10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Son. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Powersof the Parliament.
– In another place, an honorable senator asked the following question : -
Could Parliament, in allotting powers to a court, stipulate that the hours of industry should not be more than 44 hours per week?
The responsible Minister replied -
Of course itcould. It would be a very foolish thing to do; hut it could be done.
This answer will be published, and I therefore ask the Attorney-General whether it would be possible, under the Constitution Alteration Industry and
Commerce Bill, for this Parliament to lay down hours and conditions, or must it leave such matters entirely to an authority?
– Under the proposed powers, it would not be possible for this Parliament to legislate for the hours to be worked in any industry. It would, however, be possible for the Parliament to limit the powers of a wages board, committee, court, or other authority to the prescription of hours within specified limits. That limitation would be merely a restriction of the power of the authority, and would not have effect in fixing the hours of industry.
– I do not quite follow the Attorney-General. What the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) wanted to know was whether the powers conferred on this Parliament by the proposals contained in the Constitution Alteration Industry and Commerce Bill include the power to limit the scope of the jurisdiction of a court, wages board, or other authority in such a way as to in fact prescribe the number of. hours which the people of this country are to work. I think the Attorney-General’s reply did not make the matter quite clear.
– The answer to the question in the form submitted by the right honorable gentleman is “ No.” Although this Parliament would have no power to legislate as to wages or hours, it would be within its discretion to confer upon any authority set up by it such powers as to the determination of wages and hours as it thought proper. It would be possible for the Parliament to provide that no award, regulation, or determination of an authority should prescribe more than a certain number of hours, or less than a certain number. That would be within the power of the Parliament under the proposals to be submitted to the people. Such legislation, however, would not of itself do anything more than confer power upon the authority subject to a limitation, which power that authority would exercise according to its discretion; Parliament could not itself fix the hours of work in any industry. That would be a matter for the industrial authority to consider.
– In view of the extra work which will be imposed upon divisional returning officers and other officers of the Electoral Branch by the taking of the referendums, will some special compensation be given them?
– Additional payment for services performed by officers of the Public Service beyond their ordinary contemplated duties is a matter for consideration in determining what will be just and equitable. The request of the honorable member will be borne in mind.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
In view of the extremely unsatisfactory state of the English market for Australian apples, will the Government take into immediate consideration means for financial assistance to growers, who, otherwise, may be faced with absolute ruin?
– The Minister for Markets , and Migration has furnished the following information in reply to the honorable member’s question: -
The High Commissioner, at the instance of the Government, has already conferred with the leading brokers and organizations controlling the importation and distribution of Australian apples in Great Britain, and is doing everything possible to secure the best returns for growers in the difficult position which has been created by the dislocation of transport services ‘throughout Great Britain. The whole position is rendered more difficult by reason of the fact that the apple-growers of the Commonwealth have no representative organization in Great Britain, such as the London agencies established by the Dairy Produce and Dried Fruits Export Control Boards.
Transfers - Income Tax
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Details of stock and bonds outstanding are being obtained from the several stock registries. When the inform a tion is available replies will be furnished to the honorable member’s questions.
Gift by Imperial Government.
– Yesterday the honorablemember for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
. - (By leave.) - I move -
That Government business shall take precedence over General Business for this day of sitting.
As honorable members know, the Standing Orders provide that on every third Thursday the first item on the noticepaper shall be the question “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.” For the present session the House has agreed that on that day general business, which is, of course, private members’ business, shall take precedence until 9.30 p.m. But as the term of appointment of the two deputy presidents of the Arbitration Court expires on the 26th of this month, it is necessary for this Parliament to proceed immediately with the bill amending the Arbitration Act, so that these appointments may be continued until the deputy presi-. dents have given decisions in respect of cases that are incomplete and outstanding, such as the railway servants case, in which Sir John Quick is making an exhaustive examination of the conditions of employment. Consequently, the Government now proposes to ask the House to allow Government business to take precedence on this Thursday; but general business will take precedence next Thursday in exchange for the time which will be taken from private members today. I think that arrangement will be acceptable to the House generally.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move-
That order of the day, No. 1, be postponed until after order of the day, No. 2, Government business.
This motion is in furtherance of the arrangement I have just mentioned. Order of the Day, No. 1 - “Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair,” which is the motion under which grievances are discussed, will appear next Thursday in the order that it appears to-day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Union for the Protection of Industrial Property - Report by Col. Chas V. Watson, Commonwealth Representative of the Conference held at The Hague, OctoberNovember, 1925.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act Ordinance of 1926 - No. 14 - Police and Police Offences.
Debate resumed from 21st May (vide page 2238), on motion by Mr. Latham -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- . The bill provides for the amendment of the Arbitration Act in certain respects. It is proposed to appoint a court of three judges with life tenure, and to provide for pensions, for conciliation committees, and for the carrying on of the work of the present court after the 26th June next, because the term of appointment of the deputy presidents expires on that date. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) urged that this was an urgent measure, and therefore did not include other necessary amendments of the Arbitration Act, which he preferred to leave in abeyance until next year. I regret that we are not dealing more extensively with the act, because for many years past, in its present form, it has been most unsatisfactory to both employers and employees. The awards of the court and the appeals against them have led to confusion and considerable litigation, so far as the trade unions are concerned. Some persons are opposed to arbitration altogether, claiming that, in view of our experience of it, the system should be entirely discontinued. I wish to say at once that I differ from that view. I believe that arbitration has served a good purpose, having done much to prevent industrial upheaval in this country. Some persons think that a system of arbitration is inefficient if it fails to prevent industrial disputes. That is a. wrong impression altogether. Nothing will prevent disputes from arising from time to time. We cannot prevent that any more than we can prevent breaches of the criminal, civil, and equity laws. We shall never prevent industrial disputes.
– Or litigation between parties.
– That is so. It was never contended by the advocates of arbitration that it would effectively prevent industrial disputes; all that was claimed for it was the minimizing of them. If we analyze the position since the arbitration system was- introduced, we shall find that it has prevented many disputes from arising in Australia. I was pleased to hear both the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) say that there are fewer industrial troubles in Australia than elsewhere.
– Their statements were a little belated.
– They were true, notwithstanding. There is less time lost through disputes in Australia than in other countries. We are in this happy position because of the existence of arbitration courts and wages boards to deal with the disputes that arise from time to time. The first pro posal in the bill is the appointment of judges with life tenure. Personally, I do not like that, because, from my experience of industrial matters, I know that we cannot always obtain the services of men able to deal suitably with industrial problems. We may appoint men, who, although good lawyers and adept in conducting cases in the courts, may otherwise be unsuitable. The proceedings in cases under the Arbitration Act is based, not on that of ordinary courts of law, but on equity and good conscience, and therefore we must have judges who are suited to the special work required of them.
– Men who are conciliators.
– Yes, men who are. suited to the position.
– Does the honorable member think the appointments should be filled by lawyers?
– The bill provides for that. The appointments are to be for life, and there is no way to remove a judge of the court except, in case of misconduct, by resolution of both Houses of Parliament. Such a thing is not likely to happen in regard to a member of the judiciary in Australia. The judges should be, and are, men of high . standing, and can be trusted; but a man may be temperamentally unsuitable for arbitration work, and if he cannot be removed from the industrial bench his presence there may in the long run cause a good deal of friction. Employers or employees, though in favour of arbitration, may be reluctant to go to the court if it is presided over by judges whose judicial conduct is unsatisfactory. The Attorney-General has urged, however, that, because of a recent decision of the High Court, it is necessary to give the arbitration judges life tenure in order that they may be invested with judicial authority. In emphasizing that reason he is supported by trade union leaders. One cause of dissatisfaction with the court is that it cannot punish breaches of awards, or give interpretations of its awards; such matters must be referred to other courts. If this amendment to give the arbitration judges life tenure is agreed to, the necessity for carrying appeals to the High Court will be obviated. That is. the one thing that commends the proposal to me. At the present time the unions spend thousands of pounds on appeals to the High Court, and they naturally desire their finances to he relieved of that strain. Instead of being able to take an award back to the original judge, who has heard a great volume of evidence concerning the industry, and knows what was in his mind when he made the award, the parties must go to the higher court and brief legal talent at considerable expense in order to get an interpretation of it. For that reason the trade union leaders appreciate the necessity for this amendment. Although the appointment of arbitration judges for life is distasteful to me, those men who represent the unions before the court, and know all the defects of the present system, are agreed that life tenure of the judges, although not otherwise desirable, is necessary in the interest of the unions. They have accordingly recommended that this bill be accepted. The recent interstate conference in Melbourne of representatives of the Trades and Labour Councils also decided that the bill should be supported on the ground that it would vest the Arbitration Court with complete jurisdiction, and obviate the necessity for appeals to the High Court. Whilst that is the attitude of two representative bodies, some other men in the Labour movement condemn the proposal. Men occupying high positions in “the various States are making the mistake of confusing this bill” with the referendum proposals, and are telling the workers that the suggested amendments of the Constitution are for the purpose of referring the 44 hours’ week to the High Court. I wish to make it perfectly clear - and I hope that attention will be paid to my remarks - that the standard week is quite distinct from the referendum proposals. The Arbitration Court, presided over by judges appointed for life, will be in operation before the referendum proposals are voted upon by the people.
– Hear, hear!
– And that court can proceed immediately to fix a standard working week. The New South Wales Parliament recently passed a law making the standard week 44 hours; but the awards of the Federal Court provide for a week of 48 hours, and as a State law cannot override a Commonwealth law, all Federal awards operating in New
South Wales that provide for the 48 hours’ week must be observed. This conflict of State and Commonwealth authority led to considerable trouble; but, after a stoppage of work in certain industries for some weeks, a temporary settlement was arrived at on thebasis of alternate weeks of 44 hours and 48 hours respectively. The question of a standard working week is still unsettled, and that is another reason why this Court, vested with complete jurisdiction, should be constituted and in operation as soon as possible, so that the dispute may be dealt with, and unionists in New South Wales may know what is expected of them. It is true that if the additional constitutional powers which are being sought for this Federal Parliament by a referendum of the people are granted, a decision of the Commonwealth Court may become a common rule ; but, regardless of the referendum proposals, it is essential that something be done to define the position of the trade unionists. If the unions were to withdraw from the Arbitration Court, there would be nothing to prevent the employers from forcing them into the court. I desire to stress that point. If industrialists have an idea that they will escape from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, either by the expiration of current awards or by refusal to register, they make a serious mistake. In the past, the unions almost exclusively have taken the initiative of registering under the Arbitration Act and taking plaints to the court; but, if the unions attempt to stand aloof, the employers can take the initiative; they can register at any time and cite the industrial unions of any State to appear before the Court, and any decision of the Court must prevail over any State law or decision of a State tribunal. There is no escape from that, and it is desirable that a very general misunderstanding of the question should be removed.
– An award does not expire; it continues to operate until the court cancels it.
– That is so; and it is a very important point. I. have made this statement in order to explain to those who wish to know the true position that this bill is in no way connected with the referendum proposals. Whilst I have a personal objection to men being appointed to the Arbitration Court for life. I must give weight to the opinions of union leaders, who come in contact with the court almost daily, and who declare that it should have appellate jurisdiction. There are men who say that we must do something because of the decision of the High Court that only judges with a life tenure can exercise judicial authority, and because of the difficulties that have arisen from the conflict between State and Federal laws.
– The decision of. the High Court will stand, irrespective of the decision of the electors at the referendum.
– The fact that there is no escape from that decision needs to be impressed on the public mind. Statements appear in the press attacking individuals because they favour the establishment of a court presided over by judges with a life tenure - a proposal which is erroneously believed to be part of the referendum. Even if the referendum proposals are not accepted by the people, this legislation will persist. This bill provides for the appointment by the Commonwealth of judges at a salary of £3,000 per annum for the chief judge, and £2,500 per annum, which is £500 less than the salary of a High Court judge, for each of the other judges. We shall be able to discuss that matter when dealing with the Judiciary Bill, but I wish to mention now that I am opposed to the payment of pensions to judges. I recognize that we must have the best judges procurable, and must pay them a high salary: but unless they make provision for it through a superannuation fund, or by other means, they are not entitled to a pension. The question of pensions for judges was decided in this Parliament at the time of the first appointment of the judiciary. It was not made a party question, and the proposal to pay pensions was defeated, by 29 votes to 20. Included among those who voted against the payment of pensions were two of the present judges. This bill also provides for the appointment of commissioners to conciliate in disputes. That is a wise provision. Such commissioners are required, not only for settling disputes after they have arisen, but also for preventing them. Generally, the disputes that cause strikes and lockouts are brewing for several weeks before work ceases, and it is very difficult to settle them when that stage has been reached. Prevention is much better than cure. Stoppages of work inflict great hardship on the community, and after a stoppage has occurred the men often accept what they could have obtained without it if there had been a conciliatory authority with power to intervene. Something like that has happened in the coal industry. Commissioners of the kind provided for would be able to confer with both parties to a dispute before a stoppage of work occurred, and by conciliation would have every prospect of preventing serious trouble. When it is no one’s business to intervene, and the parties are left to settle their own differences, small grievances are magnified, and the dispute grows to unmanageable proportions. The intervention of a commissioner, and the exercise of a little common sense in the early stages of a dispute, would generally be sufficient to prevent serious trouble.
– Is not that the practice of the coal tribunal?
– That tribunal has done good work, and there has not been a strike by the miners since it was created. The dispute that has just been settled relates to the engine-drivers in the coal industry; it had nothing to do with the miners. The engine-drivers have agreed to submit their case to the tribunal, thus proving its efficacy again. The tribunal has the right to call the parties together, and it did so in this dispute. This provision is absolutely necessary if we aim at preventing serious consequences from industrial disputes. I believe that if a conciliatory commission had taken action at an early stage of the recent dispute in the coal industry, no cessation of work would have occurred. I am not saying, and have never said, anything about the merits of that dispute. I am not satisfied with the provision that gives power to the AttorneyGeneral to intervene in any industrial dispute before the court. I admit that, in making a general rule, care should be taken not to exclude any of those affected by it ; but I am not satisfied that the clause will not permit the AttorneyGeneral to intervene at any time. When he was speaking on the motion for the second reading, I interjected -
Does it not give to any person in the community who feels he is interested the right to go” to the court?
The honorable the Attorney-General replied -
It does not do that. The words of the clause disclose the meaning quite clearly When the Attorney-General has given the prescribed notice in writing to the court, the court inserts an advertisement in the Government Gazette, and “ upon publication of the notice in the Gazette any person or organization or association of employers or employees may apply to the court.”
There is probably justification for this provision if application has to be made by an organization of employers or employees whose members feel that they would be affected by the decision of the court; but the clause bears another interpretation, for it reads -
The Attorney-General on behalf of the Commonwealth may, by giving to the Registrar a notice in writing of his intention so to do, intervene in the public interest in any proceeding before the court in which the question of standard hours of work in any industry or of the basic wage is in dispute.
That seems to give the Attorney-General the right to intervene irrespective of whether any one makes an application for him to do so or not.
– What is the meaning of “ intervene “?
– It can only mean “ intervene in the interests of the Government.” The Attorney-General’s reply to me indicated that he does not intend to do that, and that it is not intended to give that power to any Minister. The Attorney-General may mean that, but the clause gives him wider power. That mat-‘ ter will have to be further considered at the committee stage. One of the chief objects of this bill is to allow a general rule to be made in Commonwealth awards. Many people in the community believe that the enforcement of a common rule in the matter of hours of work would preclude the fixing of a less number of hours for special work, such as that connected with sewers, which is unhealthy; but I am of the opinion that it would be quite competent for that to be done.
– That is quite correct.
– It should undoubtedly be stressed that, although this court could fix the maximum hours, a special tribunal could fix less for special industries.
– Is that the Government’s interpretation of the clause?
– I would rather not answer that question with a simple “ yes “ or “no.” I shall deal with it when I reply. A short answer might be misleading.
– I shall be quite satisfied if the Attorney-General deals with it fully later, for I do not want to put him in an unfair position. It is highly necessary for us to make provision for the ‘cases now before the court to be concluded ; and, unless the bill is passed by both Houses before the 30th June, the present deputy presidents will be obliged to retire. That would be most unfortunate. One of our greatest troubles in regard to arbitration has been the congestion of business in the court. I am given to understand that, even now, 105 cases are listed for hearing, in addition to those that stand part heard. One of the latter is the important Railway workers’ case that Sir John Quick has been dealing with for some time. It would be disastrous if the hearing of that case were not completed, for that would cause intense dissatisfaction among the railway workers, who have been waiting for a long time for the settlement of their claim. I have dealt with these clauses seriatim, and have not. attempted to make a speech on the general question of arbitration, for I realize that it is desirable for us to pass the bill as soon as possible. Some if its proposals are objectionable to me; but, as the representatives of the federated trade unions and the Trades Hall Councils of Australia, at a conference held in Melbourne, have approved of it, I shall vote for its second reading, though I reserve to my party and myself the right to move amendments at the committee stage. I have tried to make it quite clear that the bill has nothing whatever to do with the proposed referendums. Whether the questions to be submitted to the people are approved or negatived this bill, if passed, will remain on our statute-book, so those issues should not be clouded by it. I trust that an effort will be made at an early date to effect some other necesary improvements to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act; but we can deal with that at the proper time.
.- I wish to offer a few observations on this bill from the point of view of the primary producer. We who represent country interests have always supported legislation of this character, for we believe that it tends to minimize dissension, strikes, and dislocations of trade generally. I have listened with the utmost interest to the debates in this House during the last few weeks; but I have heard very little about the affairs of the primary producers. Our main consideration has, been the industrialists and employers in secondary industries; but Arbitration Court awards fall very heavily upon those who are engaged in primary production in this great Commonwealth, for they are the only section of the community which cannot pass on extra costs. I do not desire to labour that point, but it is most serious, as Ipropose to show. The cost of production is invariably increased by awards of the court, for nearly every determination given provides for higher wages and improved conditions. Although I admit that this does not directly concern the primary producers - for, with the exception of those engaged in the shearing industry, they are not obliged to pay the higher rates to their particular employees - yet it has a very great, though indirect, effect upon production costs in primary industries. These matters are always taken into account in connexion with secondary industries. . The Tariff Board ensures that the manufacturer is sheltered from unfair outside competition, and the Arbitration Courts sees - and we hope it always will - that the worker receives a living wage. The effect upon primary production is never considered. I do not object to either the Tariff Board or the Arbitration Court, but I wish to emphasize that the position into which weare getting as a result of these continual increases in wages and tariff imposts is becoming intolerable. The man who is engaged in primary production has to accept world’s parity for his; products, and the existing system is undoubtedly having a bad effect upon the rural industries. Only recently the Arbitration Court, sitting in Perth, saddled the sheep industry with an additional £100,000 on account of shearing expenses. I do not quibble with that decision, but if it had happened to any other business a considerable outcry would have been raised. It will operate very harshly on the man who is engaged in sheep raising in a small way.
– He cannot unload the extra cost.
– He cannot pass it on.
– That is rather an immoral claim. It does not follow thathe is entitled to pass it on. .
– If he did he would merely be following the example that has been set by the secondary industries, which do not fail to pass on every increase. Country dwellers do not contend that the working man is not entitled to receive an increase to counterbalance any extra cost of living, but they do want to know what consideration is to be given to the primary producer. If he is making such immoral profits that he can bear the extra costs which are continually imposed upon him nothing can be said, but the statistics which are available prove that primary industry is not such a profitable undertaking.
– The remarkable thing is that that increase in wages was made after wool had fallen from £33 to £17 a bale.
– That is so. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) said the other night that when the dried fruits industry was absolutely “down and out,” and the Government was greatly concerned as to what action should be taken to put it on its feet, the Arbitration Court made an award which increased the wages of the men who were employed in that industry. The workers are entitled to an increase when the cost of living rises, but is it not absurd that at a time when an industry is languishing the employees in that industry should have their wages increased ? The following figures taken from the CommonwealthYearBook show the area of unoccupied Crown lands in the Commonwealth, with the exception of the Northern Territory and the Federal Capital Territory, in the years specified: -
A certain number of mineral leases reverted to the Crown, but they do not account for this increase of 10 per cent. The conclusion cannot be escaped that land is going out of occupation.
– That would not be good sheep land.
– I do not think it can be, because men hang on to decent land as long as they can. But instead of settlement advancing it is going back, and one of the principal reasons is that on account of the high cost of production it is not worth while to try to do anything with inferior land.
– When pastoral leases revert to the Crown in Queeusland and are subdivided for closer settlement, there are as many as 1,400 applicants for some blocks.
– Those are ‘ lottery prizes.
– The successful applicant must reside upon the land for five years, or .it is forfeited.
– I admit that there is a tremendous land hunger in Australia; but, at the same time, the figures which I have quoted prove that large areas are reverting to the Crown. Queensland is a striking example - it has gone back to the extent of ‘20,000,000 acres in the period covered by the figures. I honestly believe that the system of leasehold tenure in that State is the cause.
– Would it not be due to the fact that the beef industry is not now in as good a position as it was formerly ?
– That applies, to a certain extent. My recent visit to Queensland convinced me that one of the principal causes is the system of leasehold tenure. I listened with interest th, other night to honorable members discussing that system in connexion with the lands of the Northern Territory. The following paragraph, which appeared in yesterday’s Melbourne Herald, is significant’: -
Brisbane, Wednesday. - An interesting contribution to the subject of economic laws was made last night by the former Minister of Lands of the Queensland Labour Government (Mr. H. F. Hardacre), who is now a member of the Land Court Bench.
Mr. Hardacre said if they raised wages they destroyed industry and created unemployment.
He had found that two-thirds of the cattle holdings in North Queensland would soon have to go out of business, and probably the country would have to bc abandoned ‘because of continual increase in the cost of production and low prices that had made it unprofitable to carry on.
Mr. Hardacre, correctly appraised the position. The high cost of production is causing many people to ask themselves whether it is worth while to put their money into land when a manufacturing industry in the city, or even bricks and mortar, would give them a better return without the risks that attend primary production. Whether land is held under leasehold or freehold makes a very big difference. When a man takes up land, he desires that it should be his own.
– The honorable member will not be in order in comparing the leasehold and freehold systems under this bill.
– I shall not labour that point. Honorable members know that if a man owns his house he will improve it, and if he rents it he will not. That applies also to the occupation of land. In Queeusland, I saw land upon which I worked 20 years ago reverting to its original state because it did not pay to keep it in order. That means the deterioration of an asset of the country. In connexion with the effect of high cost of production on land settlement, I have a few more figures showing the number of land-holders in Australia, which I think are interesting. For the years specified the number of landholders in the various States was : -
Figures are not available for Queensland, but I do not think that the Queensland figures would improve the position.
– The big fellows have gobbled up the little fellows’ estates.
– I thought there might be something in that, and therefore looked into the matter. I found that in nearly every State the men holding from 500 to 1,000 acres about held their own. I confess that I can find no satisfactory explanation for these appalling figures, which are taken from the official YearBook. There are no figures published which go to prove what the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) has suggested. There must be some reason why the number of people going on to the land is less than the number leaving it. It seems to me that the high cost of production consequent upon awards given by the courts of this country affecting primary industry, is one of the main reasons for the reduction in the number of land-holders. It is absurd to talk of immigration when our own people, who are the best we could possibly have on the land, are leaving it. What are we to do with the migrants who are being brought into the country when the figures show that our own people are leaving the land? We need to discover some means of increasing the number of our own people on the land before we talk of settling people coming here from other countries who will not make nearly as good settlers. I think that the awards of the Arbitration Court, which are made without regard for the conditions of the primary industries, have a good deal to do with the matter. I have a few words to say about the wool industry, in which I am interested in a small way. I do not see how it is to continue to carry the baby for the Commonwealth, as it has been doing for the last few years. I have here some figures showing the number of sheep-owners in the Commonwealth. They were used in an address given by Sir John Higgins at a conference held in Melbourne on the 12th June, 1925, and were taken by him from the Commonwealth Year-Book. They show that there are 80,000,000 sheep in the Commonwealth, and they may be roughly divided in this way: - 96 per cent. are in flocks of 5,000 and less, and only 3 per cent. are in flocks of over 5,000. I admit that 3 per cent. of the owners own nearly one-half of the total number of sheep in the Commonwealth; yet half the sheep in the
Commonwealth are owned by small men. I should say that a man with 5,000 sheep is clearing, roughly, about £1,500 a year at the present price of wool. Honorable members may say that that is a good return, but to secure that return the sheepowner has, inmy opinion, had to invest something like £20,000. Good country that will carry a sheep to the acre year in and year out is worth about £3 per acre.
