8th Parliament · 1st Session
The Clerk reported the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Hon. J. M. Chanter) took the chair at 3.1 p.m., and read prayers.
– It is with very great regret thatI rise to say a word or two about the death of Sir Samuel Griffith, the late Chief Justice of the High Court of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Angel of Death has indeed been busy amongst us of late, and some of our greatest men have left us. The death of Sir Samuel Griffith removes from our midst a great statesman, a great lawyer, and a devoted public ‘ servant. In the State of Queensland, his’ adopted home, he made for himself a great and enduring reputation as a statesman and jurist. He was one of the fathers of the Commonwealth Constitution. When the Convention of 1891 met, he brought to the work of constitution-building a ripe scholarship, a long experience of political affairs, a singularly acute intellect, and a sound and practical judgment. . He was the chief draftsman of the draft Constitution of 1890, which was the basis upon which the Constitution was built. Though his judicial office in Queensland debarred him from membership of the Convention of 1897-1898, he took a keen interest in ite deliberations,, and was fruitful in wise suggestions.
When the High Court was established Sir Edmund Barton, with characteristic generosity - and insight, recognised Sir Samuel’s superlative qualifications far’ the position, of Chief Justice; and from that time until the recent breakdown of his health, Sir Samuel Griffith devoted his wonderful energy and his splendid mental equipment to the task of laying down the basis for the interpretation of the instrument in the framing of which he had played a leading part.
It has often been said that he was to Australia what Chief Justice Marshall was to America; and the comparison is just. One of the most brilliant lawyers of the age, he applied a keen logical faculty, and an unrivalled store of legal and constitutional knowledge to the new problems that arose for solution.
The -work will not remain where be left it. Nothing in this world is immutable, and the process of constitutional interpretation is subject to the universal law of change and development. But he had laid the foundations soundly and firmly; and it can safely be prophesied that his judicial reputation will increase with the years, and that succeeding generations will have cause to be grateful to the first Chief Justice of the High Court for his splendid contributions to the work of legal interpretation, and for his part in the establishment of a great legal tradition.
To his sorrowing wife and family, 1 wish to express, on behalf of this Parliament and of the people of Australia, the deepest sympathy in their bereavement. Theirs is the consolation that the memory of this great man will remain enshrined in the hearts of the people of Australia, in whose service he lived and died.
.- In the regretted absence of the Leader of the Opposition, the sad duty devolves upon me of supporting the remarks of the Prime Minister. Very sincerely, members on - this side, . in unison with those opposite, deplore the death of Sir Samuel Griffith. Great as Sir Samuel may have been by reason of his legislative and his judicial powers, those who have read his translation into English verse of the Inferno of Dante Alighieri will regret that he could not devote more time to literature, and employ his great brain on a further translation of that poet’s works. Lowe my first seat in this House to a judicial decision given by him. His name will be handed down through all time, not as that of a GovernorGeneral or of a Governor of a State, but as that of the first man who held the position of Chief Justice of a continent. Nowhere in the past “history of the world, and nowhere at the present time, except in Australia, has one Chief Justice had a whole continent as his legal domain. Those’ who have the honour of bearing Sir Samuel Griffith’s name, or claim kinship, and blood relation with him, may regard that as a higher testimony to his. worth than any monument graven by the hands of men.
Moments of sadness “like these bring home to us the fact that no matter how good our health may be we cannot go on for ever. The shock caused by the death of a great man, richly endowed with the gift of intelligence, does us all good, since it teaches us that all things are earthly. To my mind there is only one thing greater that human intelligence has yet reached, and that is the God-given gift of motherhood, which permits a woman to hand on the torch of life to her babe and so to give sure proof of the immortality of life.
In moments such as these mere words are but empty trifles, but I should like to send to the weeping widow and children of the deceased statesman and jurist a message which I have found most comforting when I have had to part from many I have dearly loved. In such circumstances I have found solace in the thought that all that we love and lose in this life hut adds to the many who will meet us when our time comes to pass through the shadows. I send that message to the sorrowing widow and relatives, and every member of my party will join with me in the hope that it will give some solace to them.
.- On behalf of the Country party, I desire to indorse all that has been said by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) ; to express our profound sorrow at the loss Australia has sustained by the death of Sir Samuel Griffith, and to offer our condolences to those whom he has left behind. For the Constitution under which we live we owe much to the deceased statesman and jurist, who probably realized to the full what would be its value to the people of the Commonwealth. We are all familiar with the magnificent and monumental work that he did in the preparation and framing of that famous instrument of government ; and we know, too, that as Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia he raised that tribunal to a high pinnacle, so that it is to-day one of which Australia has every reason to be proud. As a jurist, the deceased gentleman’s work has indeed been equal to his achievements as a statesman, and I am confident that we shall always class him among the greatest statesmen and jurists that Australia has produced.
Complaint by Mr. Justice Duffy.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he has seen in the press a report of a curious incident which took place at the sittings of the High Court in Sydney yesterday, when His Honour Mr. Justice Duffy declined to proceed further with the hearing of a case until he had been supplied with copies of all Commonwealth Statutes and regulations. According to the report, His Honour adopted the extraordinary course of leaving the Bench, and declining to work. I wish to draw the Prime Minister’s attention to the fact that, in these circumstances, a dispute has arisen in the High Court of Australia. Will the honorable gentleman see that Mr. Justice Duffy does not receive any pay if he does not work? Will he also prevent the learned Judge from operating on his private banking account until we shall have succeeded in bringing him to his senses? Lastly, will the Government submit the matter to the new Industrial Peace Tribunal in order to bring about an early settlement of the dispute?
– I shall give the matter very careful consideration. The spirit of industrial unrest appears to have invaded the very; innermost parts of the citadel established for the maintenance of law and order. I cannot promise, without some qualification, to do what the honorable member asks. I shall endeavour, however, to ascertain what is the cause of the trouble. I am informed that each Justice of the High Court is supplied both in Sydney and in Melbourne with copies of all regulations. I have asked for a report fully setting out all the facts in regard to the case. Meantime I hope the honorable gentleman will not take precipitate action.
Threatened Strike of Coal-miners.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the acute shortage of coal for Australian requirements, and the consequent danger which threatens Commonwealth industry? Will he inform the House what steps he has taken, or proposes to take, to avert the threatened disaster?
– Notice of a similar question has been handed to me by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister. I have noticed in the press certain statements relating to the matter, and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) also made some reference to it on Friday last. I am to see the Premier of Victoria this afternoon in regard to the subject, but it might be well to make available at this stage some information that has been placed in my hands.
In the question to which I have referred, the honorable member for Corio asks if I am prepared to place an embargo on the export of coal. I answered a similar question a few days ago, when I said I thought it would be inadvisable to do so. There are so many interruptions going on in the Chamber that 1 shall not say anything further.
– I hope that we may have from the Prime Minister an answer to my question, which relates to a matter of the gravest public importance.
– I am not going to answer any more questions to-day.
– As, under the circumstances, I cannot ask the Prime Minister, I address a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs. In view of factories in Victoria being compelled to close owing to want of coal, will the honorable gentleman bring under the notice of the Cabinet the fact that it maybe necessary to prevent the export ofcoal while our own people are crying out for it?
– That is a question which has already been addressed to the Prime Minister.
– I desire to ask the right honorable the Prime Minister-
– I am not going to answer. I did my best to answer the question, but honorable members would notbe quiet.
– What has that to do with me? I desire to ask the right honorable the Prime Minister-
– I shall not answer.
– I ask the right honorable the Prime Minister whether he refuses to answer my question?
– I have answered it.
– You have not.
– I have.
– It is a gross piece of discourtesy!
– I desire to address a question to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I desire to know whether I correctly apprehend that the Prime Minister is refusing to answer questions because of interruptions. If so, is not that a direct reflection on yourself, and why is no action taken by you?
– The Chair intervenes when it is considered necessary to do so.
– Is the Treasurer aware that money lenders of New South Wales are offering £50 per £100 war gratuity bond, and that certain insurance companies are offering to cash bonds at £20 per £100 bond. If so, what steps does the honorable gentleman propose to take to prevent the wholesale robbing of soldiers by such means?
– As the honorable member puts these cases they are, of course, grossly illegal. I know nothing about money lenders offering to cash bonds at 50 per cent. discount. I do know that some insurance societies are offering to cash the bonds on condition that the soldiers cashing them insure their lives, as they may voluntarily undertake to do, for three or four years, the cost amounting to about 20 per cent. of the total sum. However, if the honorable member can cite any cases I shall have them inquired into.
– Is there any regulation to prevent people cashing war gratuitybonds at their face value, as a friendly act towards the soldiers?
– I do not quite know. I would much prefer if honorable members would cite cases rather than submit abstract questions. May I ask the honorable member to put the question on the notice-paper, when I shall give him a considered answer?
Cost of Removal
– Last year the exTreasurer (Mr. Watt) made a statement to Parliament dealing with the cost of the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra, and stated that it would be from £2,250,000 to £3,250,000. Will the Treasurer lay on the table the details of that estimate so that it may be examined?
– I should be glad to lay the estimate on the table, but I suggest that instead of incurring further expense, honorable members who desire the information may obtain it by reference to Hansard.
– I want the details.
– It was a detailed statement.
Appointment of G. B. Quick
– On the 22nd July the then Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) promised, in reply to a question by me that he would take some action regarding the appointment to the Navy Department of Mr. G. B. Quick. Has the present Minister for the Navy seen the papers in connexion with the appointment?
– I do not know the question to which the honorable member refers, but I shall look into it and let the honorable member have an early reply.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs a question relating to the basis on which the Customs authorities collect exchanges for Customs purposes. When is there going to be a fulfilment of the promise that an early announcement would be made on this question? Further, will the Minister give us a definite date when the announcement will be made?
