10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (“Hon. Sir littleton Groom) took the chair at 31 a.m., and read prayers.
– Although Indians resident in Australia for a certain number of years have : been granted the franchise, full privileges of citizenship have not been extended to them, and they are ineligible for .pensions. Will the Treasurer indicate to the House when these people will bc given old-age and invalid pension rights?
– Indians who have been granted the franchise are not entitled at the present time to pensions because of the wording of -the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act, but the Government proposes to submit a measure conferring the full rights of citizenship upon them.
– Will the Treasurer consider the advisability of extending the same privileges to sill naturalized British subjects ? For instance, Syrians may became naturalized, and exercise the franchise, .and their children are subjected .to compulsory .military service. Y.et these ^people -are .-regarded as Asiatics, and are not eligible for maternity allowance .or pensions.
– The Government -will give consideration to -the hon.orable member’s representations.
M’r. LISTER.- Hitherto immigrants to Australia have been allowed to transfer money or cash Bank of England notes free of exchange. T understand that that concession has ‘ been discontinued. Will the Treasurer state -the reason %
– The Commonwealth “Bank transfers money for immi-grants from Great Britain to Australia through the savings l>ank department, exchange free, to a maximum of £1,300. Immigrants “were also allowed to cash English notes to an amount not exceeding £25, free of exchange, but on account of difficulties, fraud, and evasion, the practice has been discontinued.
– Will the Minister for Health inform the .House what action the Government proposes to take in regard to the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Health, that the number of government laboratories in country districts should be extended? There is a strong demand for tie establishment of such a laboratory in the Riverina district.
– The report of the royal commission is now under the consideration of the Government, and due attention will be given to the recommendation to which the “honorable member refers.
– “Will the Prime Minister state when the Government proposal to establish the Credit Foncier system in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank, so that workers may .be assisted to acquire homes, will te introduced^
– -During recent weeks many questions upon this .subject have been asked by honorable members. The matter is being considered at the present time, and the necessary legislation “-will be introduced at the earliest convenient date.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to state when the Imperial Conference will be held ?
– No. Negotiations have been proceeding with a view to finding a date convenient to the representatives of all the dominions, but no finality has yet been reached.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Britain and the Dominions agreed to the establishment of a Trust Fund, as outlined by the Prime Minister last year, for the care of war graves in the various theatres of war, in perpetuity?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The following cable shows the amounts payable for the period 1st April, 1923, to 31st March, 1924, and the contributions to the endowment fund will be somewhat approximating these figures: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
“BUNCHY TOP” DISEASE.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– Professor Goddard’s report on the whole work will be completed shortly. Part of the report containing definite recommendations for preventing the spread of the disease and for eradicating it both in lightly and heavily affected areas, has been made available tothe “Bunchy Ton’’ Control Board, and is now under consideration.
Second-Class Sleeping Accommodation on Interstate Railways - Wireless Installation.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The question has not recently been brought under the notice of the State Railways Commissioners for the reason that it appeared futile to pursue the matter, as indicated to the honorable member in my communication of the 20th November, 1924. However, I will have i he subject brought under the attention of the respective State Governments, and urge upon them the desirability of providing the accommodation referred to.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With regard to the promise made by the former Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom), on the 10th September, 1925 (Hansard No. 21, page 2494), that the question of long-service leave to Cockatoo Dockyard em ployees would be investigated and a decision given - what action has been taken to give effect to this undertaking, and when will the Government’s decision be announced?
– A definite decision has not yet been possible, owing to the necessity for certain inquiries into the eligibility of these men under the regulations governing the grant of furlough in similar cases. It is expected that these inquiries will be completed and a decision arrived at at an early date.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, 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 : -
– On the 18th February the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions : -
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend sections twenty-three and fortyone of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1922- 1925, and for other purposes.
In committee (Consideration resumed from the 18th February, vide page 1045).
Clause 17 (Proposed new sections 30j and 30k).
Proposed new section 30j - “ (1.) If at any time the Governor-General is of opinion that there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance prejudicing or threatening trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, he may make a Proclamation to that effect, which Proclamation shall be and remain in operation for the purposes of this section until it is revoked. “ (2.) Any person who, during the operation of such Proclamation, takes part in or continues, or incites to, urges, aids or encourages the taking part in, or continuance of, a lockout or strike -
in relation to employment in or in connexion with the transport of goods or the conveyance of passengers in trade or commerce with other countries or among the States; or
in relation to employment in, or in connexion with, the provision of any public service by the Commonwealth or by any Department or public authority under the Commonwealth, shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for any period not exceeding one year, and in addition (if he was not born in Australia) to deportation by order of the Attorney-General as provided in this Act. “ (3.) For the purposes of this section - employee ‘ includes any person whose usual occupation is as an employee; employer ‘ includes any person whose usual occupation is as an employer; lock-out ‘ includes the closing of a place or part of a place of employment, and the total or partial refusal of employers, acting in combination, to give work, if the refusal is unreasonable, or the total or partial suspension of work by an employer, with a view to compel his employees, or to aid another employer in compelling his employees, to accept any term or condition of employment ; strike ‘ includes the total or partial cessation of work by employees, acting in combination, as a means of enforcing compliance with demands made by them or by other employees on employers, and the total or partial refusal of employees, acting in combination, to accept work, if the refusal is unreasonable, and also includes job control.”
.- Last evening the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) clearly showed the importance and gravity of the proposed new sub-sections 30j and 30k. The Government, by introducing this legislation, which, if given effect, is likely to cause great unrest among the industrial section of the community, has shown that it has no real desire to establish industrial peace in this country. Those who are associated with the Government must know that the purpose of the bill is not to overcome industrial difficulties, but to undermine trade unionism generally in Australia. I understand that the Government intends later to bring forward an amending arbitration bill. We have recognized for some time that amendments to our arbitration legislation are essential, and that greater powers should be given to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to deal with industrial matters. But no such powers are sought by the Government, and we have grave doubt whether it intends to rectify many of the anomalies under the Arbitration Act. Instead of trying to improve the conditions of the workers, and to secure industrial peace, the Government intends, so we understand, to introduce an. amending arbitration bill which, if given effect, will accentuate the present industrial difficulty. The Leader of the Opposition last evening instanced how a grave industrial crisis might be precipitated in the mining industry because of the operation of this class of legislation. That was not an isolated instance. There are many such cases that could be presented to this committee to justify the contention of the Leader of the Opposition that this legislation, if given effect, would bring about unrest and dissatisfaction in the Commonwealth, and would so victimize and suppress the workers generally that they would be compelled bo take direct action to gain redress of their grievances. For many years there has been a determined effort on the part of this Government and State Governments to keep State instrumentalities fro the jurisdiction of the Federal Arbitration Court. The State servants appealed to the Privy Council on this matter, and their appeal was upheld. It was thought that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court had full power to deal with State instrumentalities. Then the conservative State Governments instituted proceedings to deprive State instrumentalities of the right to place their grievances before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. These State officers are en “aged in the trade and commerce of Australia, and if they are excluded from f1,1 e jurisdiction of that court they will lie thrown back upon their own resources, and a stoppage of operations and of the wheels of transport will eventually follow. Their only alternative is to appeal to an essentially prejudiced court, constituted bv those who are responsible for their low rare? of pay and oppressive conditions. M this bill is passed, these men may be treated as criminals merely because they take the only course open to them Co redress their wrongs. At one time the Australian Seamen’s Union desired to come under the jurisdiction, of the Federal Arbitration Court, and. waa registered under the Arbitration Act. Certain things eventuated, and the Australian ship-owners associated with the
Commonwealth Government in the first instance, and later with the Commonwealth Government Shipping Line, sought to de-register this organization, and to place it outside the provisions of ‘ the Arbitration Act. As a result the Seamen’s Union resorted to direct action. This Government asserts its intention to uphold the principles of industrial arbitration, and to maintain peace and order so that industries may continue uninterrupted; but at the same time it introduces legislation whose purpose it is to prevent the industrial section of the community from obtaining redress of their wrongs.
– That has been the case throughout the history of industrialism.
– That is true. I challenge honorable members supporting the Government to say to the contrary. Almost every increase in wage, and every improvement in conditions has had to be fought for by organized labour, either by direct action or by its efforts before the various Arbitration Courts and wages boards. This is borne out by the words of Mr. Lee Neil, the managing director of Myer’s Emporium. During last week-end, when addressing a congregation at Wesley Church, he said -
In the industrial world to-day men are striving for higher wages and better hours. Resistance to this is being shown by employers who perpetuate the ceaseless unrest because they are not reading the signs of the times.
– That is true in a lot of cases.
– That is so. Mr. Lee Neil gave expression to a great truth. Instead of trying to read the signs of the times the captains of industry to-day are endeavouring through the various governments to bring certain laws into force in order to retard the fast-flowing tide of organized labour, which, despite opposition, will eventually lead to better conditions in the community generally. This Government now proposes to bring forward legislation to further circumscribe the powers of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. It is commonly known that it intends to limit the jurisdiction of that court to what is known as “ key “ industries. Such a limitation will mean the exclusion of State instrumentalities from the provisions of the Arbitration
Act, and bring about a state of industrial unrest throughout Australia. The bill under discussion has been introduced with the idea of giving the Government full power to suppress strikes, and to force the workers to refrain from their efforts to improve their conditions and to increase their wages.
– The Government is providing the penalties for breaches of the Arbitration Act as amended, even before introducing the amending bill itself.
– That is so. If the Government were desirous of doing the right thing by the people of Australia it would introduce the amending Arbitration Bill concurrently with the bill under discussion; but it has refrained from so doing in order to cover up for the time being the evil that it intends to do under the amending Arbitration Bill. Some honorable members opposite indulge in the pleasant pastime of attending various week-end functions, and speaking about the insidious propaganda and malicious intention of the Trades Hall authorities in the capitals of Australia. They desire to. give the impression that the leaders of Labour are always anxious to foment industrial unrest; but the truth of the matter is that, consistent with the system, the union leaders are constantly endeavouring to maintain industrial peace. Through the Industrial Disputes Committees appointed by the Trades Hall authorities in the several States, the leaders of Labour have frequently made overtures to employers, and .to the captains of industry in general, with a view to the settlement of industrial grievances. I have a live appreciation of the work accomplished through the medium of arbitration courts; but, in view of the serious limitations placed upon their jurisdiction, the progress made through the instrumentality of the trades hall committees has been tenfold that achieved by means of those tribunals. The representatives of Labour should not be subjected to the cheap gibes and ungenerous censure of those who desire to secure a political advantage at the expense of the industrial section. This bill will make the settlement of disputes doubly difficult.
– That is the object of the measure.
– No doubt that fact actuated the minds of those responsible for it. An act by an industrialist that was previously regarded as a civil offence is now to be called a crime. No greater insult than that could be hurled at Labour. A number of honorable members opposite, like Sir Henry Barwell, would like to abolish arbitration. Prior to relinquishing his duties as Premier of South Australia, Sir’ Henry Barwell endeavoured to pass a bill to do away with arbitration in that State. That is the main object of the Single Purpose League, which is supported by employers throughout the Commonwealth. It hopes for a return to individual bargaining, and, in order to cheapen the cost of production, it is prepared to strike a blow at organized Labour. While we on this side favour the Arbitration Court, we also contend that a less costly system should be devised, so that awards may be obtained more expeditiously than they are at the present time. The union with which I am connected, for instance - the Amalgamated Society of Engineers - had to wait from eighteen months to two years before it could secure an award. The Government would be .acting advisedly if it paused before proceeding with this measure, which must inevitably add to the present industrial unrest. The proper course to pursue is to strike at the root cause of the trouble by removing the anomalies to be found i:u the present system of arbitration.
