8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Accident to Prime Minister - Conferring of Titles
– Has the Minister for the Navy had wireless communication from the Renown respecting the accident in Sydney Harbor yesterday, when a launch, on board of which was the Prime Minister, bumped that vessel? I wish to know if the Renown has been damaged
– Any damage done to the Renown will be made good.
– And if injury was caused to the Prime Minister and his Secretary, who, I understand, were thrown on their backs? Is the Renown still seaworthy, notwithstanding the attempt of the Prime Minister to prevent her from going to sea?
– Although I was here until 1 o’clock this morning, I found time to give an hour to my work at the Navy Office before the House assembled again; but I have no information about the matters regarding which the honorable member asks.
– I ask the Leader of the House if there is any truth in the rumour so widely spread about Melbourne that the Prince ofWales, on leaving the Commonwealth, distributed titles; and that” among the recipients of them are Sir Alexander Poynton and Sir Laird Smith?
– I congratulate my honorable friend on his fine form this morning, which is evidently due to the bright, pleasant weather we are having.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence if it is a fact that Military Forces from Queenscliff and Swan Island were sent to Melbourne, with large quantities of ammunition, and under arms, in order to be used, if neces sary, in connexion with a meeting which it was proposed to hold in Melbourne on the 28th July last?
– Knowing what is in the honorable member’smind, I refuse to give him any information on the subject.
– In view of the very discourteous answer just given to me by his colleague, I ask for the opinion of the Acting Leader of the Government on the matter. I have been reliably informed that Military Forces stationed at Queenscliff and Swan Island were sent to Melbourne by boat, with 9,000 rounds of ball ammunition, and under arms, in order to be used in connexion with a meeting which itwas proposed to hold in Melbourne, about the 28th July last, and that these Forces were kept in the Domain; and that they were instructed how and when to fire upon the men and women, and also how they were to strike ?
– To what meeting do you refer ?
– I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether he does not think it proper that information on the subject should be given to the House, instead of the matter being covered up by his colleague?
– If the honorable member will tell us the circumstances under which this was done, and what meeting it was-
– You know.
– I know absolutely nothing about the matter; and until the honorable member for West Sydney is sufficiently courteous to the Ministry to tell us to what he refers, he must not complain if he does not get an answer to his question.
– Your colleague said that he knew to what I referred.
– Debates on questions are quite irregular.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence if it is a fact that, on or about the 28th July last, military forces from Queenscliff and Swan Island were sent to Melbourne, with large quantities of ammunition, and under arms, for some purpose, and, if so, for what purpose.
– I say again that, realizing exactly the reason for which the honorable member asks the question, and the purpose of the question, I decline to give any information on the subject.
– Then I shall take suitable steps to get it.
– Is it true, Mr. Speaker, that the House Committee has not met for twelve months, and that there is a sort of strike because the President refuses to allow its members any “ say “ in making provision for the accommodation of members generally?
– I shall endeavour to ascertain from the President of the Senate, who is Chairman of the House Committee, the information which the honorable member seeks.
– On numerous occasions I have endeavoured to obtain information from the Prime Minister’s Department, and from the Customs Department, by writing letters and asking questions, about the sale of scrap metals in Australia. Yesterday I received to a question on notice what I considered a very impertinent reply; it was to the effect that the holders of scrap metal could apply to the Prime Minister’s Department for information. I now ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he will tell me, and, through me, the House and the public, whether the holders of scrap metals are to receive fair treatment, and whether provision will be made so that they may get the world’s parity for any they wish to dispose of.
– Any embargo that may be in force affecting the exportation of metals has been imposed by the Customs Department in pursuance of instructions from the Attorney-General’s Department, which administers the law respecting the exportation of metals. I suggest to the honorable member that next week he should address his question to the Prime Minister.
– I ask the Treasurer if the Commission to inquire into the coordination of Commonwealth andStates taxation has yet been constituted, and, if so, when it will begin work?
– I am trying to get the men together, but nothing has yet been done.
Payments to Hospitals
– I ask the Treasurer if it is a fact that old-age pensions are not paid to pensioners who are admitted to the hospitals while they remain inmates of those institutions. Does the right honorable gentleman believe it to be a proper thing to withhold pensions under these circumstances? If so, will he consider the advisability of paying the money to the treasurers of the hospitals, to assist in maintaining the pensioners?
– I am under the impression that the amounts of the pensions due to old-age pensioners who are inmates of hospitals are paid to the treasurers of those institutions, except for a reservation of, I think, 2s. a week per pensioner, which sum is paid to the pensioners themselves. I am not sure of the exact arrangements since the pension rates have been altered, but I shall inquire into the matter, and get the honorable member the information he desires.
– Is a second report by the Economies Commission yet in the hands of the Government, and, if so, will it be laid on the table of the House ?
– No; but when the report has been received, it will, I hope, be laid on the table of the House at the earliest moment.
-Have any steps yet been taken for the convening of a convention to draft amendments in the Constitution ? Shall we have an opportunity of discussing the matter this session?
– No active steps have been taken in the matter, and I hope that the House will have the fullest opportunity to express its considered opinion on a subject of such grave consequence to the future of the continent.
Distribution of Sugar.
– I have received from the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “the unsatisfactory distribution of sugar to retailers by the Commonwealth Government.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– I am reluctant to take this course, because interference with Government business is likely to annoy Ministers; but I want to have the sugar question settled satisfactorily, and no other way was open to me.I have approached the officials who are responsible for the distribution of sugar, and I have seen the Minister on the matter, but have received no satisfaction. An adequate supply of sugar is as much needed by the people as an adequate supply of other ordinary commodities, not excepting coal; sugar is a necessity, not a luxury. Although the Government of Australia owns all the sugar, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the wholesale merchants will not recognise that fact, and wish to handle it in their own sweet way, as in the past, and for their own interests, instead of those of the public. I could speak at length of the unfair action of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the wholesale merchants, who have not been interfered with by the officials of the Department administering the distribution of sugar. I desire, however, to confine my remarks to one phase of the subject in the hope that I may receive from the Minister an assurance that the grievance of which I complain will be remedied. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in explaining the sugar agreement to the House, said that grocers who purchased sugar in half-ton lots would be able to obtain it direct from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and would ‘be granted the full rebate, while those who did not desire to purchase so large a quantity would obtain what they required from the wholesale merchants, and secure a proportion of the rebate, while the remainder would go to the merchants. I fully appreciate the fact that there is a scarcity of sugar, and, while I hold that the Ministry are responsible for that shortage, I know that it is unreasonable, in the circumstances, to expect the Minister to satisfy all demands. As the sugar is the property of the Government, however, it is their duty to see that every man in business obtains a fair deal. That is not being done. Grocers, in my division, and in the adjoining division of Fawkner, are constantly complaining to me of the unfair distribution of sugar. They state that, while some grocers can obtain ample supplies, others in the same neighbourhood cannot. Those who are able to supply sugar naturally get the trade of their less fortunate brethren. This differentiation should not be permitted. Messrs. Moran and Cato, a very large proprietary grocery company, prior to the new agreement, were allowed to purchase direct from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, although other companies could not do so, andthey have to-day plenty of sugar. The result is that other grocers, who are short of supplies, are losing their trade to them. I had to complain to Colonel Oldershaw that a South Melbourne firm of. grocers was unable to get a supply, while neighbouring grocers were securing what they wanted. That firm has since been a little more fortunate. I have to complain now of the treatment meted out to another grocer carrying on business at Yarraville. The Minister, I fear, thinks there is something wrong with him, and I shall, therefore, stress his case. His name is J. A. Safe, and he carries on business at Stephen-street, Yarraville. On 9th July last he got a half-ton of sugar, and since then he has had only four 70-lb. bags. His financial position is satisfactory; he pays for all that he purchases according to trade usage, but I have an idea that he is not supplied with sugar for a reason which seems so utterly impossible that I do not care to advance it.
– Tell us what it is.
– He happens to be a Labour candidate for a municipal council election which takes place next week. I should not have mentioned that matter but that I feel that the Minister thinks there must be something wrong with this man, since, while his competitors are able to obtain sugar, he has not an ounce of it.
– I can give the honorable member a few similar cases.
– The right honorable gentleman will not say that it is fair to supply some grocers with sugar and to keep back a supply from others.
– It is a difficult matter to arrange.
– It is not. The sugar is owned by the people of Australia, and not by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, or the wholesale merchants.
– An officer has been appointed to supervise its distribution.
– Then he is not doing his duty. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to inquire into this man’s case. I ask him to make an investigation, not through the medium of the official usually dealing with such matters, but by means of an independent officer. I have communicated with the official who usually looks after this matter, and he will not seethis man righted. Surely my request will not be regarded as unreasonable. If the Minister does what I ask, I am satisfied that the result of the inquiry will be that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the wholesale merchants will deal more fairly with the grocers. The wholesale grocers do not like the new arrangement under which retailers may obtain sugar in half-ton lots from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and get the full rebate ; but that arrangement, owing to the shortage, cannot be fully carried into effect. The Minister will admit that where two or three grocers in the same neighbourhood were drawing, in normal times, half a ton of sugar per fortnight, those people, having the same trade as before, should now get at least half their usual supply instead of one or two of them being granted the full supply and the others very little.
– How can the Minister deal with every case?
– It is utterly impossible for him to do so ; but since the Government have undertaken the handling of sugar, they should see that every man in the trade is fairly treated.
– I agree with that statement.
– Then the Government will see that an end is put to this unfair treatment.
– I could give the House fifty cases of the same kind in my own electorate.
– How this confounded Socialism keeps breaking down!
– Because of unsympathetic administration.
– That is so. I blame, not the sugar company or the wholesale merchants, but the officials under the Minister who have charge of the distribution.
– The honorable member has cited instances where grocers have obtained less than their average quantity. Can he give instances where any of them have received their average - to say nothing of more than their average - quantity?
– Yes ; Moran and Cato have.
– Has the honorable member any figures to support his statement that Moran and Cato have had more than their fair share of sugar?
– I can only say that they have a very big trade, and are never short of sugar, whereas other grocers are. Moran and Cato are always prepared to take on new customers and to serve them with sugar. I could, if I desired, obtain bags of sugar for my own home consumption. There have been times when we have not had an ounce of sugar in the house; but I could have got 70-lb. bags of it.
– I am not going to say.
– Could the honorable member have obtained a 70-lb. bag of sugar from a grocer?
– I could have obtained it from a man - a manufacturer, if you like - who obtains from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company sugar for other than his own domestic purposes.
– If a manufacturer chooses to take out of his quota a 70-lb. bag for a friend, surely no one can complain.
– I am not going to disclose this man’s name; but I repeat that it is the duty of the Government to see that every grocer gets his fair share of sugar. Mr. Safe, after being kept without sugar for a week, was served with half a ton on 9 th July last, and since then he has had only four 70-lb. bags, although neighbouring competitors have received 2½ tons.
– From the same merchant ?
– Then blame the merchant, not the Minister.
– The Minister can control the merchant, but the shopkeepers cannot. The officials of the Department fooled this man by inducing him to go first to the merchant and then to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. He was told that the merchant would get it for him from the company, but when he went to the merchant he was informed that it was not possible for him to obtain it. He then went to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– This is the man who has been badly treated?
– Yes ; there are others, but he is the only man who will let me disclose his name.
– Give us the name of the man who has been treating him badly, and we will have him shot !
– The right honorable gentleman seems to suggest that this is a joke.
