10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Arrears of Instalments
– Will the Minister for Works and Eailways instruct the Deputy-Commissioner of War Service Homes in New South Wales to extend the utmost leniency to occupants of -war service homes who are in. arrears with their payments because they are unemployed or have been working only intermittently?
– -The provisions of the act are stretched to . the - utmost in order tn extend leniency to the occupiers of war service- homes. I have instructed the Commissioner not to disturb any occupant who is in arrears until . his equity in the . house has been exhausted. . Even after the arrears of rent have absorbed the equity, occupants are still allowed to remain in the homes for a considerable time, if full inquiry satisfies me that their circumstances entitle them to such further consideration.
– Has the Prime Minister read a statement by the Commonwealth Statistician that the net gain by migration for the’ month of February was 2,563.less than in the corresponding month of last year, and that for the two months ended the 28th February last the proportion of British migrants was 77.5, and of. foreigners 22.5, whereas in the same period of 1927 the proportion of British migrants was 81 per cent.? Does the right honorable gentleman consider that these statistics reveal a desirable state of affairs? If not, what steps do the Government propose to take to correct the tendency they disclose ?
– My attention has beendrawn to statistics showing the proportions of British and foreign migrants iu the first three months of the present year. In reply to a question asked in the House a few days ago, I stated that the Government was giving serious attention to the migration problem, that its policy was to maintain the existing proportion of British people in our population; and that I was in communication with the governments of several countries with a view to preventing an excessive number of their nationals coming to Australia.
-Can the Prime Minister give me any definite information regarding the disposal of the Government dump of mixed coal that has been lying for some years on an estate in my electorate ?
– When the honorable member addressed a question on thissubject’ to me last week, I stated that it seemed impossible to -dispose of the coal at any price, and I would therefore consider the advisability - of making it available for distribution to the deserving poor. Since then a possibility of disposing of the coal has arisen, and until a definite decision is reached in regard to it, I can make no statement as to the ultimate disposal of the coal.
– Can the Minister for Works and Railways say when the proposed postal works at Sydenham are likely to he commenced ?
– I shall make inquiries and let the honorable member have a reply.
– Has the Prime Minister observed a statement by the Minister for Customs in New Zealand that the trade between Australia and the dominion showed a balance of £2,822,323 in favour of the Commonwealth in 1926, and only £256,259 in its favour in 1928? Will the Prime Minister ascertain the causes of the diminution of an export trade which is 30 essential to our national development?
– I have not seen the newspaper report to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall have a return prepared showing the variations of trade between New Zealand and Australia during the last two years.
– Some days ago the Prime Minister promised to ascertain the reason why meteorological reports from Western Australia are frequently omitted from the daily newspapers in the eastern States. Again yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald’s weather report was without information from Western Australia. Has the Prime Minister made any inquiries regarding the cause of these omissions?
– In reply to a similar question some time ago I promised to have investigations made into this matter. I will see what can be done in the direction suggested by the honorable member.
– Is the Minister for Works and Railways aware of the shocking state of the roads leading to the Federal Capital Territory? Will he arrange with the Minister for Works in New South Wales that some proportion of the revenue derived from the petrol tax shall be expended upon those roads?
– If the roads described by the honorable member are within the Federal Capital Territory, they are the responsibility of the Federal Capital Commission ; if they are not, they are the concern of the Government of New South Wales.
– The Minister for Works and Railways appeared to treat very lightly the question of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) respecting the road approaches to the Federal Capital. I desire to remind him that the Prime Minister-
– Order ! The honorable member may not argue the matter.
– I propose to ask a question. I “wish the Minister to give a coherent reply to the question.
– The right honorable member must know that he is not in order in criticizing the replies given to previous questions. He is entitled to ask a question if he desires to do so.
– When this matter was raised in the House by me some time ago the Prime Minister stated that he recognized that the Commonwealth had a duty to see that the road approaches to the Federal Capital Territory were kept in order. We have advanced about £6,000,000 for road work, but have not yet any decent roads to Canberra, and the Minister now says that the matter will be dealt with in the next agreement. I desire to ask the honorable gentleman whether he will endeavour to expedite the construction of good roads to Canberra or, alternatively, will he allow me to drive him from Canberra to Goulburn?
– I am not prepared to allow the right honorable member to drive me to Goulburn. So far as I am able to do so, I shall try to get the New South Wales Government to push on with the construction of good roads to the Federal Capital Territory. I understand that a proposal is at present under consideration for the construction of a road to skirt Lake George. The scheme is not yet completed, but I believe that the work is to be put in hand at an early date.
– I have received from a public body in my constituency a communication deeply deploring the publication of a considerable quantity of most unclean and unhealthy literature, and respectfully asking me to bring this matter before the Government. I am not responsible for what the Government does, but, of course, because of the approaching general election I must furnish a reply to my constituents. I therefore ask the Minister responsible - apparently the Minister for Morals, whoever he may be - whether it is true that the Government permits impure or unclean literature to be published in Australia ?
– The question should be addressed to me as Minister for Trade and Customs. The Commonwealth controls literature brought into this country from abroad and exercises strict supervision over it to prevent the introduction of undesirable publications, but all matter published within the Commonwealth is controlled by the States and not the Commonwealth.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a statement in this morning’s press to the effect that the meat companies of the southern district of Queensland have decided to cease slaughtering because the union employees refuse to comply with the meat export award and with the decisions of the Board of Trade? If these works should be closed, about 1,000 men would be directly affected, and a closing down for any extended period would probably involve 1,500 employees. In addition, the cattle which are at present ready for slaughtering would lo3e their condition, on account of the approaching cold weather. In view of the seriousness of the situation, will the Prime Minister endeavour to see whether anything can he done to get the employees to abide by the award under which they have been working?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member has referred. If the slaughtering of these cattle should be prevented considerable economic loss would result. But, as the works are situated in Queensland and the employees are working under an award of the Queensland Arbitration Court, the matter does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.
Proposed Research Farm - Kerbing and Guttering Charges
-Will the Prime Minister give me an opportunity to bring before the House the notice of motion which I have on the business paper for Thursday, 21st June, respecting the proposed establishment in the Federal Capital City of a research institute, station and farm? This is a matter of very great importance to the nation?
– While I regret that it has not been possible for the honorable member to move his motion hitherto, I am afraid that there is nothing that I can do to help him. Notices of motion which private members have on the business paper must be dealt with in the order in which they appear.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories give me, on behalf of the Government, an assurance that, in the event of any litigation involving the validity of the kerbing and guttering ordinance being decided against the Federal Capital Commission, the Government will not introduce a validating ordinance?
– I regret that I cannot give such an assurance.
– Although, no doubt, all honorable members of the House were satisfied with the reply the Commonwealth Government sent to the British Government’s communication in regard to the outlawry of war, I point out that this subject has since been discussed by the House of Lords, which unanimously adopted a favorable resolution in regard to it. Will the Prime Minister give honorable members an opportunity to discuss the matter with the object of carrying a similar motion?
– I shall see whether it is possible to allot time for such a discussion.
-Would the AttorneyGeneral be kind enough to explain to me when an organization is not an association, and when an association is not an organization? It would probably facilitate the discussion of a certain measure which is now before the House.
– I shall be glad to give the honorable member such an explanation.
Appointment of Royal Commission
– Is the press statement correct, that the Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Adrian Knox, has refused to act in the capacity of a Royal Commissioner to inquire into the bribery allegations to which the Prime Minister made reference in the House on Tuesday last? Did the right honorable gentleman approach the Chief Justice in regard to the matter prior to making his announcement in the House?
– The Chief Justice has expressed a wish that he should not act as a Royal Commissioner to inquire into the matter. In doing so, he has followed a principle which he has laid down since becoming Chief Justice, that it is undesirable for Justices of the High Court to act as Royal Commissioners. With that principle the Government is entirely sympathetic, but it feels that there are occasions when inquiries should be conducted by the highest judicial authority of the country. For that reason the Government asked the Chief Justice to undertake this inquiry. As he thinks that he should not undertake it, the Government is now endeavouring to. obtain the services of a justice of one of the State Supreme Courts.
– I have received a letter from the honorary superintendent of the Congregational Mission, West Melbourne, in which he asks that the drill hall, situated in Ireland-street, West Melbourne, be placed at his disposal for the homeless, who are without shelter. He has approached the State Government respecting the use of the hall, but nothing has been done. He says that the mission has been providing amongst other things meals for from 300 to 400 persons daily during the last nine months, and also many beds, but the present pressure is too great. I ask the Prime Minister if he can see his way to grant the mission the use of this drill hall?
– Any request for the use of a drill hall for such a purpose as the honorable member has mentioned must come through the Victorian Government. The honorable member will recollect that on a previous occasion we had some discussion on thissubject, and that the State Government then did make a formal request. I am afraid that I cannot consider any request that does not come through the State Government itself.
Road to Tumut. - Footpaths
– In view of the declared intention of the Minister for Works and Railways to get into touch with the New South Wales Government in respect of repairing roads leading to Canberra, will he give consideration to the making of a road between here and Tumut to provide a through route from Canberra via Tumut to Albury to link up with the south?
– This matter has already been considered, and the honorable member will recollect that some little time ago he introduced a deputation to me with respect to it. I then pointed out that the construction of a road between Canberra and Albury, as suggested, would cost approximately £750,000. It would be necessary to construct 20 miles of roadway through the mountains, for which work the estimate of the Main Roads Board of New South Wales is £400,000. The construction of a road from Canberra to Tumut would shorten the journey from here to Albury by only 16 miles.
– In the old days, when humanity took its sins much more seriously than it does to-day, pilgrims were asked, by way of penance, to make long journeys on foot with peas in their boots. To-day honorable members coming to Parliament have either to do penance by walking on broken metal along the pathway between Hotel Wellington and Hotel Kurrajong or to walk on the roadway at the risk of their lives. Will the Minister take action, with a view to improving this footpath?
– I walked along that footpath the other day in great comfort.
Salvation Army Scheme
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am advised by the Development and Migration Commission as follows: -
Shipping Service, Norfolk Island - Banking Facilities
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In order to place other States on the same footing as New South Wales with regard to telegraphic charges to the Federal Capital Territory, will he consider the question of establishing a minimum rate of ls. for sixteen words, from and to the various States of the Commonwealth.
– As indicated in my reply to a recent question by the honorable member for Denison, the matter of placing New South Wales on the same footing as the other States in respect to charges on telegrams to and from the Federal Capital Territory is receiving consideration in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill now before Parliament.
Insurance - Portraits
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Is the provisional Parliament House and its furniture insured against fire or loss; if so, for what amounts and in what companies ?
– No. It is not the policy of the Commonwealth Government to insure its own property.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– This matter received the attention of the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board, Historic Memorials Committee. In recommending the adoption of the present arrangements temporarily, the board suggested the establishment of a suitably designed gallery at Canberra, which would show to the best advantage the collection of portraits and other works of art belonging to the Government. This suggestion has been noted for consideration at . a suitable opportunity.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s’ questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained as far as possible.
– On the 15th May the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
.- On the 24th April, in reply to a question by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), I intimated that when I had been able to read the text of the recent judgments of the High Court on the subject of performing rights, I might, by leave of the House, make a statement as to the law as expounded in the judgments. I now ask leave to make that statement. (Leave granted.)
Sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Copyright Act 1911 of the United Kingdom, which is adopted by the CopyrightAct 1912 of the Commonwealth, is as follows : -
Copyright in a work shall also be deemed to be infringed by any person who for his private profit permits a theatre or other place of entertainment to be used for the performance in public of the work without the consent of the owner of the copyright, unless he was not aware, and had no reasonable ground for suspecting, that the performance would be an infringement of copyright.
The case in question was one in which the Australian Performing Rights Association applied to the Supreme Court of South Australia for an injunction against the Corporation of Adelaide to restrain the corporation from permitting the Adelaide Town Hall to be used, for the profit of the corporation, for the performance, without the leave of the association, of a musical work of which the association held the copyright.
The facts were as follows: - Messrs. J. C. Williamson Limited had hired the town hall for a series of vocal concerts by Joseph Hislop. The lease contained a condition that the town clerk might in his discretion cancel the lease, and return any rent or deposit paid. It contained another condition, that the town clerk might require the hirer to submit a detailed programme of the proposed entertainment, and might, if he thought any item objectionable or unsuitable, prohibit or stop the performance. Eight days before the first concert, the Australian Performing Rights Association wrote to the Adelaide City Council stating that it had reason to believe that certain musical compositions, of which it enclosed a list - including the song, “ I Heard You Singing,” would be performed at the concerts in infringement of the association’s rights. On the 21st October, the association wrote again to the council, calling attention to an advertisement in that day’s press, stating that on the 22nd October Hislop would sing “ I Heard You Singing.” The council took no steps to prevent the performance. On these facts the Full Court of the Supreme Court of South Australia held that the council had “ permitted “ the use of the hall for the performance of the work in question, and the court granted an injunction and awarded damages. Oh appeal to the High Court, this decision was reversed by a majority, the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Isaacs dissenting. The decision of the High Court turned wholly on the meaning of the phrase “ permit the hall to be used.” There was no question that the plaintiffs owned the copyright in the song, and that the performance was an infringement of the copyright by the singer. The question whether the hall was used for *’ private profit “ was not raised in the case. The reasoning on which the majority of the justices based their decision was, substantially, that the corporation had no control over the singer, and no power to forbid him to sing the song. It was true that the corporation had power to cancel the letting of the hall, and that one of the consequences of this action would have been to prevent the song from being sung in the hall; but the court held that the corporation had no duty imposed on it by law to cancel the letting, and that its inaction, even though it might have knowledge that the song would be sung, did not amount to permission to use the hall for the singing of the song. The dissenting minority - the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Isaacs - took the view which had been taken by the Supreme Court of South Australia - that the defendant had “ permitted “ the use of the hall for the infringing performance, because, knowing, or having reason to believe, that tho hall would be so used, and having power to prevent it from being so used, had taken no steps to prevent it. It will, perhaps, be within the recollection of honorable members that in May last I published a summary of .what I considered to be the legal position in regard to the responsibility of persons controlling halls. There was at the time a widespread anxiety amongst such persons - which the Australian Performing Rights Association had done nothing to allay - that the owners, trustees, or controllers of a hall were liable for every infringement that took place in the hall, whether they knew of it or npt. My summary of the law was as follows: -
No owner of a hall incurs any liability under the law of copyright merely because he is the owner of a hall in which a copyright piece of music has been performed. He would be liable only if he authorized the performance of copyright music without the consent of the owner, i.e., if he arranged or controlled the programme; of if he, for his private profit, permitted the hall to be used for the performance of a particular piece of music without the consent of the owner of the copyright.
