8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Works and Railwayswhether the Commonwealth Government, acting in conjunction with the State Governments, has yet appointed the proposed Commission to inquire into the railway gauges of Australia. If so, can the Minister give the House the names of the members of that Commission ?
– I am not yet in a position to make an announcement on the subject. As a matter of fact, Mr. Estell, the New South Wales Minister for Railways, arrived in Melbourne this afternoon, and is to have an interview with me on the subject during the week.
– Has the Minister for the Navy had brought under his notice the fact that an inquiry at Cockatoo Island Dockyard has disclosed frauds involving a loss of thousands of pounds perpetrated upon the Government, and due to lax administration. Has he any information on the subject to give the House?
– The matter has been brought under my notice, but since the investigation is now proceeding, I am not in a position at present to make a statement.
– I desire to ask the Prime Ministerwhether the Government still consider it necessary to keep the Tanunda Club closed, and, if not, whether permission will be given for its re-opening?
– Since the honorable member last addressed to me a question on this subject, I have caused independent inquiries to be made, and am satisfied that there is now no reason why the Tanunda Club need be closed. I am, therefore, issuing instructions that authority shall be given for its reopening forthwith. As I said before, I shall expect that it will not be used for other than bond fide purposes. That requirement, of course, applies to every club. The honorable member may rest assured that the instruction will be given without delay.
– Is the Prime Minister yet able to make a statement concerning the dividends in the Wool Pool?
– I desire, by leave, to make a statement on the subject.
– Honorable members will be aware that for some considerable time communications have been passing and negotiations proceeding between the British Government and the Commonwealth Government in relation to the payment of half profits due on wool sold for civilian purposes. For reasons which I need not enter into now, the British Government has not hitherto been ina position to make a payment. Quite recently, however, the Chancellor of the Exchequer addressed to me a cablegram stating that if I, as agent for the growers, could give certain definite assurances, he would be prepared to pay, roughly speaking, some £6,500,000 by way of an interim dividend. I laid the matter before the Australian Wool Council, and subject to the advice of the Central Wool Committee, they authorized me to givethis assurance. I have done so, with the result that the payment of £6,500,000 will be shortly made.
I had better address myself now to a statement of the position covering the whole period during which the Wool Pool has been operating. . On 30th June of this year there remained in the Commonwealth of greasy merino, 320,815 bales, and of scoured merino, 177,431 bales. Of crossbred wool there remained 439,411 bales of greasy, and 224,166 bales of scoured wool. There was thus a total of 498,246 bales of greasy and scoured merino wool, and 663,577 bales of greasy and scoured crossbred wool, or a grand total of 1,161,823 bales. I turn now to a general and very brief résuméof the financial side of the Pool. The total credits of all sorts on account of wool, sheepskins, charges, &c, since the inauguration of the scheme in November, 1916, amount to £173,896,059 9s. 3d. The appraised value only of wool for the four seasons, including part of the clip for 1916-17, and the complete clip for 1917-18, 1918-19, and 1919-20, amounts to £153,066,058 2s. 8d. The actual difference between the appraised price and flat rate for the season 1919- 1920 is 1.8 per cent. of the appraised value. The Central Wool Committee have resolved to increase the percentage to 2 per cent., which necessitates a payment over and above appraised prices to woolgrowers of £906,423,000. The 10 per cent. retention money represents for the season 1919-1920, £4,532,118. The retention money and adjustment of the appraised price to flat rate amount to £5,438,541, which will be paid by the Central Wool Committee in all wool centres of the Commonwealth on 22nd September, 1920. The 50 per cent. profits resulting from the resale of wool by His Majesty’s Imperial Government, and credited to Australian wool-growers, are as follows: - For the year ending 31st March, 1918, £1,936,845 ; and for the year ending 31st March, 1919, £4,550,147; a total of £6,486,992, which is equivalent to 4.24 per cent. on the appraised value of wool for the four seasons. That is to say, this 50 per cent. half profits, up to the 31st March, 1919, amounts to £6,486,992. The amount of profits, distinct and additional to the 50 per cent. profits, from resale of wool by the Imperial Government, earned by the Central Wool Committee, since the inception of the wool scheme, is estimated at £1,667,469. In the payment of the interim dividend, the Central Wool Committee have resolved to allocate the full amount of profits earned by His Majesty’s Imperial Government to 31st March, 1919, namely, £6,486,992, and the additional sum of £1,166,300 from the Central Wool Committee’s administration profits, making a total of £7,653,292. This is equivalent to 5 per cent, on all wool appraised for the four seasons, included in the wool contracts between His Majesty’s Imperial Government and the Commonwealth Government, as agent for Australian wool-growers. The Central “Wool Committee have fixed the 27th October, 1920, for the payment of the interim dividend, provided that arrangements can be completed with the Committee’s bankers for the transfer of the money from London to Australia. That is the dividend from Britain. To recapitulate, in one comprehensive statement, the amount of retention and readjustment money is £5,438,541, and the dividend money - the half profits - and administration profits are £7,653,292. That is to say, the half profits made by the British Government from the resale of wool, plus the £1,166,300 that the Committee have made in administrative profits, amount to £7,653,292, making a grand total of £13,091,833, which will be distributed to the Australian wool-growers during the months of September and October-. I desire honorable members interested in the matter to follow me. During the months of September and October there will be distributed £13,091,833, of which £6,486,922 is the first interim dividend paid by the British Government to the growers, the residuum being made up of the administrative profits of £1,166,300, and retention and adjustment money £5,438,541. The Central Wool Committee points out, however, that its ability to pay the £6,486,992, the interim dividend, depends on two things - one, the Chancellor of the Exchequer making it available; and, the second, the ability of the Committee to arrange with its bankers to transfer the money from London to Australia. As to the first difficulty, I desire to say to honorable members, and through the press to the wool-growers, that the arrangements made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer are quite definite. It is enough for me to say that the money is available, and will be paid to the Government, as the agent of the wool-growers, in London; then it remains only for the
Central Wool Committee to transfer it to Australia. That accounts for £6,486,992. The balance of the £13,091,823 will be here, and, according to a report I have received from Sir John Higgins, this money - that is to say, the £5,428,541 - will be distributed during the months of September and October. Putting it quite shortly, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes the money available, which I think I am quite safe in stating d. finitely will be done, and if the bankers can transfer it to Australia, it will be made available to the growers during those two months. or as soon thereafter as the Committee can distribute it. There is only one word more I need say. It is quite understood that these half profits of which I am speaking are only until 31st March, 1919, and do not cover at all the profits on wool up to date. On the other hand, it is not to be forgotten that the British Government have, speaking very roughly, about 2,000,000 bales of wool. The greater portion is relatively lowgrade wool, on which it is probable that the flat rate “ or/and “ the appraised rate will not be realized; and, therefore, there will be a debit set against the accruing profits on the higher-grade wool from the 31st March, 1919, until the date when the whole of the wool shall have been sold. I hope I have made the matter perfectly clear. I have in my hand the report of the Central Wool Committee for the season 1919-20, and a resume of its administration since its appointment in 1916. It is set out in the form of a letter, and there is also a brief resume of the financial side. I desire to lay these documents on the table of the House, and I move -
That the papers be printed.
– Cannot the Prime Minister supply honorable members with’ more definite information than is contained in the vague statement that the money will be obtainable during September or October? The position is very serious, and important issues are involved. There are men all over the country who are desirous of making ‘arrangements to meet their financial obligations. Can the Prime Minister say definitely on what day the money may be expected to be paid into the accounts of the people interested? Honorable members every day are receiving letters from different parts of Australia, urgently asking when the money due will be available, so that arrangements can be made with financial institutions in the matter of the wiping off of overdrafts. I suggest that the Government use al its resources to see that the money is paid on a definite date, rather than leave it to any happygolucky proposition whereby the amount may come to hand at any time within a month or two.
– I have already answered these questions: but honorable members, I fear, were not listening.
– I heard the Prime Minister mention the date, 27th October, but he did not say that the money was going to be paid on that day.
– I said-
The retention money and adjustment of appraised price to flat rate amount to £5,438,541, which will be paid by the Central Wool Committee in all wool centres of the Commonwealth on 22nd September, 1920.
Now, that is quite plain. The. date which X have just indicated is the only definite day that I can mention to honorable members; but the fact is that both the. date and the amount are specific. Concerning the other amount - namely, the sum of £6,486,992 - when that is paid will depend upon two factors which I have already dwelt upon. The first is, the date on which the money will be made available by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Second concerns the date on which it can be transferred from our London bankers to our bankers in Australia. I am unable, therefore, to say on what day payment will be made; but I repeat what the Central Wool Committee has said, namely, that it expects to distribute the money “ in September or/and October.”
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I desire to ask one or two questions following upon this matter. If I have understood ihe Prime Minister aright, I think there is bound to be some disappointment. I want to know if the sum of £13,000,000 represents the total?
– No; only to March, 1919.
– Did not the Prime Minister say that, from that date, the wool, being of inferior grade-
Honorable Members. - No.
– I want the matter to be made quite clear. The Prime Minister said the total amount represented a sum of about £13,000,000. The impression might easily be gained throughout the country that that was the total sum to be distributed. Can the Prime Minister say what period that total covers ?
– I have already said it.
– But the Prime Minister followed it up by saying that after that date, since the wool was of inferior grade, there would be a debit.
– The fact is that nobody takes the slightest notice of what anybody else says in this Chamber.
– That is not so. The trouble is that the Prime Minister has too many honorable members endeavouring to explain the position for him.
– What I said was that there was a grand total which .the Central Wool Committee proposed to distribute, amounting to £13,091,833. This money is made up of two sums, namely, £7,653,292 and £5,438,541. Now, that first-named total includes £6,486,922- which is the interim dividend to be paid by the British Government; and the remainder of the sum represents the administration profits of the Wool Committee. Of these two amounts, namely, £7,65-3,292 and £5,438,541- the Central Wool Committee states that the latter sum will be paid by the Committee in all wool centres of the Commonwealth on 22nd September. As for the other item, the date on which it is to be paid cannot be more definitely indicated than it has been up to the present. The Central Wool Committee is quite right in saying that it all depends upon circumstances-; but it has indicated the 27th .October for the payment of the interim dividend, provided that the arrangements can be completed with the Committee’s bankers for the transfer of the money from the bank in London to Australia; and, at present, the Central Wool ‘Committee has not got the money in London. There are two conditions, the first of which is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall pay it into the bank; and the second is that it is to be transferred to Australia. Subject to that, two definite and perfectly clear facts emerge - (1) that a sum of £5,438,000 is to be paid on the 22nd September, and (2) a sum of £7,653,000 on the 27th October.
There is only one other matter to which reference need be made. The interim dividend paid by the British Government represents the interim dividends for the two years ending 31st March, 1918, and 31st March, 1919. The confusion, if any, which arises in the minds of honorable members is due to the fact that they and the wool-growers now learn for the first time that, in addition to that interim dividend, there is a sum of about £6,000,000 to be paid of which they knew nothing whatever before. That, however, should be a ground for not confusion, but rejoicing. Let us, therefore, rejoice. There should be no confusion whatever on the other point, nor is there any uncertainty except as to what the 2,000,000 bales of a carryover will fetch. If they fetch, on the average, more than 15½d. then they will not reduce the interim dividend to be paid on 31st March, 1920. If they fetch much less, then they will drag down the dividend, but there is no doubt whatever that there will be a substantial further dividend.
– Since the Prime Minister said, in reply to an interjection by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), that no one in the House took any notice of what he said I beg to assure him that I take the keenest interest in his statements, and am delighted with what he has done for Australia and the country.
– Order !
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he has received from the Imperial Government any official intimation as to thepossible profits accruing to Australia in respect to sales already made since March, 1919.
– I have already said that up to the 31st March, 1919, our share of the profits amounts to £6,486,992. That is as far as any definite information to hand goes. The accounts are extremely complicated, and cover transactions of great magnitude. They have all to be, and are, audited by independent auditors. The honorable member must realize that I have been in close touch with the Australian Wool Council, and that we are endeavouring to get from the British Government accounts up to 31st
March, 1920. As soon as I have them I shall make an announcement to the House.
I want to tell the wool-growers of Australia that the Central Wool Committee has conducted during the trying years of the war an enterprise of tremendous magnitude and complexity, with a degree of success to which no words of mine or anybody else can do adequate justice. It is perfectly true that at times the Government has not seen eye to eye with the Central Wool Committee so far as every minor transaction is concerned, but, on behalf of the Government and the people, I desire to express my thanks to the Central Wool Committee, and particularly to Sir John Higgins, for the splendid work they have rendered the wool-growers and the country. I should be doing them an injustice if I failed to make that acknowledgment.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, in regard to the dividends of the Wool Pool, a further and rather technical question, which perhaps he may not be able to answer off-hand. Has it yet been decided whether all wools soldup to the declaration of the dividends under or above their appraised prices are to participate in those dividends ?
– If a man sells a bale of wool at a flat rate of 15½d. per lb., and that particular wool is appraised at 8½d. per lb., where is the profit?
– I had better give notice of my question.
– The honorable member said it was a technical question, and I may be wrong, but I cannot see where the profit in such circumstances would arise. If a man sells a bale of merino wool, which is valued at 72d., and the appraised price is 45d., then he will get half the difference between the 45d. and the 72d. But if the appraised price is, say, 8d., and the actual selling price is 10d., so far as I can see there is no profit.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– (By leave).- As I do not want any misunderstanding to get abroad in connexion with my statement regarding the payments for wool, I desire to correct what I previously said in reply to a question by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), who inquired as tothe basis upon which the dividend was to be distributed, also as to how the low-grade wool would fare under this proposal. Since I made my statement I have been informed that I was wrong as to the basis upon which I assumed the Central Wool Committee was going to act. It is really going to distribute the dividend on the value - the amount of money; for example, if a pastoralist sold £500 worth of wool he will receive a proportion of the £6,000,000, as £500 is to that amount. I desire to make the matter perfectly clear to all interested, and I ask the press to refrain from making any comment on what I have said until I have an opportunityto consult Sir John Higgins, when I shall be in a position to make a definite statement.
– Some weeks ago I addressed to the Treasurer a question relating to the Commonwealth taxation of State loans. In view of a decision given yesterday by the High Court, reversing the judgment in the case of D’Emden versus Pedder, will it not be at least possible for the Commonwealth to tax the loans of the States?
– I do not think that any one outside the High Court itself is yet able to say definitely what is the actual effect of the decision to which the honorable member refers. The matter is under the consideration of the Law authorities, and even when the law on the subject has been ascertained there will still be some very serious questions to consider in relation to the taxation of State loans. There is, for instance, the elementary consideration that contracts have already been made by the State authorities with those who have loaned money to them. There are many questions to be determined when the law has been definitely delimited and settled.
– About £13,000,000 is to be paid to the wool-growers in September and October, and a great deal of that money will be regarded by those who receive it as being in the nature of a windfall or “ bunce.” Some time ago the Prime Minister was very anxious to get a lot of that money by way of a forced loan, and I ask the Treasurer whether the date of the closing of the Second Peace Loan cannot be delayed, or some arrangement made, so that a portion of that money may be invested in it ?
-I should like very much to get a good portion of that money for the loan, and I see no reason why, now that a declaration has been made as to what amount may be expected, the farmers should not anticipate the receipt of the money, which cannot be very long delayed, and invest it in the loan.
– In view of the fact that the money invested by the Victorian people in the last Victorian loan is invested in perpetuity, will the Treasurer state whether the people who invest in the Second Peace Loan will be able to redeem their bonds in ten years?