.- The honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) has stated that, during the wool slump last year, a lockout was brought about by the graziers and woolbrokers in New South Wales, and he said that it threw a good many men out of employment. I desire to point out that the cessation of wool sales was caused by some heavy falls in wool values, and thu action taken was necessary to avoid a great economic disaster to Australia.
– The honorable member would not call that a criminal act.
– No. I shall come to that aspect of the matter later. A great injury to the wool industry would seriously affect the whole community. I do not agree with the honorable member for Cook when he says that, when the wool sales were discontinued for two months, a considerable number of storemen were thrown out of work. I know that the wool firm with which I deal did not put off any workmen during that time, and I do not think that any others did.
– Does the honorable member know as a fact that no men were nut off?
– I am only in a position to say that the firm with which I deal did not throw men out of employment ; but I do not think that any other firm dismissed employees. We frequently hear a cry from honorable members opposite about wealthy wool-growers. It is high time they realized that the great majority of the wool producers are far from being wealthy. Figures furnished by Sir John Higgins, at a meeting last vear of the British-Australian Wool Realization Association, showed that 97 per cent, of the growers were owners of flocks of 5,000 sheep and under, leaving only 3 per cent, with flocks over 5,000. From my own experience, I can assure honorable members that many graziers have smaller incomes than those of skilled workers who enjoy the benefits of arbitration.
– But when the income tax returns are analyzed, the pastoralists are found to have the largest incomes.
– I admit that there are a few wealthy wool-growers, and there may be a few wealthy firms connected with the wool industry, but one swallow does not make a summer. Returning to the bill, I am rather amazed to hear honorable members opposite advocating the right to strike. It will be admitted gene-
Tally that every man has the right to refuse work if he does not desire to perform that work, or if he considers that he is being unjustly treated ; but employees have no right to cease work collectively, and achieve their object by placing a burden on the rest of the people.
– What is the difference between the unit and the whole body acting in that way ?
– The difference is great, because a strike inflicts loss and hardship upon a large number of people in no way responsible for the dispute that caused it. That is one reason why the decision of the people at the last election was decisively in favour of the anti-Labour party.
– It was not decisively ip. favour of that party.
– It was decidedly so. During (he st 1.ike im Queensland, when stock was standing in trucks between railway stations, some of the pickets refused to allow the unfortunate animals to be given water, although they had been on the train for 48 hours. In other cases, cream was held up at different stations, and when efforts were made to prevent it from wasting by turning it into butter, the pickets refused to allow it to be removed. The interests of the primary producers, as well as those of other sections, should be considered.
– It is strange that those incidents were not reported in the capitalistic press.
– They were. Let me refer to another matter to which attention should be directed. At no time during the last election did I accuse any honorable member df this House of being a communist, or of favouring the communist cause, and I am not aware of any anti-Labour candidate, either members of this House or not, having done so. It seems to me, however, that one of the greatest menaces to industrial peace in this country is the present secretary of the Trades and Labour Council in Sydney, Mr. Garden. Honorable members opposite are justified in speaking bitterly of Mr. Garden, because he has done them a great amount of harm. He is their worst enemy.
– And the best friend of honorable members who support the Government.
– Quite so. Mr. Garden derives his living from his connexion with the Trades and Labour Council of New South Wales. His salary is £750 per annum, with £250 per annum for office expenses. I take it that that money comes from the affiliated unions, each of which pays a certain amount. The affiliated unions in turn get their money through the subscriptions of their members. Indirectly, therefore, the workers belonging to the unions are assisting to keep a dangerous man like Garden in constant employment at a good salary. Probably that aspect of the matter has not occurred to some of them. The leaders of the Labour movement - mostly good and honorable men - should be masters in their own house. It is their duty to deal with Mr. Garden, who is a traitor to the Labour movement. 1 cannot understand why they have not either disposed of his services or shut his mouth.
– Mr. Garden is not connected with the Political Labour party. The honorable member spoke of the trade unions.
– That is a fine distinction. The Political Labour party and the trade unions both belong to the Labour movement. The labour unions exist in the interests of unionists who are paying the salary of the man who is their greatest enemy. Many unionists do not realize that. It is deplorable that this man, occupying a prominent position in the Labour movement, should utter disloyal statements about the British Empire, and that the average unionist cannot dissociate himself from him. Because the Labour leaders have failed to act up to their responsibilities, they have forfeited the confidence of a great number of the right thinking people of Australia.
– I sympathize with the AttorneyGeneral in his attempt to solve the industrial problem. It is the greatest problem of the age. Many methods have been applied to its solution, but none of them has prevented strikes. Nor will this bill do so. The Government in this measure is attempting to make the act of striking a criminal offence, but we on this side say that its action is an, affront to the great body of workers who produce the wealth of this country. In attempting to bring the workers under the criminal code, the Government has exceeded its mandate. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) said that the workers should not havetheright to strike.I remember when Mr. B. R. Wise, the Attorney-General of a Liberal administration in New South Wales, introduced the first arbitration legislation passed by an Australian Parliament. As a result of that legislation there were no strikes in New South Wales for some time. But that legislation was entirely different from the existing arbitration legislation of the Commonwealth, and for that reason strikes are now more frequent than they were then. Under the legislation of New South Wales to which I have referred, the employers and the employees had direct representation on the bench. Their representatives appointed a chairman. That was real arbitration.
– And theyget through their work very quickly.
– I know the work which was accomplished, because for three years I had the honour of being the representative of the workers on that bench.
– It rendered good service.
– There were at that time very few strikes in New South Wales because the workers had confidence in the men appointed to deal with industrial troubles. The chairman, or judge, was there only to put into legal phraseology the decisions arrived at by the other two members. After the evidence had been tendered, the representative of the employees had the right to call upon the manufacturer or employer concerned to produce his books showing the profits made. I have seen the books showing the profits made by such firms as Anthony Hordern and Son and David Jones and Company. After having examined the financial position of the industry, an award, based on the profits, was made.If the industry was not able to pay an increased rate, no new award was made. Unfortunately, that legislation has gradually been whittled away, and legal gentlemen who have had no industrial experience now take the place of the representatives of the employers and the employees.
– There is a great deal in what the honorable member says.
– Because these legal gentlemen lack actual experience of industrial matters they must obtain their information from the evidence. Consequently arbitration proceedings are slow. Frequently the judge does not comprehend the situation.
– The old arrangement was much more satisfactory.
– The right to investigate the financial position of an industry has also been taken away, and now the unions, when approaching the court, have no definite data on which to work. The result is to make arbitration proceedings even more costly, tedious, and unsatisfactory. The delays are too great. If the Government were to restore that old form of arbitration, by allowing the employers and employees to have direct representation on the bench, the confidence of the unionists in the court would be restored, and there would be fewer strikes.
– The same principle underlies wages boards.
– The position is not thi same. A representative of employees acting for the first time on a wages board is at a disadvantage when dealing with the judge or chairman,” who has probably had a wide experience in industrial cases. Under the system to which I have referred a man was appointed for from three to six years. His experience gave him confidence, and he was not afraid to act as he thought right. But the representative of employees on a wages board mav at any time be withdrawn by his union. The representative on the. Arbitration Board of New South Wales was appointed by the government for n term. He received a reasonable salary, had the status of a judge, and was lint afraid to do what he thought was right and just. The representative of the workers1 on a wages board is largely at the mercy of his employer. When an award is unpopular he returns to work, and, although he may not be discharged, conditions are made almost unbearable for him.
– That is not the experience in Victoria.
– - j) has been the experience in New South Wales. It was refreshing to hear1 yesterday the remarks of the right honorable- member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). The- right honorable gentleman has taken part in strikes; he understands industrial matters1, knows the temper of unionists, and realizes, that Chat legislation which makes the act of striking a criminal offence will .not prevent strikes. It would be as reasonable- ti’ pass legislation to prevent thunderstorms after the storm clouds have gathered as to legislate to prevent strikes. A bill of this nature will not. prevent, discontent from developing into a strike. Last, night the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) referred ro the workers engaged ‘ in the mining industry. They are not specifically mentioned in this bill; nevertheless. they come within its scope. Should the miners in Australia go on strike there will be no coal for our railway locomotives or for the steamers which trade- on our coast. They, therefore, will be interfering with trade and commerce, and, under this bill, will be guilty of a criminal offence. Imagine the fall v of trying to bring the whole of the miners of Australia under the criminal code ! Australia does not contain enough jails to house them.
– We do not want to place them in jail.
– Every citizen of the Commonwealth comes under the Crimes Act.
– Only if he commits a crime.
– Only by a man’s acts can he become liable to punishment under this bill.
– Is it a crime for a man to refuse to sell his labour for less than a fair price?
– No one says that it is.
– That is the crux of the whole matter. It was that which caused’ the British seamen’s strike. Because they would, not accept a reduction of their wages, the seamen were imprisoned ; but did that settle the strike ?
– They were not imprisoned for that.
– Because they declined to accept reduced wages, they were treated as criminals.
– That is not correct.
– I know something of industrial disputes; because I have taken part in them; and I know that had there been no reduction of their wages, those seamen would not have gone on strike. If there had been no British seamen’s strike, this bill would not have been drafted. It has been introduced as the direct result of that strike.
– The men. were guilty of a breach of an agreement.
– Nonsense ! They were not consulted about, the agreement. They went on strike because their wages were reduced.
– They had: alreadyagreed to accept that- reduction.
– No. The reduction was made while they were on the high seas. Let us suppose that the mineowners of Australia- reduced the wages of the miners, and that the miners refused to accept the reduction. What would the Government do ? It could not put all the miners in jail, although, under this legislation, by the act of striking, they would be guilty of a criminal offence. Sir Gregory Wade tried similar legislation in New South Wales, but he failed miserably; and when next the electors of New South Wales had the opportunity, a Labour Government was returned with a great majority. I regret that the Government has taken this step. It should have accepted the amendment. The Leader of the Opposition proposed to deal with industrialists under the Arbitration Act. It is true that there cannot he both strikes and arbitration; but if after arbitration has been accepted as the means of settling industrial disputes the Government cuts down the privileges of the men from time to time, I would advise the men not to give up their right to strike.
– The workers should have the fullest rights under arbitration.
– They do not get them now. The coal miners have been before the court for two years, and the engineers have been waiting for eighteen months to have their case dealt with.
– There are not sufficient judges to do the work.
– Then it is the duty of the Government to appoint more judges.
– The miners did not go into the court; they have a wages board.
– They have been waiting for a hearing.
– They objected to the Arbitration Court and insisted upon another tribunal.
– I regret that the bill has been introduced. I am anxious to see permanent industrial peace. I believe we all are.
– But proposals like this are a deliberate declaration of class war.
– If the act of striking is to be made a crime, then industrial peace cannot be expected. Every reform that the workers have obtained has been won by organized effort in the face of strong opposition. Only the tenacity and determination of our British race has made progress possible. Permanent industrial peace is not likely to be attained while the sole object of some employers of labour’ is to make as much profit as possible. It is natural that workers should endeavour to obtain as much as they can for their labour. In these circumstances conflict is inevitable.