The ordinary letting of a hall for a concert or dance, without any knowledge, supervision or control of the programme, does not involve the owner in any liability.
Of course, in all cases, the actual performer of a piece of music is liable for infringement of copyright committed by him.
That statement, so far as it goes, is quite in accord with the decision of the court, as well as with the views of the dissenting minority. I did not attempt to define tho meaning to be attached to the phrase, “permit the hall to be used.” The Adelaide Corporation case turned on the meaning of that phrase ; and the meaning given to it by the court appears to limit its application, for all practical purposes, to cases in which the defendant has a power of controlling the infringing performance as distinct from a power incidental to his position as owner or lessor of the hall in question, and abstains from exercising this power. In such circumstances either refusal to exercise the power or neglect to exercise it has bee-i held to amount to permission in the relevant sense.
It was generally understood that the legislature, while it did not intend to place responsibility on lessors for everything which was done by or by authority of the lessees, did intend to make them responsible for breaches of copyright which they had reason to expect, and which they had power to prevent.
The reasoning of the judgments shows - as was never doubted - that the owner of a hall who0 lets the hall expressly for the purpose of performing a particular piece of copyright music “permits “ that performance within the meaning of the section.
If, however, having let the hall without any reference to the performance of a particular piece of music, he subsequently becomes aware that a copyright piece of music is to be performed, he does not thereby “ permit “ the performance of that music - even though he has a right of cancelling the lotting.
Another case would be that of the owner of a hall letting the hall generally, but with knowledge that a particular piece of music was intended to be performed. In my opinion, the judgments of the majority do not precisely cover this case; but they rather favour the conclusion that, as the lessor would have no control over the performance itself, and as apparently owners of halls are considered to be under no particular duty to prevent infringements of copyright, there would not be “permission” within the act.
The question ultimately is said by the majority of the court to be a question of fact, and accordingly each case must be judged on its own circumstances, in the light of the general principles which have been enunciated. I regret that I am not prepared to make a more definite statement as to the effect of the case. The result, however, is that the section has been held to have a very limited application.
I am informed that the Australian Performing Rights Association intends to apply for leave to appeal to the Privy Council. The whole subject of performing rights will be discussed at the Copyright Conference which
is now being held in Rome. The question will receive the further consideration of the Government after the report of the conference and of the Australian representative, Sir Harrison Moore, have been received.
Debate resumed from 16th May (vide page 4941), on motion by Mr. Latham -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Last evening at the adjournment I was seeking to impress upon honorable members the fact that extreme legislation of this description, so provocative in its nature, is likely to create more unrest and dissatisfaction in the community than the Government and its supporters are prepared to acknowledge. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) correctly expressed the views of members of the Labour movement when he said that we sincerely desire the preservation of industrial peace in Australia. The efforts of both our political and industrial organizations have constantly been in that direction. While we have sought peace, however, we have not been prepared to accept peace at any price. Some honorable members opposite endeavour to hold labour up to contempt, because we are not prepared to sacrifice the interests of the workers of Australia, and to subject them to indignity and injustice. Labour representatives in this Parliament will, I trust, be prepared at all times to champion the cause of the workers who are the wealth producers of the nation, and entitled to a fair return for the services they render. It is labour’s sincere desire to promote peace and goodwill, not only in regard to international matters, but also in industrial matters, which touch more closely the community life of our nation. The Disputes Committee associated with the various Trades Hall Councils throughout Australia have always endeavoured to find an amicable settlement of industrial disputes, and these committees . have been responsible for preventing more industrial upheavals than has the Conciliation and
Arbitration Court itself. It is remarkable how quickly honorable members opposite forget the efforts for peace made by the responsible leaders of organized labour. Not only those who are directly associated with industrial matters, but frequently the leaders of the Labour party in this House have sought to do everything that is humanly possible to avert some threatened industrial disturbance. Eventually, I have no doubt, the people themselves will learn to appreciate better than they do now the services rendered by labour leaders, and the sacrifices they have made for the cause of industrial harmony.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) said last night that he deplored the fact that it was possible for industrial labour to associate itself with the political activities of this country. He said that it was wrong that the members of an organization should be required to contribute to the political funds of the party. It is remarkable that a member occupying the high and honored position which he does in the party of which he is a member, should be so forgetful of the history. of labour’s entry into politics. It was the great maritime strike of the nineties that really induced organized labour to seek representation in Parliament. The industrial leaders of that day were told that instead of seeking to redress their industrial wrongs by direct action, they should elect members to Parliament, so that they might secure the power of government and pass legislation to redress their wrongs. On that invitation, labour entered Parliament, and later secured office. By its participation in the political life of the country, the Labour party has been able to avert many of the crises which threatened the industrial life of Australia. I hope that we shall not depart from this method of preserving industrial peace. I trust that we shall not take the advice of the honorable member for Warringah, and seek to secure the redress of our wrongs by industrial means alone. I hope that labour in this country will continue to seek for the improvement of its conditions, and the redress of its wrongs, by constitutional means, either through this Parliament or the Arbitration Court.
So far from the Labour party being the promoter of direct action and industrial unrest, it is advice such as waB given by the honorable member for Warringah that would create difficulties and crises, if the workmen were not too sane to be misled by it.
Yesterday the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) complained that Mr. Fisher, when Prime Minister, did not during an industrial crisis in Brisbane use certain powers available for the suppression of the strikers.
– I did not say that. I said that he ought to have rebuked the strikers.
– The facts are that during the Brisbane tramway strike the Denham Tory Government of Queensland, desiring to create a psychology in the community that would bring the workers into contempt and destroy the sympathy justly extended towards them on account of their undoubted grievances, tried to trap the Labour Government of the Commonwealth into making the services of the military available to the State Government. Had Mr. Fisher granted the request, anything might have happened; the industrial trouble would probably have extended, and even serious loss of life might have occurred. But he took a sane course, and replied in effect that he was not prepared to intervene in the dispute in a way which he felt would be unwarranted. The result was that before long the dispute wa3 settled to the mutual satisfaction of the parties, and without the intervention of the military forces. Men who belong to the same political camp as the honorable member for Wilmot are not upholders of political action and the determination of industrial disputes by the properly constituted courts of the land. They desire to abolish the arbitration system, and they support the policy that has been expressed recently oy the Metal Trades Employers’ Association of Sydney. By mistake or design that body forwarded to me a copy of a pamphlet containing an address delivered by Mr. John Heane, jim., om compulsory arbitration, and a foreword from which I quote shows the attitude of those gentlemen towards the preservation of” law and order in connexion with industrial affairs -
Hie time has come for a revolt against these intolerable conditions. The Metal Trades industry must demand and obtain from the courts suitable conditions, including the system of payment by results. ‘ “ The time has come for a revolt,” they say. If some Labour man had expressed himself in such language his remarks would have been headed with black type in the daily newspapers throughout Australia, and would be used to impress upon the public the extreme and irresponsive character of the leaders of industrial unionism.
– What meaning does the honorable member give to that statement ?
– What meaning does the dictionary give to it? The word “ revolt “ was not used inadvertently, but after due consideration. How is the revolt to be achieved ? The foreword says -
The best plan of all would be to abolish the industrial arbitration system. While the courts are in existence employers are unable to fight; they are bound hand and foot.
The meaning of that is that if these gentlemen can secure the abolition of the system of industrial arbitration they will take direct action, and resort to all measures within their power to smash the workers and deprive them of many of the favorable conditions they now enjoy. The Arbitration Court is a judicial tribunal removed from partisan influence, a*id gives its decisions according to the evidence given before it by the contending parties. Rather than continue to have wages and working conditions determined by such a body, the employers prefer to take the law into their own hands regardless of the dislocation and suffering that might result. They are determined to be rid of a system which, they say, binds them hand and foot, and deprives them of the power to fight. It is a remarkable fact that the militant extremists who regard themselves as the advance guard of revolutionary labour should be allies of reactionary employers in the desire to rid the country” of the system of compulsory arbitration, and revert to untrammelled direct action, which has been recommended by the honorable member for Warringah, by inference. I have never been able to recognize any merit or wisdom in such propaganda. The sane leaders of Labour do not wish the workers’ confidence in the settlement of industrial wrong by judicial tribunals to be destroyed. We realize that the system has not operated perfectly. Too often justice has been long delayed, with the result that upon the original wrongs of the applicants were superimposed grievances against’ the court on account of its dilatoriness. Nevertheless, rather than encourage industrial warfare and unrest, the Labour party has repeatedly sought to improve the arbitration system in order to increase the faith of the workers in it as a medium for the redress of their wrongs. This bill seems designed, however, to place the seal of legislative approval upon the thoughts and desires of the extreme reactionaries amongst the employers, and the militant extremists amongst the workers.
We have been told that the object of this bill is to promote industrial peace and to penalize severely those who attempt to dislocate trade and industry; but the fact is that the measure actually gives governmental approval to the strike and lockout methods of solving industrial problems.
– I am doubtful about that.
– The bill clearly sets out that either the employers or the employees may approach the court for a declaration that a strike or a lockout exists, and so be clothed with power to bring into effect a general strike or a general lockout as the case may be. This means that innocent persons may be dragged into industrial disputes.
– Does not that happen to-day ?
– It does, but the honorable member condemns it. I also deplore that persons may be forced to become parties to an industrial dispute in respect of which they have no responsibility or voice whatever. The Labour party has consistently advocated that, so far as it is humanly possible, industrial disputes shall be settled by conciliation and arbitration. That is not the principle underlying this bill, as honorable members opposite may later discover to their Borrow. It should not be possible for a section of employees or employers to bring about a general strike or a general lockout without consulting those who must necessarily be affected by such an action.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) suggested that, in addition to the employers and employees, a third party should be considered in this matter. He said that there was a great body of consumers whose interests were frequently overlooked when industrial disputes occurred. Who are these consumers? The honorable member knows very well that 85 per cent, of our population are working people.
– Yet the Nationalist party has a majority in this Parliament.
– That was brought about by the unfair methods by which the Government conducted the last election campaign. The people were brought to a state of political hysteria. When the Labour party is accorded fair play by the press of the Commonwealth, and the people are allowed to express their views in a proper manner, the majority of which the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) boasts will disappear. I suggest that the third body which the honorable member for Barton said should be considered does not really exist. It is a myth. The so-called middle classes in the community - the professional men, clerks, shop assistants of all grades, public servants, agriculturists, dairymen, and all settlers on the land - are really workers in just as true a sense as the wage-earner who is employed for so many hours a day in our factories, workshops, fields and mine3. I have often observed on the public platform that the body politic consists of two classes only, the workers and the shirkers. Noue of us would care to be included in the latter class. There is no justification for the’ statement that special consideration should be given to the consumers when we are dealing with a matter of this description, because they are actually the great body of people known as wage-earners and wealth producers, and the very people involved and therefore do not constitute a separate class.
Many organizations and responsible people of the community, apart from those associated with trade unions have condemned this bill. The president of the Metal Trades Employers Association in New South Wales, Mr. John Heine, junior, in referring to it in a recent speech, said -
This amending bil! is merely an elaboration of the existing system totally opposed to the great call for national efficiency….. In our opinion it will only aggravate the strife, bitterness, and troubles prevailing at the present time.
He was speaking in a representative capacity on behalf of his association. I point out that his association has very little ground for complaining about judicial decisions which have affected the industries with which he is connected. Mr. Heine observed in the speech from which I have already quoted that in eight out of the nine cases in which his association had appealed against decisions of the Arbitration Court the appeal had been upheld, and that they were still awaiting the decision in the ninth case. Mr. Heine rightly points out that provocative legislation of this description must increase class bitterness and any feelings of unrest and dissatisfaction which may exist in a community. Consequently, the Government would be well advised to withdraw the bill ; otherwise it will commit a serious blunder which may have far-reaching effects upon the Commonwealth.
The bill has been introduced only to save the face of the Government. Just prior to the last election, honorable members opposite found that they had no constructive policy to submit to the people, so they resorted to the old method of stirring up political class hatred. I have grave doubts as to whether the interests which honorable members opposite represent were not directly responsible for the industrial dislocation of the nation at the time of the last election. It is a remarkable thing that just prior to almost every recent general election a serious industrial dispute has occurred. The working class of Australia would be well advised not to allow themselves to be goaded into taking extreme measures just prior to a general election, for that simply plays right into the hands of those who wish to retain political power in Australia. The working people should not permit themselves to be deceived by the promises of this Government, but should rather follow the wise and prudent advice that is given to them by the trusted leaders of labour. They should take every precaution against providing this Government with a special election placard. This amending legislation in an attempt to reconcile the conscience of the Government with its promises to the general public, who were duped and deceived at the last elections by the Government’s placard of “ law and order.” I do not appreciate or subscribe to the principle of deportation of British or’ Australian citizens, but it is remarkable that the two men who were at that time cited as being the instigators of serious industrial unrest still remain within Australia in spite of the Government’s most definite pronouncements. Another gentleman who was said to foster trouble in this country has not been molested, nor has he been asked to answer in the law courts any charge. These gentlemen are too valuable an asset to the Government for electioneering purposes. When the last election was over, the Government was keenly desirous of forgetting its unsuccessful attempt at deportation, but now that another election is approaching, this legislation has been introduced with a ‘view to influencing the public to return the Government under the old ‘ political catch-cry of law and order.
– Does not the honorable member believe in law and order?
– There is no need to ask me that question, and. I do not thank the honorable member for his insulting inference. Too much is said in this House by innuendo and double entente. Honor- . able members behind the Government are continually seeking to place a false construction upon the intentions of honorable members on this side. Any expression of opinion thatI make in this House can be taken by honorable members to be sincere. The bill is designed to excuse this Government before the public for its remissness in duty during the past two years, and to cause the people to believe that its object is to conserve and improve the established systems of law and order. The great body of organized labour has a sincere desire to conserve law and order, and in order to model arbitration legislation upon better lines, the Commonwealth Council of Federated Unions sent a letter to the Prime Minister in 1926 submitting a lengthy review of the Arbitration Act, and numerous suggestions to amend and perfect it in the interests of industrial peace.
– All the suggestions were fully considered, and quite a number of them are embodied in the bill.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral, during the committee stage, enumerate the suggestions that have been embodied in the bill?
– I shall do so.
