8th Parliament · 1st Session
TheClerk, reported tie unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, (Hon. J.M. Chanter) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed the report in to-day’s Argus to the effect that the miners have deliberately slowed down to reduce the outputof coal, and is he aware that Mr. C. James, the District Superintendent of Railways in New South Wales reports that the April haulage of coal was 448,653 tons, the May haulage 568,771 tons, and the June haulage 489,250 tons? The’ July figures have not yet been ascertained, but I can say that they are in excess of those I have given, which Mr. James declares to be records, proving that there is no foundation for the newspaper statement.
– I have not seen the Argus statement, and am not in a position to say anything about the matter, since I know nothing, of the facts.
– It is the publication of misstatements maligning the men that is doing much to bring about trouble. .
– Can the Prime Minister tell the House and the country when relief will be given to the sugar refiners? Men are out of work for want of raw’ sugar to refine. Can the right. honorable gentleman say when the position will again be normal?
– My information is that the trouble has arisen through the lateness of the crop and the difficulty in bringing raw sugar to Melbourne; but as these have now beenalmost overcome, things will soon be normal. However, I shall ascertain the precise particulars for which the honorable member asks, and furnish them to the House at the next sitting.
– I ask the Postmaster-General if Australia is to be represented at the Postal Union Conference to be held in Madrid, and, if so, who is to represent’ this country there?
– I have already said that the Secretary to the Postal Department, Mr. Oxenham, will do so.
– Who is going with him ?
– No one.
– The honorable member should go.
-Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that there is a butter famine in New South Wales, and that the impression is strongly held that butter is being kept back to obtain higher prices for it? Can the honorable gentleman say when the position is likely to be relieved ?
– I understand that the butter which was put by in New South Wales for winter use has been practically exhausted, and that further supplies can be obtained only by drawing from Queensland. - That can be done if those controlling the prices of butter in New South Wales will allow such prices to be charged as will enable butter to be bought in Queensland and brought to New South Wales.
– In view of the fact that it is not considered derogatory in the United Kingdom that the amount of allowances, salaries, and wages paid to the King, his Ministers, Judges of all the Courts, public servants, members of Parliament, officers, and privates of the Navy and Army should be published and thus made widely known, will the Prime Minister request his Cabinet to. consider the advisability of publishing, in a special number of the Commonwealth Government Gazette, a list of all persons in Australia who are in receipt of salary or wages of £750 per annum and upwards, as shown by the Federal income tax returns, giving the amount of income tax paid opposite the names of those who pay it, and showing also the value of war bonds and stock of other loans held by each of these persons? Will he also make public similar information regarding the public, proprietary, and other companies of Australia, so that the citizens of this country may readily ascertain if such persons have done their duty to their country in its past and present difficulties?
– The answer to the question is “ No.”
– It is stated in the newspapers that a date has been fixed for the taking of the next census. Is it the intention of the Government to insert in the census form questions similar to those asked during the war, when a wealth census was taken ?
– The matter has not been considered by the Government. The ordinary census is taken under a Statute. The honorable gentleman knows why the wealth census was taken, and he may be able to show reasons for taking another census of the kind. An opportunity will be given him to do so, and if he can make out a case, the Government will consider it.
– I wish to know from the Minister for Trade and Customs if he has been restored to his usual health, and, if so, whether he will explain why he has re*ceived some, and declined to receive other, deputations on the Tariff, which is of serious moment to the people of this country.
– I believe that I have been restored to my usual health, but as there are only twenty-four hours in the day, and I am a busy man, I have -to discriminate between deputations which appear to me to be important and those whose purposes can be served by the putting of their representations in writing.
– It depends on where a member sits in this Chamber.
– I understand that the honorable member is interested in a deputation which has some connexion with plumbing.
– Plumbing only.
– The Prime Minister courteously promised to obtain for me in formation respecting the salaries and wages paid to all the officials connected with Parliament; but the information which has been given concerns the officials of one House only, and if there has been any sweating, it has been in the Departments under the control of the President of the Senate. As the Estimates are coming on, I have a right to the whole of the information for which I asked.
– You’ have received the information you want respecting the officials of this House
– Some of it, not all. I have been side-tracked, I believe, by Senator Givens.
– I shall speak to Mr. President on the subject.
Royal Australian Navy Ratings - First Lower Deck Welfare Joint Conference - Grand Fleet Fund - Badges, Royal Australian Naval Brigade
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for theNavy, upon notice -
Now that the Royal Australia n Naval Brigade Reserve has been disbanded, and as a recognition of. its splendid services in the past and during the war, will the Minister comply with the wish of officers and men who were retained for home service, that a badge may be issued to them?
– A badgehas alreadybeen issued to members of the Royal Australian. Naval Brigade who volunteered for active service, but were compulsorily retained for service in Australia.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in order to get through Government business and allow time for private members’ business, the Government will ask the House to meet on Thursday and Friday mornings at 10 o’clock?
– If it is found that the hours now fixed for sittings of the House do not permit of satisfactory progress being made with Government business, the question of asking the House to alter the existing arrangements will be considered by the Government. In this connexion, I would invite the honorable member’s attention to the reply given by me to a question by the honorable member for Wakefield yesterday. I also desire to remind the honorable member that, on Friday last, when submitting a motion to. the House that on each sitting day, unless otherwise ordered, Government business should take precedence of general business, I intimated that the Government would be prepared to allow a week to private members’ business at the close of the session.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made in this matter, and a reply will be furnished when they are complete.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Government has announced its intention of inviting the House to increase the present limit from £700 to£800, and a Bill to give effect to this will shortly be introduced.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will arrange for the erection of crosses over the unmarked graves of soldiers buried in the Commonwealth?
– Replies which have now been received from the next of kin of returned soldiers buried in the Commonwealth disclose that there are some 400 or 500 with incomplete graves. Action which would involve the concurrence of the next of kin is now being considered.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that he has promised to bring in a Bill to provide for the Constitution Convention, will he insert a clause which will give the people of Australia an opportunity of expressing their opinion on the question of any further moneys being expended at Canberra?
– The Convention can, if it thinks fit, recommend the amendment of the section of the Constitution providing for a Federal Capital.
The following paper was presented : -
Audit Act. - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial year 1919-20 - Dated 27th July, 1920.
– Before we proceed with other business, I should like an opportunity to move a motion which stands in the name of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration
Act. If leave be given, I shall lay the Bill on the table, a step which will be helpful to honorable members in the discussion of the Industrial Peace Bill.
.- The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), who is ill and unable to be here to-day, has a notice of motion contingent on the motion which the Prime Minister desires to move. If the Prime Minister does move the - motion on behalf of the Minister for Works and Railways, will it then be competent for any other honorable member, on behalf of the honorable member for West Sydney, to move that contingent notice of motion ? My only desire is to guard the interests of honorable members on this side.
– That contingent notice of motion does not prevent the Bill being introduced. All I desire is to have the Bill read a first time when it will be competent for an honorable member to move the motion in the name of the honorable member for West Sydney.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes, for Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-18.
Mr.DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J.
.- I move -
That Mr. Deputy Speaker’s ruling - That the Industrial Peace Bill is properly before the House for discussion - be dissented from.
This is not a party question : as a matter of fact, I do not expect a vote from this side of the House, while I claim every vote on the other side. I have been a member of this Chamber for fourteen years, and I have never before objected to a Speaker’s ruling. My experience has shown me that if we keep to the Standing Orders in the conduct of debate, we are on sound lines, whereas, if we leave the Standing Orders and base our procedure on alleged established precedent, or partly established precedent, we find ourselves on dangerous ground. The Industrial Peace Bill is one that very much concerns Australia, and I am sorry to have to take an objection of this kind on such a measure. I might, however, have to wait a long time, or create an opportunity, to show how dangerous it is - though I might use stronger language - to accept by a party vote the ruling of the Speaker or Deputy Speaker, merely on some precedent that may have been established at some time or other, without considering the effects it may have on future developments here. As to the Jerger case, to which the Deputy Speaker has alluded, the peculiar point is that a discussion was allowed on it in another place, though it was ruled out of order here. On that occasion, when I was addressing the Chamber on the Jerger case, the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) objected to my continuing.
– The honorable member must not discuss the Jerger case.
– I submit that I must refer to that case in some slight degree, because my present action is based on the decision then given. The Treasurer made his objection on the ground that there was nothing in the Standing Orders that dealt with the point - that it was simply a question of taste.In order to stop the discussion you, sir, had to refer to the practice of the House of Commons, which, as we know, is based on precedents established in days gone by. To this I object; and submit that it is bad at law, or, at any rate, contrary to common sense, to rule that no matter what case is before a Court, or what is done in regard to it, that case shall not be discussed here. What is there particularly surrounding the name of Jerger that should make his case different from any other? The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), on the previous occasion, was not dealing with a case that was sub judice, but with a question that was being dealt with by Sir Robert Garran, as to the guilt of Jerger, while the casebefore the Court was in reference to the powers of the Commonwealth to deport. Such a ruling, if allowed to stand, will block business and land us up against a brick wall; and I was surprised that it should have been supported by honorable members opposite. As I say, it was foolish to block our business in this way, when the desired end could have been obtained in another way, without establishing any dangerous precedent. I believe in majority rule, and if I had charge of the House, with a majority, I would insist on ruling the House, but I would do it in a proper way. I would not get a decision from the Speaker to block procedure, but would move that the honorable member addressing the House be no longer heard, or that “ The question be now put.” That course would not establish an undesirable precedent, involving trouble on future occasions. My desire now is merely to show how bad that previous decision was, and I submit that the present case is one on all-fours. The Industrial Peace Bill concerns hundreds of thousands of workers, whose cases are before the Arbitration Court, and, therefore, sub judice. Will anybody say that the Industrial Peace Bill does not affect the Arbitration Court? Is it not “in the air” here that the Court is likely to be done away with ? At any rate, there are many honorable members opposite who believe that may be one of the results of this legislation, and if that be so, the Bill must be a deterrent to the carrying on of the business of the Court, and the giving of relief to the men who are before it. If the Jerger case was sub judice so are the present cases. As I said at the beginning, I do not expect votes from this side, but I do claim the votes of honorable members opposite, or an acknowledgment that they made a mistake in sup porting the Deputy Speaker’s ruling in the Jerger case. I appeal to the House in the interests of the progress of business to support the motion.
.- I am of opinion that your ruling, sir, was quite right; but it is absolutely opposed to the decision of the House with respect to a similar motion the other day.
– It is not.
– I think I am entitled to my own opinion on the matter. I do not propose to support the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) in his dissent from Mr. Deputy Speaker’s ruling; but he should certainly be able to claim the vote of every honorable member who supported the ruling and defeated the motion of dissent to which I have just alluded. However, if honorable members were now to carry this motion of dissent, the position would be that Parliament would not be able to discuss any Bill for the amendment of any Act which was involved in any Court case. I am convinced that honorable members behind the Government were in the wrong when they voted as they did the other day, but I do not propose to perpetuate that wrong by now placing myself in a false position. The honorable member, for Melbourne Ports was rightly incensed at being prevented from discussing a case which, although it was held to be sub judice, was not sub judice in the ordinary acceptation of the term. However, no good can be gained at this stage by objecting to the House proceeding with the Industrial Peace Bill on the ground that its subject-matter is sub judice. I take the view that the Bill is rightly before this Chamber, and that Mr. Deputy Speaker is in the right in permitting debate upon it. It would be a very serious position if Parliament found that it was unable to amend the Arbitration Act so long as there was a single case pending before the Arbitration Court.
