10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask leave to submit a motion forthwith in connexion with the serious industrial trouble that has arisen on the waterfront.
.- Before leave is granted to the right honorable gentleman I desire to know something of the nature of the motion and the circumstances which have prompted him to propose it. We know nothing of anything having occurred withinthe last 24 hours that would justify the action which the government is taking, and I am surprised at theright honorable gentleman coolly asking us to interrupt the ordinary routine of business in order to enable him to make a motion.
– Order ! If there is one objection the Prime Minister cannot submit his motion.
– I am aware of that. Before granting or refusing leave we should know what is actuating the Government in taking this course.
– The present very serious industrial situation is actuating it.
– I know of no serious development. I have not seen any newspaper reports of occurrences within the last 24 hours. My latest information is that negotiations were taking place between the parties on the waterfront. Possibly something may be done in this House which will irritate the disputants and intensify the trouble. Why does the government desire to rush this motion through the House ? Parliament has been in session throughout the week while the trouble on the waterfront has been in progress,butthegovernmenthasnot attemptedtotakeanyactioninaccord- ancewiththeordinaryformsofpro- cedure.
– Do I understand that the honorable gentleman refuses leave to the Prime Minister ?
– I do not wish the. members of the Opposition to he placed in a false position. Our refusal of leave may he misrepresented and we shall he held up to public condemnation.
– The honorable member had to disclose his motion of want of confidence before leave was granted to him to move it.
– That is so. We should be doing wrong if we granted leave for the moving of some motion of which we are ignorant. I never refused leave for the making of a statement or the submission of a motion if the circumstances appeared to me to warrant such action.
– The Leader of the Opposition has had time to state his objection ; he cannot debate the matter.
Mr.CHARLTON. - In the absence of any knowledge of the government’s intention I object to leave being granted to the Prime Minister to submit a motion at this stage.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the Prime Minister to move a motion, without notice, dealing with the present industrial disturbance in the waterside industry in Australia.
– Standing Order 407 provides for the suspension of the Standing Orders in cases of urgent necessity; but the motion for the suspension must be carried byan absolute majority of the members of the House.
.- The Prime Minister still refuses to give any reason to justify the course he has taken. He cannot fairly expect the Opposition to agree blindly to some proposal that the Government contemplates in connexion with a big industrial trouble. If we knew what is actuating the Prime Minister and what he proposes to do, we might be agreeable to the suspension of the Standing Orders, but we know nothing The Opposition should not be treated with contempt in a matter of this kind. Representing a large body of people we have our rights and responsibilities. It is our due that we be told what the Prime Minister intends to do. I came into thechamber this morning without the slightest knowledge of any extraordinary developments in connexion with the dispute on the waterfront. Ministerial members may have been informed on this matter; if so, there is greater reason for the Government to be frank with members of the Opposition. We all desire to do the best in the interests of the country.
– It does not appear so.
– How can the honorable member say that when we know nothing of the circumstances that have given rise to the action the Government is taking? I have not the slightest knowledge of any development which would warrant the House in suspending the Standing Orders and holding up urgent public business, including the tariff, which means so much to thousands of unemployed. Parliament has been closed for the greater portion of the year, and now, when it should be able to deal with the tariff, the Government intervenes with other business. Last week the House was compelled to sit continuously for 35½ hours in order to dispose of certain business. To-day the Prime Minister proposes to delay business which is more important and urgent than anything else with which the House could deal. ‘ With Christmas approaching, many thousands of workers are faced with unemployment, and the Government will do nothing to help them. We want the tariff schedule dealt with promptly in order that assistance may be given to the secondary industries and work found for the unemployed. But we are asked to postpone that business and deal with a motion of the necessity for which we know nothing. If something disastrous were happening which would warrant this extraordinary procedure, we should offer no opposition.
– There is something disastrous happening.
– There is trouble on the waterfront, which we all deplore; but we hope that the negotiations which are in progress will soon produce a settlement. In connexion with all the industrial troubles that have occurred from time to time, no man has played a less important part than has the Prime Minister.
– What has the Leader of the Opposition done.
– In connexion with the last big industrial upheaval, I did all that was possible for a member in opposition to do, but, for electioneering purposes, the Government wanted the trouble to continue. But for it, honorable members opposite would not be where they are.
– I ask honorable members not to interject. These interruptionscause the speaker to digress from the motion, which relates to the suspension of the Standing Orders, and has nothing to do with past industrial troubles.
– Whenever there is industrial trouble that is likely to interfere with the progress and welfare of the country the Prime. Minister’s first duty is to use hispowerinfluence, and prestige to bring the parties together and effect a reconciliation.
– He may be proposing to do that.
– We do not know what he proposes to do, and that is why we object to the proceedure he has adopted. Does the Attorney-General think that his leader has treated us courteously in not acquainting us with the information he possesses? We might consent to a certain course of action, only to find when the facts are disclosed that it was not justified. We should have as much information as has been given to honorable members opposite.
– You have.
– I have no information.
– The honorable member has as much as we have.
– Lacking information, and being in ignorance of what the Prime Minister proposes to do, I, on behalf of the Opposition object emphatically to the suspension of the Standing Orders. Evidently every honorable member on the Ministerial side has been acquainted with the facts.
Ministerial Members. - We have not.
– Government supporters were told to be in their places this morning.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! Honorable members must not interject. These ex changes across the chamber cause unnecessary heat and prevent the honorable member who is speaking from stating his case. I have no desire to appeal to members individually, but order must be preserved.
– Ministerial members say they have no knowledge of what is in the Government’s mind; but it is significant that the attendance of ministerialists this morning is larger than usual. After I refused to give leave to the Prime Minister to make a statement he would have acted more fairly had he taken the House into his confidence. He is . treating the Opposition in cavalier fashion. Apparently he relies on his majority. His supporters have admitted by interjecting that this motion must be carried. Surely we have not reached the stage at which consideration is not to be shown to the Opposition. The Government party may be powerful in numbers; but still, courtesy should be extended by one party to another. Were I in the right honorable gentleman’s position, and he in mine, and I intended to move a motion of this nature, I would acquaint him of my object in so doing. What is actuating the Government in this instance? We are asked to agree to suspend the Standing Orders, but we do not know for what reason. Not one word of explanation has been given concerning the extraordinary procedure that is being adopted. Honorable members on this side of the chamber came this morning expecting to debate the tariff resolutions, and I may inform the right honorable gentleman that we are anxious that the general discussion of the tariff should be limited, so that we can give attention to the items in the schedule. We are anxious that something definite should be done before the House adjourns for the Christmas vacation, to relieve the distress occasioned by factories closing down. But the time of the House is now to be taken up in debating some other matter.
– The tariff is already in operation.
– Yes, but in many cases the incidence of the duties is unsatisfactory, and honorable members have a right to express their views, and, to endeavour to effect improvements. We cannot do this until the items are under discussion, yet the discussion of the tariff is to be delayed in order to debate a motion, the purport of which has not been submitted to the House, and concerning which the right honorable gentleman has not spoken a word of explanation. I submit that when an emergency move is to be made in the House, it is the duty of the Government to acquaint the Opposition of its intentions. The Prime Minister has moved the suspension of the Standing Orders merely to enable the House to discuss a certain motion. The request I have made is fair, and at this stage I can only enter my protest against the withholding of information. Whatever may happen, no one will be able to find fault with honorable members on this side of the chamber for protesting against the action of the Government in suspending important business to debate a motion of which they have no knowledge.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Mr.scullin.- I ask, Mr. Speaker, if in speaking now the Prime Minister will close the debate?
Mr. SPEAKER (The Hon. Sir Littleton E. Groom). - The Prime Minister can at this stage make a statement by leave, without prejudicing his right to reply to the general debate. Is it the pleasure of the House that the right honorable gentleman should have leave to make a statement under those conditions?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– I should be sorry to think that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), or the members of the Opposition generally, consider that I have treated them discourteously. When I asked for leave to move a motion to discuss the position which has arisen on the waterfront in Australia, it did not occur to me that any thoughtful man would fail to recognize that the dislocation which at present threatens this country, and the possibility of its expansion affecting the general industrial and commercial life of the Commonwealth, is of far greater importance than possibly any other subject that we could debate at this juncture. It was because of the significance of what is happening that I did not elaborate the object of my motion when I asked leave to move it without notice. Honorable members must recognize that this matter has become more urgent during the last 24 hours. The Federal Capital City is far removed from the centres where the waterside workers carry on their activities and, therefore, knowledge of the events of yesterday only reached us this morning. Yesterday the notice given by the owners as to the terms upon which they would continue employment terminated. The ship owners were prepared to continue only on the basis of the Arbitration Court award, and the agreement entered into under it. When the time prescribed in the notice given to the waterside workers terminated yesterday, ships were held up in all parts of Australia, and to-day the Commonwealth is faced with most serious industrial dislocation. It is, therefore, essential that the National Parliament should express its’ attitude towards the situation which has arisen, and because of that imperative necessity I believed that every honorable member would agree that this discussion of the matter should take precedence over all other business. The unemployment and distress which would follow an expansion of the present industrial trouble, would greatly outweigh any benefits that might come from the tariff, even if the Leader of the Opposition was successful in securing every amendment of it that he desires. Consequently the Government considered it imperative to give Parliament an opportunity to express its views on this very serious event.
– What is the motion ?
– If the House agrees to the suspension of the Standing Orders, I propose to move the following motion : -
That in view of the great loss, unemployment and generaldistress which will inevitably result from the continuance of serious industrial disturbance in the waterside industry, this House affirms its support of the Government in taking any action the Government thinks necessary in co-operation with the Governments of the States, so far as possible, to maintain law and order, and to ensure the continuance of services essential to the wellbeing of the Commonwealth.
– The right honorable gentleman wishesustosignablank cheque.
– If the motion for the suspension ofthe Standing Orders is agreed to, I propose to submit that motion, or that failing, to give notice that I shall move it to-morrow.
Mr.SCULLIN (Yarra) [11.22].- The Prime Minister has now given the House the terms of the motion he proposes to move if the suspension of the Standing Orders is agreed to. He should have done so at the outset. The right honorable gentleman says that he intends to move the motion to enable honorable members to debate the serious position that exists to-day. The terms of the motion may embody a pious hope or if given effect may result in a repetition of the outrageous attempts this Government made some time ago to deport certain Australian citizens from this country.
– Order ! The honorable member for Yarra must discuss the motion before the Chair, and not the motion which the Prime Minister proposes to move at a later stage.
– I am merely pointing out what ought to be done, and was about to say that the Government should act fairly towards the members of this House. Honorable members opposite have no more knowledge than we have of what the Government proposes. Therefore, I ask if it is fair to them.
– We are quite satisfied.
– I would not expect the honorable member for Henty to be otherwise. He urged that certain individuals in this country should, at, the behest of the Government, be taken away on a war boat in the dead of night and not allowed to return. The honorable member for Henty would be satisfied with anything. He publicly declared that he was in favour of Walsh and Johnson being secretly removed from Australia, and would see that they never returned, but they are still here. He was merely endeavouring to obtain greater National support in his electorate. But we on this side of the chamber stand for liberty and freedom, and the right to consider the merits and demerits of any question. I had no intention of becoming heated ; but the interjection of the honorable member for Henty recalled the bloodthirsty and outrageous utterances he made during the last elections purely as an election stunt, just as the election throughoutwas a political stunt.
– That is, an absolute mis-statement of facts.
– If there has been some unusual development during the last 24 hours, and the matter is urgent, we ought to be told what it is before being asked to vote on the motion.
– The honorable member has now heard the. motion.
– The AttorneyGeneral should allow me to continue. Surely honorable members on this side of the chamber should have been given a few hours’ notice in order to obtain some information on the other side of the question.
– Does not the honorable member wish the strike to be settled ?
– Yes, and negotiations are now proceeding in that direction. This Government has not been responsible for settling one industrial dispute in Australia, and every time it meddles in industrial matters it creates turmoil. If the Government is in earnest in its desire to bring about peace, and wishes to secure the co-operation of the State Governments to that end, it has commenced in the wrong way. It is not creating a right atmosphere for the consideration of such an important subject as industrial peace. It is in possession of some information which it is not prepared to give to the House . It has prevented us from obtaining information on the other side of the question. Something has happened during the last 24 hours which honorable members opposite say they know nothing about. Are they willing to vote blindly and support the Government in any action it may take?
– We are prepared to hear what the Prime Minister has to say.
– So am I. I submit, however, that it is a fair proposition to ask that honorable members in opposition should be supplied with any information in the possession of the Government. It is unreasonable at this early hour in the morning, without a moment’s notice, to submit such a motion to permit discussion on an important industrial topic without giving honorable members an opportunity to obtain information on points which are of vital interest to them. We are disarmed; but honorable members opposite are armed with all the facts.
– We are not armed. We do not know what is proposed.
– Surely we could wait a day. Honorable members cannot get away from the fact that it is the duty of the Government to supply the Opposition with the information at its disposal.
– We all know there is trouble on the waterfront.
– Yes, but we should like to know why there is such urgency in this matter. If it is urgent and action must be taken almost immediately, surely the subject could be debated later in the day. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the Prime Minister should have consulted with the Leader of the Opposition, and acquainted him of the developments that had occurred. That would have been only courteous.
– The only information I have is that which was anticipated yesterday has actually occurred. Ships are held up on the waterfront. That is common knowledge now, because the information has come through.
– If the Prime Minister received that information last night, he should have acquainted the House, and honorable members on this side of the chamber could have come to-day prepared to meet any arguments advanced. It is an easy matter for the Government to move in this way. If we knew that a genuine attempt was being made to settle the dispute by arbitration, we would endeavour to assist the Government; but the history of the Government is against it. It has never adopted other than a partisan attitude in any dispute. It sets out with the determination to imprison or deport from the country practically every one who is prominently associated with any industrial disturbance.
– Order! Order! I ask the honorable member not to proceed on those lines.
– I am stating facts. It is our knowledge of this Government and of the history of its legislation which not only makes us suspicious of everything it does, but determines us to fight it if we can. We are resolved not to give the Government carte blanche. The Go vernment is asking thisHouse to support its actions, but honorable members on the other side will have to accept the responsibility.
Mr.Foster. - We will take the responsibility.
– The honorable member has never yet taken it. Honorable members on that side of the House have been blind followers of the Government, which has outraged every principle of freedom in this country. When we have looked to honorable members opposite for protection of the rights and liberties of the men, they have failed us. The only protection Australian citizens could obtain was by going before the High Court of Australia. Then they received impartial justice from men who were neither Labour nor anti-Labour, and the Government incidentally received the severest knock which any administration has ever received in the history of Australia. I am not prepared to give a blank cheque to the Government to take any action it may choose to bring about a settlement. If the terms of the resolution were specific, and indicated the nature of the action which it is proposed to take, and that action was reasonable, I would give the proposal of the Government my wholehearted support. But I want to know first what action the Government proposes to take. We are asked to give our support to the Government for any action it may take. This is the sugar-coating to the pill - “ Co-operation with the States if possible.” Co-operation with the States will be possible if the action which the Government proposes to take is reasonable. The co-operation of some States - that of New South Wales and South Australia - will be obtainable even if the proposed action is not reasonable; but the co-operation of States controlled by Labour - as, fortunately, most of them are - will not be obtainable if the Government contemplates any action similar to that taken in the past.
– Is the honorable member throwing oil on the troubled waters?
– The honorable member forFawkner (Mr. Maxwell) would throw petrol on the fires of industrial unrest. By his speeches in the past, he has inflamed industrial trouble. I challenge the honorable member to show that we have done anything like so much as have the representatives of the Government towards stirring up industrial unrest in Australia. The government has created a feeling of suspicion and unrest. By its action it prevented the people of this country from giving the Parliament power which I think it ought to have. I am not prepared to cast my vote to . give the Government power to take any action it chooses, until we know what action it proposes to take. If such action is reasonable, this House will give- it unanimous support. I support the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) in his protest against the contemptuous way in which the Prime Minister has treated the Opposition, by bringing this matter forward without having given us notice of his intention to do so. According to honorable members opposite, they have been treated in a manner almost as contemptuous. The whips were busy and honorable members were told to be in their places, but were not told for what reason. They came like lambs to the slaughter, for, on their own admission, they were not informed what business was afoot. If that is not true, then the statement of honorable members on the other side, that they had no information, is not correct. They came blindly to the House, and were prepared to enter into a discussion on a matter concerning which they had been told nothing. Members of the Opposition must maintain their rights. While the Government stands for the interests of the employers of Australia, and of the capitalist classes, we stand for the protection of the working classes whose interests we represent in this House.
.- Before we discuss the motion, I ask the right honorable gentleman, the Prime Minister, to consider whether he has played the game in what he has done this morning?
– What! In submitting a motion to the House?
– He has asked for leave to move a motion. I submit that under no circumstances should the Prime Minister ask for leave to move a motion the terms of which are undisclosed, unless he is prepared to take the responsibility of giving an assurance that the motion is of n non-contentious ‘-nature, and one which all sections of the House desire to discuss. The right honorable member was very properly refused leave to move his motion without notice, because courtesy and propriety demand that he should have acquainted the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) with the terms of the motion. His gesture for conciliation having failed, we find him ready armed, and supported by the wellfilled benches behind him, with a coercive motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. Then, when a further difficulty presents itself, he finally discloses the terms of the motion itself. I have seen legislation passed in this House to deal with industrial trouble, and have some knowledge of the attitude of the Government towards matters of this kind. The views of Ministers have been translated into legislation in the Crimes Act. The Prime Minister has the weapon of the Crimes Act concealed beneath his cloak, and I invite him to use it without attempting to make the Opposition a party to his policy. He has power to issue a proclamation to-day or tomorrow, after which he may throw into prison any of the industrialists on the waterfront who may be concerned in the present trouble, even in a remote way. I do not pretend to know the circumstances attending this strike or lock-out. I know that there is a sharp difference between the men who have been doing work at the waterside and their employers, and that the situation is grave. I do not propose for a single moment, however, to agree to the placing of my party or myself in a false position. We are the spokesmen of at “least half the people of the Commonwealth. I do not propose to put into the hands of the Government, by any kind of acquiescence whatever power by the use of the Crimes Act to exercise coercion and inflict’ imprisonment upon any section of the people engaged in an industrial dispute in good faith. We opposed the Crimes Act when it was before this House, because it has always been the policy of this Party to regard industrial trouble as something outside the ambit of criminal law. If the Government proposes to use the powers conferred by that act, it must do so in spite of the Opposition, and it must take responsibility for ite action.
We will not allowit to benoised abroad in the Commonwealth that we have meekly sat in our places while the Government has taken such action as it contemplates as a result of this motion. If it desires to take such a course, let it do so by virtue of the powers with which it invested itself when it passed the Crimes Act. Let it use those powers if it dare; or, on the other hand, let the whole matter be discussed in a regular way in accordance with the Standing Orders, and on a definite proposition.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Question - That the Standing Orders besuspended-put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That in view of the great lose, unemployment, and general distress which will inevitably result from the continuance of the serious industrial disturbance in the waterside industry,this-House affirms its support of the Government in taking any action the Government thinks necessary, in co-operation with the Governments of the States so far as possible, to maintain law and order and to ensure the continuance of services essential to the well-being of the Commonwealth.
It is necessary to realize in discussing this motion that we are not called on now to deal with the merits of the dispute. The desire of the Government is merely that the House should affirm its support of necessary action in the event of business on the water fronts being held up, and industrial and commercial life dislocated as the result of the present shipping dispute. It is possible that this may not happen; we hope that it will not. But it is essential that the people of Australia should know that all possible steps will be taken by the Commonwealth Government - we hope with the fullest cooperation of the State Governments - to preserve the rights of the public, and to prevent the suffering and distress which would inevitably follow a protracted industrial hold-up. Complaint was made by members of ‘the Opposition that they had not received notice of the action which the Government proposes to take. But surely it is within the knowledge of every honorable member that yesterday was the critical day of the dispute, and that at 8 o’clock yesterday morning it was to be made apparent either that there would be serious industrial trouble or that matters would be adjusted. “We all know that the situation became serious yesterday. I trust that a way out will be found, but, in view of what has occurred, it is the duty of this Parliament to give an assurance to the people of Australia as to its attitude in the event of “further trouble eventuating. The Government possesses no particular knowledge that is not available to honorable members, as the facts of the situation are published in the newspapers which were distributed in Canberra this morning. Yesterday the waterfront dispute reached & head, when the men declined to accept the owners’ conditions and to work in conformity with the awards of the Arbitration Court. Ships are tied up in the ports of Australia. The Maloja was laid up immediately on arrival in Melbourne. We are therefore forced to consider the position which has arisen. Another complaint was in the nature of .a suggestion. It was contended that the Government should first have called its followers together and informed them of the situation and of its proposals to meet it. I suggest that the proper place for a question of such magnitude to bc discussed is on the floor of this Parliament. I cannot understand the complaint of honorable members opposite. I stress the point that, while Parliament is not concerned with the claims of one side or the other to the dispute, it is concerned with the interests of the people of Australia as a whole. If there is a fear that, by the action of extremists or others, the- whole industrial life of Australia will be held up, .this Parliament should, at least, give no encouragement to those who would bring about such a state of affairs. On the contrary, it should make it perfectly clear that it will use every power it possesses to maintain the essential services of the country and prevent industrial dislocation. The situation confronting us is indeed serious. On many occasions I have heard it suggested that whenever an’ industrial crisis arises the Government should step in and endeavour to bring the parties together with a view to a compromise being arrived at. I am not prepared to subscribe to that view, seeing that we have provided legislation for the establishment of courts to deal with any differences which may arise between employers and employees. I go further, and say that it would be wrong for any government to interfere in a dispute when one of the parties to that dispute has acted in flagrant contempt of the awards and decisions of the court.
It is well to draw attention to the way in which this trouble has arisen. The present dispute is between the waterside workers of Australia and the Australian ship-owners. On the 23rd May, 1924, an award was given under which waterside workers in Australia have since that time been employed’. That award was expressed to remain in force until May, 1926, but in terms of section 28 (2) of the act, it has continued in force beyond that date; it is in force to-day. From time to time various matters covered by the award have come up for discussion. In February of this year His Honour Judge Beeby had before him a question affecting the employment of waterside workers. That question referred particularly to the rates of payment for overtime worked and the granting of preference to members of theWaterside Workers’ Union. On the 1st February His Honour made an award dealing with overtime rates, but he left the other question in abeyance for further consideration. When delivering his award, Judge Beeby said: -
Before finally deciding the claim for preference, I desire the executive of the federation. to consider what steps they are prepared to take to ensure observance of the award, and to prevent brandies imposing local rules and issuing orders to members to insist on conditions of employment contrary to the awards of this court. At present I have not, as provided in- section 40 (2), formed the opinion that a direction giving preference is necessary for the prevention or settlement of disputes, or for the maintenance of industrial peace. Without the further information asked for, T am unable to decide the issue, and defer final decision until the hearing of the main dispute. In the meantime, I will investigate the Risdon dispute while in Hobart, and direct that the present method of working ships at Geraldton continue until my final award.
Under that award His Honour said that he would make further inquiries into the dispute at Risdon when he visited Hobart. He also decided that the then existing conditions at Geraldton should continue. In particular, he asked for assurances from the union that the award would not be subjected to breaches by the various branches. The matter came up again for discussion on the 8th February in connexion with an application made by the Electrolytic Zinc Coy. For a long time the employees of that company, whose works are situated about five miles from Hobart, have loaded the products of the company at the company’s wharf, but the Waterside Workers’ Union claimed that its members alone should do the work. That matter was not then determined; it came before the court again on the 21st March of this year. Arguments were addressed to the court, and the attention of Judge Beeby was drawn to his statement, made on the 1st February, in which he asked for some assurance from the union that the local branches would not cause breaches of the award. Judge Beeby deferred his judgment with a view to giving a considered judgment later. This he did on the 24th March, 1927. That judgment, which will bring before honorable members the circumstances which have led to this trouble, reads -
I have given a great deal of thought and consideration to this matter, and I have considered the rule books and the affidavits. I desire to make a considered statement in regard to this case, so that the union will know exactly what its position is as far as this court is concerned.
During the hearing on 15th January last and subsequent dates of the application by the Waterside Workers’ Federation for a reconsideration of overtime rates and for an award granting preference of employment to its members, allegations were made by various employers that different branches of the federation had adopted and were enforcing local rules in conflict with the then operating awards and agreements. I then asked the federation to consider what steps it was prepared to take to ensure observance of awards and to prevent branches imposing local rules and issuing orders to members to demand conditions of employment not incorporated in awards or agreements.
Acting on the assumption that some respect would be paid to this request, I made an interim award increasing overtime rates, and stated that the court would proceed at an early date to reconsider carefully wage rates and conditions of employment, and would further assist the parties in an effort to establish an industrial council formed for the purpose of periodic revision of waterside labour conditions.
Since that date the Melbourne branches of the union have continued circulating sets of rules containing clauses which set up working conditions not authorized by any award or in eluded in any agreement. Affidavits have also been filed by various employers complaining that breaches of awards have been continued, and that new conditions not included in agreements or awards, and contrary to prevailing customs, have been imposed in different ports. Up to the present the material allegations contained in these affidavits have not been denied.
In the port of Melbourne, the vigilant officer of the union has, by interfering with men at work and by threats of fines, persuaded them to insist that not more than ten bags of bagstuffs shall be put into a sling, in place of the customary twelve bags. Similar limitations of output of cased kerosene, and, in Adelaide, of railway sleepers, have been insisted on. In New South Wales the local branch of the union, for the purpose of compelling employers to pay a special rate for wheat, has seriously interfered with shipping by placing a limitation on the number of bags of wheat loaded per gang per hour, and by refusing to work overtime.
Several other complaints relating to actions of local branches in different ports were alleged, and remain unanswered. The secretary of the federation filed one affidavit as to wheat loading in Sydney, in which the allegation of limitation of output was not denied.
I am reluctantly and regretfully forced to the conclusion that the union’s present policy is to permit local branches to set up and enforce rules, and to act even without rules, in defiance of awards of this court, of their own agreements, and of the established customs of ports.
The desire of the union to secure a reconsideration of working conditions is perfectly legitimate, and the court intended to enter on the hearing of the pending disputes on Tuesday last. It has always been a rule of this court that, while a case is pending, none of the parties involved shall disturb the existing conditions and customs, or enforce claims under the court’s consideration by direct action. Where small local troubles beyond the control of the executive have occurred, breaches of this rule have been overlooked. In this instance, however, the breaches are serious, and involve efforts to arbitrarily limit production. Whether or not waterside workers’ conditions should be altered to increase the numbers of men working in gangs, or to limit the weight of slings, or to provide increased rates when handling wheat, and whether revision of conditions relating to matters referred to in the affidavits were issues raised in the plaints before the court, the actions of brandies of the federation in trying to force adoption of their claims while a case is pending cannot be tolerated, and until the branches are prepared to observe the conditions prevailing at the- time of the filing of their plaint, the court cannot proceed further with the hearing.
As the court cannot of its own motion vary an award, I will not at present say anything as to the cancellation of the interim award of the 1st February. That matter will be considered if application is made by one or more of the parties bound by an award. I understand that the federal executive of the Employees’ Federation will shortly meet in Melbourne. If they can give the court satisfactory guarantees on the matters referred to, the hearing of the case will be immediately resumed.
I make that statement after very careful reflection. I regret exceedingly that I am not permitted to go into this matter. I believed it was possible, perhaps, to bring about a better relationship on the waterfront, but that cannot be done while the union claims the right to dictate working conditions. If they are to have arbitration, then those conditions must be settled by this court. While I pay the respect that is due to the affidavits filed in reply, they amount to an admission that these rules have been adopted deliberately, and that the union intends to try to enforce them. Some of the things they ask may be perfectly just; I cannot say at present. Those matters have to be investigated. But I cannot go on and fix wages and overtime, and then leave it to the union to say how much work they are going to do, or under what conditions they are going to do the work. I leave the matter over for the present. I ask the Waterside Workers’ Federation to give serious consideration to what I have said when they hold their conferences, and if they can give me sufficient assurance to enable me to go on. with the case, I shall proceed with it.
– Will the right honorable gentleman give the date on which Judge Beeby said that if the employers would agree to the proposal he would go on with the case ?
– I shall come to that presently. The matter was again listed in court on the 6th May last.
– By whom was it brought forward ?
– I think claims were made by both parties. As no assurances which Judge Beeby regarded as satisfactory were forthcoming, His Honour reiterated his decision not to proceed with the matter in the circumstances. Nothing further happened for some time, but on the 12th October, 1927, Mr. Turley and Mr. Morris, the president and the secretary respectively of the union, together with other members of the executive of the union, interviewed the Deputy Industrial Registrar, Melbourne, and discussed the whole question. Certain assurances proffered by the union led to Judge Beeby agreeing to list the case again. Accordingly, on the 21st October last it again came before the court. After argument, His Honour came to the conclusion that the union had failed to give assurances of the nature required, and, therefore, he again intimated that the hearing of the case would not proceed unless such assurances were given. During the argument, the following passages between His Honour and the representatives of the employers took place: -
His HONOR. - Do the employers’ representatives ask me to proceed with their case?
Mr. Elford. No. My instructions are to take objection to the case proceeding while the union is still committing a contempt of court.
His HONOR. - I did not ask that. I can deal with that matter. You have a case before the court. I want the responsibility of the non-hearing of this case to be clearly placed. I have the union’s position. The employers have a plaint before the court. Do they want me to proceed with it?
Mr. Elford. No.
That brings us up to the 21st October. It is not necessary for me to deal with the acts of the union that were in breach of the award, because they were referred to in Judge Beeby’s statement in March; but there were various troubles in many ports around Australia including Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart, Fremantle, and Geraldton, where disputes occurred over particular departures from the award. I have set out the history of the matter up to date. From time to time, many statements have appeared in the public press commenting on the attitude of the union, and the fact that it is not prepared to fall into line with the arbitration award. I shall read one newspaper statement published on the 21st October last. It is as follows : -
Brisbane, Friday. - A special “ stop-work “ meeting of members of the Brisbane branch of the Waterside Workers Federation was held this morning, and attended by about 800 persons. The following resolution was passed with two dissentients: -
That this federation approach the court to see if it will hear its plaint without withdrawing the one “ pick-up “ ; that if refused the federation adopt a policy of irritation along the lines laid down previously by the committee of management in refusing to work overtime to bring about preference to members of the federation, and one “ pick-up “ a day to all branches who desire it; the said irritation policy shall be varied to suit various branches if required.
– From which newspaperis the Prime Minister quoting?
– I do not know ; but it is a report of a resolution passed by the Brisbane branch of the union.
– It is very necessary for the House to know the authority.
– I do not think that the honorable member will suggest that the authority is unreliable. The resolution that I have quoted was published in the press throughout Australia, and it has never been contradicted.
– The right honorable gentleman ought to give his authority for the statement.
– I am afraid that we shall not get very far if points of that character are to be taken. Subsequent to that resolution, this overtime strike has occurred. As honorable members know, the members of the Waterside Workers Union are not prepared to work overtime. As the result of that decision, which came on top of a great number of other departures from the award that had been given by the Court, the ship-owners, both overseas and local, took definite action, and sent a letter to the Waterside Workers, which, I think, was also forwarded as a matter of courtesy to the Registrar of the Arbitration Court. The letter is as follows: - 509 Collins-street,
Melbourne, 25th November, 1927
Waterside Workers Federation,
The shipping industry, both overseas and interstate, has for a long period been carried on under the greatest difficulty owing to your members not working in accordance with the terms and conditions laid down by Arbitration Court awards and by agreements governing the industry. Every latitude has been afforded to your organization having regard to the recognized difficulties where large bodies of men are concerned.
As long ago as in 1914 your federation gave an undertaking to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration that it would amend its rules with a view to power being given to your committee of management to discipline its members in order to ensure that awards would be obeyed. In 1917 the then president of the court directed your attention to the fact that the undertaking had not been observed, and the rules were then amended as required by the court.
Notwithstanding this, breaches of the awards have continued without intermission, and although the attention of your organization has been consistently directed to these breaches, and repeated requests have been made that the powers vested in your committee of management should be exercised, your members in the various ports, supported by or instigated by officers of your organization, still persist in dictating the terms under which they will work, in defiance of the provisions of the existing award.
Your members have now refused to offer for overtime work, in spite of the fact that the court has laid down that such work is essential to the industry and provision is made for it in the awards.
Steamers have been declared “ black “ in an attempt to obtain by direct action that which he court has refused -
A particular instance of this occurred in connexion with the Electrolytic Zinc Company’s works at Risdon, Tasmania. According to a long established custom, ships have been loaded by the employees in the industry there; but on their arrival in. other ports they have recently been declared “ black.” The letter concludes : -
The position has become intolerable and the industry can no longer be carried on under such impossible conditions. Your committee of management has been given every opportunity, both by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration andby the shipowners, to provide satisfactory guarantees that the awards of the court would be observed, but have declined to give such guarantees.
It is imperative in the public interest that work in connexion with the shipping industry, which is so vital to the Commonwealth and directly or indirectly to every member of the community, should be carried out in accordance with the terms of the industrial laws.
We are therefore instructed to inform your committee of management on behalf of all the members of the undermentioned associations that from 8. a.m. on Wednesday next, the 30th instant, complete observance of all the terms and conditions prescribed by existing awards and agreements will be required, and that work will only be offered in accordance therewith. Your federation and its members will understand from this that it is a condition of employment that all practices which conflict with the awards and agreement shall cease.
We are to request that your committee of management will treat this as an official notice to the effect and that it will cause the same to he immediately brought under the notice of all your branches and members.
Copies of this letter are being handed to the Registrar of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and to the press.
Yours faithfully - (Signed) F. G. Murdoch, Chairman, Oversea Shipping Representatives’ Association. (Signed)W. T. Appleton, Chairman, Commonwealth Steamship Owners’ Association.
– What about the Australian Commonwealth Line?
– Was any reply received to that letter ?
Mr.BRUCE.- No.I have outlined the position up to yesterday, which was thedate of the expiry of the notice. Unhappily, work has stopped on the waterfront, and there appears to be a grave possibility of serious industrial trouble.