– I am in this diffi culty -that an action at law has been taken against the Customs Department in relation to this very matter, and it challenges the whole basis on which we are collecting duties. Under the circumstances, it does not seem possible for me to take any action.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister-
– I refuse to answer any question.
– Then I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation whether he will be able to make a statement this week, or next, on the question of increasing the advance for soldiers’ homes from £700 to £800. In many districts, especially in my district, the advance of £700 is not sufficient; and the building of homes is being retarded.
– I shall bring this question under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation. I know that the matter has been considered, but I think that a Bill must be introduced before the amount can be increased as suggested. I am quite sure that the Minister for Repatriation realizes the urgency of the matter.
– Will the Treasurer furnish the House with a statement showing the cost of organizing, brokerage, and advertising in connexion with the various loans floated in Australia?
– May I suggest that that question is one which might properly be placed on the notice-paper. I will be glad to give the honorable member the information he seeks, but he gains nothing by asking questions of this nature without notice. Already halfanhour has been occupied in asking questions most of which should have been asked, upon notice.
– In view of the large number of monthly statements that are sent out by firms and others, will the Postmaster-General consider the advisability of reducing the postage on such statements to1d. ?
– I shall consider the matter.
– Will the Treasurer get into touch with the PostmasterGeneral and the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, with a view to seeing if anything can be done to prevent the disfiguring and obscuring of the public clocks by advertisements of the Peace Loan? Will the Treasurer draw a sharp distinction between legitimate propaganda and a public nuisance?
– I shall take no action in that matter. I think the advertisements appearing on the public clocks are admirable.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J.
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– I regret that I have been compelled to take this course. I asked a question of the Prime Minister, and I expected a full and courteous reply. This matter is not personal to. me; it is of grave public importance, and calls for immediate action. Nearly all the industries of Australia - certainly those of Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania - are threatened with a stoppage on account of the unfortunate condition of affairs which now exists in regard to supplies of coal. The position cannot be regarded with equanimity. These States must have coal for their immediate industrial requirements, apart altogether from their reasonable domestic needs. Vast quantities of coal are being exported to foreign countries, notably to Japan, or, at least, in Japanese ships, and to Sweden and Norway, and elsewhere beyond Australia. I realize that grave consequences are involved in any attempted interference with the export of any commodity; but surely we cannot stand quietly by and see this coal leaving our shores in considerable quantities when hundreds of thousands of our workmen may be thrown out of employment by the lack of coal. The safety of the Commonwealth, and the welfare of its industries, are immediately involved, and, therefore, I hope it will be possible for the Prime Minister to make some arrangement, by conference or otherwise, whereby an ample and generous profit can be secured to the coal-owners on the sale of their commodity for local requirements; then, Australia’s urgent needs having been met, the export of the balance might be encouraged in every possible way. I admit the difficulty of the situation, but the House will not agree that thousands of our workmen and their families shall be left to starve, when it is within our power and competence to prevent a disaster of that kind. The menace is very real indeed ; it is a danger which immediately and eminently confronts us, and which the House and the Government dare not ignore. Therefore, I submit that immediate steps should be taken, with the object of at least insuring that local requirements of coal shall be met in order to avert a grave disaster.I naturally resent the discourtesy with which I was treated when I asked a question a few moments ago. I expected a full and complete reply, which the Prime Minister was apparently about to give me, when, through no fault of mine, he was interrupted. He refused to answer my question, and I had no alternative but to move the adjournment of the House. I hope the right honorable gentleman will now see his way clear to give the House the fullest information on this subject, and I earnestly impress upon him the necessity for taking immediate and definite steps to avert the disaster which I have indicated.
– I am astonished that the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) should charge me with discourtesy. He should have charged the House with discourtesy to me, because it behaved to me in a very unmannerly way. I never interrupt others when they are speaking. I was about to give the House the information, which the honorable member for Kooyong said was very important, when the House saw fit to continue its conversation in such audible tones that I could not hear myself speak. In those circumstances, what could I think but that the House did not care “ tuppence “ about the coal situation?
– That was not my fault.
-Nor mine. The honorable member asked me a question, and I was about to answer him when the rest of the House continued its conversation. However, the matter raised is most important, more important, perhaps, than the honorable member realizes. This afternoon I have been engaged in dealing with one phase of it, and I am about to deal with another. The honorable member suggests that I should take immediate and definite steps to put an end to the trouble to which he has drawn attention; but I would prefer him to mention what immediate and definite steps I can take. With no coal, no gas, no wood, in my own little home, things have been reduced to a state that would make a man who had not been hardened by over twenty-five years of political experience weep. However, everything that can be done will be done, but it is not so easy to do anything. The influenza outbreak, the seamen’s strike, the engineer’s strike, and the war have all helped to intensify what is usually the coal position in August of each year, and, as a result, there are no stocks of coal on hand in some of the States, while we are also threatened with the possibility of a total cessation of output. It is the latter trouble with which we must deal at once. The honorable member for Kooyong is in error in supposing that coal is being exported to Japan. Not a ton has gone to that country. The correct position is that Japanese ship-owners having a large number of steamers available for charter, their vessels have been chartered by various shippers to take our coal to different parts of the world. If we were to act precipitately, and place an embargo on the export of coal, we would absolutely destroy the coal-mining industry of Australia, because the local trade is not nearly enough to keep our coal mines going. We must have some consideration for one of our greatest industries. I can assure the honorable member that the Government are fully aliveto the gravity of the situation, and that any step they can take to remedy the trouble will be taken. However, the position in Melbourne has very much improved duringthe last three days of last week, and the first few days of the current week, 30,000 tons of coal having been discharged here or being on the way to the port. The blame for all this trouble cannot be placed on the shoulders of any one party. It is due to a combination of causes. In the first place it is very doubtful whether we have the power to place an embargo on the export of coal. I say we have not; and,as I intimated last week, if Parliament wishes that step to be taken it must say so, and after the discussion ofthe matter, and after being authorized by the House to take the necessary action, the Government will consider the question. In the. second place, if we take action in this direction in regard to coal, why should we not take a similar step in regard to every commodity, and when any shortage of that commodity arises, place an embargo on its export? Before we knew where we were Australia would be lying on her back panting and in her death throes. The fact is, we cannot deal with a great. Question in a hurried way; we must look at it from all points of view. I have already informed the honorable member that I propose to see Mr. Lawson, the Premier of Victoria, this afternoon, in order to discuss the matter with him from the point of view of his State. Other States have suffered. This afternoon I saw a representative of the coal-miners, and it is only right that I should announce that they have requested me to convene a conference of employers and employees. This I have agreed to do, and I have convened a conference to meet in Sydney next Tuesday, at 2.30p.m. . I hope that as a result of that conference we shall, at any rate, tide over an impending and possible industrial upheaval. In regard to supplies of coal for local, domestic and industrial purposes, the Government will use every endeavour to adjust matters. I shall put myself in close, touch with the proprietors, the State Governments, and the shipping companies in order to -see what can be done.
.- I. shall not detain the House very long, because there is some very important business awaiting us, but I wish to warn honorable members that they must be very careful indeed in touching upon the question of the export of coal. I agree with the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) that the requirements of Australia should be met if possible. I hold that same view in regard to every other commodity, but in dealing with the export of coal we must get a thorough grasp of the whole of the ramifications of the coal-mining industry. For one thing, if honorable members should decide to call upon the Government to prohibit the exportation of coal, it would probably cause intermittentemployment right through the Newcastle and Maitland districts. The men would probably average not more than half time.
– That would be a certainty.
– Yes . Last month twenty Japanese steamers loaded coal, but it has not gone to Japan.
– It is immaterial where it is taken. The point is that it goes away from Australia..
-Honorable members have not forgotten the time when I was raising my voice during the war, pleading the cause of a number of men who, owing to the export trade in coal being cut off, were so intermittently employed that some of them were unable to earn a proper living. As a result of the representations made to them, the Government began to store coal on the surface. That guaranteed the men at least three days’ work per week. At the conclusion of the war the’ representatives of the miners approached the mine-owners, and asked whether there was any likelihood of an improvement in the trade, because they realized that they, even although they had their homes in the locality of the mines, could not remain in their respective districts unless they were given more constant employment. The mine-owners informed them that if they were prepared to remain at their work for a little time longer they would undertake to charter foreign vessels which had become available, and to guarantee to provide the men with regular employment within two or three months. In fulfilment of that promise the companies chartered Japanese and other steamers, and these vessels have come here and taken coal away. The charter conditions oblige the companies to load the vessels in a given time, or pay certain penalties, and if we interfere with them we shall place them in a very invidious position. They have not been doing too well during the war. I saw the statement in an evening newspaper - I think on Saturday last - that an officer of a vessel discharging coal at Geelong had said that every steamer in the Inter-State trade was being delayed at Newcastle, and that it seemed to him that the companies interested in the coal mines were giving persons outside Australia priority in the matter of loading. Then there is the statement that 22s. 6d. is being paid for . coal on the contracts that the honorable gentleman has referred to. I have heard, too, that third class coal, which under the War Precautions Act brings 13s. 6d. per ton, is being resold at Newcastle for 23s. 6d. Who is making the profit of 10s. per ton on’ the resale? These are matters which should be inquired into. Some time ago I pointed out that there is at grass in New South Wales enough coal to meet the requirements of the other States, and that, instead of vessels being kept waiting three or four days for a cargo from the mines, that coal might be drawn upon. Why should men in factories at Melbourne be working only half-time for want of fuel, when there is that coal available? I have referred to the quantity at grass as about three-quarters of a million tons, and I have since learned that the exact quantity is 759,000 tons. That quantity of coal would keep Victoria going for months. It must be remembered, besides, that the coal at grass is deteriorating, and will be of less value two or three years hence than it is now. The present difficulties arise chiefly from the insufficiency of steamers, and, therefore, what vessels we have must be kept moving to and fro as fast as possible. The Commonwealth could send away 200,000 or 300,000 tons of its store of coal without missing it. That coal was bought at 14s. or 14s. 6d. per ton, and to-day 17s. 9d. could be got for it, the increase in price being sufficient to cover the cost of handling, with, perhaps, something over. Instead of asking that the export of coal shall be stopped, members should get it into their minds that there is already sufficient coal available. To put an embargo on the export of coal would do injury to the Commonwealth.