– Hear, hear!
– The contention of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) that, because there are cases before the Federal Arbitration Court, this House has no right to discuss or legislate upon matters dealing with the subject of industrial unrest, has only to be stated in order to be ruled out of order. There is no connexion between his contention and the well-established .practice of every British Parliament, namely, that while a case is actually before a Court, Parliament shall not be made a platform for the discussion of its merits or demerits “ - so, possibly, influencing the presiding Judge or the jury. There is nothing in the Industrial Peace Bill which could influence or interfere with the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court in the matter of cases before it at this moment.
– Nor was there in the matter of the Jerger case.
– It is thoroughly well established that Parliament may not deal with matters which are sub judice; otherwise, there would be no such thing as ‘trial by jury. Judgments would, in effect, be passed by politicians from the floor of Parliament, in that they would be inflaming the people either for or against a case in Court. Juries might easily be influenced ; Judges themselves might be swayed; and there would be an end of British justice. The issue involved in the previous motion of dissent, to which allusion has been made, had to do with the point whether or not a certain case was sub judice. Whether it was or not I do not know; but the fact is that it was so reported to Mr. Speaker. And, if the case was sub judice, Parliament had no right to discuss it. However, I emphasize that there is no con-‘ nexion between that matter and the issue raised by the present motion of dissent. I hope honorable members will vote unanimously against it.
– I take the opportunty to protest against a decision of this House with, respect to a recent ruling from the Chair. If honorable members who then voted in support of that ruling were right, they are bound now to stand behind the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews). A legal member of Cabinet said a certain case was sub’ judice. Two. legal gentlemen on this side of the House said it was not sub judice.’ The Government could not be blamed for accepting the views of their advisers ; but they must remember that the same technicality was not availed of in another place, where debate was freely permitted.
– Order! I ask the honorable member not to deal with that matter. The House has already decided it.
– The fact merely proves to my mind that honorable members who voted to uphold the ruling in question were wrong. However, the Industrial Peace Bill is urgent and possesses great potentialities, and I trust that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will be satisfied with having made his protest and moved his motion of dissent.
Question resolved in the negative.
Bill presented by Sir Joseph Cook for Mr. Hughes.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
I desire to table with the measure a memorandum setting out the interpretation of its subject-matter.
– What will become of the contingent notice of motion of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), to which I have already referred? Will the honorable member be enabled to move his motion at the second-reading stage ?
– The motion canbe moved as an amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Debate resumed from 5th August (vide page 3343), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I have been struck throughout the debate with the fact that very little attention has been devoted to the subject-matter of the Bill itself. Much of the discussion has been “ up in the -air.” I complain ‘that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) should have provided honorable members with such a meagre explanation of the provisions of this measure. The right honorable gentleman spoke of industrial unrest being world wide. Honorable members know all about that, and they know that Australia, perhaps, of all the countries in the world, is suffering the least from industrial unrest. The honorable member forFlinders (Mr. Bruce) spoke last night of the terrific amount of unrest existing in Great Britain and in France, and he pointed out how, in the former country, steps had been taken to deal with the problem. The honorable member referred to the establishment of the Whitley councils, but he really defeated his own arguments when he admitted that, despite their inauguration and wide activities, there is greater unrest in Britain to-day than ever before.
– I do not think the honorable member said that.
– He stressed the point.
– The honorable member for Flinders remarked that industrial unrest was greater than in Australia.
– Honorable members know that ever since the inauguration of the Whitley councils industrial unrest has been intensified. I do not say that the fault is due to the establishment of those councils, or committees. In fact, the cause goes far deeper. Attempts to deal with industrial unrest are doomed to failure if we are going to limit those efforts to the fixing of wages and hours, while leaving the factor of the cost of living entirely untouched. As wages are increased, so does the cost of living rise. To-day the worker gets a slight increase in pay, and tomorrow his wife pays more than ever for the necessaries of life. We must go much more deeply into the whole business than merely to enter upon a discussion of increased wages. Whatever boards, or committees, or tribunals may be appointed, they must be invested with power, not only to fixwages and hours of labour, but to see that production and distribution costs are also properly controlled. It is a matter for regret that the Prime Minister could not see his way clear to accept the suggestion, made in good faith from this side of the House, that a conference of trade unions be called to consider this measure. Before any industrial legislation can succeed there must be established good-will and co-operation on the part of industrial bodies. What is the use of passing a Bill to control industries if the great organizations having to do with pastoral, agricultural, mining, and transport matters say, “We will have nothing to do with your legislation “ ? We shall not then be able to prevent industrial disputes; they will be intensified. Therefore, it is a matter for sincere regret that partyism compelled the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to refuse the genuine overtures from this side of the House, which would have given an opportunity of passing legislation likely to receive the co-operation and hearty good will of theindustrial organizations.
Certain vital principles must be observed before a success can be made of in- dustrial legislation. The first essential is the recognition of the organizations. Having been all my life connected with labour organizations, I assure the House that no legislation can be a success that does not acknowledge that principle. With the recognition of the organizations must go the principle of preference to unionists. Without it we cannot hope for industrial peace, because we cannot have effective collective bargaining with a disorganized body. Those two fundamental principles must be recognised if this legislation is to have any possible chance of removing industrial unrest.
The Prime Minister said that this measure was based to a large extent on the experience gained of the ship-building tribunal, but he omitted to tell the House that an essential condition of the success of that tribunal is that preference to unionists has been granted to every union that is a party to the ship-building agreement. The Prime Minister saidto the unions that if they were prepared to enter into the agreement offered by the Government a ‘ tribunal would be created, the unions would be recognised, and preference would be given to their members.It is not only ordinary preference, but an absolute monopoly of employment that has been given to the members of the trade organizations which are parties to the shipbuilding agreement. That is one of the principal reasons whythe ship-building tribunal has been such a success, and has been able to avoid the stoppage of work on many occasions. Another factor making for its success is its accessibility, and the quickness with which it operates. It comprises a chairman, who is very acceptable to the workers, a representative of the Government as the employer, and a direct representative of the trade unions. After all, the success or failure of boards, councils, and courts depends to a large extent on the personnel, and especially on she chairman. Men of the type of the chairman of the ship-buildingtribunal, Mr. Conington, would do much to make a success of industrial arbitration and Wages Boards. That tribunal is right at hand, and the moment a dispute arises it is dealt with, without formalities or technicalities.
– Will not the tribunals under this Bill work in the same way?
– Not unless the provisions of the Bill are amended. I repeat that the success of the ship-building tribunal is due primarily to the recognition of trade organizations, and the giving of preference to unionists; and, secondly, to the accessibility of the Board, and the speed with which it works. Those are conditions for which we must provide in this measure if it is to have any possible chance of success.
The Bill provides for the creation of a Commonwealth Council. What is this Council to be, and what will be its functions and powers? The Bill says that it shall be constituted in a certain way, and that it shall make inquiries into various matters, but its powers stop short at inquiry. It is to have no power of making or enforcing awards. It seems to me ridiculous that a measure designed to remove industrial unrest should constitute a body with merely investigatory powers. The proposed Council is to have no really effective power for good ; wha t is required is a body that has power, not only to inquire, hut to make awards, and enforce its decisions. We have not been told whether the members of the Council are to be paid, or whether the body itself is to be permanent, or merely called into existence now and then at the whim of the Minister. The Prime Minister ought to enlighten the House upon those points. He should tell us also how the representatives of the employees are to be elected. The Bill provides that they “ shall be appointed or elected in the prescribed manner.” The trade unions are not prepared to buy a pig in a poke. We want an assurance that the trade organizations will have the right to elect their own representatives upon the Council and the Boards. We are not prepared to give to the Minister the right to prescribe by regulation whether such a representative shall be appointed or elected. This Bill gives the Minister power to appoint as representative of the employees somebody who may be bitterly hostile to trade unionism.
– That has been done before.
-Of course it has. How can the trade unions be expected to accept this measure when it does not provide that they shall be able to elect the representatives of the workers ? If the Bill is not amended in that respect, the Government may as well withdraw it, because the unionists will have nothing to do with it. Another defect in the Bill is the absence of any definition of em’ployee. It speaks of “ representatives of employees,” but an employee may mean anybody. In the history of industrial strife, there have been occasions when small bodies of men have broken away from the unions, and attempted to work in spite of them. Under this Bill the Minister would have, the right to recognise those men as the employees in the industry. We shall not agree to that. If the Bill is to be acceptable to trade unionists, it must define an employee as a member of an organization in the industry.
– Would the honorable member shut out the soldier wharf labourers’ organization, in New South Wales, which did good work during the war?
– If the Minister wishes to bring about industrial peace, he must recognise the trade union organizations. I am stating exactly the attitude which the unions adopt. If the Governmen choose to ignore these requests, , they must take the consequences. It is well for the Government to understand clearly that certain fundamental principles must, be embodied in the Bill before they can hope it will succeed. If the Government decide to recognise some small body of men formed for the specific purpose of defeating the aims and objects of the trade unions’-
– There axe 1,200 men in the organization to which I referred.
– Am I to infer that this measure has been framed with the idea of giving those men preference inemployment, and the right to elect representatives on the Council and Boards?
– I have not said that.
– What other interpretation can I place on the Minister’s remarks? In the trade unions in New South Wales, there are 50 per cent, more returned soldiers than there are in any other organizations. Therefore, the mere formation of a bogus organization in the name of returned soldiers will not get the Government out of their difficulty. Returned soldiers are the backbone of trade unionism. They represent 70 or 80 per cent, of the unionists. These covert insults and sneers at the trade union movement will not help the Government to obtain industrial peace.
Then, again, we find that each District Council is to consist of a chairman and representatives of employees and employers, who are also “to be appointed or elected in the manner prescribed.” That, likewise, is too indefinite from our point of view. We wish to have it declared in the Bill itself that the trade union organizations shall be entitled to elect to the District Councils the representatives of the employees. A peculiar feature of the Bill is that neither the Commonwealth Council nor the District Council will be able to do more than make inquiries. They will have no real power. Each will have a sort of roving commission - running about making inquiries and incurring useless expense without any possibility of being able to do good work. We cannot achieve industrial peace in this way. Neither the Commonwealth Council nor the District Councils, as provided for in the Bill, will ‘be of any use in securing industrial peace.
I come now to a very important part of the Bill - that relating to the appointment of special tribunals. These, it seems to me, will alone have any real power. The provisions as to the Commonwealth Council ‘ and the creation of District Councils are ar.ere padding, and the Government would have avoided waste of paper -and time by omitting them. The only real bodies with any actual power for which this Bill provides are the special tribunals that may be created for the settlement of industrial disputes.