An honorable member has asked “ What about the Commonwealth Shipping Line?”I have made inquiries, and 1 find that a different attitude has been adopted by the unions towards that Line. They have agreed to work overtime in connexion with those vessels, but subject to the stipulation that they revert to the whole of the conditions that obtained prior to the commencement of the overtime strike. Those conditions are not on the basis of the Arbitration Court’s award; they represent a departure from the award that Judge Beeby referred to in his judgment. The Commonwealth Shipping Line has seen fit to accept those terms, and work is proceeding in connexion with its ships.It is necessary that the position should be made quite clear. The attitude of the ship-owners is that it is essential that the award of the court should be obeyed, and that the waterside workers be employed under the terms of that award, upon which their employment is based. The Commonwealth Line does not go so far as that; but it has agreed that if the waterside workers will go back under the conditions which prevailed prior to the overtime strike, it is prepared to employ them.
I have considered it necessary to outline the facts, so that honorable members will be fully acquainted with the situation as it is at the present time; but I suggest that it is not for this House to determine between the parties to the dispute as to what the position is, or what action should be taken. The only thing this House must do, it seems to me, is to affirm its support of the Arbitration Court, which has been established by the legislation of this Parliament. Beyond that, it would be improper for us to go. A word now as to the questionof interference by the Parliament or the Governmen in this matter. Every step should be taken to try to settle the dispute, and ensure the smooth working on the waterfront. I reiterate, however, what I said earlier in my remarks, that it would be a serious blunder if this Parliament affirmed the idea that industrial disputes have to be settled on any terms at all in order to keep the industries of this country in operation. There must be a greater recognition of the principle that, if we are to have industrial legislation and arbitration courts, the decisions of those tribunals must be observed. It is no use any section of the community looking for interference by some outside authority, such as this Parliament, because of the dislocation of trade and the trouble which will occur if the difficulties that have arisen are allowed to continue.
– What does the Government intend to do?
– Use the Crimes Act, and go in for deportation and imprisonment.
– The Government hopes very sincerely that the dispute will be settled, and that the trouble on the waterfront will disappear. We trust that the shipment of Australia’s produce and the conduct of Australia’s commerce will go on without interruption; but if these troubles are not settled, it is imperative that action be taken so that the trade and commerce of the country can continue, and our produce can be shipped overseas.
– What is the Prime Minister going to do?
– The Government will take any action that lies in its power to ensure that that is done. Before I say anything of what action the Government may take, I stress the fact that, whatever the merits or demerits of the dispute may be, Australia cannot, at the present time, allow the whole of its trade and commerce and industrial life to be interrupted. For two or three weeks we have heard statements in this House as to the serious industrial and financial position into which Australia is drifting.
– The Prime Minister has allowed this drift to go on until we have reached the present position, without taking action to check it.
– Most serious statements have been made in this chamber as to the serious difficulties in which we may find ourselves involved in the near future. We are also faced with this fact, which has been stressed a good deal of late, that our wheat harvest this year, owing to adverse climatic conditions, will show a considerable diminution in the volume for export. That will have a most serious effect upon unemployment, and our general financial position. The Ormonde sailed from Melbourne on Tuesday, in the height of our butter export season, leaving thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of boxes of butter on the wharf.
– That is the shipowners’ fault.
– That comes from the friends of the primary producers !
– I repeat that it is the shipowners’ fault that that occurred.
– Order !
– The Ormonde had to leave the butter behind because it was impossible to have it loaded on the ship.
– That is not true.
– It is true.
– Order! The honorable member for Darling must not interject. He will have an opportunity to express his opinion later.
Mr.Fenton.- We do not know that he will.
– I say that this is propaganda for the shipowners.
– The honorable member must cease interjecting.
– The present situation cannot be allowed to continue. We cannot permit ships to go away from our shores with empty holds while produce, which it is vital to the nation’s welfare that we should get to the markets of the world without delay, is left behind on the wharves.
Mr.Fenton. - The Australian Commonwealth Line could carry every box of butter for us ; all its ships have refrigerated space.
– I repeat that this is propaganda for the shipowners.
– I have no desire to take extreme action in respect to the honorable member for Darling, but I must request him to obey the Chair and to cease interjecting.
– The Prime Minister is making a plea for the ship-owners.
– I again appeal to the honorable member to obey the Chair.
– Why does not the Prime Minister sit down instead of kicking up this fuss ?
– Because of this lamentable dispute it is impossible for us to ship our produce. If the waterside workers are not prepared do the work, we shall have to get other people to do it.
– It is not true that they will not work.
– It is a lie; and the right honorable gentleman knows it is a lie.
– Order ! The honorable member for Darling is not entitled to use that word. He must withdraw it.
– The Prime Minister said that the waterside workers will not work.
Ministerial Members. - Withdraw !
– I am giving the honorable member every opportunity.
– The Prime Minister has said that the wharf labourers of Australia have refused to load the ships. That is not true, and the right honorable gentleman knows that it is not.
– I call upon the honorable member for Darling to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it; nevertheless, the Prime Minister knows that his remark is untrue.
– The statement must be unconditionally withdrawn.
– The Prime Minister and his supporters are not going to “ put over “ that kind of thing in this House without protest from honorable members on this side of the chamber. If he intends to imprison the workers of this country he will not do so without a strong protest from us.
– The honorable member must not make statements of that description.
– I will do so while I sit here and hear statements such as the Prime Minister has just made.
– The honorable member may not do so when I instruct him that he shall not.
– I am afraid that the honorable member for Darling is under a slight misapprehension as to what I did say. I did not say that the waterside workers would not work. What I said was that if, as a result of this unfortunate trouble the waterside workers were not prepared to load the ships-
– They are preparedto load them, and the right honorable gentleman knows it.
– If they are not prepared to do so, then it is essential in the interests of the people of Australia that somebody else shall be allowed to do it.
Ministerial Members. - Hear, hear!
– Does the Prime Minister propose to organize a labour corps and put the “ brass hats “ in charge of it?
– Something of that kind.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong must not interject.
– To try to bring home to the House how vital it is that something shall be done, let me give them some information which has just reached me. The wool sales which have been proceeding at Geelong have been postponed for 24 hours-
– That is part of the plot that the right honorable gentleman is working out.
– The sales have been postponed in order that those concerned may see how the situation develops. If it develops adversely it appears to be certain-
– This action by the Prime Minister will not help it.
– I suppose that is a telegram from Senator Guthrie?
– Honorable members must realize that they are seriously disobeying the Chair and disregarding the procedure of this Parliament. Despite my call for order, they are continually interjecting and preventing the Prime Minister from speaking. If they continue to do so I shall be compelled to take extreme action. I have allowed them considerable latitude to make interjections for the purpose of eliciting information, but I cannot allow persistent interjections which prevent the Prime Minister from giving utterance to an important statement. This is a serious matter which is affecting the well-being of the Commonwealth. ‘It is the duty of honorable members on both sides of the chamber to listen temperately until the Prime Minister has completed his statement. I again appeal to the honorable member for Darling not to continue his interjections.
Mr. Fenton. - I rise to a point of order. You, Mr. Speaker, have frequently reprimanded honorable members on this side for interjecting, but honorable members opposite have been just as rowdy. They have thrown across the Chamber just as many uncomplimentary epithets as we have. All I ask is that we shall be given a fair deal and that you will hold the balances fairly between us. Then everything will be all right.
– The honorable member has no right to make reflections upon the Chair. I have endeavoured to restrain honorable members on both sides of the Chamber from interjecting. I have appealed to them constantly to allow the Prime Minister to proceed without interruption. The honorable member for Maribyrnong can help me by setting an example. I ask honorable members on both sides of the House to realize the seriousness of this matter and to listen quietly until the Prime Minister completes his utterance.
– I rise to a point of order.
– Another time waster !
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you heard that inter jection that I am “ another time waster.
– If the honorable member made an interjection such as that he had no right to do so, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you noticed that according to press reports the Speaker of the House of Commons only last week, in consequence of the great disorder of the proceedings, adjourned the House for a few hours. I respectfully suggest that you should in this instance follow that procedure.
– The honorable member has not raised a point of order; he has merely made a suggestion. I am glad to say that this House has so far conducted its proceedings in such a way as to make such an extreme course unnecessary, and I trust that it will’ continue to do so.
– It would appear to be inevitable that if the present situation develops adversely the wool sales will be indefinitely postponed. I do not think that anybody could fail to realize how serious that would be for Australia. The point I wish to make perfectly clear on behalf of the Government is that we regard the uninterrupted export of our primary products, and the continuance of the wool sales, as vital to the interests of the whole of the people of Australia. We do not intend to allow the interests of the small section of men engaged in an industrial dispute, as to the merits of which I say nothing, to override the interests of the whole nation. Whatever the Government can do to ensure that the necessary labour will be available on the wharfs to load the ships will be done.
– Does the Prime Minister believe that this is a one-sided dispute? He should “get to work” on the shipping companies.
– To ensure that the necessary labour to load our produce for shipment overseas will be available the Government will take whatever action within its power, that it deems to be necessary.
– Get to work on the shipping companies.
– I ask the honorable member for Werriwa to cease interjecting.
– We shall see that such action is taken as is necessary to ensure the carrying on of essential services’ during any period of industrial trouble that may occur. It is also necessary to ensure that those who give their services to carry on this work will receive adequate protection. In the event of it being necessary to take any steps to provide labour the Government will get in touch with the State governments and endeavour to arrange with them that protection shall be provided. It will be prepared to co-operate in any way to give that assurance of protection to any who may have to give service to the Commonwealth at this time.
– Under what statute will the Government act?
– I remind honorable members that this dispute involves the trade of the Commonwealth, both interstate and overseas, and in consequence it is one in respect of which this Parliament has considerable power. While action may be taken in many ways to protect our industries, I remind the House that there is power under the Crimes Act to declare
– That is right. Deport them ! Gaol them.
– There is power under the Crimes Act to declare by proclamation that a state of serious industrial unrest exists in the Commonwealth.
– For one day!
– After such a proclamation has Deen issued the Government has definite power to take action against those who interfere with our trade and commerce.
– Deport them! But the Government’s experience in deportations has been most unfortunate.
– Order ! The honorable member for Darling has repeatedly disobeyed the authority of the Chair. I call upon him to cease such disobedience. He must obey the Chair or take the consequences. T have frequently appealed to him and to other honorable members to allow the Prime Minister to make his speech without interruption, for he has only a limited time in which to state his case.
– The Government should not be pleading the cause of the ship-owners in this chamber.
– If the honorable member does not cease interjecting I shall name him.
– You can do it.
– I name the honorable member for Darling for disregarding the authority of the Chair.
– Name the whole lot! Do your dirty work.
– Throw out the whole of the Opposition.
– I appeal to the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) to apologize to the Chair and allow this Parliament to retain the reputation which it now possesses for conducting its proceedings on the highest plane and in accordance with the best traditions of parliamentary government. If he does so I shall not be obliged to adopt the course which otherwise will be inescapeable. Every honorable member recognizes that I must take such action as is necessary to support the Chair!
– I sincerely regret, Mr. Speaker, that I have caused you any disquietude. But my responsibility in this Parliament is not less than that of honorable members opposite, and when the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) threatens the workers of Australia with imprisonment and deportation-
– Who does the honorable member say did that?
– The Prime Minister. When he utters those threats I for one will do everything that lies within my power, from my place in this House, to prevent him from carrying out his intention.
– Order !
– You can throw me out if you like. I do not care a damn whether you do or not.
– The honorable member for Darling was asked by me on more than one occasion to obey the instruction of the Chair to allow the Prime Minister to continue his speech. He refused to do so, but, on the contrary, continued to defy the Chair. I, therefore, ask the Prime Minister to take the necessary action.
– If the honorable member for Darling will not apologize, only one course is open to me, as the Leader of the House.- I, therefore, move - l!l
That the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) be suspended from the service of the -House.
– Before the question is put I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is within the province of the Prime Minister, or, indeed, of the House itself, ‘to suspend an honorable member on the ground that he has refused to apologize to the Chair?
– The honorable member for Darling has been named by the Chair.
– The Prime Minister might move for the suspension of an honorable member if he had been named by Mr. Speaker.
– The honorable member for Darling has been so named.
– If the Prime Minister were to move for suspension on that ground, I think he would be in order; but not on the ground which has been stated by the right honorable gentleman - that when an honorable member has been called upon to do so, he must apologize to Mr. Speaker.
– When I moved for the suspension of the honorable member for Darling, I stated no ground in support of that action. I asked the honorable member to apologize to the Chair, but he did not do so. All that I have done has been in accordance with established procedure when an honorable member has been named. I have moved “ That the honorable member be suspended from the service of this House.”
– I rise to order. Is it competent for the Prime Minister to move that an honorable member be suspended from the service of this House without specifying the period of the suspension - whether it be for this sitting only or for the remainder of the session?
– That is provided for by the Standing Orders.
– I am asking for a ruling from you, Mr. Speaker, not from the Prime Minister. When the right honorable gentleman gets into the chair it will be time enough for him to give his ruling.
Ministerial members interjecting .
– As you, sir, have demanded an uninterrupted hearing for thePrime Minister, you might take actionalong similar lines for the benefit of honorable members who sit on this side. I ask you to rule whether the Prime Minister should name the period of time during which the proposed suspension shall operate.
– The Standing Orders are clear on that point. The honorable member for Darling was named by me for having disregarded the authority of the Chair. I several times called him to order, and expressed the hope that he would obey my ruling, but he refused to do so. I hope that even now he will withdraw from the position he has taken up. When the honorable member was named by me, the Prime Minister moved, in accordance with the Standing Orders, “That the honorable member for Darling be suspended from the service of this House.”
– I rise to a point of order. This is an extremely important matter, and I have no desire to be guilty of obstruction. The Standing Orders are very clear as to the method and mode by which an honorable member may be suspended. We ought to see that our Standing Orders are strictly observed in this respect before such drastic action is taken against the honorable member for Darling. There is a procedure which, if not actually defined in our Standing Orders, is at any rate established by the usages of Parliament as to the mode in which an honorable member may be named by Mr. Speaker. It is only upon the taking of such action that the Leader of the House can proceed to move the suspension of the honorable member. I take it that you, sir, have not formally named the honorable member for Darling.
– Mr. Speaker has done so.
– I am raising this point for Mr. Speaker himself to decide. I do so in no frivolous spirit, but because I consider that there is a formality in regard to the naming of an honorable member which must be observed before he can be regarded as having been named. The mere expression of an intention to name an honorable member, or the use of words to that effect by Mr. Speaker, does not amount to the naming of that honorable member.
– Mr. Speaker used the definite words, “I name the honorable member for Darling.”
– The mere fact that Mr. Speaker says “ I name the honorable member” does not mean that he is conforming to the formality that is required in order that an honorable member may be named under the Standing Orders, or the usages of a British Parliament.
– I specifically named the honorable member for Darling, and I informed the House of the cause that had led me to take that action. I first of all warned the honorable member that I should be obliged to name him, in the hope that he would desist. He did not do so. In naming him I followed the procedure laid down in the Standing Orders, and acted in accordance with the practice of this House.
– I rise to a point of order. The hour at which we usually adjourn for lunch has passed, and, as it is desirable that honorable members should satisfy their appetites before pronouncing judgment, the further consideration of this question should be deferred to a later hour.
– There is no point of order.
Question - That the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) be suspended from the service of the House - put. The House divided.
N oes . . . . . . 16
Majority . . . . 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
If any member be suspended under this order, his suspension on the first occasion shall be for the remainder of that day’s sitting.
The honorable member for Darling, accordingly, is suspended for the remainder of the present sitting.
Mr. Blakeley accordingly withdrew from the chamber.
Sitting suspended from 1.3 to 2.15 p.m.
That all other business, during this sitting, be postponed until after the motion with reference to the industrial disturbance in the waterside industry is disposed of.
– The time of the right honorable member expired at 1 o’clock.
– Of the time allowed me under the Standing Orders, about 20 minutes were occupied with matters that were not part of my speech. I desire to speak only a few minutes longer, but I am entirely in the hands of honorable members.
-Is it the pleasure of honorable members that the Prime Minister be given an extension of time?
– On condition that he gives an assurance that he will not gag any other honorable member.
Mr.bruce. - I give no assurance.
– This is a highly important matter, and as the Prime Minister has evidently made up his mind to pursue: a certain course, he should at least concede the same right of speech to other honorable members as he asks for himself. If he will permit us to discuss this matter without restriction, we shall allow him as much time as he desires.
– I do not wish to proceed.. I had practically finished.
.- All honorable members agree as to the seriousness of the industrial situation that has arisen on the waterfront, and that everything possible should be done to set the wheels of industry in motion again. But the question that at once arises is whether the Government is doing the right thing in threatening to proclaim the existence of a state of affairs which will permit it to put into operation the Crimes Act. I assume from the procedure adopted by the Prime Minister this morning that that is the course of action he contemplates. Such action will not be in the interests of this country, and I do not think it will help towards re-starting the wheels of industry; rather will it have the opposite effect. If we are to deal with the existing industrial situation on its merits we must have regard to the causes that have created it. Although arbitration has been adopted by this Par liament as a means of settling industrial disputes, it was never contended that all disputes could be settled in that way.
– The Arbitration Act makes striking illegal.
– It has always been recognized, even from the time when the late Mr. B. R. Wise introduced the first Arbitration Act in the New South Wales Parliament, that troubles will occur in spite of this legislation, and by every Government, State and Federal, other than the present Commonwealth Government, conciliatory methods have been adopted when arbitration failed. While the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister, if a big industrial upheaval threatened the country he did not wait for a general cessation of work; immediately he saw indications of the coming danger he did what every Prime Minister should do - he endeavoured to get the parties together with a view to settling the dispute. To his credit, he succeeded on several occasions. In the State arena the same procedure has been adopted from time to time by various Premiers. They have not waited until the Conflagration was at its height, but have endeavoured to extinguish the flames in time. Has the present Commonwealth Government ever taken action of that kind? Has it done anything while this trouble has been brewing during the last three or four months?
– Yes, it has been pouring petrol on the flames.
– It is doing that to-day, but not one conciliatory move has been made by the Government either to bring the parties together or to intercede with them separately. The trouble has been allowed to develop, and a stoppage of work having occurred, the Government proposes to put into force immediately the emergency legislation passed last year. I am sorry the trouble has occurred ; it will add to the thousands who are already unemployed, and there is not one honorable member of the Opposition who would not work day and night to avert that catastophe.
– If the honorable member will try to induce the union to observe the Arbitration Court award I shall do everything I can to help him.
– I shall state my policy in my own way. If there is one man in Australia who endeavoured to effect a settlement of the last shipping trouble it was myself, but Ministers sat quietly by and waited for an opportunity to precipitate an election. They have pursuedbe same policy in connexion with the present trouble; they are adding fuel to the fire and intensifying a disturbance that may bring disaster to the Commonwealth. It has always been agreed that industrial troubles will occur in spite of arbitration laws. It is futile for honorable members on the Government benches to say that the workman should obey the law. Everybody should, and I hope the day will come when all people will ; but is it contended that in industrial disputes only one side is to blame? Are the workmen always to bear the responsibility? No body of workers would deliberately hold up an industry without cause. The cause of the present dispute is that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has not functioned as it should. Claims have been piling up before the court ; some of them have been awaiting adjudication for two and three years, and no action has been taken by this Government to expedite the hearing of them. Is the Government justified in ignoring year after year the warnings of honorable members on this side of the House, and industrial leaders outside, that the arbitration system is not as effective as it should be? When a dispute threatens, unions act in accordance with the law, and then have to wait one year, two years, and, in some instances, three years, before they can have their cases heard. Is it not the duty of the Government to make such provision as will expedite the hearings and give the arbitration system a fair chance? Is no blame attachable to the Government for the crisis that has developed? Very often workmen are exasperated, first, by the failure of the Government to ensure the hearing of cases within a reasonable time, and, secondly, by the refusal of the employers to do anything in a conciliatory spirit, preferring to depend on the court, which they know may not hear the case for eighteen mouths or two years. I ask honorable members to put themselves in the position of workmen having what they consider legitimate grievances. They are asked to rely on the law of the land. The first step is conciliation; that fails. They apply to the Arbitration Court and find that they cannot get a hearing for a year or two. Is the Government not guilty of culpable negligence in allowing that condition of things to exist year after year? The only step which the Government took towards expediting the business of the court was the appointment of a political partisan to the Bench ; but any advantage that might have resulted from the appointment of an additional judge has been offset by the requirement that questions relating tohours must be dealt with by three judges. Surely some blame can be laid at the door of the Government for its inactivity. The honorable member asked me to take the present case. I intend to deal with it now, but I shall have to do so from reports, because this matter was brought hurriedly before the House, and we have been given no information regarding it. Judging from the manner in which the Prime Minister has dealt with the- proposal, the Government apparently has given consideration to it before, but we on the Opposition side of the House have had it sprung on us without notice. It is reported in the press that Mr. Larkin was here in conference with the Prime Minister yesterday, and that Senator McLachlan left for Melbourne hurriedly after the interview.
– In fairness to Mr. Larkin let me say that this matter was not discussed with him.
– Was Mr. Larkin here?
– Yes; he is here now.
– I wish to quote this statement, issued on behalf of the union, in which it complains of the delay in the Arbitration Court. It says -
The management committee of the Waterside Workers’ Federation, of which Mr. W. Mather is president, and Mr. J. Morris secre. tary, issued the following statement yesterday in regard to the present dispute: - “The present dispute on the water front had its origin in the vexatious delays of the court in hearing our plaint, together with the studied hostility of the employers of waterside labour to every attempt that has been made during the past two years by both the court and the federation to reach an agreement in keeping with the needs of the industry. In May, 1926, the federation met the ship owners in conference to discuss the present log, and was in the end told to go to the court. As a matter of tactics it is good business for the employers passively to resist round -the table all claims for decent conditions in an industry. Thereby they create a deadlock in the conciliatory section of the Arbitration Act, leaving no constitutional alternative but to refer the matter into a court already nearly two years behind in an attempt to keep pace with the accumulating plaints of the industries over which it exercises jurisdiction. We have no doubt that many employers, and our own in particular, take full advantage of the protracted delay of the court in effecting ad- justments, and derive considerable financial satisfaction as one of the results, but tactics such as these are not conducive to peace in an industry, and are the source of most of the ills surrounding the act. Right from the inception of our negotiations, both with the employers and in our claims before the court, the federation has been earnestly desirous of effecting an agreement, and in order that our case could be proceeded with, we have remedied every contentious act indulged in by branches, rendered desperate by vexatious delay and, the observance of an award they are wholly dissatisfied with. “Theunion’s advocate, by consent of the court, visited the branches concerned, and was instrumental in establishing full and complete compliance with the award. In May of this year he submitted these assurances to the court as being strictly in order. At that stage the court allowed the employers to submit . argument in the matter of the pick-up dispute, despite the fact that they omitted all reference to this dispute in their list of affidavits filed before the court in March.
I wish honorable members to note this particularly. The unions had agreed to everything which had been put before the court, but when they intimated their agreement, the owners introduced the question of the “pick-up.” When the owners saw that the men were prepared to settle, and go back to work, something else was brought in. These pin-pricking tactics are always indulged in by the employers. It was a great pity that the judge allowed this new matter to be introduced at that time. After the officials of the union had interviewed their members, and had obtained an assurance that they would go back to the court and accept everything, new matter was introduced, and it is over this new matter that the present trouble has arisen.
– When was that?
– On the 6th May.
– It was on the 6th May the judge declared he did not regard as satisfactory the assurances given by the union.
– On the 1st May the judge allowed fresh matter to be introduced. The unions have to wait two or three years to get a hearing in the Arbitration Court, and in view of that fact the owners should not have been allowed to introduce new matter in the dispute when they did.
– On what date was the guarantee given to the court of the acquiescence of the members of the union.
– On the 1st May.
– That is not admitted by Judge Beeby.
– There are five days between the 1st May and the 6th May. Five days after the assurance was given, the judge allowed the owners to introduce new matter. Surely no one expects that those at the head of the labour organization, after having obtained the agreement of their members to certain proposals, should commit them to a different set of proposals introduced atthe eleventh hour, and concerning which their members had not been consulted. They could not allow themselves to be charged with having sold their members.
– That would not be fair if what the honourable member says is a fact.
– Well, that was the position. The statement of the union continues -
The Federation had then no alternative but to regard this latest move on the part of the employers as a deliberate attempt to prevent the court from functioning, and was surprised that the court consented in view of the fact that the pick-up dispute dated hack to 192), and that in 1922, and again in 1924, Mr. Justice Powers had made awards covering the industry, whilst the one pick-up system a day existed, and was working satisfactorily in certain ports.
These men had been in the court in the time of Judge Powers, and he had made an award in regard to the pick-up. Then when they come before a court for a decision on other matters, the employers are again allowed to introduce this matter of the pick-up.. Is this British justice and fair play? Are the shipowners to be allowed to do this sort of thing? The report states further -
And as late as January this year Judge Beeby delivered an interim award, while fully aware of the pick-up dispute. Earlier in the case he appealed to the employers to refrain from submitting ancient history as evidence in a case that demanded present day reference and co-operative adjustments.
The question of preference is an ever, recurring claim in all our plaints, and a very necessary part of any award that aims at giving peace in the waterside industry. The court has, on the contrary, continually exempted from the terms of the award certain parties whom the federation has cited as employers in the industry, and whose work consists of loading and discharging ships. The question- of preference includes all waterside work at Risdon (Tas.), Fremantle, Geraldton, Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle and all the northern rivers of New South Wales. Reasonable peace in the industry is impossible until these claims are considered a necessary addition in any agreement.
Surely we should pause, and obtain the facts of the case, before we jump to conclusions, and bring in emergency legislation which will lead to further trouble. There are no outside organizations involved in this trouble up to the present. No one wants to see the dispute extend; but, if the Crimes Act is brought into operation by the Government, it will at once incense all the industrial organizations from one end of Australia to the other. The Government has sufficient power under existing legislation to do what is desired without coming to Parliament for further authority. The position seems to be that it wishes to fortify itself by a resolution of this House for the action which it proposes to take. Section 30 of the Crimes Act, 1926, states -
If at any time the Governor-General is of opinion that there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance prejudicing or threatening trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, he may make a proclamation to that effect, which proclamation shall be and remain in operation for the purposes of this section until it is revoked.
If the Government has that power now, why should it take up the time of the House over its present proposal? If honorable members opposite intend to give the Government power to intervene in this way, the responsibility is theirs, for it will not be accepted by honorable members on this side of the House. The Prime Minister has stated that the present dispute is injuring the shipping industry of the country. There is no doubt that it is; but we must find out who is responsible for the harm which is being done. Here is a statement made by the seamen in regard to the shipping service to Tasmania. The seamen promise that there will be no hold-up in that service. The statement is as follows : -
The representative of the Tasmanian Tourist Bureau (Mr. H. Webb) said yesterday the tourist traffic to Tasmania this summer promised to be greater than ever.
In a letter to Mr. Webb, the secretary of the Seamen’s .Union (Mr. C. O’Neill) said: - “ I desire to remind you that the assurance given last year, guaranteeing a continuity of shipping services to and from the mainland, still holds good. “
In the face of a statement like that from a responsible officer, can it be denied that the seamen are prepared to hold out the olive branch. I wish also to refer to a statement on this matter published in the Labour Daily. The statement is as follows : -
Owners Annoyed. - The shipowners are incensed at the action of the Commonwealth Line in “ allying itself with a body of men which is disturbing the peace.” “We find,” they say, “ that a company with Which we sat at the same table is only too “ready to leave us in the lurch in order to ‘fend for itself alone, regardless of the consequences to shipowners as a whole. “
Both the shipowners and the men’s management committees were engaged in close discussion all day, but neither would make any announcement as to its next move.
Here we have the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, State-owned, in agreement with the workmen. Their ships were to be manned, work was to be performed, and then the private ship-owners say, “ That is a stab . in the back ; you have gone back on us,” plainly indicating that it is their intention to have this business fought out to the bitter end, regardless of what it may cost the country. To-day the Prime Minister placed the whole of the blame upon the industrial workers, and refused to attribute blame to the shipowners. That carries my thoughts back to our previous shipping upheaval, when legislation was rushed through, much political capital made of the situation, and not a scintilla of blame attached to the ship-owners. The employees are always blamed. I shall quote a statement from the Melbourne Herald, reading -
Owners are greatly incensed at the action of the Commonwealth Line in standing aloof.
One representative of the owners described the act as a “stab in the back.” The Shipping Board chairman, however, claims that the Commonwealth Line was not a party to the owner’s ultimatum.
Another article reads - “ We have not repudiated the ultimatum of the ship-owners to the Waterside Workers’ Federation,” he said, “ for the simple reason that we were never a party to it.”
Vice-Admiral Sir William Clarkson of the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board made this statement to-day. In “nailing another mis-statement to the detriment of the Line,” Sir William explained that the Waterside Workers’ Federation had approached the Commonwealth Line, and stated that the members were agreeable to working overtime on the Line steamers.
Where there is no dispute with shipowners, the men are prepared to work, clearly indicating that the whole trouble arises from a development that has been introduced by the Arbitration Court. The article continues - “ The main bone of contention between the ship-owners and the workers is the afternoon pick-up.” said Sir William. “ This question does notconcern the Line.”
In other words, Sir William Clarkson was not in sympathy with the ship-owners in their endeavours to prevent a settlement.
– And Sir William Clarkson cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered to be a Labour supporter.
– That is so. The article concludes -
Our vessels are under schedule, and we are able to look ahead and engage our labour accordingly. Because the Line was not affected, it stood clear of the Ship-owners’ Association on the matter. The waterside workers are agreeable to work overtime, and work under award conditions will continue.
That is evidence that the men are prepared to work under award conditions and to work overtime.
– That is not their reply to the ship-owners.
– The ship-owners did everything they could to prevent the men from bringing their plaint before the court, and when they found that events were apparently to be concluded satisfactorily, and that a settlement was imminent, they immediately introduced a new matter which complicated the whole issue. The
Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was not a party to those actions, and consequently it is not at variance with the men. The Prime Minister and honorable members opposite, without inquiring properly into the position - and the day after the ultimatum of the owners was issued - desire to rush emergency legislation through this House which will probably result in the calling out of the police and military forces. Is that the way to settle the trouble? Are we to drag everybody into the dispute? The important thing is to bring the parties together, and it is practically impossible to bring together contending parties of their own volition. I speak from a very considerable experience of industrial matters. I and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) have known coal trade disputes which were successfully concluded by intervention, and by the use of conciliatory tactics. When Mr. Wade was Premier of New South Wales I was successful in inducing him to intervene in one of the biggest disturbances ever experienced in New South Wales.
– Cannot the honorable member and the Prime Minister retire for a few minutes and settle this dispute ?
– It is not intended that we shall settle this trouble. It is intended that political capital shall be made out of it.
– There the honorable member is making trouble.
– That New South Wales dispute was settled by Mr. Wade agreeing to put the services of Judge Scholes at my disposal. As a result of my activities in that dispute I was successful in winning an agricultural constituency with a majority of 5,200 votes. I instance that merely to show what can be done if reason prevails. Each man must recognize that he is not above any other unit in the community. Everybody has his rights, which must be considered. It is our duty to endeavour to discover conciliatory means by which disputes may be settled. Mr. Seale assured me over the telephone to-day that there is no need for an overtime guarantee, that ships would be worked without delay; but that if the Government interfered on the side of the owners the position would be made worse. I agree with that. Once the impression goes abroad that the Government has allied itself with the shipowners against the men, the position must become very serious. I am confident that not a man in this House desires to see industrial trouble. It is not us who feel it. It is the’ working man, his wife, and his little ones. We, as responsible men, should endeavour to put ourselves in their place and should ask ourselves the question, “Is there room for intervention ?” If there is, let us take the step. ‘ During the recent dispute I urged, and I now repeat my plea, that it is the duty of the Prime Minister, when he sees trouble coming, to go to those concerned, talk with them, and use his influence and prestige as the Leader of the country, to try to bring about a peaceful settlement. If he fails he is in a better position to deal with the trouble, as he will then know the facts. If the Prime Minister would withdraw his resolution and intervene in the trouble, if he would ask the parties to meet and discuss matters, I feel confident that the dispute would be settled within 48 hours, to the great benefit of Australia and of a great body of people who will otherwise suffer acutely this Christmas.
– These troubles are pretty constant.
– We should try to prevent them, and the step we are now contemplating will not help us to do so. We must realize that there are two sides to every dispute, and exercise a little sweet reasonableness. If those involved in the dispute were induced to meet round a table, and a commonsense appeal were made to them, the trouble would probably be avoided. This has happened on numerous other occasions. Instead of doing that, the Government reverses the procedure, and says, “ We are the mighty. We have the law on our side, and we shall put it into execution.” It must be remembered that the men were prepared to load the ships for at least eight hours a day, and that the shipowners issued the ultimatum that there would be no work at all on the ships, that they would tie them up if they could not get what they wanted. Was there ever a better opportunity for the intervention of a Prime Minister?
– Is that a fair statement of the position of the ship-owners? They said, “ We refuse to let you work unless you work in accordance with the award.” Be fair.
– Supposing that I admit that, is that any reason why there should not be intervention on the part of the Prime Miinster?
– Does the honorable member propose to interfere with the court?
– Not at all. I propose that the Prime Minister should intervene and endeavour to bring about a settlement of the dispute.
– It is not a dispute. It is a quarrel between the ship-owners an 6*” the workers.
– I consider that it . is a quarrel among all parties. It is not fair to paint the ship-owners as patriots who would not do anything wrong.
– They are far from that. ‘”.
– Eighteen months ago the union made an application to the court, and it has patiently waited since then for its plaint to be heard. Now that the plaint is about to be considered, a new proposal emanates from the court, dealing with the pick-up. Why should that union have to wait nearly two years before having its plaint heard, while the employer is allowed to come along and have his plaint heard immediately it is lodged? I shall quote a gentleman who occupies a prominent position in the industrial world, a man who has done everything possible to prevent industrial disputes. I refer to Mr. Holloway, of Melbourne. He is very fair-
– If he gets all he wants.