– Why is that coal lying at grass?
– During the war. I had occasion to see the Prime Minister, with a view to providing sufficient work for the miners, because the foreign coal trade of Australia was then practically cut off; and the right honorable gentleman said that the Government would buy enough coal to employ the men for three days a week. He told me that that coal might be needed by the Navy, because no one knew what might happen. Now that the war is over, why should the coal be kept in stock ? The mines in the Newcastle district should be kept fully employed with the available trade, and the coal that is now lying at grass should be used to fill up whenever other coal was not immediately available. I stated the other day that the output of coal during the. three months ending with June last had been a record, and, as I anticipated, the July output was also a record. The miners are doing their level best, and this House should endeavour to assist them. Under no circumstances should the export trade be interfered with. The Inter-State trade alone cannot keep employed the mines of the Newcastle and
Maitland districts ; and if we stop supplying our foreign market, we run the risk of losing it altogether to our competitors. It is the dearth of shipping on the coast, and thebig demand for coal that has arisen in consequence of the termination of the war, that are responsible for our present position. If the Government allow the coal now lying on the surface to be drawn on when necessary to give quick despatch to the vessels in the coastal coal trade, there will be a sufficient supply of coal for all parts of the Commonwealth.
.- It is rather a remarkable coincidence that the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) should have asked a question very similar to one which I intended to address to the Prime Minister, and which I handed to him in writing in the following terms: -
In view of the remarks by the honorable member for Hunter and other honorable members, and also of the statements in the press that colliery proprietor’s areeither directly or indirectly exporting coal overseas to the extent of many thousands of tons, will the Government give immediate consideration to the advisability of placing an embargo on the export of coal beyond the Commonwealth until such time as local requirements are being fully met?
– I have never asked such a question.
– No ; but last week the honorable member said that a considerable quantity of coal was being exported overseas; and at the present time many industries in my electorate are finding it exceedingly difficult to keep going, or are at least greatly handicapped for want of coal, and it is the same in other parts of the Commonwealth.
– Is it not evident that an embargo on the export of coal would throw thousands ofmen out of employment?
– That is not evident to me. When writing out my question, I had in mind the fact mentioned this afternoon by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that the Government has a large quantity of coal at grass. In the interests of those in the manufacturing industries, as well as of the coal miners, every available man should be kept in constant employment; but I cannot see how an embargo on the export of coal would affect the miners while local requirements are not being fully met. In my opinion, such an embargo would not affect the miners at all. If we could increase the Australian consumption of coal, the Commonwealth would be a gainer. We should always study our own people first. I appreciate the importance of not upsetting contracts which have been made with persons overseas, but our first duty is to our own people. It was for that reason that I determined to ask my question. I am satisfied with the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter. Last week he delivered a very illuminating speech, one of the finest that I have listened to from that side of the House, and one that might very well be circulated throughout Australia, because it puts the miner’s position in a very different light from that in which the people have hitherto been allowed to see it.
– The honorable member for Hunter does not hold the views that the honorable member is expressing now.
– The honorable member differed from me only, I believe, on the subject of an embargo.
– A very important difference.
– The Government must consider the people of Australia first, and they are not doing that when they allow thousands of men to be thrown out of employment for the want of coal.
.- It is as well that the House should understand where the block takes place in regard to the stoppage of coal supplies. I do not suppose that more, or, indeed, as much, coal is being sent from Newcastle to-day overseas as in pre-war days, when, notwithstanding the large export trade, the Inter-State market was kept fully supplied. But the war caused a shortage of ships, and the overseas trade was practically stopped. Now we have to try to get it back again. There is but one thing to do to remove the present difficulty. The Government has coal lying idle, and for the sake of the public finances it should usethat coal. That, however, would not be sufficient. The Inter-State vessels which are carrying coal should be unloaded with some mechanical appliance, or, at any rate, by quicker methods than are now employed at Melbourne and some of the other ports, so that a greater number of trips may be made by them. The exportation of coal to Java and the west coast of America, which is now proceeding, is only part of the business that Newcastle was doing in coal before the war. I believe that there is something in the statement of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that some British speculators are finding that it pays them to buy coal at Newcastle, even at the enhanced price, and transport it to other parts of the world, because of the fabulous prices ruling there. Whether in the rotation of places at the cranes oversea ships are favoured, I do not know. Some persons here say that that is so, and that before the war it was the Inter-State shipping that got the preference. What is needed is more shipping for carrying coal on the coast - we have managed to secure six of the Government steamers - and the quick unloading of the coal, so as to keep the shipping more busily employed.
.- I am not sorry that this question has come up for discussion ; indeed, it is time that the House gave an instructionto the Government regarding the supplying of coal. If private owners of coal are’ allowed to exploit foreign markets because they can get higher prices for it there than in the home market, it will be our fault. The market to be first supplied is the local market, but thatmarket is being allowed to look after itself while bigger profits can be got abroad. If there iscoal at grass, the Government should put it into use. It is a nice thing to know that nearly 1,000,000 tons of coal are lying unused.
– You would not suggest an embargo on the export of coal ?
– I would do anything that might be necessary to supply our people with coal. The coal of Australia belongs to its people, and not to the people of foreign countries. If the coal -owners are so ungenerous as to supply the foreign markets before the local market, I would put an embargo on export, or levy an export tax to make them supply the local market first. How can we encourage our industries if we allow ships to leave Newcastle loaded with coal for foreign parts while there is insufficient coal for local consumption? I cannot understand why a large quantity of coal is allowed to lie at grass, while our factories, for want of coal, are working only half-time. It is difficult to understand who is responsible for this state of affairs, and I trust that definite steps will be taken by the Government to insure that the coal now lying at grass shall be put to some use. The House will, if necessary, give the Government a direction to see that it is used, but no such direction should be required. The coal-miners are doing their best, they are working full-time, and first preference should be given to the coal requirements of the Commonwealth. Local industries should first of all be supplied, and if after that has been done we can build up a big export’ trade in coal, so much the better for Australia. At the present time many families are unable to secure sufficient coal for domestic use, and they learn with surprisethat while this is so there are something like 750,000 tons of coal at grass at Newcastle. I trust that the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), having taken up this matter, will continue to keep it before the Government and see to it that this coal is utilized to the best advantage.
Question resolved in the negative.
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act -
Proclamation (dated 28th July, 1920) revoking Proclamation (dated 28th June, 1916) prohibiting ‘the exportation (except under certain conditions) of arms and certain other goods.
Proclamation (dated 28th July, 1920) revoking Proclamations (dated 28th October, 1914, and 18th February, 1915) prohibiting the exportation (except under certain conditions) of hides and leather.
Northern Territory - Ordinance of 1920 - No.6 - Necessary Commodities.
Public Service Act- Department of the Treasury - Promotions of -
D. M. Ray, A. D. B. Rowley, C. H. Brown, G. M. Qarcia, R. W. Chenoweth.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to his reply to a question askedon the 28th July last by the honorable member for Kooyong, and the Government’s decision to enter into a new mail contract with Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company for twelve months from the 1st August for the carrying out of a three-weekly service to Papua,Rabaul, and theSolomon Islands, &c, for a total subsidy of £40,000 per annum, and the Government’s agreement with that company to allow it freedom to increase freights and fares, &c, will the Prime Minister authorize to be laid on the table of the House a return showing -
The total tonnage and numbers of passengers carried per annum on behalf of the Government from and to Australia, Papua, andRabaul during the last three years, and the amount of the rebate on the freights and fares allowed to the Government as compared with charges for similar services paid by the general public?
The total tonnage and number of passengers carried per annum by the Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company under its agreement with the Messrs. Levers Pacific Plantation Limited from and to Australia and the Solomon Islands for the last three years, and the amount of the rebate on freights and fares allowed by Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company to Messrs. Levers Pacific Plantation Limited, as compared with charges for similar services paid by the general public?
– The information asked for by the honorable member is not available, but his request will be brought under the notice of Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Operations at Nauru.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will endeavour to secure the information asked for in the following questions: -
What operations are now being carried on in the island of Nauru?
What is the cost of phosphate rock, f.o.b. Nauru, exclusive of administrative charges, (a) now;(b) for the year prior to the war?
What rates of wages have hitherto been paid to workmen on the island?
Is any alteration of rates intended, such as would increase the f.o.b. cost; and, if so, to what extent per ton?
What amount will be added to the cost per ton of the proposed annual output by the royalty or other payments under the mandate, plus the expenses of Commonwealth administration?
At what price per ton will the phosphate rock be sold, f.o.b., to purchasers?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House -
What are the intentions of the Government as regards representation of Australian interests in America?
What additional powers it is thought desirable should be exercised on behalf of Australia in America beyond those now exercised by the present Commissioner ?
– A statement regarding this matter will be made at an early date.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that the Government intend to amend the Federal Income Tax Acts in order to increase the exemption of £ 150 to £250?