– So much of the money as is unredeemed earlier must be paid back at the end of ten years. There appears to be a misapprehension in regard to this matter. There are some people who imagine that the Second Peace Loan is on precisely the same footing as is an ordinary loan floated for public works, and other Government requirements. It is on an entirely different footing. All of the money is being lent to the “ digger,” and all of it will be repaid by him. As the repayments come in a fund for the redemption of the loan will be created.
– The Treasurer is very optimistic.
– I do not know that I am. Repayments must be made; in fact, they are being made already, and will continue tobe made. I am glad to be able to announce to the House that to date there have been scarcely any defaulters. The “ diggers “ are standing to their obligations already in a marvellous way, and I think we have reason to congratulate ourselves on what is actually being done. I am certain that this money will be repaid, and while it is being repaid we shall be diligently cultivating an asset which will be of incalculable value to this country. Already 17,000 soldiers have been settled on the land, and on the basis of one agriculturist for every ten or eleven other persons in the general community - that is the proportion given to me by the Statistician of New South’ Wales a few days ago - we have provided for the support of an additional population of 170,000 or 180,000. Therefore, the Peace Loan is on a totally different footing from any other debt incurred for ordinary public works. It is a land settlement scheme on a big scale, and behind every penny of the money is a solid, live, reproductive asset. As the money is repaid it will go to the fund for the cancellation of the debt.
– As the only representative in this Parliament of the Pacific Islands, I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the following statement which appeared in the press a few clays ago: -
The Solomon Islands traders have therefore, it is pointed out, a right to have their interests consulted by the Federal Parliament; and the allegation is that Parliament has been either misled or misinformed by the Prime Minister as to the necessity of the 20 per cent, increase in freights and fares on top of the abolition of the rebates. The Prime Minister, it is pointed out, certainly led Parliament to understand that the Controller of Shipping would be consulted in the matter of any increases in freights and fares made in the Pacific Islands service. The fact is that the Controller of Shipping has not been consulted in any shape or form.
Several letters have reached me from the islands in regard to the Pacific mail contract, and I ask the Prime Minister to say whether or not the allegation is true that he misled Parliament when he said that the .Shipping Controller had been consulted in regard to the contract made with the favoured firm of Burns, Philp, and Co.?
– If the honorable member will put all that statement down on paper, I shall be able to - refresh my mind. I lost the beginning of the question ; otherwise I got on very well.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House when he expects to be able to deliver the Budget?
– So far as I can see, the Budget will be submitted tomorrow week.
– As member for Melbourne, many applications for coal reach me; and I ask the Prime Minister if there is any likelihood of the coal position easing, so that people may be able to purchase in small quantities?
– Inter-State vessels now have preference of loading. Daily a report is published in the press showing the state of affairs at Newcastle, and the number of cargoes available. It is generally admitted that the position has eased, and that the coal is coming to hand more rapidly than formerly. We cannot make coal available in small lots.; that would go far beyond the Commonwealth’s powers. That is entirely a question for the States. We have no power to do what the honorable member suggests. The Commonwealth does not own the coal.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Victorian Police Uniforms
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the importance of the mission of the ex-Treasurer to England, and the magnitude of the financial operations which necessitated his visit to London, will the Prime Minister inform the House who has undertaken the vitally important duties which Mr. Watt left Australia to perform, and what has been the resultof any action taken ?
– It was not practicable for any one to undertake the important duties which were delegated to the late Treasurer, but arrangements were made for Mr. J. R. Collins, Secretary to the Treasury, to attend to such matters as could be dealt with by an official of the Commonwealth who did not possess the authority of a responsible Minister.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the lecture delivered at the Medical Congress at Brisbane by Dr. Furness Barrington, president of the obstetric and gynecology section, wherein he showed that in hospitals and properly conducted institutions the introduction of anaesthetics and antiseptics and non-meddlesome midwifery resulted in an enormous reduction of morbidity and mortality, and suggested that the maternity bonus should be stopped, and that this money should be used for the building of modern obstetric hospitals, for their equipment with efficient staffs, and for the extension of maternity charities by providing well-trained obstetric nurses to work under medical supervision, the Government will give consideration to these expert views with a view to abolishing the maternity bonus and adopting the suggestions in lieu thereof?
– The Government are most carefully considering the policy in regard to this matter,but we believe firmly in the necessity for the endowment of motherhood.
Land Settlement: Soldiers’ Homes
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Department is not in possession of the information asked for, but a communication is being addressed to the Premiers of the several States asking that it may be made available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Commissioner advises as follows: -
Australia has been suspended in consequence of representations made regarding similar activities undertaken by the State.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 31st August, vide page 3999) : -
Motion (by Mr. Gregory) again proposed -
That the following new clause be added: - “ 19. After section 58a of the principal Act the following section is inserted: - 58b. The rules of an organization under this Act and the officials of such organization shall not, during the currency of an award in the industry concerned, prevent or impede any members of such’ organization from entering into written agreements in accordance with such award at any time prior to the commencement of service.’ “
– I do not think that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), when he discussed this proposed clause last night, thoroughly understood the position from the unionists’ point of view. I rise now to offer some reply to his remarks, because I have had personal experience in the industry, and know how the proposed new clause would work. I say quite frankly that if the clause is accepted, it will cause a great deal of trouble. We ought to view this question in the same light as it is viewed by Mr. Justice Higgins in a judgment he gave, and see that we do not deprive individual unionists of the advantages of collective bargaining by the unions. On this point I should like to quote Mr. Justice Higgins’ remarks in his judgment in the case of The Australian Workers Union; ex parte, Burnet Barnet Allen and others. There was an application for the deregistration of the union because it had issued an instruction to its members not to sign on prior to roll-call. His Honour, in the course of that judgment, after suggesting that the pastoralists and the unionists should meet and consider the matter, said -
It appears that the union wants at all costs to prevent its members from contracting without the collective protection of the union; and, of course, the price at which rations are to be supplied by the station is a matter vitally affecting the real value of the wages paid.
I wish honorable members to appreciate the fact that the price paid for rations vitally affects the real value of the wages paid. His Honour went on to say -
I could not, under these circumstances, fairly treat the rule as being necessarily a “ defect “ or even impropriety. But I hope there are other means of meeting the legitimate needs of the pastoralists and shearing contractors for definite engagements for definite dates, while preserving to the members of the union the collective shield against individual bargaining. I suggest that an application be made for variation of the award (including perhaps the form of agreement prescribed) in such a way as to allow the prices for rations supplied to be settled by agreement with the union or by the Board of Reference.
That judgment embodies the reason why the Australian Workers Union, and other unions of a similar character, object to members signing agreements prior to the roll-call. This signing of agreements in the way suggested by the clause really does away with the collective bargaining, which unions are formed to further, and which the Arbitration Court has been instituted to assist. In the agreements made, there are several provisions which are part and parcel of the award, but which are not expressed in terms of money. For instance, the employers have to provide sufficient and suitable accommodation, suitable cooking utensils, sufficient water, a paddock for horses, and other items; and it is to prevent imposition on members of the union that they are forbidden to sign before the roll-call. Obviously, a great number of the men engaged can have no idea of the conditions under which they are expected to work until they arrive on the ground. As honorable members know, in every large industrial organization there are men who, in order to secure employment, are prepared to sign any sort of agreement; and contractors have gone so far-
– The employers are educated and good chaps.
– I know what I am talking about, and if the honorable member interjects I shall bring the facts home to him in a way that may not prove too pleasant.
– Whatever you have to say you can say right out.
– I do not wish to enter into any controversy with the honorable member; but I have worked under the . conditions that prevail in many cases, and I know what I am talking about. Contractors are prepared to use men who are always at hand to break up unions. Such men are persuaded to sign agreements, and when the legitimate unionists apply they are told that they can be- employed only if they sign the agreement too, prior to the roll-call. This, of course, entirely shuts out the unionists. Let me say that the accommodation provided, in a great many pastoralists’ places, is a scandal and a disgrace. The word “ hut “ is an apt description of the living places provided, and no one could possibly feel proud of them. The example of Queensland ought to be followed in providing independent inspectors, who inspect the accommodation prior to the season commencing, and also when the work is actually in hand. The police ought not to be employed for such a purpose anywhere; they already have enough to do, and in some cases they are the guests of pastoralists, and, as a consequence, are more ready to overlook any shortcomings in complying with the Accommodation Act of that particular State. The inspectors in Queensland are specially appointed, and are provided with motor cars, so as to be independent, and are not allowed to become the guest of any land-holder. It is not true, as has been said, that the great majority of the members of the union object to the rule that no agreement shall be signed prior to the roll-call. I have worked in this industry, and I never waited to be forbidden to sign an agreement before arriving on the ground, but always refused to do so. A great many of the employers are not prepared to give a square deal unless the men are in a position to say that if they do not get what is fair and just they are not prepared to start. Why should any man live like a dingo for six or seven weeks, simply because a vacillating accommodation inspector will not keep an employer up to the collar? It is not, as a rule, the small pastoralist that the men have the trouble with, but the big pastoralist companies, many of the shareholders of which do not live in Australia.
Many companies do not even provide decent drinking water, and men have had the unfortunate experience of living for weeks under conditions that resulted in typhoid fever, to their great personal loss - and inconvenience. As Mr. Justice Higgins pointed out, the price paid for commodities has a big effect upon the subsequent effectiveness of the wage rate decided’ upon. There have been increases in wages in practically all industries to-day, but the cost of living has gone up out of all proportion. There was a time when the ‘unions did not include in their rules that particular rule which has been designed to prevent men from signing on ; but it was discovered that a section of the pastoralists were not playing fair. I refer particularly to some of the “big “ men. They went into Court and swore that they supplied mea’t to the shearers at not more than 3d. per lb. Upon that basis Mr. Justice Higgins made his award and granted a certain wage rate. At the opening of the following shearing season, however, the employers jumped up the price of meat to 6d., and even 9d., per lb. When the men “ turned up “ on the job they found that instead of being required to pay only 3d. per lb. - upon which basis their wages had been fixed - the squatters had raised the price of meat as high as 300 per cent, over the price sworn to in Court. If the men sign up before they get on to the ground they can be robbed, not only with regard to meat, but concerning other necessary commodities also, of which the station owners are the sole purveyors. Further, there is a considerable section of men who need to be protected against themselves. In the cities there are many men who will sign anything in order to secure an engagement; and the result of signing up prior to their getting on the job is that the whole of the great body of unionists is penalized, and the main principle of arbitration is flouted. There is surely a moral obligation on the part of the employer, who has sworn that he charges 3d. per lb. for meat, to continue to supply at that rate. A clause has been embodied in a Queensland award which vitally affects the men to-day. In the agreement, which both parties are required to sign, it is set out that the squatter must provide “ good and sufficient accommodation.” What is that? Is good and sufficient accommodation furnished by a hut that a man can sling a cat through its cracks ? That kind of accommodation has been our experience. There is a moral, if not a legal, obligation resting upon the employer to continue to supply commodities at the rate upon which he has given sworn evidence in Court, and on which an award has been based. In view of the attitude of the employers, however, it has become necessary to forbid men to sign prior to roll-call. At one place in the Moree district, in 1916, the men, even though they had signed up, refused to go to work. They were subsequently brought before the Court and fined; but they paid rather than submit to the tyrannical conditions sought to be imposed upon them. I warn the Government that if the proposed new clause is embodied in our arbitration legislation it will directly hit at the Australian Workers Union, which comprises more than 100,000 members. I know what the men say and feel; I have been through the mill myself. Trouble will be started. There will probably be the plea that the employers cannot lay out their shearing runs. The singing of agreements prior to rollcall will not assist the owners in making out their runs, and will not give them any better facilities than they possess to-day. The signing of agreements should surely bind both parties. The men, by signing, had to make themselves responsible for being on the ground ready to start; but a provision was added- to the award which absolved the employers from being required to find the requisite number of sheep in the event of drought, flood, or similar disaster. On the one hand, the men were bound to be on the ground ; but, on the other, the employers were not compelled to furnish the necessary tally of sheep. Thus, the award became one-sided, and simply because the men had signed up prior to roll-call. ‘ Much of the trouble could be done away with if there were proper and efficient policing of the award by the Government, and if the inspection of accommodation were taken out of the hands of the police and placed in those of independent accommodation inspectors, who would be under no obligation to any pastoralist. I trust the Government will not agree to accept the proposed new clause, seeing that it is bound to precipitate trouble.
. I promised the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Poster) last night, after he had pressed me to make further inquiries respecting our powers in the matter under discussion, that I would again consult the Crown Law authorities. I place on record the opinion of the SolicitorGeneral (Sir Robert Garran), which is as follows: -
Notwithstanding the opinion of counsel cited on behalf of the Graziers Association, I think there is grave doubt whether Mr. Gregory’s proposed amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (to stand as 53b of the principal Act) is constitutional.
It seeks to forbid an organization, during the currency of an award, from enforcing any rule preventing members from entering into written agreements in advance.
The Commonwealth power is confined to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of certain disputes.
Incidentally to this power, the Parliament can provide for the establishment and recognition of organizations of employers and employees (Jumbunna case 6, C.L.B.. 398). And it can make statutory provision as to their rules, &c, in relation to matters which concern their effectiveness and instruments for conciliation and arbitration.
But it cannot make laws for the regulation of labour conditions, otherwise than by means of conciliation and arbitration.
It appears to me that the purport of this amendment is not incidental to conciliation and arbitration, but is in the nature of an industrial regulation.
– Then the point, as between employee and employer, really becomes a State affair.
– All we can do is to set up a Court of Conciliation and Ar.bitration for the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes. This Parliament cannot settle disputes or legislate directly with respect to them.
– Then, I repeat, this complaint can only be remedied by the State authorities.
– And I can only say again that we have not the power; and whatever power we have not remains with the States.
– Is the Minister prepared to 6ay whether or not paragraph d of sub-section 1 of section 60 of the Arbitration Act is unconstitutional ?
– I am not prepared to give, offhand, opinions concerning various sections of our arbitration legislation.
– The Court has the general right of supervising the rules of an organization applying to be registered, -rt may attack the organization upon its rules.
– This ‘ Parliament cannot, by seeking to impose conditions or registration, in effect, legislate directly upon industrial matters.
– Then it amounts to this, that the members of the Australian Workers Union have more power than the Federal Parliament.
– We have only such powers as have been given us under the Constitution. In the circumstances, I cannot depart from the view which I expressed upon this matter in Committee last night.
.- I am familiar with the practice of employing shearers in many parte of Australia for a considerable number of years past. Often the men have to travel literally thousands of miles to reach their stations. Their practice has been to write to the owners for their pens, whereupon the employers have replied promising that they will reserve pens for them. Virtually, then, the shearers sign an agreement when they reply to the letters of the station-owners accepting the promise of the latter to reserve pens. If that practice is now to be made illegal, I will oppose the proposition. If it is declared illegal, the shearers will be prevented from writing a letter of any sort beforehand to the stations, hundreds of miles away, at which they have been accustomed to work, on the ground that they will be entering into agreements. The shearers journey from all over Australia, right into the interior, on the strength of the promises contained in the letters of their employers. Could anything be fairer? The more laws we make to bind these fine, independent men, the worse it is, not only for the industry, but for all parties concerned. The shearers have always been able to take care of themselves; and they can adequately protect themselves to-day. They are paid upon the excellent system - which I would like to see in force everywhere in Australia - of reward according to results obtained. If they shear 200 sheep, they are paid for 200. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) has been talking about the unfortunate lot of shearers, who are provided with bad drinking water and shocking accommodation. I know a good deal of Australian shearing conditions, and I am quite sure the shearers would never stand for such conditions. They have always been able to look after their own interests, and to earn the full reward for their labours. I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Gwydir remark that he could say something about myself. I have no reason to be other than proud of my experience during the past twentyfive years or more, and I resent that an honorable member should do me the injustice of hinting that he could say something which, however, he chooses not to say.