– The honorable member must remember that the provisions of this measure will only be applied in certain conditions.
– The Government will have power to issue a proclamation at any period in an industrial dispute. I sympathize with the Attorney-General. He is trying to solve a problem that he does not understand. The application of m measure like this to an industrial dispute must cause irritation. I feel quite confident that the first time the Government issues a proclamation under these provisions it will find that it has bitten off more than it can chew. The leader of an industrial organization would be a worm if he allowed a proposal like this to prevent him from doing his duty to tire members of his union. The fact must’ be faced to-day that industrial life is altogether different from what it was a generation ago. Then the practice was for a man to employ two or three others and work with them in his business ; nowadays thousands of men are employed by one employer. There is very little opportunity in these days for an employee to become an employer. In three circumstances, men of ability take un the work of organizing their fellow-employees. Trade unions have produced some remarkably able leaders who have done magnificent work in improving the conditions of the working classes. Can the workers in any low-wage, long-hour country compete with the Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, or Teutonic workmen? In the countries where coloured labour is employed organization is prohibited ; but in white-labour countries it is, generally speaking, encouraged. What employer of labour in Australia would think of displacing hi3 Australian workmen and engaging Chinese or Indians in their stead ? IT;> would know -very well that to do so would destroy his business. Progress would cease.
– We have to build * tariff wall against the importation of products from countries where coloured labour is employed.
– But it would be degrading to think of displacing white workers and engaging cheap labour ‘from abroad. Very shortly the question of substituting a 44-hour week for the present 48-hour week will be engaging our close attention. Honorable members <,n this side of the chamber believe in an eight-hour day for five days in the week and a four-hour day on Saturday. Because the New South Wales Labour Government has enacted that 44 hours shall constitute a week’s work, a number of manufacturers are moving the High Court to say whether the New South Wales Government has acted constitutionally. If the court should decide against the 44-hour week, it is quite probable that a serious industrial dispute will occur, to which the provisions of this measure might be applied. I wish to make it quite clear that I intend to advocate the strike method of settling our industrial disputes when I consider that I am justified in doing so. The proposals in this bill will not deter me, nor will they deter many others who are concerned about improving the conditions of the workers. We must use common sense and tact in meeting the crises that occur from time to time in our industrial life. Had the Government exercised reasonable care, and taken the obvious step at the right time, the British seamen’s strike could have been settled quickly. I regret that, the bill has been introduced, and I am totally opposed to this proposed new subsection. I feel sure that on the first occasion that these provisions are enforced the trouble will be accentuated. The trade unions will continue to take their proper place in our industrial life, and measures of this kind will not prevent them from doing so.
.- As a rule I listen with interest, and, generally speaking, with profit, to the remarks of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), because of the fine spirit he manifests and of the sound common sense that he utters. In this instance, however, I think that he does not quite appreciate the situation. I pointed out in my second-reading speech on the bill that these proposals would not become operative until a certain acute stage has been reached in an industrial dispute. The honorable member for South Sydney appears to think that they would have a general application.
– The bill is introduced to foment industrial disputes.
– It is imputations of that kind that vitiate discussion. If every honorable member would discuss the matter as calmly and reasonably as the honorable member for South Sydney, we should be able to deal with it on its merits. That honorable member knows his subject well, and, while claiming sincerity fir himself, :s willing to grant: that others may be equally sincere in their desire to solve our industrial troubles in the interests of the whole people. I frankly admit that this is a drastic measure. But nobody has suggested that it will banish industrial troubles.
– It will accentuate them.
– The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) has again shown the spirit which prevents reasonable discussion, and makes a solution of the problem that we are facing absolutely out of the question. This bill is not intended to solve our industrial disputes, but to meet certain serious situations that sometimes arise in the course of them. It is designed to make the recurrence of the experience we had during the British seamen’s strike utterly impossible. Such circumstances seldom occur, but when they do, they so seriously affect the interests of the general community that they should be remedied rapidly. Proposed new sub-section 30 j (3) contains among other things the definition of “ lockout “ and “ strike,” which in my second-reading speech I suggested should be amended. The definition of “ lockout “ provides that if the refusal of the employer to give work is unreasonable he shall be liable, but if the lockout is caused merely by the suspension of work it is not necessary to prove unreasonableness. There is no impropriety in my saying that in discussing this point with the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), he pointed out that whereas in refusing work to his men an employer may force them to terms, he would not do so by merely suspending his business operations. It seems to me that in both cases unreasonableness should be the essence of the charge. By either refusing work or suspending operations an employer may coerce his employees. lt should be necessary to show unreasonableness in either suspension or refusal. Similarly in the case of employees who either cease work or refuse to accept work, it should be necessary to show unreasonableness. The “strike” definition provides that unreasonableness must be shown only when workers refuse employment. But it is quite likely that a cessation of work may be just as unreasonable as a refusal to accept work. To amend the definition as T have suggested might meet the objections of some honorable members oppo- site. It would safeguard the striker in some degree, at any rate, for before a man could be prosecuted for participating in a strike it would be necessary to prove that his action was unreasonable. Tha.t is certainly in the direction of safeguarding the interests of the employee and of the employer if an offence is charged against either of them. The employer locks out his employees either by suspending operations or by refusing to give them work; but both suspension and refusal should be proved to be unreasonable. Exception to deportation has been taken by the Opposition on the ground that it is proposed to punish a person after he has been punished by the court. That is not the view that I hold. The. court will punish a man for his infraction of the act, and it then becomes a matter for the Government, charged with the preservation- of the peace and order of the community, to say whether that person who has been convicted of a grave offence against society should remain a citizen of the Commonwealth. If the Government, in its wisdom, comes to the conclusion that a person so convicted is unworthy to continue a resident of the Commonwealth, it should have the right to deport him.
– The Government take the responsibility.
– Yes. A government stands at the bar of public opinion, and when it performs an act of that kind it is for the people to say whether they approve of it or not. We are frequently told by members of (he Opposition that, we on this side are afraid of our masters - the people. It is by the will of the people of Australia that we occupy these benches to-day, and if we do anything which in the opinion of the people of Australia unfits us to occupy them, they will promptly turn us out. The members of the Opposition frankly and freely admit that a sovereign state should have the power to deport, and yet they cavil at this provision. The Government is charged with the preservation of the peace and order of the community, and if a citizen comports himself in such a way that he is no longer fit to be a citizen of the Commonwealth, he should be deported. Deportation is not inflicted upon such a person as a punishment for the offence for which he has been found guilty; but in the interest and for the protection, of the people, he is told that he is no longer wanted here. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) seems to me to have adopted a very unworthy and unusual attitude in regard to this bill. He has stated that the members of the Opposition do not intend to move a single amendment to the measure. I could quite understand that attitude if he had not given us his reason for it. The reason for which the Opposition will refrain from moving amendments, he says, is that if amendments were moved they would be rejected by Government supporters. Had the honorable member said that in future no amendments to any bill would come from his side of the chamber because they would be useless, as we on this side will not listen to reason, his position would be understandable and logical; but I am sure that this procedure will be confined to the bill now before us, and for what seems to be an obvious reason. I challenge the Leader of the Opposition or any of his followers to move an amendment to this proposed new sub-section. They would find it exceedingly difficult to frame such an amendment, for the simple reason that it is the vital principle of the bill to which they are opposed.
– Of course it is.
– The Leader of the Opposition has stated that they will make suggestions, and will place the responsibility upon the Government of accepting or rejecting them. Honorable members opposite have not the courage of their opinions. Why do they not frame an amendment in precise terms to proposed new sub-section 30.t (3) ? If they did so, honorable members on this side would know exactly where they stand. On the second reading of the bill they made it perfectly clear that they were opposed on principle to the measure. They opposed, in vague general terms, the branding of industrialists -as criminals. So do we - unless they deserve it. Honorable- members on this side of the chamber are not branding industrialists as -criminals whether they deserve it or not.- And honorable members opposite have’- not suggested an instance in which it might be possible unjustly to brand an industrialist ns a criminal. But is it not. possible to conceive that even a trade unionist might behave in such a way that his action would constitute a grave offence against the social order? I question whether the members of the Opposition think so. They suggest that trade unionism is something sacrosanct.
– So it is.
– In the opinion of honorable members opposite trade unionists should be above criticism, and above the law.- A measure such as this is framed in general terms so that it may be applied to any person whose acts are inimical to the best interests of the Commonwealth, and any citizen, whether a trade unionist or not, and irrespective of the class, creed Or section of the community to which he belongs, who acts in a way forbidden by law must be branded as a criminal. He will be branded as such if he brings himself within the purview of this measure. I propose to move an amendment-
– I have the courage of my opinion, which the honorable member has not.
– The honorable member speaks in one way and votes in another.
– No; I do not. I repeat my challenge to the Opposition to submit an amendment in precise terms to this proposed new sub-section. The amendment which I propose to move later is to provide that the suspension as well as the cessation of work must be unreasonable. But as I have not committed it to paper, I ask that the debate be allowed to proceed while I do so.
.- In making a few remarks on this clause, I cannot do better than begin by referring to some observations just made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). He seems to think that the essence of discussion in this chamber is manner rather than matter, and that if we approach in an amiable frame of mind the consideration of bills presented by the Government the result of our deliberations - especially if those deliberations are conducted in polite language - will be of benefit to the whole community. But I am concerned more with the matter contained in this bill than with the manner in which it is discussed on the floor of the chamber, lt would be useless for a person to meet me in a dark street at night, and assure me that his intentions were perfectly honorable, and based upon the Christian thesis, if I knew he had a club behind his back, which I had every reason to believe he intended to use upon my head. The honorable member for Fawkner has spoken of the punishment to be inflicted upon those who commit grave offences upon the social order of this community. We approach this question by considering what is the nature of the offence, and what is the punishment proposed to be inflicted. We .should aSk ourselves whether what is called an offence is an offence at all, and whether it should bc included in the category of crimes. We must then ask ourselves, “ Is the proposed punishment brutal and improper ?” The answer that I make is, “For the offences that are described in the . bill the proposed punishment is brutal and improper.” I do not intend to be drawn by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) into an atmosphere of conciliation and politeness, and in that safe sanctuary to be recreant to the duty that I owe to the electors who sent me here. I shall not assist to turn back the hands of the industrial clock and demolish that which has been built upon the principles of unionism. Those principles are being attacked by the Government under this bill. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) said last night that legislation which makes striking an offence is not new, and he alleged that honorable members on this side had said, “ We claim the inalienable right to strike.” I do not know who used that phrase.
– It was used by Mr. E. A. Painter, president of the Trades Hall Council in Melbourne, and was quoted by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) the other evening.
– I shall accept it as a basic principle that in civilized communities every man has always had, and still retains, the right to say at what price he will render a service; just as other persons claim the right to say at what price they shall sell their commodities. Any other condition of employment would imply slavery. That is an elemental principle, and it is observed by the honorable member for Fawkner ‘Mr. Maxwell) in the performance of his daily task. I hope that he will pardon my saying that he examines carefully the precise reward that is proposed to be given him for the work that he does. If, in his opinion, the reward is incompatible with the service that he is asked to render, lie virtually goes on strike, and declines to undertake: the task.
– I do not prevent anr other person from accepting, the work at a lower figure than I am prepared to take.