– I have in my handa copy of the letter that was sent to the Government by the Commonwealth Council of Federated Unions, and, to my mind, this legislation does not embody many of the suggestions of that body, and certainly not those of major importance. During the committee stage it may be my privilege to show to what extent the tribunals of organized labour have sought to improve materially our industrial legislation. Rather than that this bill should become a coercive and oppressive weapon in the hands of the Government, the council considered that it should foster a spirit of confidence and goodwill by removing many of the anomalies which exist in the law to-day.
– Was not Mr. Jock Garden among those who were responsible for those suggestions?
– No. To the best of my knowledge Mr. Jock Garden was never a member of the Commonwealth Council of Federated Unions. [Extension of time granted.]
It has been contended that this legislation will place the control of a union in the hands of its members, but I would remind honorable members that the membership of unions cannot ‘enjoy greater power than they have at present, in electing their officers and determining their policy and domestic problems. The bill is designed to lead the public to believe that that is not so, and that some irresponsible body - either inside or outside the councils of organized labour - is to blame for the industrial troubles of this country. That is not so. I am a member of a trade union known as the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. It is- registered in the Arbitration Court; but we are far from satisfied with the system of arbitration, principally because of the costly procedure and long delays. We are required before taking part in industrial disputes or submitting our claims to arbitration, to hold a secret ballot, and before that can be taken, every branch of the union has to obtain the permission of the Commonwealth Labour Council.
– Does that apply to all labour organizations ?
– It applies to the organization to which I belong. I believe that before an industrial dispute can be brought to the point of a strike, a secret ballot must be taken of the members of almost every organization. I do not know of a single instance to the contrary. It would be absolutely ridiculous for those in control of the labour organizations to declare a strike unless they had the support of the majority of their members, and it was on the absolute direction of that membership. In view of those circumstances the Government is not justified in trying to make the public believe that there is need to place greater control in the hands of the members of unions. In certain instances this legislation seeks to place the control of the secret ballot in an outside authority, removed entirely from the supervision of the membership. The bill does not seek to improve the relations between employer and employee, or to redress many of the industrial wrongs that are suffered by the working class. Rather it will add to the bitterness, hatred and enmity that to-day unfortunately has become far too pronounced in industry throughout Australia.
– This bill is certainly one of the most important measures that have been considered in this House for some time. It deals with two of the great fundamental questions that at present confront our national life. One is the question of arbitration, and whether we are to realize the great ideal that we have set for ourselves in this country - the determination and regulation of industrial conditions by properly constituted tribunals and the settlement of industrial disputes within the law. The other great question is the position of trade unionism in Australia, and whether all is well with it, or whether some action should be taken to regulate the control of unions so that the majority of their members may have the management of their own affairs.
No member of the community, irrespective of his political opinion or affiliation, can, when looking round Australia to-day, come to any conclusion other than that there is something wrong with our present system of industrial conditions. It many be that there is a better method or remedy than that which the Government has submitted, but we all must recoajnize that the present position is serious and that it should receive our earnest consideration. This legislation, which is designed to improve the industrial conditions of Australia should not be discussed in any party spirit. It is open to those who disagree with the course taken by the Government to show by reasoned argument in what respects it is pursuing the wrong line of action in trying to reach what I am certain is the objective of every honorable member. But these issues are so fundamental in our national life that I suggest it is hopelessly wrong for a debate on a measure of this character to be made a purely party political issue, in which suggestions and innuendoes are flung from one side of the chamber to the other.
I shall try to bring home to the House and to the country what was in the mind of the Government in submitting this measure for consideration. Unfortunately, we have begun this debate in the wrong way. The charge has been made and reiterated by members of the Opposition that the Government had some sinister motive in bringing the bill forward. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat said that the measure was introduced to serve political purposes. He declared that the Government had fostered industrial strife at the last election, and was grimly determined to do so again at the next. I say that the people of Australia will not believe that. The Government did not foster industrial strife at the last election; it deplored the fact thatthere was such strife, and did everything in its power to end it. TheGovernment has no sinister motive with regard to this bill and its effect on the coming election. In introducing this bill it is merely carrying out a solemn pledge given to the people of the last election.
To understand the purpose of the bill I wish to remind honorable members of the history of arbitration and the trade union movement. We all know the circumstances that cave rise to the trade union movement, and why this country adopted the great experiment of arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes. The trade union movement extends over 100 years. The people of Great Britain, as that country began to advance industrially to the position of the chief manufacturing nation of the world, became conscious that hideous abuses were being practised in the industrial sphere. Employers were using men, women, and children as mere chattels, and in many cases abominable injustice was being done- to them. In order to protect themselves against exploitation, employees began to gather together in groups, and to act co-operatively in their own interests. That action was bitterly resented by employers. Everything was done to prevent the growth of cooperation among the working classes, and the establishment of the principle of collective bargaining. But the struggle continued, and the workers gradually and irresistibly established that principle. They did it with the sympathy and with the full support of public opinion. Employers were often stupid and misguided, and it was from them the opposition came; the great body of public opinion was behind this great effort of the workers to secure equitable and decent conditions. That is shown clearly by the legislation that was passed in Great Britain.
It is often suggested that everything that has been done for Labour has been done by those who have directly represented it politically; but most of the great reforms which have improved the conditions of labour were, passed long before Labour was truly organized, and certainly long before political Labour came into being. These reforms were due to the revolt of the public conscience. It was because of the action of great, publicspirited individuals that it was possible to secure the passage of the factories acts and other legislation for the protection of women and children, to regulate work underground, legislation which has gradually and progressively obtained for the workers the measure of justice which they now enjoy. We must remember those facts when trying to discover the remedy for a state of affairs that we all admit to be wrong and to require alteration. As the trade union movement grew, better conditions were secured for the worker and many things which had so offended the public conscience were remedied.
Australia became an industrial nation ; our progress was like that of Great Britain. In our early days the same evils that had existed in Great Britain were found here. Sweating existed, and many conditions existed unfair to the workers; but having the advantage of the experience of Great Britain, and the organization that had been accomplished there, we moved to the solution of our troubles more rapidly than the people of Great Britain had done. As our industrial expansion took place, a remedy for the worst of our evils was found in a reasonably short period. The growth of trade unionism gave great strength to the organized workers, and we reached the position in which two great opposing bodies, the organized employers and the organized employees, came into existence. It was obvious that when those two great organizations came to holts with one another, there was a strong possibility of the economic life of the nation being dislocated, and that the general public as well as those directly concerned in disputes would be involved in great suffering. This difficulty has been faced in most countries of the world, but in Australia we set out to deal with it in, I venture to say, a more idealistic and better way than that in which any other conntry has approached it. We determined to adopt the great principle of arbitration. We decided to establish authorities that would lay down the conditions under which men should work, so as to ensure decent conditions of industry, and give fair and proper opportunities for all. We had the great ambition of preventing conflicts between capital and labour, and settling industrial disputes within the law. That step was taken by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1904. It was definitely declared that the strike and the lockout were without the law, and anybody guilty of either striking or causing a lockout was made liable to a severe penalty. That principle was subscribed to with enthusiasm by the Labour party of the day. We hear now - I read the statement in a pamphlet dealing with this bill - that we are proposing to take away from the worker his sacred right t’o strike. Yet, in 1904, with the endorsement of the nation and the particular approval of the leaders of Labour, the principle that 1 have enunciated was adopted in our legislation and has been in operation ever since. We, therefore, appointed tribunals to ensure equitable and reasonable conditions of living. Co-operation, we hoped, would take place between employer and employee, and our industries would progress and prosper. When, as was inevitable, differences arose, it was hoped that the trade and industry of the country was not to be dislocated, and suffering brought upon the whole community; our differences and difficulties were to be settled within the law. It must be, to all of us, a matter of deep regret that we have fallen away from that great objective.
Many factors contribute to the present industrial position. One is that there is no one authority controlling industrial conditions and relations in the Commonwealth; we have both State and Commonwealth authorities, and the Commonwealth’s powers are limited. The Commonwealth can deal only with questions in relation to arbitration and conciliation for the settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the borders of any one State. In the early days, of course, it was considered that the Commonwealth would play a very small part in industrial matters, and in the settlement of industrial disputes. It was thought that it would have to deal only with a few great national industries, and that to the States would be left the control and management of all other industrial affairs. But unhappily, as time went on, the limitation of the Commonwealth powers, and the terms in which those powers were expressed in the Constitution, opened the door to an ever-widening field of operations. At the same time the Commonwealth had not the requisite powers to enable its machinery to operate satisfactorily. It was inevitable that that would happen, because industries were expanding and becoming more and more interstate in character. Industries that had been confined to one State gradually extended to other States; and became v national in extent. It was inevitable that the affairs of the employers and employees would have continent-wide ramifications. The result is that to-day we have two overlapping authorities, the Commonwealth and the State authorities functioning in the same sphere, and we have thus all the difficulties that come from duplication. We have overlapping, causing something approaching chaos.
Another factor to be considered is that the trade union, movement has changed to a great extent since its early days. It began with organizations of workers whose one and only objective was the benefit of their members, to ensure that they enjoyed fair and equitable conditions, and to establish benefits for them in periods of sickness and trouble. But gradually it has become political in its aspirations. We have now not only industrial unionism, we have industrial and political unionism. Unfortunately, we have also in the minds of some, at all events, of the leaders of the Labour movement an entirely false conception of the position of trade unionism in the community. They have found themselves with great power. Trade unionism is probably the greatest force in this country to-day, and the men in control of it have used their power in a way which was never intended when trade unions were created. They have endeavoured to set their will against that of the people as a whole. At times they have not hesitated even to dictate to this Parliament, this great democratic institution which is representative of every adult male and female in the community. I therefore remind honorable members that there is a danger of our viewing these matters from a wrong angle. An instance which occurred some little time ago will illustrate my point. A law was passed by this Parliament providing for the deportation from the Commonwealth of persons convicted of certain offences. When it was proposed to put this law into effect, a meeting of responsible representatives of trade unions throughout Australia was held in Sydney, and the people of Australia were told, and apparently nobody found anything extraordinary in the statement, that the purpose of that meeting was to determine how the law might be defeated. That statement, as I have said, caused no shock to the people of the country, but it should have done so; the fact that it did not shows how far we have drifted.
When the Government assumed office Ministers had very definite ideals. We believed in arbitration and in the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes within the law. We believed that every effort must be made to ensure its success. Ever since we have been in office we have been trying to bring that about ; but there have been many and great difficulties in the way. The first thing we attempted was to deal with the overlapping of awards and dual control by inquiring whether we could not get a definition of the areas for the operation of the State and Commonwealth Arbitration Courts. This matter was taken up at a Premiers’ conference in 1923. We discussed it with the Premiers and Attorney3-General of all the States, but it was found impossible to arrive at any solution of the problem. Honorable members know of the many suggestions that have been made, and I need not detain the House by discussing them now. One was that we should endeavour to define the industries over which the Commonwealth would have control, and that those industries should be set out in the Constitution, the States having complete and strict jurisdiction over all others. After many months of careful examination, it was found impossible to decide how industries should be classified. Another suggestion was that only two industries, the shipping and the shearing industry, were the affair of the Commonwealth. That, of course, is quite wrong. There are many other industries which are nation-wide in their ramification. If we had set out certain industries in the Constitution as being under Commonwealth control, no new industry could have been added without the consent of the people, given after a referendum, although obviously as the country progresses and industry expands the list must be extended.
We were also faced with the fact that there was growing up in this country an element which was totally opposed to our constitutional system of government, and quite prepared to destroy it. if possible. This element had an actual contempt for the law of the country, and was determined to promote industrial strife. It was necessary that we should deal with that element, and we did so. The action which we took for the purpose has been held up against the Government as proving thai; it is antagonistic to Labour and totally lacking in sympathy with its aspirations. Legal proceedings were taken with regard to two persons, Walsh and Johnson, with a view to their deportation from the country. Those men were doing incalculable harm to the country, and it was desirable that they should be sent out of it. I offer no apologies for the action taken by the Government. I mention it now only to rebut the statement that it indicated antipathy on the part of the Government to trade unionists. The majority of trade unionists would have liked to see them thrown out, and it would have been a good thing for the Labour movement if we had succeeded. But we were unable to carry out our intentions, it being held by the High Court that we had not the necessary constitutional power to deport them, and they had to be released. Now it is being suggested that we were not sincere in what we did, but were actuated wholly by political motives. To support that contention it is said that subsequently we passed the Crimes Act, and it is suggested that under that act these men should have been deported, apparently for the offence for which they had been tried and acquitted. I do not think that honorable members opposite can have given full thought to this charge. Do they suggest that a government, having once put men on their trial and failed to secure a conviction, should take advantage of subsequent legislation to put them on trial again for the same offence? Certainly this Government would not do such a thing.
When we went to the people we asked for a very definite mandate to do certain things. Let me remind the House what those things were. We said that, if returned, we would take definite action against those who were endeavouring to subvert constitutional institutions, and to hinder the external and internal commerce of the country. We also told the people that we would take action against those who were endeavouring to foment industrial strife, class war, and direct action. We said, further, that we would do everything in our power to overcome the difficulties which had arisen in regard to the overlapping and duplication in the awards of industrial tribunals of the Commonwealth and the States, and would give to the trade unionists of this country full power over their own affairs, and confer upon them the benefit of the secret ballot.