– You misunderstood the honorable member.
– I hope I did, and, if I did, I am satisfied. In conclusion, if I thought that the proposed new clause would do anything to hinder the shearers, rather than help them, I would oppose it. I am of opinion, however, that it will prove of assistance, and will not prevent them from making their own arrangements, as hitherto.
.- I would accept the arguments advanced by the Minister (Mr. Groom) if I felt satisfied that the opinion he has quoted was sound. The new clause which I have proposed provides that the rules of an organization shall not permit its members to do certain things. The principal Act has been in force for many years, and I. would point out- that under paragraph d of section 60 it is declared that -
If it appears to the Court, on the application of any organization or person interested or of the Registrar -
That the rules of a registered organization or their administration do not provide reasonable facilities for the admission of new members or impose unreasonable conditions upon the continuance of their membership or are in any way tyrannical or oppressive, the registration of that organization can be cancelled. If we can control the rules of an organization in that way, surely it is constitutional to control the rules of an organization in the somewhat similar direction proposed by me.
– It is handy sometimes to declare an amendment to be out of order. It avoids more difficult situations.
– Yes. I want now to go further. We have had the opinion of Sir Robert Garran that this proposed new clause is unconstitutional; but the present Chief Justice, before he was elevated to the Bench, gave the opinion that such, a clause as this could be constitutionally enacted by the Federal Parliament. That being so, the Minister and I, so far as the question of constitutionality is concerned, are on even ground. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) dealt very unfairly with, this proposal. It was asserted last night that T had not put it fairly to the Committee. I explained,’ without any hesitation whatever, that the Australian Workers Union had opposed an application to make a rule of this kind part of the award of the Court. The practice had been in force until 1918, when an application by the Pastoralists Association that it should be made a part of the award was refused by the Court. The organization then brought in the rules to which I and others on this side are objecting. I said last night that I thought that such a provision as this would be in the interests of the men themselves. Having regard to the enormous area covered by the pastoral industry, surely it would be in ,the interests of the men themselves to enable them to make arrangements that pens should be available for them at the different sheds. I cannot understand why men like the honorable member for Gwydir would go back to a station where prevailed conditions such as those to which he referred. Why does not the Australian Workers Union say that suchandsuch a station offers such abominable conditions that its members shall not shear there.
– The idea of not “signing on “ is that the men shall be able to go to a station and see for themselves what the conditions are.
– That is rubbish. I am satisfied that the honorable member knows ten times more than I do of these agreements, since he has been associated with them for a number of years, and is quite aware of the reasons which actuate the union. He thoroughly understands the position, whereas I do not; but I do know that clause 33 of the shearers’ agreement reads -
If the employer supply rations and shearers’ requisites he will post in a conspicuous place his price-list thereof, and the price to be charged (except for combs and cutters, and for meat) will not exceed the cost price with 10 per cent, and carriage added.
– What is the cost price?
– The employer would have to produce his invoices. Clause 33 of the shearers’ agreement provides further that -
The price to be charged for meat will not in any case exceed the wholesale price at the nearest township.
– That provision was only made in the last award. It is not in the Queensland award. I was referring to the position in 1915.
– And that was quite unfair to the Committee. I was dealing with later conditions. There is not the slightest doubt that the organization takes very good care that these matters shall be placed upon an equitable basis. We are all anxious that they should be. When men go into the back country, it is essential that there should be an organization to protect their interests. Neither the pastoralists, the cane-growers, nor any body of employers desire to deal with individuals. They prefer to deal with an organization knowing that in that way more satisfactory conditions can be secured, as long as the members of the organization will comply with the awards. It must be heart breaking, however, for an employer who is prepared to comply with all the conditions of the award to be told at the last moment by a number of shearers, “ We will not start work unless you will give us something for which the award does not provide.” I am sure that the Opposition does not desire anything of the kind. A provision such as that which I have asked the Committee to accept would enable the employers, whether sheep-owners or contractors, to make arrangements in advance for shearing. A contractor would, be able to get together a body of men, take them from station to station, and provide them with work practically throughout the year. In the Kimberleys, shearing operations start in March, so that a contractor who could make an agreement with his men beforehand could start with them there, and gradually work down, finishing at the end of October, or early in November, in the south-western portion of the State. we prevent the making of agreements in advance, we shall increase the difficulties in the way of not only the pastoralists, but the cane-growers. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will adopt the proposed new clause. It is not fair that threats should be made as to what may happen if the clause is agreed to. Surely every organization, whether it be an organization of pastoralists or of workers, is prepared to abide by the law.
– I am exceedingly disappointed with the statement made by the Minister (Mr. Groom). We have on one side the opinion quoted by him as to the unconstitutionality of the proposed new clause, and, on the other, an opinion given by the present Chief Justice before he was raised to die Bench, that such an enactment could constitutionally be made. The position taken up by the Minister is unfortunate, because it would seem that the shearers have more power than either this Parliament or the High Court. Surely the High Court may have something to say as to the nature of the rules of a union. As to the statements made by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), I would point out that, in an interjection that he made a few minutes ago, he drifted back to 1915 as the year in which prevailed the awful conditions to which he referred. He will have to go back a good deal further if his remarks are to apply to South Australia. I am satisfied to put the opinion of the chief representative of the Australian Workers ‘Union in South Australia against the nonsense that the honorable member has uttered to-day as to the facilities afforded by the stationowners and wool-growers of South Australia.
.- I do not wish it to be thought that I oppose this proposed new clause because I consider it to be unconstitutional. It seems to be forgotten by the Minister and others that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act gives to the Court, and, in a lesser degree, to the Registrar, the right to examine the rules of an organization, and to insist upon their including certain provisions which, apparently, in the public interest, it is thought they should contain. Preparatory to becoming registered, it is necessary for an organization to satisfy the. Registrar that a body of rules is to be filed which complies with the long list of conditions set out in Schedule B of the Act. Even after registration has been secured, the organization may be attacked again, under the section referred to by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), on a number of grounds relating to its rules.’ That being so, if the objection raised by the honorable member for Dampier were such that, on grounds of public policy, the organization should have its registration cancelled, it is quite unthinkable that its cancellation would be impossible under the terms of the Act. My objection, therefore, to the proposed new clause is not that it is without the powers of the Constitution. I do not think it is. It is quite clear that this Parliament has power to require as a condition of registration the observance of some such rule as the honorable member for Dampier seeks to have made part of the Act itself. That might be made by this Parliament a condition of registration. I should be opposed, however, to any such action .on- the . part of the Parliament. The rules of the organization represent an agreement between the members of the organization for the conduct of their own affairs. They represent a written contract between members of the organization for the management of their own business. The amendment seeks to deny members of the organization the right to make rules of that kind, which are entirely a matter for their own consideration and concern. They are terms which must be presumed to be agreed upon between the members ; they seek to regulate the conduct only of members of the organization amongst themselves; they are designed for the protection of members; and I would be very sorry if this Parliament were to provide that organizations cannot make rules governing the conduct of their members as between themselves. Of course, every contract is open to attack on the ground of public policy or coercion, and for other reasons, and no doubt the rules of any organization may be open to criticism if, on the ordinary -rules of law, they are found to be objectionable or untenable. But that is no reason why this Parliament should set out to limit the discretion of an organization to make its own rules in its own way for the government of its members by mutual consent. I cannot believe that the proposed new clause is unconstitutional; but it is inequitable to mem’bers of organizations,, and for that reason I am opposed to it. Yesterday I opposed an attempt to limit the wise discretion of members of unions in conducting their own business in another matter, and although this proposal is not quite’ so ridiculous, it is equally impertinent. From that point of view I am opposed to it.
!- Although I believe that the honorable members who spoke in favour of the amendment did not intentionally mislead the Committee, I know, that they have not put the real facts of the case before honorable members. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston) - said that if this amendment were not- embodied in the Bill, it would be impossible for members of . the Australian Workers Union to write to a pastoralist for employment during the shearing season. That is not so. The organization has merely instructed its members that they are not to sign an agreement. They may make arrangements by letter for employment, but until the Toll-call they must not sign any binding contract. That has been the rule of the organization for a number of years; but until 1918 it remained in suspense. At the Australian Workers Union conference in that year the necessity for protecting members of the organization against, employers who might seek to take advantage of them by getting them to sign an agreement in advance was realized, and the conference decided to enforce the rule. It has been enforced ever smee
– The employer would have to pay the award rate in any case.
– If the honorable member had been engaged in the pastoral industry, as I have been, he would know how easy it is for employers to evade many of the conditions of an award. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) said that the organization made regulations which are oppressive to. its members. That is not the case. This very rule has been enforced as a protection to members of the union. It is well known that ia every workingclass organization there are men who are prepared to accept anything which the boss offers; and it is in order to protect the overwhelming majority of unionists against such men that this rule against signing on has been enforced. With rare exceptions, there are during every strike a number of workers who are prepared to accept the boss’s terms and “ scab “ on their fellow workmen by working for rates less than the majority demand.
– Less than the award rates?
– ‘There are men who would do that if they were not prevented by law. This amendment is .proposed with the one object of breaking up unionism. ‘No just and reasonable employer has ever objected to the union enforcing the rule against, signing on. The majority of employers in the pastoral industry are very reasonable, and are prepared to observe the award in both letter and spirit. But there axe some pastoralists who do everything possible to evade the award. It is necessary to protect members of the organization against unscrupulous employers and disloyal fellowworkers, and I am satisfied that if the amendment were carried the Australian Workers Union would have nothing fur ther to do willi arbitration. Some honorable members have said that not only the rates of wages and hours of labour, but also food and accommodation are. specified in the award. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) read the paragraph of the award which stated that the rations are to be supplied at cost price phis 10 pear cent. I asked what cost price meant, and some honorable member interjected that it meant the cost of’ the articles at the nearest township.
– The wholesale price, 1 said.
– It is not the wholesale price. The majority of pastoralists do not purchase their supplies at the nearest township;, they purchase’ them wholesale in the capital cities at rates below those obtaining locally, but they take care that the shearers are charged on the basis of local prices, plus 10 per cent. If the price of food were more definitely prescribed in the award there would be a great deal less < dissatisfaction in that regard. The Court, in making an award, always takes into consideration the cost of living to shearers and shed hands, and as that cost is based upon meat at 3d. per lb. or less, it is’ only reasonable to expect the pastoralists ta supply meat at or about that rate. That is the reason why our members have been instructed that prior to commencing shearing operations they shall insist that the meat be supplied at 3d. or 3½d. per lb. The honorable member for Dampier stated also that the award provides for reasonable sleeping accommodation. On one occasion I went to shear at Gundabooka Station, and as the award provided that chaff or straw or some suitable substitute must be provided by the employer for filling the bed ticking, I, as representative of the shearers, interviewed the manager, and asked him what material he was providing for the mattresses. He gazed across the plain, and, pointing to a timber patch about 2 miles away, said; “ The men usually gather some of that turpentine bush.” We did not gather that bush. In some mysterious way chaff from the fodder-house found its way into the hut, and we slept on it for. the rest of the season. The alternative was to have accepted the turpentine bush and commenced proceedings against the employer for breach of the award, but before our case could have been determined the shed would have “ cut out.” In the meantime, we should have had to submit to the discomfort of sleeping on either bare boards or mattresses of turpentine bush. The state of the cooking utensils is usually another debatable question at the commencing of shearing. The award provides that good and sufficient cooking utensils must be supplied, and the question arises as to what is meant by “ good and sufficient.” In quite a number of places I have seen excellent cooking utensils, whilst in others they were such that they could not be used by any decent, self-respectmg man. These may be little things to men not engaged in manual work, but it is little “ pin-pricks “ of the kind that we wish to guard against, and see our men enabled to enforce their just and legitimate rights. I was pleased that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston) admitted that the shearers are a fine body of men, who are quite able to look after themselves. It is to. enable them to do this that we oppose the proposed new clause. No reasonable employer in Australia would object to the rule as it stands to-day, but only the unjust and unreasonable. Judging from the tone of the debate and the utterances of the Minister for Works and Railways, the proposed new clause will be rejected ; but I would have been lacking in my duty to those men and women whom I represent in this Parliament if I refrained from an endeavour to clear away the misrepresentations that havebeen, no doubt unintentionally, placed before the Committee.
Question - That the proposed new clause (Mr. Gregory’s) be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– To meet the convenience of the Committee I allowed the division to take place, but I wish honorable members to understand what the proper procedure is. The Chairman declares his opinion as to how the vote has been given, either for the “ Ayes “ or ‘ the “Noes.’’ It is not simply sufficient for honorable members to say “ Aye ‘’ ; if they wish to challenge the decision of the Chair, they must either say “ Divide “ or call out “ The ‘ Ayes ‘ have it “ or “ The Noes ‘ have it.” That was not done in this case, but I did not take advantage of the fact, and allowed the division to proceed. I hope, however, that in the future the usual procedure will be followed.
.-I desire to move the insertion of a new clause, which will have the effect, beyond all doubt, of including in the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act the employees of the State railways. In the 1904 Act there was the following definition of “ industrial dispute “ : - “ Industrial dispute “ means a dispute in relation to industrial matters -
Portion of that provision is not contained in the present Act, which we are now amending. The words in relation to the employees on State railways were excised by the 1910 Act, in consequence of a decision of the High Court in a case entitled The Federated Amalgamated Government Railway and Tramway Service Association v, The New South WalesRailway Traffic Employees’ Association, reported in volume TV., part 1, of the Commonwealth Law Reports 1906-7, and which is commonly known as the Railway Servants’’ case. In that case, the High Court of Australia, consisting of the Chief Justice (the late Sir Samuel Griffith), the late Sir Edmund Barton, and the late Mr. Justice O’Connor, held that it was ultra vires of the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to include in the definition of “dispute” any dispute in relation to employees upon State railways. Those words were held to be ultra vires, viz.: - “Including disputes in relation to employment upon State railways,” and it was, no doubt, in consequence of that’ decision that, from the 1910 Act, the words in question were excluded. So, as our conciliation and arbitration legislation now stands, there are no words contained therein which expressly, as in the 1904 Act, confer jurisdiction upon the Court to entertain disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State in relation to employees engaged upon any State railways. Yesterday, a decision was given by the High Court of Australia which has the effect of reversing not only the particular decision to which I have referred, but several other decisions of the High Court also, practically overruling previous decisions with regard to what are known as State instrumentalities. Concerning yesterday’s decision, Mr. Justice Higgins made certain observations in the course of his judgment. I have not beforeme the full text of that judgment, but have read sufficient of it in the press to-day to enable me to furnish the Committee with the gist of what His Honour said concerning the earlier decision dealing with railway servants. The Argus states -
Mr. Justice Higgins, in a separate judgment, agreed with the majority decision. He said that there stood at present a decision of the Full High Court to the effect that the railway servants of New South Wales were outside the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court The decision was now directly impugned. So far as the Act was concerned, there could be no doubt that the Federal Parliament intended State undertakings to be subject to the’ Court’s powers of conciliation and arbitration. Even in the United States the doctrine of the exemption of State activities from Federal legislation was held not to apply to commercial undertakings of the State or created by the State, but to strictly governmental functions only-. His view was that State activities were not directly excluded from the Federal powers by the Constitution, but were subject to the Federal laws to the full extent of their meaning. He was of the opinion that the Railways Servants case should be overruled, and that the questions should be answered in the affirmative.