– And the local Boards.
– I shall deal presently with those Boards. Clause 14 is most significant. It provides that -
A special tribunal shall consist of an equal number of representatives of employers and employees respectively, together with a chairman. .
The Bill does not set out how or by whom these representatives are to be appointed or elected. I wish to make it quite clear that, so far as the Labour party is concerned, the absence of any provision in that regard gives rise to suspicion. .The Labour party wants to know who’ are to elect the members of these special tribunals, and whom, they are to represent.
– But the honorable member objects to the words “ in the maimer prescribed” in relation to the election of members of the Commonwealth Council and the District Councils.
– Certainly I do. I wish it to be laid down clearly that the trade union organizations shall elect the representatives of the employees.
– And what is to be done in regard to the election of representatives of the employers?
– They should be elected in precisely the same way by the Employers Associations. The Government have made provision for the election or appointment of representatives of employers and employees on bodies which will have no power, but we have nothing in the Bill to show how the members of the special tribunals, which will have almost unlimited power, are to be chosen. No one will say that the trade unions of Australia are prepared to accept such a scheme. It is not even provided that these special tribunals “ shall be elected in the manner prescribed.” That significant fact, taken in conjunction with the interjection made a few moments ago by the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) in reference to a certain organization in Sydney, leads me to view with suspicion clause 14. If we agree to the Bill asit stands, the organization in Sydney to which the Minister referred may be held by the Government to represent the employees, and they may select from such organizations the employees’ representatives on these tribunals. Therein lies the danger. Trade unionists cannot accept anything of the kind. If the Government are not going to set out clearly that the trade union organizations shall elect the representatives of the employees on the special tribunals, they might as well tear up the Bill. I tell them candidly that the coal miners organizations will not accept a measure which does not give them power to elect their own representatives, and the Transport Workers Federations of Australia, the Australian Workers Union, as well as other large organizations of labour, will take the same stand. The Bill is doomed to failure unless it be amended in the direction I suggest. If the Government really desire to pass a measure that will be acceptable to the trade unionists of the Commonwealth, they will do what I have urged.
The powers of these special tribunals will be extensive. It is declared in clause 15 that-
A special tribunal shall have cognisance -
of any industrial dispute referred to it by the persons or associations parties thereto . . .
Why is the word “ persons “ used ? Is it intended that a small body of men who, as we say, have “ scabbed “ on their trade union organizations, shall have the right to move these special tribunals to take action? If so, the trade unions will have nothing to do with the Bill. Another important provision is that contained in clause 17 -
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 is a far-reaching power to give these special tribunals, particularly having regard to the fact that trade organizations are not given the right to elect their representatives to them. We are afraid of this power. We do not know where it may lead us. We do not know who may constitute one of these tribunals. Traditional enemies of the trade union movement may be appointed to them. We are not prepared, therefore, to give them this wide and practically unlimited power. It is interesting, also, to consider the effect that the giving of this power will have upon the Conciliation and Arbitration Court itself. The Bill does not propose to abolish that Court. It is to remain just as it is to-day.
– Some honorable members of the Opposition have said that the Bill will absolutely wipe out the Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
– That may be its ultimate effect ; but I think that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), who is a lawyer, will agree that the Bill allows the Court to remain just as it is to-day.
– That is so.
– Legally it does not abolish the Court, although in actual practice these special tribunals may supersede it.
– It depends upon which tribunal industrialists who have disputes find the more suitable.
– And clause 17 gives the special tribunals power to vary awards of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. In other words, a minor body constituted of laymen will have power to override the decisions of a Justice of the High Court sitting as President or Deputy President of the Arbitration Court. I ask the honorable member for Fawkner to give his attention to that aspect of the question. What would be the attitude of the learned President of the Arbitration Court if he found that his awards were subject to review by a body of laymen?
– If a special tribunal ;s properly appointed, it will do much better than would any one single man.
– If it is properly appointed - if trade union organizations are allowed to directly elect their representatives to it - it will have a chance of success.
– The honorable member would give’ a special tribunal so elected power to vary anything.
– I do not say that. We are prepared to take a risk when representatives of the employees on a special tribunal are elected by trade union organizations, but we would not take the risk of allowing the Government to appoint as representatives of the employees men of whom we know nothing. We will not consent to members of the organization to which the Minister for Home and Territories alluded a few minutes ago being selected as representatives of the employees on these bodies. A Judge of the standing of the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court would not remain in that position for one moment if his decisions could be reviewed by a body such as is proposed in this clause.
– I am inclined to agree with the honorable member.
– I thought that the honorable member would. I should be very surprised to learn that High Court Justices of such standing would retain their position as President or Deputy President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court in such humiliating circumstances.
– The position would be the same if the Conciliation and Arbitration Act were amended as the honorable member has suggested. He has urged that the Court should be given power to vary its awards.
– It would be quite a different matter if the Court itself were given power to vary its own awards. The Court, with such a power, would prove very helpful. My own view is that if the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, with some improvements, were allowed to remain as it is to-day, and given power to vary its awards where necessary, it would prove a better means of dealing with industrial troubles than is provided for in the Bill. I am desirous that industrial machinery shall be provided which will be acceptable to the trade union movement, and will make industrial peace possible. The way to provide such machinery is to strengthen the Arbitration Court by giving it power to do those things which it now thinks should be done, but which it cannot do. It should be empowered to vary its awards, and to make inquiries affecting not only wages and hours of employment, but such other things as were indicated in the speech of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). I would give the Court power to appoint special tribunals. The measure gives this power to the proposed Commonwealth Council, but it is rightly the function. of the Arbitration Court. That Court might perhaps be reinforced by the appointment of a representative of the employers . and a representative of the employees to assist the President in the conduct of particular cases. The Court should be the body to delegate powers, when delegation was necessary. All the things proposed to be done under the measure could be done by the Arbitration Court were it clothed with the necessary powers. What is needed is a short measure, conferring these powers upon it. Then the learned President would exercise them at his discretion. He would be able to say: “ Here is a dispute which, if not settled speedily, may plunge the country into industrial confusion. I shall therefore ask the trade unionists concerned to Dame representatives, and the employers concerned to name other representatives, to constitute a tribunal to go into the matter immediately.” That would be a sensible way of dealing with disputes. By the Bill, the Government is practically shutting the door in the face of the trade union movement of Australia, and as one closely identified with that movement, and knowing the feeling of its members, I say that that has created suspicion of the Bill. Last week, in conversation with prominent member’s of the trade union movement, I ascertained that they were prepared to give the measure a fair go; but when our offer of a conference of the movement to consider the measure was made to the Government, it was refused. The consideration that-we suggested might have taken a. week or a fortnight; but had it taken a month what would that have mattered if industrial peace and harmony had resulted therefrom ? Now the trade union movement feels that the Government is not considering it, and that is why I am going through the measure closely and carefully, pointing out the defects of its various clauses. There is no machinery’ for the election of representatives to the special tribunals, a most suspicious circumstance in view of the action of the Government in refusing the conference for which we asked.” Even at this late hour, the Government would be well advised to accept our offer, and call a conference of the trade union movement to consider the measure. Local Boards, are to be appointed under the Bill, each of which is to consist of a chairman and an employers’ representative and an employees’ representative, and the members are to be appointed or elected “ in the prescribed manner.” We object to that, as we object to a similar provision in regard to the other bodies. We say that the Bill should clearly provide for the election of employees’ representatives by the trade union organizations concerned. As to the powers of a local Board, clause 25 says -
Subject to this section the provisions of sections 16 to 18 (both inclusive) of this Act shall apply in relation to a local Board in like manner as they apply in relation to a special tribunal.
Under the sections referred to, a special tribunal has the power to review an award of the Arbitration Court, and therefore local Boards will have the same power. This heaps indignity after indignity on the head of the President of the Arbitration Court. Then, according to clause 27, any determination of the local Board shall be subject to review in the manner prescribed by the special tribunal in relation to which it is appointed. What will be the manner prescribed ? The Prime Minister did not explain how these appeals were to be made. We wish to- know exactly how the machinery is- to be worked. The trade union movement is not prepared to allow any decision of a local Board that may be favorable to its proposal to be carried before some other body by way of appeal, and perhaps upset. We want to know exactly what the provision means.
– I should say that the explanation is apparent from the context. The scope of the decision of a local tribunal would be very narrow, while that of a special tribunal might cover a whole industry. A local Board might, for example, be appointed in connexion with a dispute at the Hepburn or Bulli Colliery, and its decisions could hardly affect the whole of the coal mining industry. They would .be confined to matters arising at the particular colliery, or, perhaps, at a group of collieries. It is not intended that the local tribunals shall upset the decision of the special tribunals, nor that the special tribunals shall review and upset the decisions of the local tribunals, unless the latter are, on the face of them, impossible for the industry. A decision of a local tribunal might be opposed te the interests of the men, and in. that case they could appeal to the special tribunal.
– I accept the Prime Minister’s explanation; but I should like the position to be made clear in the Bill. That he has said a certain thing will not subsequently affect the interpretation of the measure. If the only function of a local Board is to be to deal with some trivial tiddlewinking matter-
– Nearly all strikes have their beginning in a dispute at some particular place. A demarcation dispute is a tiddlewinking thing, but occasionally it leads to great trouble.
– The Prime Minister justifiably boasted of the success of the shipbuilding tribunal. One of the reasons for that success is that the tribunal’s decision *is final.
– The reason is that the tribunal’s decisions are almost invariably in favour of the employees.
– It is that they are always fair and just. *
– I think that the decisions are, on the whole, fair and just, and dictated bv the evidence ; though there may be a difference of opinion.
– The measure should clearly recognise the trade union organizations.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) mentioned that matter. What other organizations can be recognised?
– The definition of industrial matters in clause 4 speaks of persons “ being or not being members of any organization, association, or body.” We are suspicious. I wish to be frank with the Prime Minister.
– That is copied without alteration from the Arbitration Act?
– Very well, will the Prime Minister say that only trade union organizations shall be recognised, and able to move either the Commonwealth Council, the special tribunal, or anyof the bodies ?
– I have known, I think, of two or three instances in the history of the Court where a body, not one that would be called a recognised trade union, has sought registration, but such a body has never succeeded. This Bill is aimed at promoting industrial peace, which can only be attained if we deal with both parties, one of which is organized labour as understood by the honorable member.
– Then, will the Prime Minister provide in the Bill that the representatives of the employees on these bodies shall be the direct representatives of trade union organizations?
– Yes, certainly.
– The honorable gentleman knows that the Bill does not now so provide ?
– If it does not, I am very much astonished, because it speaks of “the parties “ to an “ industrial dispute.” I think the honorable member will find, in 999 cases out of 1,000, that one of the parties is organized labour; and therefore I think the Bill does so provide. However, I shall make the provision clearer if the honorable member thinks the Bill is not at present clear enough.
– Clause 5 provides -
The members representative of employers and of employees respectively shall be appointed or elected in the prescribed manner.
Why not provide clearly that they shall be elected by the particular organizations affected ?