– I do not. I merely say that there is nothing new in the honorable member’s complaint. We all have the same trouble.
– It is the duty of the Minister to see that this state of affairs is remedied.
– We endeavour to avoid any unfair treatment.
– I have four other cases. In the Queen’s Hall, a few weeks ago, I was told by a man that there were not 20 lbs. of sugar at Wangaratta, although in the neighbouring towns of Benalla and Beechworth there was an ample supply.
– Did the honorable member hear of the tons of sugar sent to Bendigo during the general elections?
– It has been said that such was the case. The Tasmanian fruit-growers, during the elections, got no sugar, but the Har court fruit-growers, who are in the Bendigo electorate, did. I am asked to give specific cases, and I have given one ; and I tell the Minister that this man, who has paid all his debts, is asking for no more than other grocers are getting.
– I shall deal with the honorable member’s specific case; he need not worry about that.
– The whole sugar question requires to be taken into serious consideration.
– I do not know anything about this particular case, but I am prepared to bet that before it is over the honorable member will have “fallen in.”
– I am prepared to bet I do not “ fall in.” I am not afraid. At 10.50 this morning I rang this man up, and asked if he was all right financially, and might I mention his name, and he replied that I might mention his name from the house-tops. I do not wish to do any business man a bad turn, or to mention others in the business ; but I did give some names to the Minister yesterday. All around this man there are other grocers getting more sugar than he does, although their businesses are no greater than his. It is up to the Minister to see that there is a fairer distribution of sugar, and that grocers who are dealt with unfairly have some place to go to where theymay receive attention, though not from officials who think that the sugar is the property of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and not the property of the Government.
.- I do not complain of the honorable member bringing up this case ; indeed, I am rather glad he has mentioned it, for an opportunity is afforded me of showing how we have tried, as far asis humanly possible, to meet the demands of everybody fairly and squarely. I think I shall be able to show that if there is any man in Melbourne who has had any favoritism at all in the distribution ofsugar, it is this particular man; what ismore, since the deliveries of sugar were resumed, he has had his fair quota.
– He denies that.
– I dare say he does.
– What has he had?
– I can tell the honorable member that it was not the quantity stated by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews). I took the trouble this morning to see both the merchant who supplied this man, and the manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, who brought the dockets to show what the deliveries have been. There is no doubt as to the accuracy of the information I can give the House, or as to the inaccuracy of the information given by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
In the first place, I wish to state one or two general considerations. Owing to the lateness of the Queensland season, which was entirely due to seasonal causes, over which the Government have no control, deliveries of Queensland raw sugar to the refineries have been much lower than usual, and we have had for & considerable time past difficulties in shipping. One of these difficulties was that a boat we had chartered for delivery of sugar in Melbourne scraped its bottom when trying to get into some port, with the result that its cargo was not delivered in time. Such circumstances as these it is impossible to control; and we have been trying to get along as well as possible with- a very short supply. It naturally follows that not a single distributor of sugar, or manufacturer, has got his full quantity. The only people who have had their full supplies, according to the orders which they always give, are those who have the control of hospitals; and, under the circumstances, nobody will complain of that discrimination. It follows, of course, that otherwise we have had to give short deliveries of sugar all round.
– Nobody can growl ,at that.
– But what we endeavour to do, as the orders come in, and the quotas are allotted from the very limited amount of sugar we have, is to serve each man in turn; as the orders carnie along every man is being given his quota.
– Who governs the orders ?
– The distributor.
– Of course, and he does not do it fairly.
– As the orders come in the merchants send them on to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Everybody knows that the company delivers sugar direct from its own refinery; the sugar does not go through the merchants’ stores except in comparatively few instances. As each order comes along the quota is allotted from the very limited stock.
– That is not a fact.
– The company ‘meets all these orders in their sequence, and there could not be anything fairer.
– That is so; but orders are kept back.
– The only orders that are kept back are those which come in subsequently to the previous orders. To give honorable members some idea of the difficulties under which we have been working; I shall give some dates. On the 1st June the Tarraville refinery stopped work owing to the engine-drivers and firemen’s strike, and ceased taking orders from both manufacturers and merchants. Every order, that was then in was fulfilled according to the quota we were able to allot. On the 29th June the refinery started again, and on the 30th resumed taking orders from merchants and manufacturers, unexecuted orders on the books also being proceeded with. I ought to explain here that, owing to the extreme shortage, it was impossible to introduce a new system at once, and allow everybody to go direct to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company if desired.
– On what were the supplies based - on the orders “or on the supplies previously?
– The orders were fulfilled according to the annual consumption of the customer, whoever he might be, and we have been obliged to do that as the only means by which we can get a basis.
– That is quite fair if it is done, but it is not done.
– It is done. On the 21st July the refinery stopped altogether owing to the exhaustion of raw sugar we had just a few pounds that were kept for the hospitals. I think there was a little reserve kept for the milk condenseries, for otherwise we should have lost a very large amount of one of our primary products.
– Why was there no sugar?
– I have already endeavoured to explain- that the shortage was due to the lateness of the Queensland season, and to the delay in the delivery of something like 6,000 tons owing to an accident to a vessel. The man referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports got his half-ton of sugar on the 9 th July.
– After waiting weeks while others were being supplied.
-And if anything he got that sugar out of his turn.
– We deny that.
– But he did.
– He did not.
– He got it out of his turn, and solely because the honorable member was so persistent in his cause.
– Has he had any sugar since the 9th July?
– Yes, he has. On the 26th July the refinery ceased taking orders from all manufacturers. We never fulfilled one, but small lots of raw sugar were delivered as received direct from Queensland; that is, rather than start the refinery on very small lots we delivered raw sugar. The refinery was unable to start again until 9th August. We then had only very short supplies of raw sugar, and orders were accepted and delivered as supplies continued, according to the proportion of sugar we had. To give some idea of the very narrow margin on which we were working; I might say that at 5 p.m. on the 18th of that month all the sugar we had for the supply of Melbourne, Victoria generally, and part of Tasmania, was 270½ tons. When I tell honorable members that we have in the vicinity of Melbourne alone some 4,000 distributors of sugar, and that this particular man is in a very small way, taking only half-ton lots, they can imagine how much his quota would be; nevertheless, he got six bags.
– Was that also due to political influence?
– Merchants tell me that very largely owing to the fuss he kicked up he got a little more than he was entitled to.
– How about those who are competing against this man, and who get supplies?
-There is not a single person who gets more in proportion to this man; indeed, if anybody has got more in proportion, according to the allotment, it is he. The sugar administration has, I think, done its very best to meet the peculiar and very difficult cir cumstances, and there is certainly no cause forcomplaint on the part of this man.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– No such communication has been received.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Whether he will lay upon the table of the House the whole of the papers in connexion with the departmental inquiry into the circumstances connected with the forging of the name of the honorable member for Barrier to a bogus telegram handed in at the Haymarket post office, Sydney, on or about the 18th of March, 1920?
– In view of the fact that the honorable member has seen the papers referred to at the central office of the Department, I see no necessity to lay those papers on the table of the House.
Legal Proceedings against Commonwealth.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Who are the parties to the legal proceedings referred to in an answer furnished to the honorable member for Batman on the 19th instant relating to theNorthern Territory Commission?
– Mrs. Kate Perreau is bringing an action against the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice-
– The suggestion that the South Australian Government should cany out such work on behalf of the Commonwealth Government was discussed with certain South Australian Ministers at the recent Premiers’ Conference, who undertook to confer with their Government, and to communicate the result to me. So far, no advice has been received.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
At what office and at what address should applications be made for facilities to obtain cash payments for gratuity bonds in necessitous cases?
– Applications should be forwarded to the Registrar of War Gratuity Bonds at the Commonwealth Sub-Treasury at the capital city of the State in which the bond-owner resides.
– On the 12th August the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) asked the following questions : -
On behalf of the Prime Minister, I now supply the following replY -
Debate resumed from 18th August (vide page 3597), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- This is chiefly a machinery Bill, which may be more properly considered at the Committee stage. It proposes many amendments, which the working of the Act has proved to be necessary, and which the Minister has stated have been recommended by the President. I imagine that some of them have been recommended by other persons. I am not sure that it will not be found in practice that this Bill is providing unnecessary machinery. The Industrial Peace Bill, which recently passed this Chamber, will enable the establishment of tribunals for the speedy handling of industrial disputes, and it is pleasing to note that the representatives of the coal miners yesterday agreed to the formation of a tribunal under that measure. If this Parliament does nothing more this session than provide, as it has done, means whereby matters in dispute may be adjusted speedily without holding up industries, it will have saved the country millions of pounds, lt is satisfactory to find that even at this late stage we are realizing the necessity for providing means whereby the settlement of industrial disputes may be expedited. I reiterate the statement I made last week that whatever machinery we provide we cannot entirely prevent strikes and lockouts. All we can hope to do is to minimize them by providing speedy means for redressing grievances. Many of the industrial troubles that have occurred during the last twenty years have been due to the fact that when we adopted the principle of arbitration in New South Wales, in the first instance, we did not make adequate provision for its operation. If the principle of arbitration was to be acceptable to the great body of the workers, it wa3 essential that we should provide sufficient tribunals to give redress of grievances within a reasonable time. But Parliament did not rise to the occasion, and the confidence of the workers in arbitration was destroyed. Parliament simply passed legislation, with its pains and penalties. Immediately nearly every union in the country filed a plaint. The workers did not desire to resort to the strike if they could get a fair means of settling their disputes peacefully. But, by the ineptitude of Parliament at that time, the work of the Arbitration Court became so congested that hearings were delayed, and the workers lost all confidence in arbitration. That has continued up to the present moment. The Minister stated that, before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court alone, thirty-three Public Service cases have been listed. That is far too great a number of cases to be awaiting decision. However much inclined men may be to have their troubles settled in a peaceful legal way, they cannot be expected to wait year after year to get a hearing. I remember that I, together with a fellow officer of my union, the late Mr. James Gurley, had occasion to file plaints in the Arbitration Court soon after it was established in New South “Wales. The men were behind us in resorting to arbitration rather than to the strike ; but, after having filed our .claims, we could get no hearing, in one case for nearly two years. Our members were disappointed, their confidence in arbitration was undermined, and we have never since been able to get them to look kindly upon the principle. The same objection applies to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Its business has been allowed to become congested. “We have not been able to give the workers quick access to the Court. Some effort in that direction should have been made long ago. Either we should have appointed additional Judges, or we should have introduced legislation such as the Industrial Peace Bill. I believe that is the best industrial legislation ever passed in this or any other Parliament. Amongst other things it will have the effect of considerably lightening the work to be performed by the Arbitration Court. I believe that when it has been in operation for some time, most of the industrial bodies will realize the advantage of being able to get a remedy for their grievances immediately they arise. They will apply for the Local and Special Tribunals to deal with their troubles, and thus the work of the Arbitration Court will be very much reduced. When the Industrial Peace Bill was before the House we did know the contents of this measure, and we had a doubt as to the Government’s intentions in regard to the Arbitration Court. It is pleasing to find now that the Government do not intend to abolish the Court. But I’ believe that, when the Industrial Peace Bill is in full operation, the work of the Court will be so reduced that additional Judges’ will probably not be required. There may be no need for a special tribunal for the Public Service. I believe that the claims of the Public Service can be dealt with by the Arbitration Court in conjunction with the machinery provided by the Industrial Peace Bill/ and that we shall be able to save money by not creating any further tribunal. Whilst it is necessary to facilitate in every way the approach to the Count we do not desire to expend more money than is necessary for the purpose. Therefore, I doubt whether it would not be better to allow the Public Service to remain under the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court. I believe that the Service is agreeable to that. But it may be advisable for the Government to consider whether the constitution of the Court should not be amended so as to include a representative of each party to assist the Judge. That is especially necessary in connexion with Public Service claims, because, after all, a Judge cannot know much about the industrial technicalities of a claim. If he had the assistance of representatives of each side he would often be able to come to a better decision that would be acceptable to all concerned. In the New South Wales Arbitration Court the Judge is assisted by two representatives of the parties. After every phase of the case has been placed before the Court the Judge asks his two assistants to endeavour to arrive at an understanding. If they fail he decides on the matters in dispute between them. The result is always a compromise acceptable to both parties. It would be an advantage to have a similar system in connexion with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. In the States,, but not in the Commonwealth, men have been appointed to preside over the Arbitration Court who were not suitable for the position. For arbitration work a man must have special qualifications. It is not sufficient that he has a legal mind ; he may be disqualified by temperament for arbitration work. Therefore it would be better if the Judge, were assisted by representatives of employers and employees.