It is necessary, in view of the statement that this legislation constitutes an attack on trade unions, prompted by hostility and bitterness towards them, that I should make it clear that we’ are merely doing now what we told the people at the last election we proposed to do, when they returned us by an overwhelming majority with a mandate to carry out our intentions. We are progressively giving effect to our undertakings to the people. It has been suggested that we did nothing until this election loomed in sight, and that we are now trying to create again an atmosphere of antagonism and hostility. Let me remind the House that within a few months of the last election we brought down and passed the Crimes Act. That was a most effective measure. It was directed against, not political but revolutionary propaganda, which was being used to undermine the constitutional institutions of this country. It has had the effect of practically putting an end to that propaganda, and has driven the men responsible for it out of the organizations of which they were members. It has also ensured what is vital and necessary for the welfare of the country, namely, the maintenance of our essential public services. Under that act a prosecution took place last month in Queensland because of -a stoppage of such a service, the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service, and the person concerned was fined £100, and had to pay costs amounting to £150. These things have had to bc done because it is necessary that we should keep the services of this country running, and it is equally necessary that wc should make arbitration effective, so that industry may not be dislocated. We also promised in regard to arbitration that we should give the judges of the court life tenure. We gave them that tenure, and also enabled them to interpret their own awards. I remind honorable members that that act was passed through this House with practically the unanimous assent of honorable members. It was found impossible, because of dual authority, overlapping, and the other difficulties to which I have referred, to make arbitration an effective instrument for the promotion of industrial peace, and for the regulation of industrial conditions. Accordingly, the Government brought down a measure for the purpose of a referendum to the people to enlarge the powers of the Commonwealth in regard to industrial matters. ‘ This constitutional amendment bill was passed through parliament without a single dissenting vote, and we had the cooperation of members of nil parties. The only objection was in regard to the provision for the enlargement of our general powers regarding essential services. But although the referendum vote in Queensland and New South Wales was in the affirmative, the other States declared against the granting of extended powers to the Commonwealth. I regret that decision. Had the people given us the increased authority we sought, we would Iia ve been enabled to do many things which to-day are impossible. We could have built up a properly co-ordinated system of arbitration, and brought into operation the principle of the roundtable conference, enabling a greater measure of conciliation, the withdrawal of industrial affairs from the atmosphere of courts, and placing the management of industry more completely in the hands of those engaged in it. This Parliament would have had power to legislate regarding not only trade unions registered under the Commonwealth Arbitration Act, but trade unions throughout Australia. I shall endeavour to show later that that would be beneficial to trade unionism. However, in the absence of the extended powers we sought, we have introduced this bill in fulfilment, as far as is constitutionally possible, of our election pledges. 1 propose to deal briefly with the broad principles underlying the measure. It proposes to do everything that we are able to do to prevent the overlapping of Federal and State jurisdiction. It extends the processes of conciliation and the round-table conference as far as possible within our constitutional limits; it provides for voluntary arbitration, and for ensuring the observance of awards by both parties, and gives to the general body of trade unionists control of their own organizations by means of a secret ballot upon all major issues. “Will any honorable member on either side of the House express himself in opposition to any ,pf these proposals ? We may differ as to the best means of giving effect to them, but all must agree that it would be better for the unions and the community if these matters were placed on a more satisfactory basis. There is, therefore, an obligation on every honorable member to agree to the second reading of the bill, so that in committee the collective wisdom of the chamber may be applied to” the improvement of the machinery provided to give effect to principles that should have the approval of all parties.
– We cannot build on a rotten foundation. The whole bill must be swept away.
– Coming to some of the arguments that have been advanced against the bill, the first with which I wish to deal is the charge that it is vindictive, and is born of the Government’s known hostility towards the organized workers. That statement has been made many times, but I have yet to hear any evidence in support of it. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said yesterday that the Government’s antagonism to trade unionists was well known, and that the bill was designed to destroy the arbitration system and the larger unions. I shall deal with what the honorable gentleman regarded as proof of that charge. He cited the action which the Government took in regard to Messrs. Walsh and JohannsonI ask honorable members whether that action was an indication of hostility to trade unionists? The trade unions do not accept those two men; every decent unionist repudiates them, their methods and utterances, and it is absurd to say that because, when they were promoting industrial turmoil, the Government took legal proceedings against them and tried to have them removed from the country, it was actuated by animus against trade unions. The next point upon which the Leader of the Opposition relied was the passage of the Crimes Act through this Parliament. I remind honorable members that that measure is directed against people who preach revolutionary doctrines. It is directed against persons who try to undermine our constitutional forms of government, and who hold up vital services, thereby causing suffering to tens of thousands of people. Any action taken by the Government to prevent the vital services of the country from being disorganized, so far from being an affront to unionism, confers a great benefit upon it by sparing workers the misery and suffering that such dislocation would inevitably cause. These two reasons advanced by the Leader of the Opposition were not convincing evidence that the Government is animated by hostility to trade unions.
The honorable member proceeded to say that my own utterances indicated the attitude of the Government and the party of which I am the leader. He said that T never ceased attacking labour, and that in my public speeches I accused it of being responsible for every evil in the country. Never, he said, did I utter a word against the employers. The honorable gentleman cannot have followed very carefully my speeches during the last few years. Had he paid me the compliment of reading what I have said, he could not truthfully declare that I have accused the trade union movement of being wholly responsible for the present industrial position. I have said on many occasions, and I repeat now, that in two or three of the great unions - and unfortunately they are the more important, and include the transport unions - are men in authority who are a menace, not only to the country but to the trade union movement. In pointing out that fact, I have shown no hostility to trade unionists; rather have I rendered to them a service which might have been much better rendered by their own responsible representatives in Parliament. The assertion that I have never criticized the employers, or told them that they had some responsibility for existing industrial conditions is almost humorous, having regard to the complaint made by the employers that I, as Prime Minister, spend a great deal of my time in pointing out that much of the present trouble is the result of the stupid actions of many of them in the past, and the equally stupid actions of some of them at the present time. For the information of the Leader of the Opposition, I quote this speech which I made in Sydney on the 6th February last -
No one knows better than I tlo how impossible it is to deal with the reactionary employer. Where the worker is swayed by bitterness and mistrust, these other extremists are blinded by prejudice and ignorance. I can sympathize, if I do not agree, with the workers’ attitude. I can find no excuses’ for the reactionary employer, who is not only the enemy of the class lie professes to represent, but is a menace to the country.
The honorable’ member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) might do me the justice of admitting that I have on all occasions told the employers that the whole blame for the industrial situation cannot be attached to Labour, but that they must accept a share of the responsibility.
– Has the right honorable gentleman ever condemned an employer when there has been trouble?
– I have talked to the employing class - which, according to the honorable members opposite, I represent, and upon which they say the political future of myself and my party depends, and from which we are alleged to get our electioneering funds - with a great deal more courage than any honorable member of the Opposition has ever dared to address his own supporters.
The Leader of the Opposition accused me also of decrying Australia by saying that strikes are more frequent here than in any other country. I have never said that. On the contrary, on many occasions, I have pointed out, in reply to critics overseas, that Australia is not so subject to strikes as are other countries. But I did say recently that the loss to Australia through the dislocation of trade and industry caused by the comparatively few strikes that do occur is an economic tragedy. The honorable member has taken me to task for that statement; I am totally unrepentant. It is very desirable that the people should understand that there is a side of thi> matter other than that which the honorable member has shown. The hours of labour and wages lost are not the only ill effects of strikes. We have to consider also the extent of the dislocation of other industries that one strike may cause, and the incidental losses to the community. The honorable member referred to the hold-up in the coal industry, and to the actual number of hours and the wages lost by the miners. Does he forget the factories that have had to close because they were unable to get supplies of coal, the wages lost by the operatives, and the incalculable hardship that follows?
– Name one factory’ that closed in 1926 through lack of coal.
– Surely the Leader of the Opposition has no objection to my pointing out a few facts in respect of the charges he made against me?
– I want the facts.
– It has been suggested that I should not have stated the number of working hours which have been lost in Australia through industrial disputes. My reply is that it is highly desirable that the Leader of the Government should do so, because of the ramifications of the matter. One does not realize what a stoppage of work means when he is simply told that one industry has been dislocated by a strike. It is only when we consider the amount of wages and the number of hours lost in industries which have been stopped or hindered, that we are able to realize the full effect of an industrial trouble.
Another argument that the Leader of the Opposition used in his attempt to support his wild assertion that the Government was hostile to the workers, was that it was attempting to destroy trade unionism, and to undermine the whole system of arbitration. He suggested that the amendment to clause 48 of th. bill, of which the Attorney-General has given notice, revealed the cloven hoof of the Government.
– I did not use those words.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition, and I apologise to him if he thinks that I was endeavouring to put the words into his mouth. I used them as expressing his opinion. He said that the amendment had been brought down because the Government had realized that it could not “ get away with the original proposal.” Again, those are not his words, but they state his view. My reply to the accusation is that it is absurd. This clause was put into the bill to meet the case of an organization which has been de-registered by the Arbitration Court. Section 58 of the act provides that organizations which are registered- in the court become corporations. When organizations are de-registered they should definitely cease to be corporations. The object of clause 48, as it appeared originally, was to provide power for dealing with de-registered organizations. The Leader of the Opposition said that the intention of it was to enable the Government to seize the funds of such organizations and hand them over to what would be described as scab unions, and so to strike a fatal blow at the trade union movement throughout the Commonwealth.
– That was the meaning of the clause.
– It is utterly absurd to say that. The Government had not the slightest intention of doing anything of the kind. It is a mere machinery clause. As soon as it was pointed out that such an interpretation might possibly be put upon the clause the amendment was drafted and it has now been circulated. The Government has no desire whatever to do an injustice to the great trade union movement, and it is unfortunate that an atmosphere of suspicion should be created in that respect. I deplore the fact that responsible members of the Opposition should adopt that attitude in respect of a bill which is of vital importance to Australia.
The next point with which I wish to deal has regard to proposed new section 25d. which reads -
The court shall, before making any award or certifying any agreement, and in proceedings for the variation or cancellation of an award or agreement, take into consideration the probable economic effect of the agreement or award in relation to the community in general and the probable economic effect thereof upon the industry or industries concerned.
The Leader of the Opposition stated that this meant that the Government desired to destroy the principle of the basic wage. That, also, is utterly untrue. What purpose could the Government hope to serve by attempting to do such a thing? The whole of its actions hitherto have indicated that it believes in the principle of arbitration and in providing reasonable conditions and wages for the workers of Australia. Thank God, Australia has passed the stage at which the wages and conditions of her working people can properly be regarded as a social question. We have managed to establish greatly improved standards of living for the working classes of the community. We have, in fact, reached the point at which any advancement in either wages or conditions must be regarded as an economic matter. It is of no use honorable members opposite, or the wage-earning community, thinking that wages can be increased to any point desired, and that conditions can be improved without having regard to the economic effect on industry. It could be assumed from the remarks which honorable members opposite have made that our Arbitration Court is concerned with nothing but the fixing of wages, whereas everybody who is at all informed on the subject knows very well that it deals with numerous other matters, including hours and conditions of work. All that this clause does is to stress the necessity for the court, in dealing with any matter which comes before’ it, to consider the interests of the general public and the position of the industry under review. It is surely of vital importance to the trade union movement that the court should have regard to the welfare of our industries. It would be . of no use for us to provide such conditions for workers in ‘ an industry as meant that the industry would stagnate, retrogress or disappear, for it would mean that the ideal conditions would be enjoyed for only a short while by a few people, while the majority would suffer irreparable loss. This clause does not indicate that the Government has any hostility to the trade union movement, or that it wishes to interfere with the principle of the minimum wage. Such a statement could only be made by one who is steeped in suspicion and who cannot believe that other people may be as sincere as he is. The object of the clause is to protect the interests of our industries gener- ally.
It must be obvious that if the benefits of our arbitration system are to be continued, the great organizations of employers and employees must discipline their members. To ensure that this shall be done, we must, by our industrial legislation, impose penalties for breaches of the law. The Leader of the Opposition has complained bitterly at the elimination of certain words in section 8 of the act, which provide that a union may disown the actions of its officers if it can show that they were committed without the knowledge of.- the committee of management. A union may in certain circumstances take good care not to know what its servants are doing, and so may escape responsibility for their conduct. But it is essential that these responsible bodies shall not only discipline, their members but also stand by their actions. Consequently the excision of the words to which I have referred is thoroughly justified. Provision is made in the bill that in the event of a union being able to show that it did its best to prevent its members from taking a certain course of action the penalties to which it is liable may be reduced. If the trade union movement of Australia is to continue to enjoy the advantages which it has had in the past it must shoulder the responsibility of disciplining and controlling its members.
The Leader of the Opposition said that, the bill provided for the infliction of savage penalties. In dealing with this measure I have no desire to say anything that might.be thought provocative; but I suggest that honorable members opposite try one’s patience a little too severely.
– I quoted one penalty, and said that it was savage.
– If the Leader of the Opposition says that his remark was confined to one penalty, I have nothing more to say.
– I ask the Prime Minister to deal with tha.t illustration. His generalisations are clever, but they do not deal with the points that I raised.
– If the honorable gentleman was not dealing with the penalties in general I do not need to spend any more time on this point. I propose to show, however, that the penalties provided are not severe. I shall support my contention by quoting statements made by honorable members opposite. In passing may I say that, so far, not one member of the Labour party has seen fit to inform the trade unionists of this country that this is the first occasion on which any of the penalties provided in the original act of 1904 have been reduced. The Deputy Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Blakeley) wrote an article which was published in the Australian Worker on the 1st February last, in which he made what was described as “ a close analysis “ of the bill. The article bore this editorial introduction -
The following .article, written by Mr. Arthur Blakeley, secretary of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party, is a close analysis of the proposed amendments of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
The article was not written in a moment of passion, but deliberately. It contains the following statement: -
The amending bill establishes an entirely new criminal code, and imposes heavy penaltics for certain alleged “offences”. For causing a strike an organization may be fined £1,000, and in the case of any other person, £50.
The honorable gentleman did not point out that under the existing legislation the penalty of £1,000 is applicable to an organization and an individual. His words can bear no other interpretation than that the penalty of £1,000 is quite new, and is part of “ an entirely new criminal code.” The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) made a speech which was reported in the Labour Daily of Sydney, as follows : -
The member for Dalley explained that he would not instruct his listeners on their attitude towards the amendments proposed in the Arbitration Bill, but would state the case clearly, and leave the rest to the people themselves.
He proceeded -
For striking, a union could be fined £1,000, and every member £50.
Those are not new penalties ; they were in the act of 1904. Since then Labour Governments have come and gone, but they have not altered the penalties. It was left to this Government, for the first time, to reduce the penalty, in the case of the individual, from £1,000 to £50. Honorable members opposite would have been fairer had they told the people exactly what are the facts, instead of making misleading statements of that nature. An interesting pamphlet has been issued under the title of “ No Compromise.”
– What about “ savage penalties?”
– The document makes reference to “savage penalties.” It says -
Careful note should be taken of the savage penalties which are attached to almost every clause of this infamous bill. These penalties range up to £1,000, and various terms of imprisonment. Individual members of the employers’ organizations and trade unions are subject to the same penalty. This cunning clause means that, with a £50 penalty, the individual members of an employers’ organization numbering, say, twenty, would be fined £1,000; while the individual members of a trade union numbering 10,000 would be fined £500,000, and the Australian Workers’ Union, with 00,000 members, is subject to fines aggregating £8,000,000.
