended. Those who are to act on the various Judiciaries must be strictly nonpartisan, and free from political influences if they are to command the entire confidence of both sides, and of the public as a whole. Only by these means, and by safeguarding the rights of organized labour, will we have any guarantee of freedom in the future from the conditions which create industrial unrest, uncertainty, and dissatisfaction, most of which arises from the knowledge that justice is not done to those to whom justice is due.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Atkinson) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 August 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200804_reps_8_92/>.