– Two expert assessors?
– For instance, there are things in connexion with the Postal Service, of which neither the Judge, nor any of us, can know anything. But if the Judge were assisted by two men representing the /Government, andi the employees respectively, they would understand thoroughly all the details of the points at issue, and it would be easier for him with their assistance to come to an acceptable decision. Probably the two representatives would agree amongst themselves, and the Judge would give an award in the terms of that agreement. I understand that the Public Service would prefer that system. A very large number of claims by Government employees is before the Arbitration Court now, but once the machinery for dealing with them is in operation this class of arbitration work will decrease, and only small troubles will require to be adjusted from time to time. The position in the Arbitration Court to-day is much the same as when arbitration was first introduced in New South Wales. The public servants have grievances, and they are filing their plaints so that they may be dealt with in a legal way. Until all the various organizations have been before the Court there will be many cases to be dealt with, but later the work of the Court will decrease, and will be mostly confined to the interpretation of questions that have arisen in connexion with the operation of awards.
I am not sure that some of the amendments proposed by this Bill will be satisfactory, although the majority of them will be. Some of them are merely consequential, but there are some proposals in regard to which I have doubts. No end of trouble has been caused in the Commonwealth shipbuilding yards, and other works, in regard to the question of demarcation, which is constantly cropping up, owing, to the fact that different unions claim that various sections of employees should belong to their organisations. It is a wise step to give the Court the fullest possible power to lay down the boundaries of work, and classify employees in different industries in order that they may work harmoniously.
– I wonder how the Australian Workers Union will view the amendment.
– The Australian Workers Union is one of the biggest organizations in Australia, and has loyally abided by the Arbitration Court, in this respect setting an example to other unions. It would be. perfectly satisfied to abide by the Court as it stands to-day. It has always availed itself of the Court in the past, and I am sure will continue to do so in the future.
– I was referring to the effect of the delimiting sections. As a union, the Australian Workers Union believes in embracing every one in its ranks.
– Because the President of the Arbitration Court is given this power to say what should be done it does not necessarily follow that he may declare that such an organization as the Australian Workers Union should not extend throughout Australia. The amendment is aimed at meeting the trouble I have referred to in the shipping yards, the question of demarcation, which hasbeen the cause of nearly all the disputes at Cockatoo Island within the last few years.
There is a far-reaching amendment in clause 2 of the Bill. The definition of “strike” is to be amended to read as follows : - “ Strike “ includes the total or partial cessation of work by employees, acting in combination, as a means of enforcing compliance with demands made by them or other employees on employers; and the total or partial refusal of employees, acting in combination, to accept work, if the refusal is unreasonable.
I do not quite know how far that amendment will go. Men may be declared guilty of striking because of the refusal of a section to work, although the organization may not approve of their action. In the coal mining industry, there are many branches of work. If the wheelers refuse to work, as they frequently do, coming to their decision quite independently of the miners - who are in the majority in the organization - the latter are unable to work, and under the wording of this amendment, may possibly be considered as having taken part in a strike.
– The Act already provides that no person or organization shall do anything in the nature of a strike. There must be combined action in ceasing work.
– In my opinion, the amendment will permit of dealing with, a partial refusal of employees to work.’
– That power is already given in the Act.
– It would appear to me that the action of a few might involve in penalties an organization, the majority of whose members are loyal to an award of the Court.
I consider that a person who desires to leave his work for private and other reasons should be exempted from the penalty imposed by the proposed new section 6a, which reads as follows : -
No person or organization bound by an award of the Court, or entitled to the benefits of an award of the Court, shall do anything .in the nature of a lockout or strike, or continue any lockout or strike.
Penalty: One thousand pounds.
– That refers only to persons acting in combination.
– All I desire is that the provision should make that clear.
Clause 10 proposes to amend section 2S of the principal Act by making provision for varying awards under abnormal circumstances, and similar provision was made in the Industrial Peace Bill, but when, we reach the Committee stage I shall endeavour to have new awards made retrospective to the date of the expiration of previous awards, or to the date of the submission of claims.. It often happens that, owing to the congestion of business, a new award is not made until fully twelve months after a previous award has expired. The new award ought to be made retrospective to the date of the expiry of the previous award. Industrial agreements should also be made retrospective in a similar way. If a new claim is not heard for months after being lodged the award ought also to be made retrospective to the date of the submission of the claim. By making provision for this we shall go a long way towards satisfying the industrial unions.
– The request seems to be fair.
– Exactly. The unions will be satisfied that, although delays ‘may take place in the hearing of their cases, they will not suffer in consequence of them. When they find that their claims cannot be heard for months, there is a tendency for them to take action off their own bat. I put forward this recommendation with the knowledge given by years of observation in such matters. When, because of the congestion of business in the Court, men have had to wait a considerable time to have their cases heard, and the awards are not made retrospective, it is no wonder they become dissatisfied, and no matter how anxious the leaders of the organization may be to prevent turmoil, they cannot avoid it. In some cases claims have been awaiting a hearing for two years. My request is a fair one, and I hope that when the Bill is in Committee the necessary amendment will be made.
It is my intention to move the following amendment to section 44 of the principal Act : -
Section 44 of the principal Act is amended by inserting in paragraph (&) of sub-section (2), after the words, “breach or nonobservance,” the words, “ or by any officer of the organization authorized under its rules to sue on behalf of the organization.”
In the operation of this section of the Act the unions find that they have not got the satisfaction they .desire, and in this connexion have forwarded to me the following statement of the position: -
Under section 44 (1) of the- 1004-15 Act, as amended by section 3 of the 1918 Act, penalties for breaches of awards may be recovered in Courts of summary jurisdiction.
Section 44 (2) provides that the proceedings may be taken by the Registrar or the organization whose members are affected, or the individuals who are affected.
In practice this policing of the award is done by the unions, the Registrar rarely, if ever, prosecuting, and the individual employees, for obvious reasons, hardly ever prosecuting.
The Judiciary Act applies the procedure in Courts of summary jurisdiction in each State to informations or complaints brought for breaches of a Federal Act in the State Courts of summary jurisdiction. Proceedings under section 44 in Victoria are, therefore, subject to the provisions of the Justices Act.
This has created the following difficulty. If proceedings are taken in the name of the organization as informant, they may be objected to on the ground that the Victorian Act contemplates informations being laid by individuals. Section IS of the Justices Act provides that the information must be signed, and section 19 provides that the justice who takes the information, which is the foundation of the whole proceedings, may require it to be on oath, even though it is not intended to have defendant arrested.
Now the union obviously cannot sign, nor can it take an oath, and it has been expressly held in Victoria that an information in the name of a corporation cannot be made on oath.
And the union, by virtue of section 5S of the Arbitration Act, is a corporation.
On the other hand, if the information is laid by some person authorized by the union, who, being an individual, can sign and can make an oath, it is open to the objection , that in Victoria, at any rate, the agent for the person aggrieved cannot lay an information on his behalf.
It has been held in the Melbourne Court of Petty Sessions that an information laid by a union official claimed to be authorized by the union is bad on the ground, not of any defect in authority, but that he is not one of the persons named in section 44 (2).
It may be that both positions are justified, that the official cannot lay the information because the Statute does not authorize him so to do, and that the union itself cannot, at any rate in Victoria, lay the information because it cannot sign, and cannot make an oath.
In the case of Steane v. Whitchell, in 190G, Victorian Law Reports, the Victorian Full Court doubted whether a municipal corporation could comply with the provisions of the Justices Act and lay an information.
The best way of getting over the difficulty would bc by an amendment of the Act empowering the organization to authorize some person on its behalf to lay informations under section 44. It appears that this can be done in New South Wales under the existing State law: see, for instance, the case of Peck v. Adelaide Shipping Co., 18 Commonwealth Law lieports, page 167.
The amendment suggested is quite a simple one, and should cover all that is required. I do not think that much exception can be taken to the bulk of the amendments contained in the Bill. I believe it is the intention of the Minister to make the Act more workable, and to expedite business.
– Does the honorable member imagine that anything would make the Conciliation and Arbitration Act workable?
– There are industries which will prefer arbitration according to the methods of the Bill to arbitration according to the methods for which we provided last week; but I believe that the greater number of our industries will elect to come under the legislation of last week, and that as time goes on very little work will be left for the Arbitration Court to do.
– And what it does it will be able to do more efficiently in consequence.
– Exactly, and those who go to it will have their cases heard with more expedition, which is to be desired. If all the work is done under the new law, the Arbitration Court must be abolished, because there will be no need for it.- But we must await developments. In any opinion, the Arbitration Court mud be kept in existence for the present. I doubt the need for the Public Service Arbitration Bill, because I think it would be better to continue the present arrangement than to create additional machinery for dealing with Public Service cases. The more Courts you have, the greater tha expense. But no expense can be too great that will preserve industrial peace.
– Hear, hear ! Every one will say that.-
– I think it best to leave things as they are until we can see what has taken place. I said last week that there were only two blemishes on the measure that ‘we passed then. I suggested certain amendments, with’ which honorable members dealt in a fair spirit, and accepted, with the exception of two, and I think it will be found that the measure, providing as it does for the hearing of disputes as they arise, will be considered satisfactory, and that Parliament will have earned the gratitude of the community for it. The measure now before us ought not to occupy much time at the second-reading stage, because its provisions are more the subject for Committee consideration. I trust that in Committee it will be dealt with . as fairly as was the Bill last week. If we are all actuated by the desire to improve it, we shall be certain to do good work upon it.-
– I believe that the Bill which was passed last week will do more to secure industrial peace than any other that has become law in Australia, The amendments that were made strengthen it, and render it more popular with the industrial organizations, and I am very hopeful of good results. I was a member of the House when the original Conciliation and Arbitration Act was passed. There was not a member of the three parties of which the House was then composed who did not honestly and conscientiously believe that that measure would go a long way to prevent industrial strife, and all three parties supported it unanimously. But to-day, after some fifteen years of operation, the Act is seen to be a disastrous failure, and, during the past few years at least, has done more to create than to prevent strikes, the position in the end becoming so bad that be- fore an organization could get a claim considered it had to strike. When Mr. Justice Higgins declared that, no (matter what verdict might be given by the Court, men could not be compelled to work, or to obey the order of the Court, the usefulness of the measure departed. There cannot be arbitration of any advantage to the community unless both sides to a case are compelled to accept the verdict, whether it be in their favour or against them, or a compromise. The Arbitration Court has outlived its usefulness, and to-day is rather a barrier to industrial peace than the means of securing it. The President of the Court has been asked to do the impossible. He has been asked to determine the conditions of all kinds of industries. Some of the Court’s decisions have been positively ludicrous: Never was a more insane and stupid decision given by any Court than that of the President that the salary of the members of the Merchant Officers Guild must depend on the size of the ship on which they were employed. Consequently, the master of a collier of 5,000 tons, carrying a crew only, which is tied up. for more than half of its, time, gets more than the master of the Loongana, a vessel of much smaller dimensions, which carries on an average, all told, 400 passengers and crew, and during the summer season clears Port Phillip and Low Heads once every day. The master of the Loongana has ten times the responsibility of the master of the collier. Then, on the light passenger boats, with high-powered engines, the engineers in many cases receive more than the captains.