That statement is absolutely ludicrous, but the writer of the article, on the same basis of calculation, might have said that if this beneficent Government had not reduced the penalties in the act, the Australian Workers’ Union would have been liable for £160,000,000, and not merely £8,000,000. The document which contains this grotesque misrepresentation was issued by the Australian Labour party and the Labour Council of New South Wales. It is wrong to mislead the people by suggesting that such things are to be done. Last year the AttorneyGeneral discussed the imposition of penalties with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and asked them for an expression of opinion as to the abolition of penalties for strikes and lockouts. On the 20th September, 1927, Mr. Crofts wrote saying that the matter wa3 “still receiving consideration.” No further indication of the views of that council has been received. I suggest that if they adopt an attitude in regard to this bill similar to that adopted by honorable members opposite they should have made further representations, instead of declining the invitation of the Attorney-General to give the Government their views on the subject.
Very little credit is due to the honorable gentleman who is responsible for misrepresentation of the type that I have mentioned. In the article, written by Mr. Arthur Blakeley, secretary of the Parliamentary Labour party, there appears this statement -
Clause 18b introduces, quite nakedly the political element into the proceedings. Under this clause the Attorney-General may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, give notice to the Registrar of the Court of his intention to intervene in the public interests iu any proceeding before the court in which the question of standard of hours of work or the basic wage is in dispute.
The provision to which the honorable member referred was incorporated in an amendment of the “act in 1926, and when the honorable member spoke upon that amendment he said. [Extension of time granted.] -
This bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act makes provision for certain departures from practices which have been followed for some time. It proposes that the judges of the Arbitration Court shall have a life tenure of office, and shall be entitled to pensions. And it makes provision for a distinctly new departure from present practice in permitting the intervention of the AttorneyGeneral in disputes. Speaking generally, the federal unions which arc making use of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court endorse the principles of the bill.
He did not then indicate that this introduced, nakedly, the political issue as he has recently stated in the article referred to. Later, during the course of his speech in 1926, he proceeded -
As they endorse the principles of the bill, particularly the provision for a life tenure for judges of the court and the power to interpret their own awards instead of leaving their interpretation to police magistrates, I have very little opposition to offer to the measure.
It is of no use for the honorable member to attempt now to use that provision, which has been in existence for some years, and which previously had his approval, in an endeavour to poison the minds of the workers of Australia against a measure which was designed for their benefit.
Great exception has been taken to the provisions governing the taking of a secret ballot. Yet honorable members opposite declare that every union has a secret ballot, and that there is no difficulty with regard to individual members obtaining a. vote conducted by way of a secret ballot. There is unquestionable evidence that honorable members opposite are not expressing the views of the majority of trade unionists with regard to the conduct of secret ballots. It is no use their contending that the trade unions are opposed to that system of voting. During the last elections the matter was referred to from every platform and the advocacy of the system was everywhere supported. Labour supporters came to me and expressed, the hope that provision for secret ballots would be inserted in the measure. Honorable members opposite admit that the principle is right. If they think that, they can help the Government, when that clause of the bill which provides for it is under consideration, by making sure that it is dealt with in the best possible way. As the rights of the unionist must be preserved, and he should be protected from intimidation when endeavouring to record his opinions, the Government is prepared to stand by and assist him.
I am obliged to honorable members for having granted me an extension of time, but I do not wish to trespass on their good nature. A system of compulsory arbitration can be continued only if both sides obey the law, which must bind and be observed by both parties, otherwise the system must go. This bill is an attempt to ensure that compulsory arbitration shall continue, and that both sides shall observe it. I suggest that if is essential for this country that the system shall continue, and that the great experiment in which we have indulgedshall not be jettisoned. Many people are making a noise about trade unionism; but it is not those people who have the best interests of trade unionism at heart. Trade unionism should have been recognized by the law long ere this. In Australia it grew up alongside another great institution - the friendly society. To-day the most stringent laws apply to our friendly societies, and everybody recognizes the benefits of them. Similar laws would apply to trade unions had it not been for the hostility displayed towards trade unionism in its early days. It is time that trade unionism was placed in the position that it is entitled to occupy. If it is to endure it is vital that that action should be taken now. To-day if a dispute occurs in a union in Australia the person controlling that union at the moment - who may be a man entirely unfitted for the position - is able to embroil his union in a strike, rightly or wrongly, but probably wrongly. If the strike is not succeeding, and the official thinks that he will be beaten, he appeals to another trade union, saying, “ You must come out and help me or I shall lose this fight.” The other unfortunate union does not know what the dispute is about; it wants to get on with its job; but in this way the best feature of trade unionism, the loyalty of one union to another, is traded upon by unscrupulous persons. My great regret . is that the last referendum was not carried, and that, instead of being able to bring down only these few provisions and applying them only to registered unions, the Government has not the power to give to the trade unionist movement of Australia a great code of laws similar in nature to those which apply to friendly societies. I urge trade unionists to think hard before repudiating the idea.
I very much regretted to hear the Leader of the Opposition support the view that has been advanced by some people in Australia, that it is perfectly right for the leaders of trade unions to decline to meet the employers of this country to consider the problems of industry generally, so long as the Government has before Parliament a measure of this nature. What in the name of goodness should the action of the Government have to do with a meeting of employers and employees for the purpose of coming to an amicable arrangement respecting their difficulties? It is a tragedy that it has not been possible to bring the two parties together. I am confident that the great majority of trade unionists desired that the suggested conference should take place, and I trust that it may be possible on some future occasion to bring it about. A similar meeting took place in Great Britain, and it is essential that the trade unionist movement of Australia should know how the situation was dealt with by the industrial committee of the Trade Union Congress General Council, which justified itself in this way for having accepted the invitation.
Broadly speaking, there were three possible lines of policy open to the trade union movement. The first was to say, frankly, that the unions will do everything possible to bring the industrial machine to a standstill, to ensure by all possible means the breakdown of the entire system, in the hope of creating a revolutionary situation on the assumption that this might be turned to the advantage of the workers, and to the abolition of capitalism. That policy the trade union movement has decisively rejected as futile, certain to fail, and sure to lead to bloodshed and misery.
The second course was one of standing aside and telling employers to get on with their own job, while the unions would pursue the policy of fighting sectionally for improvements. The objections to this course are that it 33 entirely inconsistent with the modern demand for a completely altered status of the workers in industry, and that it is a futile policy - a confession of failure, for unions to say they are going to take no hand in the momentous changes that are taking place in the economic life of the nation.
The third course is for the trade union movement to say boldly that not only is it concorned with the prosperity of industry, but that it is going to have a voice as to the way industry is carried on, so that it can influence the new developments ‘ that are taking place. The ultimate policy of the movement can find more use for an efficient industry than for a derelict one, and the unions can use their power to promote and guide the scientific reorganization of industry as well as to obtain material advantages from that re-organization.
Faced with the situation that now prevails in this country, the council has taken the view that the third course was the only one it was possible to take if the trade union movement was to endure as a living constructive force. That policy affords the best hope of raising the status, security, and standard of living of the workers whom the council represents. At all events, a very grave responsibility would have been taken by any one who refused to consider the possibilities of such a course, or who neglected to take any opportunity that offered of pursuing it.
That was the attitude of the Trade Union Congress General Council of Great Britain, despite the fact that the unions were not at all pleased with the Government’s action. I would remind the House that the British Government last year passed an act which is even more drastic than this legislation, and yet the leaders of trade unionism in Great Britain can separate political affairs from the need for co-operation between employer and employee. The failure to do that is the tragedy of this country, and I think that every sane labour man will think seriously when he realizes that the movement towards a better understanding in industry is an anathema to certain persons in this community to-day. A resolution was passed by the executive of the
Communist International at Riga, on the 9th March last, demanding, amongst other things, the most resolute and ruthless war against the so-called industrial peace movement in England, which was described as one of the most dangerous recent developments. That resolution should causa the trade unions of Australia serious concern, seeing that the communist movement has some representation in this country. Some men who are known to be associated with that movement have been allowed far too great a. voice in the affairs of trade unionism in Australia, and in this respect the opposition to the Government’s proposal that the two parties in industry should confer together is most significant.
I reiterate that notwithstanding the innuendoes that have been made, and ‘ the charges that have been flung at the Government, this measure has been introduced with a sincere desire to enable compulsory arbitration to operate successfully in this country, and, if possible, to bring about the realization of our great ideal of establishing new and improved standards in industrial affairs.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has been at great pains to convince this House and the country that the Government is most desirous of continuing the system of industrial arbitration. He criticised the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and the Deputy Leader (Mr. Blakeley) for their expositions of the provisions of the bill. I, on the contrary, congratulate those honorable gentlemen on their able speeches. They showed clearly that they have a full knowledge of industrial affairs, the provisions of the bill, and their probable effect, upon the industrial unions. “What is the attitude of the Prime Minister to-day? It is similar to that which he adopted on former occasions. His speech included a review of industrialism prior to arbitration, and he claimed that the Government has endeavoured to do everything in its power to maintain arbitration and to prevent industrial strife and strikes iu this country. His’ statement would read very well to any one who was unaware of the true position. This Government has done nothing to prevent strikes or lockouts. Can the Prime Minister or any of his supporters point to one instance during the last 3ix years in which this Government has endeavoured to bring about the settlement of an industrial dispute? I have had to complain repeatedly in this House about the inaction of the right honorable gentleman, when industrial disputes were taking place. It is the bounden duty of the Prime Minister, as the chief citizen of this country, to interfere in industrial troubles whose effect may be injurious to the well being of the Commonwealth. Let me compare the conduct of the right honorable gentleman with that of his predecessors. At one time I approached the late Alfred Deakin, who was then Prime Minister, and Sir Joseph Cook, then Mr. Joseph Cook, about a hold-up in the coal industry. T put the position before them, and both gentlemen did all in their power to bring about a settlement. This Government has adopted a different attitude. Everytime that I have asked the Prime Minister to interfere in an industrial dispute he has stated that it should not be made a party question. When the right honorable member for North Sydney was Prime Minister and there was trouble on the coal fields, he realized the seriousness of the position. When I interviewed him hie attitude was quite the reverse of that which has been adopted by the present Prime Minister. He piloted through this House a measure which has been the means ever since of preventing industrial disputes causing a general strike on the coal fields. The Prime Minister said that there had been many strikes on the coal fields. He knows little of the facts; there has not been a general coal strike in Australia for some considerable time. During the war, when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister, he called the miners’ representatives together, and they agreed to keep the wheels of industry moving. To their credit there has been no general stoppage of coal supplies since then. It has been said that the majority of the strikes in New South Wales this year and previously were in the coal mining industry. There has never been a shortage of coal, or a general strike on the coal fields. Some mines may have ceased work for two or three days, but honorable members must not forget that there are over 40 coal mines in one district of New South Wales. There are always sufficient supplies of coal on hand to supply Australian demands and to some extent the demands of other countries. There are 70,000 tons of coal to be seen daily in the hoppers. I point that out to honorable members to show that there is no truth in the statement that there have been general strikes on the coal fields and consequent stoppages of the supplies of coal. The Prime Minister quickly left that subject when I interjected that his statement was incorrect, and I am taking this opportunity of placing the facts before honorable members.
The right honorable gentleman has done nothing to prevent industrial trouble, and no doubt he and his supporters were very pleased when, just prior to the last elections, a shipping hold-up took place in this country. The Government at the time were discredited throughout Australia, but the hysterical cry that law and order were in danger turned the certain defeat of the Government into victory.
– The honorable member challenged the Government to go to the country.
– Not on the issue of the shipping strike, but on the issue of legislation relating to deportation, which was passed in connexion with the Australian and not the British shipping strike. The people on the wave of hysteria misunderstood the position. The Government, probably on the advice of the Attorney-General of that time, passed legislation which the court subsequently held to be invalid and unconstitutional. I venture to say that if the Government went to the country to-day on a similar challenge and legislation, the people, knowing the position, would reverse the decision that they gave at the last election. The Prime Minister said that the Government favoured arbitration, and that before the Labour party was organized legislation was passed in this country that had proved beneficial to the community. I have a vivid recollection of what happened prior to the nineties when the Labour party came into being. I remember military forces and gatling guns being sent on many occasions into the district that I represent, when industrial trouble was experienced. No attempt at conciliation and arbitration was then made by the employers. Prior to the Labour party sending men to the halls of legislature, the other side depended upon the military forces to obtain their ends. I shall show that this bill is intended to assist those persons who were guilty of settling their disputes in that way, prior to the advent of arbitration.
Numbers of applications have been filed in the Arbitration Court, and after eighteen months’, or even two years’ delay, in some cases, they have not been heard. Representations have been made by the parties to have the hearings expedited, but without success. Yet if arbitration is to be satisfactory to the parties to industry, they must have reasonable access to the court. As time goes on, changes take place in industrial affairs, and it is most necessary that all cases should be heard at the earliest possible moment. During the six years that the present Government has been in office, it has done nothing to expedite the hearing of cases. The attitude of the Government, in many instances, has been the means of causing workers who believe in the principle of arbitration to turn from it, and consider that they might be as well, and perhaps better off, if they resorted to direct action. It is regrettable that Australia has had a government in power that has not been ready to give heed to the representations made on this subject from time to time by responsible men. The party opposite would have us believe that it is anxious for industrial arbitration to succeed.
What happened when Mr. Justice Higgins was dealing with the question of the working hours? He is one of the best judges that ever sat in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court; but, when it came to the determination of the eighthours question, legislation was rushed through this Parliament providing that three judges, instead of one, should determine it. Why was that done? It was done because the employers had requested the Government that it should be done. Although we now have a 44r-hours week, they were afraid at that time that Mr. Justice Higgins might award a 44-hour week. That is the line of conduct that has been pursued by this Government, and by the party opposite, for a number of years. The Prime Minister has the audacity to tell us to-day that he is desirous of seeing that the principle of arbitration is kept intact.
– Mere mockery !
– Yes, and it ought to be exposed. Actions speak louder than words.
I do not intend to discuss the provisions of the bill in detail; but I shall show that if the Government had been anxious to do what is fair it would have amended the definition of “ lockout.” We hear honorable members opposite constantly referring to’ strikes. Why is it that we never hear of lockouts occurring ? It is because the employers and their associations can gain their ends without locking their employees out at all. The definition in the act is as follows. “ Lockout “ includes the closing of a place or part of a place of employment, and the total or partial refusal of employers, acting in combination, to give work, if the refusal is unreasonable, or the total or partial suspension of work by an employer, with a view to compel his employees, or to aid another employer in compelling his employees, to accept any term or condition of employment.