It is obvious, then, that the decision of the High Court - as laid down by the High Court in the Railway Servants case - has been overruled, and that it is now held that it is within the power of this Parliament, under the existing Constitution, to include in its arbitration legislation disputes in relation to employees upon State railways. With the object of exercising that power which is contained in the Constitution, I propose to move for the insertion of a new clause, which will bring our legislation back to the wording - or something near the wordings - of tine 1904. Act. I desire, first, however, to refer to certain statements contained in the case set out for and against the referendum proposals which were submitted to’ the people in 1913. In consequence of the decision of the High Court in the Railway Servants case, the opinion was held that the Commonwealth Parliament had not the power - which it is now held to have - and referendum proposals were introduced, among which were proposals to give to the Commonwealth Parliament power over conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes in. relation to employment in the railway service of a State. In the case supporting those proposals I find the following passages : -
There is nothing novel about this proposal. It was always thought that the Commonwealth had such a power, and Parliament acted upon that assumption. In 1904 an amendment to include railway servants within the scope of the Arbitration Bill was carried.
The Reid-McLean Government, supported by Mr. Cook, passed the Bill into law with that amendment. But the High Court decided that the Parliament had no power to deal with railway servants. The law is one, however, that Parliament ought to have power to make, which it was thought it could make, andthe proposed amendment will enable it to do so.
What reason is there why Parliament should not have this power? The principle of settling the wages and conditions of labour by impartial legal tribunals is the accepted policy of the country. Why should there be an exception mode with railway servants ? Why should not they be able to go to the Federal Court like other employees?
Itis said that for a Commonwealth Court to settle disputes on State railways and to fix wages and conditions is to interfere with the management of the railways. To that two answers may be made -
That the citizens of the Commonwealth as a whole are’ vitally concerned in maintaining industrial peace on the railways, which are the arteries of Australia, and that any stoppage of traffic thereon would seriously affect the commerce of Australia and the welfare of every citizen in it. It concerns the Commonwealth no less than the States.
That, as a fact, the rales and conditions of labour of State railway and tramway employees are at present determined in several States by Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards; Whatever wages and conditions these Boards fix have to be paid by the Railway Commissioners; the State Treasurer finds the money, and the State Parliament votes it. Can it be said that those Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts manage the State railway because they decide what are fair and reasonable wages and conditions? How, then, will the Commonwealth Court by fixing wages and conditions when these are not satisfactory, do so? It is urged that the State Governments are well able to deal directly with their own employees. But, as we have seen, they do not do so, because most of them refer these matters to independent Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts.
But it may be said that there are State Courts; what is the necessity for a Federal Court? The reply is obvious. The Federal Court will not interfere with the State Courts. The idea is to provide a Court to which all railway and tramway employees may come and get their disputes settled. They need not go to the Federal Court unless they please. It will supplement, not exclude, State jurisdiction.
A Federal Court is necessary to preserve industrial peace. In some States there is no Court to which the railway men can go, and we all know that this led to the Victorian railway strike some years ago. Then, too, in these days not only is commerce and manufacture federalized, but all the great unions, including the railway unions, are on a federal basis. This fact must be recognised if we desire to maintain industrial peace. A matter that affects men in every State cannot be always dealt with in patches. There must be some power with jurisdiction all over Australia to deal with it.
My proposal, if accepted, will have the effect of conferring upon the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration power to deal with industrial disputes involving the employees of different State railways, if it has not the power already.
– The Prime Minister cannot well oppose that now.
– Not upon any logical grounds. Section 4 of the principal Act gives the definition of “ industrial dispute “ as follows : - “Industrial dispute” (a) means an industrial dispute (b) extending beyond the limits of any one State (c), and includes -
any dispute as to industrial matters, and
That the following new clause be added: - “ Section 4 of the principal Act is amended by inserting in the definition of ‘ industrial dispute ‘ after the word ‘ relation ‘ in sub-section (ii), the following words: - ‘to employment upon State railways and.’ “
I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee. This matter has been argued very fully in this House on more than one occasion, and opinions have been expressed on it by members on both sides: They have now an opportunity to exercise the power that the High Court of Australia, in an authoritative decision, has said that this Parliament possesses - the power to confer upon the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court jurisdiction to deal with disputes in relation to employment upon the State railways.
– I cannot accept the amendment. The judgment to which the honorable member (Mr. Ryan) refers was delivered only yesterday by the High Court, and we have not had an opportunity to ascertain to what extent it overrides previous decisions, and affects the industrial activities of theStates.
– I think the honorable member may safely say that it merely bears out our view of the law.
– The honorable member is prepared to rush in where angels fear to tread. The judgment is far-reaching and important. If I am not mistaken, the arguments in the case extended over eleven days, and the learned Judges have given a very carefully considered judgment upon it. Only, the barest outlines of the decision are published in the press to-day, and the Government could not be expected to act upon it until its Law advisers had had an opportunity to see the judgment, and to consider its effects.
– That is a good old way of staving off action. Surely the judgment is in type.
– I cannot say whether it is or not. My experience is that we have to pay for certified typewritten copies supplied by the associate. We are not prepared to act upon a mere newspaper suggestion as to what is the decision of the Court. I cannot accept an important amendment of this character without knowing what I am doing.
– Should not the honorable gentleman obtain the judgment of the Court, and read it?
– I shall do so.
– I have no doubt as to what the decision’ was.
– I prefer to base any amendment I may propose on the considered judgment of the Court itself. That is the only safe course to take.
– That is what I am doing.
– Has the honorable member seen the full text of the judgment ?
– I heard the case argued, and also heard the delivery of the latter part of the judgment.
– Then the honorable member is in a better position than I am. I have not seen the judgment, and therefore cannot advise the Committee. The honorable member may have heard part of the judgment delivered, but I have doubts as to whether he fully comprehends its effect.
.This amendment is worthy of consideration . The High Court has decided, according to this morning’s newspapers-
– Is the honorable member going to rely on newspaper reports of an important judgment?
– As to that, I have a suggestion to make. The amendment deals with a burning question. It was because of a previous decision of the High Court declaring that we had not the power to enable employees of State instrumentalities to avail themselves of. the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court that the principal Act was framed as it stands to-day, so far as this matter is concerned. The High Court, differently constituted, has now held that we have the power. We are constantly amending the principal Act, and are always claiming a desire to exercise to the full our constitutional powers, so that the Court may deal effectively with theindustrial troubles that arise from time to time. Why, then, not take action ? The Minister (Mr. Groom) now says that he has not seen the judgment, and is not seized with its effect. Publicity has been given, however, to the decision of the Court, and we know that it overrides previous decisions as to our powers in this respect.
– We do not know the extent to which it overridesprevious decisions.
-We know that it reverses the very decision which caused this Parliament to exclude State employees from the provisions of the original Act. If we do not take action now, it will probably he necessary for the Government later on to introduce a further amending Bill. Why should we not make complete’ the Bill now before us? If the Minister has not all the information necessary to enable him to act, he should be able to promise us that, as soon as he has obtained a copy of the judgement, and has been able to study it, he will take steps to have an amendment of this kind introduced when the Bill is before another place.
– ‘The matter is important enough to warrant the postponement of the further consideration of the Bill until the Minister has secured a copy of the judgment.
-Quite so. When the Industrial Peace Bill was before us we were told that it was an urgent measure, and the guillotine was brought into operation in order topush it through within a week; Two weeks have since elapsed, yet the second reading of the Bill has not yet been agreed to in another place. It would seem that it is only ‘in connexion with this House that thereis any hurry. Would it not be advisable for the Government to postpone the further consideration of the Bill for a day or two?
-i cannot hold up the whole Bill.
– It would not involve a delay of more than a week. This is a very necessary amendment . State railway servants are anxious to go before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court; and now that the High Court has declared that we have the power to enable them to do so, we should not hesitate to exercisethat power. I venture to say that,even if we pass to-day the remaining stages of this Bill, two or three weeks will elapse before it is dealt with by another place.
– If this amendment were made, it would not go through another place at all.
– That is for the future to reveal. The High Court has held that we have power to make such a provision as this, and we should not hesitate to take action. We have told the people again and again that it is only because of lackof power that we have not dealt before with this matter. Now that the High Court has held that we have the power, what will beour position in the eyes of the people if we do not exercise it? We do not wish to force this question to a vote if the Ministry will promise to reconsider its position, with a view to giving full effect to our powers before the Bill leaves this Chamber. The Minister would be well advised to postpone the further consideration of the Bill until he is fully informed of the effect of the judgment.
– My honorable friends opposite are arguing this matter in a very sinister way. It seems to me to be a very sinister proposal.
– The right honorable gentleman supported a similar proposal in 1904.
– Perhaps I did; but the honorable member should go through the whole of the records, and ascertain what was said in regard to it. Is the honorable member taking this action to-day for a similar reason? If he is, I congratulate him on his move.
– The Treasurer now says that he did not mean it.
– No; I have never meant that. The honorable member is reasoning as if the whole matter rested entirely upon the question of constitutional power.
– The Minister (Mr. Groom) has said that it does.
– I do not think he has ever said anything of the kind. In the first place, our constitutional power in this regard is not yet clear.
– It is perfectly clear. The Court says so.
– My honorable friend says it is clear, and, therefore, I suppose, it is. Anything is clear enough for my honorable friend when he desires to have his own way. Our best advisers - the Crown Law authorities - are not clear as to what the High Court has said. My honorable friend, on the other hand, has not a scintilla of doubt.
– I have no doubt.
– Our Law authorities, who are our guides in this matter, have a doubt, and we must accept their guidance rather than that of my honorable friend.
– I ask the Government to accept, not my opinion, but the opinion of the High Court.
– We shall be quite prepared to accept what the High Court says when we are clear as to what it has said.
– Does not the High Court speak plainly enough?
– Yes. May I suggest with great deference that there are considerations other than what the High Court says? Assuming that the High Court has made that point clear, is there nothing more to be said on this very important question, which means a constitutional and political revolution?
– Does the honorable member say that, even if the power does reside in the Commonwealth, it ought not to be exercised?
– If the constitutional power does exist, there is still a question of high policy to consider. The best constitutional lawyers are not at all clear as to what the High Court has said, but every honorable member opposite is without any doubt upon the. question.
– We know all about what the honorable member said on a previous occasion.
– The honorable member knows all about this question from A to Z, but I do not, and I take leave to say that some of the best lawyers on this continent are not yet clear as to what the pronouncement of the High Court means. Assuming that the High Court’s decision means exactly what honorable members opposite say it means, before any proposal of this kind can be carried there will require to be some grave thinking.
– I quiteunderstand that the Treasurer is against the proposal, whether or not the Commonwealth has the power.
– There is still the position of the States and of the Commonwealth to consider. Honorable members know as well as I can tell them that, if the decision means that the Commonwealth is to have control of the wages on State railways, it will go far towards this Parliament assuming financial control of the railways. If we make conditions which fix the wages and determine the outgoings of the State railways, we have power to fix the freights also; and we can make the financial position such that the States will no longer control the finances of their own railways. Therefore, this is not merely a question of constitutional power; it is much more farreaching; and to ask the Committee to make this amendment as if it should follow automatically upon the High Court’s decision, or that the Bill should be postponed because of that judgment, is ridiculous. This proposal . is purely political, and it is certain that they are made, not so much for the purpose of getting at the actual facts of the situation as to try to score from the declaration of the High Court a political and tactical advantage.
– We desire to secure industrial peace, and to do justice to a large section of workers in the community.
– The honorable member’s actions conduce, not to industrial peace, but rather to industrial pieces. The honorable member is seeking industrial turmoil because he thinks it will result to his advantage. I do not know what my colleague, the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), said, but I am sure he said the right thing.
– He said that the decent thing would be for us to take time to consider the effect of the High Court’s decision.
– I should think so. We should consider it, not only in its legal and constitutional aspect, but also in its whole effect upon the States’ control of their own railways. There is a whole set of political considerations to be studied.
– Your colleague is at one with you in one respect - neither of you is clear.
– That remark makes me more certain that we are right and the honorable member is wrong.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has strong views upon this question. We would like to hear him.
– Other people also have strong views upon it. I hope honorable members will not press the amendment. This is not a matter to be disposed of in an afternoon. I suggest to honorable members that after the constitutional question has been settled and cleared out of the way, there will be other issues to be determined. There will stillbe the question of whether, if we have the constitutional power, we are to exercise it for the purpose of taking practical control of the industrial conditions on the State railways. That is a question that will require far more consideration than can be given to it on the present occasion.
– The Treasurer has preached the same doctrine this afternoon as he preached when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) - as the then Leader of the Labour party - submitted proposed constitutional alterations to a referendum of the people. The Treasurer then said -
In these circumstances you are asked by your vote to defer your decision on the questions raised in the referendums to a more convenient season.
The season is always convenient for doing the right thing, and this Parliament should take the earliest possible opportunity of doing what is right. The High Court has given a decision in regard to State instrumentalities which many of us have anticipated, and has declared to be constitutional many other things held by the old High Court to be unconstitutional. I believe there are men on the High Court Bench to-day who will consider constitutional matters more in the spirit of Judge Marshall of America than the previous High Court did. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in putting the case for the referendum in December, 1915, wrote -
The amendment will give power to the Federal Parliament to deal with industrial disputes on State railways or tramways through the Conciliation and Arbitration Courts. It will not do more than that. It will not give the Commonwealth Parliament power to fix fares and freights on State railways, or interfere in their management, or take the railways over. It confines Parliament to dealing with industrial disputes on State railways and dealing with them through the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. It begins and ends there.
– I prefer to answer the Treasurer in the language of his present leader. That should be more effective than any opinion of mine. My only regret is that the amendment is restricted to railway employees, and does not include all servants of the States. Mr. Hughes continued -
In the early days of Federation, Parliament thought it had power to bring railway disputes under the Arbitration Court. In 1904 an amendment on the Arbitration Bill was carried, bringing railway disputes under the Arbitration Court. The High Court, however, two years later, decided that Parliament could not deal with railway servants.
Parliament should, however, have this power. All citizens of the Commonwealth are vitally concerned in keeping the wheels going. If a dispute happens on the railways of any State, it affects not only that State and its people, but other States and their peoples. Every one might suffer because the people of the State immediately concerned could not keep the wheels running.
The railways are the veins and arteries of the system of land defence of Australia. Unless those veins and arteries are kept unclogged by industrial disputes, the system of land defence may be dangerously impaired.
The Federal Court will in this matter supplement, not destroy, the work of those State Courts which have power to deal with railway disputes. Those Courts will not be interfered with. But not all States have such Courts. Victoria has none, and we all know that this led to the Victorian railway strike.
The Commonwealth is not asking for a wide general power to regulate the conditions of employment in the railways. It does not seek, as some foolish people say it does, to fix fares on the railways. It wants nothing more than the power to keep the wheels going. It wants to be able to protect the whole people from suffering through a purely local dispute.
I find that the Treasurer on that occasion pointed out, in reply, that Australia was engaged in a life-and-death struggle, and that during such a time we should not indulge in attempts at constitutional amendments. He also urged that the High Court ought to be appealed to, instead of submitting debatable questions to the electors.Now the High Court, after mature thought and consideration, has delivered itself of a judgment in which the highly qualified gentleman who was appointed by the present Government to succeed the late Sir Samuel Griffith as Chief Justice, acquiesced.We ought to take the earliest opportunity to include State railway and tramway servants within the operation of the Act, now that the barrier has been removed. Whether we accept this new clause or not, it is my opinion that the railway men will speedily appeal to the Court for redress of their grievances. The Government would be wise, if they cannot see their way to accept the proposed amendment, to postpone the further consideration of this measure until, say, next week, so that we may have an opportunity to see the full text of the judgments given.