– That is due to better organization.
– No; it is due to the stupidity of the decision which I am criticising, which is as absurd as it would be to handicap horses entered for the Melbourne Cup according to their size’ and weight. No one who had to appoint two men, one to be captain of the Loongana, and the other to be the captain of a large collier, would ,put the better man on the collier.
– The Loongana is only a money-making vessel, upon which the accommodation is abominable.-
– I have done my best to assist the honorable member in getting the accommodation improved, and I have done as much as any man in this House to secure better accommodation for the seamen.
– You have done more.
– Thank you. It is impossible for any one man to determine properly what conditions should prevail in the shearing, engineering, shipping, and all other industries. The congestion in the Arbitration Court became so bad that in many cases plaints remained eighteen months unheard, and a direct incentive to strike was offered by reason of the fact that when an organization that had a plaint before the Court struck, its case was moved, perhaps from the bottom’ of the list, to the top, and heard before those of the organization that remained quiet.
– That was not the fault of the Act.
– It was the fault of the Act, because the Act required a Judge to do more than it was humanly possible for one man to do. Organization after organization has refused to go before the Court. I have said here and elsewhere that the present system should be amended or ended. The measure passed last week entirely supersedes the Arbitration Court, and I fail to see a reason for continuing to expend money on it uselessly. The organizations are certain to prefer the methods of arbitration for which we provided last week. Why, then, should we duplicate machinery and staffs, as has been done before and so often? That is a thing against which I have protested time after time. No reasonable expense would be too great for the securing of industrial peace. I heard it said that the Bill passed last week would be costly because of the number of Boards created. But my reply was that a big strike of .coal miners, shearers, seamen, or others would cost more than would be spent under the Act during a period of ten years. I cannot understand any body of workmen preferring the present Court to a Tribunal on which they will have three representatives, who will confer across a table with three repr esentatives of the employers. I know the feeling of the House is that the Arbitration Court, which, to mv mind, is inept, ineffectual, and an excrescence on our industrial life, should be continued. I urge the Government to give tha new measure every chance., and to allow the organizations of employees and the employers to settle their difficulties by means of the new procedure rather than the Arbitration Court.- If that be done, I think that it -will be found next year that the Court has ceased to be of use. I think that it reached that stage long ago, and I hope that Parliament will not hesitate to sweep away the whole of the paraphernalia of the Court. It has been ineffectual, and a source of discord for the last three years. Instead of preventing strikes during that time, it has been a breeder of strikes, because men have had to strike in order to have their cases dealt with by it. Organizations whose plaints were at the bottom of the list have struck, with the result that their cases have been dealt with in advance of others which have been awaiting a hearing for months, and in some cases for a year. Organizations which have loyally obeyed the behests of the Court - which have declined to strike - and have been waiting for months to have their cases dealt with, have thus been penalized.
I do not desire to be too severely critical of the decisions of the Court; but many of them have been quite useless. Quite a number of them have been absurd, and the whole procedure of the Court- for the last three years has tended to create rather than to prevent strikes. I hope the day is now at hand when the Court, with all the expenditure it involves, will be swept away, and the employers ‘and employees will take advantage of the Industrial Peace Bill, which we passed last week. By transferring the decision of grievances to the employers and employees - to the men actually concerned - as is provided for in the Industrial Peace Bill, we shall do a thousand times more than the Court can do to put ‘an end to the industrial strife which at the present time is a serious menace to the peace, progress, and prosperity of Australia.
.- I am surprised that the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) should have declared that the Conciliation and Arbitration Court has been a breeder of strikes, and I hope that he will follow up his speech by voting against this Bill, so that we shall know exactly where he stands. My desire is that honorable members shall endeavour to promote industrial peace, instead of trying to stir up strife by utterances such as those in which my honorable friend has just indulged. Let us consider for a moment what the Conciliation and Arbitration Court has done. Take the history of the pastoral industry since the establishment of that Court. The largest organization of Labour in Australia is associated with that industry, and has sworn its allegiance to the Court. Awards have been made by tie Court, and agreements between the pastoralists and the unionists have been registered by it, with the result that, since its creation, despite all its faults, there has not been a strike in the (pastoral industry throughout the Commonwealth. If the Court had done no more than secure industrial peace in that, the key industry of the Commonwealth, it would deserve well of the country. There are 100,000 men in the Australian Workers Union, and, although the awards which they have secured have not always satisfied them, nor pleased the employers in every instance, they have obeyed them and have observed the Act. Quite recently the men took a ballot to determine whether they should withdraw from the Court, and they decided to remain loyal to it. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) comes from a small State, and seems to be oblivious of the conditions under which we are living at the present time. It is true that we have had industrial’ disputes, even since the establishment of. the Court, but we have fewer strikes here than in any other part of the world. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), on his return from a tour of the world recently, testified to that fact. He declared that no country is enjoying the industrial peace that we have, and that our freedom from serious industrial trouble is due to the training of the industrial unions to look to the Courts and Boards for the settlement of their grievances. We certainly have industrial disputes; but, unlike the big strike disturbances which take place in some countries, they ‘are not attended with any destruction of property, but are conducted in ian excellent spirit. I look back with pleasure upon the work of this Court, which is one of the monuments standing to the credit of this Parliament. It is all very well to find fault with the Court for its failure to prevent strikes. We admit that it has not done away with industrial disputes, but it is beyond the ingenuity of man to devise machinery that would wholly prevent them. From the moment that we ceased to have industrial disputes we would begin to fall back. It is a fine spirit that leads men to strive to improve the conditions of the industrial classes, and it is largely due to that spirit that we stand to-day head and shoulders above the people of many other nations.
The old Arbitration Act of New South Wales remained in operation for six years, and during that time did good work. Since it provided for an entirely new system the industrial organizations naturally availed themselves of it, with the result that the Court became congested, just as we have a congestion of business at the present time in the Commonwealth Court. That, however, is due, not to any failure of the principle of arbitration, but to the overworking of the Court. I am pleased that the Deputy Leader of our party (Mr. Charlton) has intimated that he proposes to move to amend the Bill in a certain direction. A most decided improvement would be to provide that in addition to the President of the Court there shall be two laymen on the Bench, one elected by the employers and the other by the employees. The recognition of representatives of the employers and the employees as part of the Court would be beneficial to the whole industrial community.
– That would simply mean duplicating the measure which we passed last week.
Mr.RILEY. - I should not object to any duplication if by means of it we secured industrial peace. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) pointed out last week that when you go into the Conciliation land Arbitration Court you see on the Bench a Judge wearing wig and gown, and on every hand all the paraphernalia of an ordinary Court of law. That is not what we want in connexion with arbitration. What we need is a Court of equity and good judgment.
– And lawyers should not be allowed to appear before it.
– Quite so. This is one direction in which the Bill might be amended with advantage to the whole community. A Judge, no matter how capable he may be, cannot be expected to grasp the details of every industry. Today a claim made by the carpenters and joiners comes before him, and for the next three weeks he is occupied in hearing evidence in regard to it. He masters every intricacy of the trade, and ulti mately gives a judgment which brings about industrial peace in the industry. On the following day he begins the hearing of a dispute relating to the boot trade, and is expected to assimilate all the details relating to the many branches of that industry. He has no sooner completed the hearing of that case than he has to deal with, say,a marine engineers’ dispute. No one man can grasp the details of every industry, and, therefore, the presiding Judge should be assisted in every case by two practical men, representatives of the employers and the employees. If that were done, arbitration would be attended with greater success. As the honorable member for Wentworth said last week, the proceedings should not be conducted in a Court. The parties to it should sit round a table, and the proceedings should be free from Court frills. Another wise amendment of the Act would be to exclude members of the legal profession from the Court. I have seen lawyers ina case looking at the clock again and again-
– That was when the honorable member was on the Arbitration Court Bench of New South Wales.
– Yes. I have known them to argue at length little details of no consequence.
– They are not nearly as bad as those who are not lawyers.
– That may be; but the point I wish to make is that lawyers will argue about little things that are not vital to a case, with the result that the proceedings are undulyprotracted. I do not say that this is done deliberately-
– Do you blame them, when they receive by way of fees from twenty guineas to fifty guineas per day?
– No; but I think the desire of the House is to make the Act as perfect as possible, since the great industrial organizations of Australia have not lost faith in the principle of arbitration. They believe in it. They will have faith also in the Industrial Peace Bill passed last week if it will reduce the pressure on the Arbitration Court. I hope that the unions will take hold of the machinery we have provided under that Bill ; but, at the same time, we should make our conciliation and arbitration laws as perfect as possible, so that the unions may avail themselves of them. The honorable member for Franklin has said that the Conciliation and Arbitration Court is obsolete; but I would remind him that other countries are following the lines laid down by us in establishing that Court. Even in Russia Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes are being set up. The honorable member may regard the Court as a failure, but where should we have been without it? In the absence of the system for which it provides, we should have had strikes all over the country. The secretaries and other officials of unions do not encourage strikes. If there is dissatisfaction amongst the members of a union, the officials say, “ Let us go to the Court.” All their efforts are in the direction of securing industrial peace, and if there were no arbitration machinery to which they could resort, there would be no industrial peace whatever.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Court has hitherto had no power to vary an award ; so that when the marine engineers,feeling the pressure of the high cost of living, applied some time ago for a variation of their award - which had still a certain time to run - and intimated that they were prepared to abide by the decision of the Court, they were told that the’ Court had no power to grant their request. They were thus unable to secure any redress, and the only course open to them was to strike. This Bill will remedy that position, since it will give the Court power to vary its awards. That, I think, will make the Court more popular. The seamen also desired to obtain a variation of their award.
– And Mr. Justice Higgins told the gas-workers, when they approached the Court to obtain a variation of their award, “ I can give you only Id. per day extra.”