– The honorable member joins with others in maintaining a certain standard of reward for the service that he renders. He acts in combination, to quote the bill.
– I repeat that we do not interfere with others who are not members of the union.
– The honorable member is connected with a- highly privileged profession, which has practically a monopoly. He works in pleasant surroundings The service that he renders and the monopoly that he enjoys: confer upon him a certain freedom from competition. Because of those facts he is able to, and does, dictate in the name of his union the terms upon which he will undertake any service. The Attorney-General said that we on this side laid claim to the inalienable right to1 strike, and quoted from the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That act, and arbitration generally, are based upon the principle of the organization of employers and employees. The act provides for the settlement of differences by arbitration when the industry concerned’ operates in more than one: State. A condition precedent to any settlement is that nobody shall’ break away and cease work while the dispute is pending or is- under- consideration: Whatever else may be said for arbitration-, there is in it at least- a strong element of fairness. The arbitration law lays it down that if either side break away while any difference is. being- considered by the court they shall be punished. It must be noted that they are not made felons;, they are not imprisoned as individuals, but are fined as organizations, though technically the individual is liable. That is the difference - or one of the differences - between the arbitration law and the bill which we are now considering. The Arbitration Act relate”! only to industrial disputes that extend beyond the limits of any one State, and imprisonment is not imposed for striking in those circumstances. Tn the present ra”?e. however. th*> attack upon f-e individual is a deliberate one. Fair’’- construed, thf bill amounts to a deliberate attempt on the part of the Government to chain. the worker to the wheel of his, toil. In the first place, it must issue a proclamation. That proclamation may be issued for a. good cause, or for none. We had a similar experience at the end of last year when there was no justification for the issuing of a proclamation. Action was then taken merely to serve the political purposes of the Government. Once a proclamation has been issued under this legislation, any person who, during its currency, takes part in. or continues, or incites to, urges, aids or encourages the taking part in or the continuance of a lockout or strike in relation to employment in or in. connexion, with the transport of goods or. the- conveyance of passengers in trade or commerce with other countries, or among- the States, or in relation to employment in or in connexion with the pro.vision of any public service by the Commonwealth or any department or public authority, under - the Commonwealth, shall, be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment not; exceeding one. year.; and, in addition, if he was not born in Australia, to deportation, by order, of the Attorney-General. What does “strike”, according to the bill, inr elude ? It includes the total or the, partial cessation of. work by employees” acting in. combination as a means of enforcing compliance with demands made by them, or by any. other employees or.1 employers, and the total or partial refusal of employees, acting in combination, to accept work, if. the refusal is unreasonable. It also includes job control. The only limitation is that the dispute must be. one that prejudices or threatens trade or commerce with other countries or among the States. That is sufficiently elastic to embrace any dispute that one could imagine. Hard working- men who, with their fellowworkers, have been assisting- to maintain the essential services of this country, may afterwards attend a meeting of their union. Their employment may be in a workshop, a tunnel, a sewer, or anywhere else. With the grime of their toil still upon them they go to the meeting of their union, where they discuss with their fellowworkers the reward that they think they should receive for the service which they render to their employers and the community. They also discuss the conditions under which they ought to be asked’ to work. If the honorable member for
Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) heard such a discussion and was made acquainted with the’ conditions under which some men are asked to work, he might adopt a different attitude in relation to the offences that are specified in the bill.
– I think that I know as much as the honorable member regarding the working man.
– Possibly the honorable member does; but he acts and votes in surroundings that preclude him from giving a candid and honest opinion regarding the merits of this question.
– That statement is unworthy of the honorable member.
– It is not. If the honorable member for Fawkner knows anything about the conditions of the working men of this country he is not honest or candid if he suggests that a penalty of twelve months’ imprisonment and deportation should be imposed upon a unionist who, in his union, votes for a certain wage, and says that if he does not get it he will not work.
– I advocated no such thing.
– If the honorable member understands what he said, he advocated that very thing.
– I did not.
– He advocates the exiling of unionists from their country, where they have reared their families and have become rooted in the soil.
– I do.
– He advocates the deportation of British subjects if, in their unions, they record a vote in a certain way.
– If they record a vote in favour of regulating the reward of their labour.
– The honorable member will not find that provision in the bill nor will he find such a statement in my speech.
– I do find it in the bill.
– The honorable member does not.
– A quotation that I ‘ have already made from the bill shows that “ strike “ includes the total or partial cessation of work by employees acting in combination. That has reference to the deliberate decision of a union. The members of a union, in meeting assembled, having carefully considered every aspect of the case, decide what their reward shall be. They know from long experience that, if they do not stand together, they will, industrially, be slaughtered singly. Therefore, acting in combination, they decide what their wage and conditions of labour shall be. They say that, if those are not forthcoming, they will strike ; they will lay down the instruments of their toil until the monetary reward and the conditions of labour are such as will permit self-respecting men to undertake the job. For that offence it is proposed to send a man out of his own country after a term of imprisonment. Can honorable members find a flaw in my reasoning? I invite the honorable member for Fawkner to show where I have mis-stated the case.
– Every member of a union may be deported.
– Every one becomes liable to imprisonment and deportation.
– Only in certain circumstances ; not in every circumstance.
– The circumstances are manufactured by the government of the day.
– What are the circumstances? I shall take them one by one from the bill. The first is that a political body has declared that a serious industrial disturbance exists in Australia, prejudicing or threatening trade or commerce with other countries or among the States. My comment upon that provision is that the present Government has already shown its preparedness to make such a proclamation whenever it suits its political necessities.
– And a newspaper says they have money to do this. Look at Smith’s Weekly to-day.
– I have already said that it would be very difficult to find a serious industrial disturbance that could not be brought within the definition in the bill. Any person who falls within that provision will be guilty of an offence, and upon conviction he will be liable to imprisonment for any period not exceeding one year, and, in addition, if he was not born in Australia, to deportation. Such an offence was referred to by the honorable member for Fawkner as “ a grave offence against the social order,” or words . to that effect. He claimed that any unionist found guilty of such an offence should be dealt with severely under the criminal law. He utterly failed to get to grips with elemental in this matter. The elementals are, what is the nature of the act that is said to constitute an offence; and what type of person is to be prosecuted under this infamous measure that we are at present compelled to discuss ? I have attempted to describe the persons who will be affected, and the nature of the offence. The honorable member challenged honorable members on this side to move an amendment. Out answer is that our objection to this clause is fundamental. To tinker with it and talk across the table with the AttorneyGeneral about the crossing of a “ t “ or the dotting of an “i” in a bill which is an affront and an offence to every man who has sent us here would be stultifying ourselves. 1 should be ashamed to be associated with any such proposal We are against this clause, which we believe to be the vital clause of the bill. We believe that to the desire of the Government to enact this clause is due the origination of the bill. This is the clause in respect of which the Government claims to have a mandate. It has not and never had a mandate for any such purpose. This is the clause which honorable members opposite say will receive support from some of the trade unionists of this country. It will never receive support from any trade unionist worthy of the name. It will have from trade unionists what it deserves, and that is contemptuous, if not savage, opposition. It will have such opposition as will render the Government unable and unwilling to put this infamous proposal into operation. I, personally, dare it to do so.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).At the request of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was allowed to proceed with his speech during the interval in which the honorable member for Fawkner was having his amendment drafted.
– The honorable member is not here to move it.
– The honorable member has moved it. He has moved the following amendment: -
That in sub-section 3 of the proposed section 30j after the word “ employment” first occurring the words “ if the closing is unreasonable “ be inserted.
It is the intention of the honorable member to move the further amendment of sub-section 3 of the proposed section 30j by the insertion after the word “ employer “ of the words ‘ ‘ if the suspension is unreasonable,” and by the insertion after the word “combination” of the words “ if the cessation is unreasonable.”
Mr. LATHAM (Kooyong - Attorney-
General) [12.49]. - The Government is prepared to accept the amendment. It is apparent that certain honorable members do not appreciate its effect.
– It waa very evident when the Attorney-General went to consult with the honorable member for Fawkner that he was going to accept the amendment. The honorable member for Fawkner did just what the AttorneyGeneral asked him to do. That was evident to every one on this side. I remarked at the time that the amendment would be accepted.
– That is not the case; but if we get to the merits of the question it will be all the better for the consideration of the bill.
– There are no merits in it.
– The effect of the amendment is to make it abundantly clear, even to the least instructed intelligence, that no action can be taken against any person under the proposed section 30j except when the court has held that his conduct has been unreasonable, having regard to all the circumstances of the case. That is to say, that whether an alleged strike or an alleged lockout is, within the meaning of the clause, a strike or a lockout, will depend upon an affirmative finding of unreasonableness. Accordingly, the amendment will make it plain that no proceedings can be taken under this proposed section except in cases where the court has found that the behaviour of the persons charged ia unreasonable.
– I have lost all patience with this measure. Throughout the entire debate it has been quite apparent that logical and fair criticism has been passed unheeded by the Attorney-General and honorable members on the other side. Throughout the discussion of the measure the Government benches have been practically empty. The whole thing was fixed up by the party in the caucus room at the behest of the wealthy capitalistic interests of Australia from whom honorable members opposite derived the illgotten plunder with which they won the last election. It is clear to me that your tactics in regard to this measure are dishonest and immoral.
– 1 rise to a point of or der. The honorable member has charged honorable members present on this side of the House with being dishonest. I ask that the statement be withdrawn.
– I was on the point of calling upon the honorable member for Reid to withdraw his statement when the Attorney-General intervened. I now ask him to withdraw the statement.
– I shall qualify my statement and say “ politically dishonest.” In my opinion the conduct of honorable members opposite is dishonest.
– The honorable member must withdraw the statement.
– I withdraw the statement that the conduct of honorable members opposite, is dishonest in intention. I say it is politically dishonest, and on that I insist. Plenty of evidence has been adduced to show that this legislation is the result of a carefully considered political conspiracy between theemploying interests of Australia and the alleged Nationalist party, which is nothing but the hireling and tool of vested interests. Where did you get your plunder to win the last election? You got it from the wealthy interests of Flinders.lane. Melbourne, and York-street, Sydney. Their money was poured into your coffers, and one of the reasons for supplying you with this plunder was to enable you to delude the people of Australia into the belief that a revolution was imminent, and it was necessary to coerce and repress trade unionists. There is only one man on the other side who had the courage to oppose this measure, and it is apparent that for some time he has been marked out for slaughter, because of his defiance of your political hypocrisy and immoral tactics. I refer to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). He is at least a product of working-class environment, and can view legislation of this character from the stand-point of one who had a long associa tion with hardship and poverty as a boy. I have no wish, to pay the right honorable gentleman any compliment, becausehis attitude is so often inconsistent, but even the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) directed, criticism against this bill. I do pay a tribute to the honorable member- for Wimmera. With these exceptions there is not a man amongst you who has had the courage to direct criticism against this bill. You are here as the result of a form of political bribery and as a part of the price by which you hold office you have submitted your bill.
– The honorable member is not in order in following that line of argument.