– How much? It is worth £10 per acre in Victoria.
– I am speaking of New South Wales, and trying to be as conservative as I can in my calculations. For an investment of £20,000, the man owning 5,000 sheep secures an annual return of £1,500. If he put his capital into Government loans at 6 per cent. he would get an annual return of £1,200 without any effort, and if he put the same amount into city property, he would probably get a return of 10 per cent. I think it would be very risky for a man to put £20,000 into a pastoral property to-day because of the continual rise in wages and in the cost of living. Honorable members should bear in mind that the pastoral industry carries a tremendous risk which does’ not apply to any other industry. It carries the risk of being suddenly and absolutley wiped out at any time. I have experienced its risks, though not to the degree that some people have done. A pastor alist may get an apparently prosperous year, and next year he may be entirely ruined because of a change in the season. I should like to put before honorable members three instances showing the conditions under which people who are not taken into account in the fixing of awards are called upon to struggle. I propose to quote from a letter from a friend of mine who is a rural inspector of the New South Wales Government Savings Bank. I frankly admit that he sent me the letter to see if something might not be done in the three cases to which he refers in it.
– I understood the honorable member to say that the wool-grower is suffering from awards of the court, but has he not the right to put his case before the court?
– The court takes into consideration that an industry is worth so much. It returns a certain number of million pounds a year, and the court bases .its award on the cost of living to, the worker, and does not inquire as to the profits or losses of the individual wool-grower. Whilst I admit that some men make large fortunes out of wool, I stress the fact that a great many men engaged in the wool industry are not making anything like the incomes from it that some honorable members think they are.. The first case referred to in the letter I have received is as follows : -
A man came to me one night in the country - an old man - lie had driven 60 miles across wet, black-soil plains. He unfolded a story of his struggles; drought and floods had wiped hi,u out. His son, .a- city barber, had lent him some money to buy food, which had enabled hint to remain on his property. His other son, while droving, was bitten by a snake: and’, being many miles from a doctor, had no alternative but to chew the affected part out, which lie proceeded to do. The old chap still struggles on.
The next case referred to is stated in these terms -
I spent a night with a man near Rowena, lt was shearing time. His two sons were shearing, a daughter was doing the machine experting, the mother was picking up and wool rolling, a daughter .was mustering, and another girl was doing the housework. A selfcontained unit ! By doing this they were enabled to make ends meet. It was just after a drought, during which time the parents (mum and dad) had brought the cattle to the coast, and the boys and girle had taken sheep to Queensland. Some young girls remained at home to care for; the property. You can imagine what privation and anxiety all this meant, particularly for the old people.
There is no consideration of the wages, if any, being paid to the sons and daughters of this man, or of the charges that his industry oan bear, and what he can afford to pay. Such questions are not taken into consideration by the courts. The last case referred to is as follows : -
At Narromine, a young returned soldier returned’ in 1019 in time to put his crop in. It failed. The next year, being a good fanner, he had a bumper crop. A bush fire swept through and burned hundreds of bags of wheat already stacked, 200 tons ‘of ha’, and all his fences. His dwelling was just saved. This meant going into debt to replace the. fences and to carry on. The next year was almost a failure; the following year was a total failure, despite the fact that every acre was sown on fallowed land .which had obtained three prizes in the fallowed land competition. The cause was unprecedented dry weather. Everything that could be done had’ been done to ensure a crop, but the return was nil. He is still struggling, and hopes to pull through some day.
There is no inquiry as to what this man’s cost of living is, and what wages he can pay. If we do not realize the actual conditions of the primary industries, we shall pull the whole fabric of Australia down upon our heads. ‘ I do not wish to: be regarded as an alarmist, but it seems to me that the returns and figures show that the position is becoming very serious.
– Those engaged in some primary industries not affected by Arbitration Court awards are worse off than some of the sheep-men - the dairy men, for instance.
– That does not affect my contention that the primary industries of Australia are not flourishing. We must realize that the tariff and the arbitration courts are intended to assist the secondary industries. As a primary producer, I should be glad if everything I took from the land were consumed in Australia. If the secondary industries are so increased that they will make use of everything grown by the primary producers, it will be a- very fine thing, but having looked into the figures, the position at present does not seem to me to be very hopeful. Our exportation for 1913 ‘ of primary products, including minerals, was worth £72,833,454; and of secondary products, £2,304,693. In 1922- 23, our exports from primary industries amounted to £110,636,535. The increase, no doubt, was due largely to the increased prices for wool and wheat, which have prevailed since the war, but, in 1922-23, the exports of the secondary industries amounted to only £4,114,774. In 1923-24, the last’ year for which figures are available, the exports of primary industries amounted to £111,898,488, whilst the exports of secondary industries were only £4,264,057. Until we are able to export more secondary products, there will not be much chance of progress in Australia. If the primary producers leave the land, and production ceases, what shall we live on ? We cannot live long on our own fat. I have tried to find a solution of this difficulty, but, I confess, it is beyond my power to find one of any practical value. The only suggestion that I can make is ridiculous. It is to assist primary industries as we are assisting secondary industries, and the men employed in them, by appointing a parity board which will decide, for example, that the high cost of wages and living has increased prices by Id. a lb. for wool, and 6d. a bushel for wheat, this increase to be made up to the primary producers by the Government of the country. The community to-day is making such a contribution to the workers and to the manufacturers, and, as a result, primary production is on the down grade. Unless we have greater production, and decreased cost of manufacturing secondary products, Australia will not long be prosperous. We are living in a fool’s paradise. If primary production fails, the whole foundation upon which the prosperity of Australia rests will collapse.
.- The debate on this bill has certainly been interesting, but a good deal of it has been irrelevant. I compliment the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) on making an interesting address to the House. He has contributed information of value, and because of that I take no exception to his speech, although it was somewhat wide of the bill. The bill, as the Attorney-General said, is really a temporary measure to fill the interregnum between the expiration of the term of appointment of the deputy presidents of the court, and the general amendment of the Arbitration Act, when the Attorney-General has obtained, as he hopes, enlarged constitutional powers. Of course, if those powers are not granted, Parliament will still need to review generally the Arbitration Act at an early date. With the intentions of the Government I find myself generally in approval. Some honorable members have spoken of the failure of the Arbitration Court, believing that it should be scrapped, and that we should dispense with ti4 whole system of arbitration. That opinion has been expressed by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook). I gather from the honorable member for Gwydir that his sympathies tend ia the same direction. He reviewed the condition of the primary industries. Exactly what he intended to prove, I am not too sure; but I should say that his speech was intended to prove that the Arbitration Court has produced all the woes of the man on the land. That cannot be borne out by facts. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) made a pertinent interjection respecting the dairying industry, and the same idea had crossed my mind a few minutes before. Probably there is( no primary industry to-day in Australia that is in a worse condition than the dairying industry, and, strange to say for that industry, there is no award of the Arbitration Court, or of wages boards, so far as I know.
– The arbitration awards have certainly affected the cost of living.
– Do those honorable members suggest that if we had not awards we should be better off; that the cost of living would fall, bringing about the general prosperity of the primary and secondary industries? If that is their contention, then I ask them to carry their minds back to the time when there was no intervention by wages boards or arbitrations courts in the industries of this country, and to consider the condition of the men who were then on the land. Were they as well off as they are to-day?
– I say no.
– Does the honorable member remember the period in Victorian history when the dairying in-‘ dustry alone saved the State?
– Yes ; and I can tell the honorable member the secret of its success at that time. I lived in the country, and worked under the conditions then obtaining, and I know what Australia owed to the dairying industry when it was flourishing. I can remember when the suppliers of butter were working under wretched conditions, and unable to send their surplus out of the country. One of the first things that made the dairying industry possible was the application of science to industry. The scientist made it possible to send surplus butter overseas, and to manufacture butter all the year round. There was the discovery of the creamery, and the invention of machinery for butter -making. The method of keeping butter in refrigerators on board ship and in store houses made possible the export of surplus supplies. But prosperity came with the breaking up of the large estates, and the better utilization of land. As the industry developed and prospered, two things operated side by side - one, the non-regulation of the wage’s and the building up of probably the worst industrial conditions in Autralia.; and the other, the soaring of land values to the very skies. What the dairying industry is suffering from, particularly in Victoria, is the high rents that the dairymen have to pay, and the high prices of land. Twenty years ago land was subdivided around Terang, Camperdown and Warrnambool, including Black’s estate at Noorat, and Manifold’s land in the Camperdown district, which, although beautiful land, was sheep-sick, and would not carry three-quarters of a sheep to the acre. It was returning from. 5s. to 6s. an acre. That land was leased at 15s. an acres on long terms. The dairyman who leased it made fortunes until the leases expired. They then had to pay from £3 10s. to £3 15s. an acre for the same land. Over-capitalization is what the dairying industry is suffering from today.
– Most of the dairymen there have their own freehold.
– Most of the men holding freehold there to-day did not get in on. the ground floor. They bought at high prices, and the interest they are paying is just as great, or greater, than the rent that they previously paid.
– Does the honorable member remember the Manifold subdivision?
– I do.
– Was not that land sold to the dairymen on generous terms?
– No. I have come into personal contact with a number of the men who bought land at the Manifold subdivision, and I know that the terms of the sale were not generous. High prices were paid for the land, and the dairymen will be working during this andthe next generation to pay for their holdings. In the early subdivision, some of Manifold’s land was leased at 15s. an acre; but it must be borne in mind that previously that same land was returning only from 5s. to 6s. an acre. When the leases expired the terms were not so generous. Some of the tenants, before the leases expired, parted with them, because they were given to understand that the leases were to be forfeited , because of the application of the land tax, which was certainly an absurd position. When they afterwards bought the freehold of the land, they found that the interest they had to pay on the purchase price was greater than what they had previously paid in rent.
– The honorable member should try to buy out some of those men.
– Does the honorable member wish to suggest that the dairymen are well off, and that the story that we have heard of the ruinous position of the industry is wrong ? I do not want to be drawn into a discussion on secondary and primary industries. We are now dealing with the arbitration system. I wish, however, to dispute the statement that the Arbitration Act is responsible for the woes of the primary producers. Some of their sufferings are real, and this Parliament has never turned a deaf ear to genuine requests for assistance. I agree absolutely with the honorable member for Gwydir respecting the importance of building up our primary industries, but I suggest that that will not be brought about by low wages and sweating conditions, or the non-regulation of conditions of employment. I suggest, therefore, that some of his illustrations were not too fortunate, especially his reference to the pastoral industry and the increased costs because of arbitration awards. He and the honorable member for Wannon stated that the wages in that industry were raised by an award of the Arbitration Court just at the time when the price of wool had slumped. That may be true, but do they suggest that the living wage should not have been considered or weighed by the court because the price of wool had fallen that year ? If arbitration awards were based on that principle, some men would receive £50 per week because of the colossal profits that are now being made in the industries in which they are employed. I suggest to honorable members who raise that argument that it must cut both ways. If the court based the genera] average wage on the general average profit of an industry, the workers in many industries would receive considerable increases in wages. I tell honorable members who are endeavouring to find fault with the. Arbitration Court because it increased the wages of workers in the pastoral industry in a year when the price of wool had fallen, that no other industry in Australia has done so well as the wool-growing industry. I admit that the men engaged in the dairying industry, as well as those in the fruit-growing industry, are barely making a living. But I dispute the statement that the wages they pay are responsible for their position. The honorable member for Gwydir said, “ It is all right to fix wages in the manufacturing industries, which have the advantage of a protective tariff, but it is not fair to fix wages in the primary industries, which are unprotected.” Has this Parliament not protected the producers of dried fruits by increasing the tariff, and does it not pay a bounty upon their exports? The Arbitration Act is not responsible for the primary producers’ losses by fire and drought. However, we are not expected on thisoccasion to debate the general question of whether arbitration courts are or are not desirable. Arbitration as a means of settling industrial disputes is the accepted policy of Australia, and I do not believe that any thinking people would urge a reversion to the conditions that prevailed prior to the introduction of the arbitration principle.
– Jock Garden would.
– I referred to thinking people. Men who say that there should be no arbitration court or collective bargaining are to be found on both sides of the industrial fence. There are some such among ministerial supporters, but none are to be found on this side. We have pinned our faith to constitutional methods, but we do not go to the extent of saying that a man can be denied the right to refuse work under conditions that he regards as unjust, or thatindustrial disputes can be entirely prevented. So long as there is buying and selling of human labour, so long will men dispute about the price of it. Sometimes one side will be wrong, and sometimes the other side ; occasionally both will be wrong. We have never made the mistake of saying that the blame is always on one side, but those who attack the workers seem to suggest that they must always be in the wrong. My experience over many years is that in most industrial disputes the workers are in the right. The duty of this Parliament is to set up machinery that will settle these disputes in a court, as other disputes are settled, and so avoid resort to strikes and lockouts.
– Wages boards would settle them quicker.
– With some modifications, the wages boards have much to commend them, but this Parliament has no constitutional authority to set up such boards.If given increased constitutional powers, we can set them up where they are required, and, after all, a meeting round a table of employers and employees who have a special knowledge of their own industry, is a very effective step towards a settlement.
– Except that men get sacked for expressing their opinions at the table.
– That is one of the weaknesses that have been found in the system, but it can be dealt with when this Parliament is in a position to discuss the application of the wages board system under the aegis of the Commonwealth. I take this opportunity of again paying a tribute to the great work done by the late President of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, Mr. Justice Higgins. I was glad to hear the Attorney -General commend the services of that distinguished judge, and I and other honorable members on this side dissent from the criticism by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) of His Honour’s awarding of wages regardless of the capacity of an industry to pay them.
– That point has been emphasized to-day by the honorable member for Gwydir.
– I have disputed his contention, and have said that if the president of the court is to consider whether men shall receive a living wage or something less because the industry is. in a bad way, he must award double and treble the basic wage in those industries which are enjoying abounding prosperity.
– Mr. Justice Higgins’ award ruined the sawmilling industry.
– He would ruin nothing; he, above all other men in Australia, made the arbitration principle successful. In regard to the principles involved in the bill, nobody will dispute the wisdom of conferring upon the Arbitration Court judicial authority. It is absurd that when the parties go back to the court for an interpretation of an award, that interpretation should have no value in the police court in connexion with proceedings for a breach of the award.
– That is the outcome of the High Court’s decision.
– Even though I do not approve of the- appointment of judges for life, I can find no fault with the High Court’s interpretation of the Constitution. With the proposal to clothe the Arbitration Court with judicial powers I am in absolute agreement, but the most effective way to do that is, not to appoint the judges for. life, but to confer those powers upon -the Parliament by a specific amendment of the Constitution. We are about to consult the people by referendum regarding other amendments of the Constitution, and I do not think any body would resist a proposal to submit a further amendment to give the Arbitration Court judicial authority without requiring the judges to be appointed for life.
– Has the honorable member ever considered the basis of the High Court’s decision that the judges must be appointed for life?
– I have read the judgment, and it is a simple interpretation of the means by which the judges may be removed from office. There is no limit to their tenure, provided they comply with the terms of their appointment. They are really appointed during good behaviour.
– There is also the consideration that their independence should be ensured by security of tenure.
– There is some advantage in giving to judges security of tenure, but not necessarily for life. It is undesirable that any judge should be removable from the bench at the whim of any government, but I do not think that the judges of the Arbitration Court should be appointed for long terms. A good deal may be said for the existing procedure of appointing judges of the High Court to preside over the Arbitration Court for a term of years. That could be improved by amending the Constitution so that they could exercise judicial powers while they were in that court.
– The disability which has made necessary appointments for life, is not inherent in the Constitution; it is a judicial interpretation of the Constitution.
– I think it is the correct interpretation.
– In any case we cannot get away from it.
– Except by amending the Constitution, and I am sorry that the Government has not proposed that step. I would be surprised to hear any honorable member argue that this Parliament should not have power to create an Arbitration Court with judicial powers without appointing the judges for life.
– One of the difficulties is that the High Court judges object to presiding over the Arbitration Court. One judge accepted the presidency of the court for six months, but would serve there no longer.
– We cannot compel a High Court judge to sit in the Arbitration Court.
– I admit that; but that does not meet my point that the fundamental objection to appointing judges to the Arbitration Court for life can be removed by an amendment of the Constitution. However, ‘ the Government has not chosen to adopt that course, and we must either continue with a court devoid of judicial power to interpret or enforce its own awards, or we must appoint the judges for life. In the circumstances, we must swallow the pill of life tenure, because if the Arbitration Court is to function effectively it must have judicial power. This bill also provides a means by which a general decision can be arrived at in regard to the basic wage and the standard hours. As I read clause 6, a case affecting only one union and one body of employers may be before the court, and if the proceedings involve the questions of standard hours and the basic wage in that industry, the AttorneyGeneral may intervene, whereupon everybody who is interested in the determination of those issues may be heard in the court. Every proceeding before the court, every application for an award, will have a bearing upon the question of standard hours, whether the applicant is asking for more or less than the standard. I shall be interested to hear the Attorney-General explain how the general rule will be applied. For instance, there may be a dispute between the carpenters’ unions and the employers. The union may ask for certain hours, and the employers may refuse to grant the request. The question of the standard hours would arise in that dispute, and if the Attorney-General intervened, all those interested - which means practically every union and every organization of employers - would have the right to he heard.
– They could apply to be granted the right to be heard.
– I was taking the short cut.
– There is an important distinction.
– As they would be interested, they would have the right to apply to be heard.
– The decision would be within the discretion of the court. The ideal would be for the court to act with large representative organizations on either side.
– I suggest that the word “person” be omitted from the clause, so that only organizations will have the right to be heard. Both sides are well organized at the present day.
– Both the Commonwealth and the States are large employers. The railway departments, as a rule, are corporations, and I suggest that they ought to be included. It is unlikely that the court would allow an individual to he heard.
– I am surprised to hear that statement as a reason for the use of the word “ person.” That a State can be a person is beyond my comprehension. It may be so in law, but it is not so in fact. Even if it is so, I suggest that the word “ person “ be altered to “ corporation,” “ State instrumentality,” or other term, that will meet the case.
– The Postmaster-General might be concerned, and it is desirable that a department employing as many persons as the Post Office does should have the right to apply to be heard.
– That difficulty could be overcome without giving the right to all persons to apply to be heard. That, however, is hardly the point I wish to make now. If the representatives of other industries than those actually concerned in a dispute were represented in the court, and the basic wage and standard rate of hours were fixed, the award of the court would apply only to the par ticular industry concerned in the dispute. I shall be interested to hear how a general rule could be made in those circumstances. A general rule is not a common rule; and, as to that, there is some confusion in the public mind. . A general rule, I understand, is a rule that applies to all industries represented at a hearing, but only to those employers or employees interested in the particular dispute. That, therefore, does not overcome the difficulty of the common rule, and I see no way of overcoming it under our present Constitution. I gathered from the second-reading speech of the honorable the Attorney-General that the clause relating to intervention by the AttorneyGeneral does not mean that the AttorneyGeneral, as representing the Federal Government, may intervene and argue the merits of the question in dispute unless a Commonwealth Government department is concerned. I do not want the AttorneyGeneral, or any one appointed by. him, to have the right to argue the question at issue unless a Federal department is particularly interested; and that, I believe, is not intended.
– The Commonwealth Government could not- take sides.
– And I want to make it clear, not only that that is not the intention, but also that it cannot be done. It would be easy to alter the clause so that any one who believed he was interested could apply to the. court without the intervention of the Attorney-General, and the decision could be left entirely with the court. That might cause the court to be inundated with applications to be heard. Many people might feel that they were interested in a case, but they might not have the right to apply to be heard, because the Attorney-General had not intervened. I should like the opinion of the honorable the AttorneyGeneral as to the meaning of the following proposed new sub-section : -
A judge shall, as from time to time required by the Governor-General, make such investigations, inquiries, and reports in relation to industrial matters or to any public matter or any power of the Commonwealth as the Governor-General specifies.
Docs the proposed new sub-section 18b (1), which relates to the power of the Attorney-General to intervene, limit that power to permitting parties to apply to be beard with regard only to standard hours and the basic wage? I should like that to be made clear. There is the following provision in the proposed new sub-section : -
Upon publicationof the notice in the Gazette any person, or organization or association of employers or employees may apply to the court for liberty to be heard and the court may, if it is of opinion that the applicant is interested in the determination of the question, permit the applicant to be heard and to examine and cross-examine witnesses. “ Publication of the notice in the Gazette “ - that is all that has to be done in connexion with the basis upon which all future awards will be built, namely, standard hours and basic wage. If a notice in the Gazette is sufficient for that purpose, why not permit claimants before the court to cite respondents by publishing a notice in the Gazette? One union showed me a list of 5,000 names of respondents, each of whom had to be served with a copy of a log. The names of the respondents have to be printed, and the log posted to each of them, and that procedure has to be repeated when the summonses are issued. Some unions, when they file a claim, are involved in an expenditure of about £500 for printing and postage alone.
– If we are forced to proceed under our present powers, I shall be prepared to propose, as an alternative to the existing procedure, a procedure similar to that which the honorable member suggests, but only as an alternative, because there is room for doubt as to whether it would be effective in law. All those difficulties will be removed if the referendum proposals are agreed to.
– Then, of course, the common rule will operate, and it will not be necessary to cite every employer in an industry. I am glad to have the assurance of the Attorney-General at this stage that the procedure may be improved later. I shall not examine the bill further at this stage, because it is only a short and temporary measure. I content myself by saying that every attempt to render arbitration easier and more successful will meet with the support of honorable members on this side. One of the objections of unions to arbitration is that there are too many obstacles blocking the way to the court. The heavy expenditure entailed, the months, and sometimes years, of delay in deciding cases, the litigation that has to be engaged in, and the other obstructions placed in the way of arbitration by employers, have done more than anything else to discredit arbitration. If we believe in arbitration, we ought to sweep them all away, but I admit that we cannot do that under the existing Constitution. That is one of the reasons why it is necessary to enlarge the industrial powers of the Commonwealth.. I wish to add to what my leader has said, and to assist him in removing the misapprehension in the minds of the public that the appointment of arbitration judges for life, which is provided for in this bill, is part of the proposed amendments of the Constitution. The statement has frequently been made that the carrying of the referendum proposals will empower this Parliament to establish authorities to deal with industrial matters, and that those authorities will remain until the Constitution is further amended.
– As a matter of fact, it will have just the opposite effect.
– That is so. What the amendment of the Constitution will do is to give this Parliament power to establish authorities.
– And determine their tenure.
– Yes, and it will be able to alter or amend legislation of that character from time to time. What it can create, it can destroy.
– What will become of this court in the event of the referendums being carried?
– I assume that the court will continue to function with increased powers; but it will be possible for us to set up such authorities as State wages boards and State arbitration courts, if they are required, or commissions, or conciliation boards, if they are deemed desirable, to deal with questions affecting industry. Parliament will have authority over not only wages and hours, but also in such matters as child endowment, workmen’s compensation, and other kindred subjects of great importance to the people. Those who say that even if the constitutional amendments are approved, this Parliament will be able to do very little more than it can do now, are not fully informed on the matter. Even to-day
Parliament acts through an authority. At present Parliament can only deal with industrial disputes and the limitation of them : but under the amended powers that are being sought, it will be able to set up authorities or tribunals to deal with every phase of the industrial situation, and to make a common rule. I draw attention to the reply of the Attorney-General this afternoon to the question of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), dealing with the important question of hours. It indicated that this Parliament would be able to pass a law authorizing a tribunal, not only to fix hours, but also to fix the maximum hours beyond which no one could go. I intend to support the bill, but propose, in committee, to try to effect certain amendments to it, with the object of improving it.