– That is so. The Court is not popular; but that is due to its limited powers under the Act. I hope the Minister will adopt the suggestion made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) that the Conciliation and Arbitration Court should be vested with all the powers which can be conferred upon it under the Constitution. In view of prospective industrial upheavals, the Conciliation and Arbitration
Court is at this moment the most important in the Commonwealth. The ordinary criminal, equity, divorce, and other Courts do not perform functions which so nearly affect the immediate interests of the people at large; for the Arbitration Court keeps the wheels of industry going, keeps people employed, produces wealth, and assists largely in the general development of the country. Parliament should do everything in its power to make such a Court a complete success, and that, I believe, is the desire, not only of honorable members on this side, but of honorable members opposite. I trust that when in Committee we shall deal with the Bill in the same spirit that we imported into the discussion of the Industrial Peace Bill, and make the measure as perfect as possible. We on this Bide have no’ desire to see industrial disputes; on the contrary, we wish to see the country develop and prosper throughout. This can be achieved only by promoting harmony between the employers and the employed, and giving, a fair deal all round. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) said that the only way in which the workers can come before the Court is by striking ; but I ask, What other action has been left to them, seeing that if they go to the Court they can get no redress ? The conditions up to the present have offered a premium on striking; but this Bill will, I believe, relieve the position, and provide means of settlement. I shall support an amendment to reconstruct the Conciliation and Arbitration Court by providing that a representative (of the employers and a representative of the employed be elected by their fellows to sit with the Judge, and give him the benefit of their practical experience. .This would give new life to industrial arbitration, and materially help in the settlement of disputes.
– I indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) and the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), but I must say I was taken a little aback by certain of the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams). That honorable member, I think, wrongly blames the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, which was instituted in 1904 as the first Court of the kind in the history of this country. Because the Court does not al- ways work smoothly, the Judge is sometimes unjustly blamed for not being able to do the impossible. If the Court were made readily accessible, with the summary jurisdiction of an ordinary Police Court, we should not have these complaints. I aic sorry that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) is not here to give us the benefit of his experience as an official of the tramway employees organization. The costs df that organization in their recent trouble ran into five figures, made up of the subscriptions of 6d. and ls. per week, collected from the men in order to provide funds necessary to take them before the Court; and yet, when it became absolutely necessary to do something definite, the dispute was ended at once. A Conciliation and Arbitration Court should be a Court of justice, but it frequently becomes a Court of “law, where, on technical grounds, appellants are unable to obtain justice. We all hope that the measure before us will have the effect of doing away with industrial disputes.- The opinion is freely expressed outside that the measure was originally intended to remove Mr. Justice Higgins from his high position as President of the Court; but if such a thing were attempted I am sure the community generally would not permit it. I have studied Mr. Justice Higgins for over twenty-five years, and I do not think that any man has better graced the Bench, in spite of the fact that he has been largely “ handcuffed “ - tied down by legal enactments that should long ago have been amended. The cloak that fell from the dead shoulders of the late Chief Justice Higinbotham has found a worthy wearer in the person of Mr. Justice Higgins; and more than that I cannot say. It may be that when, perhaps a little heated, and with all his knowledge of the intricacies of the law, he has felt himself “ cribb’d cabin’d, and confin’d,” may have expressed himself in such a way as to hurt the feelings of some people. But the fact that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act has received the indorsement of the most powerful organization in Australia, the Australian Workers Union, an organization which, in proportion to population, is greater than any in the United Kingdom, is a monument to the good it has done in this community. As the honorable member for South Sydney said, the Divorce, Equity, and other Courts do not concern the lives of the people of Australia so nearly as does the Arbitration Court. I trust that honorable members will take the advice of those better versed in the matters at issue than the majority of us, including myself, can possibly be. The Bill is capable of doing great good, and I shall strenuously oppose any efforts to interfere with the position of the present President of the Court.
.- No one will deny that arbitration has done a great deal of good in the maintenance of industrial peace in this country since the establishment of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. But no one will deny that it would have been much more successful if certain of the obstacles which were in its way had been removed earlier by the Legislature. We all know that the Legislature, at an earlier period than this, could have made certain amendments of the law, which would have prevented the delays that take place in the hearing of claims, and would have removed the Serbonian bog which blocks the approach to the Court. Although the Arbitration Court itself may do a great deal of good - and we must all admit that it has - still, in order to have it thoroughly effective, it is necessary that the other branches of government should co-operate with it, and simultaneously do their part, lt is quite impossible for the” Court to be a success if the Executive Government does not co-operate with it; and it is equally impossible if the legislature will not confer on the Court the necessary powers which it could confer. After all,
Ave must not shut our eyes to the facts of the case. No system of arbitration, and no tribunal set up for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes, can be successful until some means is found of seeing that the purchasing power of wages remains constant while a particular award is in force. If the cost of commodities can constantly rise after an award has been made, and there is no machinery for a corresponding increase in wages, the natural result must be industrial unrest and strikes. Governments which do not realize this fact and remove the evil fail in their duty; and the reason is not far to seek. Governments very often represent particular interests; they do not stand for the interests of the workers and wageearners, and, consequently, there is always a balance thrown into the scale against the workers. While that is so, it is impossible for any Arbitration Court or Tribunal to maintain industrial peace. We must .admit that there is sufficient production to enable a fair share to be given to all. The workers demand a “ slice of the cake/’ if I may so term it, and as they are entitled to a share, it is our clear duty to see that they get it. It is our duty as a Legislature to confer such powers on Courts of Arbitration and similar Tribunals a3 to insure that the wage-earners shall receive a fair and full share of the results of their labour in production. Unless we are able to do this, there is no system of arbitration, and no Tribunal, that can prevent industrial unrest and strikes. It is idle for us to talk about making this or that amendment unless we are prepared to face the real issue, and demand, at the same time, that the Legislature and the Executive Government shall each do its particular part. It is no use blaming the Court for industrial -unrest while we fail to insist upon all branches of government doing their duty. In short, we must have the co-operation of all the arms of government.
When I was speaking on a Bill which we recently passed with a view to setting up certain Tribunals for dealing with industrial unrest, I referred to the fact, which I may be permitted to refer to again, that this Parliament failed to base the power of the Tribunals on all the constitutional powers of this Parliament. The Tribunals in that measure were permitted to rest on a particular power of the Constitution given by section 51, sub-section xxxv., “ to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to Conciliation and Arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.’5 We could rest the power of the Tribunals on all the powers given to the Commonwealth under section 51, but Parliament has refused to exercise all the powers it possesses ; and while that is so, we invite the decisions of such Tribunals to be challenged on constitutional grounds. Under the circumstances, we cannot hope to see the Tribunals a complete success. I do not hesitate to say now that any Government that fails to exercise all its powers - fails to confer all the power it can on these Tribunals - fails to do its duty with regard to the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes and to the maintenance of industrial peace. And this the Government have refused to do. It would be very pleasant if I could rise here and pass compliments across to the other side, with an assurance that they are doing everything they can to bring about industrial peace; but I know that the Government are not using the instrumentalities and the powers they have. We should be failing in our duty to the great body of wage-earners and workers outside, who look to us, if we did not have the courage to stand up and tell the Government wherein they fail in their duty. There is far too much apologetic attitude to the Government in connexion with this matter.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the adjournment I was referring to the necessity, if we are to do. our best to maintain industrial peace, oT having a complete co-operation of all the arms of government; we must not throw the whole onus upon the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration or upon any other Tribunal. No one can deny that the Government have failed to give the Arbitration Court the assistance that is necessary, and until Parliament insists upon action in that direction we cannot hope to have complete success from any Tribunal established for the settlement of industrial disputes? A Tribunal must be clothed with the power to investigate from the point of -production to the consuming point, and authority must be given for a complete investigation of that character so that a proper distribution or apportionment to labour engaged in production may be made. The Government have utterly failed in the past, and are still failing to do anything to remove the most serious cause of industrial unrestrampant profiteering - and while that is allowed to continue we are sure to have industrial unrest. Instead of endeavouring to restrict profiteering the Government have deliberately set about repealing those regulations which gave them power over those who were charging excessive prices. I am prepared to go further and say that the Government by their action have encouraged profiteering, and in order to make any arbitration Tribunal successful it will be necessary to alter the policy which has been adopted in this country in that connexion during recent years. We must take every opportunity of bringing this before the members of this House and the people of the country, because unless they arouse themselves, and use the powers they possess, through their representatives in Parliament, the present position will continue. There has been a failure to co-operate in administering .the War Precautions Act, and that Act has been administered in such a way as to cause industrial unrest. I intend to quote instances where the administration of its provisions has caused industrial turmoil. Nothing has been done to repeal the War Precautions Act or to dispense with the tyrannical administration of the regulations framed under it. It is well to remember the manner in which the regulations under that Act were administered in connexion with the marine engineers’ strike when the Government exercised their alleged powers by preventing the engineers from having access to their own funds in the bank.
– It proved very useful, did it not?
– The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) says that it proved very useful. If honorable members hold views of that character it is evident that some are not facing the question in the manner they should. If we are to allow such tyrannical powers to be used we must look for something to counteract such action.
I wish also to refer to the general attitude of the Government towards the Arbitration Court. Insidious attempts have been made by the Prime Minister and others to undermine the authority and standing of that Court. Unless there is complete sympathy and co-operation whereby the Government will give assistance to that Tribunal its work cannot be as effective as it otherwise would. In view of the present circumstances I would like the Attorney-General to call for a complete report from the President of the Court embodying suggestions which he considers necessary to make that Tribunal as effective and efficient as possible in preventing and settling industrial upheavals.
– Has not the President been consulted?
– I understood the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) to intimate during his secondreading speech, that the President of the Court had made suggestions, but that he had not been requested to suggest any amendments or to make a general report for the assistance of members.
– That is a strange omission.
– It is. My request is one that should be insisted upon, because if the President is not consulted it shows a lack of co-operation, and of a desire to do something effective to deal with proposals of this kind.
– Was not a report received ?
– Does the Minister for Works and Railways say that such is the case?
– Most of the amendments in the Bill were suggested by the President of the Court.
– That may be so, but that is quite a different matter from asking him to make a complete report, and to set out how he considers the Act should be amended in toto, with a view to clothing the Court with additional authority. I read in the press recently a statement in which the President of the Arbitration Court found it necessary to comment from the Bench in Sydney on a certain measure. He specifically pointed out that he had not been consulted in regard to it, although he was in a position to snake useful suggestions. He also suggested that the AttorneyGeneral, who was ‘the proper person to defend the Court in Parliament, had failed in his duty. How can we expect to have an effective arbitration Tribunal if the Attorney-General treats the Court in this manner? The Government deal with the Arbitration Court as if it were a hostile institution, and I trust Parliament, in the interests of the public - and this is a non-party matter - will insist on the President of the Court being asked to submit a report embodying his suggestions, with a view to making the Tribunal a thoroughly effective instrument for preserving industrial peace. I think it is generally admitted that the President of the Court, who has had a very long experience, is a capable judge, and that under his presidency a great deal has been done by the Court in maintaining industrial peace. The President has been hampered in his work to. a great extent by the Government, and it is on that account that I suggest that the Government should ask him and his colleagues to submit a report, setting out in what respects the Act . should be amended.
When the Bill is in Committee, I propose to move, in accordance with notice already given-
– What notice did the honorable member give?