– The Government have taken the only stand that decency suggests, under the circumstances. As a. representative of the people, I never felt my responsibility more keenly than I do at this moment. The decision of the High Court has come to us in such a sudden fashion, and involves issues of such magnitude, that itis nothing short of an avalanche.
– Why do you refer to the judgment as an “ avalanche “ ?
– The honorable member, who led a Ministry for some years, ought to know something of the concern of all the State Governments, in view of this strange and unexpected decision - a decision which is leading him with what I may consider, without offence, indecent haste, to appropriate the new-found power before the people of the country really know what it means.
– I expected the decision.
– It is strange that it has taken the best minds of Australia twenty years to recognise that this power exists. I wish to put one or two practical points for the consideration of honorable members in their representative capacity.No one has yet said that the decision of the High Court represents the intention of the men who gave us our Constitution. Some of the Judges on the Bench were responsible for the Constitution which was adopted twenty years ago, and in the interval they have never expressed themselves in the way the
Court has just found. I am pleading for ordinary decency, respect and courtesy for the State Governments of Australia from the National Government; and such feelings do not suggest haste in asking those Governments to part with their present power. I call the attention of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) to the fact that he, and many others associated with him, have desired and asked for this power for a long time ; but whenever a referendum has been taken on an alteration of the Constitution, the power involved in the decision of the High Court has been rejected by the people most definitely. I plead with honorable members to show that consideration which is due to the State Governments of this Commonwealth. The proposal before us strikes at the very root of popular constitutional government - at the very root principle of sovereignty. The various State Governments have accepted enormous responsibilities under powers which, until the present moment, they believed they possessed. There is only one clear duty for the House, and that is to show sufficient respect and consideration for the six Governments of Australia.
Mr.Fenton. - How long do you propose we should wait, now that we know where we are?
– I certainly would not proceed to-day - I would not be in a hurry.
– The provision I propose was placed in the Act of 1904 ; what more waiting is required?
– But it had no effect.
– It was held to be invalid ; but the States knew all about the question then.
– I ask the honorable member whether, if he were in the position he held a little while ago, and if he were on the other side of the fence politically, he would not complain.
– I never complain of anything that is right.
– I am quite sure that the honorable member would complain. He is enough of a sport to like things done in a decent fashion.
– It is well known that for years the Labour party has stood for what I have moved this afternoon.
– I know all about that, and the people of Australia have for years decided against you in an overwhelming fashion. However, I hope there will not be a vote taken on such an important question without a full House.
– I have no objection to that.
– It is only due to our colleagues to give them an opportunity to vote.
.- By the judgment of the High Court, the railway and tramway men of Australia have now had restored to them rights of which they have been robbed for the last ten or more years.
– Who says that ?
– There is no doubt that Australian railway and tramway men, numbering over 100,000, are extremely anxious to have the right of appeal to the Federal Arbitration Court. Their organizations applied to probably the whole of the then candidates for the then Federal Parliament, asking to be given the same rights as other workers, and it was only because of what we now find to have been a wrongful decision of the High Court that they were deprived of their constitutional rights. A wiser High Court Bench has reversed the old decision. We are now informed by the gentlemen from whom we must take our law, that the railway and tramway men have the right to come within the operation of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act - that is the effect of the judgment. The question now is whether we, as members of Parliament, will grant the men their rights.
– Is it for this Parliament to do so?
– It is for every member to say whether he is prepared to grant the rights of these men.
– The people of the country have said half-a-dozen times that we must not do this thing.
– They have done nothing of the kind. Proposals for the amendment of the Constitution have been submitted, along with other questions, confused and entangled with other matters of party politics.
– And with limitations of all sorts that were not acceptable.
– Quite so. At any rate, I submit that it is for every member of the House to say whether he is prepared to vote so as to enable these railway and tramway men to exercise their rights. If any member is satisfied to go to his constituency, and explain to the railway and tramway men there that he does not think they should have the right that the High Court judgment gives, he must take the consequences. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) said that if we have the right to fix the conditions of the employees we can virtually also fix freights and fares.
– I said, in effect, that we could create such conditions as would practically determine freights and fares.
– Just so. At present we are exercising the power of taxation over railway employees, of interfering with their remuneration by taking so much of their pay for Commonwealth purposes. Further, through our Customs Act, we are taxing the Railway Departments in the matter of material used in construction. There is no difference in principle. If we may not increase the rates of pay of railway servants, we have no right to exercise our Customs Act in respect of material used in the railway services, or to invoke our taxation laws with regard to the income of railway employees. The Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Groom) says be has not so far seen the text of the judgment of the High Court. If he desires to peruse it before taking action, there is nothing to prevent him from securing the postponement of this measure; but if honorable members lose the present opportunity to stand’ up for the rights of the railway men and tramway men of Australia, we shall probably have no other chance to do so. And what would the railway servants say if, after all these years of endeavouring to secure the advantages of the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration legislation, their representatives in Parliament were now to fail to rise to the occasion? At any rate, the opportunity should not be lost of placing responsibility upon every individual member concerning the question whether or not the railway and tramway employees of Australia shall be given their just right of coming under our arbitration legislation. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) believes there is a sinister move behind the proposal to include the railway employees.What would he say if honorable members were to fail to seize the opportunity? “Would he not subsequently accuse us of being hypocrites? We can hear him saying, “ Why did you not exercise your rights and privileges when you had the opportunity to do so?” The matter has been threshed out in this Legislature time and again, year after year.
– Hear, hear! And the people have pronounced upon it. The people have said that we should not have this power.
– While the High Court now says that we have the power.
– I have been closely interested in this matter for longer than most other honorable members, and I feel that now that the opportunity has been suddenly presented, we should seize it. The railway men and tramway men of Australia are as good and deserving citizens as any other section of the workers, and they are as fully entitled to all the advantages conferable under the Constitution. Hitherto ‘they have made strenuous, but unsuccessful, efforts to secure those advantages in respect of our conciliation and arbitration legislation.
In Tasmania, for example, there is little opportunity afforded for the railway men to have their rights and conditions fixed by the Courts. Here is the opportunity to enable railway men all over Australia to assist each other in the preparation and submission of their case, and in the securing of a uniform set of conditions based upon those most favorably existing in any of the States. The conferring of this advantage will now depend specifically upon the individual votes of honorable members, and I hope that those honorable members who have railway men among their constituents will not overlook the important fact.
– It should not be forgotten, either, that the conferring of this additional advantage will not prevent them from still going to the State Tribunals if they so wish.
– Certainly not; this privilege will be additional, and I trust that the railway men, at this late hour - after having been for so long deprived of their undoubted rights - will at last be given justice. ,
.- The attitude of the Government upon the proposed new clause places a few of their supporters, including myself, in an awkward position. Together with the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) and the Prime Minister himself, we stood shoulder to shoulder and fought on public platforms all over the Commonwealth to persuade the people to agree to an amendment of the Constitution which would confer just such powers as the High Court now says we have possessed all along. The Prime Minister not only framed the very arguments which we launched, but also went out in strenuous public advocacy of the cause. I have a hazy recollection that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) was one of those who opposed this very proposal which he is now advocating, on the ground that it would involve an infringement of State rights.
– No; the honorable member is absolutely wrong.
– The honorable member’s memory may be no better than my own. However, I recall that State Premiers fought against it, since they considered that it would involve an infringement of the rights and powers of the States; and it was mainly in deference to that point of view that the people turned down the proposition. At the recent referendum, when the proposals of the Government were again refused, this specific proposition for the inclusion of State railway servants was purposely omitted in “order that it might not wreck the prospects of the other proposals. My personal view is that it was unfortunate that the proposal should have been omitted. Obviously, however, we have been sleeping on our rights ; we have been appealing to the people in vain to grant that power which we held all the while. I suggest - and I sincerely hope the Government will agree - that consideration of the proposed new clause be postponed, and that the Bill be sent to another place. Meanwhile, the Minister in charge (Mr. Groom) will have acquainted himself with the decision of the High Court; and then it would be for the Government itself to insert the proposed new clause while the measure is under discussion in the Senate. I repeat that I find myself in a most delicate situation. I ask the Government to consider the position of those of its supporters who, in the past, have fought strenuously in advocacy of the case of the railway men, and I again ask that the position of the Prime Minister himself be made clear.
– But the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) suggests that, even if the Government should ‘be persuaded that the power lies within our Constitution, he would not agree to the exercise of it.
– I can understand and appreciate the attitude of the Treasurer, who has always been hostile to the proposition.
– No; that is not so.
– What of the position of the Prime Minister, however? What of the position of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) ? What of the position of all those supporters of the Government whom I have indicated? I have been a good party hack ever since I entered this Parliament. I have sat behind and voted with the Government very often when my sympathies have been in an entirely opposite direction. Now I am again to be asked to stultify myself. Where is the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) in this matter?
– What about the Government Whip (Mr. Burchell) ?
– I think he also is “ in the soup.” Unless the Minister is prepared to adopt my suggestion, I unhesitatingly say that I shall vote for the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney.
.- Is it worth while going on’ with this debate in the absence of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) ? The right honorable gentleman ought to be consulted in regard to this amendment. He believes in the principle embodied in it, has spoken and written in favour of it, and if he were present to-day would, I feel sure, support it. In what respect does a State railway or tramway employee differ from any other worker in the community ? Other workers are entitled to go to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court for justice, but by refusing to accept this amendment the Government are denying to employees of State activities the right to appeal to the Commonwealth Court for the settlement of their disputes. We were originally told that we had not the constitutional power to enact a provision of this kind. The party to which I have the honour to belong believed from the first that we had the power, and, led by Mr. Andrew Fisher and the present Prime Minister, we introduced a Bill in which the principle was embodied. ‘ The High Court subsequently held that we had not the power. That decision has now been reversed. We have always held that State railway servants have the same rights as have other sections of the community, and they are looking to us to-day to give them justice. This amendment will not, if carried, affect to any extent the New South Wales railway employees.
– Does the honorable member suggest that they cannot get justice under the Premiership of Mr. John Storey ?
– No. In New South Wales the men get a minimum of £3 17s. per week. I can quite appreciate the dilemma in which the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) finds himself, since he recognises that if this amendment were carried the railway employees of his State, in common with those of some of the other smaller States, would have to be paid higher wages. Railway employees in New South Wales, however, would not benefit to any extent, because, under the Labour Government there, £hey receive’ a minimum wage of £3 17s., and are -able also to get justice from the State Arbitration Court. Why should not the Federal Parliament avail itself of every opportunity to bring all employees throughout the Commonwealth within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court? Why should not all employees be able, if they wish, to go to that Court? The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has been attending a State Railway Conference
– The greatest State Righters in the Conference were Labour members.
– Is that so? The Commonwealth believes it to be in the interests of the people of Australia as a whole to bring about a uniform railway gauge.
– That is to be done by mutual arrangement.
– But some people might say that we are interfering with State utilities in taking action to secure a uniform gauge. If there is a strike in any one State, should not the Commonwealth Parliament be the first to set up machinery to settle it ? The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story), the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton), the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), and others now on the Government side of the House, as members of the Labour party, went to the country advocating the extension of our constitutional powers, so that State railway men might be brought within the scope of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Surely these honorable members have not changed their views ! I feel confident that the Prime Minister has not, and that he would, if present, accept this amendment. I certainly hope that the Government will withdraw their opposition to it.
.- In supporting the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) I would point out that railway employees in South Australia - and I venture the opinion that the position is largely the same in some of the other States - have been deprived of the advantages of arbitration, and their wages and conditions of employment have depended to a large extent upon the pleasure of their respective Governments. Recently, South Australian railway employees have been made subject to the decisions of Wages Boards and the State Arbitration Court. That is the first opportunity they have had to secure the equivalent in wages of the private employees, with the exception of a Labour Government’s decision in that State in 1916, but complete satisfaction has not been obtained from the awards of the State Arbitration Court and Wages Boards. Railway men have as much right to appeal to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court as have any other body of workmen. That view has been expressed by many prominent members of the present Ministerial party. As shown in Hansard, volume xix., page 1827, in 1904 the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton), and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) voted to bring State railway men within the scope of the Commonwealth Act, while the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) were among the pairs in support of that proposal.
– This is their first real opportunity to give effect to their aspirations.
– It is. In view of the decision given yesterday by the High Court these honorable members should show that they are consistent by embracing this opportunity to give legislative effect to a principle for which they have voted in years gone by. I understood the Treasurer to say that if the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court were given power to adjust the wages and working conditions of State railway employees it would also have power to determine rates and freights on the State railway lines. The right honorable gentleman inferred that this was indirectly a proposal that the Commonwealth should take a large share in the management of State railways. The same argument might be advanced in respect of the power of the State Arbitration Courtsto make awards relating to railway men. We do not put forward the view that, because railway men are able to apply to the State Arbitration Courts, those Courts really control the railway system. The right honorable gentleman’s argument, therefore, has no force in it, and cannot be justified. We can show that independent Boards and Tribunals are to-day fixing the rates of pay and the conditions of employment of State railway servants. A railway system running through any particular State is the concern, not only of that State, but of the whole Commonwealth. South Australia, for instance, felt very severely the effect of the stoppage of the New South Wales railways in connexion with the strike that took place there in 1917. Because of that stoppage it was deprived of much-needed transit opportunities, suffered much inconvenience, and was subjected to dislo cation of its industries. In these circumstances, the Commonwealth has an undoubted interest in the State railway utilities, and the citizens of the Commonwealth are entitled through the medium of the .Commonwealth Judiciary to voice their opinions with respect to the wages and working conditions of the employees of those activities. In fact, I candidly express my opinion, and emphasize the fact, that all railway systems of this Continent should be unified, and controlled by the Commonwealth. The carrying of this amendment would not prevent State railway men from going before the State Courts. It is merely a proposal that they shall also have the right to go to the Commonwealth Court. Unfortunately, while on any of our State Governments are prepared to make laws relating to private employment, they are not always prepared to observe those laws in regard to their own employees. This most inconsistent attitude has been the method employed by Governments in South Australia, except when Labour was in office, during 1916, and now, as a death-bed repentance of a discredited Government. Whether a person is employed by a Government authority, or by private enterprise, he is entitled to enjoy the benefit of any legislation passed for the welfare of the people. In the early days of the Federation, it was generally believed that the Commonwealth possessed this power in regard to State employees, and many honorable members on both sides of the House have expressed a desire that provision should be made to allow railway employees access to the Federal Arbitration Court. To-night, those honorable members have an opportunity to give practical effect to the principle which they formerly advocated. I hope the Government will see their way clear to accept the amendment. The railway employees are just as deserving of good conditions as is any other section of the community. They have been deprived of their just dues for many years. The amendment proposes to place within their reach a right which should be enjoyed by every citizen of the Commonwealth.
– I support the amendment, and congratulate the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) on having taken the earliest opportunity, after the delivery of the High Court judgment, to provide for thousands of railway employees to have access to the Commonwealth Court of Arbitration for the redress of their grievances. These men have suffered for many years on account of their inability to approach the Court, and we are disappointed that the Government have not accepted the amendment. The fundamental idea of Federation was to create uniformity of conditions for all citizens throughout the Commonwealth. In consonance with that policy, there should be uniformity in the rates paid to railway employees in the different systems, instead of continuing the existing anomaly of men on one side of a border working for less than is paid to railway servants of an adjoining .State. The Labour party has always contended that the Commonwealth has constitutional power to confer the benefits of the Federal Arbitration Act upon State employees. The Labour party prides itself on its consistency. It stands always for what it considers right, and for broad principles. It is not shaken by every passing breeze, as .are those honorable members who have deserted their old principles and are ‘to-day sitting in Nationalist company. Former members of the Labour party find themselves in a very awkward position, and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) confesses that he is “in the soup.” That is because he has deserted his old principles and deserted the party to which he once belonged.