.- I shall support the bill as I realize that it will lead to an improvement in our existing arbitration practice. I should not have participated in the debate did I not think a few words should be said on one aspect of the matter. I have listened with interest to the discussion that has taken place during the last few days on the proposed constitutional amendments. The question has been raised by that, debate, both inside and outside of this House, whether industrial arbitration has been of any real value. As I believe one concrete example to be worth a dozen generalities, I propose to relate the history of arbitration in the pastoral industry, with which I am most acquainted. I feel sure it will prove beyond question that the system has been most advantageous. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) a few days ago pointed out what the workers of Australia had gained through strikes. But. even though I am quite ready to admit
I that at times arbitration courts make awards which are not altogether satisfactory either to the employees or to the employers, I am firmly of the opinion that, with all their imperfections, they have been more advantageous to both sides than strikes have ever been. The strike, as the honorable member for Adelaide pointed out, is an obsolete weapon which should he forgotten. The first pastoral award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was made in 1907 by Mr. Justice O’Connor. Previously, the general rate for shearing had been 20s. per 100 sheep, and for shed hands 22s. 6d. to 27s. 6d. per week with keep, according to the class of work done. These rates were increased by the award to 24s. per 100 for shearing, and to from 27s. 6d. to 30s. per week with keep for shed hands. The award operated until 1911, when a new award was made by Mr. Justice Higgins, which did not alter the rate for shearing, but increased the rate for shed hands to 37s. 6d. per week with keep. In 1917, a. further award was made bv Mr. Justice Higgins which, in view of the great increase in cost of Jiving owing to war conditions, . increased the rates, with the consent of the graziers, to 30s. per 100 for shearing, and 60s. per week for shed hands. In 1917, award rates were fixed for the first time for general station, hands. Those were as follow: - For adults, 48s. per week with keep, or 63s. per week without keep. His Honour compared the 48s. rate with the previously ruling rate of 20s. to 25s. per week with keep. It was subsequently determined by the court that the “found” rate was excessive, and it was reduced to 42s. j but in 1920 it was again increased to 4Ss. per week. The 1917 award was fixed for the period 28th June, 1917, to 31st December, 1920, and covered the States of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia; but during its currency the Australian Workers Union applied to the Queensland State court, and obtained increased rates and reduced working hours, thus deliberately taking advantage of two tribunals at the same timer It was finite clear that; in the following year, 1920, trouble would occur in the southern States unless the Queensland rates and hours were conceded. As the cost of living had undoubtedly increased since the 1917 award was made, it was- agreed in voluntary conference that the rates of the ‘ Queensland award should be granted for the season; but without prejudice to future proceedings in the Arbitration Court. The conference agreement rates were 40s.. per 100 for shearers, and 90s. per week for shed hands. These terms continued in force until His Honour Mr. Justice Powers, in June, 1922, after hearing full evidence and argument, fixed the shearing rate at 35s. per 100, with 70s. per week for shed hands. The day that this award was issued, the officials of the Australian Workers Union instructed members of the union to refuse to engage, notwithstanding that they had undertaken, when the conference agreement was made, to accept any reduction that might be subsequently considered by the court to be justified.
– Did not the judge admit that he made a mistake in that case?
– Yes; and he rectified it immediately. I have given the corrected rates. The consequence of the action of the Australian Workers Union was- that a strike prevailed throughout the greater part of the 1922 shearing season, and the union and several of its officials were fined for taking part in it, and were ordered by the High Court to discontinue it. As the union found itself unable successfully to carry through the strike policy, it accepted the award at the beginning of 1923; and later in the season, applied to the court for a variation of it, based on the increased cost of living; and it was granted a shearing rate of 3Ss. per 100, with a rate of 75s. lOd. with keep for shed hands, and 52s. per week for station hands. Those rates were current until a few days ago, when a new award was made in Perth giving the slight increase of 2s. per 100 for shearers, and other slightly altered conditions. In the light of that history, can any one do other than admit that arbitration has been beneficial, not only to the workers, but also to the pastoralists? Some pastoralists think that they have been obliged to pay excessive rates. I have nothing to say either for or against that, for the rates were fixed by a judge after hearing full evidence on the matter; but I think that even those who feel that way must admit that the industry is in a better position through having enjoyed many years of unbroken peace than it could possibly have been in had it been subject to a series of- strikes, with the payment of slightly lower rates of wages. It is unfortunate that officials of the Australian Workers Union, and the leaders of other unions, have at times incited unionists to disobey awards of the court. That has done more than anything else to bring our industrial arbitration system into disrepute. In 1923, the leaders of the Australian Workers Union practically forced many of the members of that union to go on strike. In the brutal vocabulary of the strike-monger, there is an epithet which is often used most unjustly; and, rather than risk its application to them, many unionists would participate in what they were convinced was an unreasonable strike. Actually, they are forced into striking. That is not simply my opinion. In the Australian Worker, of the 14th June, 1923, an address is reported, which Mr. H. E. Boote, a prominent member of the Australian Workers Union, and a leader in the Australian Labour movement, delivered at the Australian Workers Union convention. The following is extracted from it:-
He congratulated the convention on their policy for 1923. At’ the same time he realized it was not only a difficult, but a bitter, and therefore a courageous, tiling to do. In that connexion a conviction had been growing up in his mind for a considerable time, and had been brought to a finality, with recent events. That was that they had to revise their attitude towards the great masses of men and women who comprised the Labour movement. They had always spoken of the rank and file as if they were very militant, as if it was necessary to keep a leash upon them, that the officials of the organization were holding them back, and that, if they only gave them their heads, something would be doing. He had come to the conclusion, not hurriedly, perhaps regretfully, that they would have to revise that opinion. They were not as militant as they always supposed them to be, and the Australian worker, with all his magnificent qualities, was not an economic fighter. The leaders of thought in the movement would have to recognize the character of the material with which they dealt, and act accordingly. That was why he congratulated them on their 1923 policy. They saw it was no longer possible to put up a fight which would lead to victory, and, therefore, as bitter as it might be, they had admitted for the time being that they had been stopped, not because of what anybody in authority had done, but because of what’ the rank and file had failed to do. It was obvious, if their movement was to make progress in the future, their militancy must be manifested ou the political field.
I am glad that the Government has introduced this bill, for it will make the position of the workers more secure. I trust that honorable members who advocate the referendum proposals on the public platform will point out that, until the Constitution is amended, we shall not be able to have any other than a stunted arbitration system. As the honorable member for Yarra (Mr.’ Scullin) has said, the proposed amendments to the industrial power of this Parliament, are necessary to enable a common rule to be applied to industry, and that, in my opinion, is essential before we can have genuine and general satisfaction with the operations of the court.
– Both, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) have stressed very strongly the need for recognizing that the provisions of this bill should not be considered in conjunction with the proposed amendments of the Constitution. This is an entirely separate and independent measure, and even if no move had been made to amend the Constitution, its introduction would still have been necessary. I am not to be found in the ranks of those who condemn the arbitration courts, and the work which they have done, and I dissociate myself entirely from the antagonistic views that have been expressed by some honorable members on this side. Although the Commonwealth Court has been greatly hampered, and its methods have- in many respects been cumbersome, and although ifc has not fulfilled the ideals of those who were responsible for its establishment, it has accomplished a great deal of very useful work, although there has been sometimes congestion, delay and expense in connexion with getting it to function. Its principal difficulty has been that it has lacked the power to enforce its awards. Unfortunately, some of its awards, which have been made after a very minute and earnest investigation, have been flouted, -and it has not possessed the power to ensure their enforcement. This measure is, among other things, designed to remove that very serious disability from those who administer the Arbitration Act. It contains a provision, under which the new court will be clothed with ample powers to enforce its awards. Many persons at one time indulged the hope that the establishment of arbitration courts would bring about the end of the strike era, but that hope has not been fulfilled. Certain organizations have considered that their interests would be best conserved by having recourse to the strike weapon, and they have taken that extreme step before seeking the intervention of the court. Such a difficulty is inescapable with human nature as it is. I should like to have seen in the measure a provision whereby an organization which had had recourse to a strike before asking the assistance of the Arbitration Court, would not have its claims considered until that strike was declared off, and normal con- ditions were resumed, so that it could approach the court free from ohe reproach of having precipitated action that might prejudice its case.
– That principle is now adopted by the judges of the court.
– Quite so; but there is no such provision in the act. It should not be left to the judges to make that stipulation: it should be stated in express terms in the act so that unions would know exactly the position in which they stood. The reason for the proposal to appoint judges with life tenure nas been fully explained by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham). I join with those who consider that it would be preferable to appoint judges for a fixed term, which could be renewed subject to good behaviour. Apparently that is not possible under our existing powers. Some provision ought to be made for an age limitation. There comes a time in the life of every man, when, by reason of age or infirmity, those faculties which enabled him to discharge his duties efficiently have become impaired.
– Under the Constitution the Government is precluded from making provision for an age limitation.
– I recognize that. But it is a disability that ought to be removed from the Constitution. I disagree with those who think that pensions ought not to be provided for judges. That is a wise and a just provision. Incidentally, may I remark that this Parliament frequently concerns itself with the provision of pensions for other sections, but never seeks to make a similar provision for its own members. That is an omission which one day, perhaps, will be remedied. Some members of Parliament, are able to make provision for old age or infirmity, without a pension scheme; but it must be remembered that others are not in that fortunate position, and some such provision should be made for them. One of the most important provisions in the bill, and one which commends itself to my approbation, is that which deals with the appointment of conciliation commissioners. I endorse the remarks which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) made in the course of his speech this afternoon. Some means should be devised for bringing the parties together and effecting a settlement by conciliation before a dispute reaches the stage when it is necessary to have recourse to arbitration. The bill provides that means, and it is one of its best features. It is likely to produce better results than have so far been achieved by either wages boards or arbitration courts. I - and I dare say many other honorable members - would prefer wages boards or similar institutions, if they could be satisfactorily set up under our Constitution, but that is not possible with our restricted powers. If the referendum proposals are endorsed by the people, the system of settling disputes might be extended to include, not only arbitration courts, but also other tribunals such as wages boards and conciliation boards. Those who are personally acquainted with the details of an industry in relation to which a dispute arises, could then meet at a round-table conference at the seat of the trouble. Each side would be able to give expert advice, and a satisfactory conclusion ought to be arrived at with much greater expedition than is possible with any other form of tribunal. I am sure that honorable members will give the Government the credit of endeavouring to establish tribunals which it believes, and we all hope, will reduce the number of industrial- disputes, and go a long way towards establishing an era of industrial peace. With that established, we shall have a stable groundwork for the future prosperity of Australia.
.- My principal reason for rising is to refute certain statements that have been made by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), and to give instances, other than that which he quoted, of the breaking of awards. I shall always cheerfully support any action of the Government which will tend to expedite the hearing of cases in the Arbitration Court, and give the judges wider powers to effect that purpose, and enforce their awards. The honorable member for Macquarie referred to a strike that occurred in the ranks of the Australian Workers Union, subsequent to its having been given an award of the court. In that case, the judge admitted having made a mistake to the extent of 200 sheep a week. He based his award upon a judgment that had been given pre viously by Mr. Justice Higgins. In readjusting the wages of the shearers, he did not completely rectify the mistake, but dealt only partially with it. I could quote a mass of evidence in contradiction of the assertion of the honorable member for Macquarie, showing that that great organization, after having waited for years to have its claim heard by the Arbitration Court, had received an adverse award, and yet had advised its members not to take drastic action, but to rely wholly upon the system of arbitration. Considering the extent of its membership, very few disputes have occurred in that organization since it was brought into existence. It is interesting to note the large number of converts that have been made to the principle of arbitration. Until recently, honorable members opposite were opposed to that system. When I first contested the Grey seat in 1922, I received from a body known as the Single Purpose League a circular letter in which I was asked to state my opinion in regard to arbitration. That letter stated that National Liberal Federations, the Country party - itf fact, almost all the political organizations that were opposed to the Labour party - were pledged to abolish the Arbitration Court.
– That is not so.
– The Single Purpose League is still in existence, but it is remarkable how many of its members are now in favour of arbitration. I am very pleased that so many honorable members on the other side have been converted to that principle. There are many anomalies arising under the existing Arbitration Act which are not dealt with in this measure. I do not approve of the fixing of wages solely upon the cost of living without taking into consideration the profits of an industry. It must be admitted that every worker should receive a wage equal to lie cost of living. Every one must have the means to live ; but where an industry is flourishing, and its profits would enable the employers to pay their workers more thaan a living wage based upon the cost of living, they should do so. Mr. Justice Higgins, in some of the awards he made, said that, whilst the wages he fixed were based on the cost of living, he left it to the employers from time to time to reward the services of employees at rates higher than those he fixed. I know of very few employers who have done so. I know of some squatters who have paid shearers more than the award rates. I know of many small squatters, or men engaged in mixed farming, who would never think of asking their shearers to work for award rates; hut always pay more.
– And they give them better conditions than are given by others.
– Yes; they give them better conditions than are provided in many of the big sheds. I have noticed that, when an employer is in direct touch with his men, he shows them much more consideration than is shown by the chairman or manager of a company who is not in direct touch with its employees. When an employer is not in direct touch with his men. he will fight them on the least pretence, and will not give them the conditions which he would be prepared to give them if he dealt directly with them. Although Mr. Justice Higgins left it to employers to specially reward efficiency and skill, in the great majority of cases they pay no more than the basic rates. It is said that employees often break awards, but awards are more frequently broken by employers. Certain conditions prevail when employers approach the Arbitration Court, and wages are ad-‘ justed on the cost of living whilst those conditions prevail; but in nine cases out of ten, when an increase of wages is granted to employees, the’ employers set to work immediately to alter the conditions under which these men have to work, and so. break the award. I know of some industries in which men work in groups, and, immediately an award was given in the case of one of these industries, the number of men employed in it was reduced. When an employer alters the conditions under which the employees have to work, he breaks an award just as certainly as do employees when they demand higher wages than have been awarded to them. All these things should be taken into consideration. If the Arbitration Court had the right to determine whether an award has been broken or not, the industrial position might be improved. I welcome the establishment of conciliation boards. I know of many large organizations that have tried to do something in this direction by appointing disputes committees. But, in the case of soulless companies, the directors of which do not come into direct touch with the employees, it is often found that an employee who has acted on a disputes committee is dismissed from his occupation. In this age such things should not occur. When a man who is familiar with the conditions of the industry in which he is employed possesses the confidence of his fellow workers to such an extent that they elect him to a disputes committee, he fulfils a very useful function indeed by acting upon such a committee. The Leader of the Opposition stated that conciliation boards would be able to prevent disputes arising, and I agree that they should be able to do so by performing work which, in some instances, is done by disputes committees. I hope that the bill will have the effect desired. Further legislation is required to ensure greater expedition in the settlement of cases brought before, the Arbitration Court, and I trust we shall be given an opportunity to consider legislation of that kind.
.- I. regret the gloom and sorrow that has been introduced into the debate by the references which have been made to the unfortunate position of the men on the land. It would appear that we cannot discuss measures of this kind without such references, and the painting of glorious pictures of the. advantages enjoyed by those who live in the, cities. I can tell the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) that there is more misery in 40 square feet in the city than is to be found in four square miles in the country. The purpose of this bill is to secure the appointment of a number of judges. Fortyfive lines of the measure are entirely devoted to making provision to give them splendid salaries, high travelling expenses and good pensions. After that there is not much of the bill left. I congratulate the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), as a member of the legal trade union, upon the care with which he has provided for members of his union. I take the view that judges should be treated in the same way as persons following other occupations. They should be paid salaries in accordance with the importance of the position they hold, and there should be no excuse for them becoming old-age pensioners. I am sorry that the House should, in this matter, depart from principles previously laid down. Speaking of the difficulties of people engaged in the pastoral industry, I may inform the honorable member for Gwydir that I often attend agricultural shows, and I have found that the greatest number of buyers of motor cars there are men coming from the country districts. They are purchased with ready cash, and not under the hire system, the adoption of which will, sooner or later, be regretted in Australia, America and England. I have noticed1, further, that it is men on the land who pay the highest probate and death duties. I hope that honorable members will discontinue the gloomy statements made from time to time about the difficulties of people’ on the land. We know that too high a price is paid for land, and the man who holds land has, in most cases, to carry a “ blister.” People on the land are much better off to-day than they ever were before. Millions of money have been spent in providing them with roads, and there are many whose lands adjoin these roads. We are subsidizing country people to a much greater extent than city people. The residents of the city have to pay rates and taxes to municipal authorities, but those authorities are given no road grants from the revenues of the country ? Many years ago, when acting as secretary to the Labour Council in New South Wales, I induced a number of public men, including Sir Joseph Carruthers, Sir George Dibbs, Mr. B. R. Wise, and others, to deliver addresses to my colleagues on conciliation and arbitration. I remember that a Commission, of which Sir Robert Garrans father - a very able man - was a member, reported in favour of conciliation and arbitration. In the building trade in Great Britain, with which I was connected, it was the practice, in November of each year, for representatives of trade unions connected with the industry, and of builders, to . meet in Manchester and other places, and fix the hours and conditions of labour in the industry for the next twelve months. I have in my library a book which is 154 years old, and in it are set out wages in the building trade and piecework rates in other trades. In the early days we were told that supply and demand should govern, wages, that the fixing of wages was ridiculous, and that it was stupidity to try to interfere between employer and employee. Now all these things are being done. Instead of continuing the present system of arbitration, we should appoint conciliation committees, on which employers and employees will be represented, with power to appoint their own chairman, and, in the event of no agreement being reached on certain matters, the decision of the Arbitration Court would be final. At one time . conciliation committees operated satisfactorily in New South Wales; but the employers insisted on being represented on those committees by members of the legal profession, and this eventually led to the appointment of arbitration courts, composed of persons with a knowledge of the law, but, unfortunately, not of the technicalities of the various trades and callings with which they have to deal. The bill provides that the AttorneyGeneral - as the representative of the Government - may intervene in a case before the court, and I take strong exception to that. The States of New South Wales and Queensland are the most progressive in the Commonwealth, both -in production and social reform. Their people are happy and contented, and this is evidenced by the numbers of persons that arrive there from other States. The workers of those two States now enjoy a working week of 44 hours. If the question of standard hours is referred to the Arbitration Court, the Government may, under the bill, intervene, and, in that event, would probably influence the court’s decision. Judges are only human; and being in the pay of the Crown,, it would take a lot of argument to convince them that the workers of New South Wales and Queensland were entitled to a working week of 44 hours, when workmen in other States were working 48 hours a week. Until the common rule is introduced, we shall have to bear our present disabilities. The Attorney-General has given no real reason for the appointment of judges with life tenure, or for the payment of pensions. The Arbitration Court will be an expensive tribunal, costing the country from £20,000 to £25,000 annually. Each judge will require an office, a messenger, a typist, and an associate. A deputation of which I was a member once asked Sir Henry
Parkes for an increase of salary for a particular officer, and lie wisely replied that, once a man was given a salary of £300 a year and placed in an office, the expenses multiplied and a department was soon created. The great trouble throughout the world to-day is overcapitalization of industries. We have an illustration of this in Great Britain. Through over-capitalization, the railways, and the shipping and mining industries cannot afford to pay the wages that were ruling prior to the war. Australia will soon be in the same position. The great British firm of Vickers Limited and others have set an example to us by reducing its capital by onehalf. Companies that are overcapitalized can neither provide a sufficient margin of profit for their shareholders, nor pay adequate wages to their employees. When in committee I hope that this legislation will be amended to bring it more into conformity with the ideals of the Labour party.
.-If the system of arbitration, involving the artificial regulation of wages by constituted authorities, is to continue, it is advisable to improve the machinery of the Arbitration Court in many of the ways proposed by this bill; but, at the risk of standing alone, I declare my fundamental opposition to the arbitrary adjustment of the relations of employer and employee without regard to the economic conditions of the industry concerned. This method of awarding rates of wages and hours of labour, following upon an artificially created dispute, and the consideration by the court of all sorts of extraneous factors, is little better than guesswork. I believe in industrial conciliation ; but conciliation and compulsory arbitration are as wide apart as the poles, for the one aims at prevention, and the other at a rule of thumb ‘ adjustment of relationships. Having emerged from the artificial and unsound conditions brought about by the war, the country’s outstanding need is a sound economic stocktaking. During the war all sound methods, and all (the safeguards of industry were dispensed with; our ordered systems of finance and economic production were cast to the winds. Currency and values were inflated, and every other index to sound economics went by the board. By now the nation should have returned to normal conditions, but it continues to pursue the alluring, bouncing ball of extravagance in our social and economic life, for which a crude system of compulsory arbitration, which is merely a compromise between warring elements, is mainly responsible. What arbitration -judge is prepared to base awards on the true economic conditions in the dairying, fruitgrowing, and poultry industries? By the aid of crutches - bounties at this end and preference at the other end of the world - some primary industries are still able to keep going; wheatgrowing and wool-raising are sound, and they are mainly supporting the nation. What other primary industry can prosper under existing conditions? I believe in good wages, sound wages, that leave some clear money to the worker ; wages or business that leave no money are unsound. In opposing the principle of compulsory arbitration, I do not wish anybody to think that I would dismantle the whole machinery of compulsory arbitration, and terminate the awards that it has produced. I would not summarily take from any worker anything he has gained legitimately from the court, but I ask that the Commonwealth shall evacuate the field of industrialism, and leave the responsibility of regulating wages, hours, and working conditions to the wages boards and systems of collective bargaining that the State authorities have established. I would institute a system of economic investigations and reasoning by means of wages boards; and, better still, I would appoint a committee in each industry to inquire and report as to what wages the industry could afford. If it be sound and equitable for an arbitration court to award in the secondary industries conditions that ensure a good standard of living to those engaged in them, is it logical or just that the same court should not be able to exercise jurisdiction in the primary industries to ensure decent conditions for the. men, women and children by whose labour they are carried on ? Neither the court nor this Parliament can award such conditions to those industries. Other than the value of our primary production, there is no fund of national wealth from which can be paid any wages that courts may arbitrarily fix in primary industries. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) did not exaggerate the drift from rural employments to the secondary industries. In the factories, men get high wages and work short hours; in the rural industries long hours, much drudgery, and often inadequate rewards are the rule. Parents living on the land are anxious to give their children good education and the other benefits of modern civilization, but the condition of most of the rural industries in which they are engaged does not permit them to do that. I am sorry that the Government is not proposing as the first feature of its economic programme a sound stocktaking of the nation’s industries. During the war, and in the years immediately following, this country enjoyed abnormal prosperity. Many of the nations of Europe were not producing, and Australia, a rich land with only a few people to feed and clothe, was able to get high prices for its abundance of wool and wheat . of which other countries were short. Upon the prosperity which resulted from high production and high prices we have overdrawn, and, in addition, we have pledged future generations by an orgy of national borrowing unprecedented in the history of Australia. But one who attempts to draw attention to this uneconomic inflation receives only a chilly hearing, and is supposed to be out of sympathy with modern thought. To those men who promise higher wages and better conditions in industry without regard to the funds from which those things are to be paid for, will come a day of reckoning. Last week the Arbitration Court in Perth increased the wages of shearers by 2s. per 100 sheep, and proportionately advanced the payment of shed hands and other workers in the industry. Yet wool which twelve months ago averaged £33 per bale has fallen to £16 or £17 per bale; the price of lamb, which for nearly three years was about ls. per lb. on the London market, is to-day below 6d . ; and sutton, which ranged from 7d. to 8d. per lb., is now worth about half that price. At this very time of depression in the pastoral industry, that clumsy instrument called an arbitration court orders the payment of increased wages. I am not concerned so much about, the fate of the large land-holder or squat- ter ; he can look after himself. But this and past governments are responsible for having settled thousands of returned soldiers upon grazing land. In my own electorate, estates were subdivided into sheep farms, and they are suitable for nothing else. The holders paid high prices for land and stock for which many of them have not yet paid. With the prices of wool, mutton, and lamb down 50 per cent., some of those men are on the verge of bankruptcy; yet they are required by the court to pay increased wages and offer better conditions to the workers. It is unpalatable to me to have to say these things, but it is the duty of somebody to point out the unsoundness of the economic conditions that prevail from one end of Australia to the other. When General Pau came to Australia to acknowledge, in behalf of the French people, the part that our soldiers had played “ in saving their beloved France, he observed closely the resources of our nation, and declared that the pastoral and agricultural industries were its two breasts. Australia’s total national debt is approximately £1,000,000,000. The wool clip is worth £35,000,000 - the estimate of the value of the forthcoming clip of .2,250,000 bales, at from £16 to £17 a bale - is not equal to the annual interest on the national debt. The exportable surplus of the coming wheat harvest, at current prices, may realize from £30,000,000 to £35,000,000. The total interest of the national debt is £55,000,000, and the invalid, old-age, maternity, and war pensions amount to another £15,000,000. These are inescapable, annually recurring, obligations. It will, therefore, take the whole of the proceeds of the wool clip and of the wheat harvest to pay the interest on the national debt and the pensions of this country. After that, what is left? Where is the mystic fund out of which the ever increasing wages awarded by the Arbitration Court are to be paid ? I ask that a halt shall be called. We ought to get right down to a sound understanding of the economic basis upon which the industries of the country rest, and alter a system that does not produce results. I desire the worker in this country to have his margin of hope, and to have some clear money for his life’s work. ! am not an advocate of low wages, for I believe that the worker and his family should have reasonable recompense for their toil; but that cannot be obtained under a system that hoists the cost of living against the worker while pretending to aid him. The system has ignominiously failed, and all the patches that this bill places on it Will not make it sound. The world at large has rejected it, although misguided people in this country still support it. I believe that the Government has the. best intentions in endeavouring to improve the system, but the system is essentially unsound. We ought to adopt a system by which those on both sides in industry can come together on a sound economic basis. Let the workers be paid under conditions similar to those prevailing in the United States of America. I do not wish to copy any country slavishly, but a system which, like ours, gives no clear money to the men engaged in industry, or to the primary producers, is unsound both for them and the nation.