– I gave notice that I would move an amendment to confer on the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration jurisdiction to override any provisions of the War Precautions Act or regulations made thereunder., when in the opinion of the Court such over-riding was desirable or necessary for the purpose of preserving, or restoring, industrial. peace. Every reasonable man will admit that it “is time the War Precautions Act was repealed, and that no further regulations are issued under it. Much of the trouble we are experiencing to-day is directly traceable to the powers the Government have exercised under that Statute. The Government have used their authority in a most unreasonable way, and I can quote as an example-apart from the regulation relating to the marine engineers - a regulation passed the other day, which was laid on ‘ the table of this House, conferring on the Government the power to charge to Consolidated Revenue the losses incurred in connexion with the requisitioning of ships. When we remember that provision was made for the requisitioning of ships under the War Precautions Act, and that originally a regulation was framed which specifically prohibited the charging of any loss or expenditure incurredto Consolidated Revenue, we naturally wonder why it is now necessary for the Government, without coming to Parliament for authority, to charge such losses in the manner mentioned. I presume it was the seamen’s dispute which led ‘ to the holding up of ships in different ports, and the Executive Government, under the War Precautions Act, have made this the expense of the taxpayers of Australia, and not of the shipping companies. The shipping companies apparently were allowed to go on making their profits, and the seamen were being fought with the taxpayers’ money. The men were really fighting themselves. While that sort of thing is allowed to continue we cannot hope to have industrial peace, and we might as well face the position fairly and trace the trouble to its true source, which is the incapacity of the Government to remove the real causes of industrial unrest. Of course, I admit that they are confronted with difficulties, but this House can insist upon the Government conforming to its will, and the question is whether honorable members will see that the Government do conform to their will and to public opinion generally. It is useless to spend time in talking about the appointment of tribunals to inquire into industrial unrest, and making tiddlywinking amendments to legislation if we do not strike at the root cause of the trouble. The majority of honorable members seem afraid to do that, but until we do take such action we cannot have efficient legislation to bring about the industrial contentment that we all desire. We all wish for industrial peace, efficiency, and the maximum of production, so that we may be able to discharge our great financial obligations and responsibilities, but we do not all combine to remove the causes that are hampering us in the attainment of that end. I hope that either the Minister will of his own volition ask for the report I have suggested from the President of the Arbitration Court, than whom I know of nobody more qualified and more willing to give a report that will be helpful to the country, or, if - the Minister will not do that, that honorable members will join together and exert the power they undoubtedly possess to compel such a report to be obtained.
.- I rise mainly for the purpose of expressing regret that a suggestion I made during the last election campaign has not been adopted, because I think it would be one of the best possible means, if not of preventing strikes altogether, at any rate of reducing their duration. But I wish to first deal with some of the arguments advanced by honorable members opposite. It is assumed by them that the principal causes of industrial unrest are the operation of the War Precautions Act and the high cost of living. Honorable members who are able to carry their minds back for any length of time will recollect that there has been industrial unrest in Australia for very many years. I suppose the greatest strikes that have occurred in the history of the Commonwealth were the maritime strike of 1891 and the shearers’ strike of 1890. Those two disputes left behind, a leaven of bitterness which has acted detrimentally on the community ever since. Reference has been made also to the action of the Government in placing an embargo on the funds of the engineers during the recent strike. I aire one of those who heartily supported the Government in that action. The engineers were mostly congregated in the capital cities, where plenty of food was obtainable. They had money with which to purchase food, and their wives and children were well provided for. But in my own electorate, and in North Queensland generally, no food was to be obtained owing to the stoppage of shipping, no matter how much money was offered. Women and children were on the verge of starvation in consequence of the strike of the engineers, who were able to live on the fat of the land by drawing money from the Savings Bank and buying all they required. The action which the Government took in preventing the engineers from drawing upon the funds of their organization had a considerable influence in bringing the strike to a termination, and for that they are to be heartily commended. We have heard the argument put forward that a worker should get the full value of what he produces. How can that be done? How can the locomotive driver or a lettercarrier get the value of what he produces? How can we allot to a worker in a boot factory his share of what he produces ? A pair of boots is the product of, perhaps, half-a-dozen hands, and how can we decide the value of any one man’s share in the product - unless we establish the principle of piece-work, which is anathema to honorable members opposite? As a matter of practical politics, only a very small proportion of those who produce can be given the value of their production, and usually the people who do produce are those who receive least sympathy and consideration from honorable members opposite. For instance, there would be reasonable excuse for industrial unrest on the part of the producers of butter and milk. I, lived in a dairying district, and I know how those engaged in the industry had to work. I could hear their carts being driven to the railway station at 4 a.m with supplies of milk for people who were still comfortably in bed, but who were for ever asking for cheaper milk. The dairymen were out in all sorts of weather, working day and night, and suffering many hardships.
– Order! The honorable member is going beyond the scope of ‘the Bill.
– Reverting to the suggestion which I made during the last election campaign, I remind the House that the persons who suffer most during a strike are the women and children. Recently the women at Broken Hill voiced their opinion and asked for some relief, which, of course, they were not able to get in a legal way. My suggestion is that before any strike is declared there should be a secret ballot conducted by independent officials, in which the wife of every unionist should have a vote. I put that proposal before my electors in December last, and it received very favorable consideration from the women. A little time ago I read that there were in Broken Hill many young men who appeared to be both well-fed and wellclothed. The strike had caused them- no suffering. Relief funds were being sent from all parts of the Commonwealth, and the men went short of nothing. They got their regular meals, their tobacco, and their beer, and experienced very little disadvantage from the strike. The real suffering is always borne by the women and the children, who look to the mothers for food and comforts. I know the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) is a man to whose sympathies one can appeal, and I ask him to give earnest and favorable consideration to the suggestion that the wife of every unionist should be provided with a ticket, similar to the old elector’s right in New South Wales, which would entitle her to a vote in a secret ballot upon any question of striking.
.- From public men we hear from time to time expressions of opinion which are a reflection upon the working man, and are especially a libel upon those who attach themselves to industrial organizations. Some people are always desirous of holding the working community responsible for industrial unrest,’ and, sometimes, for trade depression; in fact, anything that goes wrong with the industrial and social system is debited to the account of the working man. Unfortunately, our means of protecting the worker from these gross libels are limited, because’ of the fact that those who constitute the real driving force of dissatisfaction control the newspapers and means of propaganda. As one who has worked in the factory and workshop I have known what it is to be deprived of my legitimate rights, because of the commercial pirates of society who, by excessive charges, usurped the advantages momentarily received. Even the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), who has been associated with the working class movement all his life, has . so far fallen from grace as to have failed to appreciate the conditions with which the workers now have to contend; and he is actually willing to aid and abet those agencies of employerdom which are always making inroads upon the working community while, at the same time, endeavouring to place the entire blame for social disturbance at their door.
– I did not suggest anything of the sort.
– I leave the public to judge of the remarks of the honorable member, and to say whether or not he evinced a desire to saddle the industrial community with the blame for to-day’s unrest.- A few weeks ago I heard Professor Meredith Atkinson express views very similar to those of the honorable member for Herbert, whereby a solution for much of the present unrest, the learned gentleman thought, could be found. If we are to bring about normal conditions we must first grant justice where it is due, and the forces creating industrial unrest must be eliminated. Many times I have been compelled, together with my fellow workers, to take a strong stand against what we have deemed injustice. Working men do not take extreme action, calculated to bring suffering and deprivation upon themselves and their families, unless they consider they have very good reason for so doing. If, however, there is good cause for dissatisfaction and extreme action is decided upon, it is always the working community that contends with the greatest sacrifice and sufferings in their noble attempts to right many a wrong and thus pass on to posterity more congenial conditions of labour and higher standards of living. The capitalist loses nothing. Because of his sharp practices in the manipulation of our economic system he passes on to the general community the extra charges for the inconvenience occasioned by social unrest. Strikes merely provide the medium for greater profits. I am not now referring to the retailer, who very often is also a victim of circumstances to the wholesale firms, which have proved so indifferent to public interests. There are, ‘ however, ‘ honest business men and traders, for whom I have the greatest respect. If there is some medium whereby an adjustment of existing conditions can be secured it is our duty to discover that medium and make full use of it. I hope that this Bill - for which honorable members on this side have been so long waiting - will be made as effective as possible. I candidly admit that before we can secure a really satisfactory form of arbitration there must be an alteration in the Constitution. If the people were taken into the confidence of the Government this Parliament would soon be given power to make laws much more effective.
I was disappointed with the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams). He expressed no appreciation of the services rendered by the Arbitration Court. True, it has not done all that could have been wished, but it has made an honest attempt to overcome existing difficulties. Circumstances have been against it. Its Judges have been hampered and circumscribed by decisions of the High Court. They have been limited by the narrow scope of the Constitution; and, generally, the Federal Arbitration machinery has proved so cumbersome that the principle itself has been placed at a discount in the eyes of sections of the community. It is for this Parliament now to restore confidence in the Court. Delay in securing awards has been very largely responsible for existing dissatisfaction. Once, the social legislation of Australia was held up as an example to the world ; but experiance has revealed faults and anoma- lies. I desire to place before honorable .members some features of the arbitration law which ought to be removed. I repeat that the delay in securing awards has been a prime cause for criticism. I propose to relate the procedure by which a plaint comes before the Court. First, a log has to be prepared. It is collected and compiled as an outcome of the preliminary views expressed by various branches of an organization. A composite log is then framed by the central executive, and it has to be returned to the branches for indorsement or otherwise.
– You could not well dispense with that.
– Agreement upon the log is, of course, essential. I may say that I firmly believe in a basic wage rate being fixed, and for a corresponding percentage to be conceded over and above that to skilled trades, according to ability and capacity, and for a quarterly adjustment of all rates on a percentage equivalent to the increased cost of livings To continue with the procedure: the log has next to be served upon the employers concerned, after which the organization must further intimate to the employers that if they do not choose to comply with the rates and conditions set forth, the matter must go before the Arbitration Court. Next, in order to establish in the eyes of the Court that there is a dispute, the trade organization must secure from an employee in each of the workshops involved a signed and witnessed affidavit that he has> a grievance and desires an amendment of his working conditions. An affidavit must then be signed by the person collecting the signatures, in the presence of a justice of the peace. With regard to the organizations of engineers to which I am attached, two months were occupied in securing necessary signatures before a plaint could be presented to the Court. Unfortunately, under’ our present form of arbitration, a common rule cannot be established, and it is possible for one employer to be cited by a particular organization, and required to observe the terms of an award, while his neighbour, employing members of another organization engaged in the same form of industry, or even persons who are not members of any organization whatever, may be quite im mune from the responsibilities attaching to the award.
– Provision was made iu the original Act empowering the Arbitration Court to make the common rule, but the High Court decided that our constitutional powers in that regard were limited.
– 5Yes; not only are there gross anomalies in the original Act, but we are also circumscribed by the limitation of our Constitution, demonstrating the need for extending to the Commonwealth Parliament greater power to deal with such matters.
Reverting to the procedure an organization must follow before it can approach the Arbitration Court, after the signing of the authorization and the affidavit, a list of all persons to be cited to the hearing of the plaint before the Court must be prepared and printed; and if there is a mistake, even to the extent of a printer’s error in the spelling of any employer’s name, it is possible that the employer thus wrongly indicated may escape the responsibility of adhering to any award which is given. In the case of the Federated Engine-drivers and Firemen’s Association, C. and G. Hoskins Limited were cited ; but, as the proper designation of the firm is G. and C. Hoskins Limited,’ the error would enable it to escape the responsibilities attaching to any award.
– Firms must be properly identified in legal proceedings, otherwise innocent persons may suffer.
– Quite so. The next step the society has to take is to serve a plaint upon the employers. It is well known that a legal summons is usually delivered into the hand of the person to whom it is addressed; but, to overcome the difficulties attaching to personal service, it is necessary for ari organization to apply to the High Court for an order for substituted service, which will enable plaints to be served by registered post. Its ease must be sufficiently clear to show that there is a dispute in existence, otherwise the Court will not sanction substituted service. The organization must next make an application for a chamber summons, and so on. It will be readily seen that there are continual delays and many difficulties in the way of employees having recourse- to the existing forms of arbitration. Not only is there a great loss of time; great expense is also involved. Although the case of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers has been under way for twelve months, it has not yet been heard.