-The honorable member asked an almost identical question on 29th July last, and I can only repeat the reply which was then given, viz., “ This question will be inquired into by the Royal Commission on Taxation.”
– On the 6th August the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) asked the following questions: -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 6th August, vide page 3394) :
Clause 4 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Industrial matters “ includes all matters relating to work, pay, wages, reward, hours, privileges, rights,or duties of employers or employees, or the mode, terms, and conditions of employment or nonemployment; and in particular, but without limiting the general scope of this definition, includes all matters pertaining to the relations of employers and employees, and the employment, preferential employment, dismissal, or non-employment of any particular persons, or of persons of any particular sex or age, or being or not being members of any organization, association, or body, and any claim arising under an industrial agreement,and includes all questions of what is fair and right in relation to any industrial matter having regard to the interests of the persons immediately concerned and of society as a whole. . . .
.- This to my mind is the most important clause in the Bill, since the definitions for which it provides will govern any amendment we may make in subsequent clauses. I have given “notice of an amendment of clause 5 which, will enable special tribunals for which the Bill provides to inquire into all matters pertaining to an industry from the point of production to the final disposal of the commodity, and to give effect, to that provision it will be necessary to amend the definition of “industrial matters.” The definition of “ industrial matters “ in clause 4 is an exact copy of the definition given in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and is largely in keeping with that which has appeared in the Commonwealth and State Statutes from the inception of our arbitration legislation. I carry back my mind to the first Conciliation and Arbitration Act of New South Wales, which was introduced by Mr. B. R. Wise, and in which it was provided that the “industrial matter” inquired into should be a matter pertaining to the industry to which the dispute related. The Court created under the Act was unable to go further, and the position is the same under subsequent legislation, dealing with Wages Boards, passed by the Parliament of New South Wales. The field of inquiry is thus so narrowed down as to make it impossible to give satisfaction to industrial bodies. I urged on the motion for the second reading of this Bill - and there appeared to be a good deal of sympathy with my contention - that the time had arrived when we should make clear the intention of the Parliament, and so widen the scope of these Tribunals as to enable all matters relating to an industry to be fully investigated. I pointed out that conditions as affecting employers have so changed that much that was readily accepted, by employees in 1901 and 1903 would no longer meet with their approval. Under the present system, it ls impossible to give satisfaction either to the employees or to the general public. Just as legislation has been passed to improve the position of employees, so the employers have from time to time got into closer combination, with the result that the general public axe the chief sufferers. Surely the people generally are entitled to consideration!’ There are more than two parties to an industrial dispute. The people, as a whole, are concerned, and should be protected. The Prime Minister stated to-day that he had agreed to convene a Conference to deal with the threatened trouble in the coal -mining industry. I shall be very pleased to hear that the Conference has arrived at a satisfactory settlement, but I am convinced that, unless we provide that a Special Tribunal, in ‘the case of the coal-mining industry, for instance, shall have power to investigate not only the wages conditions of the employees, but the cost of production and the selling price of coal, not merely at Newcastle, but in the different States, this Bill will not meet with the approval of the employees. ‘ The coal miners have decided in aggregate meetings that power must be given to Tribunals to inquire into all matters pertaining to the industry from the point of production to the final disposal of the commodity, so that it may be ascertained whether a higher price than is necessary is being charged for coal. This claim on the part of the day labourers demands immediate attention if a crisis is to be averted. They wish to know whether the increased wages for which they ask cannot be met without any increase in the price of coal. They do not wish to throw further burdens on the public. I believe they would have no difficulty in securing increased rates if the coal mine owners were free to increase the price of coal to the general public. Having regard to the great increase in prices that has taken place since the outbreak of the war, however, the employees think the time has arrived when all sections of the community should try to do “ the fair thing “; and they say that, so far as their industry is concerned, this cannot be secured unless the Tribunals have power to make investigations on the lines I am indicating. It is provided in the clause that - “ Industrial matters “ includes all matters relating to work, pay, wages, reward, hours, privileges, rights or duties of employers or employees, or the mode, terms, and conditions of employment or non-employment…..
The important point is that the inquiry in all these matters must relate to the particular industry in which -the dispute occurs. A Tribunal cannot trace any particular commodity that may be produced beyond, say, the point of shipment. Honorable members opposite believe in payment by results, and miners are so paid; but they are not able to ascertain whether they are getting a fair share because of the changed conditions under which the steam-ship owners control most of the big mines in the South Maitland district; at any rate, in two or three cases they have a controlling interest. Probably, when the pricefixing under the “War Precautions Act expires at the end of October, some other system will be brought into being; but the miners do not know whether they are getting that to which they are entitled, and they wish to ascertain what the shipowners are doing, and whether they are making additional profits. The dispute is between the coal companies and the employees, but the shipping companies now practically control the mines, charging what they are disposed to charge for the coal, and there is no means of ascertainingwhether they are getting more than a fair return. Everybody admits that there should be a fair return on capital invested, but when we guarantee a fair return we should also protect the interests of the public and of the employees. I propose to move the insertion of certain words in this clause with that object.
.- I have a previous amendment to that of the honorable member. It is agreed, I think, on all sides that anything which will have the effect of encouraging the formation of what are known as bogus trade organizations should not have our approval; and it does seem to me that the Bill is so drawn as to make it possible for an association of men who are in no shape or form a recognised trade organization to come within its operation, with harmful results to the interests of trade unionism. Right throughout the Bill, the words “ employers “ and “ employees “ are used, the word “ association” being used only once. If we have no definition of “employee,” it will reopen the dispute’ that has already engaged the attention of the various Arbitration Courts as to what is or is not a bona fide association. I venture to say, from inquiries I have made in industrial circles, that thisBill meets with a good deal of approval and sympathy, but, at the same time, there is a fear that it renders it possible for bogus associations to take advantage of it. We have reached the stage in industrialism in Australia when we realize that it is better to have both employees and employers organized, and to have organizations as the repre sentative parties at any conference that takes place. In the Bill, we have accepted the exact definition in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act of “industrial matters,” and my amendment follows that up by a definition of “employees,” so that no question of any bogus union may be raised. I move
That after the definition of “ Industrial matters” the following definition be inserted: - “ ‘ Employees “ means an organization registered pursuant to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904- 1918.”
It would have been advisable, in my opinion, to take the word “ association “ as used in the Act; in any case, if we adopt the definition of “industrial matters,” why not go further and make trade unions see that we are in earnest in our desire to do nothing to hurt the organizations. We want the co-operation of these organizations, without which we shall have wasted the time of Parliament over this Bill. The trade unionists are justified in taking the stand they do if they feel there is any intention on our part to harm the industrial workers of Australia; and my proposed definition of “ employee “ will make it clear that none but bona fide associations can take advantage of the Bill. An amendment has been given notice of by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) with the same object; but I venture to say that it will not achieve that object so completely as will my amendment. There is no such expression as “ organization “ in the Bill, and that is what has led to the suspicion in the minds of the trade unions that the Bill means something new. It would have been better, as I say, to use the term “ association,” but having used the term “ employee,” the latter must he defined. The objection to the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition is that if the Bill be confined to organizations affiliated with Trade and Labour Councils, there are hundreds of trade organizations which are not so affiliated, such as the Australian Workers Union in South Australia.
– The honorable member’s amendment will not cover the wharf labourers, the coal-miners, and others who are not registered.
– There are some organizations not registered; but what I desire to guard against is organizations that are not bond fide taking advantage of this Bill. In South Australia, for instance, where there is some brown coal, the men’ employed formed an association and tried to harm genuine trade unionism; and, under the Bill as it stands, it would be difficult to keep such an organization out, although they might be doing something detrimental to the interests of the whole of the other trade organizations. There are, as I say, associations which are not registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act; but I do not see how we could frame a clause to meet all cases. There are, for instance, organizations which are Inter-State in their character, and are not affiliated with district Trades and Labour Councils. I do not profess to be a lawyer, and my amendment may be a clumsy method ; but it is an attempt to meet a serious position, and the Government ought to realize that an amendment of the kind is necessary.
– I hope the Committee will not accept the amendment. We are endeavouring, and hope, to make this a workable measure, and, therefore, the provisions must be acceptable to the great trade union bodies outside. If we adopt this amendment it must be apparent at once that we compel organizations to be registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and there are many organizations not so registered - organizations whose interests are not confined to one State. These organizations are not likely to register under the Act: and the amendment would compel them to register or give up any idea of taking advantage of the Bill. I speak with some knowledge when I say that if these organizations were asked whether they would register under the Act or reject the Bill, they would reject -the Bill ; but they may accept it if we provide that they may have Boards appointed under it.
– Do you accept the amendment to be proposed by the Leader of the Opposition?
– Yes, with the addition of a couple of words. There are not only the coal miners but the waterside workers, and, in fact, some of the most important bodies, who are not registered, and if we are devising legislation for the settlement of industrial disputes we must put no embargo in the way. We must make it as free as possible for any bond fide association to take advantage of the proposed Tribunal. The amendment now proposed would mean disaster for the Bill, and I hope that the Prime Minister will not accept it. The amendment given notice of by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) is - “ Organization of employees “ means the bond fide trade union organization representing the industry as recognised by the Trades Council in that district or State.
I propose to add to that amendment, before “ Council,” the words “ or industrial.”
– The suggested amendment contains a definition of an expression that does not appear in the Bill.
– Our intention is_to move an amendment to rectify that omission. We desire to give every union an opportunity to form a district council if it so desires; but if the amendment is agreed to, some of the biggest- organizations in the Commonwealth will be excluded. If they are told that they must register under the Arbitration Act in order to get the benefit of this Bill, .they will not do it. During the secondreading debate it was admitted by honorable members that we have to make up our minds to try to evolve a measure that will be acceptable to all interests. We agreed that this was not a party question,, and I appeal to honorable members not to make it so.