– The trouble was that under the old system the workers did not obtain anything like their fair share of the proceeds of their labour.
-I would not restore the old system, and I hope that the honorable member will not accuse me of that. I have already said that I believe in collective bargaining, and that wages boards and conciliation committees provide for that. I would not allow any man arbitrarily to fix the wages of another man. But I say that the arbitration system is not the right system, and that the Government, even if this bill is carried, and the referendum proposals accepted, should take steps to establish an economic council composed of representatives of all shades of opinion - the employers and employees in the secondary, and particularly in the primary industries, learned economists from the universities, judges with experience in the. courts, and others. When the members of such a council come to comprehend the fact that we are not drawing from a bottomless well of wealth, and that the day of reckoning is coming, a solution of our problems may be in sight. Soon we shall be unable to borrow, or, if we do borrow, to create an asset worth the money we sink in it. I defy any honorable member to say that the cost of any public work in Australia is not excessive. A recent illustration is the works being carried out by the Federal Capital Commission at Canberra. No public servant can live in a decent home at Canberra, whether he buys it or rents it, unless he pays £3 a week for it. The whole system is economicallyunsound. The public servants cannot stand it, and the community generally cannot stand it, and I hope it will soon dawn on them that the conditions under which the primary producer of this country labours are fundamentally unsound. I wish we could have a roving economic committee. I should like to see it move into the dairyingand fruit-growing areas, and into the cattle country of the north of Australia, where on wide, rich pastures men cannot pay their way. Cattle men in Queensland are nearly down and out, first because of the ravages of a drought, and secondly, because what ought to be one of Australia’s greatest industries is in such a condition that it hardly pays to slaughter a beast to sell it in the world’s markets. It does not pay at present in the north of Australia to breed cattle, and thatmaens that it does notpay Australia to keep her place in the great meat industry of the world. Our national affairs require a thorough overhaul, but the Gilbertian farce of placing heavier imposts on industry in its worst hour continues in the Arbitration Court. These things are evidence to me that the farce ought to be stopped before disaster ensues.
– I am surprised at a vigorous young Australian’ native like the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), be his feelings ever so intense, indulging in the mournful speech that he has just delivered.
– I have done a great deal more to help Australia and her industries than has the honorable member.
– I do not doubt the honorable member’s earnestness or sincerity, but if we compare Australia with other countries, we can say, without being boastful, that it is in a far better condition than any of them.
– I am afraid that is not saying very much. It does not meet the argument of the honorable member for Wannon.
– On a bill like this, there is no need to enter upon a discussion oi’ the boundless resources of this country. The Government is doing something to move along life’s pathway with wellordered steps, with co-ordination and organization. If we revert to a disorganized industrial system we shall be on the way to our doom. Not only in the industrial, but also in other spheres, more, and not less, organization is needed.
– The honorable member for “Wannon did not say a word against organization; he believes in it.
– That may be so, but he reached very doleful conclusions. He said that the continual raising of wages in this country, notwithstanding our natural wealth, would lead to disaster. He spoke of the enormous sum to be paid out every year tq meet, our war obligations; but Inhere is one item that he did not mention. One of the greatest drawbacks to this country is not that the worker is given a living wage, but that we have to meet ah annual interest bill of £50,000,000. In a few years we shall bc paying twice as much for borrowed money as we paid not long ago. I do not object to money being borrowed within our own borders. When the Fisher Government floated the first loan in this country, it was hardly expected that the people would respond to the extent of more than a few million pounds. It was seriously predicted by some honorable members, who thought that they knew something of commerce and finance, that the Government was asking for too much. Apart from what we pay in Australia, we pay from £25,000,000 to £30,000,000 in interest overseas.
– It is, therefore, necessary to produce new wealth, not to borrow it.
– I am pointing out that the progress of this country is not hindered by the payment of large sums of money to the worker. The honorable member mentioned the United States of America; but that is a high-wage country.
– Of course it is, and 1 should like Australia to improve its system by going in the same direction as the United States of America is travelling.
– Then why complain because a court, after searching inquiry, awards a living wage to the workers?
– The honorable member is entirely misinterpreting my speech.
– If we could wave a magic wand and cause wages in Australia to fall by 50. per cent, overnight, I do not think that the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) or the honorable member for Wannon would say that that would be a good thing for the primary producers. They know very well that nearly everything the people buy to eat or wear comes from the land.
– The honorable member for Wannon advocated the payment of good wages.
– But he also said that if we persist in our ‘wage-raising arbitration court methods, we shall ruin the country.
– I would rather the honorable member called me a tory than an ostrich.
– High wages are not always good wages.
– Their value is determined by the necessaries and comforts that they will purchase. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) could not help having a tilt at the tariff; but the honorable member for Wannon did not do that, for he takes a broad national view of our fiscal policy. He realizes that secondary, as well as primary, industries are necessary for the welfare of the country. But I disagree with his concluding remarks. Not high wages, but other factors, are undermining our stability. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) suggested that Australia had suffered seriously through industrial troubles - he’ read his brief remarkably well - but other circumstances contribute more than what may be called “ days off “ by the workers. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. ‘’ Foster) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) a few days ago quoted passages from a recently published book on industrial conditions in the United States of America, which seems to have had considerable influence on honorable members opposite. I have in my hand the annual report of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry for 1922, which contains, among other things, an American article on “ The Elimination of Waste in Industry,” that indicates conclusively that the workers are not chiefly to blame. It includes the table -
I think even honorable members opposite will be prepared to admit that that shows quite clearly that inefficient management in industry is responsible for more waste than strikes, limitation of output, and other methods that are sometimes adopted by workers to achieve some measure of justice. I remind honorable members that those figures refer to industry in what is reckoned to be the most efficiently organized country in the world. When we are considering the conditions in the United States of America, it is well for us to look at them in a broad way. The following paragraph is also from the article that I have already quoted: -
Some of the evils of restriction of production are chargeable to owners and management. In the building trades, contractors, builders, and supply dealers have restricted production by maintaining high prices, collusion in bidding, and unfair practices. At times there has been collusion beween employers and labour, tending to raise prices unduly. The waste from these causes cannot be measured in this study.
All these factors militate against achieving the maximum degree of success. Unfortunately, in the hurry to get rich quick, many business men descend to practices that no one can excuse. Many more casualties occur in America than in
Australian industries. On that point this report states -
A report on national vitality, prepared in 1009 for the National Conservation Commission, appointed by President Roosevelt. estimated that there were then about 3,000,000 persons seriously ill at all times in the United States of America. This meant an average annual loss per person of thirteen days owing to illness. It was estimated that 42 “per cent, of this illness was preventable, and that such prevention would extend the average life by over fifteen, years. Since that report was issued an apparent reduction in illness has been accomplished; so that to-day an estimate of between eight and nine days5 working time lost through illness is probably near the fact.
It appears, therefore, that between 1910 and 1921 conditions improved so much in the United States of America that 210,000,000 working days were saved to the employees through improved health. The article proceeds -
In discussing public health conditions there is no clear distinction between the standing of the 42,000,000 persons classed as gainfully employed in the United States and those specifically engaged’ in industry. The 42,000,000 men and women gainfully employed probably lose, on an average, more than eight days each annually from illness disabilities, including non-industrial accidents - a total of 350,000,000 days.
– All this goes to show the necessity for economic stocktaking.
– I have no objection to that. If any honorable member thinks that he should sound a warning note, that is his business ; but the doleful sentiments with which the honorable member for Wannon concluded his speech were, in my opinion, unwarranted. Better organization is needed in industry. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. CooM knows its value to the primary producers, for I suppose that the various cooperative producing and marketing movements that he has been connected with in the last quarter of a century have saved them hundreds of thousands of pounds. It is common for comparisons to be made between city and country life, usually with the object of showing the privileges and conveniences enjoyed by those who live in the cities; but I dare say that, notwithstanding the variety and amusement that may be had in a city like Sydney, with its 1,000,000 and. more inhabitants, or a city like Melbourne, with about 900,000 people, honorable members who have lived in rural districts for the greater part of their lives would not dream of residing permanently in a city.
I adroit that those who are engaged in primary production have to work long hours - in the dairying industry, their work is practically continuous from the beginning to the end of the year. I desire to see rural conditions improved, and I believe that gradually greater comforts are being provided for those who live outback. The telephone system is spreading its influence further and further, and the greatest invention of all - wireless - takes to the homes of country people pleasures that it was impossible for them formerly to obtain. Generally speaking, although the working hours may be longer and the rewards of labour for the time being not so great, rural life is much to be preferred to that in the city. The health statistics prove that those who live in rural areas are much more fortunately placed than the dwellers in congested parts. The average working man in the city frequently has to travel 5, 10, and more miles to his work, which he has to reach by about half -past 7 o’clock in the morning. That necessitates early rising, and results in a late return, to his home in the evening. I am acquainted with men in my constituency who are supposed to be working under favorable conditions, yet they could not reach the polling booth in time to record their votes before 8 o’clock in the evening. I hope that country members, instead of preaching disaffection amongst their constituents, v.Till enlarge upon the pleasures and healthgiving qualities of country life. The testimony of medical men who have inquired into the health of those who are employed in industries in the United States of America, is to the following effect: First there comes to the worker fatigue; secondly colds; thirdly, tuberculosis; and fourthly, death. The industrial statistics of the United States of America show that, annually, 350,000,000 days are lost through sickness and accident; proving that the health of the people in that country is very much inferior to what it is in Australia. High wages, greater output, and other alleged benefits are dearly purchased if they are obtained at the expense of human life. I am pleased that the industrial organizations are now limiting the hours worked by men who are engaged on piece-work. Australians pride themselves upon their physical standard. The recent^ great war showed that the Australian soldiers were second to no others in the matter of mentality and physique. Why? In the first place, we have sprung from a good stock. The best of Britain’s sons came to Australia in the early days of her history, and we are their descendants. We live under more healthy conditions than those which exist in most other countries, and we have thus been able to build up a race whose physique is not excelled by that of any other nationality. We should not attempt to copy the methods that areadopted by other countries. With all its wonderful wealth and large output, the death rate in the United States of America, especially in the big industries, is much greater than it is in Australia. The part of the bill in which I most strongly believe, and that which will prove the most effective, is the provision relating to the appointment of conciliation commissioners. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) said this afternoon, it is much easier to prevent an industrial dispute than to settle one. I add my tribute to those of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), to the work which has been done by Mr. Justice Higgins. Although he was preceded in the office of President of the Arbitration Court by the late- Mr. Justice O’Connor, he had to break fresh ground, and he has left behind him a record of which Australia is proud, and from which other countries have benefited. Tens of thousands of workers have had their troubles settled by conciliation. Whilst Mr. P. McM. Glynn was the member for Angas, he was also the legal representative of practically all tie Broken Hill mine-owners, and of a number of employers in South Australia. He always met the secretary ‘of the union, and, together, they drew up an agreement in accordance with the regulations of the act. It was taken along to the Registrar of the court, and was subsequently made an award by the judge. I hope that provision will be made which will enable the conciliation commissioners to intervene whenever there is likely to be trouble, and thus have the matter settled amicably. I do not think that much opposition will be displayed to the bill. If amendments are proposed from this side I trust that the Attorney-
General will, if possible, allow them to be incorporated in the measure. We shall’ then have a better Arbitration Act than we possess at the present time.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 8 p.m.
Mr.BLAKELEY (Darling) [8.0].- This bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act makes provision for certain departures from practices which have been followed for some time. It proposes that the judges of the Arbitration Court shall have a life tenure of office, and shall be entitled to pensions, and. it makes provision for a distinctly new departure from present practice in permitting the intervention of the AttorneyGeneral in disputes. Speaking gene1 rally, the federal unions which are making use of the conciliation and arbitration court endorse the principles of the bill, but are disappointed that its scope is not more extended, and that it does not make provision to remedy disabilities from which they are at present suffering. As they endorse the principles of the bill, and particularly the provision for a life tenure for judges of the court, and the power to interpret their own awards, instead of leaving their interpretation to police magistrates, I have very little opposition to offer to the measure. I hope, however, that when the bill is being considered in committee, the Government will be prepared to accept amendments drafted by those who have used the existing law for many years, namely, the committees and officers of federal organizations. This is only another example of the way in which the Conciliation and Arbitration Act has been tinkered with during the nine years that I have been a member of this House. In 1920, the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), introduced a bill containing very elaborate machinery for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. It provided for a Commonwealth Council of industrial representatives, district councils of industrial representatives, special tribunals, and local boards. In introducing the measure the right honorable gentleman pointed out the complete failure of the then existing Conciliation and Arbitration Act, as evidenced by the congestion of the Arbitration Court at the time. There were then some 120 cases awaiting attention. That conges tion might be directly attributed to the then Prime Minister, because of his lack of sympathy with the work of the court, and his refusal to appoint more judges to relieve the congestion. The Industrial Peace Bill was brought down with a flourish of trumpets. It was to be the last word in conciliation and arbitration. The stage was set, the scenery and machinery were placed nicely in position - but nothing functioned. I am inclined to think that when the measure was passed, it was not intended that it should function. The proof is that it was made use of almost exclusively by the coal-miners of Australia, and only on one occasion by the seamen. The machinery of the act has functioned in connexion with those industries, and no others. It has proved of great benefit to the coalminers by securing almost complete industrial peace in the coal-mining industry. To read the political propaganda published in the press from time to time by Mr. McDonald, secretary to the Coal Mine . Owners’ Association, one might imagine that the coal-miners of the country do nothing else but go on strike. That is not so, because, speaking comparatively, the industry in the three main coal-bearing States has been carried on peacefully under the Industrial Peace Act. It would seem that it was purely an accident that the act was applied to the coal-mining industry. It may have been that those responsible for it had it in mind that, while serving one purpose, they might cover up their tracks by making the measure apply to other industries. I have given very close attention to the arbitration laws of this country, and particularly to the federal laws dealing with the subject. I have noted with regret the way in which the Arbitration Court has been used for political purposes. The judges of the court have in the past been hampered in their work. We have seen a Prime Minister adopting the extreme course of attacking, through the press and on the floor of this House, a judge of the High Court who at the time was President of the Arbitration Court. A feud was started at that time by the right honorable member for North Sydneyand was carried on by one side. The greatest enemy of Mr. Justice Higgins will agree that he was never inefficient or neglectful of his duty to the country in his position as President of the Arbitration Court. Apparently the Industrial Peace Act was introduced as a means to displace Mr. Justice Higgins by making his position intolerable. It had that effect. Almost immediately after it became law, he was practically farced to resign his position as President of the Arbitration Court. The Government of the day was afraid that a 44-hour working week would be determined by Mr. Justice Higgins, and as a result of a very cunning trick, for which the then Prime Minister was responsible, it was decided, in order that the 44-hour working week should not be made a common rule for federal industries, that there should be yet another tinkering with the arbitration law, and a bill was brought down which made it impossible for working hours to be fixed by a court consisting of less than three judges. At the time, honorable members on this side stated frankly that the only reason for the introduction of that measure was to enable the Government, under instructions from the employers of the country, to set up an obstacle to prevent the workers getting what was due to them. So far as it dealt with the question of hours of labour the measure passed at that time was a scandalous measure.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in reflecting upon legislation passed by this Parliament.
– Then, I shall say that the Government acted scandalously towards the workers of. the country when they introduced and passed that piece of legislation.. The Prime Minister and the government of the day were not even then satisfied that the vested interests were properly protected from the establishment of a 44-hour working week. When the legislation providing that hours of labour could not be dealt with by less than three judges was placed on the statute-book, the scenery and machinery were again placed in proper position, but there were no actors. The government of the day of. which you, Mr. Speaker, were a member, failed to appoint judges to the court for nine months. It deliberately prevented one judge from fixing- working hours and deliberately refrained from appointing other judges in order that the question might be settled by three judges. Ultimately, other judges were appointed, but because of political influence, a 44-hour working week has not yet been fixed. I am hoping that one good result giving the judges of the court a life tenure of office will be the removal of the fear of extinction, by a government of the day, of a judge who dares to do things opposed to its policy. I do not say that the judges who vacate their position at the. end of this month have been influenced by the fact that two of them will then be out of a job, and have consequently refrained from doing justice to the workers of Australia by fixing a 44-hour working week, but it may be a factor in the delay of the settlement of the question. There is not a judge of the Arbitration Courts, whose judgments I have read, who is not apparently favorable to a 44-hour working week, but notwithstanding the sympathy of the judges of the State and Federal courts, the fact remains that we have been compelled to do outside the court that which should have been done in the court many years ago. I trust that the judges who are appointed will take up the vexed questions of a basic wageand a universal 44-hour working; week for the Commonwealth, and will deal with them as they should have been dealt with many years ago. The bill now under review is practically the Industrial Peace Act only it provides for commissions, instead of the elaborate machinery of a Commonwealth, and district councils of industrial representatives, local boards, and special tribunals. Power is given under the bill to create commissi ons to deal with special matters, and with that I agree. Elaborate machinery may be all very well, but if it cannot be operated it is of very little use to the workers of the country. A universal working week of 44 hours is inevitable. It was recently adopted in New South Wales, outside of and despite the Arbitration Court, but steps were immediately taken to refer the question to the High Court. As a result, the workers underFederal awards are in a most invidious position. This matter isindeed serious. On the 17th May, Mr. Justice Powers, in the Federal Arbitration Court, when dealing with this subject, said -
The law, as it now stands, is that the minimum rates fixed as such are maximum rates so far as the power of the State Parliaments or the State courts or boards isconcemed. The law, as it now stands, is that the maximum hours fixed by the Federal court’s awards as maximum hours are minimum hours so far as the power of the State Parliaments or State courts or boards is concerned. The effect of the position is that the Federal awards are now to be sanctuaries under which respondents to Federal awards can flee to escape all State laws, commissions, arbitration courts, and wages boards decisions, which are imposed upon all other citizens in a State. That is as to rules and conditions fixed by Federal awards. This must cause dissatisfaction by requiring a minority of employees under Federal awards in the different States to work on lower wages and for longer hours than the great body of employees in those States. If that is the effect, and I think it is, -then the unions will not assist to build the sanctuaries into which the respondents can flee, and will apply to determine the awards as soon as the periodfor which they were made expires. The unions are already lodging applications for relief.
That is an extraordinary position to develop in this country. Under a State Labour Government, the workers of New SouthWales have been able to obtain wages and conditions far in advance of those granted by the Federal Arbitration Court. I haveno doubt that the exercise of political influence on that court has been a great factor in bringing about that position. The State Labour Government of New South Wales adopted a working week of 44 hours.
– Does the honorable member suggest that political influence was used in that case? ,
– Yes, but not upon the judges. A majority of the members of the State Parliament came to that decision.
– How large was the majority?
– It was sufficient to establish a 44 hours’ working week in New South Wales. This question has agitated the minds of the workers of this country for many years. It will be remembered that a Labour Government, some years ago, instituted a working week of 44 hours in New South Wales. The Nationalist party there went to the country on that issue, and, when returned to office, immediately instituted a working week of 48 hours. At the next elections the Nationalist party were defeated mainly because of its refusal to adopt a 44 hours’ working week. That principle, so far as New South Wales and Queensland are concerned, is definitely fixed, and no Government there dare to re-institute a 48 hours’ working week. The agitation for a working week of 44 hours is gradually extending to the other States.
– Does the honorable member favour a working week of 40 hours?
– In some industries a working week of 40 hours is too long. I have worked in industries in which a working week of 30 hours was too long. Any person who has had experience of rock-chopping, either in -tunnels or in trenches, well knows that it is impossible to avoid miners’ phthisis after doing that work for six months. In 1912 a gang of nine men were rock-chopping in Sydney. Four years afterwards five of them were dead, three of them were so ill that they could not work, and the ninth man was liable to cease work at any time.
– Is that any argument in support of a universal working week of 44 hours?
– It is an answer to the interjection of the honorable member for Boothby. There are other industries whose working hours should be less than 44 a week. There is no doubt as to the desire of the workers themselves. They, and not the people who talk academically about economic factors, do the job and produce the wealth of this country, and, therefore, should be the determining factor respecting hours of work.
– On what principle does the honorable member suggest that the hours should be fixed at 44 a week? Of course, one understands that there are various occupations in which a smaller number of working hours should be fixed.
– The general principle is that a 48-hours working week is too long.
Mr.Maxwell.-That is not a principle.
– Surely it becomes a principle if the workers decide that a working week of 48 hours is too long, and does not give them sufficient time for relaxation and recreation. Surely they are the most competent to judge what is a fair working week. Apart from that, it has been laid down on many occasions by employers such as Leverhulme, Ford, and others, that there is a point of time after which the resistance and vitality of a worker decreases, and a distinct economic loss is occasioned by working beyond that point. That has also been determined by medical men and others investigating the subject, and we are quite content to accept their views, because we know from personal experience that a working week of 44 hours is inevitable.
– Does the honorable member suggest fixing the working week of a wife at 44 hours ?