– There is only one observation to be offered in regard to that point. Say, for the sake of argument, that it is conceivable there might be some dispute where the employees were not members of an organization; for instance, in some calling in which organization had not proceeded far enough. In such a case the representative could not be so selected, but in every case where organized labour has taken control of the industry, they could be.
– Will you make that provision ?
– That refers only to the Commonwealth Council, but the specialtribunal is, I think, the important body, the others being so much padding.
– Oh, no, they are not. I think that those bodies will be of great service.
– Clause 14 provides-
A Special Tribunal shall consist of an equal number of representatives of employers and employees respectively, together with a chairman.
The Bill makes no provision for the election or appointment of these representatives, though in the case of the Commonwealth Council they are to be “ appointed or elected in the prescribed manner.” In the case of the special tribunal, the body with the real power, there is no provision made in this respect. Can the Prime Minister explain?
– The special tribunal, as I conceive it will be a body composed of representatives of both parties, who will be chosen by the respective bodies. I do not know, and I cannot think, of any case where the employees’ representatives would not be unionists.
– Before you entered the chamber one of your colleagues made reference to the Soldiers Wharf Labourers Association, Sydney, and we are afraid that you may accept members of it as representatives of the employees.
– One moment. Everybody has a right to live. Supposing there were a dispute between the Soldiers Wharf Labourers Association and the Coal Lumpers Union, then both these parties must be represented. The employers, inmy opinion, would not properly be a party to such a dispute between two sections of theemployees.
– Let us get this quite clear. Does the Prime Minister mean, for instance, that if the Transport Workers Federation wishes to move this special tribunal to deal with the conditions of wharf labouring, or coal lumping, or any other work, the members of the Soldiers Wharf Labourers Association would also be represented ?
– You have put a very difficult problem. I know the circumstances intimately.
– So do 1.
– It is a difficult question to answer. If the Sydney branch of the Transport Workers Federation considered their conditions unfair, they would create a dispute with the employers, exactly as they would in the case of the Court, by asking for redress, and if it were not granted would ask for a special tribunal. Clearly, such a dispute would be between the Sydney branch of the federation and the employers, and each side would have three or four representatives, and the Soldiers Wharf Labourers Association would be represented by counsel, and heard before the tribunal. If it were the other way round, and the Soldiers Wharf Labourers Association made the dispute, then its representatives would be on the tribunal, and the transport workers would have representation. Once there is a dispute, it must be between two parties.
– I am pleased to have the opinion from the Prime Minister, because we felt that there was not sufficient information given to us in the right honorable gentleman’s second-reading speech, and the ,points just dealt with are those about which we were dubious. Of course, the Prime Minister, from his experience, knows that unless we have the good-will and co-operation of the trade unions this measure must fail, and we affirm the principle of the recognition of- trade organizations. While the Prime Minister was out of the chamber, it was said that one of the reasons for the success of the Shipping Tribunal is that it recognises the representatives of trade unionism, and no one but a member of an organization which is a party to the agreement can obtain employment.
– Of course, the circumstances of that tribunal are a little different from those of industrial tribunals generally. That tribunal was based on an agreement with the unions, and this made things quite easy. . We said that if they would concede this or that we would give them preference of work, whereas the Arbitration Court grants preference only in certain circumstances.
– Why not set out clearly in the Bill that, in return for their co-operation, the trade unions will be recognised and given preference of employment? The Prime Minister, no doubt, has a pleasing recollection of fighting the issue of preference to unionists before the country a little time ago, and of how successful he was in his appeal. I ask him now to give trade unionism recognition and preference.
– I expect the unionists, in return, to remember that they owe a duty to the country. If they say, “ We will neither work ourselves nor allow anybody to do so,” they will lose their preference - that is all.
– The idea that unionists would say that they would neither work nor let any one else do so, is ridiculous. They know they have to work, and, though they may strike for a little while, eventually the pinch comes, and they have to return. I am glad ‘that the Prime Minister has given us the explanation he has, and I again urge that if he desires to make a success of the Bill he must recognise trade unionism and give it straightout preference.
.- Up to the time ‘that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) re-entered the Chamber my sympathies were with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), who made an excellent speech on many matters that required elucidation from some responsible Minister. That speech will, I think, remove many doubts felt by honorable members; a?t any rate, it has removed doubts that I had, and the remarks of the Prime Minister have certainly cleared the air. Before I deal with the Bill itself I should like to lead up to it somewhat in the same way as did -the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who, in an extremely lucid ‘ speech, covered a lot of ground which I had intended myself to traverse, showing the industrial conditions in Canada, America, France, Belgium, Italy, and so forth. Although I am, perhaps, not closely associated in a large way with industrial affairs, I keep my eyes and ears open, with a view to learning anything that may be of benefit to this great country of ours.
What is the position? Before the war there were industrial disputes throughout the world, and now, after the war, there are still disputes. But the war has loosened ideas, ambitions, and passions, which, in 1914, would not have been thought possible, but would have been regarded as practically beyond the realms of reason. Those ideas, to a certain extent, are confined to what we call industrial unrest, and they have come to stay, and rightly so. We are told that the Prince of Wales, when he visited the living quarters of certain working people in London, described them as “ a damned scandal.” In America, as the honorable member for Flinders said, the people are living on the edge of a volcano; and why? Because they have something which we, thank God, have not, and that is a black -labour question. Many of the negroes are very highly intelligent, shown by the fact that one of ‘the porters who looked after me on the Great Transcontinental Railway from San Francisco to New York was an M.A. and B.A. pf one of the universities in Southern California. Many of the uneducated black people volunteered for the war, and while away from their own country acquired much knowledge as to con- ‘ditions in other parts of the world, Those men have returned, and they want better conditions.” They have taken a hand in industrial life, which is a factor in the accumulation of industrial unrest.
What has been the history of this question in Australia? Apart from the legislation of the various States to cope with the problem, the Commonwealth, in 1904, entered the ring with its Compulsory Arbitration Bill. That measure was amended in 1909, 1910, and 1911, twice, in 1914, and in 1915 and 1918. That indicates that, from the start, this compulsory arbitration law was like a brick wall which was continually threatening to collapse and had to be trussed and supported from time to time in order to keep it up so that it might serve the purpose for which it had been erected. There have been three main complaints against the system of compulsory arbitration. The first has been that too much power was placed in the hands of one man. With that criticism I entirely agree. No one man could hope to cover the whole field - no matter how he might be advised and helped - and make an award which would last. The second grievance has been in relation to the congestion of cases before the Court. That is a factor which is bound to breed discontent. The third point has to do with the complex nature of the various decisions and awards in existence. Mr. H. Y. Braddon, in the course of an excellent address before the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, dealt at some length with that phase. He pointed out that in one instance alone, namely, in regard to the firm of Anthony Hordern and Sons, there were fifty -eight separate awards under which the firm had to work. From an employer’s stand-point that is palpably absurd. It looks as if we were trying to do all we could to hamper our great employers. What have these three main causes of trouble led to ? To one thing ; and I agree with the views of Mr. Braddon upon that one thing. That is, the creation of a spirit of suspicion. It has brought about what, in my opinion, is the greatest curse of all. I refer to the “go-slow” policy. It is a curse to Australia, and demoralizing to the man who practises it, for he knows right well that he is not playing the game. I want to lead up to what I said in this chamber in the course of my maiden speech. I remarked then that there was only one solution of the industrial problem, and that that was to get both parties together at a round table conference. I have ‘had some experience of the Federal Arbitration Court. I instructed the Prime Minister when he was plain Mr. “ Billy “ Hughes, and had just been admitted to the Bar. The case in question was the first, I believe, which came before the Federal Arbitration Court in Sydney, and was taken by Mr. Justice O’Connor. Masters and officers of all the inter-Colonial vessels were proceeding against the owners for the concession of better living conditions, higher wages, and so on. We did not secure anything like what we sought, although all of our points have since been granted. But, even at that early stage, I recognised that compulsory arbitration was going to fail. The fact is that it was based on a wrong plan ; it was wrongly housed. The
Court was not the right place. I would like to see something in this Bill to the effect that wherever a council, or special tribunal, or local’ Board may meet, it shall not be in any building which has the appearance of a Court. The effect both on employee and employer is that, directly they step inside the door of a Court - as Mr. Braddon put it - their hair stands up on end, and a spirit of fight is engendered. That is not the atmosphere which leads to amicable decisions. These bodies should meet in a friendly sort of way in a room where there is a round table, and where employee and employer can face each other man to man, and so wrestle with their differences. Mr. Braddon said, “ The compulsory arbitration Court sets up an atmosphere of mock legal quarrel, which is an impossible condition.” I quite agree with him. What is required is direct contact between the parties. What is America’s experience? Honorable members have read statements emanating from Mr. Samuel Gompers, leader of the Labour movement in the United States of America. He has no time for compulsory arbitration. America is not free from strikes; but, in their enormous works, the American people have solved their troubles for the time being by inaugurating a system of giving better conditions to the workers, paying higher wages, and distributing a share of profits, which raises earnings to something more than a basic wage. I quite agree with that procedure. I have always said that the man who produces the wealth should have a fair share of that wealth. If we treat the workers properly and bring them under a profitsharing system there will not be strikes. Great Britain has partly solved her troubles by means of the Whitley Councils, which are working well. By degrees all the organizations are coming into the Whitley scheme. The Bill before the House is framed very much upon the lines of the Whitley methods; but I agree with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) that, in many cases, matters need clearing up. I am at one with the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who believes in the establishment of unions, and regards them as a factor for good; and I agree with him, further, that no man should be compelled to enter a union. However, in order to bring about industrial peace, and seeing that the unions represent the great majority of the working people, I hold that the representatives of the workers on the tribunals should be selected from those unions. Where a strike occurs among a small body of men who are not members of a union, I understand that the Prime Minister has stated that the delegates should come direct from those people. It should be made perfectly clear that the principle is safeguarded. Otherwise, no good will come of our efforts; the working man of Australia will have nothing to do with this measure. I know the Government are sincere in trying to bring about industrial peace, so I trust that they will leave no loop-hole for suspicion.
Regarding the appointment of chairmen, I agree with the opinions expressed by several honorable members that it is a matter which must be most carefully considered. Sub-clause 3 of clause 5 states -
The chairman shall be appointed by the Governor-General.
That is to say, the Government. Person- > ally, I have not too much faith in certain political appointments. What I would like to see here, and in the case of the appointment of all chairmen under this measure, is provision for their selection as follows: -
The chairman shall be chosen by agreement between the representatives of employers and employees, or, , in default of agreement, shall be appointed by the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia from names submitted to him by both sides.
That would do away with suspicion, for if there is one man in this country who is above suspicion it is the Chief Justice of the High Court - whoever he may be.