– I submit that it is relevant to the discussion of this bill. I. read in a weekly newspaper to-day of the holding of a conference between the Prime Minister and representatives of the National Union, and that Sir. William McBeath and other representatives of the vested interests that have exploited the people of Australia for several years past, insisted upon the introduction of a bill of this character. P, for. one, as a constitutionalist, a lover of.’ Australia, and of the liberty for which this country has always been famed throughout the world, will’ resist legislation of this character by every constitutional means within my power. As I have stated, there is no use in attempting, to discuss it. dispassionately, or in submitting logical, reasons why legislation of this character should be withdrawn. You have,, fixed it up. It is part of your political’ conspiracy and of your carefully-con^ sidered cunning and unscrupulous scheme to deceive the people of Australia. I claim that you have no mandate for the introduction of your bill.
– I presume the honorable member intends to refer to the Government’s bill.
– Of course I mean the Government’s bill. The deportation’ bill passed last year was subsequently declared to be unconstitutional by a. decision of the High Court. Chiefly the reason for declaring it unconstitutional’ was in spite of your skilful and legal argument-
– Order! The honorable member is addressing the
Chair, but he continues to use the personal pronoun “your.”
– In response to your quibbling objection, sir–
– Order ! The honorable member must obey the rules of debate.
– I object to the continuous interruption to my remarks on the bill.
– Order ! The Chair is not interrupting the honorable member, but is simply requesting him when intending to refer to the Government to use the word “Government” instead of the personal pronoun “you.”
– 1 refer to the Government, and in your present office you are one of the products of the Government.
– The honorable member must not pursue that course. The Chair knows no party.
– The amending Immigration Bill introduced last year, and subsequently passed into law was declared to be unconstitutional.
– When, and by whom?
– Brushing aside all the cobwebs of legal sophistry, in the use of which the Attorney-General and his colleague representing Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) are so skilled as to be able to satisfy their own legal consciences that they are right, the Immigration Act passed last session was declared to be unconstitutional, in the words of at least one of the justic.es of the .High Court, because it was entirely in conflict with the fundamental principles of British liberty. This bill is an attempt to save the face of the Government. It would cover up its misdeeds by putting legislation of this character on the statute-book. As I have said, it is like the 30 pieces of silver given to Judas to betray Christ. Thi3 Government received a million of money from the employing interests of Australia to betray the sacred rights of British liberty.
– The honorable member is not in order in imputing motives.
– It is not an imputation but an actual fact, and I challenge the Government to deny it.
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I am not going to withdraw it.
– The honorable member must know that he is not in order in charging honorable members of either party with accepting bribes, and I ask him to withdraw the statement.
– Again I submit that it was a political bribe.
– “ A million pounds.’’
– The honorable member must withdraw the statement that it was a bribe.
– I withdraw it, and I suggest that it was a political gift in return for favours received and to come, which amounts to the same tiling.
– That is said without a scintilla or even a suggestion of evidence.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The AttorneyGeneral denied my statement that the Nationalist party received huge sums of money-
– I denied the £1,000,000 of which the honorable member said he had evidence. Now for the evidence.
– Then the AttorneyGeneral admits-
– I admit nothing, for I know nothing.
– Though the honorable gentleman denies the £1,000,000, the inference from his remarks is that substantial sums of money were received by the Nationalist party. In support of my statement, I quote Smith’s Weekly of 20th February, a journal which, prior to and during the elections, supported the Government -
Unheralded, except for a short formal announcement in the party papers, the National Union, great, silent political power of the Commonwealth, parted company with its organizing secretary, L. V. Biggs, last week.
That is the way of the union. It does not need publicity. It has something more potent - money power.
How it raises party funds and from whom is a romance of efficiency, diplomacy, and, in the last analysis, salesmanship. In return for round about £1,000,000 .that it has collected from the moneyed people of Australia and elsewhere, the union has offered a continuous insurance policy against the malevolent trinity which keeps millionaires awake o* nights - socialism, bolshevism, communism.
At a union dinner addressed by W. A. Watt over £40,000 was subscribed to the party funds in the room, and that drive ended in £160,000 being raised.
The last Federal elections have made Australia fairly safe from communism for another three years, providing the marionettes in Parliament respond quickly to the touch of the master hand.
The union committee consists of representatives of each of a number of groups of industrial capitalists. There is the brewing industry, represented by Montague Cohen, an immaculate little, elderly man in whom the shrewdness of the Chosen Race is tempered with a genial good nature.
An influential group of steady and generous contributors are the pastoral interests, who are a useful break on the Country party. Chief among these are such names as Manifold, Chirnside, Currie, Weatherly, Winter Irving, and J. M. Niall
One almost as important and wealthy is the metals group, chief among whom are W. ii. Baillieu and Elder Smiths. The president of the National Union executive for this year, Sir Lennon Raws, who is also president for this year of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, is a shipping as well as a metals man. The shipping group is, for the most part, interwoven with the shipping interests of Great Britain, and the State has rendered them some service of late.
The trading and miscellaneous group includes Sir W. McBeath, of Flinders-lane, last year’s president of the executive, the Grices (investors), the Millers (bankers), Aaron Danks (importer), J. H. Riley (investor), the H. V. McKay interests, H. W. Grimwade (manufacturer), A. D. Hart (tobacco), and Rignall, of Blake and Rignall, leading lawyers.
There are others who prefer to have their identity as donors kept secret.
After all, it is the big interests who are the big taxpayers of Australia, and who would have most to lose by hostile legislation, State or Federal. Many of them are Federal in their operations and their contributions, though.
– It bears materially on the bill, because the bill was introduced at the behest of these people. There was another incident which shows that we should give the Prime Minister credit for having, at least, some moderation. Sir William McBeath, according to Smith’s Weekly, demanded action even more drastic than this bill, as one of the conditions upon which support was given to the Ministry during the recent elections. A stormy interview, we are in formed, took place between him and the Prime. Minister in regard to this legislation. Honorable members opposite may smile in smug complacency. The attitude of the honorable member for Perth towards this bill, when contrasted with his conduct on previous occasions, is that of a political hypocrite.
– I demand that that remark be withdrawn.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member for Perth, having taken exception to the remark, I ask the honorable member for Reid to withdraw it.
– The term “ political hypocrite “ has been allowed in parliamentary debate in the past, and I refuse to withdraw it.
– Whether th* term is parliamentary or unparliamentary, the honorable member for Perth regards it as personally offensive, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I submit that the term is parliamentary and appropriate, and I refuse to withdraw it. The attitude of the honorable member for Perth savours of political hypocrisy, having regard to his conduct in certain industrial troubles.
– The conduct of the honorable member for Perth is not in question. Words to which exception is taken must be withdrawn. I ask the honorable “member for Reid to conform to parliamentary usage.
– Out of respect for you, sir, I withdraw the remark. Evidently the conscience of the honorable member for Perth is troubled, and the words I used are an unpleasant reminder to him. The attitude of Government supporters generally savours of political hypocrisy and canting humbug. They snivel about Empire, and the crimson ties of kinship. Yet they support a bill under which a British subject may be treated as an alien and placed on. the level of blackfellows and Chinamen, who are prohibited immigrants. How do they reconcile this proposal with their repeated declarations in favour of Imperial unity, and the cry of “ One race, one flag?” Their atittude is hopelessly inconsistent, and has been described as a betrayal of those ideals of racial unity, based upon blood ties and sympathy, which have held the Empire together in the past. The Government boasts of its mandate.
I cannot recollect that it received a mandate to legislate upon any specific subject. It was equally unctuous in regard to certain proposals for housing and national insurance, which, now, are conveniently placed in the background, and will probably be considered unimportant in comparison with this bill, which is calculated to inflame class hatred and bias. The Government overlooks the fact that even the Age, which supported its legislative proposals with the utmostbitterness and intensity prior to the last election, is to-day attacking this bill and stigmatizing it as anti-British, unAustralian, and in conflict with the democratic principles that have hitherto guided governments in this country. The proposals are contrary to the timehonoured principles of British and Australian Liberalism; and are almost sufficient to cause the late Alfred Deakin, and other Liberals, to turn in their graves. This bill will give to the political executive arbitrary power to discharge functions which, if they are just, should be exercised by the judiciary, and not by a Cabinet returned to power in a fit of political panic and hysteria. “What will happen if States controlled by Governments which do not subscribe to the same political faith as the Commonwealth Government refuse to permit the Federal authority to create civil strife following upon the proclamation of a state of serious industrial disturbance? As the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has said, this proposed action will give the Government power to deport thousands of men. If is almost a reversion to the days of Judge Jeffreys and the Bloody Assizes, when men were ruthlessly punished and executed in the name of law and order. Why does not the Government deport all unionists and revive the thumb-screw and rack of the Inquisition? If honorable members opposite think that by these methods they can prevent industrial trouble, they are wrong, and they misunderstand the Australian temperament. Even at the front, under the restraints of martial law, any attempt at repression or coercion aroused the Australian soldiers to show their indignation in a spirited and even violent way. The Australian can he led, but he cannot be driven. It is nonsense to say that strikes are caused by isolated in dividuals. Very often union leaders are forced to declare a strike by the impassioned demand of the rank and file for the remedying of some wrong. This hill is unjust and futile, and will be found hopelessly impracticable. Ultimately, it will produce disastrous results, because it is bound to arouse the widespread rancour and resentment of the great body of trade unionists, who refuse to be classed as serfs and treated as helots who are beyond the pale of ordinary British justice. As the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) pointed out, the bill discriminates between different sections of unionists, and the Government will only bring Parliament and its laws into contempt if it attempts to administer them in a biased and discriminating manner. I wish now to speak of the power given under this bill to deal with anyone who happens to be associated with an industrial dispute. Proposed new section 30 (k) reads -
Whoever, by violence to the person or property of another person, or by spoken or written threat or intimidation of any kind to whomsoever directed, or, without reasonable cause or excuse, by boycott or threat of boycott of person or property . . . shall be guilty of an offence. Penalty : Imprisonment for one year.
Under that provision any person who makes use of a word, a spoken or written threat or intimidation of any kind - which is certainly a matter for a court to determine - may be imprisoned for 12 months. This provision may also be construed to apply to a person who happens to picket during a strike, and the right to picket during a strike has been honorably exercised by unions in the past. I am in no way disturbed by the cynical smiles that appear on the faces of certain honorable members opposite because, of this interpretation of the clause. I realize that the whole of this political conspiracy hasbeen fixed up in their party room, and that is the end of the matter so far as this Parliament is concerned. We have had from their ranks only one rebel against the bill in the person of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) who has been a worker himself. He knows what it is to engage in the transport industry, and he is familiar with the psychology of the workers. . Other honorable members opposite are silent like so many dumb dogs. They have no experience to draw upon to enable them to determine what kind of legislation is necessary to prevent industrial disturbances in Australia. The bill is criminal in construction, and must ultimately prove criminal in intent, because it is calculated to create, and to accentuate, industrial trouble, and to foment class hatred and class warfare in Australia. The bill, if given effect, will play directly into the hands of the advocates of revolution, whom honorable members have emphatically declared they desire to suppress. This legislation will certainly accentuate the propaganda of revolutionary advocates. What is required is a recognition of the need for reformin industrial legislation, and for better methods’ of settling disputes. Precedence should be given to the social policy of the Government, which according to the Prime Minister, was one of its mandates. The people certainly did not give the Government a mandate to introduce this legislation.