– Should we restrict the working hours of members of Parliament to 44 a week? The honorable member reminds me of the intelligent elector who stands on the edge of the crowd asking whether beer will be laid on to his house, is the candidate in favour of making an inland sea, and other more or less silly remarks, well knowing that such things would be impossible. The honorable member realized that, too, when he makes such a puerile interjection. The appointment of judges to the Arbitration Court and the right of intervention by the Attorney-General to refer to it the question of hours and wages will not be opposed by me. I should like to know whether a judge of the court will be able to deal with the question of hours in respect of a section of industry, such as the rock-choppers, or will three judges be required. That is, of course, a matter primarily for the committee. The Council of the Federated Unions is in favour of the bill, and we hope that at least an earnest attempt is to be made to establish the Arbitration Court on a proper basis. I regret that because of the referendum proposals, the general amendment of the act has been postponed for at least twelve months. We hope that when this legislation is operating the political- influence which has been used previously on the Arbitration Court will disappear, and thus enable the workers to obtain a universal working week of 44 hours and a universal basic wage.
– I should not speak on the bill had not the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) this afternoon referred to a certain circular issued by the Single Purpose League, in which, he said, was a statement that, among other organiza tions, the Liberal Federation of South Australia was opposed to arbitration. As a member of that federation, I wish to inform the honorable member and any others who may be under the same misapprehension, that the Liberal Federation of South Australia is not opposed to the principle of arbitration. As a matter of fact, that is a plank of its platform. A statement was made this afternoon by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton)- that some workers - I presume he meant industrial workers, because I do not think that he refers very often to the country workers - had an interval of thirteen hours from the time of going to work in the morning to the time of returning in the evening. He said that that was a serious state of affairs, and showed that the conditions of work in the country were. far better than those in the city. But farmers’ wives, especially in the outback mallee country, rise at 4 a.m. at harvest-time; they toil hard through the day, and are rarely free to retire before 10 p.m. They work those hours through seeding time, except that they do not rise until 6 a.m. I speak on behalf of my farmer friends, because I have lived amongst them at various, times, and assisted, them with their harvesting, and I was, for many years, in business in a rural district. I am glad to see in this bill provision for conciliation. The attempts that are made in this Parliament and outside to set employer against employee, and vice versa, are mischievous. If conciliation were aimed at, and practised more generally, employer and employee, and the vast majority of the people in country and in city, who, though not parties to the disputes, suffer most by them, would fare better. I heartily support the bill, which, I hope, will prove another step towards industrial peace.
.- The bill provides for the reconstitution of the Arbitration Court by appointing judges with life tenure, because the High Court has decided that, according to the Constitution, judicial power cannot be exercised by judges appointed for a prescribed term. It further provides for the appointment of industrial commissioners and the payment of pensions to judges. The proposal to appoint judges for life has, I understand, the approval of a representative majority of the trade union movement; therefore it is not for me to oppose it. I saythat advisedly for fourteen years before entering this Parliament. I was aunion official, and was able to observe theoperation of the arbitration system, and, in regard to industrial matters, I am prepared to be guided very largely by those with whom I was associated in the administration of industrial unionism.
Mr.Watt. - Will the honorable member explain why the Labour movement approves of giving life tenure to judges of the ArbitrationCourt?
– The Labour movement desires that the Arbitration Court shall have power to interpret and enforce its own awards. . The High Court hasconstrued the Constitution to mean that judicial power can be exercised only by judges appointed on life tenure. Whether or not that is a correct interpretationof the Constitution is not arguable ; it must beaccepted. The Arbitration Court’s lack of judicial authority has been responsible for much expense, delay, and inefficiency, and the unions have been reluctantly compelled to submit, for the time being, to the consequences arising out of the High Court’s decision, to which I have referred. Nevertheless, it is the opinion of the Labour movement that the Constitution should be amended to enable this Parliament to determine the terms, conditions, . and tenure upon which the judiciary shall function.. I cannot understand why the Government did not include an amendment to that effect in the constitutional proposals recently passed by this House which are to be submitted to the people.
– Another reason for granting life tenure is that the judges’ must be above suspicion of self-interest or undue influence. .
– I agree that that is desirable; but this Parliament should have the right to determine the conditions upon which the judiciary shall operate. This is the only Parliament in the British Empire that has not that residuary power. Every State parliament can prescribe the age of retirement, and other conditions governing appointments to the bench. Most, if not all, British communities have recognized the necessity for placing the judiciary beyond the influence of party political warfare by giving life tenure to the judges, subject to certain conditions. But most communitiesrecognize that an arbitration tribunal should not function in the same way as an ordinary court, nor be governed by similar principles; it should be composed of young men of progressive outlook, who can respond to the impulses in the community towards advancement and social reform. An arbitration court composed of judges who have been on thebench for twenty years or more may possibly be a menace to industrial peace.For all practical purposes the court, which will exercise tremendous power, will be beyond the jurisdiction of this Parliament, and, therefore, thought the majority of honorable members may to-day consider appointments for life desirable, a day may come when they will rue the creation of a judicial instrument which may cause a great deal of industrial trouble, and exercise its power to the economic detri- ment of Australia. I have no desire, nor do I think has any one else on this side, that the judiciary should be subject to the whim or caprice of any political party, and the tenure of judges be terminable almost by executive act, but I strongly urge that judges of the Arbitration Court should be appointed for a prescribed term. The acceptedcanons of legal good behaviour are not likely to be broken in thedetermination of an ordinary action in the ordinarylaw courts, but a great deal of mischief might occur in connexion with an arbitration court if it did not enjoy the confidence and trust of the parties appearingbefore it. That is why the Arbitration Court judges should notbe appointed on the same tenure and terms as are other members of the judiciary.. The ‘Arbitration Court should set aside purely legal considerations, and adjudicate upon the conflicting claims of the parties in a spirit of conciliation, common sense, and equity. It is unfortunate that the HighCourt judgment has compelled us to adopt a course which, in other circumstances, the common sense of Parliament would not endorse.
– How does the honorable member expect abenchof judges to put aside legal considerations and procedure?
– Why this revolutionary desire on the part of the right honorable member to do away with legal procedure ?
– I think the right honorable gentleman is justified in suggesting that the Arbitration Court should not be hampered by the ordinary legal forms. The Government has adopted the wrong course in not asking the people to amend the Constitution in order to give to the court judicial power, regardless of the terms upon which its judges may be appointed. I reiterate my statement during the debates on the two Constitution amendment bills, that this Parliament should have plenary authority over its own agencies. Tt is absurd that it should be subject to its own creatures, but as I have already said, I accept this bill because the trade union movement of necessity approves of it. My attitude is perfectly logical.
– It is very obsequious for a member of Parliament.
– That remark is mere humbug. If the honorable member is quite candid, he will admit that his course of political conduct is governed very largely by the opinions of bodies outside, which are responsible for the presence, in this House, of himself and other honorable members opposite.
– I cannot admit that.
– The honorable member may not admit it, but it is true of very many honorable members opposite. I dosire the arbitration system to function satisfactorily, and those who have to submit to the authority of the court are entitled to have their views considered. That is the justification for my attitude. I have had plenty of opportunity of observing the general effect of arbitration. For many years I was associated with that militant organization of seamen which has been involved in so much trouble recently through insisting upon the economic rights of its members. Later, I organized clerical workers. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) attacked the arbitration system, but failed to propose a substitute. I do not intend to delve into the dark ages in order to find a justification for industrial conciliation and arbitration. No advocate of the system claims that it will entirely prevent industrial disputes. Only an idiot would pretend to prescribe a panacea for the ills to which the party politic is heir. Throughout history strikes have occurred, and will continue to occur. I need not remind honorable members of the strike on the Tower of Babel, or the strike of the Israelites, who were held in bondage by the Egyptians. No industrial authority has ever maintained that industrial strife can be abolished. The best that this Parliament can do is to try to make the industrial instrument for settling industrial disputes efficient, and reduce the cause of strikes. I say to those honorable .members opposite who have been loud in their denunciation of arbitration, that if arbitration were abolished to-morrow the militant organizations would not be seriously injured. They could rely on’ the jungle law in a straight-out fight, and we should get back to the days of direct action; but grave injustice would be inflicted on that great body of people whom the Government purports to represent, and who are misnamed the middle class - the professional workers and the clerks - who were ground between the economic millstones in the past because they had not sufficient collective consciousness to organize to better their conditions. A few years ago the shop assistants, the bank clerks, and even the journalists who record our debates in this House, were denied a tribunal to determine their conditions of employment, with the result that while the wages of artisans and labourers were being advanced by arbitration, and collective bargaining and strikes, the wages of professional workers and clerks were at a stand-still. Arbitration gave to them a charter by which they could maintain a wage standard in accordance with the progressive increase in the cost of living. The journalists gained substantially by their first application to the Federal Arbitration Court. The abolition of arbitration would inflict a grave injustice on the large section of the community that desires to operate peacefully by resort to industrial tribunals, it would tend to create industrial chaos, and it would certainly not be to the advantage of Australia. Those who talk about the value of conciliation seem to forget the industrial history of this country. It is impossible to have successful conciliation unless there is behind it the shadow of compulsory arbitration, or the mailed fist of force - direct action. For instance, when I first became secretary of the Clerical Union, the employers would j Kit confer with me because my union was not entitled to approach the State Arbitration Court. A Tory Government in New South Wales had denied to the clerks the right to approach the State Arbitration Court. It was only after years of agitation that we got there, and until we did so the employers treated us with profound contempt; but immediately we gained access to the court, they conferred with the union. I speak to-day as one who believes in conciliation, for I have initiated at least twenty agreements with employers, ranging from the Law Institute to the retail shopkeepers and the ship-owners.
– Was there not a wages board system in the State of New South Wales at that time.
– Yes; but the clerks were not allowed to have a wages board, because the Upper House excluded them from the schedule of the bill. I do not wish to recite my industrial biography, and I only mention these facts incidentally to show that unless resort to compulsory arbitration is available, the employers will not recognize the right of any body of workers to bargain collectively about their rate of remuneration or the conditions of their employment. It will interest the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who has praised the wages board system, to know that the wages board system in New South Wales failed, and was abandoned many years ago. This is what Mr. Justice Heydon, of the Arbitration Court, said before a royal commission in 1913 -
Nothing is more destructive of industrial content than inequality. With 28 chairmen dissociated and unco-ordinated, inequality is incessantly arising and exercising an irritating influence.
Summed up, his conclusions, and the conclusions of the commission, were -
That the attempt to mix the Wages Board mid judicial systems is a mistake.
I appeared before one of those wages boards, and it took me fifteen months to conclude the case, because the chairman, who was a barrister, when ha was needed on the board, had a big law case to attend to, or other members of the board had to go away from Sydney. Thus the interests of from 10,000 to 15,000 workers were put aside to suit the convenience of one or two individuals. Wages boards may operate satisfactorily in Victoria, but even Victoria has not been able to eliminate the ultimate appeal to a judicial tribunal. I have mentioned wages boards to bring me to the conclusion that the system adopted in New South Wales at the present time is calculated to work more satisfactorily than any other. I pay my tribute of admiration and respect to the statesmanship of the Lang Government in devising a tribunal so free from legalism. It is a tribunal that approaches industrial matters from a common-sense standpoint.
– Who presides over it?
- Mr. Piddington, but I will not be side-tracked into a discussion of the personnel of that commission. Honorable members opposite may for their part disagree with the appointment of certain members of the tribunal. In New South Wales there are co-ordinated conciliation committee?. The chairmen are, therefore, permanently devoted ‘ to the work of conciliation, and their private interests are not allowed to conflict with the discharge of their public duties. There is an ultimate appeal to a commissioner, who has had a judicial and legal training, and is specifically charged with the administration of arbitration, but he is virtually instructed by the statute to eliminate as much as possible from his reasoning legal technicalities and sophistry, and to face the problems presented to him in a commonsense and equitable way. The result of the system yet remains to be seen. Some persons may say that it is experimental, but from my experience of arbitration I should say that it will prove eminently successful. . The phrase “ conciliation and arbitration,” in its original meaning, conjures up visions of a spirit of give and take, of common-sense and toleration, which are not easily obtainable in a legal atmosphere. The most successful tribunal I have seen function was the Shipbuilding Tribunal appointed by the Hughes Government, of which Mr. Connington, an old and esteemed friend of mine, was chairman. He presided in a free and easy manner, and any one who wanted to smoke could do so. There were no bewigged gentlemen, armed with all the majesty, force, and dignity of the law, to keep the litigants poor by engaging in protracted legal fisticuffs, The subject under consideration could be approached in a spirit that should prevail when people are endeavoring to promote industrial peace. This Government would be well advised to seek an amendment of the Constitution to enable the judges of the Arbitration Court, and other judges, to be appointed for a specific term. If the present Government appoints judges who do not administer the Arbitration Act with sympathy and a proper realization of their duty to the community, a Labour Government in the future could appoint other judges; but that procedure is undesirable, because it would overload the bench. It would be better to appoint the judges for a prescribed number of years, at the end of which they should be judged by the way they carry out their duties. Every one who has studied the subject recognizes that there is greater need for change and progress in administering arbitration than in administering other laws. A court of law invokes precedent, and depends for its judgments upon immemorial custom and the rules of equity and common law, which are based on immemorial custom. Such a court is inherently conservative. In the administration of arbitration there should be no room for conservatism ; it should represent and respond to the spirit of the age. I wish to touch on a question which I should like the Attorney-General to traverse in his reply at the conclusion of this debate. I regret that the bill is not more comprehensive. The opportunity should have been taken by the Government to bring down a bill as comprehensive as the circumstances would permit. The fact, that this bill deals only partially with the subject of arbitration, will not tend to create confidence among those who will have to use the machinery provided. I hope that the Government will appoint the judges as soon as possible after the bill is passed. They must in fact do that. Because it will largely depend on who the judges are, and the respect in which they are held by those who will have to appear becofe them, as to whether the Arbitration Court will be successful.
The principal criticism directed by honorable members opposite, and by the workers outside, against the arbitration system has been on account of the protracted litigation connected with it. This arises from the fact that there is a right of appeal from the Arbitration Court to the High Court on points of law and constitutional issues, and that right has been freely used in the past, principally by respondent employers. In this bill no attempt is made to limit the number of grounds for such appeals. “With all due deference to the AttorneyGeneral, I submit that the final court of appeal in all matters of arbitration should be the full court of arbitration as prescribed in this bill. I recognize that under the .provisions of the Constitution, constitutional issues, if they involve the rights of the States and the Commonwealth, can be determined only by the High Court. But the Constitution allows the Parliament to limit the right of appeal to the High Court in any way that it may deem fit, subject to this exception. We ought not to do anything to protract litigation, because it tends to foment industrial trouble and undermine the faith of the people and the workers in the efficacy of this method of determining disputes. Captain Lawrence, of the Merchant Service Guild, who has had, I think, more experience of the Arbitration Court than any other union official in Australia, represents a union of the middle class, comprising ship captains and officers, whose salaries are beyond the dreams of the ordinary wage-earner. He told me of one case in which his organization was buffetted about by the High Court in trying to recover an amount of £65 for wages claimed by a Captain Spain. It cost the Merchant Service Guild over £2,000 to settle the matter.
– A general principle was involved, I believe.
– That may be so; but I am arguing that the right of appeal should be limited in some manner, or else that the Government should pay or contribute to the legal expenses of unions that are obliged to fight cases that involve constitutional issues or points of law.
– Am I not right in saying that that matter involved an interpretation of the provisions of the Navigation Act?
– It was a question of the interpretation of an award, I looked it up this afternoon.
– But the provisions of the Navigation Act were also involved in it.
– Captain Lawrence submitted the case to me to strengthen his argument in favour of limiting the right of appeal to the High Court. It is not reasonable that a trade union, with possibly only a few hundred members, should have to cripple itself financially in this fashion. Why should workers have to submit to a levy of, say, £5 each to establish their constitutional or legal right to benefit under an award’ which may give them no more than 2s. 6d. a week extra wages simply because the terms of the award or of a statute are ambiguous?
– Hear, hear !
– In litigation that arises out of appeals to the High Court the workers should have legal assistance provided for them. Although I do not desire to introduce personal reminiscences I well remember “the financial struggle that I had during the first six months I was with the Clerks Union. At the end of that time they owed me £100 for legal and otherexpenses that I had incurred in endeavouring to assist them. Some unions are not able to meet expenses of this kind, thoughI do not suggest that the Clerks Union is now in that position. But it is not fair to expect any union to bear the expenses of litigation that arise out of the ambiguous wording of either our statutes or the awards of the Court.
– The costs of all parties should be borne by the estate.
– That may make the matter ridiculous; I simply say that the right of appeal should be’ restricted or else that the Government should provide counsel or bear the expense of arguing the case on appeal to the High Court. The unions are expected to discharge certain statutory responsibilities, or submit to penalties if theydo not maintain industrial peace. They also carry certain community responsibility in conducting proceedings before the Arbitration Court. . They are recognized by law for that purpose, and I contend that the recognition should be extended, as it has been in New Zealand, by prescribing that in the interests of industrial peace every employee should belong to the union covering his calling, or contribute reasonably towards the expensesof it. If such a provision were made I should be prepared to abandon my claim for legal assistance in contesting constitutional issues and points of law before the High Court. In my opinion, the argument is incontrovertible that if employees benefit by awards they should be compelled to belong to the union that, obtained the award, or contribute to it by donation. At present effective preference cannot be granted by the court under the Arbitration Act. Another objection to the present Arbitration Act is that, under the findings in Alexander’s case, a magistrate can only make an order for the recovery of union dues, fines, and levies up to six months.
– That depends upon the terms of the State acts.
– Our act should be amended to enable some judicial authority with unlimited power to enforce the payment of all dues.
– That would involve setting up fresh Federal courts all over the Commonwealth .
– The proposed Fed- eral court, or even a district court, could be equipped with the power. A union does not desire to sue a man when his payments are only six months in arrears; it is when he is twelve months or longer behind that there is a feeling that he is evading payment. It is a form of tyranny to sue a man for six months’ arrears, which creates discontent and trouble in an organization, and which is not favoured. I trust that the Attorney-General will deal with this point when he replies.. I could offer many other suggestionsf or the improvement of the bill. For instance, the definition of the word’ “ lockout” could be improved by striking out the words “if the refusal is unreasonable,” and so could the definition of “ strike,” by deleting the words “ or partial.” At present the refusal to work-. by even two employees constitutes a strike. The view of the trade unions is that the cessation of a substantial number of men should be necessary before a strike could be said to have occurred. I join with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) in urging the amendment of the act to prevent the appearance of barristers or solicitors in any Arbitration Court proceedings whatsoever. At present lawyers are not allowed to appear in the hearing of an application for a determination of a dispute, but they may appear in an application for variation of an award or any other industrial matter. I wish, also, that something could be done to remedy the present unsatisfactory state of affairs in connexion with the boards of reference provided for in the act. Mr. Justice Higgins, in his book A New Province of Law and Order, states that these boards are very useful in industrial negotiations. They have been rendered ineffective by certain High Court decisions; but the unions are anxious that something should be done to enable them to function effectively, for they could prevent a good deal of industrial discontent and litigation. Unionists generally are anxious to utilize conciliation, and the bill in that respect may prove a step in the right direction. Some honorable members have criticized our arbitration system, and urged for more conciliation ; but conciliation which was not buttressed and upheld by an arbitration court or tribunal of some kind would lead to wages and conditions being determined regardless of economic and other effects. We should be in a state of chaos if there were not some central arbitration tribunal. To sum up, the advantages of arbitration are that it enables conditions of employment to be settled in conformity with certain defined principles; that it leads to each class of work being assessed in comparison with other classes instead of each being regarded separately; that it brings about uniformity of conditions inthe various crafts and industries; that it obliges the adoption of definite principles by employers and employees in the settlement of differences; that it enables an arbitrator who is a disinterested party to deal out justice to both sides;and that it causes the arbitrator to haveregard tothe effect of any award on the community. The only disadvan tages are that it permits the appearance of legal advocates at heavy expense to the unions; but this may be obviated easily as I have suggested that it is only possible for the arbitrator to handle one case at a time, which leads to long delays; and that it is impossible for the arbitrator to beas fully advised of the conditions of an industry as the parties themselves, which causes considerable impatience on the part of the latter. I am glad that there is a prospect of the delays being reduced by the proposal to appoint at least three judges to the bench, and also industrial commissioners. The bill may render our arbitration machinery more effective and expeditious, but I hope that, at the earliest opportunity, the Government will bring down a more comprehensive measure, so that we can rectify many other faults in the arbitration system.
.- I shall support this bill, not because I think it is the last word in industrial arbitration and conciliation, but because I regard it as a definite attempt to improve our present methods. When I spoke on the Constitution Alteration Industry and Commerce Bill, I said that, in our experience, if industrial arbitration had not been a failure up to the present, it at least had not been a success, but I by no means suggest that we should abandon it, for it seems to me that, before we abandon a thing that has been tried out, and has proved tobe not quite satisfactory, we should have a substitute for it which we are sure will be an improvement. I believe that a good deal of the mischief that has been caused in the past may bo removed when the provisions of this bill are put into operation. That industrial arbitration has, up to the present, been unsatisfactory is evidenced by the conditions that prevail in our commerce and industry. I mentioned in a previous speech on this subject that, in the years l920-24, inclusive, the loss in wages sustainedby the workers, through strikes, amounted to £6,285,574. I do not suggest that that is greater proportionately than the loss suffered under the same heading in other countries. I am not greatly concerned with other countries at the moment, but I am with myown. I regret very much that we havehad an inadequate arbitration system for so long, andthat it has entailed loss on so many workers, and their wives and families.
– About twelve times as much has been lost through unemployment.
Mr.G. FRANCIS. - I agree with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) that the losses due to unemployment are also an indictment of the present unsatisfactory condition of our economic and industrial system. There can be no doubt about that. We must recognize that conditions are not satisfactory, and that it is our duty to do what we can to remedy them. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) gave some interesting figures to show the trend of events in connexion with land occupation in Australia. The unsatisfactory state of affairs that he revealed is in part due to our system of industrial arbitration. I am not ascribing that as the sole cause, but it is one of the effects of the system. The following figures relating to Australia’s external trade show that we have not advancedunder our present system: -
– Values are worthless.
– Let us take the exports for the same years. They were as follow : -
Our imports have steadily increased, and our exports have as steadily decreased.
– In 1923-24 there was an increase in the exports compared with 1922-23.
– It is very trifling.
– There have been bad seasons in Queensland.
– The value of our imports and exports per head of population will afford a better criterion. Notwithstanding the interjection of the hon orable member for Swan, the following figures certainly are of value: -
It will be seen that our trade has not been moving in the right direction. I suggest that the causes which have militated against the success of arbitration are eight in number, and are as follow: -
– Surely, after that, the honorable member will not support the bill !
– I shall, because it proposes to change the conditions. The delay in obtaining awards has been due partly to the system, and partly to the insufficiency of the machinery of the courts and the number of judicial tribunals that are available to handle cases. A tremendous number of employers and employees have been cited, and volumninous evidence has been taken. The latter has been rendered necessary because of the fact that the tribunal has not had sufficient first hand knowledge of the industry to arrive at a determination without it. Any one who is familiar with any phase of industrial activity knows that every industry presents its own peculiar and exclusive problems. As has been pointed out by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), in some industries 30 hours are, in certain conditions, too many to ask men to work. It is impossible to lay down a flat rate and a given number of hours for the whole of our industrial life. The hours and wages must vary according to the exigencies of the industry, and the conditions under which the men have to work. It is impossible to remunerate adequately those who are engaged in some industries. Whilst 30 hours may be too long for certain industries, there are others to work in which for 48 hours a week would not cause distress. Wages should be fixed not merely on what is called the cost of living, but also upon a standard which takes into account the services that are rendered. Those wages should be as high as the industry can possibly afford to continue paying. For that reason employers must accept the full measure of responsibility involved in the scientific and economic management of their businesses, and their employees must co-operate with them to’ the fullest extent. The impossibility to prove a lockout, which is as serious for the community as a strike, is selfevident. Everybody must recognize that awards are rigidly enforceable, and are so enforced, against employers; but great difficulty is experienced in taking similar action against employees. If the conditions of an award do not suit a man, he has the right to decline to work under them ; but he has not the right to say, “ Not only shall I not work, but I refuse to allow other people to do so.” Yet that is a right which some men have arrogated to themselves. It is more the fault of the leaders than of the men. It must, of course, be recognized that the leaders are not always actuated by the desire to plunge th’e” country into a state of unrest. They wish to secure those conditions which they regard as essential. We mus!; be just to those men. They come in for a great deal of opprobrium, and, in many quarters.; they are denounced as leaders of industrial strife. They are merely agents, or instruments, to give effect to what they regard as being in the best interests of the people whom they represent. They would act falsely to their trust if they did not put up a fight at times. It must be recognized, however, that many strikes are promoted on the most insufficient and’ iniquitous grounds. I have in mind a strike that occurred in the Burdekin River Meat Preserving Company’s works, in the Kennedy division. The management refused to give an undertaking that the union secretary would be employed during the slack season. They said, “We will give him the first preference if there is any work to be done.” He said, “ That is not enough; I must be employed during the whole of the time, otherwise I cannot adequately protect the interests of the men.” The point was not conceded by the management, and the men were called out on strike during the operating season.