– Has it been set down for hearing ?
– There is a conference about to meet on that point, and matters may now be facilitated; but, although the case has been ready for presentation for some weeks, it has not yet been heard in Court, and the organization has already been involved in an expenditure of approximately £2,000 in obtaining evidence and preparing it for presentation to the Court, and in going through all the procedure required to enable employees to gain admission to the Arbitration Court.
– How much of that expenditure is represented by travelling expenses ?
– None of it, so far as I can see ; but £517 6s. 8d. has been spent on witnesses in respect to the case of urgency connected with the Broken Hill dispute, which also affects the Amalgamated Society of Engineers.
– Witnesses’ expenses always seem to be the heaviest, item in these claims.
– The cost of printing and stationery is considerable, and legal expenses amount to a good deal.
I have no desire to unduly delay the proceedings to-day, but I felt it my duty to place before honorable members the views held by many members of the working community. It is our desire to obtain a medium of redress which will be expeditious and will not involve the necessity for taking that action which requires the greatest sacrifice on the part of the workers when endeavouring to uphold the claim for improved conditions in industry.
– An award ought also to he made binding.
– In thatrespect there is a difficulty in the Act, which I am hopeful we shall be able to overcome. An award is made for a certain period, although circumstances may afterwards arise considerably altering affairs, and which in normal circumstances would have governed the award.
– Provision is made for such alterations.
– I am inclined to think that the provision in clause 10 is too ambiguous, although the phraseology may appeal to the great majority as being sufficiently effective. I do not think it is explicit enough to absolutely guarantee that it means what it endeavours to express. In Committee, I shall move to add the following words to the clause: - “ Provided that the period so specified can, on application to the Court, be varied if the Court be satisfied that such variation is just.” If we had had such a provision in the Act, many of the past outbreaks of industrial unrest anight possibly have been avoided. Another requisite is to make awards retrospective. It can be readily understood that the employees in the engineering trade are greatly dissatisfied when they realize that, although their case has been in preparation for over twelve months, they have not been able to obtain admission to the Court, and that when any award is made it will date only from the time of its delivery. Awards should date from the time of the submission of plaints. There would be much greater satisfaction in the industrial sphere if ample provision were made in this Bill to make awards so retrospective. Dissatisfaction exists at the present time because the workers feel that continual delays, which are brought about by legal technicalities, are not only depriving them of their just dues, but also involving them in a great expense in litigation which they should not be asked to incur when endeavouring to obtain justice. I am hopeful that, in Committee, the various amendments suggested by our experience of the operation of the Arbitration Act since this method of settling industrial disputes has been accepted in this country will be adopted, thus enabling us to mould the Bill in a form that will give the greatest amount of satisfaction to the great body of men who are subject to the decisions of Arbitration Courts, but who, unfortunately, owing to the limitations of the existing Act, as well as our Constitution, have been seriously and severely handicapped time after time by being deprived of their just dues. I have felt it my duty to place before honorable members the grave in- justice suffered by my fellow workmen, who have time and time again shown us that they are prepared to take extreme measures to make manifest their disapproval of the conditions under which they live, if not provided with an adequate medium of redress constitutionally. If we have a sincere desire to minimize those industrial disturbances which from time to time prevail in this and other countries, we must do our part in so remodelling our Arbitration Act that it will again provide for the world a pattern-piece of legislation for the restoration of industrial peace.
– I suppose that we are pledged to compulsory arbitration until such time as some conference can take place between employers and employees in this country to discover whether other means cannot be adopted. We must make the law compulsory upon every section of the community or adopt an entirely different principle and repeal its compulsory provisions. We have had compulsory arbitration in this country now for a fairly long time. I do not know whether honorable members generally will agree with me, but I am certainly of the opinion that the operation of our compulsory arbitration law has been detrimental to the development of this country. I say without fear of contradiction that it has helped to embitter the relations between employer and employee. If the law had been based upon the principles of the Industrial Peace Bill which we have recently considered, or had embodied some of its provisions, I believe we should have much better industrial conditions prevailing today than we are experiencing as a result of the operation of the compulsory principle.
– Does the honorable member not think that our industrial conditions compare favorably with those of the United States of America, where they have not compulsory arbitration ?
– I do not think that they do. The very operation of our compulsory arbitration law tends to create dissatisfaction and trouble between the two parties in the industrial world. If we had an Act based upon the principles of the Wages Board system we should have men preparing an award who would know the conditions of the industry with which they were dealing from A to Z. They would know all its ramifications and the difficulties that confront employer and employee. The award drawn up by such a body would be much more likely to give satisfaction to all the parties interested than any award drawn up by one person, no matter what his qualifications or how able he may be. I have no wish to reflect in any way upon any person who has been President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court or of any of the State Arbitration Courts, but I say that there is no one man in Australia who can claim to possess a complete knowledge of the ramifications of industries whose operations exfend throughout the country in all the States. No one man can claim to possess so complete a knowledge of a particular industry as to be able to make an effective award that will be satisfactory to all connected with it.
When the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was first brought into operation, evidence had to be brought forward by both parties to a dispute. It was found that the President of the Court, though he might be a very able man, having no technical knowledge of an industry, was dependent, in preparing his award, upon the evidence submitted to him. As a consequence, the trade union organizations on the one hand, and the employers’ federations on the other, found it necessary to appoint secretaries and organizers to prepare evidence in connexion with any appeal made to the Court. The President of the Court listened to the evidence so prepared, and the side that could swear the hardest obtained the greater benefit from the subsequent award.
If I summon a man or he summons me before a Court that must lead to a feeling of eni bitter ment between us, and so I say that the operation of our compulsory conciliation and arbitration law has itself been responsible for intensifying the feeling of bitterness between the two sections of the industrial community. This is not as it should be. Labour and capital should work hand-in-hand, and the successful carrying on of industries in this country can only be accomplished by creating a better feeling between employer and employee.
I believe in arbitration and in trade union organizations. I honestly believe that the worker would have had a particularly bad time if he was not organized.
I know that mining managers in Kalgoorlie have welcomed the opportunity to make agreements with labour organizations. They do not like dealing with individuals. They prefer to deal with organizations. For many years in Kalgoorlie there was never an appeal to the Arbitration Court. We had there a Mr. Jabez Dodd, secretary to the goldfields organization, who was one of the best and truest Labour men to be found in any part of Australia. Bte “was a man in whom the mine managers placed the greatest confidence. When he made a promise to them they could rely that he would do his utmost to see that it was carried into effect. For years business was carried on on the Kalgoorlie Field by industrial agreements that were registered in the Arbitration Court. All matters in dispute were settled between organizations of employers and employees without any appeal to the Court. It has been only in later days that appeals have been made to the Court, and that has given rise to some of the bitter feeling that has grown up.
I hope that in the near future we shall have an arbitration law framed on the lines I have suggested, and providing for Boards similar to Wages Boards to deal with industrial differences. I am prepared, for the time being, to accept the compulsory provision- of the existing law, but I believe that in framing the measure now before the House the Government have been remiss in not providing that the compulsory provision of the law shall apply to all alike. It is absolutely wrong that one section of those engaged in an industry should be bound by the award of the Court whilst another section is not so bound. In the Bill before us the Government have provided for penalties, but we know what has been the result of the provision made for penalties in the past. I can refer the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) to his cwn experience of difficulties that occurred in connexion with the Transcontinental Railway. An agreement was entered into between the Minister and the. employees on that railway. A strike took place, and after some little trouble the men went back to work and gave their distinct promise to the Minister that if he would overlook what they had done they would abide by any award of the Arbitration Court. At the same time they agreed to give him a cash bond as a guarantee that they would keep their pledge. The Minister did not bother about their cash bond, as he was prepared to take the word of the men. But within twelve months from that time we had the spectacle of men coming here from the western State, some, it may have been, for health reasons and to avoid sickness and death, and others in order to conduct big business transactions, left stranded in the wilderness for a time and then sent back to Kalgoorlie. I am not sure whether the fault lay with the Department or with the workmen in not taking the train right through. Mr. Groom - It was not the fault of the Department.
– I have been told on ge track that the men were willing to take the train right through, but that the* Department stopped them. It is absurd to have an Arbitration Court if both parties to disputes do not abide by its awards. No matter what promises are made, it is difficult to get men to give effect to them when the agitators get to work. The great majority of the workers wish to carry out the awards of the Court, but there are certain men who hold their billets only by their agitation.
– You got into Parliament by agitating.
– I agitate on constitutional lines, the honorable member does not; but does he not think that when a union gets an award from the Arbitration Court it should comply with it?
– Certainly not,’ if it has asked the Court for bread, and has been given a stone.
– The unions are not to comply with the awards of the Court ?
– Yes; if they get justice.
– Apparently, the honorable member think9 that an award should be complied with if it suits one party concerned, but that otherwise it may be torn to pieces.
– The same thing applies to the employers.
– Why talk nonsense? Let us make the law so that both parties must observe it or repeal it altogether. I am pleased with the provision i 1 the Bill which enables the Court to alter its awards. The honorable mem ber for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) BaY, . that it is not quite clear. If that be so, I should like to have it made clear. The Court should have power to alter its award to meet abnormal conditions. The workers have passed through a very difficult period, and the Act should have been amended long ago. Had the Government possessed the business instinct, they wouldhave long since introduced a special provision for the automatic increasing of wages, in accordance with the increase in the cost of living, without any appeal to the Court, the increases being highest for the lower rates of pay. This should have been done a year or two after the war started. Had it been done, it would have prevented much industrial turmoil and agitation, one of the chief grievances of the workers being that they could not carry on under the awards that they have got. I am pleased that power is to be given to alter awards. The law should be binding on every person who goes to the Arbitration Court, whether he be an employer or a worker. An Act which is obligatory on one party and not on another is unfair, unjust, and immoral, and should not remain on the statute-book. In regard to the Federal Public Services, I think we should pass legislation which would prevent any stoppage of the business of the country. The Post Office and the railways are huge Government monopolies. The officials of those Departments have permanent employment, and under no circumstances should be allowed to hold up the business of the country, especially as they have the opportunity of obtaining redress from Parliament.
– Why, we cannot get justice for the parliamentary employees !
– The honorable member is always seeking to make trouble. If he went direct to the President, or to Mr. Speaker, with his grievance, he could get it remedied.
– I have spoken three times about the matter, without anything being done.
– Strikes in connexion with public utilities should be illegal.
– Most decidedly. I think that we might go a little further in the matter of penalties. In all the States there are farmers who shear a few sheep, and, although the Arbitration Court rules may apply to the conduct of the big shearing sheds, they are absurd when applied to the shearing of a few hundred sheep. I have gleaned from the reports of deputations in Western Australia recently that a demand has been made upon the farmers to comply with certain rules of the Shearers Union. The shearers’ representatives have gone to the farmers and said to them, ‘ ‘ We want you to enter into an agreement with us. Every man who shears, or assists in shearing, must be a member of the union.” If a man who is shearing his own sheep gets an adjoining farmer to help him, that farmer must be a member of the union, and his own sons, if working for him, must be members.
– Is there a pastoral award in operation ?
– There is an award in the pastoral industry.
– Are you sure that it is a Federal award, and not an agreement?