– Will this not be extraordinary legislation if it confers all the powers under the Arbitration Act without requiring any registration of employees under that Act?
– I quite appreciate the attitude of the honorable member, who is entirely opposed to the Bill. But those honorable members who say that they desire to evolve . legislation which will prevent industrial disputes should do what is best in the interest of the great trade union movement. What harm can be done by passing amendments that will commend the . Bill to the big organizations of employees? They aTe holding meetings to-day, and the omission from the Bill, which the amendment I shall move later will seek to rectify, is the very thing about which they are complaining. Why should we deny any body of men the right to come under the operation of this measure if it is in the interests of the country? This Committee should not pass any amendment that will exclude from the benefits of the. Bill unions which are not registered under the Arbitration Act. Let the organizations have the fullest possible freedom in the conduct’ of their own affairs. If they will conform to this legislation and settle their disputes by means of the Tribunals proposed in the Bill, this Parliament will have accomplished good work. I warn the Committee that if the amendment moved by the honorable member for Adelaide is accepted the Bill will be doomed to failure so far as many of the big organizations are concerned. There should be no objection to permitting a trade union, registered or unregistered, to form tribunals in connexion with an industry. We must recognise the unions; we cannot pass legislation which is obnoxious to them and expect them to accept it.
– But we want a fair deal for both sides.
– I am proposing a fair .deal for both sides. If the Prime Minister accepts the amendment, he will do much to kill the Bill at its inception. I ask the Committee to reject the amendment. Later honorable members will have an opportunity of considering the other amendment I have indicated.
– In considering the amendment now before the Committee, we must take notice of what the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has said in regard to the other amendment he proposes to move subsequently. Honorable members are in danger of losing sight of some fundamental facts in connexion with this measure and the position of the Commonwealth in regard .thereto. One of those facts is that the Bill proposes to do two quite distinct things. It proposes, first, to create machinery which will enable councils of employers and employees to meet together to discuss the welfare of the industry and the conditions of labour and employment generally, and to give such advice and counsel as may seem fit to them in regard to legislation or ad ministration which will promote the welfare of the employees and the industry generally. In connexion with those bodies there is no suggestion of industrial disputes. They are to be merely deliberative in character; they will deal with questions as this House deals with them, but will have no power to give effect to their recommendations. That is the first thing the Bill proposes to do. The second is entirely different; it has to do with disputes. To the first part I feel sure that nobody can take any exception. It must be a good thing to bring employers and employees together around a table, where they can say; “ Never mind the conditions of any particular industry; let us consider industry as a whole, the diseases from which it is suffering, and what remedy we can apply.” The word “employees” occurs in the first part of the measure in connexion with the creation of a Commonwealth Council and District Councils -
Of the members, other than the chairman, one-half shall be representative of employers, and one-half shall be representative of the employees.
Is it suggested that the representatives of the employees shall be limited, for instance, to persons who are affiliated with any Trades Council, as is suggested in the amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition ?
– I intend to make that read “trades or industrial council.”
– I confess that I do not know the meaning of that amendment, and I think it would be very dangerous for us to agree to it, because we have already seen sufficient to warrant us in believing that there is a trend in the industrial affairs of the Commonwealth for one set of unionists to go in one direction and another set to go in quite another. One set of unionists, so far from recognising arbitration, openly disavow and denounce it; but, nevertheless, a dispute with them is as much a real dispute as is one with unionists who attorn to the jurisdiction of” the Arbitration Court. Therefore, we should not limit the scope of this Bill. It should be sufficient for us that there is a dispute, and that there is an organization concerned; whether or not that organization is registered under the Arbitration Act is npt to the point. The* vital question must be - Is a dispute with this organization a menace to society? If it is, we ought to have some means to deal with it. It is absurd to say that a body of men can be absolutely outside the law merely by refraining from registration. That was never intended, because under section 62 of the Arbitration Act, when there is a dispute with a body of men who have not registered, the Governor-General may proclaim that organization, and the effect of the proclamation is to bring the organization within the fold. I candidly confess that I do not see that any useful purpose can be served by the amendment moved by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell). So far as I know, in every case that has come before the Arbitration Court the parties have been organizations of what are called bona fide unionists; there have been two or three applications from other organizations, butthey have been refused. We desire to make this measureas wide as possible, and I suggest it would be a very bad start if we deliberately excluded, by implication or specific words, some of the most militant unions in the Commonwealth. That would afford them an additional excuse or reason why they should ignore arbitration altogether. We ought not to do that. All persons should be amenable to the same law, and as the measure is in its essence conciliatory, being based on conferences between the parties and compulsion being introduced only as a last resort, there is no reason whatever why we should limit its operation. I hope that the honorable member will not press his amendment, because there is no necessity for it. What is an employee as registered under the Arbitration Act? Under that Act, an organization is any association of not less than 100 employees in, or in connexion with, any industry. It is not necessary for it to be a bona fide trade union within the usual meaning of the term, but it must consist of not less than 100 persons, who apply for registration and whose registration is accepted. Therefore, when the honorable member for Adelaide suggests that an employee should be an employee registered pursuant to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, he means that an employee should be an employee who is a member of an association of not less than 100 employees in, or in connexion with, any industry registered pursuant to the Act, and such a definition would not carry us any further.
In regard to what has been said by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), it does not matter very much what is included in the Bill, provided the measure is wide enough to deal with all the cases, because, for all practical purposes, labour is organized. The amount of unorganized labour is negligible, and although in isolated industries it might in some circumstances be sufficiently numerous to break a small strike, every honorable member knows that when strikes of any magnitude are broken they are usually broken by unionists coming in from their own unions and doing’ the work of others. For all practical purposes, these definitions do not carry us any “forrader.” They did at one time, but that was because when they were first introduced labour was only struggling to its feet, and there was a great deal of unorganized labour outside. That is not the position to-day.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that the wording of the amendment is not as embracing as the great body of unionists would desire. There are organizations not registered under the Arbitration Act. The Trades and Labour Councils in Adelaide and Port Adelaide have pointed out to me the limitation of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell), which, no doubt, would improve the Bill from the manner of the present draft; but they expressed their preference for the amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). There are organizations such as the Coal and Shale Miners Federation, which are not registered under the Arbitration Act, and which ought to be brought within the confines of this Bill, if possible.
– To exclude them deliberately would be folly.
– We do not want to exclude any who ought to be included. The desire of the Opposition is to have labour unions recognised in the Bill, not because of any registration under any Court, but because of recognition by the Trades and Labour Councils as the bona fide organizations representing their particular industries.
.- I felt that there was a feeling among the unions that the way ought not to be opened for the inclusion of bogus unions, but the objection raised by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) is fatal to my amendment. At the same time, I think that the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) will open the way to the possibility of trouble in regard to defining what is a recognised bond fide organization. I trust that both sides will regard the Bill as an honest attempt to bring conflicting parties together, but if the Trades and Labour Councils are satisfied that the amendment which has been placed on the notice-paper by the honorable member for Yarra will provide all the protection they require, I shall not press mine, and, with the consent of the Committee, I would like to withdraw it.
.- Apparently, the honorable member is willing to withdraw his amendment in favour of another in which recognition is to be given only to those organizations which are approved by Trades and Labour Councils.
– The honorable member has not asked for leave to withdraw his amendment in favour of any other.
– At any rate, there is another amendment on . the noticepaper dealing with this point, and I wish to know where this legislation would lead us. Are we to have only two sets of people covered by this Bill; on the one side, those who are recognised by the employers’ association, which may be one huge combination, and on the other side those recognised by the Trades and Labour Councils, a semi-political organization? I am opposed to the Bill as it stands. I think that it could well be incorporated in the existing Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The proposed Boards will be a great improvement, and should bring about greater industrial peace than is possible under the existing method of arbitration, but if we are to give to a, Board all the power of the President of an Arbitration Court to make an award binding on the whole community, we must be very careful as to the manner in which we frame the definitions. I favoured the amendment submitted by the honorable member for
Adelaide (Mr. Blundell), and I am sorry he has proposed to withdraw it.
.- The object of the amendment is to define the class of organizations which will benefit by this particular legislation. In the past, there have been fights to secure registration under the Arbitration Act between the recognised trade unions and those who joined together for the purpose of defeating trade unionism, and apparently the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) submitted his amendment with the idea of providing a definition of a genuine trade union. However, his attempt, as he now sees, would really impose a limitation on certain bodies which might seek to take advantage of this piece of legislation. Every one knows that Trades and Labour Councils are the heads of the industrial organizations in their respective.’ States.
– But they may refuse to recognise some organization, and thus prevent it from coming within the scope of this Bill.
– Undoubtedly. That is the whole trouble. Bodies which are refused recognition by a Trades and Labour Council are organizations which the workmen of this country propose to watch. I am glad that the honorable member has seen fit to withdraw his amendment so that the real discussion on this issue may take, place on the amendment to be submitted later on by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor).
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- When I resumed my seat in order to permit the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) to move his prior amendment, I had almost completed what I desired to say. My amendment is -
That after the word “privileges” in the definition .of “ Industrial matters “ the words “profits, prices, cost of production relating to an industrial dispute or to any industry” be inserted.