-What happened finally?
– The court called the parties together, and the men accepted the undertaking that the union secretary would be given preference in employment. Another strike occurred in Townsville, which was just as ludicrous and iniquitous. An employee of the Queensland Meat Exporting Agency Company bought a ring containing a stone from another employee. He took the stone to a jeweller; who- informed him that it was of very little value, and that the whole- ring was not worth the sum which he had paid for it. He insisted that the man from whom he had purchased it, who had reluctantly parted with it, should buy it back. Because that man declined to buy it back, the whole of the men were called out on strike, and remained out for nearly a week. It was a matter that did not concern either the industry or the employers ; but it is an instance of what happens when power is abused. The instances T have quoted give evidence of the utter and complete inability of the court to secure the observance of awards by employees, and there must be many others known to honorable members. There is no doubt that the employers and employees alike desire industrial peace, and it will be a good thing for the community if we get as nearly as possible to that ideal. Although industrial arbitration has, in my opinion, failed to some extent, it has not, I think, been completely tried out. I think we should give it a further trial and improve the conditions so far as we may. Whilst speaking on the Constitution Alteration (Industries and Commerce) Bill, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) attributed to me certain statements which I did not make. He quoted me as saying -
The Arbitration Court destroyedthe friendly relations that once existed between employers and employees in the pastoral industry.
I am quite certain that the honorable member completely misunderstood me, perhaps I expressed myself with a lack of clarity, which I should regret. I am satisfied that the honorable member would not have attributed those words to me unless he believed that I had used them. What I did say was -
In the pastoral and agricultural industries, the most cordial and friendly relations have always existed between employers and their employees; but that spirit has not been the result of industrial arbitration.
That statement was interpreted by the honorable member as a statement that the Arbitration Court had destroyed the friendly relations which previously existed between employers and employees in those industries. Amplifying his remarks on the subject, the honorable member referred to the history of the shearing industry, as if shearing were the only labour connected with the pastoral industry. I have in mind a property to which I contribute at present - because it does not return anything to me - on which we employ permanently fifteen hands. I am not taking any notice of casual hands employed. That is the equivalent of the employment of 5.475 hands for one day. Our shearing men, including wool-classers, shearers, rouseabouts, and pickers-up, number 25, who are employed for 50 days. That is the equivalent of the employment of 1,250 men for one day. These figures show the very small proportion of time which the shearers and rouseabouts represent in the pastoral industry. They represent only about 25 per cent. of the labour in the industry. I say that the most cordial and friendly relations exist, and have always existed, between employers and employees in the pastoral industry. There is no limit to which the men employed on stations hesitate to go to assist their employers, and there is no limit to which the employers have hesitated to go to assist the employees in the pastoral industry. That has not been brought about by industrial arbitration, but is the result of the actual conditions under which these people have to live together. They have to share common hardships and privations, and as a consequence they are brought closely together and understand one another. Above “all, the mow understand the conditions and difficulties which have to be faced by their employers, and the employers share with their men the hardships of their lives.
– The honorable member says that the property to which he has referred is yielding nothing to its owner.
– There is a very large amount of capital invested in it, and in this year of grace instead of producing anything, our operations will resultin a big loss, which we do not ask the employees to share. I can speak for those engaged in the cattle industry in Queensland. Although it has been brought to its knees; in connexion with the border trade in Queensland, under a system of industrial arbitration, an increase of wages has been given to the employees in the industry. I quote from the issue of 28th May of this year of the Flinders Chronicle, a pastoral newspaper published in the centre of the Hughenden district. It is of good standing, and is widely read throughout that district. It says : - .
The Honorable W. Angliss, a stock-raiser, factory owner, and retailer, and owner of several meat works in Australia, says that the meat export trade from Queensland is down and out. This is indeed depressing newsfor cattle owners. Costs are now 70 per cent. higher than in 1913, which is responsible for the collapse of the industry.
That statement is borne out by the facts known to every one engaged in the industry. An increase in wages has been given to the employees, and while I am not saying for a moment that in normal circumstances, having regard to the cost of living, an increase of wages would not have been called for, to give such an increase in the present circumstances of the industry is to push it further into the mire.
Mr.Fenton. - How has the industry fared over aseries of years?
– Over a series of years, we have made a very moderate return indeed on the amount of capital invested in the industry. We have not made as much as we might have made if the money had been put into Government bonds, We should then have been relieved of a great deal of anxiety and responsibility, but would have given no employment at all. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) dealt with unions interested in political action, and said that persons who take the benefit of an award should be compelled to belong to the union that secured it.
– Or help to pay for it.
– I entirely agree that that is a reasonable proposition, but it cannot be so regarded unless and until industrial unions are. separated from political unions. It is perfectly right that the man who takes the benefits secured by an industrial union should help to pay the costs incurred by it, either by becoming a member, or contributing to its funds, if those funds are applied solely to the purposes of the union or trade. But that a man should be compelled to contribute to funds used for political purposes, and to give effect to political views which he does not hold and which he considers detrimental to the true interests of the country, is absolutely iniquitous. I do not say that there should be no political union. I quite agree that it is the proper thing for employees in a given trade, or working together as employees generally, to unite for political purposes, but I say definitely, and without any doubt whatever, that such organizations should be separate and entirely apart from trade organizations. I say, let a man join whatever political camp he thinks fit.
– Is that the policy of the party opposite?
– It is the policy I stand for, and have always stood for. If we could separate political unionism from industrial unionism we should take a step in the direction of industrial peace which would help this country to a very great extent. The honorable member for Yarra suggested that if I do not support unions based on political action, I range myself with Jacob Johannsen. I do not wish to be associated with Mr. Johannsen.
– He might be right sometimes.
– He might occasionally be right. Whatever opinions he or Mr. Thomas Walsh may hold, it is beyond doubt that their united action has reduced the Seamen’s Union to a condition of despair to which it was never reduced before. I do not wish to see any union, political or industrial, reduced to such a position.
– What would the honorable member consider the proper purpose of trade union funds as distinguished from political union funds ?
– I suggest that the proper use of trade union funds would be to fight industrial questions through the courts, where necessary, and secure better conditions for the union. They could be used when there was a lockout or when the unions felt constrained to embark upon a strike. Although strikes are against the law, I do not say that there should never be a strike. I can conceive of occasions when men should go out on strike in spite of the law.
– The honorable member is in favour of direct action.
– I am saying what I think. I know what happened when the railway strike took place in Queensland. A Labour Government had gone to the country with the pledge to introduce child endowment. It found it could not raise the money, and it deliberately fomented a strike. The railway men went out, and, although many of my constituents and supporters do not agree with me, I am unable to change my view that the men were justified in going out on strike on that occasion. In such a case trade union funds might be legitimately employed. On the other hand, the funds contributed to a political union should be used to support candidates and to disseminate the propaganda and policy of the political party with which its members were associated. But I say it is absolutely iniquitous to suggest that merely because of the accident of the environment in which a child is brought up, and the economic circumstances of his father and mother, he should belong to one political camp and not to another.
– Has the honorable member ever known of a case to which he could object of the use of union funds for political purposes?
– I know of many such cases, and I think the honorable member must know of many also. It is quite a common thing for honorable members opposite to say that the party on this side is maintained by huge contributions by capitalists, and by people whom they are pleased to call tories. Honorable members opposite do not suggest where their own funds come from, and. if they are not provided by the unions or by persons interested in their views, it will be interesting to know how the Labour party secures the large sums of money that are expended on its electoral campaigns. I note with great interest that three judges are to be appointed to the Arbitration Court. I hope they will be men of eminent legal ability, because the tendency then would be to make awards and determinations that would not be so readily challenged as those made by mere laymen, who would not understand the legal restrictions by which they must inevitably be bound. I agree entirely with the provision giving the AttorneyGeneral power to intervene. We have worked for many years, with complete success, under a similar system in respect of divorce and matrimonial proceedings, and it has provided a safeguard against collusion between parties who desire divorce. The provision in the bill giving the Attorney-General the right to intervene in proper cases for the protection of the interests of the community is very necessary. It is readily conceivable that, in industrial arbitration, many cases may arise in which employers and employees may arrive at an agreement which is entirely unjust to the community at large, and in such cases it will be the function of the Attorney-General to intervene in the interests of the great body of the people. The fact that this power exists will have a tendency to render its operation unnecessary. I welcome the appointment of conciliation commissioners, because, as we progress, we must get nearer and nearer the system in vogue in Canada. When we adopt that, we shall have gone a long way towards that industrial peace that every honorable member, irrespective of party, profoundly desires. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill, and hope that in future we shall rely more on conciliation than we have in the past, and thus lessen the need for arbitration. When employers and employees are unable to come to an agreement before conciliation commissioners, it will then be the duty of the Arbitration Court to function.
.- I was somewhat astonished by the remarks of one honorable member, and, later on, I shall give him the date of an Age newspaper, from which he may see that, during one election campaign, the Nationalist. Union spent far more money than the Labour party has spent during the whole of its political career. At the last election over £900 was contributed from its funds towards the campaign expenses of my opponent. Many questions have arisen respecting a working week of 44 hours, and I cannot understand why the Government refuses to follow the trend of public opinion. A universal working week of 44 hours is inevitable as sure as night follows day. A large number, if not the majority, of employees engaged in various trades and in the Public Service and in the Postal Department are to-day working 44 hours a week.
– Some of the postal employees are working 34 hours a week.
– Why, then, are we making so many bites at a cherry? The principle of a working week of 44 hours is known not only in Australia, but also in South Africa. When I was there in December, 1924, a proclamation was issued stating that every skilled worker in the building trade must work 44 hours a week. The credit for that innovation must be given to the late Alfred Deakin, whose advice to a South African delegation to this country was instrumental in bringing it about. The South African Government preferred, so far as possible, to eliminate overtime, which, although it meant higher wages for a short period, was usually followed by unemployment. In the interests of South Africa’ the Government sought continuity of employment, neither overtime nor slackness. In February of last year a council was there called together, consisting of employers and contractors. In conference with the representatives of skilled trades it was decided to increase the wage paid in certain portions of South Africa from 2s. 9d. to 3s. 4d. That was an experiment in conciliation made by that country. To show how trade unionism has grown there, I might state that since the Hertzog Ministry took office two years ago, a deputation approached the Minister for Railways, and placed certain grievances before him. He told the members of it to form themselves into a decent union, when he would be pleased to meet them. The previous Minister for Railways had abolished unions, reduced wages, and increased the working hours. Lord Leverhulme, in his book The SixHour Day] advocates a working week of 36 hours, and therein he is supported by Viscount Haldane, who at one time was prominent in British politics. In his introduction to the book, Viscount Haldane says -
The whole man must be kept in view throughout. The spiritual leaders, in churches and in Parliament, and elsewhere, must cooperate. For it is not by bread alone that man can live. But the soul cannot be saved unless the body is attended to, and it is because I think that the result of Lord Leverhulme’s striving will be, if he succeeds, to better the condition of both body and soul, and that I have ventured by his desire to write these introductory lines in his book, and especially that part of it which considers the six-hour day.
Stanley Unwin, one of the keenest journalists in Europe to-day, in his foreword to the book, says -
The two opening essays on the “ Six-hour day “ have been especially written for the volume and embody Lord Leverhulme’s considered views on this all important subject. They demonstrate that in the opinion of one of the most enlightened capitalists and foremost business administrators in this country a six-hour day is no mere chimera, but a practical and necessary stop in the reconstruction after, the war. If this volume serves to focus attention upon this one attainable ideal, its most important purpose will have been achieved.
The argument has been used in this debate that the shortening of hours will lessen output. The following remarks are contained on page 326 of Lord Leverhulme’s book: -
In 1847 Lord Ashley, better known as Lord Shaftesbury, proved that wages had not fallen, but had risen; that profits had not fallen, but risen; production had not diminished, but increased; that the general prosperity of the whole country had not suffered, but had been benefited by each reduction of working hours. And now to-day, fifty years later, we can state that all these assertions have been still further proved to be correct, and with even more astonishing results.
In his book, Lord Leverhulme also sets out the weekly wage in the United Kingdom and the United States of America for the year 1912. The figures are as follow : -
Lord Leverhulme was certainly a great organizer, and succeeded in amassing a huge fortune. But his efforts only in a faint degree compare with those of Henry Ford, who is the recognized organizing genius of the world. Henry Ford has introduced a working week of 44 hours, and has stated that even a working week of 40 hours would be sufficient for all the work in the world. In that case why should we be afraid of instituting a working week of 44 hours in Australia. I am certain that if we added to the referendum proposals the questions of the initiative, referendum, and recall, and a working week of 44 hours, they would be unanimously adopted by the people. Although we now advocate a working week of 44 hours, we look forward to the future, when the working week in Australia will, be leven .less (than 36 ‘hours. In the State of New South Wales and throughout the Union of South Africa for skilled building trades the standard week of 44 hours has been adopted, and I remember that even in my student days in England the employees worked reduced hours in some of the best organized industries in the United Kingdom. Amongst them were
Huntly and Palmer’s biscuit works and the confectionery factories controlled by Cadbury, Fry, and others. I approach with some diffidence the proposal to grant pensions to the judges, because four of the present members of the High Court bench I claim as dear friends. One I know to be the best father, husband, son, and brother that I have ever known. The judges accepted their appointments with a full knowledge that they would not receive pensions, and I protest against a variation of the terms of their contract in the way proposed. I would not mind if increased, pensions could be paid to the old and invalid men and women who are expected to live on a miserable stipend of JE1 a week, that is not-equal to the pension paid in Denmark 30 years ago, for at that time 10s. in Denmark was equal iu purchasing power to 30s. in Australia to-day. One old man has thus detailed to me his weekly expenses - Rent of room, 6s. ; firewood, 3s. per cwt. ; bread, ls. 9d. ; groceries, 5s. ; meat, 2s. 6d. ; light, 2s. ; total, £1 0s. 3d. His income is 3d. short of his expenditure. A sound economist has said that if a man saves 6d. in the £1 he will- be happy.- It logically follows that if he overspends his income by 3d. he must be unhappy. The applicant for an old-age pension has to answer .not less than 44 questions, and, if he is married, 70 questions. In addition, a friend must answer ten questions. The applicant has also to fill in a card in which he is asked to state his name in full, the date and place of his birth, his postal address, last occupation, number of children alive and dead, the name of his father, and the maiden name of his mother. Much of the information to be supplied on the card has already been given in the original application form. This inquisition is a survival of the old workhouse spirit; in England, and its continuance is positive idiocy. Would any honorable member have the audacity to say that the judicial pensioners should answer those insulting questions? Probably the judges will be pensioned at the rate of £5 a day; the old men and women, who have borne the burden and heat of the -day, do not receive £5 a month. If it is not right to ask a £1,500 a year pensioner to submit to an absurd interrogation, how can it be right to cross-examine in this way the men and women whose earnings have contributed to pay the judicial pensions? I do not think any honorable member
Would like his father or mother to submit to such an examination. Why in the name of common sense and justice do we place this brand of pauperism upon the invalid and aged ? Many of the old people do not care to apply for a pension because of the stigma that is placed upon them. That is the reason why, when I reached the age of 65 years, I applied for a pension. The then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) referred me to the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions. Of course, the application was refused. The late Chief Justice Griffiths, after drawing from the taxpayers of the Commonwealth and Queensland £100,000 in salary, and God knows how much more in the form of expenses, held out his hand for a pension, and the majority of honorable members in the House voted in favour of a bill under which he received whathe asked. I opposed it, notwithstanding that I had admired him very much for his translation, into English vernacular of the verse of the works of that great Italian, Dante Alighieri. I said, when his pension was being discussed- in this House, that if he had lost his money by unfortunatespeculations. I was ready to contribute yearly, if other honorable members would do likewise, an amount equal to what I paid ‘in income tax. What honorable member would be prepared to contest with me an election on this one issue, that the people should be consulted before these pensions are paid. At the meeting I intend to address on Sunday night next, I shall submit this matter to a vote, and I doubt if one man or woman will hold up a hand in favour of paying such a large amount in pensions without the consent of the people. I would like to see the condition inserted in the bill that the pensions shall be paid temporarily, and that in conjunction with the next general election the people shall be asked, by referendum, whether they approve of these payments to wellremunerated officers of the Commonwealth. I am perfectly certain what their answer would be. With all its faults, this bill is welcome as a modicum of reform. It goes ‘ not as far as I could wish, but further than I thought any proposal from the present Government would go. Therefore, I thank the Attorney-General, and through him, the Government, for having introduced it.
.- I shall not presume to trespass upon the patience of the Chair and the House by following preceding speakers in their excursions into many and various polemical by-paths. But I intend to make a few observations which I hope will prove helpful to the House. Any person with even a passing acquaintance with the industrial history of Australia must acknowledge the great good that has been accomplished by the conciliation and arbitration system. It has done much to improve the conditions of our people, and promote the prosperity and progress of our Commonwealth. Some critics declare that the progress has not been real, and that the arbitration system has, in fact, imposed upon many of the rural industries burdens they should not be called upon to bear. I question the statements that have been made regarding the responsibility of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for the disabilities of the rural industries. I listened with interest, this afternoon, to the speech of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott). Probably, if I attempted to reply in detail to his discursive remarks about rural matters generally, I should be called to order by the Chairman for irrelevance, but I feel justified in saying that improvements in mechanical implements, and the invention of time-saving and laboursaving appliances, represent gains to ihe producer that more than compensate for any increase in the wages paid to employees in the wheat-growing, dairy-farming, and pastoral industries. Although it has not been possible for me to tabulate the figures dealing with this phase of the subject, I promise honorable members opposite, and particularly honorable members of the Country party, that I shall take an early opportunity to produce evidence in support of that statement. The contention that the improvements in the conditions . of the workers has prevented the progress of rural industries is fallacious, for the employers have had more than an equivalent compensation. The improved conditions of the workers have, moreover, reacted beneficially on the whole community. There is a greater measure of prosperity, more comfort, a higher standard of living,- a truer conception of manhood and womanhood, and better citizenship because of the improved conditions of employment. I desire to pay a tribute to those engaged in administering the Conciliation and Arbitration Act for the wonderful work they have done in the face of great difficulties. When we remember that the court has not the power bo enforce its awards, or to impose penalties, the result is wonderful. For the court to obtain such respect for its judgments by those engaged in this form of litigation is a great achievement. T have recently read an interesting book written by Mr. Justice Higgins, who gives his readers an insight into the valuable work done by conciliation, as well as by arbitration. Many people do not realize what has been accomplished by conciliation. Only a very small percentage of the judgments of- the court have been disobeyed by -either of the parties affected by them. ‘The learned judge states that, of 1,647 dislocations in industry during a certain period, only three were in any way associated with the decisions of the court. That illustrates the extent to which the court is preserving industrial peace. The court, with all its difficulties, vexatious delays, and misfortunes, has redressed many industrial wrongs, and it has been accepted by both sides in industry as a means of determining disputes. The complaint of those concerned relates to the cumbersome procedure that has to be followed in the citation and presentation of cases. I have a list of the 9,683 respondents cited recently by the Carpenters’ Union. In the first place, a log had to be forwarded to each of them, and after that a summons. The cost of printing and posting the log was over £500. There can be no justification for involving a union in such heavy expenditure before the proceedings in court are commenced. I hope that under the limited powers provided in the Constitution the Attorney-General will go as far as possible in removing these difficulties. Before a case has proceeded far in court, and long before a judgment is given, the cost of living may so alter that the wage awarded by the court is not in accordance with the conditions prevailing at the time the award is made.
– That condition is met as a general rule by the quarterly adjustments.
– I agree that that is so, but not in every case. I hope that the Attorney-General will realize the desirability of removing the feeling of discontent and unrest that is caused -by the present protracted procedure. A barrister or solicitor is not permitted to appear as an advocate in the initial stages of a plaint before the court unless the parties mutually agree that he shall do so; but after that stage has been passed, counsel may be employed, with the result that they are employed to an extent that was never intended. .and “should not be permitted. I hope that at the committee stage an amendment -will be -made whereby the rule in the initial stages will -be applied throughout the proceedings. It is desirable that a board of reference should be created to deal with questions of interpretation. In many Commonwealth -acts wo have provided such boards. In taxation, matters, for instance, there is a board to which interested -parties who are dissatisfied with departmental decisions may appeal. “While this measure does not go nearly as far as honorable members on this side of the chamber wish,- it provides for some improvements, and to that extent it is acceptable. The Attorney-General may consider that he is. not able to do much more than this, because of constitutional limitations, but in my opinion he could have done a good deal more to eliminate anomalies that at present cause vexatious delays. It is undesirable that a life tenure should be provided for judges of the court; but it is undoubtedly essential that the court should have power to enforce its awards. If we are obliged by the Constitution to repose the exercise of our judicial powers exclusively in judges appointed for life I hope that we shall take early opportunity of amending that provision. We have had experiences with our judiciary that must surely convince us that life tenures are inadvisable. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) referred this afternoon to the fact that the Liberal Federation - and I have no doubt that he had South Australia, in mind - had associated with the Single Purpose League with the object of abolishing compulsory arbitration, and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) attempted this evening to reply, to his statements.
– The South Australian Liberal Federation has nothing to do with the body mentioned by the honorable member for Grey.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Grey is at present otherwise engaged elsewhere, for I think he would tell me that I correctly interpret his words1 by saying that he accused the Liberal Federation of being opposed to the principle of compulsory arbitration. Although the honorable member for Angas stated that “ Arbitration “ was on the political platform of the South Australian Liberal Federation, Sir Henry Barwell, when Premier of the South Australian Liberal Government, introduced legislation into the. State Parliament with the avowed intention of totally destroying our arbitration machinery. That shows conclusively, to my mind, that the South Australian Liberal Federation is unable to assure the people that any Government elected on its platfrom will give effect to its hustings pledges and undertakings.
I doubt in this case whether it had any desire to prevent Sir Henry Barwell from introducing his reactionary proposals, for it did not lift a little finger to challenge the position that he took. If the honorable member for Angas believes in compulsory arbitration, he had better cease championing the South Australian Liberal Federation. I trust that we shall take every possible step to preserve and improve our arbitration system, for its effective operation must inevitably increase the comfort and contentment of our people, irrespective of the form of industry they are engaged in; and so it must add to the general prosperity of our community. In my opinion the Arbitration Court should be regarded as of more importance than either the civil or criminal courts, for, after all, the proceedings before these courts usually involve the well-being of only a very few persons, whereas Arbitration Court proceedings involve the well-being of practically the whole community. [Quorum, formed.’]