– It is no use bothering about the honorable member, who has never been susceptible to reason. It is a waste of time replying to him. Mr. Holloway saw -
Intervention at this stage, except for bringing parties together, would be a fatal blunder. Movements are now on foot to bring about a solution.
Knowing Mr. Holloway as I do, I place great reliance on his statement. Ever since I went to Melbourne, in 1910, 1 have always found that Jack Holloway did his best to prevent industrial disputes from spreading. That is characteristic of the man, who is a good citizen. I ask the Prime Minister, in all seriousness, does he think that the step that he proposes to take will help negotiations? If any honorable member thinks that by coercion he can make the working man respond, he has never made a greater mistake.
– I do not think that is suggested.
– Nothing less is inferred by the action that is now proposed.
– I can assure the honorable member that there will be no action by the Government if there is any chance of this thing being adjusted satisfactorily.
– Now that the Prime Minister has made that statement, I wish that he would allow this matter to remain in abeyance, ‘so that he might intervene and bring the parties together. He could- have a chat with them, and see if it is necessary to persist in the motion before the House. I repeat that, from my experience cf industrial troubles, I can assure the House that, immediately Parliament takes any action that appears to be a blow at the industrial unionists, it is like holding a red rag to a bull, because the trouble will spread to other unions. Mr. Holloway intends that the whole power of trade unionism shall be exerted, if necessary, to bring the parties to a settlement, and he speaks for the Trades Hall. We have to consider not what may be in the mind of the Prime Minister, but the interpretation that will be placed on the motion if it becomes the resolution of this Parliament’. I am not endeavouring to make political capital out of the trouble. God knows, it is too big a thing for me to stoop to taking political advantage of it. What we must consider is the well-being of the country. If we can bring the parties together on what appears to be a very simple issue, the trouble may be solved. I am prepared to give my time to do everything possible to bring them together if the Prime Minister will withdraw the motion. I believe that if he and I met the parties in conference we could settle the dispute within two or three days. The passing of this motion would convey only one impression to people outside, and that is that the Government was on the side of the shipowners. I hope that the trouble will not be permitted to extend. I have no desire to see the trade of the country dislocated. I know what distress it would bring to thousands of our people. It would result in unemployment during the Christmas season. It would mean that the wheels of industry throughout Australia would be brought to a stand-still. Thousands of people would be idle. Surely it is “worth while making a great effort to settle the dispute.
– This sort of thing happens five Christmases out of six.
– I do not appeal to the honorable member for Franklin. He is beyond redemption. I am appealing to honorable members who, like myself, have a heart. I want to prevent a calamity such as we have had before, which would bring suffering and want to thousands of homes. I believe that a solution could be found. If the Prime Minister withdraws the motion, I shall go with him anywhere he likes and meet the disputants, ship-owners and employees. I shall give a guarantee to leave no stone unturned in bringing about a settlement, irrespective of party considerations. That is the only way out. If the Prime Minister is not prepared to adopt that course, I am compelled to move an amendment. I move - ,
That all the words after “ House “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - .” is of opinion that consultations should be immediately held by the Government with the various State Governments affected and organizations concerned, with a view to a clear understanding of the matters in issue, and the settlement thereof by means of conference and conciliation.
.- I second the amendment. It offers to the Government an opportunity of making a gesture towards conciliation.’ It is rather doubtful, perhaps, that the Government ment desires to conciliate the matter. The remarks of the Prime Minister and those of the Leader of the Opposition are in striking contrast. The Prime Minister’s speech was essentially a provocative one. So far as we can understand it, it was intended to provoke further trouble.
– T - That is a false characterization of the speech.
– The Prime Minister rose, not with a view to enlightening the House about the history of the dispute, or to preparing the way for conciliation, but with a carefully arranged ex parte statement of the case. He could see no justification for anything that the Waterside Workers Federation or the waterside workers themselves were doing in connexion with the present trouble, but he could find every kind of excuse for their employers on the water front,the ship-owners.
– He read Judge Beeby’s statement, which set out the case.
– He read carefully selected portions of it.
– Relevant parts.
– It was purely an ex parte statement. One thing that he did not touch upon - in fact, he carefully avoided alluding to it - was the ultimatum issued last week by the ship-owners.
– I read that.
– The right honorable gentleman read a letter which he said he understood had been sent to the union, and he added that a copy of it had been sent to the Registrar. The ship-owners themselves called it an ultimatum, and that is what it really was. The issuing of that ultimatum precipitated the crisis that began yesterday. The ships would be working to-day if it were not for that ultimatum. Honorable members opposite, of course, can find every kind of wrong in the action of the employees, and no fault on the part of the ship-owners. That is always their attitude in industrial disputes. This Government has invariably shown sympathy for the employers, while its attitude towards the employees has always been one of condemnation, no matter what was the issue at stake. Is it to be assumed that the workers are always in the wrong? Has the Government ever been on their side in any dispute? Never. It has always been on the side of the capitalists, the big employers, the ship-owners. The Government of the Commonwealth, with the machinery at its disposal, has opportunities for intervention for the purpose of bringing about peace in industrial disputes; but this Ministry has used the occasion to provoke further dissension, to assist the employers, and to suppress any action on the part of the employees or their unions to improve their working conditions. What is the gravamen of this dispute? If we go back to the fundamental cause of the trouble, it is objection on the part of the Waterside Workers Federation to working overtime. The objection is not to overtime as understood in ordinary industrial callings. Overtime on the water front does not mean working half an hour or an hour more than the customary eight hours a day. It means completing the job of loading or discharging the cargo of a ship, and it may mean 24 hours continuous work.
– By different gangs.
– No. I desire honorable members to realize that the union has persistently applied’ to the court, for more than two years, to have this cause of irritation removed. For the last two years their efforts have been fruitless ; but, long before that, there was an agitation against prolonged shifts on the waterfront.
– They do not object to overtime.
– But they do not regard the present dispute as one over a frivilous question of overtime extending into half an hour or an hour. Overtime sometimes means 24 hours continuous work, with only such breaks as are allowed for” smoke-ohs “ and meals.
– They are refusing to work overtime merely as a means of applying pressure.
– No. The AttorneyGeneral is wrong. The grievance is a real one with them. It has led to clashes on more than one occasion between the individual groups of waterside workers and the ship-owners. This has happened in many ports - in Queensland Western Australia, and in other States. The men have been compelled to work barbarous hours, in some cases doing gruelling toil for as long a period as 24 hours on end. What has the Prime Minister set out at the very beginning of his motion? The first phrase is, “ That in view of the great loss, unemployment, and general distress.” It is true that unemployment is prevalent in the great metropolitan areas. The waterside workers know that ; they know they are called on to work overtime that may extend to twelve or fourteen hours beyond the normal day’s work, while many of their fellow unionists cannot get work. Why not distribute the employment that is available? The workers have sought for this. They have negotiated for it in a perfectly legitimate way with the Ship-owners’ Association ; but they have never been able to secure that reform, although no fair man would contend that their request was unreasonable. Commonwealth and State courts have had the matter under consideration, and, so far as I am aware, no award has been made authorizingthe abolition of the overtime system. The ship-owners at different times have represented that it would be impracticable to employ the men under the ordinary shift system, in the circumstances prevailing on many of the wharves. The waterside workers consider that they have a claim, that can be supported forcibly and logically; but they have never been able to get it properly argued before the court.
– They have never tried to get it properly argued before the court.
– I can assure the Attorney-General that he is wrong.
– I have the records up to February of this year.
– The honorable gentleman is probably referring only to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. For years negotiations have been carried on with the ship-owners, and individual waterside workers have taken action on their own account, because they resent being compelled to work under barbarous conditions in regard to hours.
– Is it a fact that one gang must work continuously, and another gang cannot be brought on?
– I do not know whether it would be impracticable to bring on a new gang, but I am aware that the employers can require the same gang to work on as long as 24 hours if they think it is necessary.
– They have done so.
– I have heard the arguments for and against the practice. The ship-owners argue that it would be inconvenient to put a fresh gang on to complete the loading of a vessel with a certain class of cargo when the gang already employed could complete it by working from five to eight hours longer.
– That is incorrect.
– I have stated which I consider to be the essence of the present trouble. If it is understood that the waterside workers have a legitimate grievance - irrespective of whether they have acted rightly or wrongly in ignoringthe award recently made or have been goaded into the action they have taken - I think it will be admitted generally that the ship-owners had no justification whatever for the ultimatum which they issued last Friday.
– Judge Beeby does not think that they have any reason for acting as they have done.
– There is so much congestion in the Arbitration Court that its officials have admitted on several occasions they have sufficient work in hand to occupy the whole of their time for the next two years, without considering a single fresh claim or citation.
– Did not Judge Beeby announce that if the waterside workers would give an undertaking to observe the conditions of the last award he would hear their claims at once?
– We have been informed that the officials of the union sounded their members in the various ports throughout Australia to ascertain whether they were prepared to give such an undertaking, and they gave it. The judge may consider that they have not completely complied with their undertaking. I understood the Prime Minister to say that it was not regarded that they had fully complied with it, but the men may consider that they have given it a full compliance. At least the union has shown a bona fide desired to uphold the award. The Arbitration Court, the Waterside Workers’ Federation, and any other body of men, wherever they work and whatever their conditions may be, are subject to ordinary human feelings and emotions. We may give counsel of perfection here, and condemn the waterside workers for acting in a way, that we believe to be harmful to the policy, of arbitration, and we may say that drastic action is necessary and justified against them, because they have not observed the strict letter of their award, but we cannot justify on such grounds any kind of tyranny. I counsel the members of this House carefully to weigh the circumstances of this case and the reasons which caused the waterside workers to take their recent action. After all, that action did not have the effect of holding up shipping in Australia, for the men were workinguntil yesterday. and would be working now but for the action of the ship-owners.
– And working the full eight hours per day.
Mr.Fenton. - They were working yesterday afternoon, for I have a photograph which shows them engaged in loading wool.
– If the shipowners had not issued their ultimatum on Friday last, negotiations, could still have been proceeding for a settlement of the matters in dispute. Perhaps the shipowners thought that it was bad policy to yield a point; but it is never bad policy to do so, for it encourages conciliation. If the ship-owners intend to stand rigidly on their present ground, neither conciliation nor arbitration will be of any use. It should always be remembered that the management committee of such a body as the Waterside Workers’ Federation has not unlimited power to enforce discipline upon members of the union, who are working at different ports round the coast of Australia.
– The words that were used by Judge Beeby were -
It isperfectly clear to me that the union did not consider the request of the court at the conference of the executive body. The union has not dealt with the matter seriously.
– The Waterside Workers’ Federation consists of a number of federated branches, and I submit that, so long as its management committee endeavours to uphold the award under which the members of the union are working, and to get the members to uphold it, it does all that it can humanly do. It cannot take a man by the scruff of the neck and compel him to work under any conditions that the ship-owners, or even the Arbitration Court, prescribe. It can only use its best endeavours to get the men to stand by the principle of arbitration, and I submit that it has done so, and so have the committees of the various branches of the union. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) smiles. He is apparently sceptical.
Mir. Gregory. - Is there not some reason for scepticism?
– When a matter of this description is brought before the House in the partisan manner which was adopted by the Prime Minister to-day, it is impossible to obtain an impartial judgment upon it. Honorable members are not able to apply unbiased minds to the problem. The Prime Minister has brought this matter forward in a pure spirit of partisanship.
– He has done nothing of the kind.
– The right honorable gentleman concluded his speech with a horrible threat of intimidation and’ coercion against the waterside workers.
– Honorable members opposite were not willing to allow the Prime Minister to complete his speech.
– I did not interject while the right honorable gentleman was speaking. He. said that the Government intended to cause a proclamation to be issued under the provisions of the Crimes Act, or some other penal measure.
– He did not say that.
– He said that the Government intended to issue a proclamation.
– He did not.
– He intimated very clearly that that was the intention.
– The right honorable gentleman stated definitely that the Government would co-operate with the State Governments to ensure that the shipping services of the community would be carried on without interruption, or would act drastically without their cooperation to enforce law and order. Was that a conciliatory attitude to adopt on the eve of a serious dispute? The right honorable gentleman did not refer to the present trouble as a lockout, which it is.
– The men locked themselves out.
– The ship-owners locked them out by issuing the ultimatum.
– I wonder whether honorable members opposite know what a lockout is? A strike is a refusal by the employees to work or to continue to work in order to enforce some industrial condition. A lockout is the refusal of work by the employers for a like purpose. In this case the employers have refused work to their employees by the issuing of the ultimatum. There was no refusal by the employees to accept employment. They were working until the ship-owners’ ultimatum expired and the ships were tied up by the employers. Consequently this is a lockout. It is a condition which has been brought about by the employers, and not by the employees. The employers could have avoided it. The fact that we have to consider, however, is that a serious industrial disturbance is threatened which may involve the future well-being of the nation and, possibly, the survival of many of our industries. It is, therefore, the duty of the Government to do everything in its power to prevent it from extending. The last thing that it should have done was to adopt a partisan attitude and declare before the facts had been fully examined that one side was right and the other wrong. There is no doubt whatever that the Prime Minister has taken a false step. Far better would it have been had he made no reference whatever to it until he had obtained the true and full history of the case. The message which Mr. Holloway sent to the Leader of the Opposition was a wise and sensible expression of his hope that the trouble would be settled.
– And it was treated with derision by honorable members opposite.
– The attitude of the Prime Minister was in marked contrast to that of Mr. Holloway. The Government should have done its best to bring the parties together. The adoption of any other line of action by it must be fatal. What possible chance is there of successful conciliation when the Government urges the employers to use the big stick to discipline the Waterside
Workers Union particularly and unionists generally? Such action can only aggravate the position. The threat of the Government that it .would engage other labour to load the ships was neither more nor less than an attempt to intimidate the workers. This Government has shown a greater reactionary tendency towards industrialists than any other which has been in control of affairs in Australia. No former Government ever showed such desperate anxiety to give the employers an advantage over the employees, in industrial disputes. Every previous Government has adopted a non-partizan attitude, and has attempted to deal impartially with situations of this character. The use of conciliatory methods has been the practice in this country; but this Government has done its best to prejudice the case of the workers on every possible occasion. It has profited so much from the political exploitation of industrial disputes, that it has made up its mind to exploit every fresh trouble that arises. It is my firm belief that in this case the waterside workers have a substantial grievance. I do not justify the flouting or ignoring of Arbitration Court awards, but I know that it is only human nature to resent a grievance, even though the grievance may be imaginary. The duty of the Government in a matter of this kind is to do its best to settle the trouble amicably, in the interests of the whole community. Every person who has given careful consideration to the causes of industrial disputes, must admit that in a great majority of cases the industrialists have taken drastic action to voice their grievances only when they have had substantial grounds for doing so. I do not think that many honorable members opposite would suggest that, generally speaking, the workers are prepared to take action to redress their grievances without having some regard for the interests of other sections of the community; and every one who has any proper understanding of industrial matters, and of the hard conditions under which industrial workers have to toil in this and every other country, would do his utmost speedily to settle the troubles that occur. It is a one-eyed, hopelessly partizan individual who would advocate arbitration and conciliatory methods only when it was advantageous to the employers to do so, without caring a snap of the fingers for the employees whose interests are at stake.
– And vice versa.
.- I listened with great respect and appreciation to the impassioned speech of the Leader of the Opposition, and I feel sure that I am voicing the opinion of every honorable member on this side of the chamber when I say that we have the fullest belief in his honor and integrity. Both the organizations under discussion have undoubtedly been concerned in a good deal of industrial trouble. I do not place the blame for that upon either the ship-owners or the. organizations, and I feel sure that if the Leader of the Opposition had been the “president or an officer of either of them we should have had fewer industrial disputes in recent years. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition was greatly in contrast with that of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore). The Leader of the Opposition was keenly desirous of trying, by means of conciliation, to settle the dispute. The honorable member for Dalley was trying to make this House believe that, throughout, the actions of the waterside workers were not in defiance of the law, and he was keenly desirous also to persuade honorable members like myself who have no knowledge of the details of these matters, that the ship-owners were at fault in this dispute. I think that the House is well aware of my opinion of our arbitration laws. I believe that by the introduction of arbitration into Australia we have built up a terrible feeling of animosity between the employer and employee.
– It exists in every country.
– We should be in a far better position had we accepted the Canadian conciliation laws, under which both parties fight out their own battles if they refuse to come to a settlement. But this is not the time to deal with our arbitration system. We have arbitration laws upon the statute-book, and yet serious trouble has arisen, not only in Sydney and Melbourne, but pretty well throughout Australia. Industries are being held up, and serious loss is being suffered by the community. I hold that the party behind the Leader of the Opposition is to blame for the interruptions in trade and commerce that we have had year after year until Australia has an unenviable record throughout the world.
– All due to political propaganda.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that if these industrial troubles continue, no matter who may be responsible, ship-owner or wharf laborer, employer or employee, we shall bring grave disaster upon ourselves. At present there are tens of thousands of unemployed in Australia. Our wool and butter and other industries require building up, but there must be a repercussion if industrial disputes continue, and it will be felt to a great extent by the poorer sections of the community. It is essential that we should do all in our power to rid ourselves of these troubles. It was to end them that we passed arbitration laws and established the Arbitration Court. Every member of the Opposition favours our arbitration laws, but if we are to have laws, they must be supreme, and no organization - no matter how strong it is - should be permitted to defy them. I appeal to honorable members opposite who believe in arbitration, and who consider that it is in the interests of the workers and of this country, to use their influence to end industrial strife. I ask them, is it possible that this country will tolerate a position under which the awards of an arbitration court appointed under our laws are flouted by organizations? I disagree entirely with the Leader of the Opposition, that it is the duty of the Prime Minister to interfere in this dispute, because, if he did so, the only object would be to coerce one side or the other. What other object would there be?
– To bring about a peaceful settlement.
– Any interference would only aggravate the dispute.
– We have brought about peaceful settlements on a number of occasions, and recently, too.
– And probably sacrificed one party or the other, an action which the Arbitration Court would certainly not have permitted. We have had the opportunity, time after time, to amend our arbitration laws. They state definitely that both sides must obey the awards of the court, otherwise penalties will be inflicted. Honorable members on that side seem to think that, no matter what the award of the court is, one side or the other is justified in breaking it. No country can permit a law to be placed upon the statute-book unless it is to be observed. We cannot admit the right of any honorable member to say that an organization should be able to obtain an award of the court and then deliberately break it. I know nothing of the merits of the case, but I have just received a telegram from Geraldton to the effect that a dispute has taken place there, not between employers and employees, but between the wharf labourers and the Australian Workers Union, and the point in dispute is which organization should load wheat at that port. In consequence, the whole of the trade of that place is being held up. Our arbitration laws are not justified if that sort of thing continues.
– When did the honorable member receive that telegram?
– On Saturday last. I immediately brought it before the notice of the Attorney-General, and he referred it to the Registrar, who is doing his best to bring about conciliation in the ordinary way. Prior to the last election there was a good deal of industrial trouble, and the Government went to the country asking for a mandate to deal effectively with industrial disputes. There was no doubt as to the opinion of the people. The votes cast for the Nationalists and Country party were greatly increased because of the industrial upheavals that had taken place, and of the absolute need for insistence upon the observance of the laws of the country.
– What has the Government done since getting that mandate?
– I, perhaps, blame the Government for not tightening up our arbitration laws; but we are not dealing with that subject to-day. We are considering whether the Government is justified in asking this House to pass a motion so that Parliament and the people of Australia shall realize that, no matter what organizations break the laws of this country, the Government intends to take action against them. Law and order are to prevail, and industry is to be carried on, and those peoplewho come forward to assist to that end will receive ample protection from the Government.
– Has not the Government already sufficient power to do that ?
– The Government desires probably to be fortified by an expression of opinion in this House. I am sure that honorable members opposite desire that law and order should prevail in Australia. Surely they would not say that any organization should be permitted to disregard the awards of the Arbitration Court! We are coming rapidly to the position when the trade and commerce of this country will be disrupted by industrial disputes. Where is this situation to end? I appeal to honorable members opposite to use all their influence to persuade these organizations to obey the court, and if they have grievances, to place them before that court. It is decidedly unfair that we should pass laws dealing with industrial matters, and then have the spectacle of honorable members opposite quoting extracts from newspapers and other sources in an endeavour to influence honorable members on this side. Are we able to give an impartial decision? We have no knowledge and no means of obtaining knowledge as to the cause of the dispute. The judges of the court should be the sole arbiters in industrial disputes, so long as the arbitration laws exist.
– How undesirable is this motion under those circumstances !
– If we allow organizations to defy the law, we shall build up incipient rebellions in this country. There is always that element of danger. Recently in the North of Queensland there was bloodshed and a life was lost. When these things start God knows where they will end. The law must be supreme.
– What was the nature of the bloodshed ?
– A man was shot during a strike.
– From the way the honorable member spoke, one would think that the strikers had gone mad and shot everybody in sight.
– I am not imputing motives, and I do not say that the shipowners or that the wharf labourers are to Warne.
– Let the Commonwealth call out its forces and there will be bloodshed again.
– The law must be supreme. Will not the honorable member say that the laws of Australia should “be supreme? If he is not of that opinion, then he has no right to a seat in this chamber.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Swan has said that the honorable member for Dalley is not fit to have a seat in this chamber.
– Owing to the interruption I <lid not hear what the honorable member for Swan said, but if he used that expression I suggest to him that it was extreme, and should be withdrawn.
– I did not use that expression. I said that, if the honorable member for Dalley, when holding a responsible position in this Parliament, would not insist that the laws of the country should be supreme, he would have no right to a seat in this chamber.
– The honorable member is merely referring to hypothetical circumstances.
– We profess a great Belief in parliamentary institutions, and we have always endeavoured to adhere to constitutional methods. The honorable member’s views are different from mine; but he, being a member of a minority party, must wait to give effect to his policy. When I am in a minority I. try to get into power in order that my opinions may prevail. The Government went to the country upon this issue, was returned with .a majority, and received a definite mandate from the people that the law must be observed.
– How does the Government intend to enforce that mandate?
– That is not my concern. My duty is to urge the Government to see that the law is enforced. If trade and commerce are held up by any individual or organization, the Government and the people must combine to see that the laws of the country are supreme.
.- I would like some responsible member on the Government side of the House to say whether honorable members opposite are prepared to accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, or the invitation he extended to the Government. Is the Government in earnest in its professed desire to settle the industrial dispute? The answer to that question will show where ministerialists stand in regard to this matter. Do’ they stand for using every means to bring the parties together, or do they prefer to take a high and mighty attitude because there has been a technical breach of the law?
– It is a very real one.
– I shall show to what extent it is real and to what extent it is merely technical. The Attorney-General, who knows the difficulties of the arbitration law, is well aware that, while human nature is as it is, breaches of awards will occur. The breaches are not by one side only. Employers break awards, and do it legally. The employees have to break the law in order to break an award. A lockout may be effected by subterfuge, and, as honorable members who have a knowledge of industrial disputes will admit, lockouts are more frequent than strikes. Is any member on the Government side prepared to say he will meet the Opposition in an endeavour to bring the parties together ? No honorable member in this Parliament, and nobody who knows the Leader of the Opposition, will doubt his sincerity; but the honorable member for Swan doubts the sincerity of the proposal that has emanated from this side of the House. He asked whether we thought the Government proposed to intervene merely to coerce one side or the other. The motion that is before the House means nothing less than coercion. We suggest that conciliatory methods should be adopted, and I warn honorable members opposite that they cannot send to gaol half the population of Australia; they cannot apply coercion to the great body of organized workers.
– The great body of workers is all right.
– Assuming an extreme case, in which one section of the workers is in the wrong, and has not a tittle of justification for its action - that is not so in this case, for I think the waterside workers have a very real grievance; the moment the Government adopts coercion and introduces strike-breakers and the iron hand of the law to gaol the strikers, it brings behind them the whole force of organized labour. That is the risk the Government is taking in this instance. Whatever may have been the justification or lack of justification for the waterside workers declaring an overtime strike, nobody can deny that the employers have consistently and persistently refused to negotiate for a settlement. When they have met the men in conference they have always said that there could be no agreement, and that the men must go to the court, although they knew that the court is crammed to overflowing with plaints, some of which may not be heard for another two years. The men have been working under an award, and the Government says that they must continue to do so. The original award expired, but it was extended. It is, however, quite out of date. Under it many disputes have arisen, and the men have asked again and again for an opportunity to argue them before the court. They were asked if they would guarantee continuance of work and give an assurance of peace. They gave to the court that assurance and guarantee, and immediately the employers brought down new claims not mentioned in the original plaint. Such are the irritating tactics that the employers adopt.
– Was the question of pick-ups mentioned in the original award ?
– It was not mentioned in the plaint.
– It is mentioned in the current award, and has been the subject of contention for many years.
– The employers revived it and thus introduced a new issue. It is quite obvious that there is to be no response on the part of the Government to the conciliatory attitude of the Opposition; there is to be no half-way meeting to settle peacefully this trouble, although its seriousness is admitted. That being so, I ask the Government to state what is the action for which it seeks in advance the approval of the House. If the State governments refuse to” co-operate with the Commonwealth, what will the Prime Minister do?
– The Commonwealth will have no power to do anything.
– Yes it will. If the intention of the Government is to bring; the disputants together, that can be attained by the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, or by abandoning both the motion and amendment, and accepting the invitation extended from this side of the House. If, on the other hand, the intention of the Government is to employ strike-breakers, I assure the right honorable the Prime Minister that he is buying into a proposition that he will be glad to get out of.
– Who is using the bis; stick now?
– I am not making any threat. I am stating a fact based on the knowledge that red blood flows in the veins of the Australian workers. The Leader of the Government is but a babe in the wood so far as industrial matters are concerned; he has not the experience possessed by some honorable members who sit behind him, and I assure him that if in the midst of negotiations which will probably lead to a settlement if he stays his hand, he steps in with a bludgeon and tells the workers that if they do not do this or that, if they do not bend the knee and how the head, strike-breakers will be employed and the strength of the Commonwealth law will be behind them, he will be courting trouble.
– There are no negotiations ; the union has refused to enter into any.
– The ‘ AttorneyGeneral is misinformed. If he reiterates that statement he shows that he knows nothing about the matter.
– I do reiterate it.
– It is one of those legal quibbles in which the honorable member may be practised. It is true that at present the parties are not in negotiation, but I assure the House on the authority of a man who has his finger on the pulse that steps are being taken which, it is hoped, within a few days, will lead to negotiations, and probably to a settlement. Honorable members opposite may laugh, but what is the meaning of negotiations? Conference and negotiations around a table are accompanied by friendly and perhaps private conversations. The press has already announced that the Premier of Victoria is moving in this matter, and I have not the slightest doubt that he will do something more sane than is contemplated by this Government. The attitude of ministerial members is not conciliatory. This Government succeeded in getting Parliament to pass the Crimes Act, which declares that the taking part in an industrial dispute after the issue of a certain proclamation shall be a criminal offence, and that any one who takes part in a strike, continues a strike, or aids a strike may be sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, and in addition, if not born in Australia, may be deported. When the Prime Minister was speaking this morning he was asked if the action to be taken by the Government would mean imprisonment. Three voices on his side of the House answered in chorus “ yes “.
– I point out to the honorable member that I said nothing. I do not remember having heard the interjection.
– The honorable member for Darling interjected to the Prime Minister. “Does this mean imprisonment ? “ and three honorable members opposite said “Yes, if necessary.” That statement came from the honorable member for Forrest and from the honorable member for Franklin. Let them deny if it they can.
– I rise to make a personal explanation.
– The honorable member is entitled to make his explanation later.
– I was waiting for a telephone communication from Melbourne, and that is why I was so close to the honorable members at the time. I have not misrepresented them, for I distinctly heard the words used. I was sitting in a seat near the gangway, and I heard quite clearly the words, “ Yes, if necessary.” That is the conciliatory spirit that is going to bring about peace in industry, and goodwill among men What is the foundation of all this pumped-up indignation on the part of honorable members ? There is not a year goes by but there is a whole crop of breaches of awards by employers. They do not break the awards technically, but they break the spirit of them. Only last Christmas many of the big manufacturing and employing firms in Melbourne dismissed their employees before the Christmas holidays, in order to avoid payment for holiday time. The employees had obtained an award of the court to the effect that they should be paid for the Christmas holidays. To the credit of many firms, I will say that they did not take advantage of this means of evading the award, but many others did. There is always a certain class of employers from whom treatment of this kind may be expected. The shipping owners in particular are always pin-pricking the employees, so that they have created a psychology which permits of no mutual trust, or give-and-take. Is it not a far more manly thing to break an award straight out, and refuse to work, than to adopt such a shallow subterfuge as to dismiss men at Christmas time, and thus deprive them of money which they may badly need ? Many men look foward eagerly to the money coming to them by way of holiday pay at Christmas in order to buy things for their families. It is not true that the great mass of the workers to-day break the awards of the court. In season and out of season, they carry on with their work, although they may have many reasons for complaint, and although the cost of living is always piling up, while their wages remain a long way behind. They wait year after year to get to the Arbitration Court, and are prevented from doing so because the court is congested, but they go loyally on with their jobs, waiting until they can be heard. There is not one word of commendation for them, but when some_pf the workers do arrive at the breaking point, and take action to enforce their just demands, the whole body of workers is condemned. From 1921 to 1926, the employees in the textile industries were trying unsuccessfully to have their claims heard by the Arbitration Court’. So great was the congestion, that for five years they could not get their claims attended to. Owing to the flood of textile imports into this country, it was difficult for the employers to meet the just claims of the workers, and so the latter did not press their claims urgently, but stood loyally back and waited their turn. There is talk about bringing the Crimes Act into operation, and of deporting men because they will not sell their labour for any price offered, or for a price which is not reasonable. But what of the combinations of capitalists who hold up the food supplies and requisites of the people until they can get their own price; who fix their own prices without let or hindrance from any Arbitration Court? There is no Crimes Act for them, no imprisonment or threat of deportation. There are titles for those persons. Unless honorable members opposite are prepared to say that they stand for the interests of the employers, right or wrong, they will meet the Leader of the Opposition half way, and ‘ take a stand for conciliation instead of oppression.
.- I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin, was just about right in what he said. I said that I would be prepared to take any action necessary, in accordance with the resolution moved by the Prime Minister, to secure law and order in this country. I remember quite well during the last election, when I was speaking at one of the “ reddest “ spots in the electorate, I was asked, probably’ with the idea of intimidating me, “ What action would you take in the case of a hold-up in industry? I replied that I would take any action which might be required to maintain law and order. In this country the people govern. They have elected this Parliament to see that the services of the country are carried on. No section or association should be greater than this Parliament. The honorable member for Yarra referred to the families of waterside workers who wanted something nice for Christmas. What about the families in Western Australia who need sugar and other necessaries and cannot get it on account of a shipping hold-up? It is admitted on both sides of the House that a serious industrial position has arisen. We have a law in the country to deal with such a situation. We have heard much during the last few weeks about the adverse trade balance in Australia, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) moved a motion concerning it. The quantity of our produce this year is already altogether too small, but if it is held up on the wharfs, and prevented from being shipped to market, our adverse trade balance will be greatly increased. Are the people concerned in this dispute the subject of such sympathy because of the poor conditions under which they work that they should be defended for holding up essential services during a period of national stress? We have just sold a fleet of ships because of this sort of thing. This country has gone to great pains to give the working man a fair deal. We have established Arbitration Courts for the consideration of complaints. We have provided a Navigation Act to ensure the comfort of seamen and the maintenance of their conditions, and how has the country been requited? The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) referred to overtime. Are the workers being paid only ordinary time for overtime? The Seamen’s Union and the Waterside Workers’ Federation are generally close corporations, and in my State it is very difficult for a man to obtain membership of them. If it is necessary to work 24 hours, let the union admit enough men for three shifts to be worked. If they will not admit enough men to do this, they are not entitled to hold up shipping on that account. At a time like this we learn who really are the friends of the farmers. Any one who would hold up the produce of the farmers is neither their friend, nor the friend of the country. Strikes of this kind are entered into upon very frivolous pretexts. There is no reason why negotiations could not continue if the resolution of the Prime Minister is carried. This country has set up an Arbitration Court to settle disputes, and all disputes should be referred to the Court. But some honorable members are like children, and say, “Do not interfere now. Let us hang on; our side is winning.” Either we must have, a court and support it, or have no court at all.
– The court is of no use to us.
– I agree with the honorable member that we would be better off without any Arbitration Court at all, and if we allowed negotiations to be carried on directly between the employers and’ the workers. I will assist the honorable member at a later stage if he takes any action to abolish the court. I take exception to the threat of the honorable member for Yarra when he said that the workers had red blood in their veins. The farmers also have red blood in their vines.
– I issued no threat; I merely gave a warning.
– Well, that is a warning in reply to it. I am sure the farmers can meet the situation if a challenge of that kind is sent out. There is a great outcry about the number of unemployed in Australia, but here we have a case of men wilfully placing themselves out of employment. Are the conditions so arduous, and the pay so bad, that the men must refuse work? I intend to support the resolution moved by the Prime Minister. I do not think that the ordinary seamen and the ordinary workers of Australia are in sympathy with those who are creating this dispute. I am satisfied that many workers voted for the Government at the last elections. There are people of the Jock Garden and Russian type agitating on the wharves amongst the workers. .If the honorable member for Yarra and the Leader of the Opposition were to talk to the waterside workers as they have talked in this House, I believe some kind * of settlement would be quickly reached. If they contend that these men are in the right and are strong enough to contest this point, they merely perpetuate the evil. If these “ reds “ were weeded out from the unions an invaluable step would, be taken towards ending industrial turmoil.