Such an amendment is absolutely necessary if this Bill is to be a workable measure, and as so many honorable members have concurred in the view that, in the interests of the public, the tribunals proposed to be created should have the right to inquire into every phase of a particular matter which has been referred to them, I expect the amendment to be agreed to. It may be argued that it is not within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to give this authority lo a Tribunal. I know that, in *the Harvester Case, the High Court held, that the Arbitration Court had no power to fix prices, but I am not asking that a Tribunal should be authorized to fix prices. I am simply asking- that it be given the power to trace a commodity from the point of production to its destination, and make the fullest possible inquiry as to whether the public are being charged an excessive price for it, and whether the employees can be given an increased wage without further increasing the charge to the consumer.
– The honorable member recognises that the Commonwealth Parliament has not the power to control the price to the consumer?
– I am sa.ying that we have no power to do that. I recognise that if I raise that argument I shall be met with the statement that it is already decided. I do not say that you should regulate the price to the consumer, but I say that you should inquire into every phase of the industry, to ascertain the declared selling price of the coal, what is actually got for it, what the consumer pays for it, what profits are made, and all kindred matters. The Prime Minister may advance a constitutional objection; but there is a distinction between the decisions given by the Court, as I read them, and my position. I know that the price of coal to the consumer cannot be fixed. I should like that to be done, and have said on numerous occasions that we should have the power to protect the public in connexion with the selling of commodities generally; but I recognise that there are constitutional limitations to our powers, and legal members may have something to say on that matter. What I propose, however, does not infringe any decision of the High Court. I desire that these tribunals may have the power to ascertain what is actually the price for which the coal is being sold, so that the wages of the miners may be properly fixed. When men are being paid by results, according to a scale regulated by the selling price of coal, it is necessary to provide the fullest information, so that there may be no suspicion engendered. Honorable members agree with me as to the need for preventing industrial turmoil, and giving these tribunals the fullest power to inquire into any industrial matter. I hope, therefore, that they will not raise the objection that my proposal is unnecessary, because the definition clause already gives sufficient power. That is .a matter of opinion.
– I do not think you will find any opinion against that.
– I am glad to hear it. The principle of my proposition is that these Tribunals should have the power to investigate the matters I have mentioned, and although men who can speak with authority may think that the power is already provided for in the definition of “ industrial matters,” there is no reason why we should not make that clearer. If we believe that it is essential to the industrial peace of the country, we should make the Bill more explicit. Prom my experience of arbitration from the beginning, I say that what I propose would do injustice to none. I cannot discuss now the amendment that I intend to move in a subsequent clause, but I shall propose that all evidence relating to trade secrets be taken in camera”, thus protecting the public without doing injustice to any one. Honorable members can well support this amendment, without letting constitutional objections weigh with them. We have made too many mistakes in the past by not expressing our intentions clearly and explicitly. The Court has said that on numerous occasions. I ask honorable members, who think that the power is already provided for, not to insist too strongly on that opinion, but” to permit the statement of it to be made clearer. Beyond doubt, these Tribunals should be clothed with the power for which I ask. I cannot speak for the organizations outside, but I have reason to believe that if tribunals were appointed, clothed with the power that I have mentioned, so that they could inquire into every phase of the industry, we should be able to settle any coal trouble that might arise.
– Does the honorable member mean that the definition would give power to inquire as to the profits made at various stages by the different handlers of coal before it got to the consumer ?
– I do not go quite so far as that. The Tribunals should be able to inquire what the coal was sold for, After the coal has been mined it is sold at Newcastle at a declared price, and hitherto all arbitration investigations have teen confined to the conditions of the coal-mining industry, and the amount of the declared selling price of coal. We should be able to ascertain, further, the freights paid for transporting the coal, and the charges made to the consumers, and we should then know whether the consumers are getting a fair deal.
– Does not the honorable member think that it is for the consumer to find that out, not the miner?
– It is of interest to the public to know whether they are being fairly dealt with; but what we are dealing with now is a Bill providing for tribunals to inquire into industrial disputes, and one of the parties to- a threatened dispute says, “ If you give power for the investigation of the transactions in coal to the fullest extent, so that we may know whether it is necessary to increase its cost to the public, that will meet the case.”
– A representative of the consumers should be on the Tribunal.
– I am not giving away any secret when I say that there is to be a representative of the Commonwealth present at the Conference to which the Prime Minister has referred.
– I do not see how it would assist the settlement of a dispute between an employer and employee in the coal industry to ascertain whether the person to .whom the coal-owner was selling his coal was making an extra profit.
– That is what we want to find out. We wish to know what profits are being made. I have already stated this afternoon that it has come to my knowledge that third class coal, the price of which is fixed under the War Precautions Act at 13s. 6d. a ton, is being sold at Newcastle for 23s. 6d. a ton. We want to probe these matters, to ascertain what is happening, and to find out whether any one is profiteering and doing an injustice to the consumer as well as to the coal-miner. The production of coal is paid bv results, and the price at which the coal is sold has to be ascertained to determine the wages of the coalminer. If t”his coal- is being sold for more than 13s. 6d. a ton, the coal-miners should get their share of the extra price. If these Tribunals have the power for which I am asking, they could get at all the facts. At the present time an inquiry cannot go* beyond the facts of the particular industry in which the dispute has arisen. The proprietors say that they are selling for 13s. 6d., and the investigation cannot go beyond that statement. If the tribunals had power to ascertain the whole of the facts, and it was found that the coal was being sold for 23s. 6d., it might be possible to bring about a reduction in the price of coal to the public, and also to increase the wages of the miners.
– It might be ascertained that the person purchasing the coal was really a dummy agent of the coal-miner.
– I am not going to make any suggestions; but we know that profiteering has occurred during the last few years, and it should be stopped, because the public should not be fleeced. We want the right to have these matters inquired into. The wages of the miners being based on the selling price of coal, they should know exactly what the coal is sold for.
– The wages of the miners are based on the selling price obtained by the men who pay those wages.
– But if we can show that some one is acting in concert with the men who are paying the wages, to increase the price of coal, we can insist on the miners getting their fair share of the higher price.
– Surely that would be’ a conspiracy.
– I should say so.
– If I contract to pay wages according to a scale based on the price I receive for the commodity I am selling, and I make a secret arrangement whereby I obtain more for that commodity than I declare to be its price, I am conspiring against those to whom I pay wages.
– Cases of that kind are to be dealt with by the criminal law, not by these. Special Tribunals.
– The Tribunal might discover the facts.
– A Tribunal clothed with the necessary powers- could unearth the facts, and then there would be oppor- tunity for putting the criminal law into motion. There must be means for giving publicity to these things. Some persons are making fabulous fortunes at the expense of the community. It is because of that that we want power to inquire into these matters. I am positive that the definition does not give the power that is required to put into force the amendment which I intend to propose later. If honorable members wish to prevent disturbances in the coal trade, this is their opportunity. Let them show that they are prepared to give the men a fair deal,by equipping these Tribunals with powers sufficient for an inquiry into all the facts. I do not think that there will be a stoppage in the coal trade if that power is given. We are all anxious to prevent industrial unrest, especially in the coal industry, which provides the lifeblood of most of our other industries. To-day Australia has to live within itself almost entirely; we cannot borrow money abroad. If we had a coal crisis, it would cause the greatest calamity that has yet befallen the country. A coal strike would last for a considerable time; because the miners do not come out without making a good fight. None of us wishes to see a strike in the coal-mining industry. Therefore, I say, “ Put a provision into the Bill which will prevent all strikes.” As a citizen I would suffer from a strike as others would suffer; but my object is to protect the country. I want this country to go ahead and produce. At the present time, the export of coal is greater than it has been for years past, and that will continue, if the miners are given something to look forward to. Therefore I hope that the definition clause will be amended so that there may be no doubt about the scope of the powers conferred on the Tribunals. If this is done, the leaders can go to the men and say, “ Parliament has passed a measure which we can recommend to you, because it will permit investigation into all the facts of the industry, and you will get a fair deal.” The men will then accept the Bill, and there will be no industrial trouble, and the wheels of industry will be kept going. I ask honorable members not to pay regard to constitutional limitations. I do not think there has been before the High Court, since we passed an Arbitration Act, a case such as might arise under the amendment.
The Committee knows my views. I am speaking now in the belief that the best interests of the community will be served by amending the definition clause, and by amending a subsequent clause in such a way that these Tribunals will be able to inquire into all the facts connected with the dispute which they are investigating. If that is done, I believe we shall have industrial peace instead of disruption.
– It has been contended by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson), the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), and the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), that the clause as it stands gives full and complete power to the Special Tribunals and Boards. They claim that that part of the definition of “ industrial matters “ which provides that the term includes -
Any claim arising under an industrial agreement, and includes all questions of what is fair and right in relation to any industrial matter having regard to the interests of the persons immediately concerned and of society as a whole. is all-embracing. On the face of it, it would appear that the words “ society as” a whole “ cover all that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) seeks to secure by his amendment. Our experience of the functioning of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, however, leads us to a contrary conclusion. This definition is an exact copy of the definition of “ industrial matters” given in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act; and, that being so, I hope that the legal members of the House will no longer contend that it will enable the Commonwealth Council or a special tribunal to inquire into profits. Our experience of the interpretation of the same words in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act shows that they will not be so construed. It is to be regretted that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is not in attendance, since, in his absence, the Minister temporarily in charge of the Bill has no power to accept the amendment.
– The Prime Minister is at present taking part in a conference relating to the coal trouble, and, therefore, cannot be present.
– His absence is regrettable, because, if the amendment goes to a division, we shall have a purely party vote.
– He will “be here in a few minutes.
– He will probably return when the divison takes place, and will claim that the Bill as it stands provides everything to be desired. I do not think it does. While the honorable member for Hunter was speaking, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), made an interjection in which he asked, in effect, ‘ ‘ What have profits to do with disputes 1”
– That was not my inquiry. I asked what the profits made by the individual who bought the article, whatever it might be, had to do with the dispute?