– When the shearers’ representatives found that they could not obtain the agreement they desired, they threatened” to declare black the wool of those whe were opposed to it.
– That might save it being dyed.
– If I were a farmer, I would dye those who came on to my land threatening action of that kind. I would make it penal to try to prevent the carrying on of an industry by tyrannical threats of that kind. When we are dealing with the question of penalties in the Bill we ought to provide that persons who obtain an award from the Arbitration Court and refuse to abide by it should be disfranchised for quite a number of years.
– Some persons on the honorable member’s side of the House would then require to be careful.
– Both sides would have to be careful. Unlike the honorable member, I do not wish to impose an obligation upon only one section of the community. I am very anxious that the worker shall get a fair deal. If we are not a prosperous community, there cannot be much pleasure in living in this country. It is my keen desire that the worker shall get a little more than what is fair.
– Give us justice, and we shall be. satisfied.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) owes a duty to every man in his electorate. He is supposed to mete out even-handed justice to all.
– I am seeking for evenhanded justice.
– I do not mind giving a little bit more than what is fair to the man who is receiving the lowest remuneration. In Victoria the threat has been made that if a certain contingency arises coal will be declared “ black,” and unionists then will refuse to handle it or to allow it to he carried by rail. It is time that we realized the injustice of existing conditions. I hope that in Committee honorable members will endeavour to make the Bill a workable one by providing every facility for approaching the Court and for doing away with the. enormous expense which has hitherto been incurred in getting there. Some eighteen months ago, in connexion with the waterside workers’ case, representatives of various organizations from Queensland and the other States were kept in Melbourne for more than three months. Upon that occasion the expense to the employers alone amounted to more than £20,000. That expenditure has necessarily to be passed on to the general community. We ought, therefore, to endeavour to prevent a repetition of such delays and to obviate the expense that is involved in getting plaints before the Court. When once an award has been given we ought also to provide that its terms may be varied so as to make them in accord with any increase in the cost of living. What we aim at securing is industrial peace, and when awards have been given all who appeal to the Court should be compelled to abide by them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Poynton) read a first time.
The following paper was presented: -
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act. - Regulations amended-Statutory Rules 1920, No. 141.
Naval Staff Clerks - Export of Scrap Metals - Invalid and Old-age Pensions Administration - War Trophies - Postal Administration - Use of Military Forces for Police Purposes.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On the 14th July last the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) brought under the notice of the then Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) the fact that it was proposed to appoint an Imperial officer named B. G. Quick to the position of naval staff clerk. Sir Joseph Cook promised to withhold and reconsider the appointment in view of the Government’s policy of giving preference to Australians. The present Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), however, made the appointment. Two further appointments are contemplated, the first, that of Mr. A. O. Wheatley, to a permanent position as naval staff clerk, and the second, that of Mr. E. G. Buttonahaw, to the position of examiner of accounts andstores. On the 10th instant, the general secretary of the Commonwealth Clerical Association wrote to the Minister for the Navy, protesting against these proposed appointments, and I would like the assurance of the honorable gentleman that no further action will be taken in this matter until the representations of the association have been carefully considered. I may mention that the matter of these appointments is causing grave discontent in the Navy Department.
– I shall be glad to look into the matter.
.- I have no desire to delay the House, but I shall be obliged to take drastic action at an early date if more satisfaction cannot be obtained from the Attorney-General’s Department in regard to the restrictions which are being placed upon the trade of this country. Upon several occasions I have written to the Prime Minister’s Department in reference to the embargo that has been placed on the export of scrap steel and scrap iron. But although I have made specific representations, I have failed to obtain anything in the nature of a definite reply. Thinking I had made a mistake, I wrote to the Minister for Trade and Customs, and was informed by him that the matter was in the hands of the Attorney-General’s Department. The other day I asked some further questions, upon this subject, and in reply was told that if any person in Queensland or elsewhere who had these articles for sale would communicate with that Department, specific replies would be given. We cannot continue to carry on trade in this manner. Shortly after the outbreak of war I felt very much aggrieved at the embargo which was placed upon metals generally.
– Surely this scrap steel and scrap iron cannot be so very serious a matter.
– It is only a small matter, but a precedent is being established, and a question of principle is involved. Does the Treasurer remember an incident that took place some time ago in connexion with the disposal of scrap tin ? At a time when Japan was offering £4 15s., f .o.b., for scrap tin, I produced a contract, made through Messrs. Dalgety and Company, for the sale of 500 tons, but the Attorney-General’s Department refused to allow it to go out of the country. The result was that it had to be sent, to a local factory, the owners of which would not promise to give anything for it unless they were able to make a profit out of its treatment. The proprietors of this scrap tin had to become responsible for the cost of treating it, and the owners of the plant had the right to take 25 per cent, of any profit made. We have had too much of that sort of interference on the part of the Government. Apparently, an embargo has now been placed on the export of scrap iron and scrap steel. A merchant in Western Australia asked for a permit to export such material, but received a refusal from the Metal Exchange. This House knows nothing of the Metal Exchange. It has no authority from this Chamber. When I brought the matter before the Prime Minister’s De partment, I was told that it was not the Metal Exchange, but the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, that had refused the permit. I had, however, a copy of the actual refusal by the Metal Exchange, and sent it to the Prime Minister’s Department.
– The Department must have been moved by some Government official to take that action.
– It appears that some one has started to set up, in Western Australia, a plant for the electrolytic treatment of scrap steel and iron. It may ‘be in the best interests of Australia that the export of such material should not be permitted. I do not admit that it is, but, assuming that it is, the Government, as soon as it imposed that embargo, should have immediately prepared regulations to insure that those who have scrap iron and steel for sale will get a fair price for it. These people tell me that at the present time there is no buyer in Western Australia for this scrap, and they cannot dispose of it, but I can get no information from the Government as to whether or not its export will be permitted. If there is no local buyer, there can be no reason for the continuance of the embargo.
When questions are asked here, it is the duty of the Government to try, especially in its correspondence, to supply clear and lucid answers. I have never yet had from the Attorney-General’s Department a lucid answer to any question I have put to it in regard to the metal industry. There has been too much “ hushing-up “ on the part of that Department, and unless I obtain a definite reply to my inquiry, I shall next Friday bring before the House the whole of the facts relating to the formation of the Zinc Producers Association and the placing of the embargo on .scrap tin.
– I desire to draw the attention of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) to a matter relating to the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. A girl who is nearly nineteen years of age, and is suffering from tuberculosis, applied for ah invalid pension, but met with a refusal because her father is earning £3 9s. per week, while her brother, now in hospital with a broken leg, will bc able to earn something for the family when he comes’ out, and a sister, now oh strike, will also he able, it is said, to contribute to the support of the family when she resumes work. The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton), when Acting Treasurer some time ago, promised to consider this matter. The whole trouble is due to the fact that the calculation of the Department as to what it costs to maintain a family is based on data four or five years old. By regulation, the Treasurer could so alter that calculation as to meet a case of this kind. It should be brought up to date, inasmuch as the cost of living has greatly increased during the last few years.
– How many are there ki the family?
– There are four children. If the father chose to turn the girl into the streets, she could at once secure a pension ; but because he is trying to assist her, she cannot.
– There are many similar cases.
– There are. It is unreasonable to charge a father with the up-keep of a daughter nearly nineteen years of age, who, because of her infirmity, should be receiving an invalid pension.
– We ought to have an early opportunity to amend the Act.
– Yes. Meantime, I ask the Treasurer to inquire into this case, and ascertain whether it is not possible so to alter the regulations that this unfortunate young woman may receive the pension to which she is justly entitled.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer who is responsible for the delay “in the distribution of war trophies. I would point out to the right honorable gentleman, who is taking a deep interest in the floating of the Second Peace Loan, that the delay in distributing war trophies is really retarding subscriptions. In many centres in mv own district, the people are saying, “What we have done is ignored. We sent dozens of men to the Front, and many of them lie buried in France to-day. We have subscribed thousands to the War Loans, and the First Peace Loan, and yet. when we apply for a war trophy for this district, we areignored.” The people of Bega, Berry, and many other towns are dissatisfied, and want to know when they are to receive the war trophies for which they have applied.
– If the honorable member will only sit down, I will give him an 80-ton gun.
– It is all very well for the right honorable gentleman to tell me to sit down; but my constituents have rights, and if we do not get satisfaction something may happen to the Government that they will not like. Last night we had a confession by the Government that, as a result of their bungling administration of the Department of Trade and Customs, £1,000,000 had been lost. The Treasurer tells us that the Government cannot afford to increase the invalid and old-age pensions, although the present rate is not sufficient to keep body and soul together. That £1,000,000, if saved, would have enabled an extra 5s. per week to be paid during the next twelve months. Administration of this kind calls for a protest, and I shall speak and vote in a way that will cause some alteration to be made. Where is the gun that was promised to Bega? Then, the Postmaster-General, in answer to questions, is always telling us that the subjects inquired about are under consideration. He does not seem to pay any regard to the high prices that the small mail contractors are paying for fodder now, or the difficulties under which they suffer. It is time the Postmaster-General went over to New South Wales, and ceased climbing the Post Office tower in Melbourne, under the impression that from there he sees the world. He ought to travel and ascertain for himself what is going on in his Department; and I give him warning that next week I shall move the adjournment of the House, in order to discuss its administration. How many States in the Commonwealth has the Postmaster-General ‘visited since he assumed office? It is time he realized that there are other States besides Victoria which require consideration.
– Give some of the other Departments a turn. now.
– The Treasurer seems to be in a happy mood; but I tell him -that I am dissatisfied with the administration of more than one Department, and administration is nine points of the law. I do not hesitate to say that in some of the Departments the administration is rotten; at any rate, the Postal administration was never worse than it is to-day.
– It was worse when the honorable member himself was PostmasterGeneral.
– People did not then have to wait eighteen months for telephone installation, as I am told they have to do in Sydney to-day, although, at the same time, the Government are advertising telephones for sale by auction. I presume that the Victorian people are satisfied with the honorable gentleman’s administration, seeing that we hear no complaints from them; but, however that may be, I shall give honorable members an opportunity to discuss these matters next week. As I say, I am dissatisfied with the distribution of war trophies, the delay in connexion with which is, I am sure, affecting the success of the Peace Loan. Everything now seems to becarried on by Committees and Commissions, and yet nothing is done.
Mr.RY AN (West Sydney) [4.0].- I wish to say a word or two, as a result of the attitude taken by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Eyrie) on two questions which I addressed to him to-day. I then stated that I had been reliably informed that on the 28th July last the Defence Department brought the Military Forces from Queenscliff and Swan Island to Melbourne, under arms, and with 9,000 rounds of ammunition.
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I have been informed that the troops were brought to Melbourne for the purpose of being used in connexion with a meeting proposed to be held here, and that they were quartered in the Domain, where they were instructed how and when they were to fire.
– What meeting was that?
– A meeting that was proposed or suggested to be held in Melbourne.
Mr.RYAN.- On the 28th July.
– The Forces were instructed in the Domain how and when they were to fire, and how and when they were to strike men and women with the butts of their rifles.
– I do not believe it.
– It is absolutely true, and when an honorable member asks a question of the sort of a Minister, he ought not to be refused a reply, because it is one of great public interest, not only to every member of the House, but to the whole of the public.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the House.
There not being a quorum present,
Mr. Speaker adjourned the House at 4.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 August 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200820_reps_8_93/>.