Mr.G. FRANCIS (Kennedy) [2.33]. - I was sorry to hear the abuse and lack of dispassionate criticism in the speech of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). I give him the credit of my belief that in calmer moments he himself will regret many of the things that he has said. We recognize that honorable members opposite view this measure with a great deal of apprehension and concern, because it deals with a difficult and delicate subject ; but I think that at least we could with advantage discuss it dispassionately and without making wholesale accusations and incriminations such as have been indulged in this afternoon. The honorable member could have saved his remarks until we were nearer the next elections. It must be admitted that this is a difficult, dangerous, and delicate subject. It is not easy to approach matters of this description without some danger of trespassing upon the prerogative and the rights of men, whether unionists or otherwise, who seek to better their conditions, and those of their fellows. I commend the AttorneyGeneral and the Government for the full sense of responsibility which they have manifested in the great precautions they have taken in framing this legislation. I have been struck with the extraordinary amount of misconception which exists about the bill. It seems strange that honorable members opposite regard it as an attack upon the trade unions. I recognize that if their contention were correct the bill would not have been introduced; but if I could share their view as to what the bill means, and what could or would be done under it, I should personally fight it tooth and nail, and vote with the Opposition on every clause. At the same time I am not willing to be adjudged a scoundrel, and an insincere person by honorable members opposite, merely because I claim the same right to exercise my free choice and judgment as they claim for themselves. The effect of the bill will be just as beneficial to good trade unionists and loyal Australians as it will be to the rest of the community. The strikes at which it is aimed do not benefit any section of the community that has the interest of Australia at heart. The bill does not touch all strikes, nor even most strikes, because they are rightly dealt with under the industrial arbitration laws. A great deal of reference has been made to the recent seamen’s strike. But it is clear that the seamen were imprisoned not for going on strike, but for breaking an agreement which they themselves had entered into with the approval and the sanction of their own leaders and union. They were imprisoned after a breach of their contract had been proved against them.
– Does the honorable member know of any other case of men being imprisoned for breach of contract ?
– Yes, under the Queensland law, relating to wages and other tribunals. I know of both employers and employees who have been imprisoned for breaking contracts.
– Will the honorable member bring down one instance next week after he has had time to think over the matter ?
– I undertake to do so. A number of British seamen were imprisoned by the Labour Government of Queensland. The police and the courts of that State exercised their functions in the ordinary way, and, as a consequence, the seamen went to gaol, very much to the regret of all thinking sections of the community, although they were rightly imprisoned in accordance with the law. We can only sympathize with their aspirations and desires to better their conditions. Unfortunately, these men were tools and dupes, used for illegitimate purposes to their own disadvantage. Every man, when wages and conditions do not suit him, has the right to refuse to work. Honorable members opposite claim that right, and we on this side freely admit it. But, at the same time, persons who refuse work because the conditions or wages do not suit them, have no right to organize to interfere illegally with the rest of the community and to prevent them from doing the work which they themselves refuse to do. Any interference in this direction affects not merely the employers and themselves, but also the entire community, and it inflicts loss, suffering and privation upon persons who are not parties to the dispute, who know nothing whatever about the conditions of work, and could not remedy them if they wished. We cannot expect to compel men to work under unsuitable conditions. There has been a great deal of talk about trade unionism. Honorable members opposite have gone so far as - I recognize in the heat of the debate - to claim that trade unions are sacrosanct and above the law. No one denies that trade unions have been a great benefit to the country, and, therefore, should be preserved as a vital and effective force in the community. It; is only by collective bargaining that the interests of the man underneath can be adequately protected. We cannot have a satisfied and prosperous people if one section of the community is suffering undue privation . It is generally conceded that great prosperity and a high state of happiness is usually found in countries in which there are no extreme class differences, and in which no person is suffering great privation. Honorable members on this side are just as anxious and as keen to see our working classes enjoy prosperity as honorable members opposite admittedly are.
– That is not so.
– At any rate, I think so. I give honorable members opposite credit for being sincere in their views, and they should give honorable members on this side a like credit. The penalties under this bill will apply just as much to the employer as to the employee. I cannot accept the doctrine that good trade unionism has a more wholesome influence on the community than a series of good employers. If there were no employers there would be no employees, and without good employers there would be no reasonable prospect of advancing. The mere fact of certain concessions having been wrung from unsatisfactory employers does: not. prove that there are no good employers. The arbitration laws were brought into force in the Commonwealth and in each of the different States, not by Labour governments, but by Liberal or Nationalist governments, and they protected not merely the employee but also the good employer against the sweater and the bad employer who treated his employees harshly in order to compete successfully against the better class employers. The arbitration laws brought great benefits on the employers as well as the employees. They have certainly proved of benefit to the community. The bill does not attack trade unionists, as such, any more than it does employers as such; but it does attack any offender against its provisions. It is surely not contended that a trade unionist may, without punishment, commit an act which, if committed by any one else, would be considered a crime:
– That is not contended.
– I am glad to hear that. Nor can it be reasonably contended that, because we legislate to provide against crimes such as murder, thieving, and forgery, a reflection is cast upon the entire community, or the suggestion is made that even a fair percentage of the. people are murderers, thieves, and forgers.
– That is all admitted
– I like to be in agreement with thehonorable member, and, although I do not share all his views, I appreciate his entertaining manner of giving the committee the benefit of them. The Arbitration Court is not yet a perfect, nor will it be found to be a completely satisfactory, instrument for the settlement of industrial disputes: but that is no argument why resort should be had to violence. It is rather an argument in favour of improving the arbitration laws. I hope that honorable members will have an opportunity of considering a measure having that object in view, and, in that connexion, I commend to their earnest consideration the views expressed by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), with whichI very largely agree. It must be recognized that the present bill does not aim a blow at trade unionism ; nor is it intended to check those reformers who seek, by evolutionary means, to bring about an improvement of the social conditions of the people. It is aimed solely at seditious persons, who use trade unionism as a cloak, and trade unionists as tools, under the pretence that they desire to serve the best interests of industrialists. By employing these methods they endeavour to overthrow constitutional government. The Leader of the Opposition, and other honorable members opposite, have discussed the question whether communists and like persons are few or many. For my own past, I do not think that it matters whether their numbers are large or negligible. The question that concerns the community is, “ What power do they wield, and what are they doing? “ They claim, through Mr. Jock Garden, that eleven out of twelve members of the executive of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council are communists, and that the communists exercise control in about 120 unions in New South Wales.
– Does the honorable member accept that statement?
– The statement has been made by a number of persons. We know, at any rate, that Labour organizations throughout Australia have passed resolutions in favour of excluding communists from their ranks, and all intending members of such organizations are asked to sign a pledge that they are in no way connected with the communist party. If there were no communists in the unions, it would not be necessary to pass resolutions to eject them. Just as it is unnecessary to pass laws prohibiting the running of tigers along Bourke-sreet, Melbourne, unionists would not need to take these precautions if there were no communists in their ranks. Nor would we witness the spectacle, entertaining to some persons, but tragic to me, of disputes such as those between Moroney and Rymer, and other members of the Labour organizations in Queensland. I do not know whether they are communists, but I am aware that at a certain conference of the trade union movement in Brisbane they were regarded as unacceptable delegates, on the ground that they refused to sign the anti-communist pledge. Quite recently, the communists were expelled from an office occupied by them at the Brisbane Trades Hall. Their furniture and other goods and chattels had to be removed and, consequently, they had a good deal to say over the matter about the Labour party. I deeply deplore disputes among the workers, because it does not make for the good of the community. I have no more desire to see quarrels between one section of unionists and another, than I have to see them between employers and employees.
– I thought that the honorable member favoured the exclusion from Labour organizations of men who supported the communist doctrines.
– The impression I intended to convey was that a number of persons, seditious in their desires, secured admittance to unions under the pretence of being good trade unionists, and thus tried to effect their nefarious purposes. Good unionists, therefore, ought to appreciate the protection that this bill will afford, by taking steps to rid their organizations of undesirable persons.
– The Brisbane Trades and Labour Council asked the communists to vacate their room at the Trades Hall. Does not the honorable member approve of that?
– But he said that he deplored those quarrels.
– So I do. I stated that I did not know whether Rymer or Moroney were communists, but I deplored the quarrels between the various unions on account of such men. They were the delegates representing the railway workers in Queensland, for whom I have a high regard, and among whom I have many personal friends.
– The honorable member will admit that the political Labour movement is ridding itself of the communists.
– I agree that it is doing its best in that direction, and I hope that it will succeed. If this bill will in any way assist the trade unions to rid themselves of that undesirable element, it should be welcomed by the supporters of the Government, on the one hand, and by the staunch unionists on the other.
– It will help to put in jail the leaders of the Australian Workers Union and such men.
– If the honorable member disagrees with my views, I ask him to express his opinions on another occasion, since I prefer to address myself to the Chair. Personally, I dislike deportation as a measure, but, at the same time, I fail to see how we can adopt any other course in providing punishment for the serious offences dealt with by the bill. I went through the measure carefully, clause by clause, and compared it with the law in some of the States with which i happen to be familiar. In addition, I undertook a certain amount of research with the object of forming an opinion as to how Parliament, in legislating on this subject, could cause a minimum interference with the legitimate aspirations of trade unionists and other social reformers. Although I approached the matter in a critical spirit, I was forced to the conclusion that no more power than was necessary wa3 taken under the bill; in fact, I was exceedingly pleased to note the moderation and fairness that had been exercised in drafting it. Honorable members opposite have said that the Attorney-General simply carried out the behest of the Government in accordance with an alleged mandate. I have discussed the bill with a number of persons, one of whom expressed the opinion that the Attorney-General had strong Labour sympathies, judging by the extreme moderation of the measure. Evidently it would impress a thinking man as being moderate in tone and in its effect on the trade union movement. I do not. know what there can be in the Australian climate that should make this the only civilized country that should not practise deportation. Every other country has deportation laws.
– But not in connexion with industrial affairs.
– For seditious practices, deportation is enforced.
– This bill makes criminals of trade unionists.
– I am satisfied that it does nothing of the kind. Some honorable members opposite object to discrimination between persons born in Australia and those born elsewhere; but it is well known that, in accordance with the usages of nations, nationals who are regarded as unsatisfactory citizens cannot be deported from their own country. The universal custom is for governments to accept their own nationals, if they are found to be undesirable citizens in other countries. If a person is not satisfied with the conditions of life in Australia, he is at liberty to go to a country that suits him.
If a man chooses to regard himself as being above the law, with the right to preach sedition merely because existing conditions do not suit him, it is high time, both for his own good and for the good of the country, that he was deported. If he does not approve of existing conditions, he may adopt all constitutional and lawful methods to improve them ; but he should not practise sedition or attempt to improve conditions by force. Improvement should come by evolutionary, and not by revolutionary means.
– A man adopts evolutionary means of improving conditions when he joins a trade union, but under this bill he is made a criminal for doing so.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) stressed his objection against the inclusion of this offence in a crimes act. I understand that when the Immigration Bill was under consideration in the last Parliament, honorable members opposite opposed it on the ground that it did not provide for trial before a judge and jury.
– I opposed the bill entirely. Before making such remarks in this House, the honorable member should have read the debate on the Immigration Bill.
– I understand that honorable members opposite did object to persons being dealt with other than by a judge and jury.
– Our objection was to the measure as a whole.
– Honorable members having on that occasion asked that persons accused of offences should be tried before a judge and jury, show their inconsistency by opposing this measure, which provides for trial before a judge and jury. Whatever may have been the attitude of honorable members to the Immigration Bill, the Leader of the Opposition said in my hearing during the debate on this bill that this legislation embodied a new principle so far as industrial offences were concerned. I now proffer him the same advice that he gave to me, namely, that before making statements he should assure himself of their correctness.