.- It is a great pity that the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has not worked for a few months under the conditions which apply to our waterside workers. He would then know how intolerable are the hours that these men have to work. He would realize that the long spells of unemployment and the continual irritation to which they are subjected through the operation of the “ pick-up “ system, tends to industrial unrest, and entitle them to more sympathy than he at present is prepared to extend to them. The resolution moved by the Government is deliberately calculated to provoke trouble throughout the industrial movement of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has pointed out that the Government has power under the Crimes Act to take any action that may be necessary. The resolution has been moved merely to allow the Government to indulge in a little strutting on the political stage. It will certainly tend to inflame the minds of the workers of Australia. If there is a body of workers that is particularly susceptible to provocative resolutions of this character, it is the waterside workers. These men are constantly on the bread line, and many are forced to live in a slum environment because of their comparatively small earnings, due to the seasonal and intermittent nature of their work. Such men, when they become embroiled in industrial troubles, demand our utmost sympathy, and the exercise of conciliation on the part of the Government. Honorable members on the Government side of the House have made copious use of the phrase “ law and order.” How mellifluously the term rolls off the tongues of such people when it is associated with political tactics! The catch-cry “ law and order “ has been indulged in for centuries. It was even used by “ bloody Judge Jeffreys “ in the 17th century to justify his tyranny and ruthlessness. Although it was not so stated by >the Prime Minister, it is obvious that the Government proposes to issue a proclamation in regard to the present industrial trouble. It has been contended that this Government has a mandate to resort to coercion, if necessary, to cope with industrial trouble. I rose to repudiate that statement, definitely and emphatically. When this Government sought last year to have additional powers conferred on it under the Essential Services Referendum, the AttorneyGeneral and his colleagues told us that the Government had no power under existing legislation to interfere in a domestic industrial dispute except at the invitation of a State or States. In his speech on the second reading of the Constitutional Alteration Essential Services Bill, on the 11th June, 1926, the honorable member said -
The Commonwealth, even if the State made application, would have no right to take any action. If there were an organized hold-up of services, by either employers or employees, without violence, the Commonwealth would be powerless to do anything except run its mails, protect its civil services, and impose penalties upon any persons who were guilty of interfering with interstate trade and commerce.
The Government deliberately took a referendum of the people of Australia, seeking to obtain that additional coercive power. The people of the Commonwealth, after calmly deliberating on the proposal, defeated it by an overwhelming majority, conclusively showing that, in the exercise of coercive industrial power they consider that this Government is not to be trusted further. They refused to give the Government a mandate to resort to coercive measures which they so eagerly seek now under the guise of the apparently innocuous resolution that is before the House. The utmost tact, toleration and conciliation are required in handling an industrial dispute affecting transport workers if its area is to be limited. From 1908 to 1916 I was on the staff of the Seamen’s Union. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was at that time associated with the Labour party, as president of the Waterside Workers’ Federation. The right honorable gentleman always endeavoured, just as Mr. Holloway and many other industrial leaders of Australia do, to limit the sphere of conflict. It is. to be regretted that this Government does not follow that example now, instead of moving provocative resolution such as that now contemplated. The step contemplated by the Government is a wrong one, which will be accepted by the seamen, trolleymen, draymen, and other transport workers as a direct challenge to trade unionism. It will require the utmost persuasion and effort on the part of the leaders of the Labour movement to prevent the occurrence of a gigantic industrial upheaval extending from one end of Australia to the other if coercive measures are resorted to. If honorable members opposite were really concerned about keeping the wheels of industry turning they would not make speeches such as have been made to-day, but would accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition and confer with the parties affected in the endeavour to bring about a speedy determination of the outstanding matters in dispute. The. Prime Minister was nonplussed to-day when called upon to explain why the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers had entered into an agreement with the men, while the other ship-owners had issued an ultimatum. As the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) said, the action of the ship-owners in declaring a lock-out has caused the trouble. The occasion requires tact. There should be a conference between the parties, instead of the introduction of a resolution as a prelude to declaring a state of emergency. Had the people of Australia foreseen the result of the deportation legislation that was initiated by this Government on the eve of the last general elections the result of those elections would have been very different. My principal regret is that, when a crisis such as this confronts Australia, the Government entirely lacks in its personnel any outstanding individual who has had contact with industrial disputes and industrial unionism, or has sympathy for the workers. The AttorneyGeneral, from his association with the litigious section of the arbitration in the High Court, has certainly gained a good deal of experience of the legal aspect, but honorable members opposite have not had actual contact with the workers engaged in our waterside industry. Had they such experience, they would realize that, with the exception of the coal-miner, the waterside worker needs a greater measure of sympathy, tact, and consideration than does any other worker, by reason of the risks, the hardships, and other disabilities associated with his livelihood. One of the drawbacks of this Government is that the right honorable gentleman who leads it knows as much about industrial matters as does the jeunesse dorée of Bond-street, the class to which he rightfully belongs.
– I regret very much that the Prime
Minister has introduced such a resolution. I also regret that we are confronted with industrial turmoil, and my sympathies are extended whole-heartedly to the wharf labourers. I have had an experience extending over a number of years with Arbitration Court procedure, as the representative of the employees, and I have found that every time the employees have the opportunity to approach the court some new issue is introduced to prejudice their case. That is the trouble in this matter. These men applied to the Arbitration Court, secured an award and worked under it until it expired. They then applied for a new award, and requested certain alterations. They waited for nearly two years, and then Judge Beeby gave instructions that they must withdraw and conform “to certain procedure in order to gain access to the court. Those men went to the expense of sending delegates to the different States, and finally complied with the desire of the court in order to get before it. The ship-owners then introduced a new development by demanding a second pickup daily. The pick-up is a very vital matter to the waterside worker. At the pick-up he is selected for employment. He may have come in 8 or 9 miles from a distant suburb, on the chance of being selected at the pick-up. The employer now demands that he should loiter about the city -all day, waiting for a second pick-up in the afternoon. In these days practically every ship has a wireless installation by which it can notify its movements to the shipping companies, and there should be no uncertainty as to when the services of watersiders will be required. The second pick-up is quite unjustifiable, and the men have just cause for complaint. The Prime Minister and honorable members opposite claim that the trouble should be settled according to the law of the country. “We all agree that the law of the country must be maintained, but every day our criminal and other laws are broken. Yet we do not hear any talk about a repeal of the criminal code. One cannot expect the great industrial army to continue indefinitely, without occasionally breaking a law. They do not break the industrial law merely to secure kudos. Frequently they do it to secure justice, to have their case brought before the Arbitration Court. When this case is heard by the court the vital question of the pickup will have to be heard and determined. The men do not object to the submission of this matter to the court. They have tried for two years to bring it before the court, but their efforts have always been blocked by the ship-owners. In my opinion, they have displayed great patience, for the average earnings of many of them are only £2 per week. In consequence of the great amount of unemployment that prevails, they have decided that they will not work overtime, the object being to spread the work that is available over a larger number of men.
– The trouble is that they will not allow others to work overtime.
– That point has not been established. If the court were to say that the ships could be worked by two shifts of eight hours each, I do not think that the men would object.
– A decision of that kind would involve other difficulties.
– That is so. The point is that the men are quite prepared to .work a full eight hours daily.
– If they will not object to other men coming on at the end of their shift, the trouble could be settled.
– That is the point that has to be elucidated, and which the court has, so far, been prevented from determining. I had a close personal experience of Arbitration Court matters for three years. I know that on one occasion the coal lumpers desired to abolish overtime. The court was anxious to decide the point in their favour, but the employers said, “We must have the ships worked, and we cannot put on new gangs to work them.” I do not know whether the coal lumpers are still anxious that overtime should be abolished, but I know very well that the wharf lumpers have that desire. It is ridiculous to say that the men will not load butter or wool that is awaiting shipment. There are sufficient ships in our various ports to take away every box of butter and every hale of wool that we have. The Government has said that it intends to issue a proclamation that a serious industrial disturbance exists. That would be nothing more than an attempt to coerce the men.
It already has the power to issue such a proclamation, and I do not understand why it has asked honorable members to re-affirm that it has the power. However, the acid test has been applied to it. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has intimated that he is prepared to go with the Prime Minister to meet the representatives of the ship-owners and the wharf labourers in conference with the object of settling the dispute. It has been said on many occasions that we could settle all industrial disputes that may arise if we cared to do so. We are making an effort to settle this one, and the responsibility of assisting us to do so rests upon the Government. It has been complained that our Arbitration Court has not been successful in settling all the disputes that occur. A court has not been evolved that could settle every dispute that arises. We know very well that frequently juries fail to agree, and so do judges. A judge sitting in single jurisdiction is usually able to give a decision on the issues submitted to him, but that does not necessarily settle the case. Appeals are made to the Privy Council, week after week, because the lower courts have not been able to settle the cases submitted to them; and not even the Privy Council can settle every dispute. It is unreasonable, therefore, that we should expect the Arbitration Court to settle every industrial trouble that occurs. That it has been instrumental in settling many hundreds of disputes has, in my opinion, thoroughly justified its appointment. As it has not been successful in settling this trouble, I trust that the Prime Minister will accept the offer of the Leader of the Opposition to accompany him to a conference with the representatives of the parties concerned with the object of settling it. There is no need whatever for a proclamation to be issued under the provisions of the Crimes Act. The men engaged in this dispute are reasonable, and, with the assistance of the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition, should be able to determine the matters at issue between them.
– The Prime Minister was justified in bringing this matter before Parliament, for it is serious. His motion invites
Parliament to support the Government in’ any action that it may deem necessary to take. What action may be necessary to deal with the trouble we cannot tell. We do not know to what limits the community may be compelled to go in certain circumstances. But what we do or ought to know is that this industrial dispute, which at present is a mere flickering rushlight, may rapidly become a tremendous conflagration, defying all the efforts of governments or other authorities to extinguish. In the circumstances* the Prime Minister was wise to invite Parliament to give him counsel. But I am not clear in mind why he should have thought it necessary to seek authority to do everything he may deem necessary before taking any action at all. It is surely the ‘duty of governments to maintain industrial peace. The Prime Minister has already authority to do this. He may act directly, or through chosen instrumentalities. In Australia we have gradually evolved and improved a system of dealing with industrial troubles which is known as compulsory arbitration. It has been the target of many criticisms, but it will at least compare favorably with the methods which were adopted a few days ago in Pittsburg to settle an industrial dispute there. According to press’ reports the policy there was, “Eire low and lay ‘em out.” We have never found it necessary to adopt measures of that kind in Australia, nor do we desire such summary and bloody processes to draw out from society the poison which is in it. We have chosen an incomparably better and more civilized way to deal with industrial troubles. It is true that our methods sometimes fail; but every law fails at times. The police force is from time to time increased in the various States in order to enforce the ordinary laws for the government of the community. These laws have all the power and authority of organized government behind them, and some of them have been in operation for* a thousand years; but there are still a great many crimimnals in our midst. But no one suggests that on that account we should remove, the laws from the statute-book and rely upon summary processes for doing what is called justice? What is justice ? That is the whole point at issue. In this case we do not know what it is. I am able to speak on this matter with at least as much authority as any other honorable member of Parliament. I was responsible for the formation of the Waterside Workers’ Federation, and was its president for many years. I was associated with the waterside workers for over twenty years. I gave to them the best years of my life. I know the circumstances of their industry far better than any member of the Government can hope to do. I have never hesitated to belabour, and denounce them when I thought them in the wrong though not publicly. I have given them wise counsel, and, when necessary, I have supported advice by action. I do not defend their action now. So far as I am informed of the facts they are in the wrong; but how far in the wrong I cannot say, for of the merits of this dispute I know practically nothing. Let us assume for the moment that they are wrong. We have to deal with 20,000 men who are enrolled in the organization and closely affiliated with every other maritime union. If an assault is made upon one of these associated bodies, it is resisted by the united army. Consequently, it is no light thing to talk about compelling these men to work overtime if they do not desire to do so, or to secure voluntary labour to take their places. I doubt very much whether voluntary labour could be obtained for the purpose. In the history of Australia it has only been done on one occasion, concerning which I shall have a word to say a little later.
I have no word of censure of the Government for introducing this discussion. I believe that it has acted in what it considers the best interest of the country. But to approve of the action which it proposes to take is an entirely different thing. If the Government takes this step it will be treading upon ground that is entirely strange to it, and it will be dealing with a situation concerning which its knowledge is as remote as that of a man from Mars. I have spent the best part of my life in association with these men and their organization. I have been Prime Minister of this country, and have held absolute power in my hands. Yet I never proposed to act as the Prime Minister proposes to do. I do not say that at times circumstances may not have justified me in attempting to do it; but I never willing engage in absolutely helpless contests in which success, even if obtained, is worse than defeat; which may cause such intensely bitter classfeeling as to make the last state of the community infinitely worse than the first. I can conceive of nothing worse for this country than a struggle of this nature, even if the Government should be successful. There has been talk this morning of free labour and of prosecutions under the Crimes Act for the leaders. Let me remind the Government of two occasions in which free labour was employed and men were sent to gaol because of the application of remedies such as are now suggested. The Broken Hill strike convulsed Australia. It was a by-product, if one may so use the term, of the great maritime strike. Men who took part in it were sent to gaol, and organized Labour was broken and beaten. But within less than twelve months after the disaster Labour entered the political arena. Having been worsted in one field, it came into another, and has remained in it ever since. The beginnings of Labour rule are to be found in the Maritime and Broken Hill strikes, and the gaoling of their leaders - Sleath, Ferguson and others. That is ancient history. . I come now to the coal strike of 1909, in which I myself took part. Again some of the leaders were gaoled, and in 1910 Labour won a victory in federal politics such as was never thought possible in this country. That victory is not attributable solely to the incarceration of Mr. Peter Bowling; the attitude of sane Labour at the time must be given the credit for it ; but nevertheless it is a fact in the history of industrial disputes in this country that Labour victories have followed compulsion and attempts to carry on industry by free labour and by the imprisonment of Labour leaders.
I do not say that some action may not now be necessary. I censure the Waterside Workers Federation very strongly for attempts to. take the law into it own hands. That is quite wrong. The law should be obeyed. In what degree the waterside workers are blameworthy I do not profess to say. The honorable member for Tarra made out a strong case for them, but I know nothing of the merits of the present dispute. The dispute about picking-up may seem trivial to most honorable members, or to the great majority of the people of this country, but the matter is of the greatest importance to the wharf labourers. What is their position? Some of the men on the wharves make a great deal of money, but others little or nothing. On three occasions I have taken the wharf labourers to the Arbitration Court, and our case has been this: While many men were getting £5 a week, 33 per cent, or 40 per cent. of them were earning only about £1 a week. The rates have no doubt been increased since that time, but most of the men still receive less than the living wage. What is happening now, I assume, is that they demand a more equal distribution of the work. The employer rightly contends that he should select his own men, but the federation says, “No ; we wish to distribute the work more evenly, and therefore we shall send men to you.” In one of the agreements with the employers, it was arranged that we shall supply an adequate number of men upon application by telephone at the central office. The employers at that time recognized that it was impossible without some concessions to maintain that vast army of men, a percentage of whom are always unemployed because the work is seasonal.For four months of the year nearly every man is employed, but for two or three months perhaps 30 per cent. of them can do all the work. On certain days of the week 80 per cent. may be employed, and on other days only 20 per cent. But there must always be sufficient available to handle the peak traffic on the wharves.
Mr.Prowse. - What about the overtime conditions?
– The overtime dispute is something that has happened quite recently. I am assuming for the sake of argument - I do not know that it is so - that the dispute respecting the pick-up place is all-important, but there may be many other bones of contention. The Prime Minister ought not to expect from these men that calm and impartial temper which has been so manifest to-day in this assembly, which, while the right honorable gentleman was putting his case, was a veritable Babel, notwithstanding that we are here sitting as the highest tribunal in the land as a jury to discuss this case. We ought to hold the scales of justice evenly, and yet we come here saturated with prejudice. We cannot help it. Do honorable members think that I can rid myself of the effects of 25 or 30 years’ contact with the waterside workers? That is impossible. It is inevitable that I should see life, to a large extent, from their angle. But how can other honorable members, who know nothing of their circumstances, do that? And it is of no use for the Prime Minister to say,” There is the court. It has given its decision. Judge Beeby has declared that the court cannot hear cases unless its determinations are observed.” I do not know what the practice of the court has been, but I know what I should do were I’ in the place of the waterside workers, and I know what I have done.I know what was the practice in the time of Mr. Justice Higgins. But we have to face the facts. Are we to consider the court or are we to consider the welfare of the people? Which is the more vital to the Commonwealth? There is no strike that cannot be settled more easily if dealt with before passions are aroused. I say that deliberately, having no knowledge of these particular circumstances, but knowing the men themselvesso well, though acquainted no longer with them individually. But once this fiat has gone forth a new situation will arise, and the position will rapidly grow worse. At present there is no great principle at stake. It is true that the employers have delivered an ultimatum. Whether they are right or wrong in that I do not say. In their place I should, no doubt, be irritated by the tactics of these men, because these pin-pricking disputes are worse than frontal attacks. But, so far, on the side of the men, no great principle is at stake. The men say that they will not work overtime except under certain conditions. They are trying, illadvisedly, to compel the court to hear their claims. It is quite wrong to coerce a court, but that is what they are trying to do now as they attempted to do once before. The overtime strike is an effort to put on the screw, to compel society to recognize that an injustice, from the men’s point of view, is being done. They want redress. Let us assume that the good of society is the first consideration. Our goods must be exported from this country. It is an intolerable state of affairs that butter and other perishable products should be awaiting shipment, simply because a handful of men refuses to load them. The position is intolerable, and I would never defend it, even when I was an official of the union. I endeavoured during the many years that I was connected with this organization to see that such stoppages never occurred, and so far as I know, they did not. But, assuming that these men have been misled and have done wrong, what is the solution of the difficulty? What do Ave expect from them? That they should be Solons; that they should have the mentality that distinguishes the great ones of the world? If they were men of that sort, would they be lumping goods on the wharves? The work of the world is done not by intellectual giants, but by men of poor or at best average mentality, men of brawn and muscle. But it would be a bad thing for us all if there were no such men to do it. I ask honorable members to put themselves in their place. These men have done wrong, but if we take action against them, we shall do wrong, and within a week or ten days’ time nothing that we can do will ever restore the present position. If Ave put free labour on a wharf, Ave hoist the flag of revolt. It will be as a red rag is to the bull, and all Labour will rally to the side of these men, even though it knows that the waterside workers have been misled and have done wrong. We may say, “ Very well, Ave shall fight them.” Some people amongst us itch for a fight. I remember many years ago being at a conference with certain ship-owners. Some of them were reasonable men, the others were not. One said, in the course of the conference, “ If you want fight, by God I will give you it.” We know what he meant. It was an appeal to that class bitterness which finds expression on one side in the destruction of property, and a vendetta that ends only in death, and draws from the other such orders as “ Fire low and lay ‘em out.” The present dispute is industrial; it is not a political strike like that which occurred on the Queensland railways recently. The waterside workers are as law-abiding citizens as any men in this chamber. I daresay there are “ Reds “ among them ; “but these are everywhere; they may be even in this House. What will be the consequence of putting this coercive policy into force? The country wants industrial peace. The right honorable the Prime Minister said that Ave can pay too high a price for peace and that Ave cannot afford to purchase it by compromising every principle upon which enterprise and industry are conducted. That may be so, but there is no evidence before us that the sacrifice of an essential principle is necessary to secure peace. What Ave Avant, above all, is to allow time for calmer counsels to prevail. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested one method of approaching the problem.. I do not say that that is the best wa.y, but I feel sure that this trouble is not yet out of hand, that it is still possible to find a modus vivendi. I speak from experience; I have known these men at their worst. at their best, and when they were normal; I know what they are, and I ask the Government to hesitate before taking the irrevocable step of invoking the terrors of the law, asking non-union labour to take their places, and setting themselves and the country a task that will be impossible of fulfilment except by a crushing defeat of organized labour throughout the Commonwealth. Such a defeat could be effected only after long and weary months of struggle, and it would inevitably bring about a bitter reaction, and implant in the minds of the defeated and those associated Avith them the idea that at all hazards they must get their own back. We Avant peace. Are the methods suggested in this motion likely to secure it? A coercive policy must cause a stoppage of industry, because, if non-union labour is put on the wharfs, the carters will not handle goods in transit, factories will close, and unemployment will run through the country like a disease. Honorable members may say that conditions which makes such a thing possible are intolerable. We have to face one of the basie facts of industrial life. Possibly in America a trouble of this sort could be quickly ended by getting a few Pinker - tons to shoot down the strikers.
– That has not been suggested .
– But that is done in America. When I was president of the Waterside Workers’ Federation I visited America, and while I was there the wharf labourers of New York, , with whom the federation was affiliated, were on strike. I was shown a galvanized iron compound 16 feet high with barbed w,ire about it; inside were Italians who had been brought Genoa and other places to break the strike, and outside were Pinkertons patrolling with loaded rifles. The strike collapsed, of course, but I am sure we are not prepared to deal with our industrial troubles in that fashion.
Not! bing oan be further from the intention of the Government than to evoke bitter class animosity. Let it now hold out the olive branch. What does it matter1 if the wharf labourers have done wrong and the feelings of the Arbitration Court “have been hurt? Nothing matters except that the wheels of industry shall revolve and justice be done. I remind the Prime Minister that arbitration courts are not like other courts; «they function as does the League of Nations or the International Court of Justice, to settle disputes on matters affecting vast numbers of men. Usually the ordinary courts determine disputes between individuals, and others than the litigants are only indirectly affected by their judgments. But when the wharf labourers go to the Arbitration Court their spokesman represents 20,000 men, and, with their affiliations, very many more. A decision of the court may have a greater effect on the welfare of this country and more profoundly affect its economic and financial . circumstances that any law of this Parliament. If the judges of the Arbitration Court should declare to-morrow that men must work only 40 hours, this Parliament in its wildest, moments could not aim a more deadly blow at the economic welfare of Australia.
What does the etiquette of the court matter? Are we to say that because a judge of the Arbitration Court will not exercise his legal power to summon the parties before him we should do nothing? Our first duty is to the country, and we wish to establish that industrial peace which is essential to our economic welfare. I am not suggesting the purchase of peace at the sacrifice of honour. I do not say that we should bow the knee and tamely surrender to this show of mob rule. But the waterside workers are not in the sight of God different from other men. If they and the ship-owners were stripped naked and thrown into the harbour no one could say which was ship-owner and which wharf labourer. Both parties are actuated by like motives ; both moved by self-interest, both saturated by prejudice. Our object should be to bring them together about the council table, and the person to do that is the Prime Minister. And I venture to suggest, also, that the court should take action and not meekly remain inactive while a great conflagration is raging. I leave the matter at that.
It is futile to talk about the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition; it would carry us nowhere. It is for the Prime Minister to declare what he will do, and I ask him to look at this matter fairly and quietly, to think long before he takes this irrevocable step. Knowing these men very well, I assure him that he will be doing wrong to himself, to them, and to the country if he does not now take some action to bridge the gulf that divides them and the employers. With all the knowledge that comes from experience, I say that the hour has not yet passed when a peaceful settlement is possible.
– Honorable members appear to be generally agreed as to the importance and seriousness of the matter now before the House, and honorable members of the Opposition do not now agree with the contention of their leader this morning that we should proceed to talk about the tariff and ignore this industrial upheaval. From nearly every point of view this is one of the most important matters with which this Parliament could concern itself. A serious industrial disturbance is commencing, and its extension must necessarily involve the whole trade, commerce and industry of Australia. The stoppage of sea-borne trade and commerce between the different parts of Australia, and between Australia and other countries, will produce results extending far beyond the waterside workers immediatelyconcerned. This is a question which affects all workers and all the people of Australia. Therefore, the Government has a responsibility to use such powers as it has - not as the honorable member for Reid said, powers which it has not - including such persuasion as may properly be applied,. to bring this regrettable condition of affairs to an end. At the same time, the real nature of the issues involved must be recognized. Australia, instead of adopting the methods of physical force and direct action which are employed in some other countries, and whichwere indicated by the right honorable member for North Sydney, has established impartial tribunals to hear and settle industrial differences. The principle upon which the arbitration law is based - and its recognition alone can justify the continuance of the system - is that when the court determines the conditions of employment in an industry itsdecisions are binding upon both employers and employees. This legislation was not enacted in the interests of any particular group of employees or employers, but because it was considered that a means for impartially determining industrial disputes would be in the interests of all citizens. Therefore, the whole community is directly concerned in the maintenance of the arbitration system, and the disputants in any particular case are not theonly interested parties. Letme apply that principle to the dispute at present under consideration. Suppose that there is a dispute over a matter of considerable importance to those concerned in the shipping industry - as, for example, whether there should be a single pick-up or a. double pick-up —would anybody with a sense of proportion accept the proposition that a difference on such a matter is suffi- ciently important to justify the holding up of the trade and commerce of a continent? On a matter such as that the union is at present adopting a course which makes it impossible to carry On trade and commerce. Honorable members know that, without Overtime work on the water front, trade and commerce cannot be carried on as it has been in the past. If they were informed of the facts, honorable members would know that at no time have the watersiders, who have been before the court on many occasions, made any claim for the abolition of overtimes In saying that, I am speakingon the direct authority of the Industrial Registrar, ofwhom I caused inquiries to be madeafter the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) had challenged my previous statement.
Mr.Theodore.-There are two ports in which they have been working the shift system for the last twelve months.
– I know that what the Attorney-General says is not correct. I myself have made such an application as part of our claims on one occasion! We said that we did not want towork overtime at all.
– I amspeaking on the authority of the Industrial Registrar.
– Technically, I think he is right.
– The matter referred to by the honorable member forDalley has nothing to do with this question, because a no-overtime strike has been dedared as a means to an end, to force the attention of the court by means of direct action. It has not been pretended bythe Waterside Workers Federation that it objectsto overtime, and the members of the union are working overtime on the Commonwealth Line of Ships. Therefore, it is apparent that the question of overtime, or no overtime, isnot really involved. Honorable members also know that when questions of overtime are discussed, the real subject to which reference is made is the rate of pay for work done between certain hours, and it is not a question of the shift system, as the honorable member for Dalley sought to suggest. Work outside certain hours is paid for at overtime rates, and special pay is provided for Sundays and holidays. I have before me the current waterside workers’ award, and the claims in the. log include payment for overtime. This, however, is not a dispute about overtime. In saying that I am relying on the report of the court proceedings. It is a dispute as to whether conditions in the industry are to be determined by an award of the court, or whether the union is to be allowed to lay down rules, and require its members to observe rules which are inconsistent with the awards of the court. It is not a question of court etiquette. Either the union which appeals to arbitration must obey the award of the court in all matters, or it cannot rightly claim the benefits of the award in any matter. It must be remembered that the union itself was the claimant in the matters which have been dealt with in the award. The union cannot have it both ways. That is the important principle lying at the root of the whole system under which an effort is made to preserve industrial peace. It has been said that no one expects the awards of the court to be observed in all cases, and the Leader of the Opposition said it was never intended that arbitration should settle all disputes. ,1s it possible for Parliament to maintain, with self-respect, a system of arbitration subject to the qualification that the awards of the court are only to be obeyed when they suit the views of one particular section?
– The Leader of the Opposition said it was not to be expected that the award would always be obeyed. He did not say that it was not intended that they should be obeyed.
– I made a note of his remarks at the time, and, according to my note, the Leader of the Opposition said that it was never intended that the Arbitration Court should settle all disputes. However, I do not want to do the honorable member an injustice, and if he denies having made that statement, I will accept his denial. This Parliament cannot allow the law to be enforceable at the option of either party. In this case there is no doubt, on the statement of the boast, that the union is acting in breach of the award and the agreement which it has made. That is the foundation of the whole matter, and the union has responded to the ultimatum, as it is described, of the ship-owners that the award and agreement should be observed, by instituting an overtime strike.
There is, therefore, no doubt that in this case there is a deliberate refusal to abide by awards and agreements. What is the excuse offered for adopting that attitude? I have heard allegations of delay on the part of the court. In February of this year the court was prepared to proceed with the case if the union would give an undertaking to withdraw local domestic rules which were inconsistent with the award then standing, and would allow the court to determine the matter, instead of being judge in its own case. In May the same thing happened. It is not worth while arguing about the precise events which occurred in May, because on the 21st. October, Judge Beeby said that he was still anxious to proceed with the case, and that he would not permit a mere local dis’turbance, which the executive could not control, to prevent the resumption of the - hearing. The executive refused to give any undertaking, and the judge determined the proceedings by saying that he regretted the union “ thinks it can trifle with the court. Apparently the union members have decided that they must be the judges of ‘their own policy. They have not seriously considered the court’s request, and the court cannot proceed if the union claims the right to lay down rules which conflict with the awards of the court.” It is impossible for the court to adopt any other attitude if it is to maintain any semblance of authority. We in this House ought to support the court in the attitude it has taken up.
– What are the rules referred to?
– They refer to such matters as the stacking of galvanized iron, the number r.f casks to be put into a sling, and other matters. The award provides for pertain things in express terms, and further provides that, in regard to other matters, the terms and conditions obtaining in the industry, save such as have been sought to be introduced by strikes and similar methods, are to be observed. Under this provision in the award two pick-ups is the rule, and although it has been a matter of controversy for years, the .court has. consistently refused to order the single pickup.
The honorable member for Dalley spoke in a very different tone from that adopted by the Leader of the Opposition. He described the speech of the Prime Minister as provocative, an entirely undeserved and inaccurate description, of a very temperate address. By his own language, the honorable member for Dalley appears to be endeavouring to incite feeling by suggesting that all sorts of outrageous and arrogant measures were about to be adopted by the Government. There was no foundation in the Prime Minister’s speech for the suggestion whereby the honorable member for Dalley, whether he sought to do so or not, ran the serious risk of inflaming public feeling, which was exactly what the Prime Minister was endeavouring to prevent. The Government is asked to accept an amendment, which says - . . . that consultations should he immediately held by the Government with the various State governments affected, and the organizations concerned, with a view to a clear understanding of the matters in issue, and the settlement thereof by means of conference and Conciliation.
One matter at issue is clear enough, and it is this: That this union, which holds an important economic position in the industrial structure of the community, is using the methods of direct action in order to obtain objects which it is unable to obtain at the moment by recourse to the court. The court is maintaining the position that it will not allow the union, or any organization registered with the court, to seek to obtain industrial objects alike by direct action, and action in the court. It is impossible to admit the permissibility of direct action to force the hand of the court. The amendment raises this important matter of principle, and it is on this ground that the Government is not prepared to accept it. Only too frequently the course has been pursued, in relation to the court, of seeking to bring pressure to bear for the purpose of obtaining an object which may, or may not, be legitimate from an industrial point of view. First a claim is made for the object sought, then, when that fails, a strike is threatened, and then the strike takes place. It will be impossible to maintain a system of arbitration if organizations which resort to direct action are going to gain something thereby over and above what can be secured by other organizations which obey the law. Hundreds of awards and agreements are in operation in our Arbitration Court. Honorable members opposite and others sometimes do an injustice not only to our Arbitration Court, but to the people of Australia, by the manner in which they refer to that court and its awards. It is only in a few industries - and the unfortunate transport industry is one of these - that trouble of a serious kind occurs. Most of the awards and agreements of the court are operating peacefully and satisfactorily. The Waterside Workers Federation, after seeking to compel the court to hear its claim, which would have been heard long ago, had the union given the required undertaking to the court-
– What evidence has the honorable gentleman of that?
– The case was’ ready to be heard in February, but it was not proceeded with because the union” would not give the necessary undertaking. A similar situation arose in May ‘and in October. ;’”
– The union di’d give the undertaking in May.
– Not to the satisfaction of the court.
– Because the judge allowed the question of the pick-up to be brought in.
– The whole discussion in February was as to whether the case should be proceeded with or not. The case was in the list. In May it came up again. I read a portion of the judgment on the 21st October; honorable members may refer to both in the press and in the documents of the Arbitration Court. The report I read indicates that’ the judge was anxious to proceed with the case, but first wished to know whether the organization would give the necessary undertaking.
– When the case, came before the court in May, the union was prepared to accept the conditions laid down by the court. At that time the owners were permitted to bring in the question of the pick-up, which was not mentioned in the claim.
– That does not appear to be so from the report.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that it is not so?
– I have been involved in these waterside disputes, and I know that the pick-up has been the subject of considerable controversy. To suggest that it was introduced in May last for the first time is to ask honorable members to shut their minds to what is notorious. .
– Will the honorable gentleman deny that after the union gave that assurance to the court the employers brought up the question of the pick-up as an entirely new issue, one which did not appear in their affidavit?
– I have here a report of the proceedings, and nothing of the kind appears in it.
– Then the honorable gentleman has an inadequate report. Something has been omitted.
MrLATHAM.- The matter of the pick-up appears to be a pure afterthought,so far as I can make out. I have gonethrough the document carefully. Only during the last few days has that matterbeen introduced. I will meet honorable members on their own ground. Take it, as is the case, that under the present award there are to be two pickups. Is an organization to be at liberty to say to the court “ In spite of the award of the court, and in spite of our agreement, we are going to insist upon an alteration of the award, because we regard it as important?” It is entirely immaterial whether it be a new thing or not. The principle is the same, namely, whether these matters are to be settled by direct action or by the constitutional method provided by the Arbitration Court.
– Does the honorable gentleman approve of a matter being sprung on the unions after their plaints have been filed for twelve months? Does he approve of the employers being allowed to bring a new issue before the court at a moment’s notice?
-I do not wish to spend an undue time upon a point which really does not arise, and which is immaterial. I have here a report of what happened in May. Statements were made as to the position in Melbourne and Sydney, and various points were mentioned: wheat loading, Garden Island,Fremantle, and Port Adelaide. Then Judge Beeby, on the 7th May, said this -
I definitely said in my statement at the last adjournment that I expected that the matter would be dealt with by the executive. Mr. Turley submitted that an assurance from the committee of management would be of less value than an assurance from the men.
After argument, Judge Beeby further adjourned the case to give the executive an opportunity of meeting to see whether it would give satisfactory guarantees to ensure observance of the court’s awards. The only report which I have is a newspaper report, which I have had extracted from the library file. There is no reference to the pick-up in that. The point was that the executive would give no guarantee at allto the judge.
– The honorable gentleman said that it was an official report that he had.
– A full report has been obtained from the Industrial Registrar. The Prime Minister used it in his address, and read practically every word of it, and the right honorable gentleman assures me that there is no reference in it to this question of the pick-up. Even if everything that honorable members opposite have said were true, is an organization registered in the court and gaining benefits and advantages from it, to be allowed to say, “We have made up our minds that we are not going to obey the award in this particular. We intend to have our own way,” and at the same time be allowed to insist on the court dealing with other requests that it has made? That is an impossible position.