Much has been said concerning whether the Bill does or does not empower the Boards or tribunals to go into the question of profits. Here, the point strikes me whether that right should be granted. But we have to try everything possible to secure industrial peace, and I say that the right should be granted, so long as it is conceded in camera. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) did not object to that. Mr. Braddon represents the great body of employers in New South Wales. He dealt with the same question in his address. In asking that a Conference should be appointed he set out certain points which, he thought should be discussed; and, having cited those points, he stated -
The idea would not be for the employer to part in any material way with the control. The employees will not, I think, desire that, when they understand the great value of capable unified control in the experienced and skilled hands of the employer. They will readily appreciate that too many cooks may quickly spoil that broth. The idea would rather be to give them knowledge of the concern’s interests, so that they may have some idea of what is happening, and a right of discussion regarding the conditions under which they work in the factory, warehouse, or shop.
I am certain that, having in mind the wonderful record of trade unionists in Great Britain during the war - when they responded to the appeal of Mr. Lloyd George to set their backs to the wall and give our fighting men their allnecessary munitions and supplies - we would not be disappointed in the workers over this matter.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I have been asked by honorable members to shorten my remarks as much as possible, because a number of other honorable members wish to speak before the vote is taken on the second reading this afternoon. Before lunch I was discussing the question of profits. Without looking exhaustively into the Arbitration A.ct and comparing it with the Bill, I was of opinion that this measure does confer powers under which the question of profits might be considered. Claude 7 includes amongst the powers and functions of the Commonwealth Council -
To consider any matters, conditions, and tendencies in any part of the Commonwealth leading to or likely to lead to industrial disputes, or in any way affecting or likely to affect industrial peace.
Surely profits would come within the meaning of the words “ any matters.” Pome doubt has been cast upon my view, however, by the statement that, although the same power is conferred in the Arbitration Act, the . High Court has ruled that the question of profits cannot be inquired into by the Court. The point I dosire to stress is that if the power is not in the Bill, it should be placed there. We heard an able speech last night from the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who may be regarded as the representative of a large employing section of the community, and he assured us that he personally is not opposed to any inquiry into profits, so long as the investigation is not unduly harassing. There is also the statement of Mr. H. Y. Braddon, which I have previously quoted, that the employeesshould be allowed to have more knowledge of the concern in which they are working. Therefore, if the Bill is not wide enough to permit of inquiry into profits, let us make it wider. Now that we have thechance, we should do everything possibleto remove the suspicion which is hampering the whole industrial world to-day.
Nothing in the Bill prevents those engaged in an industry having their own round-table conference. Perhaps the local Boards might not reach likely disputes, but until a local Board is appointed as the offspring of a special tribunal, there is nothing to prevent employer and employees in each industry meeting at a roundtableconference, with, as one honorable member interjected, a bottle of whisky, to which I would add a box of cigars. I am a great believer in a cigar, a pipe, and a bottle of beer as an aid to negotiations of this kind. If such a conference fails, it is time forthe special tribunal to set going its offshoots, the local Boards. Every decision arrived at by a local Board must be reviewed by the special tribunal which deals with that industry. Therefore, we havenot only an inquiry by the local Boards, but a further inquiry by the special tribunal which governs them, to insure that the decision arrived at by one local Board does not conflict with a decision of another local Board in the same industry.
In regard to the £5,000,000 which I mentioned as awaiting investment in Australia, I assure the House that that is not the whole of the sum that might find its way to the Commonwealth; much more is awaiting investment. The Leader of theOpposition (Mr. Tudor) asked, by interjection, where else in the world could the money be better invested. I remind him that within a few monthsafter the signing of the armisticebetween £40,000,000 and £50,000,000 was invested in various companies in England. But I know that, notwithstanding all that the dear old Mother Country has done for Australia, British capitalists desire to further help us as much as possible, whilst at the same time getting a fair return for their money. There are untold millions of pounds awaiting investment in Australia if we can only establish those stable conditions which I know the whole House is anxious to establish. It has been a great pleasure to me to notice the improved feeling that has developed in the House in connexion with the discission of the Bill. “ We have listened to many able speeches, and much light has been thrown on the measure, and I am convinced that, notwithstanding the shortness of time at our disposal, we shall produce a scheme that will have a wonderful effect upon the Commonwealth. It is about time we did something of the kind, for I think we hardly realize what a. momentous period is the present in our history. I repeat what I have always said, that we can only achieve industrial peace by the “ get-together” policy.
.- It is my intention to vote against th© second reading of the Bill, and as I proceed I shall state my reasons for so doing. A Labour member, confronted with such a measure introduced by a non-Labour Governmnent, must naturally be suspicious. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) said that there seemed to be a good deal of suspicion and many imaginings on the part of some honorable members. I remind the House that we have cause for suspicion. As a Labour mau, I do not forget that the Government which introduced this Bill is the same Government which, under the War Precautions Act, interfered with the marine engineers when on strike to the extent of preventing them from operating upon their own banking account. That action, added to many others of the kind, is enough to make us suspicious. I took i the Bill home with me to Adelaide last week, and the first thing I asked myself was whether it represented a genuine effort on the part of the Government to bring about industrial peace. I asked myself whether it was likely that the Prime Minister was bringing to bear his past experience and knowledge of industrial affairs with the sincere object of doing justice to both sides. Then I remembered a statement he made at Bendigo during the recent by-election campaign - a very unwise utterance on the part of the head of the Government. He was reported by the Adelaide press as having said at Bendigo that a Bill was to be brought down - I am convinced that it was this Bill - which would be through the House by last Saturday, “ despite all that their friends, the Opposition, could do to stop it.” That was the spirit in which the Leader of the Government heralded this measure. Last Saturday has gone by, and the Bill is not through the House yet, nor will it be through the House by next Saturday in spite of all that the Prime Minister threatened to do. I have been wondering whether we have to thank our friends of the Country party for the fact that the Bill was not put through the House by last Saturday. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), when he was chided for having voted for the urgency motion, said that he knew that the Bill was to be passed within a certain time. From that I inferred that the Country party had a knowledge of the Government’s intentions, and I wondered whether feelers had been put cut to ascertain if the Country party would support the Government in disposing of the Bill last week. From the evidence before me, I conclude that we are indebted to the Country party for even this limited opportunity of considering the Bill. The statement made by the Prime Minister at Bendigo was unwise and uncalled-for, especially in connexion with a Bill which is designed to bring about industrial peace. It made one wonder whether there is a sincere intention behind, the introduction of the Bill. How can a man who represents the lower -paid sections of the community help being suspicious of the capitalistic interests and the Government which is behind them ? We know too well that the people we are here to represent particularly have had the worst end of the stick in the past. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) said last night that America today is upon the edge of a Vesuvius, and that prior to the war the workers of England were not given a dog’s chance. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) stated that the Prince of Wales, after looking into the residential conditions of some of the workers in England, exclaimed, “ It is a damn shame.” I believe that if the Prince discovered undesirable conditions he would have pluck enough to express himself in that way. I could relate my own experiences when I had to battle for a living. There are other causes connected with the Bill itself which make us suspicious. I remind honorable members that the advantages which the wage-earners are enjoying to-day - if they can be called advantages - have been dearly won, and they cannot blame Labour members if we are anxious that any benefits now enjoyed by the workers shall not , be lost. Statements have been made which lead us to believe that, in respect of certain provisions in this Bill, trade unions are to receive as much consideration as they have had in the past. We cannot be blamed, however, for desiring to have that clearly set out in the Bill. We have no guarantee that, in respect of the Commonwealth Council and the District Councils, trade union organizations will secure recognition similar to that given them under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The statement made to-day by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) should have been made much earlier. It has certainly removed some of our fears by giving us to understand that trade union organizations will have, under the Bill, all the privileges they enjoy under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Ministerial supporters have condemned us for desiring that the trade unions should be consulted. Instead of being condemned, we should be commended for this desire, since we are anxious to make doubly sure that industrial peace will be brought about. The Labour party can speak, no doubt, for the rank and file in the trade union movement, but in a multitude of counsellors there is wisdom, and there should be no complaint in regard to the suggested conference.
I object to this Bill because its administration will be extremely costly. I recognise that if, as the result of it, industrial peace were secured, the expenditure which it involved would be money well spent. But will it do away with industrial unrest ? We are to have a Commonwealth Council, and also a District Council for each State, and one honorable member has suggested that members of these Councils should receive a salary of not less than £1,000 a year. There will be a Chairman and six ‘ members of each of these seven tribunals, so that if they received £1,000 per annum, their salaries alone would amount to £49,000 a year. If there is to be a Special Tribunal for every industry and calling, the fees and expenses will quickly amount to another £50,000 per annum.’ For a much less amount the Government could appoint several additional Deputy Presidents of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
If that were done, and the Act improved, it would go a long way towards removing industrial unrest. The President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court receives £3,000 per annum, so that the projectedoutlay on the Commonwealth and District Councils would provide for six or seven additional Deputy Presidents of the Court, and leave something to spare.
I stand here to-day as one who is still in favour of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) compared industrial conditions prevailing here with those ruling in America, and showed that the advantage was with us. There are no compulsory arbitration laws in the United States of America, so that his comparison is but another argument in favour of our Arbitration Court. The same may be said of his comparison of the industrial position in Great Britain with that in Australia. And this despite the fact that the Government have not done all that the Commonwealth Court has asked. I understand that, under the amending Bill, the Court will at “last have power to vary its awards. It is remarkable that, although it has for years been asking for this wider power, it is to be granted only concurrently with the passing of this Bill. I may be somewhat suspicious, but I am wondering whether the giving of additional powers to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court at this juncture is not mere camouflage designed to disguise the real objective of this Bill, whch is to undermine the Court, and to remove from the Bench one of its members.
Has Mr. Justice Higgins, Mr. Justice Powers, Mr. Justice Starke, or any of the registrars of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court been consulted in regard to this measure? Were they invited to assist in drafting a Bill calculated to bring about industrial peace? The Bill does not suggest that they have had any part in its framing.
– They may have been consulted, but if they were, I do not think their views were adopted.
Mr.GABB. - I do not think that any of these learned gentlemen, despite their long experience of the working of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, have been consulted. There is underlying this Bill a determination on the part of the
Government to undermine the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. When that objective was suggested while the Prime Minister was speaking, the right honorable gentleman merely smiled. A smile is sometimes more eloquent than the spoken word, and that smile on the part of the Prime Minister convinced me that one of the objects of this Bill is ultimately to do away with the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. As a representative of trade union interests, I feel that it would not be wise to vote for this Bill, since it provides for the creation of special tribunals, which will be the mere handiwork of the Government of the day. These special tribunals are to be appointed by the Governor-General, and it is obvious to me that their members - both the representatives of the employers and the representatives” of the employees - will be the chosen of the Government. I am aware that my view is not indorsed by some honorable members; but I wish to have it clearly stated in the Bill that the representatives of the employees on the councils and special tribunals will be elected by the trade union organizations. I am not prepared to act on mere supposition. Some members of my party will vote for the second reading of the Bill, believing, as I do, that the members of the councils and tribunals for which it provides, will be selected by the Government of the day; hut I am not prepared to do so. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) said yesterday that there could be no objection to such a system if the Labour party were in power. While it might be very convenient for a Labour Government to have that power, it would not be fair, and, therefore, would not tend to industrial rest. The Bill gives plenty of scope for political appointments, and if a Labour Government made such appointments to these tribunals, the other side would naturally complain. Again, I am not prepared to vote for a Bill which will vest such very wide powers in any one man. It has been said that the powers for which the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides are in the hands of one man - the President of the Court. With whom will rest the balance of power in connexion with these tribunals? We are to have on each council and special tribunal an equal number of representatives of employers and employees, and where they are unable to agree, the Chairman - who will have been selected, no doubt, by the Government - will be the deciding factor. We shall, therefore, get back to the position ruling in connexion with our arbitration laws today. I cannot vote for the second reading of the Bill; but if it be amended in certain directions, I may feel justified in voting for the third reading. I am not prepared to give up any right or privilege which the trade union organizations enjoy to-day. I am not ready to take one backward step. The movement of the world to-day is in the direction of giving those who produce the wealth a fair share of that wealth. It is in the direction of giving the workers a greater measure of justice than they have hitherto received, and any step taken by us that may be contrary to that tendency will not lead to industrial peace.