.- I wish briefly to refer to the remarks made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) respecting Sir Henry Parwell’s attitude on industrial legislation. Nobody has been so grossly misrepresented as Sir Henry Barwell in that respect. While he was on a world tour some years ago he first investigated and then admired the Canadian system of industrial control. He was so satisfied that it was far superior to the Australian system that he was prepared to jettison most of our practices in order to establish in their stead the simple, inexpensive, and easy methods of conciliation that have been. in vogue in Canada, :and to a lesser extent, in Victoria, for many years. He desired even greater simplicity. He would have liked to get rid of the principle of arbitration, and obtain the benefits of a. common-sense and inexpensive method that would bring employer and employee together round a table, at the place where the dispute had taken place. Although honorable members bers opposite have been very temperate in their references to what they regard as the conspicuously successful career of the Federal Arbitration Court, they have evaded its economic aspect. I protest against statements made in the highest quarters to the effect that the court has been fairly successful. For a long time after its inception, wages were steadily raised, and it became popular because unions could obtain all that they sought. The presiding genius even told them that he was astounded at the modesty of their requests. Where could a court conducted on those lines end ? I was delighted to hear a remark by Mr. Clapp, the Chief Railways Commissioner of Victoria, when jocularly referring to the subject of the 44-hour week. He said that he would not object to trying a 30-hour week, but he was sure that at the end of it they would go back to a fair thing. Honorable members opposite laid stress on the fact that in some occupations 44 hours a week, and even 40 hours, are too long. That has always been appropriately recognized, and I point out that in Canada and the United States of America if a workman is constitutionally unfit to work at one bench he is placed at another, where the work is not likely to affect his health. It is simply a matter of organization. I resent the imputation cast against some of the best companies in Australia’. Some large companies have welfare societies that do splendid work in the employees’ interests, and the owners support them financially most generously. I commend the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) for his straightout indictment of the present arbitration system. He suggested that an economic council should be appointed, representing every shade of thought, and particularly the workers. It should be a council that would consider bed-rock principles. I am sure that it would not favour the payment of low wages, because every practical business man realizes that it pays to employ the best men and to remunerate them well. I should like to see such a council appointed. It would need to look into the subject of public finance, because if we do not pay more attention to that, this country will soon be on the rocks. During the last three or four years, how much time has been spent by the Parliament in considering the expenditure of public money? Have we, as public trustees, scrutinized all public expenditure, in order to see that the people receive a fair deal? The financial position is becoming more aggravated than ever because government is being conducted very extensively by means of borrowed money. If we do not attend to this matter, we shall suffer financially for a generation or more.
– The party opposite will not put an end to borrowing. It will leave the matter to posterity, as it has always done.
– It is time that we considered the interests of the community generally. We are placing big burdens upon posterity. This institution, which was established ostensibly to bring about goodwill between capital and labour, is leading us nearer to the pit. Is there A business concern in ‘this country that could have trodden the track that we have followed of late years and have kept out of the Insolvency Court? The community has tolerated these conditions for too long. I trust that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) will scrutinize this matter earnestly to see whether we cannot have a better syste’m than arbitration. I do not go so far as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). If the Commonwealth retired from the industrial field, not a single State in Australia “would be able to protect its citizens in regard to key industries.
– It is done in 48 States in America.
– The conditions in America are entirely different from those in Australia. The workers there will not tolerate politics in connexion with their industrial affairs: I challenge the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister to prove that Canada has not been infinitely more successful industrially than Australia during the last seventeen years. It has been said that Canada has had a greater number of strikes and more unrest than Australia. That is not ‘.correct. During the last seventeen years, there have been only 589 disputes in that country. There was a greater number in Sydney alone in one year than in Canada. I must vote for the bill, because I recognize that the industrial question, in relation to key industries, cannot be handled otherwise than by the Commonwealth. Those industries have been shamefully treated under the system of Commonwealth arbitration. The public utterances of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General give me the assurance that this measure will not be used in a way that will interfere with any successful State institution; but that it will be used to avoid overlapping, and, what is best of all, for the development ofthe wages board system, round-table conferences, and common-sense inexpensive methods for the settlement of industrial disputes. That will benefit no one more than the men and women workers of Australia, at a time when this Parliament is committing wild excesses in its expenditure. High wages will be given; but, concurrently, the cost of living will be reduced, and that will prove a perfect blessing to the whole community.
– I am rather sorry to have to address myself to so serious a subject at this hour ; but, with that invincible optimism from which I suffer, I venture to believe that at least some people will read my few observations in the official publication of this House, and, therefore, my effort may not be wholly in vain. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis), in his interesting speech, mentioned categorically certain objections which he had toarbitration, without condemning the system as a whole. He objected that industrial and political reforms were mixed up, and that trade union funds were employedfor political purposes. I remind him that, at a time when trade union reforms and ideals are being striven for by parliamentary action and through political channels, it is as inevitable as it is desirable that the funds of the organizations should not be immune from serving their main purposes.
– They are separated, however, in America.
– One does not look necessarily to America for either inspiration or models to follow. We know very well that, in the past, men have been wont to advocate that the funds of trade unions should not be employed politically, the theory being apparently that such funds should not be used as part of the moral suasion directed by trade unionists towards employers to better their conditions. The honorable member for Kennedy to-night suggested, in answer to my question, that there is no legitimate use for those funds other than to spend them in furtherance of the objects of trade unionism.
– I went further than that.
– At all events, the honorable member went so far, but I submit that it is much too great a claim to make in the interests of the union of whichhe and I are members, to suggest that the whole of the funds should be so employed, but there can be no wellfounded objection to funds of trade unions being employed for the purposes of political action if a majority favours that course of action.
– Attempts to do that have failed.
– I said, by way of interjection, and I repeat that I have never known a case of a bona fide trade unionist who was loyal to his union raising any objection to his union funds being used for legitimate political action. It must not be assumed from what I have said that this is the sole or only purpose for which trade union funds are employed. I merely submit the argument that it is not contrary to the spirit of trade unionism to employ those funds for that purpose, having regard to the fact that trade unionism is committed generally to the orderly redressal of its wrongs through political action by the setting up of arbitration courts or other tribunals. The honorable member spoke also of the delay in connexion with’ Arbitration Court proceedings. I admit that delay, and that it is most objectionable. I have to add that it is a great tribute to the workers of this country that in spite of the delays, difficulties, and expense to which they have been subject, in their loyalty to this new field of law and order, as Mr. Justice Higgins has called it, they have constantly knocked in ever-increasing numbers at the doors of the arbitration courts rather than resort to direct action, which is charged against them as the policy of trade unionism. There have been very grave delays, and there has been much congestion.
– They have been very patient under it.
– As the honorable member for Wannon has rightly said, they have been extraordinarily patient under these delays, and I say this as one who believes in arbitration. I agree with my leader (Mr. Charlton) that arbitration can be in no circumstances a complete solution, of industrial agitation. There can be no solution of industrial agitation except by a complete change in the economic system under which we live. There can be no cessation of industrial endeavour, no stoppage of the upward march of democracy, as represented by the organized workers of this country; because enlightened men in a democratic community will always look upwards and work upwards, no matter what the advantage they may gain from any passing political system of the day.
Mr.Rodgers. - Does not the honorable member think that industries conducted by the States, such as the Wonthaggi coal mine, should be pattern industries? In them there should be no profiteers?
– I do not wish to be diverted too far afield. I do not admit that as far as my experience goes the State is not a pattern employer. I wish to answer another objection raised by the honorable member for Kennedy. He says that awards are rigidly enforced, and enforceable against an employer, but not against employees. I challenge that statement . I say that awardsare in theory enforceable against an employer, and that so far as the Commonwealth Arbitration Act is concerned, the employer is forbidden, under penalties, to arbitrarily dismiss an employee, or prejudice him in his employment by reason of his having the benefit of an award or an agreement. But we know very well, especially those of us who have had experience in this matter, that although an employer may not flagrantly disregard that prohibition, it is constantly being evaded. Unfortunately, however water-tight we attempt to make this provision of the act, it is evaded easily enough.For example, although an employer may not dismiss an employee or a number of employees for having the benefit of an award, he can so re-arrange the working of his particular industrial activity as to cease to employ any man in it, the result being that instead of a particular individual or number of individuals enjoying the benefit of an increased award, they find themselves out of employment altogether. There is, in fact, constantly an evasion of the act, although so cleverly arranged that the employers escape the consequences. To that extent an award is not enforceable against employers, but it is enforceable against the employees by economic pressure in a very real manner. . And although there have been instances of deliberate disobedience of an award, they are comparatively few and insignificant, because hundreds of thousands of workers work loyally under the court’s awards. Unfortunately, however, every instance in which men fail to obey an award is noised abroad by the press as proof of the failure of the arbitration system, whilst the fact that, concurrently with this disobedience by men in certain industries, hundreds of thousands of men are daily working in loyal observance of awards, is entirely un-noticed.
– Not a word is said about it.
– Not a word! I come now, I am sure with your approval, Mr. Speaker, more closely to the terms of the bill. There is in it no comprehensive provision relating to arbitration generally; but two or three of its outstanding features justify its introduction. The first of these is the appointment to this court of judges with a life tenure and the securing of pensions to them. I understand that that provision is embodied in the bill for the special purpose of putting the judges of the Arbitration Court in a position to interpret their own awards, and to impose penalties for the non-observance of awards, instead of having to allow the administration of awards, if one may so call it, to pass into the hands of courts that are quite unfamiliar with the atmosphere, the rules and regulations of, or the principles underlying, arbitration. I agree, from the point of view of expediency, that this provision is necessary and desirable; but in principle it is very objectionable. I do not think that a life tenure should be accorded, generally speaking, to any person engaged in the Public Service of the country. I can appreciate the fact that one of the reasons for this provision, in connexion with the judiciary generally, is to place its members in a position of independence, to enable them to administer justice without fear or favour, and irrespective of the political party predominating at the time. Certainly that principle does not apply with like force to judges of industrial cases. That is a department of judicial activity which requires, as the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) well put it, the exercise of the alert mind of younger men who rise on the tide of industrial progress, or who, at all events, are constantly in a position to bear witness, with an awakening and growing intelligence, to the varying demands of the industrial situation. I think, at least, if it could be done, that we should avoid creating positions in which men are encouraged by monetary considerations, to hang on to an office which, through increasing years, they are no longer so well able to fill. I should like it to be understood that I am not at present considering the personnel of the bench at all. I am leaving that entirely out of consideration. I personally think - though I am not committing myself to any proposal to amend the bill in that direction. - that, as a principle, it would bo a good thing - and I understand that one honorable member has foreshadowed an amendment to this effect - if pensions could be so graded as to convey, at least, a gentle hint to the gentlemen occupying these positions, that after they had reached a certain stage in life, it would be not only in the public interest, but also in their own private interest, to retire from the bench. The bill provides for the utilization of a judge for the making of investigations, apparently as a kind of royal commissioner. That is new, and it remains to.be seen how far the judges will appreciate the tasks put on them. The. bill also provides for the appointment of conciliation commissioners. The Arbitration Act at present provides for the appointment of conciliation officers, but only by the court itself.
– And, of course, boards of reference.
– That is so. The bill contains a provision whereby these commissioners will be appointed by the Governor-General in Council, with such powers as the Governor-General in Council decides, within .the power that is given to the court as a whole. I listened this afternoon with interest to the thoughtful speech of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott), on the general principles of arbitration. He bewailed the fact that the additional cost of production arising out or arbitration awards cannot be passed on. That may or may not be true; but I suggest to him, and also to the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis), who stated that the minimum tends to become the maximum, that that argument is certainly not fatal to the policy of arbitration, nor does it seriously affect the merits of arbitration awards. I shall consider that question in connexion with some observations made upon the same subject recently .by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). The honorable member for Kennedy rightly said that the minimum tends to become the maximum. We know perfectly well that an award made by the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration represents in fact nothing more than a living wage. An award, as the honorable member for Gwydir has pointed out, is based on the cost of living, and it is arrived at by the consideration of just how much it takes to keep a man, his wife and smallfamily in moderate comfort, having regard to the fact that he is living in a civilized society. The award has to give sufficient to keep body and soul together, and a little more than that; but, instead of employers recognizing that there is unlimited scope in a country such as ours to make the wage more nearly proportionate to the profits and production of industry generally, the principle is now accepted that whatever is stated as the minimum wage shall be the standard wage. I ask the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis) and the honorable member for Franklin. (Mr. Seabrook.) if they object to the principle of a living wage being paid in any industry.
– It should be based on production.
– Will the honorable member answer a simple question? Should a judge award less than a living wage in any industry? That is a fair question, and it is useless for the honorable member to try to evade it.
– Wages should not be based on prices.
– I asked whether less than a living wage should be fixed?
– It is based on prices.
– It is not based on prices, but on the cost of living.
– What is the difference?
– A living wage is supposed to be a wage sufficient to maintain a man, his wife, and a certain family in reasonable comfort. I cannot understand any judge in arbitration allowing an award to be issued under which a wage would be fixed at less than the bedrock standard which is known as the living wage. I adhere to my theory that a man should receive more than a living wage. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) referred to the production of wool, and the honorable member for Franklin spoke of the price of apples being increased by £14 a ton in consequence of an award of the Federal Arbitration Court.
– I said £14 an acre, not a ton.
– I accept the honorable member’s correction. I find that his words were “ taking into account the average production of apples per acre an additional charge of £14 per acre–
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in quoting from Hansard of the current session.
– I understand that that is so. Of course, the answer of these gentlemen is that, in connexion with the production of wool, apples, or dried fruits, it becomes very burdensome at times to pay a living wage. There are, however, two. alternatives. If an industry cannot be profitably conducted when paying a living wage, it has no right to continue; or, in times of depression, it should pay a living wage out of accumulated profits. As pointed out this afternoon if it is to be successfully argued that wages should be decreased during periods of depression, they should be increased proportionately when the profits of the producer are soaring. Apparently, that view is not acceptable to the honorable member for Franklin. I listened with great regret to some observations made the other day by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), in reference to a former President of the Arbitration Court, Mr. Justice Higgins, who, as a jurist and statesman, has made an enduring name for himself in the Commonwealth, which no criticism of a passing politician will destroy. If I recollect aright, the right honorable member for Balaclava said that “ one principle on which the court has operated in the past is the most amazing I have ever heard stated Mir. Justice Higgins declared that “–
– I have already informed the honorable member that he is not in order in quoting from Hansard of the current session.
– I am merely refreshing my memory from notes.
– The honorable member is referring to the report of a debate which has already been concluded.
– I was referring to some observations made by the right honorable member for Balaclava in this House, it is true, but also elsewhere, and I challenge these observations on economic grounds, and because they are an unjust reflection upon the learned exPresident of the Arbitration Court. The right honorable member said, “ He is the first and only man who during my public life has declared that profits do not and should not condition wages.” Mr. Justice Higgins did not say anything of the kind, and I challenge the right honorable member to prove that he did. He added, “ I know of no economist who would do so.”
– Order! The honorable member for Batman must obey my ruling. He knows that it is contrary to the Standing Orders to quote from a speech delivered during the current session.
– You, sir, do not appear disposed to accept my word upon the subject, and I must therefore obey your ruling. What are the facts ? Mr. Justice Higgins has not at any time stated, either in connexion with an award or in any other form, that profits and the cost of production are to be disregarded. He had laid down the salutary principle that a living wage must be paid in an industry, even if the alternative meant its closing clown. That is an entirely sound theory, and. one which ought to be accepted in every civilized community. I am indebted to an honorable member for calling my attention to some observations in connexion with the wool industry and its capacity to pay, which appear in to-night’s. Melbourne Herald, under the heading “ The Herald’s Investor’s Guide.” My object in referring to this is to illustrate my contention that over a series of years an industry that is worth preserving is well able to pay a living wage, even although at some time in its more or less chequered career it has to be conducted at a loss. In answer to the remarks of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Abbott) this afternoon, I quote from the Herald these words in regard to the well-known woolbroking firm of Goldsbrough Mort -
Further expansion of earnings is shown by the latest accounts of this big, enterprising pastoral finance and agency company. Twelve months ago, the Herald Investors’Guide showed that on capital to be increased to £1,750,000 by an impending issue of £250,000 of new shares, 1925 profits represented a return of 173/4 per cent. But though shortly afterwards a heavy decline in wool values occurred, and abnormally dry conditions subsequently curtailed the turnover of live stock and depressed sheep and cattle prices, gross earnings haveimproved from £806,314 to £846,050, and net profits from £320,207 to £331,325. . . . The £331,325 of earnings disclosed for appropriation represented almost 19 per cent. on the total capital of 13/4 millions, and the customary 15 per cent. - 10 per cent. is the regular dividend rate, and 5 per cent. is added regularly as a bonus- was easily paid. . . Allowing also that assets groups are conservatively valued, a yield of 19 per cent. on the paid capital is only moderate. In favorable seasons, accompanied by good markets, substantially higher returns are to be expected. But this company is in a business in which earnings must be averaged to obtain a guide to investment prospects, and by providing for contingencies out of the profits of good years, and employing these concealed resources in unfavorable periods, the big pastoral agency concerns almost invariably reveal earnings that are the results of averaging. . . .
The extraordinary profits made by this concern reflect the prosperity over a series of years of thephen omen ally healthy pastoral industry. The fact that at a particular time and in isolated circumstances it may be impossible for particular individuals to pay the wages prescribed by the court is no argument against the general principle that an industry as a whole should, and can, pay a living wage. That has been the great triumph of arbitration. After all, to secure to the men engaged in the essential services of this country a wage sufficient to live upon is a poor boon, but at least it is worth defending, and it could not be maintained if we reverted to those bad old days - on which the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) still turn such longing eyes - when unrestricted competition enabled unscrupulous employers to work their will on their employees, and reduce them to a condition of servitude, or, at any rate, impose upon them conditions that were not fit for civilized men. If the workers were perfectly organized, and all unions were as strong as some unions are, there would be no need for compulsory arbitration. Labour, like other commodities, could be, as it should be, retailed to those who wanted it at prices considered fair by the seller. It is the only commodity to which that principle does not apply. In the past men had to take what they could get for their labour; their aim was not a living wage, but any wage. And with the unrestricted competition when the workers were disorganized, and capital was being constantly organized, pressure was brought to bear which individual men and women could not resist. Out of that state of affairs developed the dens in which unfortunate men were crowded under conditions of living and working which were unfit for human beings. Men were compelled to work for a wage which was a living wage only in the sense that it enabled them to exist, but not to live as we claim human beings should, especially in this highly progressive and productive country of Australia. This is an arbitration bill, which has at least to do with the regulation of wages and conditions, and. remembering that men have devoted their lives to the betterment of the condition of the workers, and that their labours have resulted in the creation of these various classes of tribunals, by which unscrupulous employers have been checked, I did not care to allow the measure to pass into law without paying my tribute to the work done by the Arbitration Court to improve the conditions of the workers, and the relations of employer and employee. The bill is capable of a great deal of improvement and expansion, but I trust it will prove a step - even though it be a short one - in the direction we all desire to go.
– I shall not detain the House long at this late hour. The bill before us, which is to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, is long overdue. Nothing has contributed so much to industrial trouble in Australia as has the Arbitration Court. The late Chief Justice said that it caused more industrial trouble than it prevented. The bill provides for the appointment of three judges who are to be appointed for life. With that I do not agree. The Public Service Act provides that, on attaining the age of 65 years, every public servant must retire, whether he is still capable of carrying on his work or not. In the eyes of the law, a man on attaining the age of 65 years is no longer fit to continue at work. If that rule is just in the case of the ordinary public servant, it should apply to judges also. I have always regarded the Arbitration Court as a ghastly failure; and happenings during recent years have not caused me to alter my opinion. What improvement can be expected from the appointment of these three judges? They will know no more about industrial conditions than do the present judges, who know nothing about industry generally. I am in favour of conciliation and wages boards. The AttorneyGeneral, when replying, should tell us whether it is the intention of the Government to appoint wages boards or conciliation courts in the different States.
-There is no power to do so at present, and there cannot be unless the referendum proposals are accepted by the people.
– The AttorneyGeneral should make an announcement
Of the Government’s intention in the event of the referendum proposals being agreed to. To do so would assist to carry the proposals. In the absence of such an announcement, many people will vote against the Government’s proposals who otherwise would vote for them. The Attorney-General said that the Arbitration Court has been a success.
– I said that it had done useful work, not that it had been completely successful. I never suggested that.
– I take it that the Arbitration Court was appointed to give us industrial peace. But, since it was established, strikes have been more numerous than before, I do not blame the unions so much as I blame the organizers. They are men who have never worked’, and. never will work, and, moreover, will, if they can, prevent others from working. They sit at the Trades Hall, and, for the most trivial reasons, bring about strikes. There have been many strikes of seamen in Australian waters and, when they have ended, job control, which is the worst form of strike, because it cannot be dealt with by law, has been exercised. Some of these men subscribe to a fund to get the seamen from various vessels drunk when in port. Lots are drawn to determine who is to get drunk. The men on the ships are worse than those who go ashore. The position is much the same in the case of the coalminers. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) said that the coal-miners were not at present on strike. That may be so; but the engineers are on strike, and while that condition continues, the coal miners will not work. There have been more strikes in the coal-mining industry in Australia than in any other industry. The reason is that the coal-miners are too well paid. They work only four days a week, yet, because they are paid piecework rates, they earn more than men who work six days a week. I cannot understand why honorable members opposite oppose piece-work and advocate day labour, unless it is to prevent men from earning more money. So long as existing conditions continue, we shall have trouble; the Arbitration Court will not prevent it. The seamen have at last been deregistered by the court, and theyare not now under its jurisdiction. The waterside workers are another body of men who are always causing trouble and interfering with trade and commerce. In Hobart this year, strikes have taken place on the ships which have called there to take away large consignments of fruit. Shippers have calculated that, to take fruit from the wharf and place it in a vessel costs 41/4d. a case. The Waterside Workers are a closed union. There are not enough waterside workers in Tasmania to load all the ships that go there during the fruit season, but men who do not belong to the union, because they arenot allowed to join, are unable to obtain work. While those are the conditions in Tasmania, members of the union are brought from the mainland to load the ships. Nearly 100 men have been brought from other parts of the mainland to Hobart this year to assist in loading ships. That practice is likely to cause trouble, and I am not satisfied that the Arbitration Court can remedy it. The seamen are threatening to ruin the shipowners and Australia. During the war the waterside workers refused to load foodstuffs for the soldiers. The Government paid loyal men to go on to the wharfs, and had to pay thousands of pounds of compensation to them later to get them off the wharfs so that a lot of lazy humbugs, who do not work, could take their places. They are the laziest body of men in Australia, and’ some of them do not do one-fourth of a day’s work in a day.
– The honorable member would not be willing to say that to their faces.
– If they were here they could listen to me, and if they are not here they can read the report of my speech in the newspapers. I am not afraid of them.
– Why does not the honorable member treat them fairly?
– My statement is true, and the honorable member cannot deny it.
– It is a scandalous statement, quite unworthy of the honorable member.
– Men in Hobart who are willing to work are prevented from doing so by being excluded from the unions. Honorable members opposite have said that 48 hours is too long for men to work in a week; but so long as they are paid well for the small amount of work they do, they are unconcerned about how other men live. I have known them to work for 48 hours at a stretch, night and day, because they were paid 4s. 6d. an hour for overtime. At Hobart they will not load the Commonwealth Government ships without working overtime. Of the Commonwealth liners that have called at Hobart for fruit this year only one has sailed on a Saturday; and that was because she loaded only a small cargo. The other ships were delayed until Sunday morning, so that the waterside workers would be paid 6s. 6d an hour for loading on Saturday night and Sunday. British ships will not wait - they would rather leave the fruit behind - and even a Commonwealth ship on one occasion left 6.000 cases behind. This kind of thing is the principal cause of industrial trouble in this country. There are men who are engaged in nothing but inducing other men not to work. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) spoke of the basic wage, which, in my opinion, is the most iniquitous thing ever adopted. It is based on the cost of feeding a man, his wife, and three children, and yet a single man receives the same amount. The workers should be paid for what they produce, not what they consume, because the more some of them eat the slower they work. The “ goslow “ policy is a great curse.