– I was expelled from the party.
– The honorable member may have been expelled from the party, but he deserted his principles. Now he and some of his colleagues have to choose between adherence to their former principles and loyalty to the party to which they now belong. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) at one time held very definite views in regard to the position of railway employees in relation to the Federal Arbitra tion Act. In 1904 the then Deputy Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Andrew Fisher) moved an amendment to the Arbitration Bill to provide for the inclusion of employees of .State railways, .and I propose to quote to the Committee what was said on that occasion by the present.
Prime Minister in supporting the amendment. At page 1089 of Hansard, vol. XV,III: 1904, Mr. Hughes is reported to have said -
I doubt whether it oan be shown to the satisfaction of the Court that it was the direct intention of the Convention to exclude the public servants of the States.
We support the amendment, because at this particular time the extension of the functions of the State in various directions is one of the cardinal principles in which the party to whom I and the honorable member who submitted the amendment are attached, believe. If it he declared that the Constitution does not permit of a law to adjust disputes which may, and in time must, occur between a State and its employees, all I have to say is that it will not be very long before the public servants of Australia will be such an appreciable number of the whole population that to allow them to remain outside the operation of a tribunal of this sort would be neither more nor less than an outrage, and would be, I believe, a fitting subject for indignant protest by those private employers who would be compelled to abide by the decisions of such a tribunal.
As to whether we have the power to do what is proposed, I am rather inclined to adopt the attitude of the honorable member for Bland, and say that that is a matter entirely within the province of the High Court.
The High Court gave its decision yesterday, and to-day the Labour party is endeavouring to give legislative effect to that decision, in order to do justice to thousands of railway workers throughout the ‘Commonwealth. Further on Mr. Hughes said -
We come here having appealed to the people on this particular point. In some of the States other points were raised as well; but every one of us had to toe the scratch in regard to this particular matter. I myself was asked definitely, “ Are you, or are you not, in favour of this?” I think every candidate Was asked that question, and many a one who was asked it wishes to-night that he had given another answer. Those who propose to conciliate their consciences by elaborate argument ami by ingenious references to difficulties, constitutional or otherwise, which exist or do not exist, cannot deny that the people were appealed to, and that every candidate was asked by the railway associations of Australia, “Are you, or are you not, in favour of the railway servants being included in the Arbitration Act?” Every candidate replied “Yes” or “No,” because those who did not answer in the affirmative were understood from the terms of the letter sent to them to answer in the negative. Therefore, every one of us is directly pledged upon this question. A species of referendum has thus been taken. How, under these circumstances, can we be told that a grievous wrong is to be inflicted upon the citizens of Australia because we propose to compel the Parliaments of the States to do something of which the people have by an overwhelming- majority declared themselves in favour ?
Yet it is said that we contemplate a grievous wrong to Australian Democracy by compelling the Parliaments of the States to vote money to do justice to their employees. Any one would imagine that the Federal Arbitration Court is to perpetuate some dire wrong, to inflict upon the States some unprovoked indignity, whereas it is being created to right a wrong. It is to require only that which justice indicates should be done; and ought not that to be approved and adopted by every Parliament in Australia?
We shall do no wrong to that charter of government by making this measure applicable alike to private employees and to the railway employees of the States. If we fail to do so, and a strike ensues, I shall hold that the right honorable gentleman has done his share towards committing one of the most grievous wrongs that any citizen can commit.
– We should still have to interfere.
– Yes. Supposing such a state of things did occur, are we to say that neither the Commonwealth nor any other authority in these States is dowered with sufficient power to intervene? Are we to stand idly by whilst Australia is paralyzed from one end to tlie other by reason of a strike? Obviously not. Power is conferred by the Constitution for the settlement of these disputes.
It is very agreeable to those of us who have always advocated this principle to find our view indorsed by a High Court composed of a majority of men who, prior to their elevation to the Bench, could not, by any i stretch of imagination, be called Labour men or sympathizers with honorable members on this side.
– Mr. Justice Higgins was Attorney-General in the Labour Government.
– I am referring to the ‘Court as a whole. Mr. Justice Knox, Mr. Justice Starke, Mr. Justice Rich, and Mr. Justice Duffy, and Mr. Justice Isaacs cannot, any one of them, by any stretch of the imagination, be termed Labour men. Mr. Justice Knox was the most bitter opponent the unions had to fight, and “the Government also had to fight him as the representative of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in the various Courts. I do not attack these gentlemen because of their sentiments, but desire to show that this decision is not given because the majority of the High Court are in favour of the Labour party or of the workers outside. They were not born amongst the workers, nor reared amongst them, but have lived a life apart, and, consequently, could not see eye to eye with those who sit on this side of the House. But the judgment of the Court is that the railway and tramway men should come under the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and have access to the Court.
– There is nothing about “ should “ in it.
– That is the judgment. What else would the honorable member gather from it?
– That is another thing altogether - they may be included.
– Frankly, we on this side do not expect the honorable member to see eye to eye with us, and, consequently, do not expect him to arrive at the same conclusion from the pronouncement of the Court that we do.. It is for the railway and tramway men to watch their representatives in this Parliament, and see who are in favour of giving them their rights - to see which members look at the question from a broad national stand-point, and which from the narrow parochial stand-point. The men ought to see which of the representatives would prevent them from organizing on a federal basis, and from realizing the idea for which the Commonwealth was formed. I am surprised that the Government, when it saw the judgment, did not postpone the Bill for the time being in order to insert an amendment of the kind now proposed. Their omission to do this only shows that they do not sympathize with the workers.
– The Government will neither accept the amendment nor move it themselves.
– Quite so, and I think every honorable member would agree with the Government if they gave these men the rights they should have had years ago. Unless some such provision is inserted, the measure will have missed entirely its object, which is to render justice to the great body of men employed in the State railways.
Sitting suspendedfrom 6.29 to 8 p.m.
– The new clause proposed by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) raises a question of a very important and far-reaching character. Honorable members, who have perused the debates, or have had the honour of membership of the House from 1904, when the Act was first introduced, will recall the fact that it was originally considered that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration had jurisdiction over industrial disputes where the parties to a dispute were the Railway Commissioners and their employees of any State of the Commonwealth. In an important judgment delivered by the Court many years ago, however, it was decided otherwise. Several efforts were made to extend the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration by an amendment of the Constitution, but without success. The other day the High Court, during a judgment delivered in the Amalgamated Engineers case, indicated that, upon a proper interpretation of the Constitution, the limitations that the Court had heretofore thought were imposed on the Commonwealth by the presumption which it held was to be read into every section of the Constitution in favour of the States, were not correct. To what precise extent these dicta affect the various Acts that have been passed by the Commonwealth, or extend the powers of the Commonwealth in regard to future legislation, it would be premature to say. One thing however, is quite clear. If, as a consequence of the High Court’s decision or its dicta, the Commonwealth has now jurisdiction over State instrumentalities, and the presumption which was formerly held by the Court in favour of State rights is not correct, then theCourt of Conciliation and Arbitration probably has jurisdiction over an industrial dispute where the parties are the Commissioners of Railways of any State and the employees of those Commissioners. Assuming tie latter hypothesis, namely, that the decision of the High Court does in effect widen the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth so as to give the Court power to make an award binding on State servants and State Railway Commissioners, we have to consider what is the position of railway servants under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act as it now stands. We have’ to see whether there is, in fact, any prohibition or hindrance in the Statute which would preclude the engine-drivers, firemen, and cleaners associations from registering in the Court to-morrow, and, having registered, from filing a plaint, and in due course having it heard, and properly heard, by a Court having jurisdiction. In my opinion there is nothing in the Act, or in any amendments introduced by the Bill before the House, which would have the effect of excluding railway servants from the benefits of the Act. This, then, is the position: If the judgment of the High Court has the effect which some believe it will have - as for myself, I express no opinion, for I have not had an opportunity to carefully peruse the judgment - but if it has the effect that we are told it will have, and will so widen our jurisdiction as to include railway servants, and give the legislature power to include them, then they are ipso facto included. If, on the other hand, the judgment of the High Court does not do that, nothing we may do to the Statute can include them. No one can dispute that for a moment.
– That might be all very well if by the Act itself they had not been ipso facto excluded.
– They have not been expressly excluded.
– But you have excluded them.
– Where? Show me.
– In the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– That is not so. If the judgment of the High Court has the effect which the honorable member for West Sydney contends it has, and there is nothing in the Constitution that excludes railway servants, then ipso facto they aTe included. If, on the other hand, I repeat, the decision of the Court does not go so far, and there are constitutional limitations on our power, so that we cannot by any Statute include these servants, nothing we can do - no words we can insert- will include them. That being so, and it is undeniable, I wish to state in clear terms - and I hope honorable members will follow me - what the position of the Government is in regard to the matter. Taking the High Court’s decision as including the railway servants, the Statute being silent on the matter, that has the effect, of, ipso facto, including them, provided that there are no constitutional limits upon our power. Therefore, the Government does not propose to accept any amendment. If honorable members can point to any section of the Act that excludes the railway servants, then the Government will delete that section or amend it, so as to remove the prohibition. Further than that we cannot go.
I should like to say one other word. We have now been discussing, this measure for a very long while. Honorable .members are giving it an amount of consideration that promises to be fatal both to it and to other measures, which press for our attention. This Bill must, therefore, be disposed of, and that speedily. Honorable members have been taking ample time to deal with it. They have proceeded with its consideration in a very leisurely way.
I rose for the purpose of making these two statements. I have always been a very strong supporter of the inclusion of railway servants in our Arbitration legislation. I have always endeavoured to secure the authority necessary to include them. I make this statement most deliberately, that there is nothing in this Statute that excludes them, providing the constitutional prohibition has been removed. If I am in error in supposing that, I am willing that State railway servants shall be placed in exactly the same position as other unions, and the Government will be prepared to delete any words that exclude them.
I wish to repeat the expression of my opinion, that this measure has occupied the attention of the House far too long. We must clear it off the business-paper. Honorable members cannot complain of that, because there are other measures of a very pressing character that demand our attention. I ask them to complete the consideration of this Bill at the earliest possible moment. I do not wish to refer to the Standing Orders, but honorable members know that there are means of dealing expeditiously with any measure. I have occupied the attention of the’ House only a few moments in connexion with this Bill.
– The right honorable gentleman said that the Industrial Peace Bill was urgent, and he introduced the guillotine in connexion with that measure, but it is still in another place.
– I do not know what stage it has reached in another place. This is the first time I have heard a complaint of the speed at which another place disposes of business. It furnishes an object-lesson to this House. I think that one of these days the people outside will ask how domes it that one House can dispose of business in twenty minutes, and another House be still in the throes of parturition after forty hours. I ask honorable members to curtail their remarks, and to come to a division upon the proposed new clause. The Government cannot accept it, because it is an obvious placard. Its intention is not to include the railway servants. They are included already, if the judgment of the High Court is that it is constitutional to include them. There is too much politics in the discussion that has taken place in this Chamber. It all emanated from a section only of honorable memberson the other side, and a very small and insignificant section at that. I venture to ask those who have the best interestsof this country at heart to agree to the withdrawal of the proposed new clause, or to let the Committee come to a division upon it.
.- I do not propose to agree to the withdrawal of the new clause, nor do I agree altogether with the view expressed by the Prime Minister as to the effect of the recent judgment of the High Court of Australia. If it has the effect which the Prime Minister contends for, then he can surely have no possible objection to the acceptance of my amendment, which will make the matter abundantly clear. He says that if the High Court of Australia has decided that the Commonwealth Parliament has power to legislate in respect to industrial disputes with regard to State railway servants, then the power is contained in the existing Arbitration Act.. That is not free from doubt. . I should like to point out that it was upon the Act of 1904 that the railway servants’ case was decided by the late Sir Samuel Griffith, the late Sir Edmund Barton, and the late Mr. Jus tice O’Connor. It is important to remember that the Act of 1904 contained these words in the definition of “ industrial dispute” - “ Industrial dispute “ means a dispute in relation to industrial matters -
– That is in the present Act.
– The honorable member will excuse me, it is not in the present Act.
– Substantially it is.
– It is not included substantially in the present Act. I invite the attention of the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) to the fact that, in the definition of disputes in the Actof 1904, there appeared these words -
Including disputes in relation to employment upon State railways, or to employment in industries carried onby or under the control of the Commonwealth or a State, or any public authority constituted under the Commonwealth or a State.
The Act of 1904 contained that second part of the definition of dispute as well as the first part referring to employment upon State railways.
– That is what I have said.
– In the definition of disputes, in the Act of 1904, we find the words, “ including disputes in relation to employment upon State Railways,” which are not contained in the present Act.
– That is of no moment whatever, because those words are substantially included.
– We heard a lot about lawyers in this House last evening, and now the honorable member for Kooyong, as a lawyer, tells us that, although the words I have quoted were in the Act of 1904, they were of no consequence.
– Then why were they included in the Act?
– They are included in the definition of “industrial dispute “ in the existing Act.
– I invite the attention of the honorable member to the fact that the words I have quoted are in the 1904 Act, and they ‘were specifically left out of the Act which was passed in 1910, and was introduced by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). In his secondreading speech on the Bill of 1910, the right honorable gentleman said -
The definition of “ industrial dispute “ is amended by omitting certain words, which exclude persons employed in agricultural, viticultural, horticultural, or dairying pursuits, and by remodelling the section so as to include “ any threatened or impending or probable industrial dispute,” and to exclude from persons employed by the Commonwealth or by a State those employed upon State railways.
That is quoted from the speech of the Prime Minister in 1910, and yet he tells us this evening that State railway servants are not excluded under the present Act.
– “ The flowers that bloom in the spring have nothing to do with the case.” What has that to do with the matter ? As a matter of law, the honorable member knows that it has nothing to do with it.
– I think that I know just about as much law as does the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best). I know that if the words which I propose are inserted in the Bill, there will be no doubt at ail about the matter, but if they are not inserted, I can see that there will be ample ground upon which the Court may hold that, by reason of the fact that those words were in the 1904 Act, and that Parliament deliberately took them out in 1910, and that Parliament deliberately rejected an amendment for their re-insertion in 1920, “it was obviously the intention of Parliament that the railway servants of the States should not be included. And, upon that, they may give a decision that, notwithstanding that the Commonwealth Parliament has the power to include them within the scope of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration legislation, it has deliberately expressed its intention not to include them; and, thus, they would uphold the view of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook). The right honorable gentleman does not think that State railway employees are included. He has approached the question by assuming that there is power to include them ; but, he says, if there is that power he will not include them or be a party thereto. I can understand and appreciate that attitude ; it is, at least, honest. But the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), after having deliberately taken out those words from the 1904 Act - in the course of dealing with the Act of 1910 - now says those words are included if the High Court says there is power to include them.
– The Prime Minister says they are either included or not included.
– Yes, and that, whether they are or are not, he will not accept my proposition. I intend, however, that the railway employees of Australia shall have justice, so far as it is possible for this Parliament to confer justice upon them. And, if there is any quibbling about the inclusion of particular words, then it should be the objective of every . honorable member, as it is mine, to make his position clear. 1 do not want it afterwards to be said that honorable members, who are lawyers, as lawyers, deliberately left this Bill in such a form that the relief which should have been given to railway servants could not be given at all. Lawyer members of this Legislature should be more concerned than any others to see that the words of an Act are beyond any doubt. I desire to see that in respect of this particular piece of legislation; and the only way to do so is to secure the inclusion of specific words in such form that there shall be no doubt that we mean to embrace in our Statute the employees of the State railway services. Let us say either that we do or do not intend to include them.
– Why not include the State coal miners?