Under that definition the employer can impose on the employees any conditions he likes, so long as he does not close his establishment. If that definition were amended by providing that no change in the terms and conditions of employment could be made unless mutually agreed upon, or by decision of the court, there would be lockouts instead of strikes. Yet the party opposite takes no cognizance of this anomalous position, and pretends that the measure is fair to both sides. The Government proposes in this bill that a lockout shall be within the law. Certain penalties are provided for the purpose of preventing strikes and lockouts; but when they are imposed they generally fall upon the employees, because the employers have no need to cause lockouts. Surely the definition of a lockout should be similar to that of a strike. If I employ a large number of men, and tell ten or twenty of them that they must observe certain conditions, they must appeal to the court should they be dissatisfied. If there is no award in the industry, and they refuse to accept the altered conditions, they are said to have caused a strike. Those who have the best interests of the whole of the community at heart recognize that this legislation should apply equally to both sides in industry.
It is proposed to amend section 1 by providing that, where an application is made to the court under this section, the court may make an order declaring that a lockout or strike exists in an industry or in some part of it. Proposed new subsection 5 states : -
Upon an order being made under this section declaring that a lockout exists in the industry or a section or part of the industry, anything in the nature of a strike done in that industry or in any section or part of that industry shall not, while the order remains in force, be a breach of the act or of any award or order of the court.
If the bill is passed in that form the employers will be enabled to break down the conditions now enjoyed by the workers. Immediately a stoppage of work occurs, an employer can apply to the court, and, if the court decides that a strike has occurred, he will be free to lock out the rest of the men engaged in the industry. Take the mining industry, with which I am familiar. In the northern districts there are perhaps 40 lodges. They have a management committee, and each lodge has its own local officers. Suppose that a dispute occurs in a particular colliery. .It might not concern the miners. Say a wheeler claimed that his horse was not fit to work. This .man might refuse to drive the horse, because of its condition, and the mine manager might dismiss him. The other men on the mine “might then refuse to work unless the wheeler was reinstated. Operations on the mine would probably be held up for a week or two, and the employers would take the matter to the court. Immediately they did that, the whole of the colliery proprietors could close the industry down.
– And they would have the law behind them
– Yes, to the detriment of the whole community.
– Only if the judge, in his discretion, declared that a lockout’ or strike existed in the industry or in some section or part of the industry.
– Of course.
– The honorable member’s interpretation is not the natural meaning of the words, and is not intended to be the meaning.
– That is the only interpretation to be placed on them. If the Attorney-General is going to run away from the facts, so much the worse. As the measure now stands, it would be possible to make application to any judge in Australia, and he would come to the conclusion that he would have to decide whether there was a strike in a portion of the industry, not in the whole of it. If he decided that there was, then the owners would be free to lock out the rest of the men. The result would be that we should go back to where we were before arbitration was introduced in the nineties. It would mean a return to direct action on the part of the employers. I suggest to the Attorney-General that, while the Government has not had sufficient backbone to repeal the Arbitration Court altogether, it has opened a door by which the principles of arbitration may be nullified. There is no escape from that conclusion. Only recently Mr. John Heine, president of the Metal Manufacturers’ Association, said -
While the courts are in existence the employers are unable to fight; they are bound hand and foot, whilst the employees have all sorts of extra facilities for mischief.
In other words, this president of the Metal Manufacturers’ Association invites the Government to give them a free hand. Well, they are getting it in this bill, so that they may be in a position to fight the employees. The statement continues -
Industrial arbitration has a beautiful ideal, and a righteous one. It was originally evolved to protect the workers who were unable to economically protect themselves, lt has done so. It has overdone it. It has pampered them so that they have become bowelless tyrants and unmitigated ruffians towards the industries from which they draw their sustenance.
I take exception to the language used in that statement. This man, and other members of his organization, will approach Parliament for protection for their industry, and yet the nien who have to work for them, whose assistance is essential for the production of the articles which they manufacture, are called unmitigated ruffians.
While the Government has not gone so far as to ask for the cancellation of the Arbitration Act, it has brought in a measure which will virtually have the same effect. The Prime Minister has not attempted to answer the criticisms levelled against the bill, but has attacked the Leader of the Opposition and other members on this side of the House, who have attempted to explain what the bill really means. Instead of answering the criticism, he has tried to smooth the matter over in his glib way by saying that the Government is desirous of promoting industrial peace. The Prime Minister has deliberately refused to take any steps in that direction, and now he brings down a bill of this kind, the effect of which will be to promote industrial strife and direct action. Then we shall be confronted, not with a Crimes Act as now, but with the military suppression of strikes as in years gone by. Let us consider the statement <ji John Brown, to the effect that the mining industry should bc brought back to the conditions of 1914. The cost of living has increased by at least 60 per cent, since then ; but, in spite of that, he would have wages revert to the 1914 level. The mining industry is in a very bad way at present, and thousands of pounds are being spent in relief. So bad are the conditions on the coal-fields that Mr. Stevens, of the New South Wales Ministry, after a visit to Newcastle, has induced his Government to make available £600,000 to find work for the unemployed. Honorable members on the other side of the House claim that conditions on the coal-fields are due to the workers’ own fault. Yet what does Mr. Stevens himself say? He is not a Labour representative, but a member of a Nationalist government. He says that the miners are not responsible; but that the slack conditions of the coal trade are due to the prominent part played by oil in reducing the consumption of coal by 300,000 tons a year. Further factors contributing towards dullness of trade are, he says, the development of hydro-electric schemes, the use of brown coal for the production of electrical energy, and the development of mines in South Africa, Burmah, Japan and China. These things have cut heavily into our foreign trade, and yet there are honorable members in this House who say that the depression is entirely due to the miners holding up production. The honorable member for Warringah said that the miners were responsible for all the trouble. I maintain that if any one thing was responsible for killing our foreign coal trade, it was the action of the Government during the war period in decreeing that not one ton of coal should be exported from Australia. In consequence of that, practically the whole of our foreign coal trade was lost; and it has never since been recovered. The mine-owners have been opening new mines, and equipping them with up-to-date machinery, so that at the present time from 2,500 to 3,000 tons of coal are being produced from one mine in 7% hours drawing. This gives an idea of the efficiency of the equipment, and of the workmen. More coal “has been produced than is required.
– Is that a record for daily production?
– I cannot say, but it is among the highest in the world. Now the mine-owners say that there mustbe a reduction in the wages of the workers. As the bill provides for taking economic conditions into consideration in making awards, lot the financial condition of the coal companies be dealt with so that arbitration may be placed on a proper footing. One mine, for instance, has one-third of its capital consisting of watered stock. The companies maintain that they must receive so much return on their invested capital, say 8 per cent., on £500,000, when actually no more than £300,000 has been invested. Yet there is nothing in this bill to deal with that, aspect of the situation. Surely it is fair for me to contend that a thorough investigation should be made’ as to what is the genuine capital of the coal companies, as against their fictitious capital.
– Hear, hear!
– The AttorneyGeneral agrees with me, but will he put a clause to that effect into the bill?
– It is there already.
– Never in the history of the Arbitration Court has the economic problem been probed as to the relation of genuine to fictitious capital of trading concerns.
– But the court will probe into what a girl pays for her frock.
– Yes, it will do that, but it will not investigate the capital position of the companies. It should be clearly understood that while everybody who puts capital into a business is entitled to a fair return, companies should not be permitted to bleed the public. The Government is addicted to appointing commissions, and while I do not as a general thing approve of its policy in that direction, I think that it might with advantage appoint a commission to inquire into the ramifications of the coal trade, and its effect on the living conditions of the people. Perhaps something would be discovered which would enable the mining industry to be placed on a better footing whilst allowing the public to obtain cheaper fuel. I have heard honorable members on the other side say frequently that the miners alone are responsible for the bad condition of the mining industry. Let me tell them that the last three increases which have been made in the price of coal have taken place without the miners receiving a farthing advance in wages. While increases are being heaped on to the price of fuel, the owners are seeking to have the wages of the miners reduced to the 1914 level!
– That, perhaps, is one of the economic realities that the honorable member for Warringah wants us to consider.
– Perhaps so. Many of the miners have not averaged more thar two and a half days’ work a week during the past two years, while others have been working only half time. If it were possible for us to secure cheaper coal by means of a re-organization of the industry, more fuel might be used, as the present high price is inducing manufacturers to employ other means for generating power. The miner receives only 5s. or 6s. a ton for hewing the coal which is sold in Newcastle for 22s. or 23s.
The Prime Minister had a great deal to say regarding the penalties provided in the bill. He said that the Leader of the Opposition and other speakers had not told the people of Australia that the penalties were no greater than previously, while in some cases they had been reduced. But the Prime Minister himself did not tell either the members of this House, or the people of Australia, that the penalties apply in a far greater degree than previously to the members of unions. Take, for instance, section 8 of the present act, which makes only the committee of management of an organization responsible for encouraging strikes, and compare it with the clause in the bill. In this measure, in addition to the committee of management, any person controlling an organization, or a branch of the same, or an officer of a branch, is also liable, if he orders, encourages, advises, or incites to a strike. The scope of the clause has been greatly extended, and in that respect the penalties apply more severely than before.
– Under the present act, if a committee of management was able to show that it was not cognizant of the events forming the basis of the charge, its liability ceased.
– Those words are to be cut out. by the present bill.
– That is true, but the Prime Minister glossed over that matter, making it appear that the penalties are less than they were before. The effect of this will be to make organizations liable for any small sectional trouble which may break out amongst their members. In the mining industry, th<* workers are paid by results, which honorable members on the other side of the House are constantly telling us is the best system. While the miners are at the face they produce all that it is possible for human beings to produce in the time. The only return is starvation of the workers, and attempts by the employers to still further lower their conditions. If a little local trouble arises in one of -the mines, the whole organization of miners becomes involved and liable to the heavy penalties prescribed by this bill, which is much more drastic than the present act.
– It needs to be.
– The honorable member is frank ; he does not try to cloak the intentions of the Government. The additional severe penalties prescribed by the bill will apply to the workers only.
– Because the big employers do not belong to registered organizations.
– That’ is why a special penalty is provided for individual employers under proposed section 6a.
– No attempt .has ever been made to impose penalties on employers.
– The president of the Employers’ Federation may order a lockout, but he cannot be fined because his organization is not registered.
– He would be personally liable to a penalty of £1,000.
– There is a distinction between an association and a registered organization. Throughout the Commonwealth only 27 small associations of employers are registered, as compared with 149 organizations ‘ of employees.
– I believe those figures to be substantially accurate, but some of the employers’ organizations are very extensive.
– The only big one is the Pastoralists’ Association.
– The mine owners’ associations are not registered.
– They are under the Industrial Peace Act, and this bill will not apply to them.
– There are other associations that do not register and, therefore, will not be liable to penalties. No doubt the Attorney-General recognized after the bill was presented to the House that it was unfair, and for that- reason drafted an amendment of which he has given notice.
– I cannot think of any proposed amendment which supports what the honorable member is saying.
– With the exception of the provision relating to conciliation committees, clause 16 is the only one that may serve some useful purpose. For years I have endeavoured to induce the Government to agree to a system of conciliation committees. On this subject I have interviewed the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister and I have discussed it in the House. But when honorable members on this side sought to have conciliation committees appointed under the Industrial Peace Act in order to afford a readier means of redressing grievances in the mining industry our request was refused. Had the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) continued Prime Minister those tribunals would have been created, because he offered no objection to them.
– Would the honorable member be prepared to scrap the Arbitration Act in order to make way for a system of conciliation?
-If conciliation committees were put on a sound footing, I would prefer them to the arbitration system. To my mind the principles of the Industrial Peace Act are preferable to those of the Arbitration Act, and if extended, would operate beneficially. The Attorney-General said that the limitations, of the Constitution do not permit such tribunals to be appointed.
– - The honorable member misunderstood me. I pointed out that the establishment of conciliation committees was entirely optional, and unless the employers were agreeable they could not be appointed. I had to concede that in regard to this bill also. Many mining employments are not interstate, and if the’ decisions of the conciliation committees were challenged they would be held invalid.
– If that is so, how will the system of conciliation committees operate under this legislation ?
– For a decision to be binding the dispute to which it relates, must be interstate.
– That means that the conciliation committees will be useless. Local tribunals are for the settlement of local troubles. If these conciliation committees will have no constitutional authority to settle local disputes the provisions in the bill relating to them are intended merely to hoodwink the workers.
– The bill does not refer to local tribunals.
– No; but these provisions permit of the appointment of boards representative of both sides, with an independent chairman to deal with any dispute that may arise. Such a dispute could apply only to a local matter. The ramifications of a big union extend throughout the Commonwealth. A small local dispute arises, and because the court is unable to deal with it a local tribunal is applied for and granted. It effects a settlement; but, according to the Attorney-General, its decision may be declared unconstitutional. If that is so, the provisions of the bill are mere makebelieve.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– If I rightly understood the interjections which the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) made just prior to the adjournment, the conciliation committees which it is proposed to set up under this measure will be useless, for they will not be able to deal with local disputes.
– The honorable gentleman has misunderstood my remarks; I shall have to explain the matter more fully.
– Almost the only thing worth retaining in this bill is the provision to appoint these local committees, provided always that they will have authority to deal with local disputes. The representatives on such committees should be empowered to meet and formulate views for formal submission to a Judge of the court, to be embodied in an award. Unless they could do this, .they would be of no use. Every one who has had experience of industrial arbitration must realize that local conciliation committees could often settle disputes before a serious breach occurred. I have, for many years, advocated the appointment of such committees; but I have been told that they would be unconstitutional. I am not a lawyer and have never set my view against that of a qualified legal practitioner on a question of law like this, but the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister both know that I believe in the appointment of local tribunals. If they were clothed with sufficient power they could do a good deal to prevent the delays which at present occur in dealing with arbitration cases. The present system has undoubtedly brought industrial arbitration into disrepute. Claimants often have to wait eighteen months or two years to have their cases heard, and that is altogether unsatisfactory.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– If the object of appointing local tribunals is not to enable them to deal with disputes before they become widespread, and even before they cause a stoppage of work, then it appears to me there is little to be said in favour of appointing them. Whenever I have advocated that they should be set up, 1 have been met with the statement that it is doubtful whether they would be constitutional. If the Attorney-General is not able to dispel all doubt on that point, thi3 clause should not be agreed to. It will be of little use for us to set up local committees simply to have their decisions nullified by subsequent costly litigation before the High Court.