In statements made across the table to day, the Prime Minister conveyed the impression that organized labour would be protected under this Bill. But neither his word nor that of any other man is sufficient for me in regard to this matter. I want to see that undertaking put in black and white. I want it to be in the Bill itself. Deep down in the heart of the Prime Minister there may be some feeling of sympathy for the ranks from which he sprang; but he is not always going to be at the head of the Government. There are in this House some outandout Conservatives, any one of whom may be at some time at the head of the Government of the Commonwealth, and their sympathies have never been with unionists and unionism. If the unions will be as fully recognised under the provisions of the Bill as they are now under the Arbitration Act, this should be made clear and put beyond doubt. According to the Prime Minister, if there were in an industry a genuine union and a bogus union - I am not using his language in employing these terms - and trouble were to arise in the genuine union, that union would elect three representatives to a tribunal to investigate the dispute, and the bogus union would have the right to be represented by counsel. I hope that representation by lawyers is not intended, though I do not see in the Bill anything to prevent the appearance of lawyers before the tribunals for which it provides, should the employers wish for them, and obtain from the chairmen the’ right to make use of their services. On the other hand, should the trouble arise with the bogus union, it would appoint representatives to the tribunal, and the genuine union would be represented by counsel. Such an arrangement, it seems to me, would cause a great number of bogus unions to spring into existence, and if their representatives were brought into a case the genuine unionists would turn their backs on the tribunal adjudicating upon it. Some one has said - I think, the honorable .member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) - that the genesis of the Bill was to be found in a proposal by some New South Wales organization.
– No; in a proposal of an organization of Victorian returned soldiers.
– I do not know where the Genesis of it is to be found, but I know that the Revelations of it will be with the trade unionists of this country. ,
– And the Exodus with the Government.
– If the Government and those who vote for the Bill are the alpha of this matter, the omega of it will be the rank and file of the industrial unions, whom it is useless to flout. I hope that in Committee the Bill [may be amended so that no trade union shall lose under it any right that it now possesses under the Arbitration Act. If that and other similar alterations are made, probably many of us who must ‘ vote against the second reading may be able to vote for the third reading of the measure.
.- I wish at the outset to apologize to the members of the Opposition. Against my judgment and inclination, I did not, either with voice or vote, oppose the motion which ordered that the secondreading debate shall close this afternoon. I represent a somewhat remote part of the Common wealth, and have not yet received from my constituents any information of their opinions concerning the measure. Under such circumstances I should have vigorously protested with other honorable members against the limitation of the debate, and I can assure the House that there will be no other occasion, while I am here, when my vote will be given to curtail the privileges of members in the discussion of an important measure of this kind, so long as no intention has been shown to stonewall it or to delay our proceedings. It is all very well for men like the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) to suggest, as he did last night, that opportunity for consideration has been given to all. While Victorian members may have had such opportunity they fail to realize that Victoria is not Australia, and that the outlying parts of the Commonwealth are entitled to more consideration in respect of a measure of this kind than the Prime Minister and many of those behind him have shown to them. Seeing that the country has waited impatiently for some years for something to be done in this matter it was somewhat amusing to hear the right honorable gentleman declare this an urgent measure. It is characteristic of him, when he has made up his mind to a certain course, to enter with a flourish of trumpets and give the public the idea that at last something is to be done, and that he is the man who will do it. After he had made his speech, he thought, apparently, that there was no more to be said on the subject, though a few hours were conceded to honorable members in somewhat ungracious recognition of the fact that Parliament exists for the discussion at reasonable length of important matters of this kind. I warn honorable members on this side that they cannot long afford to act as voiceless automata at the bidding of the Prime Minister, because .sooner or later they will be called to account by their constituents, who expect them to do their duty by stating their opinions.
There is need for the most earnest and able attention to the industrial problem by this and the State Parliaments. We see unrest all round us. The community has suffered through most disastrous strikes - strikes that have affected tens of thousands of persons, causing untold suffering and hardship, and at the end have left us no nearer the settlement “of the industrial problems involved than we were when they commenced. Labour representatives here and elsewhere realize as clearly as any of us the need for putting an end to such strikes. They know that every strike that inflicts suffering on a community reduces their political popularity, and they are even more aware than those on this side that there is in the Labour movement to-day an element which deliberately foments and encourages strikes, and will, if not sternly repressed, undoubtedly bring about its utter disorganization, and lead to something like civil war.
– Those to whom you are referring are outside our political movement.
– A good many of them are inside the Labour movement, and are working insidiously against its political activities. Labour members realize as much as we do that it is in their interests, and for the welfare of the Labour movement, and of the whole community, that industrial strife should be settled in a lawful and peaceful fashion rather than allowed to run to seed, and create untold mischief. We are apt to forget that tens of thousands of workers never strike, and that a majority of the workers are opposed to strikes, though often dragged into them. If there were proper machinery by which their wrongs could receive reasonable and prompt attention, the voice of the workers would be heard objecting strongly to strikes. Unfortunately, during the last few years circumstances have played into the hands of the extreme and disorderly element in the Labour unions, giving it an opportunity of which it has availed itself to the utmost. It has been for strikes on every possible and impossible occasion, with sufficient apparent justification to drag behind it large numbers of workers who, in their hearts, abhor strikes, and would be only too glad for some other method of securing redress. We owe it to the workers to give them relief, if possible, from the awful arbitrament of civil war, for which a strike is only another name.
I think, with some other honorable members, that the amendment of the Arbitration Act should have preceded the present proposal. I still believe that the Arbitration Court is capable of doing good work in the cause of industrial peace. No doubt, it has many defects, some of which have been pointed out here, and it is a pity that its shortcomings were not discussed before the Bill was introduced. Had there been such discussion, it would have done much to make the present proposal unnecessary. I believe that the Arbitration Court provides a better method of settling industrial disputes than that now under consideration. The troubles which now arise are due to the expense and delay attending appeals to the Court. I am sorry, in view of the able legal representation in this House, to have to say that the elimination, to as great an extent as possible, of legal system and procedure would-, in my opinion, reduce the cost of and the time occupied in the hearing of disputes by the Court. If its proceedings could be simplified and expedited, one of the gravest objections to the Court would be removed. Unfortunately, Federal action in regard to industrial disputes can begin only at a comparatively late stage of their development.
I complain that the State Governments and Parliaments have not dealt with these matters as they should have done. They should have a uniform system amongst themselves to prevent so many of these disputes growing, until, by their size and gravity, they become subjects for Federal investigation. It is most unfortunate, also, that, rightly or wrongly, at the inception of our Federal Court of Arbitration, the workers got an impression that the Judge was inclined to favour them. This undoubtedly had a very regrettable influ- ence throughout Australia, and ha3 brought about most unfortunate results. For one thing, many of the disputes might have been settled long before they reached the dimensions of a Federal case; but they were allowed to grow, and, in fact, many of the smaller disputes were deliberately developed, until they reached a stage when they could be dealt with by the Federal Court. This meant, of course, that the Court became simply overwhelmed by a multiplicity of cases, with which it could not deal, and many waited for months and months without any prospect of being heard. The final result was that direct action was employed; the Court was flouted by the workers, who, having lost faith in it, proceeded to extremes, which, as I say, have inflicted untold misery and hardship on the community. It is a duty we owe to the community to endeavour now, whether in this measure or any others before us, to bring about the cessation of these disputes. The general community lias a right to expect this from us, because, as a matter of fact, it is entirely ignored in industrial disputes. There are. the interests of the employer on the one hand, and the interests of the employee on the other; but the unfortunate general public, like Issachar, the strong ass, stoops between the two burdens. Frequently a dispute is settled in a way which, while satisfactory to the two parties immediately concerned, is unfair to the public; but this Bill takes no note of that phase of the position. While arranging for consideration for the interests of the employer and the employee, no regard is shown for the interests of the general public.
– The Government are supposed to look after the general public.
– That is so, just as the Parliament is supposed to look after the general public. I am afraid, however, that, in thinking about votes, we are more apt to have regard for those who are keenly interested in the industrial matters rather than for the somewhat remote public, which suffers so frequently in silence. Members are returned time and again, not for what they have done for the general community, but for what they have done for one party or another. That is a very regrettable state of affairs which I hope will come to an end before very long, and towards the abolition of which I hope to be able to do something.
The measure seems to me like a huge, cumbrous piece of machinery with a ridiculously small boiler; it is going to be expensive, and consists of a great many different parts, but the driving power will be small and insignificant. That is the trouble with a great deal of our legislation in this regard. We have stopped short of one responsibility that this and other Parliaments will have to take on their shoulders sooner or later. That is, after having given the workers and employers effective Courts .for the settlement on a fair basis of all industrial disputes, the community must be protected against those reckless individuals who are prepared to flout the law in the furtherance of their aims and objects, and inflict general suffering. People, here and elsewhere, are beginning to realize that something in the nature of criminal action is required against those who break the industrial peace. In some coun-tries, notably in the United States, laws are, I believe, in preparation to make striking a criminal offence,- more especially in connexion with those industries and activities that are vitally necessary to the life of the community.
– That is not making for peace. ‘ . j ;
– It must be always understood that, before any step of the kind is taken, there shall be an effective and fair Court for the settlement of all industrial disputes; then must come the power of the law to make it criminal for any one to break the peace in such a way as to inflict suffering and hardship on the community. That reform will come sooner or later, and it is just as well that this Parliament and Australia generally should be prepared to look the fact in the face.
– Would the honorable member have representatives of the general public on 1the councils and tribunals?
– That is what I mean, and what I shall endeavour to introduce into the measure. I again point out that if we are to secure absolute industrial peace we must first of all provide a fair and efficient Court for the settlement of industrial disputes, and then step in and secure the ,public against the actions of a criminal few, who, by reason of the power wielded either in unions of employers or unions of employees, create what practically amounts to locks-out on the one side and strikes on the other. I could give instance after instance of suffering that has come under my notice as the result of strikes in Australia, and these would give point to my contention; but with the limited time at my disposal, I do not propose to do so at the present time.