– They do come in, under the existing definition, because theirs is an industry carried on by a State.
– I do not think the honorable member has looked at the definition of “industry” in the Act.
– Then, let us look at the definition and see to it that the coal miners are provided for, if they are not already included.
– The honorable member will find the phrase, “ Any undertaking.”
– If the coal-miners are not included I shall do all that is possible to have them included, and I hope the honorable member will do likewise.
– If the judgment of the High Court is as the honorable member says, then they are included now.
– Then what is the honorable member troubling himself about, if they are included?
– What are you troubling yourself about?
– I desire that there shall be no doubt whatever, and I want to prevent law suits, and great expense to the railway employees.
– There is no doubt.
– The honorable member says so now; but if, at some later stage, the High Court of Australia were to give a judgment and say they are not included for the reason that the Federal Legislature did not trouble to insert words specifically including them, then I want the public to know exactly why such a situation arose, and, specifically, what happened. His Honour the late Chief Justice Sir Samuel Griffith, in delivering judgment on a preliminary point in the Railway Servants case, said -
The point arises under paragraph xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution, under which the Commonwealth Parliament has powers to make laws with respect to “ conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State,” and section 4 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904, which defines an industrial dispute for the purposes of that Act, as “ including disputes in relation to employment upon State railways.”
The Chief Justice referred to those specific words, although other words were contained in the section which are still in the existing Act. He called attention to the fact that those words, ‘ ‘ including disputes in relation to employment upon State railways,” were in the 1904 Act. For these reasons we should see that there is no doubt in the mind of anybody - layman or lawyer - concerning what we mean. We mean to include the employees of State railways, or we do not. Which do we mean ?
– The honorable member means to include the employees in every State instrumentality.
– I mean to include, in addition to the words in the principal Act to-day, all State railway employees - as they were included in the 1904 Act.
– The honorable member cannot mention any class of State employee which is not included in this section.
– Yes, I can; and there are some classes of State employees which we could not bring within the scope of our arbitration legislation, because I do not think the decision of the High Court goes so far as to enable this Parliament to legislate for conciliation and arbitration covering all State employees. Under the Act, they must be employees in an industry carried on by or under the control of the Commonwealth or a State, or any public authority constituted under the Commonwealth or a State.
– But what is the definition of “ industry “?
– “ Industry “ includes-
Well, that does not carry us any further.
– Oh, does it not?
– It does not carry us any further, so far as this particular matter is concerned. I have the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) on my left, and the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) in front of me - trained lawyers, both - and they say that these words are unnecessary; the honorable member forFawkner, for the reason that railway employees are already in, and the honorable member for Kooyong, becausethey are already not in.
– I say they are already included.
– Does the honorable member for Kooyong say that State railway employees are included?
– In the definition.
– Under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court?
– Cannot the honorable member say “ yes,” without any “ if s “ ?
– If the Court held yesterday that we have jurisdiction, then they are included; but, if not, then the honorable member’s proposed new clause cannot include them.
– Then why were the words included in the 1904 Act, in addition to the existing words? Does the honorable member for Fawkner say that those words were unnecessary in the 1904 Act?
– Yet their Honours Mr. Justice Griffith, Mr. Justice Barton, and Mr. Justice O’Connor hinged their judgment on the fact that those words were there. Does the honorable member for Fawkner now say that the railways are an “ industry “ ?
– Yes, they are an industry within the meaning of the definition of “industry.’’ Does the honorable member for West Sydney say that the railways are not a State undertaking?
– Will the honorable member tell me what is his objection to the’ insertion of the words included in my proposed new clause?
– I am always opposed to the introduction into an Act of unnecessary words.
– But if they are merely unnecessary, what objection has the honorable member to their inclusion?
– If the honorable member desires to be consistent, he must enumerate every State undertaking.
– No; for the reason that, as I have moved my amending clause, it leaves the definition as it was in the 1904 Act.
– What meaning does the honorable member attach to the words, “ Any dispute in relation to employment in an industry carried on by or under the control of the Commonwealth or a State”?
– I attach the plain meaning which is on the face of the words; but I would draw the attention of the honorable member to a rule of construction which is followed sometimes by Courts, namely, that if one finds that there are certain words in a Statute which are the subject-matter of judicial interpretation - as are these words which I have moved to re-insert in our legislation - and, subsequently, by an Act of Parliament, one were to take those words out of the Act, one would be assumed to be removing what was the subject-matter of the judicial decision, just as was done in 1910. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) himself said, in 1910, that he was excluding railway servants.
– They were taken out in the light of the then judgment.
– Then why were they taken out if they are still left in?The honorable member now says that they were still left in.
– They were taken out in the light of the then referendum.
– They were taken out, and the words that are now found in the principal Act were left in. Were the railway servants left in?
– Then I want to put them in, and that is why I have moved as I have done.
– The honorable member for West Sydney has quoted the original Act, which, no doubt, did contain the words - in the definition of “ industrial disputes “ - “ including disputes in relation to employment upon State railways.” Those words were originally inserted because Parliament thought it had power and jurisdiction to specifically include the State railways. But, in the same definition, Parliament employed widely embracing words which, in themselves, would have included State railways.
– Why not specifically include State railways?
– Will the honorable member allow me to proceed ? This question then came before the High Court, and the Court, of course, dealt with those specific words relating to State railways, because it was a State railway case; they were not interested in the other words at the time. The judgment of the Court was directed towards the specific words which appeared in the definition of “ industrial disputes.” As those words, including “ disputes in relation to employment on State railways,” were before the Court it directed its attention to those words, and therefore the argument and judgment of the Court was concentrated upon their judicial interpretation, and the power of this Parliament to include them. The Court decided in 1905 or 1906 in the New South Wales Railways case that State railways did not come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. Now we come to the recent decision of the Court, and so far as we have had an opportunity of .perusing it, it appears that jurisdiction as regards employees on State railways does rest with the Commonwealth. In other words, the former decision has been overruled. In the light of that decision, amending legislation was introduced as the Court had ruled to be ultra vires’ the words “ including disputes in relation to employment upon State railways.” Those words were excluded from subsequent legislation, and the present law, therefore, is embodied in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-15. Perusing the present Act in the light of the decision given yesterday we find that “ industrial disputes “ includes “ any dispute in relation to employment in an industry carried on by or under the control of the Commonwealth or a State or any public authority constituted under the Commonwealth or a State.” There is no question about the railways being a State authority. As the word “ industry “ occurs in the definition we have to see what it means. Its definition includes “ any business, trade, manufactory, undertaking or calling of employment.” I have shown that railways are a State instrumentality, and a State industry constituted by an Act of Parliament of a State, and that a State railway undertaking within the meaning of the Act is an industry under the control of the Commonwealth. An industry is an undertaking, and the conjunction of these two definitions means that any State undertaking is immediately brought within the control and jurisdiction of the present Act. Assuming that the judgment of the Court is as we have read it in the newspapers to-day, Parliament has jurisdiction to deal with disputes in connexion with State railways. I quite agree with the view expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that there is nothing in this Act which excludes railways in the light of the recent judgment, as State undertakings are included in the comprehensive words in the present Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Therefore, the railway employees have the right to come to the Arbitration Court, and so far as I know there is nothing which specifically excludes them. On the contrary, the definition is wide enough to include them.
– Would not my amendment place the matter beyond all doubt, and make it possible for it to be understood by laymen as well as lawyers?
– What is the use of the words when the greater includes the lesser. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) will not deny my statement that the railways are State undertakings. He cannot dispute that, and If the honorable member admits that State railways are already included, anything he may insert cannot make any difference. I again emphasize the fact that the more words that are employed the more likely is it that their effect will be lessened because the mere fact of including certain specific things may have the effect of excluding others. We have a wide definition which covers all State authorities, and, as railways are State authorities, they are included. The fact that these words were originally in the Act and were subsequently deleted by a decision of the High Court does not affect the position. The Court does not look to the intention of Parliament, neither does it read Hansard for guidance in arriving at its interpretations. The Court does not consider the spirit of the Act, but looks solely at the words in the Act itself. Parliament must express itself in the Acts it passes. The Court expressly refused to consider what appears in Hansard, and would not consider what the Prime Minister said in 1904, as that has nothing to do with the case. The Court simply interprets the Acts that Parliament has passed, and it cannot get behind their provisions. I am surprised at the honorable member for West Sydney reading what the Prime Minister said in support of his contention, because, like the flowers that bloom in the spring, it has nothing to do with the case. We have to decide whether our railways are State authorities or State undertakings, and if they are I challenge the honorable member to deny that they are included in the present law.
– Where is “ State authority “ or “ State undertaking “ mentioned in the definition of “ industrial disputes ” i
– “ Industrial disputes “ are defined in the present Act as ‘ ‘ any dispute in relation to employment in an industry carried on by or under the control of the Commonwealth or a State, or under public authority constituted under the Commonwealth or a State.” The definition of industry includes an “ undertaking,” and I have referred the honorable member to the definition appearing in the present Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It does not matter what words the honorable member seeks to include, they cannot possibly affect the position one way or the other, and it would be idle and superfluous for him to attempt to embody them in the Bill. If. one correctly interprets the judgment of the Court given yesterday, and if by any chance that judgment does not mean that Parliament has the power to include them, no words we can insert will give us jurisdiction in that regard. We can safely rely upon the wording of the present law, and I do not think any lawyer will seriously dispute their interpretation. Whilst I contend that that is the legal position, I desire to say that we have the power, if we choose, to exclude any particular body or undertaking, including State railways, and if they were specifically excluded I would not argue as I am. The mere fact that the words were once included and are now excluded is of no concern. All the Court can look to is the law as it is embodied in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1904- 15. On the merits of the case as to whether they should be included, I contend that the Federal Parliament should not permit the employees of a State instrumentality to be ‘included. I have always been in favour of exclusion-
– This would be a good opportunity to exclude them.
– I admit that an amendment might be moved in that direction at the proper time. The control of the railways is in the hands of the several States as provided in the Constitution. The State Governments are the owners of the railways, and they have the right to control their own instrumentalities as they think fit and proper in regard to wages, freights, and other matters. The State Parliaments have always been desirous of doing what is fair and just to their employees, and, as an old member of a State Parliament, I am prepared to say that that has always been their endeavour. The State Parliaments have constituted varioustribunals for the specific purpose of dealing with disputes between the Railway Departments and their employees.
– Where are they in Victoria ?
– In Victoria they have their Classification Boards.
– Which came only after twelve years of fighting.
– But the State Parliament itself has ever endeavoured to do justice to its employees. At the instance of its employees it has not hesitated to constitute tribunals to deal on the most generous lines with their disputes. The State Parliaments have to pay the wages of their railway servants, and should continue to control them. It is not reasonable to make an assault of this kind on State rights. Sovereign powers reside in the State Parliaments in so far as they have not been specifically transferred to the Commonwealth, and since there is reserved to the States themselves the ownership of the State railways, the just and reasonable conclusion is that it was intended by the framers of the Constitution that they should at least continue to control their employees whose wages they have to pay. Therefore, on the merits of the case, State railway servants should not be brought within the scope of a Federal authority. On the contrary, they should be excluded, and I do not think the honorable member for West Sydney is helping his own case by putting forward this proposition.
. -I rise merely to combat the argument advanced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that the amendment submitted by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) emanates from only a section of the Opposition. Those who have been in this Parliament from the inception of Federation know that when the original Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was introduced in 1904 it expressly provided for the exclusion of State railway servants and other Government employees. That Bill was introduced shortly after the Victorian railway strike in connexion with which the present Chief Justice of Victoria, who was then the Premier of this State, claimed to have smashed for all time the railway unions by introducing one of the vilest Coercion Bills ever brought before Parliament. Mr. Fisher, who was then the Deputy Leader of the Labour party, moved in this House, on 21st April, 1904, to omit from the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill the words excluding from its provisions State railway servants and other Government employees. The whole debate on that occasion centred round the position of State railway employees. The amendment was carried, and the result was the formation of the first Commonwealth Labour Ministry. According to the Votes and Proceedings for 21st April, 1904, only three of the present members of this House voted against that amendment, namely, the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), and the Minister ‘for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom). Amongst those who voted for the amendment were the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler), the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton), and the present Speaker (Sir Elliot Johnson). These honorable members to-day are on the other side. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald), the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page), the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Mahon), the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), and I voted for the amendment. I voted then as I have always done, to place public servants generally in exactly the position occupied by all private employees. So far as arbitration or any other matter is concerned, there is no reason why public servants should be nut in a separate paddock. As a result of this division the Deakin Government went out of office. The first Labour Ministry was formed, and on 31st May. 1904, State railway servants were specifically brought within the scope of the Bill.
– The honorable member knows why the vote to which he referred a few- moments ago was given.
– The right honorable member apparently voted for the proposal on that occasion in order to defeat the Deakin Government. When the new Labour Government took action in May, 1914, to specifically bring State railway servants within the scope of the Bill, the present Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), who in the previous month had voted against that proposition, voted for it. He has thus been on both sides of the fence.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) told us to-night that State railway servants were specifically excluded from the provisions- of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill of 1910. Will he deny that the Referendum Bills of 1911 and 1913 specifically provided for an amendment of the Constitution to enable the Commonwealth Parliament . to legislate in regard to disputes relating to State railway servants? The same provision was made in the Referendum Bill of 1914. The vast majority of honorable members were in favour of that proposal, and the present Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), who was then Leader of the Opposition, refused to vote upon it. He led his party out of the House, and they did not return until the following day, after the Bills had been carried. Ever since 1904 there has been in this House a majority in favour of bringing State railway servants within the scope of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– And every time the country has turned you down.
– The country did not turn us down at the 1910 elections. They knew then where we stood with respect to thi? matter, and we “ wiped the floor “ with the right honorable gentleman’s Coalition Ministry.
– You are a mighty host over there. There is just about a baker’s dozen of you making all this noise.
– As to that, the Labour party is unanimous upon this point, and has been since 1904. What shall we say of former members of the Labour party, now supporting the Ministry, who advocated the carrying of the referendum proposals of 1911 and 1913? What about the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith), the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford); and several others. Their numbers are gradually becoming less. The “has beens” are disappearing, but there are still a few of the “ never wasers “ in the House. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) was not a member at the time of which I speak, but was doubtless advocating from the public platform the claim of the .State railway men that they should be treated fairly. I object to any section of the community being, excluded from the benefits of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act-
.- I have been shown the record of a division taken in this House on 2nd October. 1919, when I voted against a proposal by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) that in the Referendum Bill then before us power should be sought to bring State railway servants within the scope of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I think it well to explain that we understood at the time that our previous referenda proposals had been rejected by the people because they contained such a provision. We were anxious to secure for this Parliament additional power to legislate with respect to monopolies and combines, and certain other matters, and w’e were urged to leave out the proposal to bring State railway employees under the Federal law, in order that those other powers might be secured. That is why I voted against the honorable member’s amendment. The honorable member who showed this division list to me said that he did so only by way of a joke; but later on some one may use it against me and say that I was not consistent. I have consistently supported the extension of the Act to State railway servants, and I am not going to depart from that attitude on this occasion.
– On the principle that any excuse is better than none, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) has made the best of difficult circumstances, and has tried to convince the Committee that his attitude towards this question has throughout been perfectly consistent. What is the position? In 191.3, we went to the country with certain referenda proposals, which the honorable member supported. There was one question as to the extension pf the powers of the Parliament to enable it to deal with mono polies and combines, another dealing with industrial disputes, and a third as to the bringing of State railway servants within the scope of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The honorable member now. says that in 1919 he voted against the proposal that railway servants should be brought within the scope of the Act, because he did not wish to prejudice our chances of carrying, the other propositions. Had he wished to be consistent in 1919, he could have moved that the question relating to the inclusion of railway servants should be put separately to the people.