A good deal of the industrial trouble of Australia of recent years has been due to the delay of the Arbitration Court in dealing with the business placed before it. If we could expedite the hearing of plaints by the court, we should do a good deal to restore confidence in it. It is often said that Australia is the home of industrial unrest; but in proportion to our population, we have less industrial dislocation than any other country. We should have less still of it if the Arbitration Court could deal with its business promptly. Whatever may be said in excuse of delay in the hearing of the civil and criminal cases, nothing whatever can bo said in excuse of it in the hearing of industrial cases. If honorable members opposite were working men who had lodged a plaint with the court, they would not be willing to wait for a couple of years to have it heard; they would desire prompt action. The exigencies of their situation would probably demand it. A local conciliation committee would often be able to deal with a local dispute and settle it before it extended seriously. Many industries in Australia are established in more than one State, but it does not necessarily follow that disputes in a section of any industry in one State must affect other sections of the industry in that or other States. I trust that the Attorney-General will be able to make it clear that these local committees are intended to function in the way I have suggested. Unless they will simplify industrial arbitration, we shall waste our time in providing for their appointment, and what is of greater moment, we shall mislead the general community in respect to them.
Provision is made in the bill for the holding of secret ballots. No honorable member on this side of the chamber objects to the principle of the ballot, for we know very well that it is sound. Every large organization of employees holds ballots regularly. But the Government proposal that ten disgruntled members of any registered organization shall be able to demand a ballot on any matter which comes before their union is ridiculous. Some industrial organizations have numerous branches, and their business is dealt with by councils composed of sectional representatives. If the provision respecting secret ballots in this bill becomes law, it will be possible for ten aggrieved members in one or more branches of an organization to demand the taking of a ballot. That will mean that the coal-miners’ organization will be continually taking ballots, for ten disgruntled members could always be discovered who would disagree with any action the council of the organization might take. Ten dissatisfied members” can be found in almost any organization. In a church choir of twenty members it would be possible to find at times ten dissatisfied members. If we agree to this provision we shall make it impossible for big industrial organizations to conduct their business. Honorable members opposite who know very little about the control and management of industrial unions may consider that there is something to be said in favour of this proposal, but I assure them that it is ridiculous in the extreme, lt would cost the miners’ organizations in the north at least £200 to hold each ballot. They would have to appoint two permanent officers to do nothing but conduct ballots. We agree that ballots are necessary at times, but it should not be possible to demand one on any matter of business which comes before a union. If we retain this provision in the bill it will become a dead letter, or will kill industrial arbitration.
It appears to me that some honorable members, as well as extremists on both sides, are hankering to get back to the industrial methods of the nineties. It is only because the Government lacks knowledge with regard to industrial conditions that it brings down a bill of this kind. If passed, its effect will be to discredit the system of industrial arbitration. It will enable employers and employees who so desire to take direct action, which will be inimical to the best interests of Australia. If an attempt is made to break down existing conditions, there will occur one of the biggest upheavals that has ever been known in this country. Even those industrialists who desire to continue under a system of arbitration will be alienated and forced to take the necessary steps to be de-registered. It is quite possible that the court may refuse de-registration, with the result that a breach of the act may be committed. When a breach is committed the penalties come into operation. The original proposal of the Government was that in such circumstances the organization should be de-registered, wound by by the judge, all debts paid, and the remainder of its funds distributed among its members. It would cease to exist An amendment that has been circulated permits the de-registration of the organization, but after the payment of all debts it may continue as an association. If it continues as an association it will still be a union. All that has been done is to free it of the obligations previously imposed upon it by the Industrial Arbitration Act. It will not be subject to the penalties of that act, as it will be outside its jurisdiction. This bill engenders, rather than prevents, industrial trouble, and that is why I cannot see that any benefit will be derived from its operations.
– A union cannot be allowed to enforce its own will and at the same time enjoy the advantages of an award.
– No one desires that that should be so.
The Prime Minister referred to the proposed peace conference. During ray life I have taken part in many industrial conferences, some of which have done excellent work. At one we were successful in drawing up an agreement for a sliding scale with regard to the mining industry that lasted for many years without any trouble. I believe in peace and roundtable conferences. They do a lot of good. But it is no use, after inflaming the minds of industrialists with legislation such as this, the Deportation and the Crimes Acts, to invite them to attend a peace conference. This measure practically means the annihilation of trade unions, and unionists are not now in a frame of mind that will make them responsive to an invitation to attend a peace conference. It is asking too much of human nature. We are all human, and when we are offended we are slow to forgive. I object strongly to the personnel of the proposed conference. I do not think that representatives of the Women’s National League or the agricultural society should be on it. It should be a conference composed of those directly interested in industrial and economic matters. Had that been proposed, it is probable that the conference would have been held. I am sorry that this bill has been introduced. It makes legal, in certain circumstances, strikes and lockouts, thereby entirely destroying the principle of arbitration. An industry* may contain as many as 35,000 employees, yet if a section of perhaps 1,000 or 2,000, in consequence of a dispute, cease work, and an application is made to the court, and the court finds that a strike exists, the owners may lockout everybody in the industry. That is no way to bring about industrial peace. This will be a most disastrous piece of legislation, and its introduction is due to the lack . of experience in industrial matters on the part of Ministers and honorable members opposite. No one can point to a Minister who has had any experience in industrial matters, except the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), and that honorable gentleman has merely appeared in the Arbitration Court at different times. The intentions of the Government may be good, but because it lacks the necessary knowledge, it will blunder along, pass this legislation, cause trouble, and the country will suffer. A reference has been made to leg-ironing the worker. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) stated’ that when the late Sir Charles Wade was Premier of New South Wales, he introduced the best industrial law that has ever been placed on the statute-book. I remember that act very well. But the honorable member forgot to add that when the industrial upheaval occurred in the New South Wales coal industry, Sir Charles Wade took action somewhat similar to that now being taken by thi* Government, and introduced a measure for the purpose of leg-ironing the workers in the industry, and some of the finest men who ever stood in shoe leather were gaoled. No one played a more prominent part in that dispute than I, and later Sir Charles Wade thanked me, and desired to confer some little honour on me for my activities. I did my utmost because the dispute affected the interests of Australia. I pay my meed of praise to Judge Scholes, who has retired, or is about to do so. Had it not been for our joint efforts, the community would have suffered even a greater strain than it did from the scarcity of coal. Judge Scholes stood by me splendidly throughout the fight. It was the employers and not the employees who protracted the settlement of the dispute. They were the most difficult men with whom I had to deal. Half of the coal-owners were agreeable to a settlement, but two or three, notably one who now desires that there should he a return to the old conditions, took the opposite view.
The Prime Minister took credit to National Governments for what has been accomplished by arbitration. Undoubtedly arbitration has done some good. It has enabled such men as shop employees and bank clerks, who previously dared not apply for decent conditions, to approach the court. It has done much to raise the standard of living of the great masses, and it has kept down industrial strife in this country. Many people, for their own purposes have magnified the prevalence of industrial trouble in Australia. Actually this country hai been much freer from industrial strife than other countries. Why should we, the national deliberative assembly, endeavour to pass legislation which will kill arbitration. There are a number of employees as well as employers against the’ system of arbitration, and if this bill is passed, there will be no difficulty in inducing the majority of the employees to oppose the system, which will then become a thing of the past. As arbitration has proved beneficial to the country we should endeavour to perpetuate it. I d« not know how the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) could draft many of the provisions of this bill. Already he has found it necessary to bring forward sheafs of amendments, and it is but reasonable to assume that the bill is unsound and badly drafted. I hope that this measure will not become law and that even at this late hour the Government will withdraw it. If it is placed upon the statute-book of this country, the result will be industrial turmoil. We want good conditions in Australia, and our citizens to live in contentment. We want to develop this country on right lines instead of encouraging petty disputes between different sections of the community, which in the end benefit no one. The Prime Minister said in his policy speech that nothing could be taken out of industry that was not put into it; but I would inform him that one-third of the capital of most companies in Australia is watered. Nearly every company, large and small, has been watering its capital since the war. Let us arrive at a true economic basis. Although I have frequently stated in this House that the Government has appointed too many boards and commissions, in this case, in the interests of the community, I advocate the appointment of a commission to inquire into the economic position of Australian companies, and to ascertain the amount of true capital and the amount of inflated capital invested in them. By that means we shall be able to fix the wages and conditions in industry on a true economic basis.
.- The bill provides for certain amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and I am glad that the word “ conciliation,” which is the first word appearing in the measure, has not been omitted and that the Government has recognized its importance. It is well known that the Honorable B. R. Wise, of New South Wales, was the sponsor of the first Conciliation and Arbitration Act passed in this country. At that time conciliation was considered of more importance than arbitration, but to-day the position is reversed. We have now what is known as compulsory arbitration which leads to litigation and class war. Unfortunately there is an element in this country which is deliberately preaching class warfare, and it is composed of persons who are either members or supporters of the Labour party.
– That is not correct.
– Unfortunately it is correct. These re-action aries have tried to propagate their teachings throughout the schools, but I am glad to say that under our present educational system, children in different classes of life mix freely together, thus engendering not hatred, but love of one another. It is unfortunate that the teachings of communism have taken root in the minds of some of the youth of this country, and to them, class warfare overshadows any other interest in life. It is essential that we should in this country have legislation sufficiently drastic in character to check the operations of the advocates of communism, and no law can be too repressive so far as they are concerned. The bill will appeal to the majority of the people, because its coercive provisions will apply only to the extremists among both the employers and employees. It is not denied that we have extremists in our midst, and they comprise perhaps not more than 10 per cent, of those engaged in industry, but it is generally recognized that they are the cause of most of our industrial disputes. When the Attorney-General was introducing the bill he mentioned at the beginning of his speech that the industrial problem cannot be and never has been considered in Australia on a purely economic basis. I should like to ask the reason for that. Have economics nothing whatever to do with industrial problems? Our main trouble in Australia to-day is that we have not given sufficient study to the economic aspect of industrial problems. The trouble commenced when Mr. Justice Higgins gave his famous decision that an .industry that could not pay the artificial wages that he himself laid down, should go out of existence. That principle has been accepted by the Arbitration Court ever since. Last night honorable members opposite lauded that judgment, but in my opinion it is the most futile and absurd statement that has ever been made by a member of the bench. The wages that are fixed by the Arbitration Court have no relation to the value of the work given in return. Last night the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) said that the opinion of the Labour party was that in the interests of Australia any industry that could not pay the artificial wages fixed by the court should go out of existence. That statement, which was applauded by members of his party will be fine reading for the primary producers of Australia. The dairying industry, for instance, cannot be carried on under the wages and hours of work that are prescribed for what are called “ sheltered “ industries. Yet the Labour party, if it had its way, would gleefully help in putting it out of existence.
– The same applies to all primary industries.
– That is so. They deny to the dairying industry, for example, the conditions and hours applying in the “ sheltered “ industries. The primary producers will not be forgetful of the attitude of the Labour party when it is canvassing for country votes at the next elections. The judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins has been the root of most of the industrial trouble that has taken place in Australia.
– If an honorable member on this side of the House made a statement reflecting on a judge of the High Court he would be called to order.
– The honorable member for Richmond is criticizing the effect of tho judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins, and is not making a personal attack.
– Why should wages be fixed independent of the work that ig given in return? No one will deny that wages are paid, not by the employer, but out of the products of industry. The Attorney-General recognizes that, because in the course of his speech he said -
We are all proud of our Australian standard of living, but must realize that that standard can be maintained not by words only, but by work, and that work can proceed successfully only in the absence of friction and in a spirit of goodwill.
Also in his speech he said -
Wages and profits come out of the products of industry, and unless industry is profitable it cannot continue, in which case there can be neither wages nor profits.
I commend those statements to the House because they are true. But I ask the Attorney-General »why is it that he is such an ardent advocate of the Arbitration Court, which bases its awards not on the work done in industry, but on the fact that a man is employed in it, irrespective of his occupation? Whether a man earns his wages or not, he must under our system of arbitration receive a certain rate of pay. The court ignores the argument advanced by the AttorneyGeneral that only work enables wages to be paid; consequently our arbitration system is now topsy turvey and unemployment is caused by it.
In many industries the marginal difference between the wages for skilled and unskilled labour is so small that men hardly consider it worth while becoming skilled workers. The Royal Commission on National Insurance, of which I happen to be .a member, took extensive evidence for many months in every part of the Commonwealth on the subject of unemployment, and we found that at least four-fifths of the unemployed were unskilled workers. It was made clear that the Arbitration Court has provided standards of hours, wages and working conditions that offer no inducement to young men to become apprenticed to skilled trades. The awards of the court limit the number of apprentices that may be employed in any industry. A handicap has been placed upon apprenticeship, and there is so little incentive for the exercise of skill that young men, instead of being apprenticed to skilled trades, go to work at an early age. The result is that Australia is overrun by men who, as soon as they are out of work, have to take up the pick and the shovel. We see large numbers of these unfortunate men every year, and they excite our pity. I have come to the conclusion that the awards of the Arbitra: tion Court are mainly responsible for the prevalence of unemployment in Australia.
– Is there a dearth of skilled workers owing to the restrictions regarding apprentices?
– If* the honorable member who interjected referred to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), who sits behind him, and was a member of the National Insurance Commission, he will learn that the commission found that over80 per cent, of the unemployed were unskilled workers.
I listened with great interest yesterday to the opinions expressed by the Leader of the Opposition. He presented a poor case ; but I endeavoured to sift some grain from the enormous quantity of chaff that he presented. He waxed theatrical in dealing with proposed new section 25d, which reads -
The court shall, before making any award or certifying any agreement, and in proceedings for the variation or cancellation of an award or agreement, take into consideration the probable economic effect - of the agreement or award in relation to the community in general and the probable economic effect thereof upon the industry or industries concerned.
The honorable member objected to the interests of the community being considered. He made the astounding statement that the Labour party was only here to represent the unions. In other words, he meant that if during his life time the Labour party should be returned to power in this Parliament, and he was still its leader, he would legislate for the benefit of the trade unions alone, and the interests of the general community would be definitely and deliberately ignored.
– The honorable member knows that that is deliberately wrong.
– The Leader of the Opposition made that statement definitely last night. His words could not be misunderstood. He said that the Labour party was here only to do the bidding of the unions.
– That is a distortion of his meaning. He meant that as far as this particular bill was concerned he represented the working men.
– I took a note of his words. He said that the interests of the trade unions were paramount. He meant that’ the interests ‘of the community at large could go hang, provided that one small section got all it required.