When interrupted, I was proposing to say more fully why the Government was not prepared to give an undertaking to invite those concerned to a conference at the present time. It has been a common thing for certain bodies to obtain what they can from the court, and then to resort to direct action, and endeavour to impose such inconvenience and suffering upon the community as to frighten the Government into bringing political influence to bear. Ministers cannot subscribe to the doctrine that it is the duty of the Government to intervene in every case where either side causes sufficient trouble and disturbance to the community. To accept that as a principle would be to reduce our whole system of industrial law to a condition of chaos. The resolution submitted to this House by the Government does not, and is not intended to, preclude the Government from taking such action as it considers proper and necessary, including the summoning of a conference should that be thought wise. The Government is not prepared to give an undertaking to yield topressure in order to give any party an opportunity to obtain outside the court that which, up to the present, it has not been able to obtain in the court.We are informed from the other side of the House that there is a. chance of negotiations being opened. The Government sincerely hopes that that is the case. If those negotiations are proceeded with,we have hopes that they will be brought to a successful issue, satisfactory not only to those immediately concerned, but to the community generally. Unfortunately, up to the present, the Waterside Workers’ Federation has been too prone to resort to direct action. Honorable members opposite have swallowed, in its most extravagant form, whatever press propaganda it suited the unions to serve up. According to reports which appear in the press, and which are apparently supplied by the Waterside Workers’ Federation, that Federation has refused even to consult with the Industrial Disputes Committee at the Trades Hall in Melbourne.
Mr.Scullin. - That is not correct.
– I hope that the honorable member is right. I also hope that the press reports of what purports to be an interview with Mr. Morris, the secretary of the Federation, is inaccurate. It reads : -
The general secretary, Mr. Morris, denied that the strike was to be declared off. He said that no negotiations had taken place with outside organizations, and that the committee intended to control the dispute indendently.
The report goes on to say that the instructions of the federation were being observed by their branches, that there had been no overtures to the ship-owners, and that the waterside workers appeared to be content to enforce their demands’ by means of the strike weapon.
– It is well known that overtures were made for a conference.
– If, subsequent to this report overtures have been made, the Government hopes that they will bring about a successful result. The Government asks the House, by this resolution, to recognize that this is a serious industrial disturbance, in which this Parliament and the Government have a responsibility. It asks honorable members to express confidence in the handling of the situation by the Government, according to the circumstances which may arise. It would be imprudent from every point of view to make hypothetical suggestions in relation to hypothetical circumstances. The Prime Minister expressly abstained from any language of a provocative nature. It is the duty of the Government, as the executive not only of this Parliament, but of the Australian nation, to see that the law as expressed in the statute-book is observed. It must exercise its duties as the guardian of the law, and as the agent charged with the duty of enforcing the law with prudence and consideration in the interests of the whole community. The Government, therefore, asks this House to adopt the resolution.
.- I am sure that honorable members on all sides of the House deplore the position that has arisen in connexion with this motion.
– This is not playing the game.
– Three honorable members have spoken in succession from the other side of the House, which is most unfair.
– An honorable member must not comment upon the action of the Chair.
– I will comment upon the actions of the Chair when they are of this kind. The honorable member for Wimmera is not a member of our party.
– Speakers are usually chosen alternatively, not from the various parties, but from the right and left of the Chair. If the honorable member persists in his interjections I shall have to call upon him to withdraw.
– I am sorry that I have unwittingly been the cause of this trouble. I rose because I felt it my duty to express my views on this important subject. I think I have a legitimate right to catch the eye of the Chair if I can. I have no desire to stifle discussion. I deplore, as I believe every honorable member of this House does, the unfortunate position that has arisen in consequence of this dispute. I have listened carefully to the debate, which, with one or two exceptions, has been conducted in a moderate spirit. It has been pointed out that this dispute may have very farreaching effects. If there is a move within the ranks of the Waterside Workers Federation to attempt to settle the trouble by conciliation - and we have been informed that there is - the action of the Government is most unfortunate. The Leader of the Opposition read a telegram from Mr. Holloway which suggested that an attempt was being made to bring the parties together. At such a juncture the introduction of this motion cannot do any,, good, and may do a great deal of harm. I do not know anything about -the merits of this dispute; but I have had a good deal to do with organized labour. I am one of the few members of this chamber who has worked on the wharfs. The right honorable member for North Sydney wisely observed in the course of his speech that the rank and file of wharf labourers is probably very little -different to-day in sentiment and outlook from what it was twenty years ago. It is, therefore, regrettable that the Prime Minister should have used language which, rightly or wrongly, might be construed into a threat against them. The representatives of -Australian journalism sit in the press galleries of this chamber for the purpose of reporting our proceedings. I make no reflection whatever upon their work in a general way; but there are occasions when their reports, and particularly the head lines under which they appear, are liable to give a misleading impression. That is most likely to occur when matters of this nature are under consideration. It will be unfortunate, therefore, if, at the very time when the saner elements in the Waterside Workers Federation are endeavouring to induce their comrades to submit this dispute to conciliation, reports should appear in the press to the effect that the Prime Minister, in moving this motion, used language which might be considered to be threatening. It has been suggested. that the provisions of that unfortunate ‘ piece of legislation, the Crimes Act, shall be brought into operation. I would not presume to dictate to the Prime Minister, for whom I have the highest admiration personally, the course that he should pursue in this time of emergency ; but had I been in his position I should certainly have sought the advice and help of the right honorable member for North Sydney, who has had a wider experience of these matters than any other honorable member of the House. It is well known that the Government has come under the suspicion of organized labour for having been responsible for placing the Crimes Act on the statutebook. Rightly or wrongly the working classes in our community regard it as class legislation of the most flagrant kind. In such circumstances the Government should be extremely careful not to increase the suspicion which rests upon it of being unduly friendly to these sections of the community. But the action which it now proposes to take will most likely be considered as an attempt to coerce the waterside workers, and as such it would be resisted by organized labour throughout the Commonwealth. That might lead to extremely serious troubles, the end of which we could not foresee. Before we agree on the adoption of this course we have the right to ask “ Where is the end of the road ?” Let us assume for a moment that the Government succeeds in obtaining free labour for the wharfs. Would any honorable member suggest that that would be the end of this dispute? Do they think that other branches of organized labour in the community would stand idly by in such circumstances ? The Government’s action would be used by the extremists in the ranks of Labour to inflame the minds and passions of the great mass of moderate trade unionists in the community, and Ave cannot tell where the trouble would end. We have established in this country a system of industrial arbitration which has caused two thoroughly drilled and disciplined organizations to come into being. On the one hand we have the well organized forces of the employers, and on the other the massed battalions of the trade unions; and each section regards the other with suspicion and is ready to fight if it believes that an attempt is being made to encroach upon its rights. “We have had continual stoppages of work in connexion with our transport system, which have injured the community generally, and perhaps the primary producers, who are far removed from the seat of the trouble, more than any others. I represent a great body of hard-working farmers. I believe that I understand their views very well; at any rate they must think that I do, for they have kept me here to represent them for a number of years. These men are not violently partisan in judging situations like this, for they are both capitalists and workers. They have their capital in the form of land, plant, horses and homes, but they go out into the field and work longer hours than any other class of manual labourers in the country. They are anxious, when disputes of this nature occur, to hold the balance evenly between the parties. The Prime Minister has told us that the Waterside Workers Federation has laid down certain instructions and rules which go beyond the terms of the Arbitration Court award which govern their calling, such as limiting the number of bags of wheat that may be put in a sling. If that has been done, it is entirely wrong. Just imagine how the average farmer would regard it? Where I live, the farmers are struggling to put as many bags in a load as possible, in order to cut down costs and to make a living. When they read that an organization is endeavouring to limit the load in slings, they will entirely dissociate themselves from such an action.
– It is a question of endangering men’s lives.
– I have worked winches, and I know what slinging cargo is. If, for instance, twelve bags in a sling is such that the winch or gear is subjected to undue strain, and there is a consequent danger to men’s lives, that is a different proposition altogether. I am referring, not to that, but to an undue limitation of the load.
– I take it that the court would decide the load.
– I should think so. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) put the case much better than I can. I make no attempt to take sides in this dispute, because I know nothing of its merits or demerits. I stand, as do other honorable members, for constitutional government and for the enforcement of our laws, whether they be arbitration or other laws. The action of the Government is undoubtedly unwise. What are we asked to do? The motion is very carefully drafted, which I think is only proper ; but let me read and analyze it, and see what it means. It mentions not one word of conciliation.’ It reads : - “ In view of the great loss, unemployment, and general distress which will inevitably result from the continuance of the serious industrial disturbance in the waterside industry, this House affirms its support of the Government in taking any action - “ I stop at; those words to call attention to their farreaching and sweeping nature - “if the Govment thinks necessary in co-operation with the Governments of the States so far as possible” - For what? To heal the breach? No.’(i’ - “to maintain law and order and to ensure the continuance of services essential to the well-being of the Commonwealth “ The Government asks for no further powers. If a serious position had arisen threatening good order and the safety and rights of the citizens of this country, and if the present powers of the Government were insufficient to cope with it, and additional powers were necessary, I should not oppose the granting of them. But the Government has not asked for additional powers. I speak with no heat against it. I am trying to do the right thing and to suggest to the Government the right course to pursue. It has asked me, as an individual, to support it in taking any action that it may think necessary to maintain law and order and to carry on essential services. What does that mean ? If the Government were compelled to take extreme steps - and I think every honorable member knows what I mean - and I had voted for this motion, I should have been a party to that action. That position I refuse to accept. I should certainly be behind the Government if I thought it necessary to take action to enforce the maintenance of law and order to prevent the waterside workers or any other body of men from continuing to flout the awards of the court and from running amok in this country; but to ask me at this juncture to agree to the motion is futile. If the Government inserted in it these words, “ Any action the Government may take to bring about conciliation, and failing that any action the Government maythink necessary,” I should consider the advisability of supporting it. I regret that Ministers have seen fit to introduce the motion at this critical juncture. Hundreds of thousands of newspapers will be distributed this evening with glaring headlines over reports of the Prime Minister’s speech. It was a most unwise proceeding, and one which he may regret. I have no wish to refuse to this or any government the support that is necessaray to enable it to hold the scales of justice evenly, but in this case the Government is asking for something to which it has no right, and I shall, therefore, vote for the amendment moved by theLeader of the Opposition.
Mr.BELL (Darwin) [6.9].- If the Houseagrees to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), before it is given effect the Arbitration Court should be abolished. It is of no use to make laws if they are not to be observed because a certain section of the community is able to put up a. bluff and claims to decide for itself its terms of employment. We have tolerated this position too long, and this is largely responsible for the present industrial trouble. It would be quite improper for this Government to attempt to bring about a settlement between the shipowners and the wharf labourers while the latter are defying the awards of the Arbitration Court. Were action of that kind taken, I should imagine that the Arbitration Court would refuse to function any longer. If I were a judge of that court, and my decision were deliberately flouted by this Parliament, which is responsible for the law under which the court was established, I should certainly resign my position. The tight honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) made a most extraordinary speech. He deliberately said that we should come to terms with the wharf labourers, otherwise there was a possibility of revolution.
He said that every unionist in this Commonwealth would rally to the aid of the wharf labourers if we attempted to load vessels with free labour. I submit that if the views of Mr. Hughes are correct it would be cowardice on our part if we permitted this union to flout the awards of the Arbitration Court and to bring about industrial chaos in this country. Honorable members opposite have stated that industrial trouble at this stage, when Christmas is approaching, would cause many women and children to go hungry; but they forget that the action of the wharf labourers is bringing destitution to their fellow workers. There was an industrial dispute in Tasmania which was distinct from, but is now to an extent mixed up with, the overtime strike. Mr. Sheridan, a Labour member of the House of Assembly, moved the adjournment of the House to discuss it. Because of this dispute vessels carrying ore for the Electrolytic Zinc Company were declared black, and the wharf labourers in Melbourne refused to unload them. In consequence many honest workmen were thrown out of employment. Mr. Sheridan was reported as follows : -
Mr. Sheridan said it was serious to Tasmania when the State was trying to encourage all the secondary industries possible that a body outside the State dictated to the State as to what enterprise should continue, and what should not. It was a matter that should be brought before the Federal authorities, because if a vessel were declared “black” because other workers had loaded or unloaded her cargo, and she went to other ports in Australia and was declared “black” in those ports, he wanted to know who was going to run the country - Mr. Bruce and his Government or the Waterside Workers’ Federation. Was the Arbitration Court going to uphold its decision ? What were the courts of Australia thinking about that they could not enforce their decisions arrived at some years ago? He was speaking solely for the men employed at the zinc works, who were his constituents. A good number of those men recently had been re-employed by the Zinc Company after having been out of work for many months. Now they were naturally much concerned as to their prospects and the prospects of their wives and families. They had said they could not see why their livelihood should be taken away by the Waterside Workers’ Federation. They were just as good unionists as the members of the federation. If the mat ter had not already reached the Arbitration Court and the Federal Government, it should be brought under their notice.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Sheridan, who is at least as anxious to do what is in the best interests of the workers as is any other representative of Labour, better understands what the effect of this strike will be on Tasmanian industry and good, honest unionists, than do members cif the Labour party in this House, or the right honorable member for North Sydney, who has been for a long time out of contact with the waterside workers. Tasmania has always been more affected by the strikes of seamen and waterside workers than has any other State. Because of its separation by sea from the markets upon which its producers rely, its industries cannot continue when work on the waterfront is at a standstill. The Premier of Tasmania in reply to a deputation that waited upon him, and also when speaking in the State Parliament on the motion by Mr. Sheridan, expressed himself guardedly as was fitting in a man holding a responsible office, but he said that conditions in Tasmania would be intolerable if a few waterside workers could dictate how the industries of a country should be run. His Government, he said, had struggled to put the finances of the State on a sound foundation, but the State could not carry on unless its industries were maintained. He also expressed regret that means had not been devised for the settlement of the dispute by, arbitration. To-day the Arbitration Court appears to be powerless, and, because of the limitations imposed upon this Parliament by the Constitution, it is impossible for us to legislate for the control of all industries and the settlement of disputes. Mr. Lyons wisely said that the States and the Commonwealth should consult with a view to devising legislation for the creation of one body to control all industries. Although this Parliament’s appeal to the people for greater powers in industrial matters was refused, I think it is still possible for the States and the Commonwealth in agreement to devise means for unified control of industries that are nation wide. Honorable members opposite have said that the motion by the Prime Minister is premature and that further efforts should be made to settle the trouble. But the people in Tasmania who know what the effect of holding up the shipping will be have already sent messages to the Com monwealth Government asking it to take action. This is why Mr. Sheridan asked, “ Is the Waterside Workers, Federation or the Commonwealth Government to rule this country?”
– How did the Prime Minister treat Mr. Lyons in regard to this matter?
– It is obvious that Mr. Sheridan thinks that the Commonwealth Government and not the Waterside Workers’ Federation should rule. The Attorney-General pointed out that while awards of the Arbitration Court had been flouted occasionally by sections of workers, hundreds of unions are working peacefully under awards. If this Parliament or the Government ignores the court by intervening in disputes and giving to the strikers all that they ask, such action will be an invitation to loyal unionists to flout the court, and get what they want by threats and cajolery.- It is not the shipowners that will suffer by this hold-up. If not a ship should move, and not an industrial wheel revolve between ‘now and Christmas, they will still be able to enjoy the festive season; but thousands of workers in various industries throughout Australia will be unemployed arid miserable,. This dispute affects not, only the waterside workers, the seamen,’ and the men engaged in the electrolytic’ zinc works, but also miners on the west coast, good unionists, who are riot” asking 7s. lOd. an hour for overtime, but are doing au honest day’s work for a fair day’s pay. It affects also the men engaged in the primary industries whose early crops of potatoes will miss the market; and hundreds of others throughout Tasmania, as well as on the mainland. All this loss and misery is to be caused because a few men engaged on the water front think that they have only to start a fight and somebody will compromise with them on the ground that the wheels of industry must revolve. That is not the way to carry on industry; the flouting of awards and encouragement of the workers to disregard the court mean merely the postponement of an inevitable fight. Prevous disputes were settled by compromise, but ultimately the issue had to be fought out. The right honorable member for North Sydney completely misunderstands the position. He said that if a few free labourers went on to the wharfs there would be revolution immediately.
– He said nothing of the kind.
– He said that the workers of the Commonwealth would rally to the aid of the waterside workers and a tremendous upheaval would follow. If the Tasmanian workers only were concerned, the boats that are available to carry the produce of the island to mainland markets would be loaded, and the workmen of the Electrolytic Zinc Company would continue to load zinc into the ships. The wharf labourers in Tasmania have not so much influence with their fellow unionists as the right honorable member thinks. Work would proceed if the Tasmanian workers had the determining vote; but they realize that it is useless to load boats in the ports of the island <if they cannot be unloaded on arrivals at Melbourne or Sydney. For that reason it is the duty of the Common.wealth,Ito take any action that may be necessary to support and guard those who do the job when their fellows, who claim an exclusive right to the work, will not do it. I do not say that it was necessary for the, Prime Minister to submit this motion to-day, “but the time spent upon it has not been ‘entirely lost. He has ascertained the. Reeling of the House, and’ will know that he will have the support of the overwhelming majority of honorable members if he should deem it necessary to take action in support of honest workmen who are willing to work on the waterfront, and to keep the industries of the Commonwealth going. To those honorable members opposite who claim that the Commonwealth Government should not interfere, I repeat that honest unionists and the leader of the Government in Tasmania, who also is a good Labour man, have deliberately requested the Commonwealth Government to take action.
– The honorable member cannot place on Mr. Lyons the responsibility for having asked this Government to take action under the Crimes Act.
– I did not mention the Crimes Act. The Premier of Tasmania asked the Commonwealth Government to take such action as would ensure that shipping is not held up. He has not suggested what form that action should take; it is the duty of the Government to adopt whatever course it considers best, and I am certain that any policy it adopts will have the wholehearted support of the Premier of Tasmania, and of the workers generally in that State. It is all very well for honorable members who do not feel the effects of this industrial disturbances themselves and are far removed from its influences to protest against any action by this Government, but those in touch with the situation know better, and their views should be respected. I do not think that any one will suggest that I am prejudiced against the workers on the waterfront, and I disagree with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) when he says that the standard of intelligence amongst those doing the hard work in this country is very low.
– He did not say it was very low; he said that it might not be very high.
– In this case the workers are badly led. The Arbitration Court has been flouted, industry has been held up, and the only remedy suggested by those who claim to be the leaders of the Workers is that the Government should hold a conference with the strike leaders. I do not think that a settlement, is likely to be effected by such a course. Whenever the Arbitration Court is defied by even a small section of the workers, honorable members on the other side stand up and fight the battles of the strikers, and encourage them in their action. If the awards of our Arbitration Court are to be defied in this way, the sooner we abolish the present system the better. I stand for arbitration, most decidedly. Some honorable members of the Opposition say we should endeavour to settle international disputes by arbitration, yet they do not stand for the settlement of industrial disputes by arbitration in this country. If we have to fight this matter out, we may as well do it now, but it is only the leaders who wish to fight ; the honest workers themselves do not. So far as the motion before the House is concerned, I do not think there is any need for it. But because I shall support the Government in whatever action it may take to ensure that industry is kept ogoing, and to protect honest workmen who are anxious to carry on. I intend to support the motion.
.- I have listened with attention to the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell), who discussed this very important subject in a moderate way, from the governmental point of view. I think, however, he was mistaken, when he said that the right honorable member for North Sydney was entirely wrong in declaring that governmental intervention in this matter would mean the solidarity of unionism in opposition to the Government’s policy. The right honorable member for North Sydney was correct, up to a certain point, when he said that certain unions have a way of following their own counsels, and proceeding on their own line. Unions do mind their own business, and, up to a certain point, the waterside workers have been minding theirs. This dispute, so far, has been kept within the bounds immediately concerned; but the point that the right honorable member for North Sydney made, and made well, was that once the Commonwealth Government exercises its coercive powers, it will immediately arouse the whole force of unionism in opposition. There is not the slightest doubt that this is absolutely true. It is the honorable member for Darwin, rather than the right honorable member for North Sydney, who has a very poor appreciation of the real situation, when he contradicts a statement like that.
I return to the method followed by the Prime Minister when he introduced this subject to the consideration of the House. Politically - and I should like to use a stronger expression - the Prime Minister acted dishonestly when he came into this chamber this morning and asked leave to move a motion, the terms of which he did not disclose, and which he knew perfectly well would be opposed by every member on this side of the House if they were aware of its purport. They would have opposed it for a very good reason. There is on the statute-book of the Commonwealth an act entitled the Crimes Act of 1926, section 30j of which I beg leave to quote - 30J. (1) If at any time the GovernorGeneral is of opinion that there exists in
Australia a serious industrial disturbance prejudicing or threatening trade or commerce with other countries, or among the States, he may make a proclamation to that effect, which proclamation shall be and remain in operation for the purposes of this section until it is revoked.
Any person who, during the operation of such proclamation, takes part in or continues, or incites to, urges, aids, or encourages the taking part in, or continuance of, a lockout or strike -
I regret I am not permitted by the forms of the House to describe thatact as I should like to..
– Go on.
– No. The honorable member must not incite me to a breach of the Standing Orders, a, fault’ into which I am too readily inclined to fall without help. One is not permitted to reflect upon an act passed by Parliament, and therefore I shall leave to another occasion the voicing of the adjectival adornments I should like to make upon my description of this law. The act means that just precisely in such circumstances as have arisen on the waterfront, if this proclamation were made, any wharf labourer who, from the highest motives of comradeship and loyalty to his fellow-workers, was even to suggest refusing to accept service in the particular circumstances mentioned, would become liable to imprisonment for a year, and, if notborn in Australia, to deportation out of the country at the will of the Attorney-General. That is the section, and the only section, under which the Government can act in connexion with this strike, and that is the section which the Government had in contemplation when the Prime Minister cameinto this chamber, and, without disclosing the terms of his motion, endeavoured, by political subterfuge, to get the members of the Opposition to agree to its proposal.
I venture to inform the right honorable gentleman that there is not a member of the opposition who would agree to one step being taken along the road which the Prime Minister has indicated. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) pointed out in his speech this afternoon that, subsequent to the passing of the Crimes Act, a referendum of the people was taken on what was stated to be a question relating to maintenance of essential services. Members of the Opposition opposed the proposals submitted at that time, because they realized what was at the back of them, although apparently they were unexceptionable in form. They realized what was in. the mind of the Government when it proposed that, this amendment to the Constitution should be, made, .and how such a power, if granted, might be abused. The Labour party opposed the proposed . amendment, and the people rejected 1-it by an overwhelming majority. By so doing, I venture to say I ‘.that the people, at the first opportunity they had, passed judgment on the. : very section of the act which I have read to the House, and which the Prime -“Minister- now proposes to use. Let me –read the motion. It daa come- to light eventually, . and it might, as well have- been disclosed at the beginning -
That, in view of. the. great loss, unemployment, and general1 distress which would- inevitably result from the continuance of the serious industrial disturbance in the waterside industry, this House affirms its support of the Government in taking any action the Government thinks necessary, in co-operation with the Governments of the States, so far as possible, to maintain law and order and to ensure the continuance of services essential to the well-being of the Commonwealth.
– What is wrong with that?
– I shall tell the honor.able member- what. is. wrong, with it-, The amendment by the Leader, of the Opposition, is- couched in these- terms-
That alii words after- “-House “ he omitted with a view tq, inserting, the fallowing, words : “ is of opinion, that, consultation should, be immediately held by the. Government ‘with the various ‘State Governments affected’ and organizations, concerned, with, at view, to a. clear understanding pf the matters in issue and the settlement thereof by means of, conference and conciliation.”
That is my answer to the question of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) as to what is wrong with the motion. There is no reference in the motion to either conference or conciliation. I remind the honorable member further that the only legislative enactment which enables this Parliament, to deal with industrial matters is an act for conciliation and arbitration. And if for any reason this Government or this Parliament ever interferes in an industrial dispute they should invoke if not conciliation only at least conciliation arm-in-arm with the policy of arbitration. I ask the Prime Minister does he stand for conciliation or coercion ? If one judges by the terms of his motion, and the sinister- references in his speech to the Crimes Act, one concludes that there is no. room for conciliation in his attitude. There is .room only for coercion.
– The demeanour awd speech of the right honorable gentleman indicated that.
– It may be said that the Government does not intend- to employ the sect-ion which empowers it to act on those lines. ‘ It may also be said that it- is an assumption on my- part, and upon the part of others on this side of the House, to suggest that- they would do so.
– The right honorable gentleman said that he would use the Crimes Act.
– The right honorable gentleman at least uttered a very significant hint in that regard. If the right honorable gentleman, meant conconciliation, if he meant conference; there was- no need for secrecy. If he wanted to invoke the aid. of the Opposition so that conciliation, might- be used, surely there was a very easy and proper, method of doing it. The Leader of the Opposition would, have been, glad to. discuss thematter with the right, honorable gentleman,, and- glad to, take counsel, with, the members of his own party along- those lines. So far from taking the Leader of the. Opposition into, consultation beforehe came into this chamber,, however, the right honorable gentleman sought to advance his position and entrench himself before disclosing the motion that he proposed to move. It is not very likely that we should have agreed to such a motion. Why did the Governvernment request Parliament to pass it.
It is a new theory of government to come to Parliament for authority to administer a law of the country. If there is a breach, or if there is likely to be a breach of the law, has not the Government the machinery to see that the law is observed and that the malefactors, whoever they may be, arc suitably dealt with?
– Does not the procedure indicate that the Prime Minister proposes to take drastic action, and wishes to be fortified?
– It is the business of Parliament to pass laws, and it is the business of the Executive to give effect to those laws. But still there may be very good reasons of a political character why a government should come to Parliament to strengthen its hands in a matter of this kind, or at least why it should ask Parliament to pass such a motion. I suggest two possible reasons. One is in case the Government proposes to do something that is likely to outrage public opinion. That would induce the Government to submit the matter to Parliament, in order to use its majority to obtain the endorsement of both Houses. The method by which it introduced the question suggests that reason. The Government has given us its positive assurance that even the gentlemen supporting it on the ministerial side did not know what was to be introduced to the House this morning. The Prime Minister made rather a boast of that. I am quite prepared to believe that those honorable members rallied themselves at the rear of the Government, quite ready to do anything that it required of them -
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
J expect that the right honorable gentleman, when his cohorts massed themselves behind him when prayers were read this morning, was quite right to anticipate that they would do what was expected of them. The second reason why the Government might elect to come to’ this House for authority to administer its criminal law is that such a course might well be useful for the purposes of political propaganda. It has proved useful in the past. But has the right honorable gentleman reflected that he may be flying the kite too soon? Surely a few months hence would have served his purpose better! He has to consider this important aspect of the case; that the Government won the elections in 1925 on the hysterical cry that the nation was in danger from communism, and the Government wanted fuller powers. He should remember that the Government came to Parliament, and with a great flourish of trumpets, eventually passed its act. He has also to remember that that act has remained a dead letter ever since, effecting nothing and frightening nobody. He has finally to remember that the only thing done about that time was the abortive proceeding in connexion with the deportation of Australian citizens.
– That is not so.That was before the act was passed.
– Then it was not in connexion with the Crimes Act.
– It was theabortive proceedings in connexion with the deportation act that led to the introduction of this equally abortive legislation.
Did the Prime Minister feel that he wanted some whistling to be done to keep up his courage - that there was comfort in the applause of certain enthusiastic supporters? Did he feel that it would be as a balm to his soul to mark the rapturous approval of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), the enthusiastic member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), and other exponents of the policy of the mailed fist? Possibly he did. It was in those circumstances that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), who ought to have known better, attributed to the Leader of the Opposition the statement that we should get on with the consideration of the tariff and not waste our time with this comparativelyunimportant matter. I need hardly say that the Leader of the Opposition said nothing of the kind. The Leader of the Opposition grants, as we all do, the very grave importance of the industrial crisis; but I take it that, having heard the resolution proposed, he is confirmed in the view that he expressed before he heard it. It was rather curious for the Prime Minister, when he had a long and important programme of legislation, as he states, to shelve everything in order to move a futile but irritating resolution. I think that the objection of the Leader of the Opposition to that course was amply justified.
It is said that the waterside workers are disobedient to an award of the court. I do not pass judgment upon the merits or demerits of this case. I do not pass judgment upon anything about which I am not fully informed. I take only the points that I understand and the facts with which I am acquainted. I shall place on record, even at some length, the statements made by the representatives of the waterside workers - Mr. M. J. Morris, secretary, and Mr. W. Mather, president - as reported in the Melbourne Age on the 25;th November of the present year. This is; what they said -
The present dispute on the water front had its origin in the vexatious delays of the court in hearing our plaint, together with the studied ‘ hostility of the employers of waterside labour to every attempt that has been made during the past two years by both the court and the federation to reach an agreement in. keeping with the needs of the industry. In May, 1926, the federation met the shipowners in conference to discuss the present log, and was in the end told to go to the court. As a matter of tactics it is good business for the employers passively to resist round the table all claims for decent conditions in an industry. Thereby they create a deadlock in the conciliatory section of the Arbitration Act, leaving no constitutional alternative but to refer the matter into a court already nearly two years behind in an attempt to keep puce with the accumualting plaints of the industries over which it exercises jurisdiction. We have no doubt that many employers, and our own in particular, take full advantage of the protracted delay of the court in effecting adjustments, and derive consderable financial satisfaction as one of the results, but tactics such as these are not conducive to peace in an industry, and are the source of most of the ills surrounding the act. Eight from the inception of our negotiations, both with the employers and in our claims before the court, the federation has been earnestly desirous of effecting an agreement, and ‘in order that our case could be proceeded with, we have remedied every contentious act indulged in by branches, rendered desperate by vexatious delay and the observance of an award - they are wholly dissatisfied with.
The union’s advocate, by consent of the court, visited the branches concerned, and was instrumental in establishing full and complete compliance with the award. In May of this year he submitted these assurances to the court as being strictly in order. At that stage the court allowed the employers to submit argument in the matter of the pick-up dispute, despite the fact that they omitted all reference to this dispute in their list of affidavits filed before the court in March. The federation had then no alternative but to regard this latest move on the part of the employers as a deliberate attempt to prevent the court from functioning, and was surprised that the court’s consent, in view of the fact that the pick-up dispute dated back to 1921, and that in 1922, and again in 1924, Mr. Justice Powers had made awards covering the industry, whilst the one pick-up system a day existed, and was working satisfactorily in certain ports. And as late as January this year Judge Beeby delivered an interim award, while fully aware of the pick-up dispute, Earlier in the case he appealed to the employers to refrain from submitting ancient history as evidence in a case that demanded present-day reference and cooperative adjustments.
I have quoted that at some length, for it is informative. It indicates what is known as the one pick-up and two pickups per day. The system of the two pick-ups per day is apparently embodied in an award of the court, or recommendation of the board, but it has been found in practice to be so inequitable as to become a dead letter. The matter of the award has been before the court for reconsideration and amendment on various occasions, but the question of the pick-up has not been raised. It was accepted by mutual consent as a technical breach of the award, which shows that on occasions when the technical terms of an award are found to be unworkable both parties, as sensible men, drop the attempt to enforce them. But an attempt was made, it would appear, to enforce this unworkable provision as soon as the men made their. claim in regard to overtime. As a matter of fact, at Port Adelaide and Melbourne the shift system has been in operation for the last two years. At Port Adelaide and Melbourne the parties have arranged for a one pick-up period, and’ at Brisbane that practice has prevailed for some years past. Honorable members opposite have argued that the award of the court must be obeyed. Apparently they mean by that that it must be obeyed to the most minute detail. But various speakers in this debate- have indicated that it is almost, if not completely, impossible to secure precise obedience of the award by every member of such an organization as the Waterside Workers’ Federation. It has been mentioned that the federation has 20,000 members. It is a big organization; but the members of it are here to-day and gone to-morrow, for the employment is irregular, casual in its nature, and very arduous. It is quite tinlike employment in various other crafts and industries in which the same class of men is dealt with year after year. The personnel of this organization is constantly changing. The executive committee of the union has asserted its loyalty to the decisions of the arbitration court and has done its best - and a good best, too - to get its members to obey the awards of the court: but in individual cases it has not succeeded. It was too much to expect that it would succeed in every case.
– It was able to get all its members out on strike.
– Is the honorable member for Wilmot so ill-informed on this subject as to term this dispute a strike? Does he not realize that there is labour available and offering at the present time to do the work of the Steamshipowners’ Association? Does he not realize that that is not the question at issue at all? There is no strike. The Ship-owners’ Association issued an ultimatum that this work must be done by certain members of the union in a certain way or not at all. It is most extraordinary that certain honorable members of this chamber who disbelieve in and despise the Arbitration Court have argued to-day that its awards should be literally enforced. Those honorable members believe that our industrial arbitration legislation is farcial and unjust; but although they would gladly repeal it they are prepared to hang any worker who is guilty of even a technical breach of an award made under its provisions, and to prove their new-born reverence for the law, would with the utmost cordiality bring into operation another measure under which workers may be gaoled and deported. The question of the merits of this dispute should arise in this Parliament, if it does not elsewhere. The Prime Minister has removed the matter from the technical atmosphere of the court into the popular atmosphere of this representative assembly. Whatever may be said in court on technicalities of the law and a rigid adherence by judges to the precise terms of their awards, surely when the matter comes into this arena we are entitled to regard it from the human side.
With all due respect to gentlemen of my own profession, we should look at the question from the human as distinguished from the severely legal point of view. Although I must confess that I have no intimate knowledge of the details of this case, I know something of it. It is not difficult for me to visualize what happens when these men attend at the pick-up places once or twice a day. I can see men, who have wives and children dependent upon them for food and clothing, leaving their homes in the early hours of the morning, going to the pick-up place in the hope that they will be of the fortunate few to secure a job for that day or the next ; and I can see them turning away sadly on finding that their services are not required. I can see them returning expectantly to the pick-up place at a later hour in the day hunting after this poor boon of casual work, and once more retiring bitterly disappointed. One trouble about it all, is that they are prevented by the system from seeking employment elsewhere.