– The honorable member was referring to the profits of, not the employer, but the second or middleman ?
– Then, I was under a misapprehension. The profits of the employer must have a most important bearing upon the dispute before the tribunal. By way of illustration, I would point out that from time to time the Australian Workers Union has endeavoured, in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, to elicit information as to the selling price of wool and other products of the pastoral industry, but has invariably met with a stone wall. Such information is not available to the employees. The pastoralists tell the Court that the industry cannot stand an increased wage, but we know as a matter of fact that it can. Where employers contend that their industry is unable to support an increased wage the tribunal inquiring into the dispute should have power to call for vouchers, and to examine books ‘and balancesheets, since, unless the employers are subjected to exactly the same examination as that to which the employees must submit, the inquiry must be onesided. In the Conciliation and Arbitration Court to-day employees asking .for improved conditions are questioned as to what they pay for their boots, and how much a week they spend in purchasing bread for their wives and children. They are questioned as to their milk bill.
– And as to what they spend on picture shows and cigarettes.
– Quite so; and a witness for the employees may even be asked as to the cost of a ring that he is wearing. In a case with which I was connected, through my organization, the Australian Workers Union, counsel for the pastoralists had the impudence to ask one of our witnesses how he came to be wearing such an excellent overcoat. “ That overcoat,”’ he said, “must have cost you £10.” When such questions may be put to the workers, it is only reasonable that their representatives should be able to say to an employer in the witness-box, “You are wearing a very fine suit of clothes; what did it cost you? “ Such a question, however, would be ruled out. It would be impudence’ on our part to ask an employer’s wife what her clothing cost; but the average barrister appearing on behalf ; of a set of employers displays a tendency to put the most delicate questions to a witness concerning the clothing worn by his wife.
– In Sydney recently an exhibition of girls’ underclothing took place in the Court.
– If it is fair to make inquiries as to the underclothing worn by the wives and daughters of the workers, it is equally right that we should be able to make inquiries as to the underclothing worn by the female relatives of the employing classes.
We say that the Bill as it stands does not give power to organizations of workers to ascertain whether employers are making too much out of the general public. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter would give the special tribunals power to make such investigations.
– If the employers in an industry were making too little, would the employees go back a bit?
– An industry that cannot pay a living wage - that cannot provide for the adequate feeding, clothing, and housing of its employees - does not deserve to live. At all events, if an industry is necessary, and cannot pay sufficient remuneration, it should be subsidized by the whole and not by one-half of the people. It is to be hoped that the Prime Minister, now that he has returned to the chamber, will accept the amendment. I am reminded that “ organizations of employees “ represent fully 50 per cent, of the workers of Australia, who may well be said to be “ on the bread line.” They are more competent to look after the interests of the general consumer than is any other section of society, because they are in the poorest circumstances. We have the Middle Classes Political Federation and the Taxpayers Federation claiming that the middle classes are specially’ deserving of consideration j but I hold that those who are on the bread line are most competent to look after such matters as these, which, if left to the middle classes, would not be attended to. The middle classes do not do their duty to those who are “ on the bread line.”
– The amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) must be carefully considered. I can quite understand the object which he has in view; but he will appreciate my difficulty when I point out that the Parliament has no power to deal with industrial matters except in so far as is provided in paragraph xxxv of section 51 of the Constitution. That is to say, we can legislate “ for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State” by methods of “conciliation and arbitration.” It is difficult to say precisely what those words mean. But a series of judgments given by the Courts have certainly had the effect of limiting most considerably the meaning of that paragraph.
The first question a Court would ask in regard to any examination of a witness with a view to eliciting facts as to prices and profits would be, “ Is this relevant to the dispute ? “ Now, a dispute must be, of course, one extending beyond. the bounds of any one State, but it must also be a dispute which is before the Tribunal or Court. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has set out a position which goes far beyond that. He says, for example, that if a colliery proprietor sells coal f.o.b. at Newcastle, for 17s. 9d., then the hewing rate is so much.
– It is fixed at present, by agreement under the War Precautions Act.
– Quite so; but, normally, the hewing rate bears relation to the selling price, and, therefore, if the declared price, 17s. 9<I., is not the real selling price, the miners contend, according to the honorable member, that they are not getting what they are fairly en titled to, and that, on the other hand, the public is not getting the benefit. Now it is said that the reason that has caused a number of people to believe, or think, that the - price paid now for coal -to the proprietors is very much in excess of 17s. 9d., is the prices quoted in the press, such as £8 and £10 a ton. But those are c.i.f. prices, and £S and £9 is being paid for freight.
– Do you know that it is alleged that to-day people are buying coal from the proprietors at the price fixed, and that the coal immediately changes hands, not c.i.f., but at port of Newcastle, for considerably more - that certain persons are buying coal at Newcastle before shipment, and then shipping it at a considerable increase over the fixed price?
– That is the point I was coming to. Whether that is being done or not is a question of- fact, and I do not know whether it is being done; but the point that the honorable member has to make is this: Is the employer, the person with whom there is a dispute, reaping any of the benefit?
– How are we to make that point unless we have some power of inquiry ?
– Under the Bill, as it now stands, the Tribunal, which is not cramped by any provisions in this Bill, but has all the power conferred on this Legislature by the Constitution, is authorized to ask any question it likes of an employer as to the selling price, and to whom he sold ; and if he says he sold to Jones, there is no reason why Jones should not be asked whether the employer did sell to him. I do not know whether Jones could be compelled to answer, and I would not like to say that he could; but once it is made out that the employer is getting more than 17s. 9d., all evidence on the point is entirely relevant, and within the scope of the tribunal. I give you my opinion for what it is worth, and in my opinion that evidence is entirely relevant. If, however, the employer sells for 17s. 9d. to a buyer, and that buyer sells, bona fide, for 22s. 6d., there being no collusion between the parties and the employer getting no secret commission, the tribunal has nothing to do with the transaction.
The employer has sold the coal at 17s. 9d., and does not get any of the 22s. 6d. - his connexion with the coal ceases with his sale-
– The shipping companies are now, to a very large extent, interested in the mines, and in some cases, I ‘believe, have a controlling interest. The price may be declared at Newcastle, but the cost in Melbourne is made considerably higher; and in that way there are profits which do not appear in the dispute, which is regarded as confined to the colliery proprietor and the colliery employee.
– If a man is at once a colliery proprietor, a ship-owner, a wholesale and retail dealer in coal, and also a manufacturer using the coal, the honorable mem’ber contends that the Tribunal ought to be able to follow the coal through all these ramifications. The relations between the employees and the employer with whom they have a dispute is in his capacity as a coal-owner. All questions as to profits made in his capacity as coal-owner are relevant, and must be answered, unless he says, “ I can pay whatever wages the Court or Tribunal awards, without increasing the price of the coal.” If a coal-owner says that, he cannot be asked any questions ; but if he says he cannot do it, then, at any rate, while the present control over . the price of coal by the Commonwealth exists, he must answer those questions.
I come now to the proposal of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). In my opinion the honorable member’s amendment does not carry us any further, because all’ those questions may be asked under the Bill as it now stands.
– If that be so, the honorable member should have no objection to making the fact quite clear.
– I have no objection at all; I was only going to explain that, as things are, all those questions, and a great many more, can be asked, and I’ shall tell honorable members why. All these questions may be asked in the Arbitration Court to-day. They usually are not asked, and for good and sufficient reasons. Let me show why. There is a dispute before the Court, the men asking for an increase in wages of 6d., ls., or 18d. an hour or a day. In the course of the hearing the
Judge asks the question, “ Can the industry afford the increase?” and the respondents almost invariably reply in the affirmative. But what is meant is not, “ Can the industry afford, the increase provided that the price of the article, goods, or service rendered remains as at present?” - what is meant is, “ Can the industry afford it, with an increased price, if and when the Court has awarded the higher wage?” Under the Constitution we have no power to go beyond that; but, in regard to coal, so long as we have the power to regulate the price we have the power to say that the coal owner shall not increase the price without our consent; so that if it is said that the industry can pay the wage asked, or any wage the Tribunal awards, the industry will have to pay higher wages and still get only the same profit. But if the employers say that the industry cannot afford to pay the increase, there is no reason why the Tribunal should not ask any and every question relevant ‘ to the profits of the industry. The evidence will be taken in camera, and, of course, the Tribunal, in whose possession it must be, will not disclose it. On that evidence the Court will make its award.
– In the possession of the Tribunal or of the Chairman only?
– Of the Tribunal, which is in exactly the same position as the Arbitration Court, which has power to appoint assessors. If the Judge so decides, those assessors may take part in the examination as to profits, and they are governed by exactly the same restrictions as the Judge, and may not disclose the evidence subsequently.
I hope I have made the position quite clear; at any rate, I have tried to do so. I do not pretend to say that the position is not involved, and it is complicated by our limited powers. If we had power to make laws in relation to industrial matters, the position would be different, but we have not that power, and, therefore, we have to make laws only for the settlement of disputes by way of arbitration. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act mav exhaust our power under sub-section xxxv of section 51 of the Constitution; but the Tribunal under the Bill is not limited in that way, or in some of the ways, in which the Court is. ‘ The Tribunal will have all the power, the present Court has, and some more, but it cannot go any further - it cannot have any more power than this Legislature has, though up to that point it has all the power. Under section 38 the Arbitration Court has power -
To summon before it the parties to the dispute, and witnesses, and to compel the production before it of books, documents, and things for the purpose of reference to such entries or matters only as relate to the dispute.
-. - What powers are conferred by this Bill in addition to those conferred by the Arbitration Act?