– To what is the honorable member referring ?
– To the honorable member’s statement that to deal with industrial offences under a crimes act was the introduction of a new principle.
– It is, so far as arbitration is concerned.
– In view of that statement, I point out that in 1899 the Criminal Code of Queensland was placed on the statute-book.
– That was in the dark ages.
– During the discussion on this bill to-day, honorable members opposite have gone back to the reign of Charles I. ; yet they complain when I go back to 1899. It is significant that they made little or no reference to 1925. The Criminal Code of Queensland, sections 340 (6), 346, and 534, deals with political and industrial offences; it regards them as crimes to be dealt with before a judge and jury, and to merit imprisonment up to three years with hard labour.
– That law is still in force.
– The honorable member’s time has expired, but as no other honorable member wishes to intervene, he may continue for a second period.
– While supporting this bill, no honorable member on this side desires that there should ever be any occasion for its enforcement. Personally, I should be glad to see it placed on the statute-book, because I believe that not only will it have a deterrent effect on persons disposed to do wrong, but that it will also be a good thing for the trade unions and the labour movement generally. Those persons who were in Melbourne during the police strike know that the law was broken because the wholesome and beneficial influence of the police force was absent. Foi’ the reasons which I have stated, I support the clause.
.- From the speech of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis), one would think that honorable members on this side opposed this measure because they object to arbitration.
– I did not say that.
– We on this side oppose the bill because of our past experience in endeavouring to settle disputes. The honorable member for Kennedy gave to liberal administrations the credit for having introduced arbitration as a means of settling industrial disputes. That statement is only a half-truth. I well remember .the time when the employers absolutely refused to meet their employees in conference. They adopted a “ take it or leave it policy. The first strike in which I participated was not to gain an increase of wages, but to obtain an agreement regarding the basis upon which we should work. That strike lasted for three .months. The arbitration laws of the Commonwealth originated at Newcastle, in New South Wales. First of all, the workers there endeavoured to make an agreement with their employers. After a struggle lasting for three month? they succeeded. They then strove for compulsory arbitration, and eventually obtained it. The history of arbitration in New South Wales shows that the Wade administration alone attempted to introduce drastic legislation like this. The honorable member for Kennedy said that, having analysed the bill, he saw no objection to the clause now under consideration. Had he at any time been a trade unionist, and knew from experience their trials and sufferings, he would have spoken differently.
– I have worked under as hard conditions as most men.
– This legislation will not promote peace in this country; it will breed men like those who constituted the Government’s best asset during the recent election campaign. It will make extremists out of moderate men. Men who have fought to improve conditions will naturally object to being regarded as criminals. They do not desire to be treated differently from other citizens. We are told that this legislation does not attack trade unionists, but I ask who but trade unionists comprise the organized bodies which may prevent the transport of goods. I have yet to learn that a cessation of work by wharf labourers,, coal miners or seamen, will not interfere with the transport of goods. No matter for what reason these workers may strike, or how just their claim, their action will cause them to be regarded as criminals, and if not born in this country, they may be deported. I do not agree with everything that some of the workers have done; but as the honorable member for Kennedy has accused the British seamen of having broken an agreement, I feel it incumbent on me to reply that they never saw the agreement. When they were 3 6,000 miles from home., they were asked to accept a reduction of their wages from £10 to £9 a month. The biggest combine on earth wanted their wives and children to live on £2 a week. The honorable member for Kennedy condemns the men for having broken an agreement. Was he ever in a shipping office?
– I did not condemn the men. I said that it was not right to say that they were imprisoned for striking. They were imprisoned for having committed a breach of contract.
– Because the seamen resented the action of the combine in reducing their wages, they were imprisoned. Their imprisonment saved the combine some additional hundreds of thousands of pounds. The combine committed a bare-faced robbery of the working men’s wages. To say that men who strike because a huge combine reduces their wages and prevents them from making adequate provision for their wives and children while they are absent shall be regarded as the enemies of society is absurd. The Merchant Shipping Act of England was broken deliberately by those who signed that agreement on. behalf of the owners. That act was framed in order to compel the men employed on the ships to return with them to their home ports. There was previously no guarantee that they would do so. Those British seamen were good enough to save Eng<land from starvation during the war; but when the danger from the enemy was passed, the shipping combine did not hesitate to alter their articles of agreement, and reduce their wages. It is a disgrace to the Empire that they should have been so badly treated. Honorable members opposite say that this proposed new sub-section will not interfere with trade unions, and that trade unionists will not come within its scope unless they do something violent and outrageous; but it provides that any one who - during the operation of such proclamation, takes part in or continues, or incites to, urges, aids or encourages the taking part in, or the continuance of, a lookout or strike . . . shall be guilty of an offence.
– That is after the proclamation is issued.
– The Government may issue a proclamation without any consideration whatever of the merits of the dispute, and, after it is issued, any man who remains on strike will be liable to imprisonment.
– Unless he turns against his fellows.
– He must- first be presented in court and found guilty. I have decided to accept the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), which will have the effect of making unreasonableness the essence of the charge. The court will have to say that a man has been unreasonable before he can be involved in any penalty.
– The amendment seems to me to be like varnish on a deal board. Just as judges find extreme difficulty in determining the legal meaning of the word “ may “, so will they have trouble in defining “ reasonableness “ in regard to a man’s conduct in an industrial extremity.
– In our law courts the benefit of any doubt is always given to the accused person.
– I cannot remember a single instance in industrial history of an employer having been punished for causing a lockout.
– Some one ought to have been punished for the dislocation of the railway services in Brisbane last year. In my opinion,, the strike was thoroughly justified.
– Does the honorable member think the commissioner should have been imprisoned ?
– Some one on the employing side should have been punished.
– I point out that it will be competent for any person to take action under these provisions.
– Any person may be able to take action against the employers, but we shall find that the Government will always take action against the employees. The unfortunate workmen in the coal districts in New South Wales have been blamed many times for dislocations in the coal-mining industry ; but I know positively that many disturbances have been caused purely by the tactics of some employers to “rig” the share market. Conditions are made so unbearable that stoppages- of work happen and shares fall in price. Those who promote the trouble then buy up as many shares as they.’can, and, after work is resumed, sell them at a handsome profit. That has happened before today. The 2STew South Wales Parliament was forced, by the advent of the political Labour party, to provide some arbitration machinery. I can say from my own experience, that the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) accurately described the practice of years ago. Since then Liberal and Nationalist governments have tampered with our arbitration methods so much that to-day we are forced to go through a perfect maze of legal complications before we can get anything done. With the object of preventing trouble, representatives of the coal-miners asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), only a few days ago, that local boards should be established in the coal areas of New South Wales, so that any disputes that occurred could be rapidly investigated and settled. Although provision is made in our existing legislation for the constitution of local boards, the Prime Minister said that it could not be done. Who, then, are the people who desire industrial peace - the workers, who wish boards to be appointed to rapidly settle their troubles; or the Prime Minister, who refuses to provide this means of rapid settlement ? This bill was introduced by the Government at the behest of the employers. It is panic legislation, consequent upon a panic election. I suppose that in the whole history of Federal elections no government has had so much money spent on it as this one had to secure its return.
– I must have been unfortunate, for very little was spent in my constituency.
– In this week’s issue of Smith’s Weekly the following paragraph appears : -
Mr. Bruce is faced this week with the crisis of his career as a legislator.
Beneath his calm exterior he is fighting n mental battle within himself whether he will carry out the will of the people or the will of the great interests who put up the money which enabled him to obtain the favorable verdict from the people.
Severe pressure is being exerted by the National Union to induce him to do what he believes to be a political wrong.
So far he has resisted it, and has rung true to his trust.
That indicates the reason for the introduction of this bill. If the measure becomes law, I believe that it. will have the same effect as Wade’s Coercion Act had in New South Wales. The people will take swift revenge on the Government which has attempted to leg-iron them. Throughout its history the Labour party has fought for, and it still believes in, arbitration.
– So do we - in a complete form of arbitration. .
– Honorable members on this side of the committee believe in a. simple method which will result in the speedy settlement of disputes. We protest indignantly against the insult which this bill offers to our people. Trade unionists have been through bitter experiences in industrial conflicts; but today everybody, even honorable members opposite, apparently, believe in trade unionism. The fact of the matter is, however, that many believe in it just so long as it does not hurt the interests of the employing classes. We advocate progress along evolutionary lines; but if this bill is agreed to the natural laws which should govern the settlement of industrial disputes will be broken. Surely honorable members opposite know enough to realize that they must inevitably bear the consequences of violating such laws. If this proposed new sub-section is agreed to, more extremists will be created than we have ever had in our history.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis) on his calm and reasoned utterance. It was in marked contrast to the rather wild speech of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman), who railed at almost every honorable member on this side of the chamber with the exception of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). In my opinion, the honorable member for Wimmera has adopted a most illogical attitude. In his second -reading speech he supported this bill, but now, in committee, he has indicated that he intends to oppose the clause which is the crux of the whole measure. It is common practice for honorable members to vote for the second reading of a bill, and yet attempt to have minor amendments made to it at the committee stage ; but it is unusual for an honorable member to vote for the second reading of a bill and, at the committee stage, to oppose the most important clause in it. In the course of his remarks, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) said that if this measure had been on the statute-book years ago he would have been liable to prosecution under its provisions. At that time arbitration courts were not in existence, and employees had no other method than the strike to achieve their object. To-day the position is different. We have been told that Australia has fewer strikes than almost any country in the world.
– That is so.
– I accept the assurance of the honorable member - for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), but I think that most people will agree that, as far as strikes on the waterfront and in the shipping industry are concerned, Australia has a most unenviable reputation. As our export trade is of the greatest possible importance to Australia, such strikes vitally affect our national welfare. The conditions under which seamen and waterside workers in some countries have to work are such that, if they went on strike, they would have my sympathy. But in Australia seamen enjoy the benefits derived from the Arbitration Court, and have at least reached a stage in the realization of their ideals for better conditions that makes it indefensible for them to abandon constitutional means and turn to direct action in order to further improve their conditions, particularly when, iu doing so, they bring hardship and injury upon others who are in no way concerned in the dispute. Those who consider that the seamen have a grievance overlook the rights of those who have worked for perhaps twelve months in producing perishable commodities. Their sense of perspective is entirely lost. The producers have no Arbitration Court to which they can appeal for fair prices for their products. They have to compete in the markets of the world against commodities produced under conditions that differ in a most marked degree from those prevailing in Australia. Surely the producers should receive some consideration. Their produce should not be allowed to be held up in consequence of strikes until it becomes practically worthless, and such a position could easily arise if such disputes were carried on indefinitely. In cases of this kind there is no middle course to pursue.
– Does the honorable member think that this measure will prevent strikes?
– I do not say that it will, but it should act as a powerful deterrent. There is a marked difference between a dispute which affects only the employers and employees immediately concerned, and one which causes incon venience, hardship, and financial loss to others indirectly affected. As I was not born in Australia, it is possible that if I committed one of the offences covered by this bill, I could be deported, but I have not the slightest fear in that regard. It has been said that it is wrong to discriminate between a person born in Australia and one from overseas, who eventually becomes naturalized in Australia. Such a discrimination is entirely unavoidable, and is not intentional. If a person wilfully breaks the laws of the land in which he is living, he should be punished, and if he happens to have been born in another country, and his offence is sufficiently serious, he should be deported. It must be obvious to every one that Australia must be responsible for its own nationals, and that other countries cannot reasonably refuse to take back their own progeny. I regard the bill as a drastic one, but for offences of the nature covered by the bill drastic measures are necessary.