– It means that they must hang around the wharfs for the whole day.
– That is so. Although they are left workless, they do not see their homes from morning to night. Cannot honorable members opposite see the human side of that? The burden and expense that it imposes upon them is heavy. The overtime aspect was referred to earlier in the day by the honorable member for Dalley, when he spoke to the motion - the motion which, in its reference to unemployment, I should like to refer to as Pecksniffian hyprocisy, but as I should not be allowed to describe it so I shall not do it. Honorable members opposite have shown much solicitude for workers who are left without employment, but do they not realize that one of the objects of these men in refusing to work overtime is to ensure that their comrades, who are now walking the streets, may be able to obtain a share of the work? The more overtime a few of these men work, the less employment there is for the bulk of them. Waterside workers have been obliged at times to work for 30 hours on end. One can well understand that” in their hectic anxiety to earn a little money, so that they shall not be left in want if they should not obtain employment a week or so later, they are reluctant to lay down the instruments of their toil, however much they may feel like doing it. In consequence of this, the ship-owners feel, it would appear, that they can safely exploit these workers to the last ounce of their physical strength and throw them on the scrap heap as unemployed as soon as their work is accomplished. Does that fact make no appeal to honorable members opposite? It is an aspect that must be considered.
It has been said that the judges of the Arbitration- Court, whom I have no desire to criticize adversely, have accepted it as an axiom that they will not hear claims for the variation of awards which are being disobeyed in any respect. But let us suppose that ‘an. award has been current for two years; that the nien have been striving for twelve or eighteen months to secure a reconsideration or variation of it, if not a completely new award, and that they have become restive and angry at the incessant delays and obvious injustices to which they have been subjected and which the judges may be prepared to admit. Is it to be expected that such a condition can be borne indefinitely? I am afraid that some of our judges are inclined to lose sight of the main element of their jurisdiction, which is conciliation and not arbitration. Are they not taking a rather academic view of their duties when they decide that to preserve the dignity of the court they will not hear any new’ claims while there is any measure of disobedience to an existing award. I suggest to those distinguished gentlemen that they may have to shed some dignity in dealing with industrial affairs, and depart a little from the legal tradition when they are satisfied that an injustice is being done. If they are so satisfied I suggest that they should not be constrained by a consideration of whether technically there is breach of an award. If it is admitted by common consent the defect ought to be amended.
I should like to say a word or two -to these thick-and-thin upholders of the law. I myself am a humble worker in that domain, and- of that I am not ashamed, and I sometimes have to speak in defence of a profession which has given to the world so many eminent and able men in this country and elsewhere. I have nothing to say about the profession beyond that, but I have something to say to these gentlemen to whom I have referred as thick-an-thin upholders of the law. I should like to remind them, and the Attorney-General, who is is inclined to be finnicky in his insistence upon the literal interpretation of an award, that there is a principle known to equity and to lawyers that one must go into court with clean hands ; and although in fact, on legal grounds, one’s position may be unassailable on grounds of equity it may be quite the reverse. It is fortunate that in British jurisprudence equity runs side by side with law. If a man who is not above chicanery invokes the aid of the law court and contends that by the strict letter he is entitled to his pound of flesh, he may get his answer from the court in terms of equity. When one goes to the court one must go with clean hands, and although one may have made out a case technically, it may mean a barren judgment if merit is lacking. Let the right honorable gentleman consider the merits of this case and the motive of this corporation which controls shipping, with the exception of our own ships whose men are working and whose holds are being filled. That may be one of the causes which has moved this Government to action, because the longer our ships are working the greater triumph for the Commonwealth utility, and the greater condemnation of the Government’s conception of private enterprise. I advise the Government to go to these gentlemen of private enterprise, and ask them are they satisfied that they have approached this question with clean hands, and on whom is the fight being waged? These gentlemen who stand’ for principle! What is their principle? It is that they have bargained, fought, and used all wealth at their disposal to get out of the men everything they can in pounds, shillings- and. pence. One would suppose that, the issue, to listen to- the Prime Minister, was that, if these men did not continue to. work on the terms hud down by the employer; then red min would’ stalk through the land. Has it ever occurred to him to consider the other j angle, that to prevent red ruin stalking through, the land some consideration, might be given to the point of view of the men, and some concession made to them? Criminal law is being invoked to secure to the ship-owners in this; country the monetary award which through the arbitration and other courts they have been able to wring from the men. That is the principle involved when plainly stated.
I would point out that not always- is the law literally obeyed and administered. One or two cases occur to my mind in which, for various reasons, there has been some deflection from the’ inexorable course of British justice,.. Fiat justitia, rual coelum, ” Let justice be done though the heavens fall.” One case occurs to my mind at the moment, concerning a former member of this Parliament - J. K. McDougall,, once the honorable member for Wannon - and. an honorable man. I remember how he was assailed and insulted during the war. His assailants were arraigned before the court,, and the case proved, but judge and jury alike made it perfectly obvious from the beginning that, if a verdict of guilty had to be recorded’, as it was, the forms of the law should be subordinated to war hysteria and the assailants allowed to go scot free. Not always is this inexorable law inexorably administered. Other cases might be quoted in which in legislation, as in administration, concessions have been made to particular interests. Believe me, the merits- of the case in many qf these instances are infinitely less than the merits of the case of these . men who are concerned in the motion now before the House.
I invite the Prime Minister to- consider still the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, and to ask himself is it not more a matter for conciliation than, for coercion, and has- he not acted inadvisedly in> reviving the memory of the Crimes Act, which some of” us had at least half forgotten. I ask him to consider whether it would1 not be- infinitely better that the men who understand the merits of this dispute should meet, discuss and decide it. There may be inconvenience and loss arising out of the strike of the waterside workers, but there have been inconvenience and’ loss: arising out of every industrial effort ever made by reformers ti> better the conditions of their fellowworkers.. For the inconvenience that they have caused’ and the loss that they- have imposed upon others,, nien have suffered and some have died, but their names are imperishable), and; the principles for which they have fought and. the good that they have done have1 been immeasurably greater in the march of history than the monetary loss- suffered by a few- individuals at the time. I have said before, and I repeat, that we cannot deal with this dispute by any process of coercion. It has been tried in the past, and has failed’. It is discredited.. If it- is tried to-day it will fail more- ignominiously than ever before) because the temper of the Australian, his standard of education, and his standard of li»ving are such that the Government may look in vain to the democracy of. Australia for any policy which seeks, to bind men’s, minds or limit their legitimate endeavour through the medium of the criminal law.
.- We have seldom had before this House a more- momentous motion than that under discussion. It is essential that it should be discussed without heat, anil with care that nothing- should be said that may possibly set a spark to the magazine and cause an industrial explosion greater than any that we have had previously. None of us can look back over the last few years without realizing to the full what it will mean if this country is thrown into a state of industrial upheaval such, as is likely to-day. The right honorable member for North Syd.ney (Mr., Hughes ),. when speaking to-day, traced back the- history of strikes for a number of years, but it is. rather unfortunate that he- did. not deal’, with earlier years.. The most recent strike that he alluded to - which he said he settled and undoubtedly he did - was the coal strike. We know the result of his compromise in that instance, and the agreement that was made with the coal-miners for a continuance of industrial peace, but that agreement was looked upon by them as a sign of weakness on the part of the employers, and it was not long before it was set aside, and other conditions asked for. The Prime Minister has asked us to express our confidence in him. Does any honorable member in this House honestly think that the Prime Minister, or the Ministry, has any wish other than to avert this disastrous upheaval? We have not forgotten the issue of the last election. We see the answer to the appeal to the constituencies in ‘ the sparsely-ocupied benches of the Opposition. I say that had not the Prime Minister acted as he did to-day, he would have proved himself recreant to the trust reposed in him at the last general election. We have been told that he should have taken the Leader of the Opposition into his confidence, and informed him of the decision of the Government. We have to look back only a little while in the history of strikes in Australia to see what attitude was adopted by a Labour Premier when the transport unions were causing trouble in Queensland. The following statement was made by the Hon. W. McCormack, the Premier of that State on the 25th August last. This is the Hansard report -
Action of Railway Employees at Innisfail.
The Premier (Hon. W. McCormack, Cairns). -I desire the permission of the House to make a statement.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the Premier be allowed to make a statement ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
The Premier. - Arising out of the unfortunate industrial trouble at Innisfail, I desire to say that evidently local members of the Australian Railway Union at Innisfail, supported by their executive officers in Brisbane, are determined to challenge the authority of the Commissioner for Railways. This compels me, as the head of the Government, to make the position clear both to the public and to the railway employees throughout the State. The policy of holding up a part of the railway service must, in a few days, involve the whole railway system, and, should this unfortunately occur, much damage will result to the whole community. The Government are determined that the instructions of the Commissioner for Railways must be carried out by the railway employees.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
The Premier. - Persistence by the Australian Railways Union in its present policy of defying those instructions can only bring disaster to all concerned.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Upon the completion of that statement the House adjourned. There had been no previous intimation of the Premier’s intention, but he was not refused leave to make a statement, as the Prime Minister was to-day. I am convinced that the right honorable gentleman, in putting the position before the House to-day, acted in the best interests of industrial peace. Although the Government will receive from the House an expression of confidence, and authority to do as it thinks fit in this crisis, we all are confident that this power will not be abused.
– We are not.
– Honorable members opposite should haveconfidence that the Government will not abuse its power, but will do its utmost to bring about industrial peace. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) mentioned various strikes up to the time of the big coal strike. It is unfortunate that he did not follow industrial history a little further, because since the days of which he spoke we have received a liberal education in these matters. We now have a better knowledge of the men who engineer these troubles, and there is throughout the country a clearer realization of what they intend. I remember well the strike of 1917, and I hope we shall never see its like again. No effort should be spared to avert a repetition of such a catastrophe.
Mr.Fenton. - It would be easy to start a conflagration on a huge scale.
– Undoubtedly it would be easy, but I do not think that we shall see another upheaval of the same magnitude, because” history has proved that general strikes fail. In every British community there is still a sufficient leaven of the old loyalty to ensure that when law and order and constitutional government are threatened, the majority of the people will stand firm, as they did in Australia in 1917, at the time of the shipping strike two years ago, and during the big general strike in Great Britain last year, and will show in the most emphatic way their opinion of the men who are bent upon fomenting industrial trouble. It is significant that the latest dispute has arisen with one of the transport unions. The dominant power of Bolshevik Russia is more in evidence in those unions than in any others. I reached England just after the general strike had failed, but the unfortunate coal strike was continued, and I saw throughout Great Britain thousands of unemployed in towns that were not mining centres, but whose industries were dependent upon coal supplies. One million workers were thrown upon the labour market in a country which already had over 1,000,000 unemployed. When the strike failed, as every sensible person knew it would, the secretary of the coalminers, Mr. J. A. Cook, went to Moscow and was feted and banqueted because of the good work he had done in promoting industrial unrest in England. Of the £1,400,000 subscribed to keep the strike going, over £1,000,000 was sent from Russia. The secretaries of many of the transport unions in Australia have been delegates to Moscow, and it is significant that, excluding the coalminers, very few big strikes occur in Australia that are not organized by one or other of those unions. In 1922 a strike was organized by the Australian Workers’ Union, than which no union in Australia had benefited more by arbitration. On a previous occasion I stated to the House fully the advantages that had accrued to that union from arbitration, and I shall not repeat them; but it was realized at the conclusion of the strike that the leaders of the union had failed to get thesupport they had expected from the rank and file. Mr. Boote, the editor of The Worker, made the most pregnant statement that whereas hitherto he had always believed that the leaders were holding the men back, the strike had proved that the men were not industrial fighters, and it remained for the leaders to educate them up to their own advanced standards.
– Have the leaders of. the Australian Workers Union been to Mos cow? Have Morris and Arthur Turley been Moscow delegates?
– I did not say they have. I referred to the secretaries of transport unions. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), in explaining the difference between an arbitration court and an equity court, said that in the latter the successful litigants must have on their side equity as well as law. I remind the honorable member that the primary producers have had very little equity in the past, and they are not likely to get it in the future unless their interests are watched by the men who represent them in this Parliament. I believe there is not one honorable member who does not earnestly wish that this trouble may be settled, and I urge honorable members on both sides to do or say nothing that may cause it to spread. Let us realize the seriousness of the position. Any man in this House, or out of it, who does anything to cause the strike to extend, is worse than a criminal. I hope that within the next few days the strike will be settled; but if it should extend the Government will be recreant to the trust reposed in it by the electors if it does not see equity done not only to the producer but also to the general public.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat expressed surprise that members of the Opposition should refuse leave to the Prime Minister to move a motion before they knew its import. The right honorable gentleman came into the Chamber with a draft of his motion, and surely the fair and courteous course would have been for him to hand to the Leader of the Opposition a copy so that he might consider it, and let the Government know his decision. I propose at the outset of my remarks to read from the Labour Daily an explanation of the overtime strike -
It would seem that many people within the Commonwealth are impressed with the idea that the refusal of the watersiders to work overtime is a means of creating unemployment. This is not so. On the contrary, it means that actually more men are engaged in honest toil. With the practice of overtime during hours not essential to expeditious work, a number of the union members were in the happy position of securing this work, while others received but a small share. Under the present proposals of the federation nearly every member will find employment, with a better distribution of the work to all concerned. The no-overtime refusal will not penalize any of the workers. All the men engaged in transport services will carry on just as usual. Therefore, the Waterside Workers’ Federation is to he complimented on the methods being pursued to obtain redress.
I stress this concluding passage for the edification of the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) -
As far as Tasmania is concerned, there is no embargo on shipping to that island State. Every assistance was being given to maintain a regular service with that State, and Tasmania should not be prejudiced in the slightest.
The honorable member for the most part dealt with affairs as they occurred at Risdon, the port from which the electrolytic products are shipped. There the waterside workers claimed the right to load the ships. Does the honorable member not know that it is safer for the crew which mans a ship, and forthe passengers who travel on it, that the vessel should be loaded by men who know how t he work should be done? It is a wellknown fact that many ships have been lost, and many lives also, through ships, going to. sea badly loaded. The waterside workers are only asking for something which is right. In reference to the statement attributed to Mr. Sheridan, I may say that I know that gentleman better than does the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell). I have been associated with him in election campaigns. I did not say that the honorable member misquoted Mr. Sheridan, or left out something which he said. I said that I should like to know whether he was quoting from a verbatim report of Mr. Sheridan’s remarks, because theHobart Mercury is not likely to publish anything which might be favorable to the workers who are fighting for their rights. I now wish to quote something else from the Melbourne Age of the 29th of this month. That paper cannot be said to be favorable to the Labour party, and in quoting it, I must be given credit for doing what is fair. Dealing with the subject that we are now discussing, the paper says -
Is it possible at this hour to save Australia from a calamitous industrial upheaval? Swift and ominous developments arising out of the waterfront dispute make that the question of supreme and immediate importance…..
The outlook is bad, but it is not yet hopeless. Those who are egging on either one side or the other to put threats into execution and make this a “ trial of strength “ are at present doing the greatest disservice to the Commonwealth. Others by their inaction arc failing to realize both their opportunity and their responsibility. When the Prime Minister, replying to an appeal from a Labour Premier for intervention, despatched a telegram so obviously making political capital out of the situation he disappointed a great many people. Mr. Bruce cynically advised Mr. Lyons to use his own influence with the union, and flippantly suggested that the Premier of Tasmania initiate prosecutions under the Commonwealth Arbitration or Crimes Act. Upon reflection the Prime Minister will see that this is not the attitude of a statesman in the face of a national crisis. Not only Mr. Lyons, but the great majority of the people look to the Leader of the Federal Government for timely intervention….Therefore it is undoubtedly a question for the National Executive and the time for action is to-day. Excluding all considerations respecting the merits of the dispute, is the Federal Government prepared to sit by, apparently unconcerned, and see the nation being drawn unwillingly into industrial turmoil ? Mr. Bruce may be convinced that the waterside workers are entirely wrong, but does that forbid him from taking some action in -the hope of saving from the results of wrong-doing by waterside unionists scores of thousands of other workers who may sooner or later be affected? If the court cannot or will not intervene, there is nothing to prevent independent mediation, and it is a reproach to our political leaders that the present critical stage should have been reached without even a suggestion on behalf of peace. Those who see the position clearly will realize that developments have submerged all minor issues between ship-owners and waterside workers, and raised the one vital question - Is Australia to be cursed with another period of bitter class war ?
When I mentioned this article to the Leader of the Opposition during the refreshment interval, he said that he had not read the paper, and had not seen the article. Therefore, what follows is particularly interesting. The article continues -
Surely in face of that imminent danger thePrime Minister has something better to suggest than that a State Premier should prosecuteso me union defaulters. Acting alone or in association with the Leader of. the Opposition. he can set in motion plans for bringing theparties together, and in the meantime, speakingin the name of Australiahe can call upon both sides to hold threats in abeyance-. Action in that direction to-day may yet. save the situation. The. people look to Mr. Bruce to take the lead.
The Prime Minister has taken sides in this dispute, and his supporters cannot deny it. It is tragic that, in a situation like this, the Prime Minister should make use of the language which he used this afternoon. His reference to the Crimes Act is a direct threat to the people concerned in this dispute. If he wished to bc fair, he could have quoted what the waterside workers had to say about the dispute. If he wished the House to arrive at an amicable solution of the trouble, he should have quoted both sides of the case. When the Prime Minister takes one side only in a dispute like this, it shows to which side he leans, and places himself in- a most invidious position. This trouble has been called a strike, but I say that it is a lockout. If the men worked overtime they would prevent a large number of their comrades from getting any work at all. I propose to make a further quotation, and I am doing so for the purpose of placing on record in ilansard statements which show that the people are not really in accord with the attitude being taken up by the Government -
Sir William Clarkson, a member of tlie Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board, said yesterday that the Australian Commonwealth
Line hud not refused to recognize the shipowners’ ultimatum to the waterside workers. Thu hoard had never boon a party to the ultimatum, hence it could not be accused of having repudiated it.
As the Line never required an afternoon pick-up to work its vessels, it was not concerned with the vital cause of the no-overtime strike. Thu members of the Waterside Workers’ Federation had signified their willingness to work overtime on the Australian Commonwealth Line’s steamers, at award rates, and the work would continue under those conditions.
There is no such thing as an afternoon pick-up on the Commonwealth ships. I do not know whether the Attorney-General made a mistake when he said that certain waterside workers were complaining about the number of bags of wheat to be placed in the slings; but 1 have studied the records of some of the cases which have been brought before the Arbitration Court, and J can see no mention of such a complaint. I did see, however, something about the workers at Port Adelaide making a claim in respect of the number of sleepers to be hauled up at once, and it is possible that the Attorney-General confused the two things. Honorable members should know that long sleepers are very awkwrd things to handle, and I can understand the waterside workers asking for lighter loads, particularly if there was any difficulty about the operation of the crane or the winch. I propose to read also a resolution carried by the waterside workers at Brisbane. The resolution is taken from the Daily Standard, of the 27th November, 1927. The committee discussed the situation from all angles, and passed the following resolution -
That this committee of management., after fully considering thu ultimatum from the shipowners, is of opinion that the terms for normal resumption as requested by the shipowners are impossible, us the normal resumption, as demanded by them and previously insisted on by Mr. Justice Beeby, includes the reversion back to two pick-ups a day, this latter request being contrary to the unanimous decision of our September conference and the committee of management we, therefore, accept the threat of the employers to create a lockout of all shipping, and advise our branches to carry out our instructions without fail.
I shall read from a telegram which appeared in to-day’s Sydney Guardian -
There is not likely to be any interruption of shipping services between Tasmania and the mainland, said Tasmanian Chief Secretary Guy, before returning to Tasmania this afternoon. Waterside workers have agreed to remove all restrictions and will work on Tasmanian trading vessels.
The prognostications of the ^Honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) have not been borne out by the news that has come to hand. Mr. Guy is a member of the Tasmanian Labour Ministry, and he is one of the most level-headed members of that Parliament. He has been to Melbourne in order to arrange transport facilities between Tasmania and the mainland, and he appears to be perfectly satisfied with the result. This Government always seems to mess up anything that it undertakes in connexion with industrial matters. It has certainly messed things up this time. Nothing could inflame the minds of the workers, both those directly and those indirectly concerned, more than the speech which was delivered by the Prime Minister to-day. Had the right honorable gentleman exercized a ‘ spirit of reasonableness and joined with the Leader of the Opposition in the endeavour to formulate a satisfactory resolution for submission to this House, it would have been carried unanimously. It could have embodied a plan of action that would have brought about a cessation of hostilities in this dispute. This House could then have engaged in a work of peace. The Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition could have absented themselves from Parliament, met the ship-owners and the unionists, consulted the ‘State Premiers, and employed in every possible way the spirit of conciliation and arbitration. I feel confident that, had that happened, they would have achieved a splendid result. But if the Leader of the Government or any other person throws down the gauntlet and provokes ill-feeling, he does something that is inimical to the best interests of the country. There is an old saying that “fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” and we have had an excellent exemplification of it to-day. One of the shrewdest thrusts aimed at .the Prime Minister to-day was that by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), who said that had. he been Prime Minister, and had behind him a person possessing the knowledge and talents of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) he certainly would have selected him to set about rectifying the present position. I believe tha? that course would have been a wise one. While Ave differ occasionally from the views held by the right honorable member for North Sydney,
Ave must concede that he knows a great deal about the men engaged on our waterfront. The contribution of the right honorable gentleman this afternoon Avas given out of a very full know.ledge of the industry. There is not another man in the House who understands the position as clearly as he does. I am not in the humour to-night to distribute bouquets, but I am confident that if the right honorable member for North Sydney had been Prime Minister when this dispute arose, he would not hav* been in this chamber to-night. He would have been in the centre of activities, endeavouring to bring together ship-owner and waterfront worker, and to effect an amicable solution of the difficulty. It has been said in this chamber that the water.side workers and the coal-miners cause more industrial trouble in Australia than do all the other trade unionists put together. That is perfectly true, but both those classes of men follow occupations that are not too attractive. They haTe put up with a great deal, and my sympathy goes out to them. Honorable members opposite have quoted the exceptional wages that are occasionally earned by individual members of the Waterside Workers’ Federation. That is brought about largely by the method of engagement, against which they have fought. It is their desire that there should be a better distribution of earnings, in order that their less fortunate comrades may obtain the wherewithal to keep themselves and their families. I heartily condemn the Prime Minister for his attitude. Apparently the right honorable member considers that, no matter what action he may take, his cohorts will rally round him and obey his behests. Do honorable members opposite consider that they are a fit jury to sit in judgment on this case? Even the honorable member for North Sydney admitted that he did not know ali the facts of the case. I trust that this Parliament will be actuated by a more just spirit, and that it will endeavour to bring about that peace which is so desirable, especially at this season of the year. Let us set aside our political animosity for the time being, and, in the interests of the community generally, endeavour earnestly io effect a satisfactory solution of this unfortunate dispute.
– I commend the Government for the temperate way in which it has presented this motion to the House. Not one word has been uttered by the Prime Minister, or by succeeding speakers on this side, to which exception can be taken by any unionists in Australia. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) regaled us Avith a panegyric on justice, with which no one disagrees, and which had nothing whatever to do with the subject under debate. The honorable member denounced coercion, and there again his remarks were entirely beside the question, because there has not been the slightest suggestion that the Government contemplates the use of coercion. Again, the honorable member referred to the human side of justice, and expended his time on a good deal of sob-stuff about the humanity which should temper the administration of the law. We all agree that the law should be administered with justice and humanity. We also agree that it is to the honour of the judges of Australia that they do administer the law in a human way, not only in the Arbitration Court, but in every other jurisdiction. The remarks of the honorable member were more or less a reflection upon our judiciary. He should have known - and if he did know he was deliberately misleading the House - that it is specifically laid down in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act that the judges shall administer the law in the way he suggests. I submit that !he honorable member did know. Section 35 of that act reads: - in tlie hearing and determination of every industrial dispute, and in exercising any duties or powers or by virtue of this act, the Court or the Chief Justice shall act according to equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities or legal forms, and shall not be bound by a.ny rules of evidence, but may inform its or his mind on any matter in such manner as it or he thinks just.
That is the procedure followed by the judges of our Arbitration Court. The remarks of the honorable member for Batman were therefore entirely supernous. The honorable member also referred to the pick-up system, and quoted the published remarks of Mr. Morris, the secretary of the union. He rather skipped Mr. Morris’s reference to the pick-up system, which Mr. Morris said was ancient history. It is, and it cannot be claimed at this stage that it was brought up by the owners as a new issue. Like the poor, it has always been with us. The honorable member, in his airy persiflage said that this motion was being introduced for political purposes, and asked whether the Government proposed to make an issue of it at the next elections. I remind him of what occurred prior to the last elections. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) challenged the Prime Minister to go to the country on a similar question, and there was not a more chagrined and disappointed body of men in the whole of Australian than the
Leader of the Opposition and his supporters when the Prime Minister took up the gauntlet, fought the election on that issue, and won by a very substantial majority.
Obviously the Opposition were caught unawares when dealing with this motion. They spoke in various voice, the first three speakers expressing entirely different views. The Leader of the Oppo:sition spent his time, as did the honorable member for Batman, in inveighing against the Prime Minister for not stating what was in the motion ; but before many moments had passed the Prime Minister had told the House what was in the motion. Yet the honorable portion of his time in describing a fanciful injustice under which he claimed that the House was suffering, because the motion was not submitted in the first place. I presume that honorable members opposite have to talk against the Government; that is the reason why the subject was laboured. The burden of the song by the Leader of the Opposition was that great delay had occurred in the Arbitration Court hearing of the waterside workers’ claims. But that is not so. .Judge Beeby had the matter before him in February, March and October of this year. There has been no injustice through delay. The honorable member for Dalley realized that there was no weight in that argument, so he sang a song about injustices in respect of overtime. On the 24th March of this year Judge Beeby conceded the union large increases in pay for overtime work. The members of the union are working overtime to-night on a vessel of the Australian Commonwealth Line. So all the talk of the honorable member for Dalley about them being deprived of legitimate rights in that regard falls to the ground. Only a few weeks ago the union issued an ultimatum to the ship-owners to the effect that after a certain date its members did not intend to work overtime. The ship-owners, acting within their rights, thereupon intimated that from that time they would expect the award of. the court to be observed in its entirety, as they were entitled to do so. The. honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who is known to be a keen and capable fighter, realized that there was nothing very much in either the delay or overtime arguments, so he broke some new ground. He conceded that the men had been guilty of a technical breach of the award. Such an admission coming from anhonorable member who, as a rule, concedes nothing to his opponents, may be taken to mean that there was a flagrant and outrageous breach of the award.. The honorable member based his plea on conciliation. But does he seriously suggest that conciliation would be of any use with men of this class? These men do not appreciate conciliatory methods. Judge Beeby knew that, for when he was asked to deal with their claim for preference to unionists, he refused to do so until they had given him guarantees that they would cease their irritation strike tactics. Why did he demand guarantees. It was because he knew that the union was adopting illegitimate means to enforce its demands. Its local rules were nothing more nor less than an infringement of the awards of the court. Will any honorable member say that the judge was wrong in asking for these guarantees? It was a perfectly fair thing for him to do. Had any honorable member opposite been in his position I believe that he would have made similar demands. If these men agree to adopt arbitration methods they should abide by the result. The union was not prepared to give the judge the guarantees that he sought, although he asked for them on three or four occasions. He went so far as one hearing as to say that the union was trifling with the court. Consequently I suggest we should not be expected to waste much sympathy on the men. In October of this year the Brisbane branch of the union carried the following motion : -
That this federation approach the court to see if it will hear its plaint without withdrawing the one “pick-up”; that if refused the federation adopt a policy of irritation along the lines laid down previously by the committee of management in refusing to work overtime, to bring about preference to members of the federation and one “ pick-up “ a day to all branches who desire it; the said irritation policy shall be varied to suit various branches if required.
– A good deal has happened since then.
– Both the Nationalist and , Labour parties stand for the settlement of industrial disputes by arbitration. It is a fair thing that parties which approach the court to settle their disputes should agree to abide by its decisions. But this union will not do so.
– The honorable member is spiteful.
– I am not. I am merely stating the case as I see it, as plainly as I can. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) referred with pride to the attitude that the High Court judges adopted in certain proceedings with respect to Messrs. Walsh and Johnson, and said that we could trust our judiciary. I agree with him. But why is he not prepared to trust Judge Beeby and the other judges of the Arbitration Court? Simply because for the time being it does not suit him to do so. I submit that not only our High Court judges, but all our judges, may be trusted to deal fairly with every matter that comes before them. The honorable member criticized the Government and the Prime Minister for not making greater efforts to settle this dispute by conciliation, but the fact that stares us in the face is that the waterside workers do not want conciliation. The Prime Minister has shown his bona fides in this matter, for when the last waterside trouble occurred representations were made to him to close a free labour bureau which was worked by returned soldiers, and which was supposed to be hindering a settlement of the dispute. The right honorable gentleman had the bureau closed, and the Government, together with the State Government and the ship-owners, contributed to a fund to compensate the 60 odd returned men who were concerned in the matter. What was the result?
– The honorable member should cut out this kind of tiling.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie and others like him mistook the generous action of the Prime Minister for fear. They appear all too frequently to regard generosity as fear. The Prime Minister has administered the industrial laws of this country with a singular regard for the workers, and absolute impartiality. He has always shown a most conciliatory spirit. and he has done and is prepared still to do it in this case. Honorable members opposite have bitterly complained about the terms of the motion which is before us. Let me read the motion. It is as follows : -
That in view of the great loss unemployment and general distress which will inevitably result from the continuance of the serious industrial disturbance in the waterside industry -
Surely no honorable member can cavil at that. It is in the interests of the nation that industrial disturbances should be terminated as speedily as possible. The motion proceeds -
This House affirms its support of the Government.
Honorable members on this side of the chamber were elected to support the” Government, but the Government has every right to expect support from all sides of the House on this question The motion continues - in taking any action the Government thinks necessary.
What is wrong with that? Is not the Government entitled to take any action that it thinks necessary? So far, honorable members opposite have dodged that portion of the motion. It continues-^
The Government thinks necessary, in cooperation with the Governments of the States so far as possible -
Honorable members opposite have said that Mr. Hogan, the Labour Premier of Victoria, was thinking of conciliatory measures. The motion provides that the Federal Government shall co-operate with the Premier of that State. Have not honorable members realized that? They know perfectly well that no conciliatory steps are being taken, because letters from the officials of the union have been quoted to-day to the effect that they refuse any mediation and will not submit the dispute even to the disputes committee of the Trades Hall. The motion continues: “.to maintain law and order.” Is not the Government entitled to maintain law and order? What would honorable members opposite have the Government do otherwise? Surely we cannot have mob rule in this country. The motion continues : and to ensure the continuance of services essential to the well-being of the Commonwealth.
If - any institution in this country should ensure the continuance of such services, it is the Commonwealth Government. Not o’nly are the ship-owners and the unionists concerned in this dispute, but the great mass of the people of this country are greatly affected by it. Will the ravages of this dispute affect only the unionists and ship-owners? Certainly not. The holding up of shipping means great loss and inconvenience to the tradespeople and the public generally who are unable to get goods. The people look to the Government and its supporters to protect them, and if they failed to act they would be poltroons and cowards. Australia has seen Premiers recreant to their trust. We have seen men bow the knee to Baal. The Premier of Queensland, Mr. McCormack, eventually had to adopt the policy that is provided in this motion.
– He tried conciliation.
- Mr. McCormack and the honorable member for Dalley are mainly responsible for the class hatred that exists in Queensland and, to some extent, in the other States. But Mr. McCormack eventually found his backbone. It was “ night or Blucher “ with him. If he had not acted, the Frankenstein which he built up would have destroyed him. In the end he made a declaration in terms almost identical with those of the motion. Honorable members opposite did not object to that. The Government, in bringing forward this motion, has acted as. u government should. A grave and perilous state of unrest exists in this country, and if the Government did not give a lead to the people, who would? Had it not acted, the people would rightly have complained that it was recreant to its trust. The Prime Minister has played the part of a statesman in introducing this motion, and showing the people where the Government stands. It stands, not for the owners nor the unions, but for a fair deal to both parties, and in particular to the great mass of the people. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition reads -
That all the words after “ House “ be omitted, with a view to inserting the following words : - “ is of opinion that consultation should be immediately held by the Government with the various State Governments affected and organizations with a view to a clear understanding of the matters in issue and the settlement thereof by means of conference and conciliation..”
– What is wrong with that?.
– There is nothing wrong with it up to a point. The first portion of it is already included in the Government’s motion. It reads : “ that consultation should be immediately held by the Government with the various State governments affected.” If Mr. Hogan, the Labour Premier of Victoria, is taking steps to settle this dispute, then the Federal Government will co-operate with him. Consultation will not get us very far. The Labour party proposes to consult, but the Government proposes to act. The next portion of the amendment is feeble and weak. It refers to “ a clear understanding.” Surely that can be obtained without going to the trouble of holding a conference. The last portion of the amendment reads : “ the settlement thereof by means of conference and conciliation.” This union has at its command all the machinery that it requires to effect these purposes. Both parties agree that when an industrial dispute occurs it should be referred to an independent and impartial tribunal. That is the law of the land to-day. The union can take advantage of that law if it likes; but it declines to do so. When it adopts a recalcitrant attitude, the Government is justified in taking a firm stand in the interests of the great mass of the people who have returned it to power.