I now desire to refer to some of the provisions of the Bill. There is a great deal anticipated from the creation of the various tribunals. What the councils will do I do not know ; they will be able to talk a great deal, but as to their activity in other respects I have some doubt whether they will be worth the money expended on them. Only a few days ago I heard an employee, and a member of a union, describe the tribunal in the shipping industry as an organization for giving the employees whatever they desire.
– That is a good organization !
– It is a good organization from the point of view of the employee; but what about the general public ? The Wages Boards of Victoria carried out the same plan for a long while; and Mr. Murphy, who was in control of them some time ago, has produced a very informative report in the form of a book on the subject of industrial efficiency in this State in particular, and in Australia in general. Mr. Murphy in that report asks, “Who is being enriched by our labour laws?”, and proceeds as an expert to answer it in this way: -
The answer to this question can hardly be other than - the manufacturers, shopkeepers, and employers of labour generally. An analysis of the Wages Board determinations shows that wages have gone up most rapidly in those trades in which the employer can pass on the cost to the consumer by raising retail selling prices……
The employer and worker in some of the trades mentioned have apparently refrained from seriously opposing one another in the process of putting up wages for their mutual benefit. They have shown their little regard for the rights and interests of the public, and the other workers, knowing that the increased wages* will be more than covered by an increase in the price of the article produced.
If we are going to create tribunals which will act as the Shipping Tribunal does, and always give the employees all they ask, there must be a limit reached before long; indeed, that Limit has almost been reached in regard to shipbuilding, and I believe the Prime Minister regards the situation as one requiring considerable revision. There is no doubt that if the tribunals under this Bill are chosen in the same way, and are given the same opportunities as is the Shipping Tribunal) they will probably take the line of least resistance, and do as this tribunal is alleged to have done; but I again remind this Government and the House that there is, necessarily, a limit to concessions. I do not think that the bulk of the working men are, in the long run, going to be deluded by the idea that they can increase wages indefinitely. Increased wages can only go on in conjunction with increased production, and the sooner the whole truth is placed before the working people of Australia the better it will be for them and the community at large.
I do not desire to occupy more time. I have given a few of my ideas in regard to industrial matters, and while I do not anticipate very much from this Bill, I believe it can be moulded into a measure that will to some extent remove some of the grievances that the working people of Australia think they see in front of them in their relations with their employers. If the Bill does even that much it will disarm some of the suspicion on the part of Idle employees, and to that extent will be an advantage. Like other honorable members, I shall do my best in Committee to improve the Bill.
.- I hi,re to congratulate and even thank the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) for the spirited way in which he called attention to the grave disabilities under which the House has been forced to consider the very difficult problems involved in this Bill. I claim to have given a good deal of honest thought to what is involved, and I can candidly say that, the more I have studied it, the more I have become convinced that the operation of the Bill - if it is ever to be put into operation - is likely to lead to’ something worse than confusion. It is to be greatly regretted that the Bill to amend the Arbitration Act, which it is proposed to present for the consideration of the House, was not on the table for the perusal of honorable members at least while this measure ‘was being debated. I have had an opportunity only within the last few moments of seeing that Bill, and, of course, I have not been able to study it, while many other honorable members, probably, have not seen it at all. Although I regret the atmosphere created by the Prime Minister when he introduced the measure now under discussion - a carefully distilled atmosphere of acrimony and ill-will by reason of the harsh limitations placed upon debate - I “want to remark that if I could see a possibility of any real benefit being derived by the industrial community, or by the people of Australia generally, from the operation of this measure it would have my hearty support; and neither party considerations nor party animus would persuade me to oppose it. Apparently, the Bill is deemed to be within our constitutional powers, and, at all events, I do not propose, with the extremely limited time at my disposal, to attempt to discuss the constitutional aspect. A clause in the Bill points out, in effect, that where, but for this clause, the Bill might be deemed to be outside our constitutional powers, it shall be deemed to be within them. I take it that the object of that clause is to insure that where some parts of the
Bill may be found to be extra our constitutional powers, the intention of” Parliament is that the remaining parts of the measure may, if possible, be construed by the Courts as severable and within our powers.
It is proposed and hoped to operate this Bill through four different bodies. These are: Commonwealth councils, district councils, special tribunals, and local Boards. The Commonwealth council and district council may be said to occupy the relationship of parent to infant, or brother to sister - whichever simile honorable members prefer. They are two groups, namely, the Commonwealth council and district council, on the one hand, and the special tribunal and local Board on the other hand. The first mentioned are purely consultative and deliberative1 bodies. When honorable members examine the powers of the proposed Commonwealth council they will be amused at the purely academic kind of inquiry with which its members may entertain themselves. It does not seem to be out of place that they may be counted upon as having discharged their duties when they have entertained their friends at afternoon tea and at penny readings dealing in the most abstract and general way with any industrial subject whatever. They can have no power to effect anything, other than to deliberate and talk. The same reflections apply to the district councils. It is true, of course, that their members will be presided over by officers - we may presume, highly paid; and it is true also that these councils will have power to summon witnesses. In that respect, by the way, they may possess drastic means of punishment. It appears that they are to be given wide capacity for disturbing the community, but will have no power to either prevent or settle industrial disputes. The position regarding the special tribunals and local Boards is different. I desire to call attention to some peculiarities about these bodies. First, I will take the lesser of the two in order to reduce the position ultimately to a consideration of the special tribunals. The local Boards, like the special tribunals, will have the powers of an Arbitration Court. Presumably they are intended, as their name implies, to operate within narrow geographical limit - certainly within much narrower limits than any one State. It is to be assumed that they will be used to arrest industrial trouble at its inception, at any place or in any one States - wherever it may arise. The curious thing is that it seems to have been forgotten that the whole of this legislation - like the Arbitration Act itself - is restricted by the constitutional limitation that disputes cannot be dealt with other than industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of one State. Therefore, it appears to me that we are attempting the impossible when we set up a local body for the .purpose of dealing with a local dispute, seeing that it is not competent for the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate in respect of local disputes at all. Yet these local Boards are to be possessed of very great powers - powers almost as complete as those of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court itself. A dispute may be referred to them by the parties actually concerned. And, although they are, in a sense, the offspring of the special tribunals, it does not follow that they can only deal with a dispute referred to them by special tribunals, for the reason that they may be invoked direct by the parties to a dispute, without regard to the special tribunals at all. Although the local Boards will be subject to review by the special tribunals “ in relation to which they have been appointed,” it does not follow that they will have been appointed in relation to any special tribunal, because they may be called in aid - as I have just pointed out - by the parties themselves.
– According to the Bill, their appointment must be in relation to some special tribunal.
– There are two means by which a dispute may be brought before a local Board. The trouble may be referred to it by the special tribunal, or by the parties themselves; and, apparently, therefore, they will be given jurisdiction, just as in the case of the special tribunal, to deal with the dispute in. the way and to the extent that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court could deal with it.
Since it will be quite impossible to attempt to address myself to the subject in the way I could have wished, I will confine myself to calling attention to the special tribunals which, apparently, will be the most important bodies brought into existence for dealing with crises as they arise. A special tribunal, although thought to have all the power of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, will be under one conspicuous’ disability; and that is that it will not possess the advantage conferred by the provisions of section 21aa of the Arbitration Act, which enables a High Court Judge to decide in advance whether there is a dispute extending beyond the limits of one State which dispute is proper for a decision by the Arbitration Court, or - in this case - by the special tribunal. Therefore, it may be that after the Commonwealth Council has considered a matter, and after the district Council has considered it, and after it has been deliberated upon by both special tribunal and local Board, it may be found that thedispute is not a dispute within the meaning of the Commonwealth Arbitration Act at all.
In regard to clause 17, which confers powers to vary awards, I have very little hope that the Judges of the present Arbitration Court will accept service under such terms. I do not believe they will undertake their duties under the conditions created by that clause. It sets up an impossible situation. A Judge will no sooner have made an award than it may be torpedoed by means of this provision.
I lodge my protest against the fact that this Bill - a most important, difficult, and intricate one - should be forced through as it is to be. I have the doubtful honour, in the absence of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), to be the only member on this side of the House who can pretend to bring any special legal knowledge to bear upon the problem. I have tried to make some hurried observations where I would have preferred to speak at length. However, I am not permitted to do so. I would like to have supported the Bill if I could see that it would be of any use to the country. I think the Arbitration Act could be amended in a direction which should make of it a very useful instrument. Without amendment it does all that this Bill can do. The Bill provides for compulsory conferences. So does the Act.
The Bill provides for local Councils and district Boards. The Act provides for Boards of Reference. The Government should give the Act facilities to function, and not destroy it. I cannot resist the conclusion that the Prime Minister and the Government, and particularly that wing of the National party which is not Labour, having no confidence in the Arbitration Act and no sympathy with its operations, have decided to use this indirect method of ending it.
– The time allotted for the second-reading stage has now expired.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Limitation of Debate.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the Limitation of Debate as regards the Industrial Peace Bill be extended as follows: -
For the Committee stage of the Bill, to end of Part III. until 10 p.m. on Thurs day, the 12th August.
For the remainder of the Committee stage of the Bill, until 3 p.m. on Friday, the 13th August..
For the remaining stages of the Bill, until 3.30 p.m. on Friday, the 13th August.
.- It would have been better had the Prime Minister explained that the reason for the amendment of the time allotment is that it is desired to extend to the departing GovernorGeneral the usual parliamentary banquet. I. personally, am opposed to any time-limit in connexion with this Bill. It is essentially a Committee Bill, but if we vote against the amended time suggested by the Prime Minister we shall, in effect, be voting for the shorter time already fixed. The amended time now proposed is about half-an-hour or an hour longer than that originally fixed.
– Now that the Prime Minister sees that there is no obstruction, cannot he agree to further extend the time?
– I hope that he will. It must not be inferred that honorable members on this side, by not voting against the motion, are acquiescing in the timelimit. In the second-reading debate not one honorable member on either side of the House occupied his full time, although some of us spoke for an hour each. I plead with the Prime Minister now not to fix any time-limit. He must see that there has been no attempt to “ stone-wall “ the measure. Several honorable members have had to curtail their addresses, while others who came prepared to speak to the motion for the second reading of the Bill have been unable to do so. We have been told that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) was anxious to deal with a certain phase of the Bill, and although I disagree with his political views, I should have been glad to hear him.
– I have been left out.
– In common with many others. We have hanging over Australia to-day, like a great dark cloud, threatened trouble in the coal-mining industry, and unless something is done to prevent it every other industry in the Commonwealth will be affected. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), the centre of the coal-mining industry in New South Wales, waited anxiously for an opportunity to speak to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, but was . not able to do so. We may disagree with the Government regarding certain aspects of this measure, but I appeal to the Prime Minister not to impose a time limit upon its discussion in Committee. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) said that he will not again vote for this limitation of debate, since in this case the fixing of a time limit had prevented him and others from giving expression to their views upon the Bill.