– The Court has complained that its power is limited by certain sections. For instance, it cannot vary an award. We propose to introduce an amendment to make good that defect, and to amend the Act in other respects also. Under this Bill Tribunals will be able to vary an award. That is one respect in which they will have more power than has the Arbitration Court. But I say also that, so far as I know, they will have all the powers that this Parliament can give them. In this Bill we have practically exhausted our power under paragraph xxxv of section 51 of the Constitution. The amendment will not enlarge the ambit of the Bill because I believe that all the questions which the amendment will allow to be asked can be asked under the clause as drafted, subject to the distinct understanding that (the respondents say that the industry cannot pay the wage asked for without increasing the price of the commodity.
– Then why not accept the amendment?
– I have no objection to it, but I say that it does not carry us any further.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following definition be inserted : - “ Organization of employees “ means the bond fide trade union organization representing the industry as recognised by the Trades or Industrial Council in that district or State.
The object of the amendment is to permit any industrial organization recognised as a bond fide union to be represented on the councils.
– How is it proposed to use the term “ organization of employees,” which, so far, does not appear in the Bill?
– Other amendments will be moved as we proceed through the Bill. ‘This definition is inserted for the purpose of making clear what organizations should be recognised in the appointment of Councils. The proposal is fair. We cannot have arbitration at all unless we recognise trade union organizations. The Prime Minister has said that this is already amply provided for in the Bill; we desire to make the provision clearer.
– Would it not be better to move the amendments which relate to industrial organization, and then, if need be, recommit the Bill for the purpose of inserting this definition?
– I do not desire the recommittal of the Bill. My wish is to get the Bill passed as expeditiously as possible. If this amendment is agreed to, there will be no further discussion in regard to this clause. It has always been recognised that the industrial unions must have consideration: and if the principle can be accepted now, we shall have proceeded a good way towards .securing the speedy passage of the Bill. Every trade union that has met to consider this Bill has taken exception ‘to the omission of any definite recognition of bond fide trade union organizations.
– Will not the amendment exclude other organizations not recognised by the Trades Council ?
– If this Bill is to be satisfactory we must cater for those who are recognised as bond fide trade unionists.
– But the amendment provides that the organizations must be recognised by the Trades Hall.
– Recognised by it, but not affiliated with the Trades Hall. The acceptance of the amendment will facilitate the passage of the Bill, and will go a long way to make the trade unionists accept the measure, because they will know that their rights have been safeguarded. Our aim must be to produce legislation that will be acceptable to the two parties mainly concerned.
– Does noi the honorable member recognise that there are some unions that are not recognised by the Trades Hall or Industrial Council ?
– -There may be some such, but, so far as I know, all bond fide trade unions would be recognised.
The honorable member will not contend that a bond fide union would not be recognised because it was not connected with the Trades Hall.
– That would be the effect of the amendment.
– I do not think so.
– How can the word “employees” as used in the Bill affect the trade unions detrimentally ?
– The trade unionists feel that the Bill should clearly define what organizations should be recognised in connexion with the appointment of the Councils. It is for that reason, and because I desire to make the Bill acceptable to the trade union movement, that I am moving the amendment.
– Does it amount to this : That only the unions recognised by the Trades Council are to come within the purview of the Bill?
– All our arbitration legislation has been based on the recognition of bond fide organized labour. We desire to preserve that recognition intact. I commend the amendment to the Committee. It will make the Bill acceptable to the trade unionists; they will be able to form their Tribunals, and we may then have industrial peace.
– This amendment is in a very different category from the previous one, which merely set out in words what was already covered by the scope of the definition. I took no exception to the other amendment, because the honorable member desired it to be inserted as a sort of declaration of the intention of the Legislature. Now the honorable member is proposing an amendment that no organization of employees shall come under the Bill except those organizations which are recognised by the Trades Council in a particular district or State- I ask the honorable member to realize how great is the departure he proposes from the sound principles which we have followed from the beginning of our arbitration legislation. The original Arbitration Acb in 1904 was introduced by Mr. Deakin. But for the most part the existing arbitration law has been framed by the various Labour Governments. It may be said to be non-party, but if any party more than another has moulded the Arbitration Act it has been the Labour party. The Act lays down in clear terms what for oyer ten years
Labour regarded as a sufficient guarantee, and what has always proved a- sufficient guarantee, for the purpose of its organization. Section 4 of the Arbitration Act provides - “ Employee “ means any employee in any industry, and includes any person whose usual occupation is that of employee in any industry.
And section 55 provides for the registration of -
Any association of not less than one hundred employees in or in connexion with any industry, together with such other persons, whether employees in the industry or not, as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof.
I remember moving that amendment in order to meet an objection which had been taken on account of the officers of a union not being employed in the industry. Neither the employer nor the employee has the right to say what is an organization, but if the amendment is carried the Trades Halls of the different States will have the right to say what is an organization. Such an extraordinary state of affairs would be repugnant to all sense of justice. It would undermine the firm basis upon which our jurisprudence rests, namely, UpOn laws made by a Legislature or decisions given under such laws by Courts of law, and set up a new and irresponsible body whose personnel and opinion fluctuate, is liable to bias and is animated by prejudice, and may at any moment be turned against one section of my friends opposite. What is happening in the industrial movement is perfectly well known. There is a struggle now going on between two sections for mastery; one section declaring quite definitely and without hesitation that the way to economic salvation is by direct action and communal ownership of all the means of production and distribution on the lines followed in Soviet Russia, and the other section taking a very different view and saying, “We believe in evolutionary progress” - if you like to call it Socialism you can, but it does not matter - “we believe in going step by step and achieving reform by constitutional means.” There is a fundamental difference between these two sections, and if there is not war to the death between them at this moment that is only because, for the moment, they have become united in an attack upon, or defence of, something else. If any one can tell me which of these two sections will be on top in the Trades Hall in Sydney or in the Trades Hall in Melbourne in two years’ time, I shall be glad to Lear it. Honorable members know perfectly well how at industrial and political conferences each side strives to get its nominees in a majority, because it is the majority which determines the policy of the industrial and political movement for the year. Let us apply what I have said. Which is going to win out,the One Big Union or the Australian Workers Union ?
– The Australian Workers Union; it is the best.
– It may not win, and if the One Big “Union succeeds, seven out of every ten unions will be black-listed.
– How does the right honorable gentleman propose to have employees represented under this Bill ?
– Just as they are represented in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I propose that an organization shall be defined by the Legislature, not by an outside body. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) has mentioned a union. He probably refers to the Goldfields Union, which I claim is just as bond fide an organization as is any other union. At Broken Hill there is a struggle proceeding as to who is on top. Which section is on top I do not know; but we can be quite sure of this, that it will say that the other section is no good. In this House we represent the whole of the people. Therefore, let us say what is an’ organization. If the amendment is defeated, as I hope it will be, an organization will be any association of not less than one hundred employees in or in connexion with any industry, together with such other persons, whether employed in the industry or not, as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof.
– That is not in the Bill.
– I was under the impression that it was, and I am prepared to remedy the omission. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides that an association is any trade or other union or branch of any union, or any association or body composed of or representative of employers or employees, or for furthering or protecting the interests of employers or employees.
– That definition is not included in the Bill.
-I was under the impression thatthis definition had been included. I am quite willing to include all the definitions contained in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. My desire is to widen this legislation as much as possible. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) may say that the Bill as it stands will not safeguard the unions; but the best answer I can give is to point to the fact that although this law has been on the statute-book for sixteen years, for all practical purposes there have been no associations registered that were not bond-fide unions in the ordinary acceptation of the term, with the exception of the bank officials, the Actors Federation, and the Australian Insurance Staffs Federation. I am sure my friends opposite will admit that that is not a very serious inroad on unionism, and I understand that the Actors Federation has since affiliated with a Trades Hall and been recognised by it. I am as anxious as honorable members are to see that unionism is recognized under this Bill. If labour was not organized there would be no disputes. It is because labour is organized that it can dispute ; and I hope that it will always be organized whether this Bill is passed or not. But no step has been taken to recognise labour more effectively than does this Bill, which gives it legal status ; and, speaking for myself only, if the experience of the operation of the measure shows that these labour bodies can be intrusted with any definite task, and their powers widened in order that they may carry it out, I shall be in favour of giving them all the authority necessary. As this Bill distinctly recognises unionism, and because for the first time it gives it legal status, and confers on it certain statutory duties and powers, I hope it will be carried.
.- I cannot understand the attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). He was not prepared to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) requiring organizations to register under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act before they could benefit by this Bill, because it meant that organizations which refused to register under that Act could not possibly come within the provisions of this Bill; yet immediately afterwards he announced that he was prepared to accept the definitions set out in the original Act. What is the utility of accepting those definitions if he is not prepared to accept the safeguard of registration? Organizations which are not registered cannot take advantage of the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act unless they are brought in by the exercise of special powers. An unregistered body can be brought in only by a special proclamation directing it to appear. The Prime Minister will not accept an amendment to require organizations to be registered in order that they may come under the Industrial Peace Bill, but offers to accept the definition of organization in the original Act. That means nothing. The most disquietingstatement made by him - and it confirms our suspicions and fears - is that he will recognise “ scab “ organizations. That is what we feared from the beginning. Apparently the seal of approval has been put on such an organization in Kalgoorlie. The only bond fide union operating there, so far as the miners are concerned is the Australian Workers Union. The other organization sprang up during a strike, as all scab organizations do, and they are generally subsidized by political bodies or by employers. We have, or had until a few months ago, in Melbourne a scab organization supported by the stevedores and the shipping companies.
House adjourned at 6.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 August 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200811_reps_8_92/>.