.- Apparently the honorable member who has resumed his seat has missed his avocation. He should have been a bull-fighter in Spain. We are indebted to the honorable member for Batman for his clear exposition of what the motion connotes. He has laid bare what is in the mind of the Government. Many honorable members say that they are not au fait with the merits of the dispute. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has described the “pick-ups” and the disabilities of men dependent on casual work on the waterfront. If there are two “ pick-ups “ a day, much of the time of a waterside worker is spent in seeking a job. This need not be, for in these days of wireless communication there is not the need for more than one pick-up that there might once have been, because the time of a steamer’s arrival can be judged almost to a minute, and those in charge of her loading and unloadink know their requirements in advance. In these circumstances the system of two pick-ups is nothing less than a system of irritation. No work could be more arduous and dangerous than that of the wharf labourer. and I do not know that he is going beyond his rights in the present dispute. Every commercial man puts his price on the goods that he offers to the public. The only thing that the working man has to sell is his labour, and he, too, has a right to put his own price upon that. He has to work in all weather, and often his employment is dangerous as well as fatiguing. Cargo must be properly trimmed, or the safety of the ship will be threatened. Whether he has to handle cement or sulphur, galvanized iron or barbed wire, wheat or wool, he works with bent back and strained neck. His task is anything but agreeable, and, considering the intermittent nature of his employment, . and the long hours of labour, surely much is to be said on his behalf. We are told that he cannot have arbitration or leave it, as its suits him. It has become a fetish to talk in that strain, as if the men were submitting to arbitration when they wanted it. and rejecting it at other times. Can honorable members opposite tell me how many arbitration awards have been given, and how many have been contested? It will be shown that the number is negligible? If a union falls out with the court, and cannot get redress of its grievances without action similar to that taken by the waterside workers, there is no justification for saying that it cannot have things both ways. It has been said that the last award expired two years ago, that the existing award is an interim one, and that Judge Beeby has not yet decided the main issue. Assuming that the men had not precipitated this dispute, how long would it have taken the judge to give them a decision? I suggest that four years would have clasped. The ship-owners would not approach the court or the Prime Minister for the purpose of giving their employees the benefit of an gp-to-date award. As soon as action was taken by the union to have its grievances redressed, the Government comes forward with this motion, the purpose of which has been clearly exposed by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I say without hesitation that the motion is a “ try on.” When the Government passed the first Crimes Act, it made itself ridiculous in the eyes of the world. The culprits whom it was going to deport took the matter to law and showed up the Government by obtaining a verdict against them for damages, Honorable members say that we are reading into the motion something that it does not contain, and the Prime Minister referred to the butter that should have been shipped by the Ormonde, but has been left behind. He did not say that that butter would go back into cold storage until a ship is available to take it. It may be despatched by the CommonwealthLine, but it will be sent overseas sooner or later, and the local consumers will not get butter a penny cheaper because this shipment has been temporarily withheld from the overseas market. The Prime Minister said significantly that if the wharf labourers would not load the butter, it would still be shipped. That was a clear indication that if scabs were offering for the work they would be protected by the Government. The motion is not so innocuous as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) said. It refers to “ taking any action the Government thinks necessary, in cooperation with the Governments of the States, so far as possible.” In other words, the Commonwealth will make the services of the military forces available if they are wanted. That is what the motion means. But no action of that kind is ever taken against the employers. Despite his disclaimers, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) knew what was going to happen to-day before he entered the House. He said this procedure was not pre-arranged, yet every honorable member on the Ministerial side was waiting to support the suspension of the standing orders. Let them not tell me that they came to do a job without knowing what it was. The facts are against them. This is panic legislation, ill-judged and ill-conceived. The fight has only just started, and, to use a colloquialism, the contestants have not yet put even a toe-hold on each other. They have not nearly approached the “ Boston crab,” so there is no need yet for the Commonwealth to step in and put the strangle-hold of the law on either of them. But no sooner is an opportunity afforded to try out the Crimes Act, than it is grabbed by the Government with both hands. Do honorable members on the Ministerial side honestly say that they did not know what the Government intended to do, and that they were prepared to support the Prime Minister regardless of the rights of anybody concerned in the dispute? I quote from the Argus of yesterday information probably put into type on Tuesday night, which suggests that the Prime Minister had promised the shipping interests that the Government would do certain things in the event of the ultimatum not being accepted by the union.
– Of course the honorable member is quite wrong.
– If I am wrong, the Prime Minister may contradict this statement in the Argus -
The question of free labour has not yet been considered by the owners from the administrative point of view. If the men refuse to work this morning, the ships will be held up. Later, should the port become congested, and labour becomes a necessity, free labour bureaux may be established. Federal protection will be granted to workers should this step become necessary, and it is certain there would be no dearth of applicants for work.
The paragraph indicates that the shipowners knew that they would get Federal protection for free labour. It fits in with the motion, and the methods adopted by the Prime Minister this morning.
– It would not be free labour. The wharf labourers themselves - plenty of them - would offer, and the honorable member knows it.
– I refuse to believe that among the organized workers of Australia are men who will scab upon their fellows. If they disapproved of the action of their leaders they would take action within their own union to either accept Judge Beeby’s award or leave the court altogether. The leaders of the union are said to be the emissaries of Russia. . I admit that the leaders of unions -exercise a big ‘sway over t-he members, who look -to them for guidance. I have been a union executive “officer, and I know , that there is a point beyond which the leaders cannot carry the men. The honorable member for Wakefield will know .that during its «1ay the United Labourers Union was one of the most militant -organizations in South Australia. I was one of its executive officers. The honorable gentleman will remember the Rundle-street strike, when men were working on a macadamised road, laying Val de Travers asphalt, when the thermometer registered 102 in the shade, and they were refused a 9d. increase in their daily wage. The honorable member may have been Commissioner for Public “Works at the time, and he will recollect Ganger Thompson, who made himself so repugnant to the men that they refused to work under him. There are times when the leaders of the union in endeavouring to conserve its interests and maintain peace are running counter to the sentiments of the men. On the Couston job at Mile End the rank and file insisted upon deciding the issue for themselves, and struck of their own volition. Nobody will deny them the right so to do. Honorable members opposite repeat the statement ‘ about Russian gold so often that they begin to believe it. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) referred to the secretaries of the transport unions as Moscow delegates, and had he not been challenged his remarks would have left the impression that every union secretary and president in Australia was in the pay of Moscow. When I asked him whether Mr. Morris, the secretary of the Waterside Workers Union, and its president Mr. Arthur Turley, came from Moscow, he started to “ squib “. These things are only sai I to inflame the passions of the people. Honorable members opposite in speaking of the necessity of preserving law and order have stated that the Government should utilize the bludgeon it manufactured twelve months ago - the Crimes
Act. Probably the Government will decide to deport someone. If it -does, I hope that it will do a better job than it did last year. Personally, I should noi mind a journey back to England, th-3 land of my birth. I -might even be fortunate enough, in that case, to be there on the eve of the next Assembly of the League of Nations and obtain the appointment as the Government representative as did the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr-. Manning). Wharf labourers do not get treated in that WOY During the ‘course of the debate reference has been made to the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. In this connexion I desire to read a statement by Sir William Clarkson) a member of the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has already read it.
– Honorable members opposite have reiterated statements about “ union domination “ and “ gold from Moscow.” The opinion of Admiral Clarkson is as much entitled to “be repeated as are those statements. Where is this big hold-up of shipping of which we have heard so much, when the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, the services to Tasmania and the coastal services are still running? Apparently only the Inchcape group is involved. Sir William Clarkson says -
As the Line never required an afternoon “ pick-up “ to work its vessels, it was not concerned with the vital cause of the no overtime strike. The members of the Waterside Workers Federation had signified their willingness to work overtime on the Australian Commonwealth Line’s Steamers at award rates, and the work would continue under those conditions.
When an authority like Sir William Clarkson says that the “ pick-up “ is the vital point, of what value is the statement of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) about the Arbitration Court? The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) made clear the position in connexion with the number of “ pick-ups “ daily. The condition of the award that there shall be two “ pick-ups “ daily has been reserved until the ship-owners have thought it desirable to have a fight.
– It was raised in May last when the men were prepared to accept the conditions offered.
– If the amendment is agreed to, these things will he made plain. If the Prime Minister believes in conciliation, let him either with the Leader of the Opposition, or by himself, meet the men. By so doing he would lose none of his dignity or prestige. He would, however, gain a knowledge of the position from the union’s point of view, and of their objection to two “ pick-ups “ daily and to overtime. I do not believe in some men working while others are sleeping. I am not in favour of reversing the laws of nature. When I was in Franc we did a great deal of shooting at night. In the day time, we sometimes had the opportunity to sleep-; but I found it impossible to get restful sleep then. If the Prime Minister would do as I have suggested, there would be a possibility of the present trouble being settled equitably. But should he, instead of meeting the men in that way, decide to bring the Crimes Act into operation, his action will have a boomerang effect, because the Australian community will not stand for that kind of thing. The Leader of the Opposition has shown a way out, and the Prime Minister should accept it. On several occasions when members of the Waterside Workers Federation have approached the Arbitration Court, Judge Beeby has told them that they must go back to work before he would deal with their case. What right has he to coerce litigants in that way? It is his duty, as judge, to take cases as they appear on his list, or to adjust his list in accordance with the importance of the cases to be dealt with, and then to make his awards on the evidence submitted. It should not matter to him whether a- wharf labourer is at work or not. Soon we shall have him refusing to hear a man because he is a jazz dancer or drinks too much alcohol. .It is not the function of a Judge of the Arbitration Court to tell men what they may or may not do; his duty is to make awards on the evidence submitted to him. After listening to the debate, I think that tlie Government would be justified in giving more consideration to the amendment of the Leader of the Op position. The amendment indicates a sensible way out of the present difficulty, and one which the Government might adopt without loss of self-respect. If it adopts this course much turmoil will be avoided, and we shall face the Christmas season with a better prospect of industrial peace. I suggest that the amendment be accepted as the best solution of a difficult problem.
.- One or two members on the other side of the House have indulged in very extravagant language; not perhaps those who have spoken while standing, but those who have made quite considerable speeches by way of interjection. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) made some interjections about “ aiming low and laying them out.” Statements of that kind are as reckless and unnecessary as they are inappropriate. The time has come when we should consider the public in these matters, and the public is being considered to-day. The eyes of the public have been opened, and there exists a public opinion on this subject to-day which is stronger than that upon any other political question. We have had some very interesting statements made here to-day, one from the Leader of the Opposition, and another from the Deputy-Leader - earnest, good men both of them, but carried away by their feelings. Then we had our friend the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) who, in ordinary circumstances, would have given us one of his brilliant orations, studded with fireworks, but he did not treat us with such an oratorical effort to-day.- Mr. Brennan made a careful speech because he knew he had no case, and the people of the country know that there is no case to support the action of the waterside workers. My heart is full of pity for honorable members on the other side. We know that they are between two fires. There is the wild party on the one side, and the tame party on the other, and honorable members of the Opposition have to steer a straight course between the two. It is a hard position to be in, but I would advise them to decide upon what is right, and stick to it. The same thing applies to the Government. Let them do the right thing, and never falter. I have sufficient respect for honorable members on the other side of the House to know that their hearts are not in this business. I want to be as sympathetic with them as I can. I was particularly interested in the statements made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), because I can remember the days when he was a Napoleon among the waterside workers, and a fine lot of fellows they were then. They had their leader, and they left the management of their affairs to him. There is also the case of the Shearers’ Union when Spence, that grand old fellow who had now gone to Heaven, looked after their affairs. They did not care if no meeting was held in twelve months so long as their affairs were properly conducted. Those men were fellows with souls in them. In those days both the shearers and the waterside workers had something to fight for. They were working long hours for the smallest pit tance.
– The honorable member was against them then.
Mr.FOSTER. - I was never against them. I was never in favour of men being underpaid. The grinding poverty in those days was something to think about.
– Who was to blame for the bad conditions?
Mr.FOSTER.- I would punish anybody who was to blame for bringing about, or maintaining, bad conditions, but such conditions do not apply now. Those who foment industrial trouble today are a menace to society, and honorable members on the other side should get up and say so. Arbitration has wrought good work in the past, but it might have done better. Personally, I have never believed in it, and I do not believe in it now. Honorable members opposite are not to blame for the present industrial position. It is the wild element, the “ Reds “ who are responsible. Why does not organized Labour kick them out of the movement? A little while ago we had a visit from some very distinguished visitors from the other side of the world. They were a press delegation which was visiting Australia, and some of the Canadian delegates, who had made as close a study of Australian conditions as was possible in the time, said that what impressed them most about Australia was the number of strikes we had. One delegate asked of they paid us, because they seemed to be our mostflourishing industries. Then they told the people, through the press, of the. simplicity of Canadian methods. Those methods were certainly very effective from the point of view of the working man. To-day we have a reconstituted Arbitration Court. I did not help to make it so.
– The honorable member is opposed to arbitration, is he not?
– I am in favour of the simplest methods of conciliation.
– Is the honorable member opposed to arbitration ?
Mr.FOSTER. - I am in this form, because it is a costly, wretched system compared with those that are in operation in Canada and the United States of America. I wish to stress the point that, although the Arbitration Court has been reconstituted on a more costly basis, and additional judges have been appointed at high salaries, and with a life tenure so that they may make the court as effective as possible, its awards are still being flouted. No other period of our history was more pregnant with the possibility of industrial unrest than have been the last couple of years. The policy of the labour organizations to-day, however, is to avoid big industrial upheavals. They have become cunning, and adopt pin-pricking tactics, withdrawing a steward here, and tying up a ship there. The public has to make good the loss that is thus caused. Honorable members opposite weep and wail about the women and children. If they were to act in a right manner they would save the women and children from the suffering that is caused by strikes. With so many troubles ahead of us, and with the possibility of thousands of splendid men being thrown out of work, it is wicked of honorable members opposite to act as they have acted to-day.
.- My words will be few. On such an important question as this we should pay no heed to the fulminations of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster). I think it will be admitted that throughout this debate the partisan speeches have been made by honorable members oppo site. We on this side regret the existence of this big industrial dispute.
– The men must go back to work and obey the award.
– When the people whom we represent were fighting for compulsory arbitration, they encountered opposition as hostile as that which honorable members opposite have shown toward the workers to-day. The employers would not meet us in conference, and it was necessary to institute compulsory arbitration to avoid the dislocation of industry. It is a remarkable fact that honorable members opposite apply to every dispute the term “ strike.” They cannot conceive of the possibility of a lock-out; by the employers. A deadlock has been reached in the arbitration proceedings between the waterside workers and their employers. The men claim that that has been brought about because the employers have not played their part. One cannot escape the conclusion that the present trouble is the result of an ultimatum that was delivered to the men by the ship-owners. Therefore this is a lockout.
– It is not a lock out, and the honorable member knows it.
– Of course it is. It is strange that this so-called pacific move of the Prime Minister synchronizes with the ultimatum of the ship-owners. Honorable members who sit on this side had no knowledge of the Government’s proposal. If it had shown a desire, as other Governments have done, to bring the contending parties together, there would have been no necessity for this debate. But in the light of the legislation that has been passed in recent years,” and the utterances of honorable members opposite today, it must be conceded that there may be some justice in the men’s claim. What happened when similar troubles occurred under other governments? They brought the parties, together, and effected a settlement. This Government never saw fit to enter the dispute until it was instructed by its masters to act. And it proposes to act [no] through the medium of this resolution. The time has passed when it is possible to coerce thousands of men to do one’s bidding, in the manner suggested. If this conflagration spreads throughout the whole trade union movement the blame will be upon this Government, and honorable members opposite will remember the result for the rest of their lives. Every one knows the difficulties experienced in attempting to reach the Federal Arbitration Court.
– Judge Beeby asked the men to come to the court.
– They went, and when they appeared at the court the longstanding dispute relating to the “ pickup “ was introduced as a new issue. These men have to attend “ pick-ups “ day after day in the hope of securing jobs.
– Thousands are walking around unable to obtain jobs.
– The result is involved in this overtime business. The watersiders desire to share their work. Why cannot the waterside industry be conducted in shifts similar to any other industry that works continuous hours ? With our wonderful wireless facilities there should be no necessity for men to stand by indefinitely in the hope of obtaining a job. The agents of a shipping company should be able to advise the men some time beforehand whether they will be needed when a ship arrives. Instead of enforcing this resolution, which is akin to flaunting a red rag before a bull, why does not the Prime Minister, as the head of this Government, say to the ship-owners and the men, “ Come, let us get round the table and see whether we cannot arrive at a solution that will overcome this deadlock.” It was never claimed that arbitration would settle everything. It is a piece of machinery that can go wrong like any other piece of machinery, and evidently it has gone wrong now. We are not even fully familiar with the facts of this dispute, which makes it all the more imperative that an inquiry should be sought before action such as is intended by this motion is taken. I hope that, before the motion goes to a vote, the
Prime Minister will see the wisdom of endeavouring to confine the issue to the waterfront. If the right honorable gentleman fails’ to do that, he will provoke a cataclysm that will bring heart-wringing devastation and desolation in its wake. [Quorum formed.]
.- I am sure that every honorable member in this House, no matter to which party he belongs, deplores the state of affairs existing on the waterfront of Australia. I am confident that every honorable member would do everything in his power to have matters settled in a way satisfactory to every one. There is now before this House a motion and an amendment. At the outset, I may say that I propose to vote against both. I shall vote against the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, because I think, with the Prime Minister, that the right honorable gentleman would be exceeding his duty as” Prime Minister were he to seek to interfere in the dispute as it now exists. I regard the dispute not as between the owners and waterside workers, but as between the Arbitration Court and the Waterside Workers Federation. The union is at present in contempt of court. The matters that were at one time in dispute between the owners and the waterside workers were settled by the court and the award was made. It appears to be an undisputed fact that that award has not been obeyed by the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. I prefer to use the term “court “ instead of mentioning the judge who happened to preside for the time being. Any award of the court should carry weight with every one who respects the court and its functions. The court has said that there is only one thing between it and the consideration of the dispute between the owners and the men, and that is the fact that, in certain particulars the men have disobeyed the current award. In order to have the court consider everything in dispute the men must give a simple obedience to the award of the court. Honorable members opposite, especially, in addressing themselves to this question, have blinked that fact. We are trusting to arbitration. The parties to a dispute which is referred to arbitration impliedly bind themselves to stand by an award when it is made by the Arbitration Court. The secret of the present trouble is that the parties to the dispute, having had their troubles settled by the court, have gone back upon the award. A great deal of heat has been engendered in the discussion to-day, and unnecessarily so. We are not discussing the “ merits of the matters in dispute, because we have not sufficient facts upon which to base a sound judgment. It is generally admitted that we are not discussing the merits of the case. I do not think that it is part of the functions of this House to do so. I shall vote against the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, for I think that if at the present stage the Government entered into the dispute in any way, it would become a party to the contempt of court of which one of the disputants is guilty. I shall also vote against the motion, for I consider that it was entirely unnecessary to move it. It is part of the functions of a government to do everything in its power to maintain law and order; and to see that services essential to the wellbeing of the community are continuous. We know that a state of affairs exists which threatens both law and order and the continuation of essential services. I assume that if circumstances should arise which necessitate action on the part of the Government, it will act; but not until then. We have not been asked to invest the Government with additional power, for it is already invested with all the power that Parliament considers necessary to enable it to carry out its functions. Since I have been a. member of this Parliament, I have frequently known motions of want of confidence in the Government to be moved, but it is most unusual for a government to ask the House for a vote of confidence. It is not necessary for the Prime Minister to ask for such a vote. It is very well known that only its supporters could vote for such a motion, for the Opposition admittedly has no confidence in it at any time.
– None whatever.
– I am glad to have an endorsement on that point from such an eminent authority as the honorable member for Batman. If an emergency should arise, I believe that the Prime Minister will be equal to the occasion, and will not hesitate to use such power as the legislature has given him to maintain law and order and to continue essential services.
– Is there not something in the point that the Government is somewhat disturbed at the number of its supporters which has recently voted against it?
– I do not think so. Honorable members on this side of the chamber are at liberty to exercise their own judgment on measures that are placed before them. I have noticed an extraordinary restiveness on the part of honorable members opposite whenever any mention is made of the Crimes Act; but they are inconsistent even in that regard. The honorable member for Batman has told us that the Crimes Act is a dead letter, and frightens nobody. Yet the burden of most of the speeches that wo have heard from the members of the Opposition during this debate is abject fear of the act. They are in deadly terror that circumstances may arise to warrant the Government in putting the machinery of the act in motion.
– Not terror, but indignation.
– There should not even be indignation if the Crimes Act is a dead letter, and frightens nobody. No respectable, law-abiding member of the community should be afraid of the Crimes Act, for he cannot contemplate committing a breach of the Commonwealth law, or doing anything to frustrate the carrying on of services essential to the well-being of the community. I cannot understand honorable, peace-loving members of the community being in fear of that measure, nor can I understand them having any sympathy with those who contemplate doing an act which will subvert order and destroy essential services.
– Is a trade unionist to be considered a criminal because he objects to work 24 hours at a stretch?
– Not for a moment. I should call a man a criminal who is guilty of a breach of the Crimes Act. The simple refusal of a man to work a certain number of hours, or to work at all unless he cares to do so, is not 3 crime; and it is a travesty of the provisions of the Crimes Act to say that they make such a man a criminal. [ pray that circumstances may never arise to warrant the Government in setting that law in motion ; but I want to feel that we have a government in power that has sufficient backbone and courage to do it if it should be necessary. Unlike the honorable member for Wimmera, I do not intend to commit myself to support the Government in any action it sees fit to take in the future. That is another reason why I cannot vote for the motion. I believe that the Prime Minister and his Government will usethe power vested in them reasonably; but I reserve myself the right to condemnthem if I find in the future that they are using it unreasonably. For these reasons I shall vote against both the motion and! the amendment.
– There are two parties in this chamber whose views appear to be irreconcilable, and it is rather remarkable that the differences between them appear to be exactly the same differences that exist between employers and workers. In effect the Government supporters have said that the workers are to blame in this matter.
– Nothing of the kind.
– The lachrymose member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), who accuses us of weeping and wailing, hardly ever speaks in this chamber without shedding tears. He finds fault with the men of to-day, who, he says, are not like the men of the olden days, who were fine fellows and possessed souls. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) contends that they are not restive because of conditions which they consider unjust, but because they are controlled by “ Red “ leaders. Do not those utterances suggest that the Government supporters are entirely out of touch with the industrial movement of this country? Therefore, any government precipitating a crisis as this Government proposes - I suppose it will have the support of Commonwealth police - does not understand the position, and is antagonistic to the workers. Why should not the Prime Minister be impartial? There is another way to solve this problem. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has suggested conciliation. We have heard a good deal concerning the necessity of maintaining the prestige and dignity of the Government. This is a Government of dignity. The Leader of the Government hardly ever speaks, particularly in relation to any suggestion made from this side of the chamber, without endeavouring to adopt a difinified attitude. But even a person holding such an important and dignified position as the right honorable gentleman should understand how this trouble should be handled. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) made an interesting and informative speech, and with some of his points I am in entire agreement. He does not think it wise that the Government should take action at present, but says it has the power to act, and ,if action is taken in the way he thinks necessary he will support it; but if in his opinion its action is wrong, he will find fault afterwards.
– That is not what I said.
– The members of the Labour party are adopting a straightforward attitude. From our knowledge of the industrial situation we say that the action contemplated by the Government is dangerous. Those who have lived in Australia for many years and have seen fights to a finish between the workers and the employers, such as there were in Queensland in the bad old days, Wil admit that those were periods of danger.Years ago honest men and men of talent were so disgusted with Queensland and Australia generally that they set off in a little ship to make their home in a foreign country in order to obtain justice.
– And they came back.
– They met Avith certain difficulties which Ave do not experience in Australia, even though we have a few industrial troubles. The ten dency of some honorable members is to direct our attention to other countries in which they say there are no industrial upheavals. Since my return from abroad I have informed honorable members that Government supporters and press men despatch cables to such British newspapers as the Daily Mail, in which they state that this country is a hotbed of revolution, and that our people are not prepared to do a day’s work.
– There are fewer strikes in Australia than in many other countries.
– Yes. Strikes in Australia, according to the Commonwealth Statistician, are responsible for the loss of only two days a man a year. What is happening in America? Recently the Government sent a delegation to the United States of America to inquire into industrial matters, and to see if it could submit any recommendations to the Government which would “ assist in the solving, of some of its problems. According ‘to the American Statesmen’s Year-Booh, by Lindley D. Clark, I find that during nine months of 1926 there were no fewer than” 658 disputes in the United States of America, in which 298,000 persons were involved. We have never had, in proportion, anything like that in Australia. In 1925 there were 1012 disputes, in which 428,000 employees wen involved. ; Notwithstanding that, we hear that America is the country in which capital should be invested, as there are no industrial troubles there. We are also informed that welfare work is in operation, and that the relations between the employers and the employees are amicable. We are told further that there is a community of interest, and if Australian workers would follow the example of their American confreres many of our difficulties would be overcome. The two political parties supporting the Government are responsible for the false information which goes abroad, but the Nationalist party is chiefly responsible. In Australia the Labour party is reaching ‘ out for the reins of
Government, believing that under Labour rule there will be a better chance of our difficulties being solved and of the whole community prospering. Under the present party system industrial troubles are magnified by the Nationalists in order to discredit their opponents. I do not say that that is an unnatural attitude to adopt; but, if that propaganda were restricted solely to Australia, our credit would not be damaged as it is at present. Journalists and publicity officers are supplying false information. The only wireless messages that I have seen from Australia posted in passenger steamers state that industrial disputes are occurring in Australia, that Judge Drake-.Brockman was having trouble with the engineers, and that the Premier of Queensland was fighting the railway workers. When such information and nothing else is being broadcast, is it any wonder that persons in other countries have such a poor opinion concerning Australia? On the coast of China I met a British seaman, who said to me, “Australia is a bad country, because they are always having strikes there.” I replied, “ The only strike of any importance was one that was mistakenly undertaken by the leaders of industry in this country to protect your crowd, the British seamen.” That is the only serious strike that has taken place in Australia of late. This propaganda abroad represents the workmen of this country as being irresponsible, and persistently trying to hamstring industry. While that may be a good electioneering policy for honorable members behind the Government, as it was at the last election, it is certainly unpatriotic and tends to destroy the credit of this country abroad. If the Government were honest it would discredit such statements instead of trying to propagate them. The attitude of certain honorable members has clearly shown that there is an ulterior motive behind the motion, and the Government is whistling to keep up its courage in order to take drastic action against the waterside workers. I fear that there will be great trouble in this country, equalling the strike of 1S91 in Queensland, if the Government pursues its present policy. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said that if the Leader of the Opposition had been president of the Waterside Workers’ Union this in?dustrial dispute would never have occurred. He infers that the president of that . organization has gone out of his way to fight the employers to force them to give the men what they consider to be their due. The President of the Waterside Workers’ Union, Mr. Washington Mather, is from Albury, and if the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) were in this chamber he would be able to tell the honorable member (Mr. Gregory) that no man is more reasonable and approachable. When the last award was given he made it his duty to go from union to union to explain its provisions. The great trouble to-day is the “ pick-up.” The men are suffering a great injustice because of having to apply twice a day for work. If the members of the Ministry could, by some magic art be transformed into working men, standing on a wharf with 800 or 900 fellow workers, dressed in overalls, waiting for the stevedore to look them over for the purpose of taking probably 40 or 50 men, and watching him put his finger on each man as he selected him, they would soon have a different point of view. These men have to attend twice a day, and in many instances pay what is to them a costly fare, in order to apply for employment, and even then with no certainty of obtaining it. I have with me two photographs that appeared in the Western Australian Worker of the 18th of November last. The first shows the wharf labourers waiting in expectancy on the Fremantle wharf. It is no unusual sight at that wharf to see in the early morning as many as 900 men waiting for work. They put in many days a year anxiously waiting to hear their names called. Many are willing, but few successful in getting a day’s work. These men are not bolsheviks, but ordinary hardworking men, many of them with families to support, and they are shown in the photograph waiting for the nod from the man who may place them in the happy position of having a day’s employment. Yet the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) has said that they are led by bolsheviks, and have “ red “ tendencies. That language is provocative, as i? also the motion moved by the Prime Minister,because both are particularly aimed at these workers. There is nothing in the motion about a lock-out, but is ‘ there not a lock-out in connexion with this dispute as well as a strike? Have not the ship-owners tied their boats to the wharfs? It is true that they have the excuse that the men will not obey the award, and work overtime. There is no great difference between the men and the ship-owners so far as the law is concerned. The men object to applying twice a day for work, and because they will not work overtime, the ship-owners refuse to employ them. I do not say that the ship-owners are entirely in the wrong, but the men have some justification for their attitude. Men who depend on a weekly wage, as these men. do, must necessarily think twice before they decide to strike. The Arbitration Court is the only substitute that we have for strikes. Strikes, I consider, are utterly foolish, because the workers must lose two or three weeks’ wages under the best of conditions. The employer has only to button up his pocket for a time, confident that he has this Government at his back, but the workers are likely to starve no matter what injustice they may be suffering. The other photograph shows a group of men with nothing to do but to go home and to wait until the next day to apply again for work. The men are leaving theFremantle wharf after the morning “ pick-up “, and the photograph shows strikingly that few men are successful in obtaining a job. Many of the men had received only £2 within six weeks. It has been said that theWatersideWorkers’ Federation is a close corporation, and that it is difficult to obtain membership in it.
-Why is it that so many men are crowding into that avenue of employment?
– The gold-mining inindustry inWestern Australia is largely responsible for the position in that State. After men have worked at 3,000 feet below the surface for a few years, one out of three develops signs of miner’s phthisis.
They then go to the coast to obtain work in the open air. I know that that was one grievance between the Australian “Workers’ Union Mining Branch and the Wharf Labourers’ Union. At one time the stevedores used to select comparatively few of the workers, and these were termed “white mice.” They were given continual work while others obtained considerably less; but that position does not exist to any extent to-day. The stevedores naturally select those whom they think are fitted for the job. I cannot see, for the life of me, why the waterside workers should be called upon to attend twice a day in the hope of getting work.
– Surely the employers know when the boats are due.
– They must know that. Honorable members have referred to irritation tactics, and I submit that that is the policy of the steamship owners to-day. They are firmly resolved to beat Labour to its knees, and the Government intends to assist them by means of the Crimes Act. We do not know all the facts of the dispute, and although I believe that these men are doing wrong in striking, we must agree that it is all important to Australia to maintain industrial peace. Therefore I am not concerned, norshould any other honorable member who has the best interests of Australia at heart be concerned, about hurting the susceptibilities of any Minister or any one connected with the shipping industry. What we want most of all is the restoration of peace so that, if possible, we may have a happy Christmas in Australia, and so that it may not be said in. the future “ Things would have been bettor in this country but for the false step of the Bruce Government which involved the calling out of the police and the military and the shedding of blood.” Such things are possible. We have a great deal to be thankful for in Australia because hitherto, with one exception, we have not had bloodshed to any extent in our industrial disputes. We shall always have differences, and sometimes they may be heated, as to how much the employer should pay and how much the worker should receive. The Arbitration Court will solve a lot of these differences, but it will not entirely remove them. We shall always have men acting heatedly in concert and prepared to throw down their tools because they think they have been badly treated. All !he arbitration courts in Australia will not prevent that; and all that we, the representatives of the workers, can do is to say to our people “ We believe in arbitration because it minimizes these troubles, and it is your duty to abide by the awards of the Arbitration Court, although we know that the wages you are getting are small in comparison with the vast wealth that is being piled up in Australia. When you have trouble we are anxious to see it settled by constitutional means.” But if we believe that any government, acting in the interests of the moneyed classes of Australia, is trying to do something detrimental to the interests of the workers and tho peace of Australia, we shall deem it our duty to defend the workers and expose the Government.
Friday, 2 December 1927.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), who was very emphatic in his support of the Crimes Act, would brand as a criminal every person who commits a breach of the provisions of that act. Yet, as a legal man, he must know that the Crimes Act, like other industrial legislation of the same type, was solely designed to strike at” the workers of’ this country. According to the honorable member, a worker who threatens to refuse to work because of the overtime or the “ pick-up “ trouble, should immediately come under the Crimes Act, but not the ship-owners who turn hundreds of men away daily with the simple statement, “ There is no work for you.” Their action is justified because shortage of trade prevents them from giving employment, although the man who is turned away may not have the wherewithal to provide his wife and children with food. That, is the cause of a great deal of trouble in mining districts. Some years ago the miners could say ,” We will not work to-morrow,” but Parliament passed a Masters and Servants Act, under which it was possible to take the miners before the court and have them fined or even sentenced to imprisonment. I know men who have not for the last twelve months worked for more than two or three days a fortnight. The whistle does not blow for them. Yet there is no talk of taking their boss before the court, because his answer always is, “We have no trade.” The argument of the honorable member for Fawkner is simply so much humbug. The Crimes Act was framed for the purpose of browbeating the workers and manufacturing political capital. It is very much the same with our arbitration legislation. Honorable members supporting the Government talk a great deal about industrial awards, and claim that they must be observed. If unionists break industrial awards they are criminals, according to the honorable member for Fawkner; but the employers break them in a thousand ways and the courts cannot reach them. They break the spirit of awards every day in the week. Now the Government threatens the mcn on the waterfront with all kinds of pains and penalties. This House has been sitting continuously for twelve or fourteen hours, and half the members are already fatigued. Is it surprising, then, that men who are required to work at the loading of ships for 24 to 30 hours at a stretch, except for breaks for meals, consider that they have just cause for complaint ? When these men fight against conditions such as that they will have my support despite industrial awards. Cries of protest were heard when the honorable member for Dalley said that the Prims Minister had submitted the motion in a spirit of partisanship. Almost every word that fell from the lips of the Prime Minister was provocative, and calculated to irritate the workers concerned in the dispute. His action, and that of every honorable member opposite, will make the settlement of the trouble more difficult. I believe that this Government desires industrial unrest in order to justify the passing of the Crimes Act. The party opposite battens on these disputes.
– Does not the honorable member think that his speech may inflame the opposite side?