.- Only one honorable member of our party has declared himself wholly opposed to the measure. Every other member of our party is genuinely anxious that codetermined effort shall be made so to amend it in Committee as to make itacceptable to all parties, and so lead to an improved industrial situation. I am satisfied, however, that unless we be given more time to deal with the Bill in Committee we shall be unable to discuss many important amendments that we are anxious to make. There has been no attempt to “stonewall “ the Bill, and there is really no reason why anything of the kind should be attempted. We are very anxious so to. amend the Bill as to make it acceptable to the organizations that we represent. As it stands it is not acceptable to them, and I therefore join in the appeal to the Prime Minister to grant a full opportunity for its discussion.
.- I have not yet discussed the Bill, but representing as I do a part of Australia in which considerable coal mining is carried on, I desire to add my representations to those which have already been made as to the wisdom of allowing the fullest opportunity for its discussion. No more important measure could be brought before us at the present time. Every honorable member who comes into contact with miners and others engaged in the coal industry knows that there is grave unrest among the miners, and there would not be such unrest if there were no cause for it. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to the representations that have been made to them during the last few minutes, and to determine that ample time shall be allotted for the full discussion of the Bill in Committee, so that we may arrive at decisions that will avoid the threatened disaster which it has been truly said is hanging over our heads.
– I urge the Prime Minister to reconsider his decision. This is essentially a Committee measure, and we shall need to give it very careful consideration if we are to make it acceptable to all parties. There is no party feeling in this matter, nor has there been any desire to obstruct the Bill. We are anxious that it shall be dealt with as quickly as possible. The Prime Minister asks us to adjourn early on Wednesday evening, in order that we may very properly do honour to the Governor-General, who is about to leave Australia;. But what would be our position if, after adjourning for such a purpose, the Government applied the “gag,” with the result that we were unable to deal with several important parts of the Bill which the people expect us to carefully consider. It would be said of us, “ You could find time to attend a dinner to the GovernorGeneral, but you could not give time to the proper consideration of an allimportant measure.” I appeal to the Prime Minister to take a broad view of this matter. If he does so, and discovers any attempt to obstruct the passing of the Bill, he will be able to use the forms of the House to put an end to that obstruction. I think my leader will allow me to say, on behalf of our party, that there will be no undue obstruction of the Bill.
– Hear, hear!
– We shall put before the Committee amendments which we think are virtually necessary, and if the Prime Minister can see his way to accept them, the discussion will be so reduced that the Committee stage may be completed before Friday. If he cannot see eye to eye with us, however, we shall have to assert ourselves and do our best, in the circumstances, to improve the Bill. The Prime Minister will be acting in his own interests as well as in the interests of the country and all concerned by agreeing to our request.
– I join in the request that has been made by several of my honorable friends that further time be given for the legitimate discussion of the Bill in Committee. I have always felt the keenest interest in the subject of the settlement of economic disputes between employers and employees, and now that an opportunity is given the House to deal with that question in the light of our sorry experience, the Government is entitled to the very best efforts that can be put forward from all sides to perfect the Bill. The position would be wholly different if there were any attempt at obstruction. I have not had an opportunity to discuss the Bill, and many other honorable members are in the same position. It is in Committee that the real work attaching to the consideration of the Bill will be done. We are likely to have there the advantage of many valuable suggestions from those who are specially fitted to speak on the subject, and I think, therefore that the fullest opportunity for its discussion should be afforded. Honorable members generally are animated by a desire to put an end to the disastrous condition of affairs associated with industrial unrest, and if we join together with that object in view, the best results will ensue. I therefore put it to the Prime Minister that if he finds, as I am sure he will, no attempt to indulge in anything but a legitimate discussion of the Bill, the House is entitled to that legitimate discussion, and the best interests of the country will be served by permitting it.
.- The Prime Minister is placing us under an obligation to attend a dinner’ which the Government propose giving in honour of the Governor-General. I should like very much to attend it, but if sufficient time is not afforded us to discuss the Bill in Committee, we shall have cast . upon us the stigma of being prepared to devote an evening to a dinner, although not ready to devote our best energies to the moulding of a satisfactory measure. If we are not allowed in Committee time to fully discuss the details of the Bill, I shall feel in duty bound to refrain from attending the dinner.
.- I support the appeal for additional time to consider the Bill in Committee. In the interests of all parties an extension should be granted. There was no attempt at “ stone-walling “ during the second reading debate, and the time allowed was so restricted that a number of honorable members, although anxious, were unable to speak to the question.The time fixed for the consideration of the Bill in Committee will not afford an opportunity for its reasonable discussion clause by clause, to say nothing of the amendments of which notice has been given. I therefore urge the Prime Minister to grant the request that has been made.
– I also am in favor of further time being allowed for the consideration of the Bill in Committee, if for no other reason than that given by the honorable member for Blunter (Mr. Charlton). If by want of action on our part a strike in the coal-mining industry is precipitated we shall be deserving of blame. There has been no obstruction to the Bill, and I hope that a full opportunity for its consideration in Committee will be given.
– A man wouldneed to be a thing of stone to resist the appeals that have been made to one’s emotions and reason. I quite understand that honorable members generally appreciate the importance of this measure. I admit that there has been no obstruction, and that every honorable member has done his best to discuss the Bill upon its merits. But I would remind honorable members that the real reason for the urgency of this Bill was a request from the coal miners for a tribunal. Otherwise, it would not have been introduced at this juncture. We have been told that industrial unrest is growing, that it is like some volcano which is menacing and rumbling, and which will shortly burst forth into active eruption. I am sure that honorable members do not desire’ to deliberate, and deliberate, and deliberate, so that at the very moment when we require to be possessed of an effective remedy for the evil, none will be at hand. There was never a time in the history of this country when such remedies as are possible in a civilized community to deal with industrial unrest, were more needed than they are to-day. It is admitted that the existing machinery is inadequate. Nobody has denied that. One of the parties to the industrial dispute which is impending, absolutely declines to go to the Arbitration Court. I am not going to defend its action. I am merely stating the facts. Honorable members have asked me to agree to further time being devoted to the consideration of this measure. My honorable friends opposite say that a great obligation is imposed upon them in dealing with this Bill; but their obligation is no greater than that which is imposed on honorable members upon thisside of the chamber. Whilst the ranks of organized Labour see in this measure something which they do not understand, and which, consequently, they fear, so, too, the ranks of organized capital also see in it something which is new, and’ which they do not understand, and consequently they also fear it. I hope thatin Committee honorable members will recollect that the possibilities of useful amendments to this Bill are very few. The measure is one whichis primarily designed to bring the rival parties to any industrial dispute together. Any amendment which will have the effect of bringing them together more effectively will necessarily be a good one ; whilst any amendment which prevents them coming together will, be a bad one. When we come to deal with industrial dispute, apart from the stand-point of philosophy, we find that the trouble is a very simple one. Industrial quarrels are just quarrels between conflicting interests, or between rival sections, and we have to try to settle them. Now there are various ways of settling quarrels. Some of these I do not attempt myself, but refer to some of my honorable friends opposite, whose physique is more fitted to that kind of business than is my own. These are appeals to force with which I have nothing to do. This Bill provides machinery for conciliation, and opportunities for the voice of reason to be heard. However, I will give the House this assurance: that if at half-past 3 o’clock on Friday next we have not exhausted the possibilities of useful discussion in regard to this Bill, we will go on until we have done so.
– That is not the point. The discussion may finish by the time indicated by the Prime Minister on Friday. But suppose that we are discussing an amendment of great importance. when the time allotted for the consideration of a particular section of the Bill expires’, what will become of our arguments?
– Of course, all things are born out of the womb of time. We are not here for eternity.
– We shall complete the consideration of the Bill just as quickly if the Prime Minister will allow free discussion upon it.
– The miners have asked for this measure. Now, instead of coming out like men and saying, “ This is what we wanted,” they recognise .that if they get it . they will not be able to strike. That is the view of one of their number-
– The . right honorable gentleman is entirely wrong. He is prejudiced upon the matter.
– I say that it is so.
– If the right honorable gentleman will give us a reasonable time to discuss the measure, probably he will get a settlement of the coal-mining trouble.
– I do not know whether that is so or not. I hope that it is. I have said that honorable members will be granted a reasonable time for the consideration of the Bill. But obviously the measure must become law in time for it to become of some use in the threatened trouble. The next stage in the consideration of the Bill will take us up to Part III. I do not know why honorable members desire such a long time to discuss this part of the measure, since it deals only with the powers of the proposed Councils, which are of an advisory character, pure and simple. The part of the Bill which has relation to industrial unrest as an impending and menacing force, is Part IV., which deals with special and local tribunals.
– Before we reach that, we shall have dealt with the definitions, which are all-important.
– Definitions I Honorable members may have any definition that they like. We ore not going to waste time over words. My honorable friends [Wl] opposite are always thinking that somewhere in Government measures there is a catch, although they cannot actually see it. But I have taken the definition which is embodied in this Bill holus bolus from the Arbitration Act 1911. It was inserted there at my instance, when I was AttorneyGeneral in the Fisher Government, and its insertion was greeted with loud applause from the ranks of Tuscany, lt was good enough for my honorable friends then ; it ought to be good enough for them now. Instead, however, it evokes only hostile criticism. ‘My honorable friends opposite want organized labour to be recognised. I have told the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) that it will be recognised.
– I have had enough of this.
– I do not know whether the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was a member of the Labour party at the time of which T am speaking. But I introduced the definition in question only after it had received mature consideration in the Labour Caucus. It was inserted in the Arbitration Act 1911, and it certainly carried us a very long way. I challenge honorable members to cite me a single case that has come before the Arbitration Court during the past six or seven years to which any body but organized labour has been a party.
– Under the Arbitration Act only organizations can get to the Court; but the Bill allows both, persons and organizations to get-to the tribunals for which it provides.
– I am willing to make the provisions of the Bill conform exactly with those of the Act in that respect. If honorable members will take my advice, they will, since we are likely to come to an agreement on definitions, spend very little time on its discussion as far as Part III., and devote the rest of the time available to the remaining clauses.
– If the honorable member is disposed to meet the Committee, as he says he is, the Bill may go through in one day. My contention is that there should be no limitation of discussion in regard to its various Darts.
– The Committee will find that I shall not burke debate. No doubt, honorable members on both sides are trying to do their best with a difficult problem, and that being so, I shall not stop the discussion of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message received from the Senate requesting the concurrence of the House in the following resolution : - .
That this Senate is of opinion that Australian Trade Commissioners should be appointed in various centres of the world where their presence is likely to be of benefit to Australian export trade.
The following paper was presented: -
Public Service Act - Promotion ofR. A. Fetherston, Department of Works and Railways.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- While thanking you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your courtesy in giving the instruction that the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden) should have every attention, I desire to bring under your notice, and under that of the House, a suggestion that I have made previously, namely, that there should be a cabinet provided with remedies for use in case of sickness or accident in the building. I made the same proposal when the late Sir Frederick; Holder died, and again when the late Mr. Roberts was taken. I should like you - or, if it is not within your province, whatever Minister should be applied to - to ask the Defence Department for a field companion or haversack, which would contain everything needed for prompt assistance in case of illness.
– The request is a reasonable one, and I shall communicate with the Defence Department regarding it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4 10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 August 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200806_reps_8_92/>.