Mr.Scullin. - Does the honorable member want to starve the workers?
– I do not. I am not opposed to unionism, and I am not opposed to the payment of high wages; but when high wages are paid, there should be an equivalent return. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) said that high wages did not prejudicially affect industries. Evidently the honorable member docs not know what he is talking about. The high wages and easy conditions awarded by the court are ruining the fruit industry. Most of the burdens placed upon industries generally are passed on to the man on the land. A pamphlet published by the Victorian Railways states that the increase in wages under awards of the Arbitration Court was £585,000 from 1921-22 to 1924-25. At the end of 1924-25 the Victorian Railway Department made a profit of £26,000, but the Arbitration Court has been responsible for a further rise in wages of £437,000. In order to make their railways pay the State Government must increase freights and fares, and thus pass the increased cost on to the man on the land. The people who use the railways have to provide £859,000 a year to enable the railways to carry on, A railway department is able to pass on the burden of increased wages, but the man’ on the land cannot do so. The meat industry, which has been spoken of, has been almost crippled by the high cost of production. The trades halls of this country, ‘as well as the trade union organizers, are responsible for a lot of trouble. I have received a letter, which I wish to place on record, from a plasterer whom I know well. He is a reliable tradesman, who left Hobart, because there was no work there, to seek work at Canberra. The letter reads -
I am writing to you to let you know how they do things at Canberra. I came straight through from Hobart looking for work, and, knowing they wanted plasterers at Canberra, went to the foreman, and asked for a job. He asked me where I came from, and I replied, Hobart, and he asked me if I had been do Trades Hall, Sydney. I told him, no. He asked me if I paid my own fare from Sydney, and I said, yes, and he, the foreman, told me I could not get a job, but if I went back to Sydney, and came through Trades Hall I would get a start, as they wanted plasterers. So I caine to Queanbeyan, and hunted around till I got a job, and here I am. How is it a National Government allows this? T thought when we got a National Government in power it would do away with the union bosses running the show, and that every man who wanted work and was willing to work would get work if there was work for him ; but it appears that no plasterer can get work on the National Government works unless he comes through Trades Hall, Sydney. Pretty rotten, isn’t it? I know of two other Tasmanians who were served the same. Then, again, I thought the National Government stood for 48 hours a week. How is it they only work 44 on Government works at Canberra? Something rotten somewhere ! And I might inform you they have got the goslow policy down to a fine art at Canberra. I would like to have the plastering of Parliament House for a third of what it has cost the Government. To give you an instance, I am informed on good authority that the foreman got on to two of the plasterers for not doing enough, and they reported him to the union in Sydney, and the union fined the foreman £20. Pretty hot, isn’t it? How can a foreman have any control of men when he has to submit to orders from the union, and poor Tasmania has to help pay for this. Can’t you do something, and have the control removed from Trades Hall, Sydney, and stop this 44 week fetish, especially as the . Government are pledged to a 48 week? These nien work five days at Canberra, and then come to Queanbeyan on Saturday, and take contracts, and work Saturday and Sunday from daylight till dark. In fact, no man can get a job at Canberra on the Government works unless he can show a union ticket, and is in with the union bosses. If you can do anything to stop the waste of money that is going on you will be doing good for Australia in general and Tasmania especially, as Tasmania is hard hit, as it is’ losing her best men as fast as they can get away. I hope you will stir things up a bit, as I can tell you honestly they are rotten, and they are just shovelling money away in the Federal Capital. Trusting you are well and in a good fighting mood.
This man is not a unionist, and he was debarred from getting work at Canberra.
– How does the honorable member connect with the bill the letter he has read?
– I am using the letter to show the effect of the Arbitration Act upon industry in Australia. Had this man been a unionist he could have secured employment, but because he was not a unionist he does not come under the Arbitration Court. The Arbitration Act is full of penalties for strikes and lockouts. Yet the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) tells us that the Arbitration Court cannot enforce any of these penalties, and that proceedings to recover them must be taken through other courts. To place penalties in the act which cannot be enforced makes the whole thing a farce. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who has declared that high wages do not affect the fruit-growing industry, knows nothing about the matter. High wages have increased the costs of everybody concerned, from the saw-miller to the shipper. It is impossible for shipping companies to reduce freights while they are obliged to pay heavy labour costs. On. one occasion when- the wharf labourers worked overtime on holidays at Hobart, the cost of loading fruit on to a steamer was 5$d. a case, and that did nob take into account the wages of the tally clerks. The go-slow policy and that sort of thing is operating in Australia, and no arbitration court can alter that condition of affairs. I agree with everything the honorable members for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) and Wakefield (Mr. Foster) have said. I am opposed to the system of arbitration as we have it at the present time, but I shall support the bill because it may tend to bring about an improvement. Mr. Justice Higgins, to whom the honorable member for Yarra paid a tribute, may have been a good president of the Arbitration Court, but some of his awards caused industries to close down.
– In Tasmania. His award in the saw-milling industry, fixing the rate of the wages of the men at £6 a week, whether they worked or not, so affected the industry that mills had to shutdown, and many of them were not operated for two years, and until the award was altered. A president of an arbitration court who would bring in an award like that is not fit to occupy the position he holds. We have heard a great deal about the 44-hours week from honorable members opposite, but they are most inconsistent in their attitude. They claim that we cannot compete against the cheap labour in other parts of the world. To make matters still more difficult they now want to reduce the working week from 48 to 44 hours. In some industries 48 hours may be too long for men to work, but, speaking generally, I consider 48 hours a fair thing. If we reduce the hours of work, and retain the present wages, we shall ruin the country. I agree with the views of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) as to the value of the wages board system. I am not a believer in arbitration, but I am forced into the position of supporting the bill.
. This bill is designed to improve the methods of industrial arbitration that we have been developing in Australia for so many years to provide that the differences between employers and employees shall be adjusted on a scientific basis and to ensure a fair return from industry to all parties. It is proposed now to give the judges of the Arbitration Court plenary power to enforce their awards. In the debate on the measure honorable members have rambled over a very wide field, and some of them, notably, the honorable member for franklin (Mr. Seabrook), have expressed views on trades and callings of which they know very little. But that honorable member and I agree on one thing; we are both against life tenure for judges. In my opinion, it is highly desirable that those who preside over our arbitration courts shall be young, virile men in close touch with the world, and not academic theorists. I say that with all due respect to the gentlemen who may be appointed under the provisions of the bill. It cannot be denied that, even though suitable men are appointed in the first place, the time will come when they will lose their keenness. It is of vital importance that the Arbitration Court bench should be occupied by the ablest men available, for the affairs that come before it touch almost every part of our daily life. Industrial conditions, it must be remembered, change rapidly, and in order to deal with them satisfactorily a judge must be in close touch with them. A decade may totally alter the methods of production. We have not to go back very far to the time of the industrial revolution and the establishment of trade unionism ; and I suppose that we can all remember when the seeds from which the Arbitration Court has grown were first planted. To illustrate the changes that may occur in industry, I draw the attention of honorable members to the development of motor transport. I can well remember when the first motor car appeared in Adelaide. I speak of Adelaide, for I know it best. My only visit to Melbourne in my young days was when the Earl of Hopetoun, afterwards Lord Linlithgow, was Governor of Victoria. At that time very few people owned even bicycles, and there was much talk about how long it would take for the horseless carriage, as the motor car was then known, to supersede horses. That time has almost come, for marvellous developments have occurred in motor transport. In order satisfactorily to determine industrial conditions the occupants of the Arbitration Court bench would need to take full cognizance ofthat revolution. Then, again, the introduction of labour-saving machinery and altered methods is continually changing the circumstances of a particular trade or calling. In all these circumstances it is imperative in my opinion that our arbitration court judges shall be in close touch with every-day affairs. I have seen judges who, although they might be able to assess facts and give sound judgments, appeared, when sitting on the bench with rugs over their knees, as though they would be better at home playing bowls or croquet to keep themselves warm. I certainly think that the judges should retire on reaching a reasonable age. I agree with the honorable member on the Government side who suggested that the retiring age observed in. the Public Service generally should apply to them. I shall strenuously oppose the proposal for pensions for them. It is true that judges possibly give up opportunities of advancement in private practice ; but the salary provided is known when they accept positions on the bench, and is calculated on a basis to meet any sacrifice they may make. Pensions are ordinarily understood to be provided to meet the exigencies of illness and old age, as does the Federal old-age and invalid pension. Derogatory statements such as those made regarding union organizers should not be heard in this chamber unless those making them can produce evidence in support. When I was an official in a labourers’ union the men received 4s. 6d. a day. They had to work in water up to their knees, and provide their own tools and tents out of their miserable pittance. Naturally they resented such treatment. I remember a strike in connexion with road reconstruction in Bundle-street, Adelaide. Instead of the executive of the union controlling the men, they simply met on the job, and .decided upon their own course of action, advising the executive afterwards as to what they proposed to do. The conduct pf the strike then devolved upon the union officials, who carry out the work that they are paid to do. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) stated that union organizers did no work and never desired to do it. I challenge him to mention one organizer who has not risen from the ranks of the unions. I suggest to some honorable members opposite that they should try to do hard work, and join a union. They would then discover that it is not easy to obtain a “ soft “ job as a union official. The honorable member tor Franklin stated that arbitration had been a ghastly failure: but he furnilied no evidence in support of his argument. In my opinion, it has been of the greatest possible benefit to the community, and the “golden rule” has been observed more closely by employers and employees than it would have been under other circumstances. I cannot agree with those honorable members who contend that it would be advantageous to adopt the piecework system. I worked in a factory prior to the introduction of wages boards, and arbitration courts, and I have known young men work themselves to a standstill in order to get the maximum amount of wages; but the eventual result was a reduction in the rates paid for particular jobs. Men employed at piece-work rates in the making of buggy lamps for instance found that they were below the breadline, because earlier in life they had exhausted their energy under that system, and as a result the price had been reduced. I have seen a man similarly wasting his strength, again on the piece-work system in the making of stoves. To ensure a greater output, one man was in the habit of using a small sledge-hammer to clinch his rivets. Other men using ordinary hammers were unable to equal his output. As a result of the operation of this system, piece-work rates were lowered and the men were shamefully exploited, until finally there was not a sufficient margin to enable them to earn a decent living. The Arbitration Court has brought about uniformity in working conditions, and whilst in some instances the minimum . award has become the maximum, at all events that gives the worker a’ living wage. The late Judge Gordon, a most estimable gentleman, who died full of honours, made one of the first awards of the Arbitration Court in ‘ South Australia. That was in connexion with an application by brushmakers. On that occasion the wives of workers had to give evidence as to the amounts spent weekly on meat, groceries, and other household commodities, as well as state the amount allowed the husband for personal expenses. As I have said on another occasion, they had practically to strip themselves naked before the court to justify the rate asked by their union. In making a.n award of 7s. 3d. a day, the judge stated that it was the irreducible minimum, and that it was only equivalent to the amount allowed for the maintenance of prisoners in the stockade. Criticisms of the awards are an affront to the judge, suggesting that he does not understand his business. The union organizations are put to great expenditure to present their claims, but invariably they convince the judge of the justice of their cause. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) ‘ this evening mentioned a number of anomalies, especially directing attention to the fact that awards are made on the basis that a worker has a wife and three children. Many years ago Mr. Piddington was appointed by the Commonwealth Government to collect data to determine what would be a fair basic wage in industry. It is true that whilst some young men, and possibly young women also, benefit from the application of the basic-wage principle,other men with families of more than three children are, to that extent, penalized. Parliament might very well be employed in adjusting this anomaly. I am in complete accord with the system of arbitration. I am satisfied that, if it is properly applied, it will be for the lasting benefit of the people. It is perhaps too much to expect that it will lead to the millennium, but, at all events, it confers substantial benefits on the workers. Many misstatements have been made by honorable members opposite. They have complained that the awards of the Arbitration Court have adversely affected the wool and wheat-growing industries. I suggest to them that they should examine the statistics of production, which show that, notwithstanding what has been said on the contrary, the wealth of Australia is accumulating in the banks and other public institutions.We see everywhere indications of affluence. The only conclusion that I can come to is that the wool and wheat-growers are far too wealthy.
– It is all right while the prices remain as they are.
– Then while they remain high I ask honorable members behind the Government not to squeal. They have formed the habit of squealing whether prices are up or down. The following paragraph appeared in the Register of the 6th February, 1925:-
It is not a station, it is a principality !” declared the auctioneer, in offering for sale, at Scott’s Hotel this afternoon the renowned Riverina sheep station known as Benerembah. The station, which as offered comprises 90,830 acres (about 142 square miles) of leasehold, about halfway between Hay and Narrandera, with a frontage on the Murrumbidgee River, was first taken up about 50 years ago by the late Mr. Thomas Baillie. Since Mr. Baillie died, 32 years ago, the estate has. been worked by the trustees, who desired to wind it up; but because of an embargo by the New South Wales Ministry, arrangements for the sale could not be completed until last year. The first bid received to-day was £250,000; and in rapid succession the amounts offered rose to £325,000, at which figure bidding ceased. Later the property was sold privately for £340,000 to the Millandra Pastoral Company, Limited, of Sydney, the firm which had bid £325,000 at the auction. Mr. P. W. Hughes, of Sydney, was the runner-up at the auction, his bid being £320,000.
For that pastoral lease £340,000 was paid, and yet the Treasurer says that we cannot assess the value of pastoral leases. If the Treasurer or the Taxation Department is in doubt about the value of that leasehold, they should ask the auctioneer for particulars of the sale. When speaking on the tariff, 1 examined the statistics relating to the pastoral industry, and notwithstanding the statements of honorable members on that side respecting the baneful influence and effect of the Arbitration Court’s awards upon that industry and the consequent increased cost of production, the records show that the wool produced in Australia has increased both in value and in quantity. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) spoke of union organizers, the trades hall, and the go-slow policy. I would remind him that when the pastoralists receive higher returns for their wool, it is only right that the workers, through their unions should enforce their claimto higher wages. Honorable members supporting the Government are too steeped in prejudice to discuss the arbitration system on its merits. I suppose that the honorable member for Franklin thought that the letter which he read was a severe indictment against union organizers in Sydney, because a man could not get a job at Canberra without first approaching the union. He forgets that the unions police the arbitration awards and pay for them. There are a lot of men in industry, as in commerce, who are willing to reap the benefits of arbitration without subscribing one penny to the union funds to meet the cost of approaching the Arbitration Court. Union fees impose no burden on the worker. They are a pittance compared with the actual benefits received from trade unionism - really an investment for the workers. The mere fact that the man in question had to approach the Sydney union before he could get a job is no new departure. The Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse) and the Treasurer belong to the British Medical Association, which is one of the most conservative corporations in the universe. The Attorney-General belongs to a close association, which is subsidized with taxpayers’ money.
– Yes. The universities are subsidized by the taxpayers, and yet the avenues of them are not open to all. Once the avenue of education from primary school to university is open, the members of the medical and legal professions will need to reduce their fees considerably. The working man has to fight for his living from the cradle to the grave. I worked in a factory for seventeen years, and I was delighted when I was sent to work on a job outside. It was like a holiday to me. Once the worker, through dint of striving, places himself upon a higher plane, we are immediately told that industry is injured thereby. I worked, week in and week out, and year in and year out, for a firm that I joined in 1884, and to-day it is 50 times larger than it was then.
– If the honorable member would suggest an improvement of the bill, he might be worth listening to.
– The honorable member spoke strongly in opposition to our present system of arbitration, and referred to job control and the go-slow policy. I am dealing only with phases of industrialism which this measure, is intended to cover, and assert that unless proper protection is afforded to those engaged in industry they will be torn to pieces by the ruthless action of their employers. The honorable member for Wakefield spoke of the unions becoming political agents. He was in the political arena when I was a factory hand. I do not know if the honorable member ever worked in a factory, on a farm, or in a shearing-shed, but I do not think so. His mode of living has always been much easier than mine. He will probably remember the great maritime strike of 1S92, and the cries that were then uttered. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), when speaking on another measure, said that industrial troubles can be carried to a certain point, and then the general community will intervene. During the period of industrial turmoil to which I have referred, the community did take a hand, and to such an extent that the workers returned their own representatives to Parliament. The advent of the Labour party dates from 1892, when not only in South Australia, but throughout the Commonwealth, We were told that it was barbarous to strike, and that there was no justification for direct action. We were told not to strike, but to send our representatives to Parliament to make laws to protect the workers. I remember a great meeting held on Montefiore Hill, in Adelaide - now the municipal golf links - when those gentlemen who first became Labour members in the South Australian Parliament addressed the electors. At that time, there were no Factories Acts, Workmen’s Compensation Acts, or Early Closing Acts in operation, and the workers were without protection. Surely honorable members do not wish us to go back to the days when shop assistants had to work long hours, and at the termination of their day’s labours, put up the shutters to protect goods which, in comparison wish those which have not now to be protected in the same way, were of little value. Later, wages boards were appointed. The honorable member for Wakefield should be interested in wages boards, because he was a Minister in the South Australian Government at that time, and was partly responsible for the introduction of the measure under which they were appointed.
– That is so.
– I am glad the honorable member admits it. In the first instance, the wages boards could operate only within a 10-mile radius of the city, and the appointment of boards had to be approved by the Legislative Council before they could function. At that time, they were fighting like Kilkenny cats, and the Hon. Mr. Muecke, a member of the Legislative Council, had to be approached on bended knees to support the appointment Of a wages board to apply to the industry in which he was interested. Then followed, some time later, the establishment of the Arbitration Court. What would be the position of the workers without Arbitration Court awards and wages boards? Round-table conferences are useless unless the workers’ representatives have the strenuous support of the unions. They are afraid of victimization. Some honorable members opposite would, if they had their way, dispense with the Arbitration Court. I hope that statement will not be challenged, because an ex-Premier of South Australia, who is now a member of another place, has openly declared that, in his opinion, our system of arbitration is unscientific and economically unsound. If the Arbitration Court is dispensed with, the Government will be inviting trouble, which at present is practically indiscernible, but which, like the small cloud on the horizon, portends the approaching storm. There have been strikes since arbitration was established ; but conditions have altered during recent years. What would have happened if there had not been some check upon the rapacity of employers, particularly those who will get rich at any cost? It ‘ is inconceivable that this Parliament would be so blind to the facts of history as to jettison the whole system of arbitration, and cast upon the workers the onus of combining more closely in order to meet the owner on fair terms. No one can practice job control so effectually as the man who controls the industry. The employee cannot cease work, because he needs the proceeds of his labour to live and supply his wife and children with food and clothing. The unions are assailed, and nine-tenths of newspaper writers are against them, but we know how much they have achieved up to the present, and the benefit which the arbitration system, for which- they are responsible, has conferred upon the workers. I suggest, therefore, that honorable members opposite should discontinue their reflections upon the arbitration system. When the Arbitration Act is revised next year, and the procedure of the court is laid down, I hope due prominence will be given to the golden rule, which though glibly mouthed by many is forgotten by most - “ Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you.” If that precept is remembered by those who are appointed to the court, and if, when assessing the cold facts of commercialism, they also assess the divine rights of human beings, this bill will justify itself.
– At this late hour I shall not detain the House in an endeavour to reply in detail to all that, has been said in the course of this debate. Indeed, this is unnecessary, because,, generally speaking, the bill has met with the approval of all sections of the House. It is recognized by honorable members that, in view of the proposed amendments of the Constitution shortly to be submitted to the people, it would have been undesirable to introduce a new system of arbitration under our present limited powers. It is important to remember that this bill is in no way connected with the referendum proposals. Its provisions are rendered necessary by the character of this Parliament’s existing powers. Should the increased powers, which are. being sought by referendum be conceded, it will- be possible for this Parliament toestablish such agencies as it thinks proper, with such powers as it confers, and with a personnel having such tenure of office as it thinks fit, subject only to this condition, that, if it is desired to confer judicial power upon any authority, it will be necessary to observethe conditions of the Constitution regarding the life tenure of the judiciary. Most of the work of industrial authorities can be done perfectly well by men who will not be appointed for life. The work of conciliation commissioners and wages boards is distinct altogether from the exercise of judicial functions. Even honorable members who object to the principle of life tenure have recognized the need for it in regard to the Arbitration Court judges, in order that the court may effectively interpret its awards and enforce them against either side. Various honorable members have addressed themselves to the merits of thearbitration system, and some have spoken of its effect upon the rural industries. These are big subjects, but I suggest to .those honorable members who have made interesting and useful contributions to the discussion that they do not arise in connexion with this bill, and that whatever the views of any member may be as to the general merits of arbitration, or the effect of the system upon rural industries, provision of the nature proposed in this bill must be made immediately. We all recognize that an arbitration award, although not applying directly to a particular industry, has an effect upon it by influencing the general cost of living, and in other ways, Even if awards are not directly applied to the rural industries those engaged in them are profoundly interested in the conditions which applied to the secondary industries. Accordingly, all sections of the people are concerned in making the arbitration system as efficient as possible, and to the supplying of that need this bill is directed. Even honorable members who object to the Commonwealth arbitration system would, if they had direct and personal responsibility, hesitate before they swept it aside. If that fact be recognized, the main objective is to get the best men available to handle this important work, to put them in a position to discharge their functions thoroughly, and, particularly, to make them independent of the various exigencies of political changes. In order to obtain good men for the arbitration courts, we must bear in mind the difficult and responsible nature of their work, and the extent to which it subjects them to criticism, sometimes in harsh or, at least, unfortunate language. Those who are worthy of these appointments are men whose services are required in other branches of public work, where the rewards are frequently greater than are offered to occupants of the arbitration bench. That applies particularly to men suited for the judicial bench, for which there are pensions and comfortable conditions of working that do not obtain in the Federal Arbitration Court. This Parliament must be prepared to make the positions reasonably attractive in comparison with other positions that are open to men of character and capacity. That cannot be done unless they are given full security of tenure, and under the Constitution they must, to exercise judicial power, be appointed for life. It is necessary, too, that the position of a Commonwealth arbitration judge should be at least as attractive as judicial positions in the States.
– Has the Government considered the result?
– I can assure the honorable member that that has not been overlooked. Reasons for every provision contained in this bill have been submitted to the House. Unless this Parliament abolishes the Arbitration Court altogether - which I venture to suggest would not be favoured by honorable members or by the community generally, despite the fact that each of us has some criticism to offer concerning the present system - the provisions of the bill must be adopted. The Government is not prepared to abolish the court.
– Not yet.
– I understand the honorable member’s position. It is intended to make the court as effective as it can be under the Constitution as it stands.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a. second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 and. 2 agreed to.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to acquaint honorable members with the names of the gentlemen chosen to represent Australia at the forthcoming meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations, which is held every year on the first Monday in September. The meeting this year is of the greatest importance.Honorable members will recollect that, during the present year, a special meeting of the Assembly was held to consider the admission of Germany to the League, with a permanent seat on the Council. That matter, and the. composition of the Council generally, and, in particular, the number of permanent seats, are questions that were fully discussed, and created grave differences of opinion, so that the Assembly arrived at no decision regarding them. These matters will, therefore, be again taken into consideration at the September meeting. It is imperative that the Commonwealth should have the best and fullest representation possible in the
Assembly, and it has been suggested that the Prime Minister should attend; but that is impossible. It is, however, regarded as essential that a Minister should bc present, and the Government, therefore, proposes that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) shall be the principal representative of the Commonwealth, and that the other two representatives shall be the High Commissioner (Sir Joseph Cook) and the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), who is leaving for England in the near future, and will be on the other side of the world when the Assembly meets. The substitute delegates whom the Government has selected are Sir Arthur Rickard, of Sydney, and Miss Freda Bage, who is ‘the principal of the Women’s College in tho University of Queensland. Honorable members will agree that the representation which the Commonwealth will have at the Assembly is such as to inspire the confidence of the people of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.23 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 June 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260617_reps_10_113/>.