– Ten or fifteen members sitting behind the Government would not be in this chamber to-day had it not been for industrial trouble. If the right honorable the Prime Minister had told the House that, as trouble was looming, he was prepared to appoint a committee to conciliate the parties to the dispute, it would bc unnecessary for honorable members on this side to address the House on the motion. .But I am not willing to be silent when the Government deliberately takes action to foment strife. All honorable members opposite were told that they had to be present in the chamber. The very atmosphere that the Prime Minister creates, and the procedure that he adopts were calculated to irritate the opposition and to intimidate the unionists outside. He invites the House to give him a blank cheque, and say that it is prepared to stand behind him in any action that he may take. Certainly his own supporters are willing to do that; but the Opposition is not to be gulled. He asks for absolute power, and then he will say that the national Parliament is supporting him. It seems to me that he is not prepared to take the responsibility that he should shoulder himself. That is typical of all his actions, and those of his Government. Whenever a difficult matter that should be dealt with by the Government arises, he finds a means of thrusting the responsibility upon a royal commission, or, as in this case, he endeavours to place it upon the Parliament. The Government should be prepared to act ‘in this case according to its own judgment, and the Parliament could decide afterwards whether it had done right or wrong. It has been stated freely in the press in the last few days that the ship-owners have refused to meet the waterside workers on the issues at stake. They have given the workers an ultimatum, saying, “ Take it or leave it.” Can the ship-owners be haled before the courts or dealt with under the Crimes Act? Why are they not forced to run their vessels? To the men the Government says, “You must work; but the ship-owners are to be a law to themselves. If the Government .threatened to take possession of the ships the trouble would be settled within five minutes. Instead of doing that, it proposes to hand the Commonwealth Shipping Line over to the companies that have caused trouble along the waterfront in all parts of the world. The shipping strike two years ago, which was exploited so successfully by the ministerial party that at least ten honorable members opposite were .returned who otherwise would never have seen the inside of this building, was not an Australian dispute; it was fomented among the British seamen by the same people as are instigating the present trouble. It was due to the endeavour of rapacious ship-owners to break down the condition of the seamen. On that occasion, when trouble was threatening on the waterfront, the Shipping Board made an arrangement which kept the ships of the Commonwealth Line running, and helped to force the other companies into line. The Commonwealth ships were loaded and continued their legitimate trade. Perhaps that is another reason why the Line is to be sold. The Prime Minister told the Leader of the Opposition to-day that his conference with Mr. Larkin yesterday had nothing to do with the present dispute. I must accept this statement in this House; but elsewhere I shall not. The right honorable gentleman and his supporters had much to say about the unemployment and distress that will be caused by the strike. On other occasions since he has been in office, the Prime Minister has shown very little regard for the distress of the unemployed. I was a member of a deputation that waited upon him to ask that the Government should do something to relieve unemployment and distress, and his only reply was that the Government could do nothing to divert trade from its natural channels. Therefore, his statement to-day about unemployment and distress was mere hypocritical humbug.
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– -I withdraw it. Great stress has been laid by ministerialists upon the need for upholding the arbitration law. If arbitration requires one thing more than another, it is the confidence of the workers in those who are appointed to adjudicate upon their disputes.
This Government recently did much to destroy that confidence by appointing a very bitter political partisan to a judicial position. The workers can point to speech after speech by that gentleman in which he attacked them and their organizations. Such an appointment is not likely to create confidence in arbitration and win respect for industrial law and awards. The Prime Minister said that ships are leaving these shores without the produce that they should have taken to the markets overseas. If that is so, who is to blame? Apparently the produce is on the waterfront and the workers are waiting there to load the ships. If Australian butter and wool have been left behind on the wharves, the ship-owners, not the men, are responsible. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. Had the Prime Minister taken the action suggested therein great good might have been achieved already. It is not yet too late to do the right thing. I hope that wise counsels will prevail, and that the Government will not wield the big stick and coerce and irritate, the men, as the motion suggests may be attempted. If it will adopt the course outlined by the Leader of the Opposition this trouble will be overcome, ana the workers concerned, instead of facing a black and dreary Christmastide, will be able to participate happily in the festivities of the season.
– In my few remarks I shall endeavour to restrain both my feelings and my speech. I cannot, however, conceal my indignation at the many ungenerous references that have been made to men associated with the waterside workers, whom I know to . be exemplary, law abiding and dutiful citizens. I have in mind a large honour roll in the great hall of the Waterside Workers’ Federation in Port Adelaide. That roll is evidence that the waterside workers responded to the call of the nation in its time of need. When they were fighting for their country they were hailed by honorable members opposite as heroes - men worthy of the best that this land could give. To-day, the same honorable gentlemen describe them as a lawless mob, unworthy of their citizenship, men who are endeavoring to wreck the nation.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– The honorable member certainly expressed his views more briefly, but that was the impression gathered from his remarks. He did say that honorable members on this side were afraid of the provisions of the Crimes Act.
– I said that they had a terror* of the Crimes Act.
– Well, let us examine the honorable member’s exact verbiage. The Opposition, he said, were “ in terror of the Crimes Act.” He then proceeded to quote from the speech of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan.) that “ the Crimes Act was dead and frightened no one.” How can he reconcile that declaration with his statement as to our terror of the Crimes Act? I shall put to the honorable member a simple illustration. We are not afraid of the big stick, or of a man who might have one, or of a man who might be possessed of firearms. It all depends upon who possesses the stick, or who has the firearms. It depends on his intentions.
– And on his record.
– As my honorable friend says, it depends on the record of the person who is armed with coercive power.
– And also upon the record of the man on whom the big stick is to be used.
– The Crimes Act was introduced immediately after the last Federal election, with a view to satisfying the political hysteria created during the election campaign, and with a desire to persuade the people that the Government was trying to carry out its political mandate. There has been. little or nothing heard of the Crimes Act since its passage. We are now slowly but surely approaching another general election, and the Government finds it desirable that this useful political propaganda should not be forgotten, and that the public mind should be kept simmering. It proposes to grasp this opportunity to assert that there are certain powers which it desires to use, and that it stands for law and order. No one, by the widest stretch of imagination, can truthfully say that the present condition of affairs threatens law and order in the community. The workers on the waterside are prepared to work if the employers will take them on, but there is a dispute as to working conditions. The men are prepared to do a reasonable day’s work, and their attitude in this respect is not unreasonable. Let me read what the secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation has said in regard to this matter. It will show the reasonable nature of the men controlling the situation. This statement was made by Mr. W. Seale, and is reported in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate of Wednesday, the 30th November, 1927. The report is as follows: -
In a statement to-day Mr. Seale, secretary of tlie Waterside Workers Federation, said that the men were standing solidly together. He said their cause was a just one, and all they wanted was an avenue to ventilate their grievances. Whether it was supplied in the form of a public inquiry, through the Arbitration Court, or by means of a round-table conference, was a matter of indifference to the men.
There are honorable members on the other side of the House who say that these men are being controlled by “ Reds “ from Moscow, and by irresponsible individuals. Is it fair that men should be so seriously misrepresented, and their honour impugned, when their leaders, in such conciliatory terms, express their willingness to take steps to arrive at a settlement The report continues - “ It is difficult to see,” Mr. Seale went on, “why the ship-owners have gagged the waterside workers, and prevented them from ventilating their troubles. The ship-owners display considerable ingenuity in preventing the Federal Arbitration Court front functioning. They object to the court hearing our claims, merely because the waterside workers offer themselves for engagement two hours daily instead of hanging round the waterfront all day long for the convenience of ship-owners. They have shown not the slightest consideration in using this question as an obstacle to industrial peace.”
Mr. Scale said that the method of labour engagement had been a vexed question for years. “ Mr. Justice Higgins,” he added, “ summed up the situation very well many years ago, when he said that the ship-owners wanted labour laid on like water through a tap.”
There is a lot of truth in what the judge said on that occasion. We have been talking about efficiency in industry. 1 feel that one of the greatest hindrance? to efficient working in industry at the present time is the manner in which men are forced to waste their time to suit the convenience of their employers. Hundreds of men on the waterfront are compelled each day to allow their services to go unused. They have to stand around the picking-up stations all day when they could spend their time in beautifying their homes, or in some remunerative employment, because they are afraid that if they leave they may miss their turn. If efficiency means anything at all, there must be some way by which the services of these men could be utilized. Let me now put on record my view of another aspect of the industrial situation. The disputes committees associated with the different trades hall institutions throughout Australia have repeatedly used their influence to conserve industrial peace. If there is one agency in Australia which has been the means of securing peace at times when industrial conflict might have been precipitated, it is the disputes committees associated with our industrial organizations. The different disputes committees are exerting all their influence in the direction of bringing about a settlement of this dispute. They are desirous of seeing industrial peace preserved, and are adopting conciliatory methods. They are fully aware of the suffering that is occasioned during a time of industrial unrest. Although I may appear to be a young man I have seen a great deal of intense suffering borne by those who are engaged in industry. Life is very one-sided. Even in the days of a nation’s prosperity the hardest experiences come to the working man. It is not alone those who are connected with this industry who will be called upon to suffer. Thousands of people who depend indirectly upon the services which these men render are being deprived of their rightful share in the great bounty which a wonderful Creator has provided for His people. I wish the Government would realize that the spirit of conciliation is far preferable to that of coercion, and that its present action is premature, and not born of a sincere desire to promote industrial peace and the well-being of the community. Perhaps there are, on the Government side, honorable members who recognize the desirability of proceeding cautiously. I ask them to use all their influence with their leader to induce him to refrain from abusing the -power that he possesses, but, on the contrary, to use it judiciously, and in the way ensure respect for our system of jurisprudence. We on this side are prepared to use our influence to rectify the anomalies that exist, and remove the injustices that are apparent. We should endeavour to deal with the cause rather than the effect of the trouble. Ear too frequently Ave are inclined to expend both time and energy, and thus dissipate our strength, in an endeavour to avoid an effect, while Ave allow the cause to go unconsidered. If honorable members opposite were smarting under an injustice, and were unable to secure for a period of three or four years either redress or even a hearing of their cause in the constitutionally created courts, would not their patience be so sorely tried that they would consider it necessary to take strong action to make evident their indignation, and to register their protest against a grave injustice ? I never recommend the breaking of the law. I am a law-abiding citizen, and by precept and example endeavour to show to men the way in which life is best lived. But I am conscious of the fact that men become exasperated at constant delays. The members of the Engineering Union have become impatient because of the length of time they have been compelled to wait for a judgment upon the case they have submitted to the court. I tell honorable members candidly that the executive of that union is exerting all its powers to keep the men within the court. There is a widespread inclination to resort to other methods to secure the redress of their industrial wrongs. The leaders of industrial unionism are not irresponsible or tainted with what is known as “red Moscow.” If there is one body of men that is straining every nerve to preserve industrial peace, maintain law and order, and promote that which is highest and best, it is the leaders of the great industrial movement. Honorable members opposite evidently do not understand the position as thoroughly as they should. If they had a sincere desire to promote the welfare of Australia and the future prosperity of our race, they would not shout from the house tops “ “We alone stand stand for law and order, and are opposed to mob rule,” with . all the vile inferences it conveys. I hope that when it is in a calmer frame of mind the Government will adopt a more reasonable attitude than it has displayed this afternoon, and that in its dealings with those matters that affect the welfare of our people, instead of fanning the flames of industrial unrest and arousing feelings of passion, it will appeal to that which is highest, noblest, and best in the souls of men, and thus promote the well-being of those who comprise this great nation.
.- In inviting this House to affirm its support of any action it may take, the Government has made an impudent and audacious proposal. It has no right to expect the Opposition, or even its own supporters, to give it a blank cheque. If it had frankly disclosed its intentions the position would have been different. During the five years that I have been a member of this House I have watched the career of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), have seen the indifference that has been displayed by the Prime Minister and the Government towards industrial disputes, and have noted the incorrectness of many of the statements that have been made by Ministers. In face of that experience I consider that in this matter we would not be justified in trusting either the Prime Minister or the Government. I am not prepared to give the Government any support which will grant to them a free hand in the settlement of this dispute. The motion submitted by the Prime Minister reads -
That, in view of the great loss, unemployment, and general distress which will inevitably result from the continuance of the serious industrial disturbance in the waterside industry, this House affirms its support of the Government in taking any action the Government thinks necessary, in co-operation with the Governments of the States so far as possible, to maintain law and order, and to ensure the continuance of services essential to the well-being of the Commonwealth.
It is indeed amusing to find the Prime Minister pretending to have some concern for the unemployed and for the general distress of the community. Ever since the right honorable gentleman has been Prime Minister unemployment has increased, and he has refused to alleviate it. The sonorous phrase, “ law and order,” rolls very awesomely off the tongues of honorable members of the Government. They used it freely during the last elections. Evidently honorable members opposite place it in pickle, to be taken out and used on occasions when they think it will give them some party advantage. There is a sinister motive behind the action of the Government in introducing this resolution. I firmly believe that behind it is a well-conceived attack upon the trade union movement of Australia. The employing class has endeavoured for. some time to create discord in the ranks of the workers, and to destroy the vitality of the Australian trade union movement. If this Government is given a free hand to do what it considers to be necessary, it will take immediate and ruthless steps to break down the existing dispute. I can visualize the Prime Minister enlisting the services of free labourers, and creating scab organizations on the waterfront. That would not terminate the trouble. It would merely stiffen the backs of those now engaged in the dispute. I also see in the action of the Government a determined effort to break down the principle of preference to unionists. Mr. Piddington, the Industrial Commissioner for New South Wales, has ruled that preference shall be extended to certain industries in New South Wales. Mr. Bavin, the Nationalist Premier of New South Wales, is opposed to the principle, and a week or two ago he was in Canberra in close consultation with’ our Prime Minister. That forebodes harsh treatment for the workers of New South Wales. It will be the endeavour of this Government to assist the Nationalist Premier of that State to undo the good work accomplished by Mr. Piddington. As one who has acted as secretary to an industrial union that has been involved in a serious strike, and as one able to appreciate the conditions objected to by the waterside workers and the difficulties which confront our unions, I consider that they and their members are entitled to preference. Those who enjoy the privileges brought about by unionism should contribute to the body which achieved those results. The hand of the Shipping Combine, and particularly the veiled hand of Lord Inchcape, can readily be seen behind this motion. The Australian Commonwealth Line is at present operating, and its ships are being loaded with wool and other Australian products, for transport overseas.” That does not suit Inchcape, and his fellow monopolists. They have’ not forgotten the experience of the British seamen’s strike during the year 1925, when the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers transported huge quantities of our products overseas, greatly to the detriment of the profits of the Combine. During that year the voyage profits earned by the “ Bay “ boats amounted almost to £100,000, which ordinarily would have gone into the pockets of Inchcape and his crew. They are anxious that this strike shall be terminated quickly, so that they may again place their grip on the shipping business of Australia. I have followed this dispute carefully, and I am convinced that the waterside workers have a just case. The newspapers have -made a great deal of capital out of what they term the overtime strike.” I do not recognize the trouble as a strike. It is a refusal on the part of the men to work overtime, and surely they are entitled to say whether they will work overtime or not. We have heard a good deal during this discussion about picking-up places. I have made it my business on a number of occasions to visit the waterfront to see how these men are picked up. When they congregate at the appointed place they present a depressing spectacle. They carry their lunch baskets with them in the hope that they will be fortunate enough to get work for a day or two; but when the shipping companies have called the number of men required the remainder depart in dejected spirits, knowing very well that they have to return to their homes to inform their dependents that there is no work for them. These men are not blessed with much of this world’s goods, and so far as I can see they do not get very much pleasure out of life. Their clothing is invariably patched and worn, although it denotes evidence of the attention which thrifty wives give to it. The men arc subject to the exploitation of their employers and the exactions of heartless landlords, and have to pay dearly for all the necessaries of life which they require. The result is that they are not in the mood to be jockeyed about by the Government or the ship-owners, and I urge that every caution should be used in. dealing with the present situation on the waterfront. It is high time that the Government, the ship-owners, and other employers in Australia- should realize that our workers will not much longer tolerate the humiliating conditions to which they are at present subjected. The men are treated more like goods and chattels than human beings. The shipowners have no right to expect they may continue for all time to go to the pickingup places and obtain such labour as they require under the prevailing uneconomic conditions. I was greatly impressed by the earnest .speech which the Leader of the Opposition delivered this morning. It was in marked contrast to many speeches which we have heard from honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell), for instance appeared to be in a fighting spirit. He seemed to be longing for the opportunity to assume control of the battalion -of free labourers or to organize a scab union. I assure the Government that if it wants fight it can get it. If one union leader is imprisoned a hundred will rise up to take his place. I believe that these men have a righteous cause, and I shall place my services unreservedly at their disposal, as I consider it my duty to do so, irrespective of the consequences. If the Government is not careful it will incite the workers to revolt and bloodshed may occur here. Unsympathetic interference will cause the trouble to extend and entail untold misery not only to thousands of workers, but also to their women and children. The Labour party desires to see the trouble settled, but the Government evidently wishes it to continue in order that it may obtain some political advantage out of it. It has been guilty of indecent haste in causing this discussion, which is not likely to bring about an early settlement of the dispute. There was no reason what ever to justify the Prime Minister in moving this motion. Honorable members of the Labour party are anxious to do everything in their power to reconcile the parties to the dispute. The Prime Minister has frequently conferred with the industrial leaders of Australia, and I can see no reason why he should not accept the invitation of the Leader of the Opposition to do so on this occasion. He would act wisely were he to instruct the Solicitor-General and his officers to delay the preparation of the proclamation which it is proposed to issue while he gives some personal attention to the dispute with the object of settling it. It has been said that the Government would not be justified in interfering in the matter, but if the dispute is as serious as honorable members ‘opposite have declared it to be, it would be justified in taking any action to bring about a settlement. It should not allow the dignity of even a judge of the Arbitration Court to stand in the way. Every honorable member is anxious that our primary industries shall not suffer through a shipping hold-up, and I do not think that the Government would be charged with ‘political interference with the Arbitration Court if it called the parties to this dispute into conference, with a view to its settlement.
– The supporters of the Ministry were astounded when the Prime Minister submitted a certain motion yesterday morning, and I am sure there will be a general feeling of astonishment throughout Australia when the people know the action the Government proposes to take. The Government is declaring an industrial war on the workers who have not even refused employment. They were at work on the wharfs in Sydney until 5 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon; they offered their services again on Thursday, and I am sure they will be willing to go to work this morning. Notwithstanding this, the Prime Minister is endeavouring to secure the support of the House to enable the Government to issue a proclamation, the only effect of which will be to cause serious industrial trouble throughout Australia. Honorable members on this side of the chamber, as well as some honorable members opposite do not want an industrial upheaval. Personally, I should like to see every man at work at wages which would enable him to live in comfort. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) said that the Crimes Act had no terrors for members on this side of the chamber; but to me it is a terror, particularly at this juncture. If the Prime Minister intervenes with the thoughts’ in his mind which he expressed this morning, it will be a serious thing for the Commonwealth. The action the Government proposes to take will bring about, not industrial peace, but the most serious situation with which Australia has been faced for many a long day. I believe the Prime Minister honestly thought that the waterside workers had no case, and that because they had broken an award of the court Judge Beeby would not hear them. Having this in mind,’ he went to extremes. As the question of the pick-up has not, I think, been correctly stated, I shall, at the risk of repeating what others have said, briefly give my recollection of what has occurred. It might surprise some honorable members to know that three awards have been given in this industry, and during the whole time these have been in operation there has been one pick-up place. One picking-up place has been in operation for a long time, and such a system was never mentioned by the ship-owners during the whole time the cases in which three different awards were being heard by the court. Both sides agreed that one pick-up was sufficient, and it was only when in May that a representative of the waterside workers appearing before Judge Beeby said, “ We have visited every branch and all the members have agreed to obey the award of the Arbitration Court,” that the question was raised by the ship-owners, when Judge Beeby said he would not hear the case until the men had complied with the award made some time ago. If one pick-up place had been sufficient for some years, surely there is no necessity to alter the system to-day. The manager of the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line stated yesterday that he could arrange his business satisfactorily with only one pickup place. As this system has been successfully in operation for some years, why cannot it continue? I have not heard one supporter of the Government endeavour to justify the action of the employers in bringing the men to the wharfs twice a day to look for a job. It was only when the men had an opportunity of getting into the court that the shipowners raised the question, and the responsibility for the present dispute rests upon them.- Evidently they did not want conciliation, but they may be more anxious to confer now that the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers is not involved and the vessels of that Line will be taking freight which other ships might be handling. If the trouble continues the waterside workers and thousands of others will bpthrown out of employment when Christmas is approaching. If the Prime Minister had acted in a conciliatory spirit a week ago when the ship-owners brought down their ultimatum, possibly a settlement could have been reached. The men are willing to allow the whole case to go before the court. According to yesterday’s newspapers, Judge Beeby is considering the advisability of permitting the union to appear in court. Apparently, he does not regard the dispute as being as serious as the Prime Minister suggests.
Why should we give a blank cheque to the Government? The Australian worker is always amenable to reason, but if force is used against him he will naturally retaliate. He will not tamely submit to interference by the military forces. I remember the occasion when the military forces in Victoria were brought out and Colonel Price gave the order to ‘'’Eire low and lay them out.” I also remember the stinging denunciation which rang throughout the country at that time.
– Arid each soldier was supplied with 40 rounds of ammunition.
– Yes, and ball cartridges, too. Apparently it is the intention of the Government to use the military forces in. this instance. There has been no suggestion, of a conference; but a straight-out declaration of war. The waterside workers are the worst paid industrialists in ‘Australia. Many working in Melbourne reside 8 or 9 miles from the wharfs, and are now expected to present themselves twice a day to look ‘for a job. It is the same in Sydney and in other capitals. If they go once a day and do not get work, they can return home and, perhaps, do some gardening ; but if they have to attend the wharfs twice a day looking vainly for a job, the whole day is wasted Theirs is casual intermittent work, and under the cursed overtime system when the men get a job, it may last 20 hours at a stretch. When honorable members have to sit in this chamber for 24 or 26 hours, they think that they are badly treated. They have nothing to do but to loll about and perhaps occasionally say a few words, and yet they are physically exhausted at the end of the sitting. Not one hand’s turn of work has been done by honorable members in- this chamber, and yet few of them have any sympathy Avith the men doing hard, laborious work. whose pay for the week is frequently miserable. Because these workers demand their rights, the Prime Minister comes forward with a motion which. if carried, Wil] enable him to issue a proclamation which Will mean Avar to the knife. As the Prime Minister now knows a good deal more about the merits of the case than he did before, I trust that if the motion is carried, he will hesitate very much before he puts it into operation. We know what the effect of a proclamation would be, and that the very men whom it would harm are largely returned soldiers, many of whom shed their blood in defence of Australia. These men who we claim made Australia’s name on the battlefield, will not calmly submit to any tyrannical action on the part of this Government. It will be a serious day for Australia when the Prime Minister puts this motion into effect. A proclamation would be necessary only if there were extreme provocation, but it cannot be . claimed that there has been the slightest provocation in this case. The men have not been out of work for a day, and yet the Government is aiding the ship-owners by threatening to bring out the military forces against” the strikers. We have little reason to have regard for the ship-owners. We know that Viscount. Inchcape and his crew control most of the boats that trade on this coast, and they certainly have not been the friends of the producers or of the industrialists of this country. I do not know of One strike that has been wrong in principle. There is always some injustice .that causes men to revolt, The Labour party seeks Ito prevent strikes, but there are many strikes in this community to-day about which no word is spoken. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) who never misses an opportunity to speak ill of the workers of this country, is closely connected with the butter industry. I would inform him that during the winter months certain men in Victoria were importing butter from New Zealand, and selling it at a price fixed by themselves. They were making exorbitant profits at the expense of the consumers of butter in Victoria. Those men were on strike, but the Government took no action under the Grimes Act, and the military forces were not brought out against them. We have heard a lot about law and order being maintained, but it seems to me that those who possess the wealth of this country can go on strike at any time by -fixing exorbitant prices for the commodities that they sell to the public. There has not been one word of protest against that form of strike. The workman depends upon his labour for the maintenance of himself and his family, but so soon as he seeks to increase the price of his labour, the military forces are to be called out to deal with him. The men who have gone on strike have lost a day’s work, and can never be recouped for it. When the worker seeks to better himself, when he sees certain sections of this community rolling in wealth and enjoying luxuries at the expense of his labour, is it any wonder that he becomes dissatisfied and seeks to obtain increased wages in order to oh tain for. himself the bare necessaries of life? Yet when he endeavours to obtain these, and is out of work for ten hours, this Nationalist Government ask this Parliament for its sanction to the putting in motion of the Crimes Act, so that the military forces may be used to force the wharf labourers to submit to the demands of the ship-owners. It would be a sad and sorry day for the British race if Australians tamely submitted to the demands of this Government Sud the ship-owners. I can assure the Prime Minister that these men have no intention of going back on their decision, but they will do what the trade unionists of the world have always been prepared to do, and submit their case to the Arbitration Court. These men are in the same position as a man who is selling a load of hay. He may ask .5 for it, yet be prepared to accept £3. So it is with the industrialists. Very often they put a big price on their labour, but they are always prepared to barter, and by means of conciliation and arbitration, to come to an amicable arrangement with their employers. Every Labour leader throughout the waterfront is using his utmost endeavours to prevent this industrial dispute from spreading to other trades. Yet the Prime Minister, who knows nothing of the industrial conditions of this country, threatens to issue a proclamation, which if given effect, will undo all the work that the industrial pacifists of Australia are doing at present. I hope that the motion will not be carried, but if it is, that the Prime Minister as a result of this discussion will hesitate before he seeks to call out the military to take action against the industrialists of Australia.
Mr. WEST (East Sydney) fl.35 a.m.]. - I did not think that I should live to hear a Prime Minister submit in a national Parliament a proposal such as that contained in the motion now before the House. I did not think that any one would ever insult the intelligence of the great mass of the people in this way. Nothing more effective than this motion could be conceived to stir up the wharf labourers to take some extreme action. These men may work in dungarees, but they have their feelings ; they are educated ; they know what is going on around them; they are aware of the incomes that are being made by the ship-owners. They know that God has not created them to be murdered by a privileged class exercising a tyrannical form of control over them. Is it not a fact that for the past half century ship-owners, mine-owners, and land-owners have been the cause of all our troubles? Ship-owners and mineowners in particular have been most unmerciful in the way they have treated their employees. We have progressed in industrial development. I can remember the time when women carried baskets of coal on their heads. The ship of the Shaw Savill line on which I came out to New Zealand had a crew of 32. Half of them were paid ls. a month, and when they reached New Zealand were thrown out on the wharf. They were wretchedly clothed, and they did not know what was to become of them. Many of those who are in authority to-day would be just as tyrannical and unmerciful as those of half a century ago if they could. A good deal has been said about the Arbitration Court. ‘ When the arbitration system was first adopted in New South Wales, our idea was that it should be a court of conciliation. Sir Robert Garran’s father was the chairman of a committee on which the various trade unions of Sydney were represented, and which recommended the formation of a court of conciliation, consisting of representatives of employers and employees. It was to be the duty of that court to try to bring about a settlement of any dispute that arose, and any points upon which it could not agree were to be ref erred to what was known as an arbitration court. The employers and employees were both represented on that court, but a judge acted as chairman. That was the only difference between it and the court of conciliation. It was the curse of the Arbitration Court when, in order to create technicalities and prevent the court from functioning properly, the employers brought in legal men. I do not believe that the Prime Minister drew up the motion which he has moved. During the last few days I have noticed in the corridors of this building two or three gentlemen well-known in the shipping world in Sydney. I knew that they were here on a dangerous mission, and I believe that the Attorney-General knows all about it. I am sorry to see a young Australian with the opportunities he has, exercising his abilities in assisting to frame such a motion. I understand that he is engaged by the Employers’ Federation to fight its cases in the Arbitration Court. I do not know How he can dissociate himself from the sentiments he has expressed in that court on behalf of his employers. For that reason I think it would be unwise to ask the Government to take any steps to bring about a settlement of the present trouble. I do not think the workers would have any confidence in the Attorney-General. As a matter of fact, I do not think they would have confidence in any honorable member sitting on the Government side of the House. I. listened to honorable members speaking to-day, and it was regrettable to hear the way in which they abused the real producers of wealth in Australia. I do not think there has ever before been in this House a discussion in which more venom has been displayed. I am satisfied that Parliament would do wrong in carrying this motion. The only purpose it can serve is to inflame men who believe that they have not been properly treated. If the Prime Minister had gone to the workers on an errand of mercy, he would have had a wonderful influence upon them. If he had been animated by that spirit he could have rendered great assistance in the settlement of the dispute. The waterside workers are entitled to be treated as men, but actions such as the Government has taken create amongst them ill-feeling and suspicion. I believe that the speeches which have been delivered by honorable members on this side of the House have shown the Government the error of its ways and have made plain that it will do nothing to interfere between the parties to the dispute. As an electioneering stunt any action against the workers would fail; a strike among overseas seamen is very different from a strike amongst our own people, i.nd the public would resent any drastic action by the Government against the strikers. The only explanation I can find for the Government’s attitude is that it has yielded to undue influence, but I am convinced that on mature consideration the Prime Minister will realize that he has been badly advised. It is not yet too late for him to retrace his steps. I do not expect him to admit it, but I have no doubt that he is conscious of having made an error of judgment, and I suggest to him that the quickest way out of the difficulty in which he has involved himself is to leave the disputants to settle the trouble between themselves. Above all things I counsel the Government not to attempt to engage free labor to take the places of the strikers. There is nothing more impossible than that trade ‘unionists should work with nonunionists. ‘ Every trade, profession and calling has its organization for the protection of its privilieges and standards of remuneration. The waterside workers will settle this dispute as they have settled others, and I hope the Prime Minister will see the wisdom of withdrawing this rascally proposal. If he accepts my advice he will never have cause to regret it.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, for it strikes at a fundamental principle that is in volved in the serious and distressing matter that we have been debating to-day. The Opposition has proposed that the Government should take action immediately to consult with the various State governments affected and organizations concerned with a view to a clear understanding of the matters at issue and the settlement thereof by means of conference and conciliation. The meaning of those words is that the Government should set itself up as a court of appeal from the Arbitration Court established by law for the settlement of industrial disputes. The Government refuses to accept that responsibility, and dissents from the view of the Leader of the Opposition that it is the obligation of the Prime Minister to intervene in serious industrial troubles with a view to effecting a settlement If the head of the Government is to accept that position Ave might as well tear up the whole of our arbitration! legislation at once, for it would be impossible for any court to operate effectively if it were to be subject from time to time to such intervention. Many appeals have been made to me on different occasions to adopt that course; but I have always strenuously resisted them, because I believe I have a primary obligation to lend my full support to the authority which this Parliament has created to deal Avith industrial matters. Consequently it is impossible for the Government to accept the amendment. But there is nothing in the motion I submitted to prevent the Government from taking every step within its power, short of interfering Avith or undermining the authority of the Arbitration Court, to bring about a settlement of the dispute. The Government is watching developments very closely, and if any action can usefully be taken which will help to terminate this tragic trouble, it will not hesitate to take it. I am sure that would be in accord Avith the wishes of all honorable members. We should remove from our minds any idea that we have been considering to-day the merits or demerits of the existing dispute. To do so is not a function of this Parliament. As a Parliament Ave have great and serious obligations in view of the situation which might arise from this industrial dispute. It is towards that aspect pf the question that the Government desires to direct the attention of the House. We have to consider the course that the Government will take, and the attitude that Parliament should adopt, towards the situation, if unhappily, the present dispute extends so that the trade and industry of this country are held up, our produce remains unshipped, and our finances, dislocated, resulting in distress and suffering to a great number of people. The Government has felt that on the eve of this struggle, it should indicate clearly to the country, and particularly to the parties to the dispute - both the ship-owners and the waterside workers - that, in the interests of the people as a whole, it cannot allow trade and commerce to be dislocated because of a dispute between certain sections of the community. That is the only reason why this motion has been submitted. I wish to make it clear that agreement to the motion which I have submitted will not result in precipitate action, or anything which might inflame human passions or render a settlement of the dispute more difficult, will be taken by the Government. The Government will do all in its power to bring about a peaceful settlement of the dispute. If I personally, or any other member of the Government has any influence with either party to the dispute, I will unhesitatingly use that influence in the endeavour to terminate the struggle. I appeal to honorable gentlemen opposite if they have influence with either party to the dispute, to use it in the same direction.
– The honorable gentleman will receive all the support in the power of honorable members on this side towards bringing about a peaceful settlement, of the dispute.
– I think that there is something in that direction which we can do. In view of the distress which must necessarily follow a prolonged struggle, no honorable member on either side would expect the Government to do other than to take whatever action is necessary to deal with so serious a situation. A good deal has been said of the sufferings of the waterside workers and their families, but we, in this Parliament, have to consider the interests of the people as a whole. I remind the House that should this dispute continue until the whole of the industries of Australia have been dislocated, there will be suffering among many engaged in other avenues of employment than on the waterfront. The present situation may become exceedingly serious and delicate. The Government is not asking the House for any powers beyond those which it now possesses. If other powers were necessary, the Government would have asked for them. The Government has the powers it requires, and will accept the responsibility of using them, if necessary. It has felt, however, that before it exercises the powers it possesses in a crisis which may become very serious, it is desirable that this Parliament should have an opportunity to express its views as to the course of action which should be followed. Parliament has been given that opportunity to-day. Let us consider the position in the future. If instead of consulting Parliament the Government had taken definite and strong action, even to the extent of using to the maximum the powers vested in it by Parliament, honorable members would then have some ground for complaint that Parliament had not been given the opportunity to express its views. Another point I wish to make perfectly clear. Agreement to the motion certainly will not mean, as has been suggested, that the Government will be given a blank cheque to be used as it likes - wisely or unwisely - and that then, even should the Government follow a foolish or misguided course, calculated to promote or to inflame industrial trouble, it can claim that it had been authorized to do such things. The Government does not ask for that. It is under no misapprehension as to its responsibility for any action it may take. The Government will take full responsibility for exercising’ the powers entrusted to it. It will regard an affirmative vote on the motion submitted merely as an expression of the view of this House that, should circumstances warrant it, every power possessed by the Government shall be used to protect the interests and rights of the people of Australia as a whole, and to maintain law and order and the continuance of essential services.
.The. right honorable gentleman has given the impression - although he did not express it in so many words - that he did not intend to proceed with the motion. It might be-
– The Prime Minister has replied. Besides, the honorable member has already spoken.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question (Mr. Charlton’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the motion be agreed to -put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 2.17 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 December 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1927/19271201_reps_10_117/>.