– I again have to record my opposition to this bill, and particularly to the clause now before the committee,” which is the most objectionable of the whole measure. As I stated during my second-reading speech, I regard the bill as unwarranted and unjustifiable in such a country as Australia. No doubt the people on the other side of the world are under the impression that a fierce and violent revolution is in progress in Australia. The utterances of honorable members opposite would undoubtedly create that impression.
– The honorable member, for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis) said that the Queensland railway strike was justifiable.
– Yes, probably because there are a number of railway employees in the honorable member’s electorate.
– I said what I thought.
– The statement of the honorable member for Kennedy will please a number of the electors in that constituency, but it will not meet with the approval of the Government which he is supporting. I can understand the utterances of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), because he is a nonunionist.
– I belong to the Victorian Farmers’ Union.
– Yes, but the honorable member is not a farmer, and when he speaks of produce rotting on the wharfs, he is referring to that produced by others.
– 1 am a producer.
– I was not under that impression, but I accept the honorable member’s word. Irrespective of what honorable members opposite have said in their endeavour to gloss over the drastic provisions of the bill, it can be regarded only as a deliberate attempt to smash the trade union movement.
– The honorable member may come under it.
– Yes, because of my activities as a trade unionist I might bc brought within its scope. Under its provisions a British citizen, although not born in Australia, may be deported merely because he endeavours to improve the conditions of industrialists. This is the most coercive measure introduced in any Parliament in the Empire. We have heard a good deal from the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell ; and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) concerning the strike of British seamen. For the information of honorable members, I desire to quote from a report of the proceedings of a meeting of the National Maritime Board held in London on the Srd July, 1925, which shows how the strike arose.
– Is that a report of the meeting at which it was decided to reduce the wages?
– Yes. I propose to quote only a few paragraphs, in order to show who was responsible for the strike. Honorable members opposite have endeavoured to mislead the people by saying that the strike Avas caused by the act’on of certain persons in Australia, including members of the Labour party, and in this connexion the names of Walsh, Johnson, Raeburn, and O’Neill have been mentioned. Sir F. Shadworth Watt3, the chairman of the meeting, after making a few preliminary remarks, said -
Of course, when these discussions arise there are various views as to how much we ought to ask you to take off the wages to help out. Some people ask for very drastic cuts indeed. T daresay, if we were to discuss the shipping trade as it is’ situated to-day we could justify any drastic cut, hut that is hardly the way that we have been in the habit of doing business at this Board.
The National Maritime Board represents the Ship-owners’ Association.
– Where did the honorable member obtain the extracts from the proceedings ?
– That is my business.
– Out of your head?
– No. The extract continues -
Speaking for myself, and for a good many of us, we prefer just to come and ask you, as we have done to-day - more or less formally - to come and meet us, and to put our case to you. I do not think I need add any more than I have already said, because you all know, just as well as I do, that trade is just as bad as it can possibly be.
Mr. Havelock Wilson, the president of the National Sailors and Firemen’s Union, said ;
Now we come this morning and we aru going to say lo you, ‘ Last year you were good enough to give us an advance of ?1 per month.” 1 remember what my good friend Sir William Noble said to me in the elevator of the Cecil Hotel. I thought he was going to knock my ‘‘block” oil, as the sailor’s <all it; and although he did not go that far, he certainly read me a very strong and startling lecture. He put it all on my unfortunate shoulders. However, Sir William, loyal man as he was, when he found that the majority of the owners were willing to make that sacrifice, did not oppose it, and so it was agreed all round. That was a vary good and kindly spirit indeed.
Mr. Havelock Wilson said at a later stage ;
We have come to say to you this morning “We will give up that ?1 at once,” without any argument, without any alarming statements about what is going to happen and so on. We do that, and I hope, Mr. Chairman and you gentlemen, will recognize that in doing th.it we are doing a manly thing, and certainly in the right spirit too, quite the right spirit.
Sir William Noble. ; Quite.
Mr. J. Havelock Wilson. ; Every one knows that. Why is it that so many companies are going into the bankruptcy court? Simply because they purchased ships at a price that makes it impossible for them to run at a profit to-day.
Later, referring to the manner in which the reduction would be received by the seamen, he said -
Now I want to tell you this, and I want the sympathy of your side in this : These -
Indicating several other delegates of the seamen who were present at the meeting -
Are my colleagues; these are the men who have to face the ordinary sailors, . firemen, cooks and stewards. I know what they have to go through, what they have got to be subjected to for at least the next month or perhaps two months. So far as I am concerned there will be abuse heaped on me in tons. I do not hear it, I am not there. I am safely fixed in a place called St. George’s Hall. What does it matter to me if a fellow on a ship is cursing me and saying I ought to be shot. I do not hear it.
He then went on to abuse the sailors, in the following terms -
The abuse which those good gentlemen will be subjected to will not come from union men, but from a lot of dirty, useless rubbish.
He anticipated that there would be a number of resignations from his organization as the result of the” reduction of wages to which he agreed. He advised the ship-owners to boycott those members of his organization who raised their voices against the reduction and created any trouble. Honorable members will gather from the quotations that I have made who it was that caused the British seamen’s strike. The Chairman later asked Mr. Wilson -
I understand your offer covers both advances ?
He was referring to a miserable advance that was made in the wages of the men employed on the coastal boats that trade round the coast of England. Mr. Wilson’s reply was -
Every advance given last year.
The following conversation then ensued -
– I think I am right in saying that as far as the weekly vessels were concerned it was6s. 6d.
Mr. J. H. Wilson.; Yes, it was 6s. 6d.
-I just mentioned that to clear up a point. I heard some one make a remark that the advance which was given to the weekly trade was a little more than the actual proportion.
Mr. J. H. Wilson.; Well, it will go back to its normal original state.
He assured the Chairman and the members of the National Maritime Board that the wages and conditions should revert to what they were prior to the advance which was made in 1924.
-How many seamen would that decision affect?
– There are 5,000 vessels registered in British ports, and it would be safe to assume that 50,000 seamen would come under that agreement. Probably ?600,000 a year will be taken out of the pockets of the seamen. AsI have stated in this Chamber previously, neither Walsh nor Johnson took any hand in creating the British seamen’s strike. The Government made that strike the principal item on its election programme, and upon that issue it was returned to power. It was guilty of misrepresentation and the use of unscrupulous propaganda against a decent body of men. It is now using that strike as a justification for bringing forward this coercive legislation, which is foreign to the spirit and the sentiment of the people of Australia, opposed to the dignity of labour, an insult to trade unionists and other workers, and an affront to the political Labour party.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Maxwell) agreed to-
That after the word “ employer “, proposed new section 30j ( 3 ) the words “ if the suspension is unreasonable “ be inserted.
That after the word”combination”, proposed new section 30j (3) the words” if the cessation is unreasonable “ be inserted.
Question - That the proposed sections 30j, as amended, and 30k, be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- It was my painful duty last Friday afternoon to direct the attention of the House to a very unfortunate accident that had occurred on the previous day, when an aeroplane from the Richmond aerodrome crashed at Canberra. I then asked the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse) if he could give the House some assurance that the machines used were in a proper state of repair, had been inspected, and, as far as humanly possible, the safety of the lives of the aviators provided for. I asked that the honorable gentleman should regard the matter as urgent, and make a report upon it when the House met on the following Wednesday. The honorable gentleman certainly did so. But I have here a report of another accident of a somewhat similar character. It is reported that this morning, at Point Cook, one of the Air Force cadets was killed in an accident owing to the engine of his machine stalling. I find it very difficult to express my feelings in connexion with these events. The public will demand some assurance, over and above that already given, that the types of machines being used by the members of the Air Force are such as to provide the maximum of safety for those making flights in them. The accidents that have occurred certainly demand very special inquiry. I do not know whether the Minister has made it his business to visit officially Point Cook and Richmond to see for himself what is being done. The accident which occurred to-day, I think calls for a special line of investigation, if necessary by a select committee of this House or a royal commission of experts to inquire fully into all the circumstances, in order to see whether there is any neglect, and whether the machines used are of a type which guarantees the maximum of safety. I am very sorry indeed that it is necessary for me this afternoon to again refer to this matter, and to have to report a further death amongst the members of the Air Force. I do so with the intention to render the best service possible to the country, and especially to those engaged in our aviation services.
– In answer to the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), I have again with very painful regret to report that to-day, at 10.30 a.m., Cadet Greenwood, who was in training at Point Cook, met his death. He was a university student, and the son of Dr. E. F. Greenwood, of Heidelberg. He had had no previous crash, and was looked upon as one of the best pupils under instruction. He had finished his training on the preliminary type of aeroplane, and was on a service type when the accident occurred. He had had about four hours’ dual instruction on a single-seated fighter, and carried out his first solo flight on this type of machine successfully yesterday. Approaching the aerodrome this morning he appeared to be over-shooting, and was manoeuvring his machine to get into the aerodrome when the accident happened. Honorable members must recognize that these accidents are very painful, not only to the Government, but to all who are connected with this training. I and every other member of the House, as well as the honorable member for Hindmarsh, extend to the relatives of these young men our regrets at these deplorable accidents. I can assure the honorable member that, as Minister in charge of this department, I have made every effort, and I believe my efforts have been successful, to see that only the very best trained pilots that can be procured are employed. We have pilots not only trained in Australia, but sent to England for- a year or two, or three years, in exchange with British officers who come out here. We get advice also from officers who report from Great Britain. I honestly believe that wo are using the best types of machines that we can use for the purpose of training, or of flight. I believe that the machines used by the Australian Government, both in defence and in civil aviation, are as safe as those in use in any other country. Honorable members will recognize that parents of those engaged in flying must be assured that everything possible is done to ensure their safety.
– Will the Minister be prepared to submit the matter for inquiry by a royal commission of experts?
– There could be no such commission formed in this country except of experts who would be inquiring into their own judgment.
– 1 think there could. There are, for instance, men like Sir John Monash.
– What on earth does Sir John Monash know about aeroplanes ?
– He is a qualified and accomplished engineer.
– What has that to do with the matter? I appeal to the honorable member not to make this matter more painful to the relatives of those who have lost their lives, or to those who are concerned in the administration of the department. I may very respectfully point out to the honorable member that it is sheer folly to suggest that a gentleman of the ability and brilliant attainments of Sir John Monash would for a moment discuss the fitness of the planes that ore used here for flying.
– Ib the Minister in a position to say that Sir John Monash is not qualified to do so?
– I say that he is not, and he would be the first to refuse to accept such a commission. He would accept a commission of the kind only if he felt that he could express a competent opinion as the result of his inquiries, and one that would be of benefit to the country. I ask the honorable member in all good faith, as I did last week, to recognize that these are occurrences which must take place in connexion with flying.
– I do not think so.
– I regret that the honorable member should think that these accidents could he entirely avoided. I feel that he is making this matter very painful indeed for the relatives of the boy who has been killed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 February 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260219_reps_10_112/>.