– That was not the proposal.
– It was not, but the honorable member could have moved in that direction. He affirms that he voted against the exclusion of railway servants from that Bill because he did not wish to defeat the referendum. Yet he now says that the last referendum was defeated because the proposal to include railway servants within the scope of the measure was tacked on to it. It is all very well for the legal members of this Chamber to fight amongst themselves, but we have to view this matter from the stand-point of laymen. Should the High Court rule that State railway servants do not come within the purview of this Bill because they are not specifically included, the public will infer that that decision was arrived at because of our action in deliberately excluding them. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) shakes his head, but I submit that that is a fair interpretation for a layman to put upon the position. The honorable member says that the Justices of the High Court do not read Hansard. Will he argue that they are not influenced by anything we do in this Parliament?
– They have” no right to be.
– Does the honorable member imply that they are not influenced by anything that is done here?
– I hope that they are not.
– The honorable member has said that the Justices of the High Court do not read Hansard, and -;hat they will arrive at their deci- sions irrespective of how we may vote upon this particular matter.
– What does the honorable member himself think?
– I think that they will be influenced by what we do here. If eventually they decide to exclude railway servants from the operation of this measure, the public will be justified in concluding that that decision was arrived at because Parliament by its rejection of the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) had shown that it did not desire to include them.
– Is not the honorable member arguing that the High Court will decide in accordance with the wishes of a political majority?
– Nothing of the kind. That would b’e a very wrong thing to do.
– Is not that the honorable member’s contention?
– No. I am merely affirming that the Justices of the High Court should not he wholly influenced by the actions of Parliament. As a matter of fact, I believe that they endeavour to give effect to the will of Parliament. Indeed, they are bound to interpret the will of Parliament.
– Only as it is expressed in the Statute.
– That is the very reason why we should embody in the Bill the amendment which we are now considering.
– We say that it is there already.
– -If it be there already, there’ can be no harm in our agreeing to the amendment.
– If we mention only one State instrumentality the High Court will take it that wc meant expressly to exclude all the others which are not mentioned.
– Reference has been made to the coal-miners. They could be included in the Bill.
– They were not definitely excluded.
– Exactly. However, I am merely giving my interpretation as a layman for what it is worth. Nothing has been adduced by way of argument either by the honorable member for Kooyong or the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) which is calculated to change my opinion. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) read a list of honorable members upon the other side of the Chamber who voted for the inclusion of railway servants in the Arbitration Bill of 1912, when a Labour Government was in power. Those gentlemen must record their votes upon the present occasion with a full knowledge that if they oppose tho amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), they will be met by the ghosts of their own past and by the electors in the future. There are many railway servants in the constituencies which they represent who will require to know precisely the position they took up in regard to this matter. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) will have to bring forward much sounder arguments than he has advanced if he is to. satisfy the railway workers of his constituency that his action in respect of this matter has been as consistent as he would have us believe. Before concluding his remarks, the honorable member for Kooyong gave away the entire case. Of course, I credit him with perfect honesty in this matter. He has been opposed to this particular proposal from its very inception. He claims that the Commonwealth has no right to interfere as between State railway servants and their employers - that to do so would be an infringement of State rights. In 1912, he advanced the same argument, and also urged that if the Commonwealth had the power to interfere, it would not stop at fixing rates of pay of State railway servants, but would probably go a step farther and fix the freights to be charged upon State railways. It was specious arguments of that description which resulted in the defeat of the referendum. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) has affirmed that in 1913 this proposal was rejected by an overwhelming majority of the electors. As a matter of fact, it was not. I have the figures here which show that 990,000 electors voted against the proposal to include State railway servants within the scope of the Arbitration Act, while 960.000 voted for it. Thus there was a majority of only 30,000 against the proposal. In other words, a swing-over of 16,000 votes would entirely alter the position.Wehave every reason to assume that if the proposal were again put to the electors to-morrow there would be a majority in the other direction. Because there was a majority against it in 1913, we have no right to assume that there is a majority against it to-day. What has happened since then ? We have built our East-West transcontinental railway, and there is a proposal to construct the NorthSouth transcontinental line. Soon, therefore, we shall have railways owned by the Commonwealth and a State running practically alongside each other. We all desire to insure the establishment of industrial peace, without which Australia cannot carry on her industrial operations. But we are going the wrong way to achieve that objective if we are going to keep the State railway servants always in a position which prevents them from getting the higher rate of pay obtainable in the Commonwealth Railways. In South Australia that is the position.
– It is only during recent months that South Australian railway servants have had the advantage of Arbitration Court awards.
– That is a fact. The honorable member for Kooyong spoke of Classification Boards. But when one speaks of Boards of that description he has to consider the representation upon them. The trend of events in the future will certainly be in the direction of the federalization of our railways. We hope some day to obtain a uniform gauge. The whole trend of events, particularly in regard to the settlement of industrial disputes, is in the direction of bringing our railways under Federal control. However, I have no desire to labour this question. I merely rose because of the explanation offered by the honorable member for Herbert.
– The honorable member is barking up the wrong tree altogether.
– I know that the honorable member is in a difficulty.
– Not at all.
– He is with us.
– I am glad that the honorable member is with us, and I wish he would persuade the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) to vote with him. I advise the honorable member for Her bert to ask his friends to be consistent and vote as they did in 1912. I shall be glad if the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) also will support the amendment. The Prime Minister says he has always been in favour of this proposal, and I hope that he and the others of his supporters will vote for a principle which they advocated in former years. We are told by the Prime Minister that if the decision of the High Court is what we believe it is, the State railway employees will automatically come under the Federal Arbitration Act. If that is so, what harm can be done by making assurance doubly sure ?
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed - That the question be now put.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the proposed new clause be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Mr.GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister for Works and Railways) [9.39].- I move -
That the following new clause be added: - “ 4a. Section 11 of the principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof and such Deputy Presidents as are appointed in pursuance of this Act.’ “
Section 11 of the principal Act provides -
There shall be a Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration which shall be a Court of record, and shall consist of a President.
It is proposed to add “and such Deputy Presidents as are appointed in pursuance of this Act.” In the amending Act of 1918, and in the amendments which this Committee has already passed, it is provided that the Governor-General may appoint any Deputy Presidents that are necessary, and that those Deputies must be either Judges of the High Court or Judges of a Supreme Court of a State. We are constituting the Court of the President and such Deputies as are appointed under the Act.
I shall ask the Committee to debate proposed new clauses 4a and 6a together, as they are interrelated. In new clause 6a, proposed new section 18a, to be inserted in division 2 of part III. of the principal Act, after section 18, provides that the jurisdiction of the Court may be exercised by the President or a Deputy President. The object of that is to enable each or any of the Judges to hear cases sitting alone as a single Judge. We next provide that the President, or a Deputy President, may, in any case in which he thinks it desirable so to do, invite one or more Deputy Presidents to sit with him for the hearing and determination of any dispute, or part of a dispute. If the Court is dealing with a matter of very serious importance, and the Judge feels that he ought to have the assistance of’ another Judge in dealing with the whole, or any part of a dispute, that provision gives him power to invite a brother Judge to sit with him, and constitute the Court in that way. Thus we shall get the considered judgment of more than one Judge. We next provide that, where the Court is constituted of the President, and one or more Deputy Presidents, or of two or more Deputy Presidents, and the members of the Court are divided in opinion on any question relating to the prevention or settlement of an industrial dispute, that question shall be decided according to the decision of the majority, if there is a majority; but that if the members of the Court are equally divided in opinion, then the question shall be decided according to the opinion of the President, or, in his absence, according to the opinion of the senior Deputy President. That practically follows the practice which prevails in other Courts. The next provision is also very important. It is that, notwithstanding anything contained in the Act, the Court shall not have jurisdiction to make an award (a) increasing the standard hours of workin any industry to more than forty-eight per week, or when the standard hours of work in any industry are more than forty-eight hours per week, increasing the standard hours of work in that industry; or (6) reducing the standard hours of work in any industry to less than forty-eight hours per week; or, where the standard hours of work in any industry are less than forty-eight hours per week, reducing the standard hours of work in that industry, unless the question is heard by the President, and not less than two Deputy Presidents, and the increase or reduction, as the case may be, is approved by a majority of the members of the Court by whom the question is heard.
– I will deal with that point later. The objects of the amendments I have just indicated are these: - First, to constitute the Court of a Judge and Deputies; secondly, to enable the Judges to sit in individual cases; thirdly, to enable the Judge to invite a colleague to assist him upon matters of great importance where he feels that that is necessary; and, lastly, where the subject is the very important one of increasing or reducing the standard hours of labour in an industry, to insure that . a decision shall not be arrived at except by a majority of the Court of three Judges.
The Federal Parliament cannot legislate directly upon industrial matters, as the States can. It cannot regulate industries by passing general laws fixing a minimum wage for the hours of labour. The States have their powers in that regard, but the Commonwealth has not. Our powers are distinctly limited to the making of 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.” We have no power to make laws for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. The only power that we possess is to make laws with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. Our channel of legislation is- through conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes of that character only, and we also have any powers incidental to that power. The leading case, known as the common rule case, which defines this matter, is contained in volume 11 of the Commonwealth Law Reports. The first Conciliation and Arbitration Act of the Parliament gave power to make a common rule. This practically meant that the Judge in making an award had the power to declare that a law should prevail in a certain industry. That question came before the Full Court of the High Court, and Mr. Justice Higgins, at page 342, sets out the position thus - >
Now, conciliation and arbitration are a means to an end - industrial peace; .but they arc tlie only means to that end provided by the Constitution; and any laws, to be valid under the power, must be directed to conciliation and arbitration. It is not enough for them to be directed to the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes. They must be directed to the particular method of prevention and settlement mentioned. Parliament cannot, under the Constitution as it stands, apply the method of Wages Boards as an aid to the prevention of disputes, nor can it fix wages and conditions by prescribing them in a schedule to an Act. Then looking at the subsection of incidental powers - sub-section 39 - we find that the Parliament is. enabled to make laws with respect to matters incidental to the execution of any .power vested by this Constitution in the Parliament; mrt this language forces us back to ascertain what are the specific powers so “vested, and as regards subsection 35 tlie power is a power as to conciliation :ind arbitration, not a power to dictate labour conditions apart from conciliation and arbitration.
That, I think, is an accurate statement of the law as it stands to-day with respect to our power, to deal with labour matters generally. We have at present a Court which consists of a President, and the Governor-General has power to appoint one Deputy President. It is left to one Judge to decide upon important matters. At the moment we are trying to get rid of the congestion of business in the Court by the appointment of Deputy Presidents, so that we shall have possibly three or four Judges dealing contemporaneously with different matters in connexion with various industries. Thus, in a matter of very grave importance, such as the fixing of hours in an industry, different standards might be set up in different Courts, which, .of course, is undesirable. In other matters it may also be desirable to have uniformity. That would particularly apply to the question of the basic wage, which is being inquired into at present by a Royal Commission. Wetherefore desire to have important matters, such as the standardization of the hours of labour, settled in the way I have indicated in these amendments. Of course individual Judges may hear and determine cases, but when it comes to a question of the fixing of standard hours, the Judge must call in the aid of the other Judges.
– Is that in fixing a standard to apply to all industries?
– No; it will be in the particular dispute being investigated, and the method we propose will insure uniformity of decisions.
– It will practically have the effect of a common rule.
– Not exactly of a common rule, but we hope it will lead to a general uniformity in the decisions. There is the further aspect that there exists a fixed standard of forty-eight hours per week, which has been generally approved. It was recently adopted at the Labour Convention which sat at Washington in pursuance of the Peace Treaty. Even Japan, which is industrially far behind other countries, agreed by its representative there to extraordinary limitations in the hours of labour, so as to approximate her labour conditions to the conditions in other lands, and I believe a similar understanding was arrived at with India. I noticed a statement in a recent publication regarding the Labour Covenant that Japan had made such an advance in her agreement with the decision of the Labour Convention that she was practically bringing her economic conditions up to those which prevailed in Great Britain in 1914. The standard set out here is the eight hours standard, but if there is in existence in any industry a lower standard this amendment does not disturb it. All it provides is that, in such an important matter as the variation of the standard hours of an industry, the jurisdiction shall be exercised by three Judges at least, and the decision must be that of two of those three Judges. No more important decision can be given in any community than one regulating the hours of labour, for it may affect production very seriously, and, therefore, it ought to be given by a special authority. Federal legislation is, of course, very far-reaching. State Parliaments may pass laws, but these affect only the residents within their borders, whereas, a Federal industrial decision is as wide as the extent of an industry over the continent. Under the circumstances it is thought advisable to make the provision I propose.
– May this not interfere with a matter being investigated by the President of the Arbitration Court?
– I think that it may.
– Do you not think that a very serious matter?
– I do not.
– Is it not interfering with a matter which is sub judice?
– I think the honorable member will find that there are precedents in this Parliament for varying a law when matters are pending in Court.
– It means that the. President cannot himself give a decision on the matter.
– It means that the President cannot give a decision in any case provided for in the section which would decrease or increase the hours of labour, without calling in the requisite number of Judges.
– It still leaves power to increase the hours from forty-four to forty-eight
– And acccording to the Bill, one Judge could sit for that purpose.
– I think that is so.
– If the Bill is open to that construction it is not the intention; and I shall look into the matter.
– Will this Bill not complicate cases arising under the Industrial Peace Bill ?
-No. Under that Bill the hours of labour will be determined by a Chairman, and representatives chosen on each side - more of an emergency tribunal.
.- This is a most important clause, and as we have to meet to-morrow morning at 11 o’clock, I ask that it be postponed, so that we may have a little time to consider it.
Proposed new clause postponed.
.- I move : -
That the following new clause be added: - “ 19. Section 92 of the principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the words, ‘ and in particular for providing for the exhibiting, on the premises of an employer bound by an award or order of the Court, of any of the terms of the award or order.’ “
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) moved an amendment, which, however, was negatived, dealing with a number of matters that seemed to me more appropriate to a Factories Bill. I regard with some sympathy, however, one of the proposals, which was to exhibit awards in business places so that the employees might know the conditions under which they were working. Owing to the length of some of the awards that idea first seemed to be impracticable, but I promised to make inquiries. I learn from the Registrar that in some instances such a course would, indeed, be impracticable, but that it might be possible to specify the essential points of an award, such as hours and rates of pay; and, therefore, I submit the present amendment.
.- This is a very necessary amendment, which, I am sure, will meet with the approval of the Committee.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Groom) read a first time.
Embargo on Coal Export.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I have just received a wire from Mr. Watkins to this effect -
Rigid administration of embargo on export of Maitland coal affecting market for Teralba and Borehole seam mines where mixed cargoes are required. Ask for repatriation for mixed cargoes.
That means that while we are endeavouring to keep the boats moving, with which every one agrees, wo are getting Maitland coal all the time for the Inter-State trade. The foreign trade will not take coal from the Teralba seam, which is inferior coal, and is sold at 13a. per ton as against 17s. 9d. for the Maitland coal. Users of coal will, however, take the Teralba coal if it is mixed with the Maitland coal in the proportions of. one-third Maitland to two-thirds Teralba coal. If the present conditions are continued, and they can get no Maitland coal, they will not take the other coal, and the Teralba and Borehole mines willbe left idle. I bring the matter under the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in the hope that he will take steps to prevent what is at present going on in the trade. In many parts of Australia Teralba coal mixed with Maitland coal has been used in the past. I hope that the Prime Minister will undertake to look into the matter, and see what can be done.
-Very good, I shall look into it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 September 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200901_reps_8_93/>.