We have heard much to-night about peace in industry. I mentioned earlier this evening that the main theme at the present time appears to be compulsory arbitration, to the exclusion, to a large extent, of conciliation. Let me remind the House that compulsory arbitration means litigation, and litigation means war. We have each side on the qui vive looking for breaches of awards, or bad tactical moves. How can we have peace in industry while there are two armed forces facing one ‘ another, each waiting for a chance to make an attack? Honorable members will recall that an incident in an obscure town in the Balkans was sufficient to set, not merely Europe, but the whole world in a blaze, and, similarly, small incidents in the industrial sphere may precipitate upheavals. It looks now as though we are in for a big conflagration, as at the present time our sea transport is threatened with dislocation over the small matter of the employment of a cook on one steamer.
Class hatred is preached. When men in opposing industrial camps are forced to be wary of those who are continually fighting them in the Arbitration Court, we have a psychological condition that provides good ground for the agitators to work in ; and they are taking full advantage of it. In the circumstances it is easy to bring about a national conflagration, and honorable members opposite aid and abet those who deliberately foment industrial warfare. This measure has been introduced in order to bring about peace in industry, and yet honorable members opposite say that they will not assist in any way to make the act effective. I ask them now whether they consider the act adequate. If they do not, do they wish to amend it in any way? If they cannot suggest amendments, do they wish it to be repealed ? There is no answer. They neither want the act repealed nor amended, and yet last year every member of the Opposition approved of a proposal to be submitted to the people by referendum for the amendment of the act. Why this sudden change of opinion on the part of honorable members opposite? They make no attempt to deal with the poison gas of class hatred. They would do much better if they raised their voices on many occasions when there are industrial upheavals, instead of expecting honorable members on this side only to get the country out of its difficulties. They could give immeasurable assistance if they would take the trouble to do it; but they have not the courage. They are suffering from jelly spine curvature. They will noi fight the blatherskites who preach class warfare and the disorganization of industry. There is an old saying that a dead fish floats down the stream; but a live fish fights against it. Speaking of fish reminds me of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore). I am sorry to notice that he is not present. He has already been very active in opposition to this bill, and has been giving lectures on its provisions. It will be remembered that he came down from Queensland with a reputation as a moderate. During the Warringah byelection campaign I heard Mr. Lang, who was then Premier of New South Wales, and- Mr. Theodore, who is now a member of this House, speaking on opposing platforms. A little while after that, these two were speaking from the same platform. Mr. Lang did not change in any way, but I am certain that Mr. Theodore did. It was Mr. Theodore who did the crayfish act.
– Can the honorable member connect this with the subject before the House?
– I intend to do so if I am given the opportunity. I am relating a parable to the House. I say that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) twisted on this occasion, while Mr. Lang did not. In other words, the honorable member for Dalley crayfished. The natural colour of the crayfish is not red; but put him into hot water and he turns red. Therefore, there is a double likeness between Mr. Theodore and the crayfish. I have heard that he has been in particularly hot water lately, and so he has turned “ red.” If I may carry the parable a little further, I might point out that, when a crayfish has turned red, there is no more life left in him.
– I think that the honorable member ought to mention arbitration at least once in every quarter of an hour.
– I am still waiting for the honorable member to connect his parable with the subject before the House.
– At the present time, too much responsibility is thrown on a judge of the Arbitration Court. Honorable members are aware that there is no appeal from the finding of an Arbitration Court judge. I have been informed by a high legal authority that a judge cannot even refer a case to the full Arbitration Court Bench . Only last Thursday we heard a debate on the subject of appeals, and the opinion was expressed that an appeal should always lie. An Arbitration Court judge can completely ignore the clause in this bill which lays it down that he shall take into consideration the economic effect of his award. To take an extreme example, it is possible for a judge, instead of fixing the basic wage at £4 12s. a week, to fix it as high as £10 a week, and to make the working week as short as 30 hours. Yet there is no appeal against his judgment. The peculiar position exists that, when Parliament itself cannot legislate along certain lines, it can appoint one man to do what it cannot do. I recognize that the Constitution does limit the power of judges to some extent; but they still have too much authority in industrial matters. I ask the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) why it is that no provision, is made in this amending bill for an appeal from the finding of a judge. There are four judges on the Arbitration Court bench. Why should not appeal lie from one judge to the full Bench of the Arbitration Court? Such a provision would vastly improve this measure, and it would relieve the judges of a great amount of responsibility. They have done their work very well in the main; but I cannot help noting that the more militant unions seem to find it easiest to get their cases heard in the court, while those unions which strive to be constitutional, and to carry out their awards, are often unduly delayed in having their cases heard. In other words, a premium is placed on lawlessness. I intend to try to have a provision inserted in this bill providing for an appeal to the Full Court from the finding of any one of its judges.
I am glad that the principle of conciliation has been recognized bv the Government, and that power is given to set up certain conciliation committees. I recently made some inquiries as to how the conciliation committees were working in New Zealand, and I found that in 1 923-24, 92.3 per cent, of disputes were settled by the Conciliation Commissioners. In 1922-23, the percentage was 79, and in 1924-25 it was 90. I learnt also that the matters referred to the court very rarely concerned anything but wages and hours. In the majority of eases, working conditions which, in this country, occupy so much of the time of our arbitration courts, were fixed by the Conciliation Commissioner. There are conciliation commissioners here in Australia, and we have made provision in the bill for a judge, on the application of either side, to appoint assessors to assist him in technical details. There is, however, considerable ambiguity about the appointment of assessors, and it is an open secret that some of our judges do not desire their assistance. It is possible under the present act for assessors to be appointed under such conditions that they are of no value in determining the matters before the court. This section should be altered, so as to give the assessors an actual part in the work of the court, while recognizing, of course, that the final decision must always ‘lie with the judge. If the conciliation committees do their work well, they should reduce the enormous quantity of work which is now thrown on the judges of the court, thus allowing them to give more attention to the major issues of hours and wages. I believe that the employers and employees will themselves be able to settle all other matters, either through their committees, or by means of round-table conferences. We must get rid of the idea that all matters must be settled by litigation and compulsory arbitration. I am still optimist enough to believe that the principle of conciliation will be found workable if we can do away at the beginning with the poison gas of class hatred that is setting one side against the other.
Section 40 of the act has been only slightly amended in the present bill. That is the clause which grants power to declare a minimum wage and to give preference to members of an organization. It states -
Whenever, in the opinion of the court, it is necessary, for the prevention or settlement of the industrial dispute, or for the maintenance of industrial peace, or for the welfare of society, to direct that preference shall be given to members of organizations as in paragraph (a) of sub-section (1) of tins section provided the court shall so direct.
I understand that the court has taken very little action under that section, but the unions themselves have taken very definite action at various times. In New South Wales there is an act on the statute-book giving preference to unionists, and laying it down that no person can be employed unless he is a member of the union. When one takes into consideration the very high entrance fees charged for membership of unions, this provision is seen to be unjust. Take, for instance, the Marine Cooks’ Union, of which the entrance fee is £7, having been recently increased from £5. In the case of the Merchant Service Guild, the entrance fee is £10, while for the Musicians’ Union it is 20 guineas. I understand that in certain circumstances the entrance fee to the Musicians’ Union may be reduced by 15 guineas, but, neverthe less, the fee which has been fixed is 20 guineas. Such exorbitant entrance fees have the effect of making the union a close corporation. The New Zealand act of 1906 effectively provides against an abuse of that character -
Preference. 9. (a) If any employer shall hereafter engage any worker coming within the scope of this award who shall not be a member of the union, and who shall not become a member thereof within seven days after his or her engagement and remain such member, the employer shall dismiss such worker from his service if requested to do so by the union, provided there is then a member of the union equally qualified to perform the particular work required to be done, and ready and willing to undertake the same.
The provisions of the foregoing clause shall operate only if and so long as the rules of the union shall permit any worker coming within the scope of this award of good character and sober habits to become a member of the union upon payment of an entrance foe not exceeding os., upon a written application, without ballot or other election, and to continue a member upon payment of subsequent contributions not exceeding Cd. per week. Each applicant for membership under this clause shall if required, produce satisfactory references of good character and sober habits.
That means that the employee must be or become a member of the union, which, in turn, is obliged to admit persons of good character and sober habits upon payment of the nominal entrance fee of 5s., and a maximum weekly contribution of 6d. Thus the unions are prevented from becoming a close corporation. When the provisions of this bill relating to secret ballots and the alteration of union rules only after a- ballot of members are in operation, no person employed in a craft or trade will object to joining a union, and he would be even more willing to do so if he knew that he could not be expelled provided he obeyed the awards of the court and was of good moral character. In Australia a union may call its members out on strike, and if one remains at work under the conditions awarded by the court, he is called a scab and may be expelled from the union. Under the New Zealand law a man working under an award of the court is not breaking any rule of the union and, therefore, cannot be expelled from it. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 11th May, dealing with the maritime cooks strike, said -
The cooks are considerably worried at the suspension of their award by tho Arbitration Court/ and they are now chiefly concerned with securing an agreement to replace the cancelled award. They now appreciate that job control has led thom into the position of being unprotected by the court.
The roster system, which the owners insist shall bc abandoned, is not embodied in the suspended award of the Cooks’ Union, but has gradually grown. It is a pernicious system, in that it forces the owners to employ men, desirable or undesirable, nominated by the union, and is the union’s instrument of job control. It is not desired by efficient unionists with good discharges, because they are always assured of employment. It protects the inefficient, and gives the union control over every job. The men who want work are placed on a list, and the roan on top receives the first job offered. The abandonment of the roster system will place the Cooks’ Union on the same basis as the Seamen’s Union and the Waterside Workers’ Federation. In union circles, the owners’ decision to insist on the free selection of their employees is regarded as a serious obstacle to the settlement of the dispute.
The New Zealand section relating to preference to unionists gives to the employers the right of free selection, and, if, after seven days a non-unionist who has been given employment, has not joined the union’, he may be discharged and another man appointed in his stead. I admit that the New Zealand provisions forbidding expulsions from a union appear drastic, but we have to face the facts. Although preference to unionists is not awarded by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, in many industries absolute preference is enforced by the unions. The Musicians Union, for instance, by charging an entrance fee of twenty guineas, is able to limit its membership. A prominent theatre proprietor said some time ago in relation to a strike in his theatres -
I am a strong believer in unionism, but I do not believe in the unions holding out for a monopoly.
That is to say, that I do not think that the union should demand the right to tell me who I shall and who I shall not employ. If I can offer employment to an efficient man or woman, the union should not have the right to say to me, “Ivo, you shall not employ that person because we have others on our books who must be taken on first.”
I want the right to employ anybody I like. 1 want to be able to say to a man or woman whom I think efficient, “Yes, I can give you a position, but first you must go along and join your union.”
If the union official had the right to dictating to me who I may and who I may not employ, I don’t see the use of me being in the business at all. They might as well run it altogether.
Honorable members opposite have said that the secret ballot is in operation in the unions, and they have no objection to it. We have been told that recently the members of the Opposition selected a leader by that system, and that the selection caused a little heartburning. If they believe in the secret ballot and it is already in operation in their organizations, what is their objection to the provision in this bill?
– We believe in majority rule.
– Surely majority rule obtains when union members signify their will by means of a secret ballot. One objection raised by honorable members opposite is that ten members of a union may secretly apply to the court for a secret ballot, which, if ordered, may cost the organization a lot of money. Proposed new section 56c, makes it clear that if the Judge is satisfied that the ten persons so applying are members of the organization, and that the application is bona fide and relates to a matter of substantial importance, he “may” order a secret ballot. That does not mean that he shall order it. Obviously there is nothing in the argument that ten men may put tlie union to the expense of taking a ballot in regard to some tiddleywinking affair.
– The matters I mentioned are substantial and not tiddleywinking.
– No trivial matters can be made the subject of a compulsory secret ballot, because the judge has to be satisfied that the application relates to a matter of substanti.il importance.
– Who will “work” the men ?
– Is it not possible that they will act voluntarily ?
– -.What safeguard is there against personation?
– I admit that there is something in that objection: As the ar> plications for ti ballot must be made secretly, provision will have to be made either for the registrar to be applied with a complete list of the members of the organization, or for a declaration to be made by the applicants that they are bona fide members of the union, and for suitable punishment to be imposed upon any person who makes a false declaration and thereby is guilty of what amounts to contempt of court. Trivial shortcomings in the drafting of these provisions, however, do not vitiate the general principle they contain. I believe that the secret ballot will prove very beneficial to unionists. Recently the executive of the Breadcarters Union in New South Wales was considered by many of the members to be harsh and tyrannical. An attempt to depose the executive having failed, a secret ballot of the union was conducted under the supervision of the Department of Labour and Industry. The result was that the old executive was dismissed by a large majority. But they made it necessary for the newly-elected officers to break their -way into the union office at the Trades Hall. To show the spirit in which they conducted the business of the union, I mention the case of a man who at one meeting rose to a point of order. The chairman immediately said, “You are fined 15s.” A few minutes afterwards the same member attempted to address himself to the question before the chair, and the chairman said, “ You have no right in the room. You have not paid your fine, and are unfinancial. You cannot be heard.” I suggest that it would be a good thing if all charges of breaches of our industrial laws were heard and determined in a court. The Rafferty rules of the Breadcarters Union and some other, industrial organizations are altogether unfair to tlie rank and file. I know of, a young girl who, upon appearing at a meeting of her union on a recent Sunday morning, was fined 15s.- Another girl was at the same meeting’ fined 5s. The girls were obliged to pay the fines, and had no right of appeal. I inquired from a gentleman who had had a long experience of union matters whether fines inflicted in this summary fashion were ever remitted, and he told, nic that he could not remember one remis-sion being made in ten years. It will be apparent, therefore, that there is a trade union tyranny as well as other- tyrannies. I intend to move- certain amendments to proposed new sub-section 58c with the object of taking away from union officials the power to -inflict fines, and of giving it to police magistrates or industrial court officials.
Except in its penal clauses, this bill does not recognize the right to strike or to lockout; nevertheless we -must not lose sight of the fact that it is impossible to force a man to work if he does not want to work, or to force an. employer to provide work if he does not wish to do it. There is provision in the Canadian ..act which requires the employers to give fourteen’ days’ notice of their intention to close their works, and the employees to give’ similar notice of their intention to cease work, and it is not necessary for either party to give reasons for such action. It would be wise for us to provide that employees should not be compelled to continue in uncongenial employment, and that employers should not be compelled to> conduct their industry under artificial! conditions. [Extension of time granted.] The weakness of the opposition to the* bill was shown to-day by the Prime Minister when he replied to the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley). He made it clear that the penalties provided in the bill have, in most cases, been in existence since the original Conciliation and Arbitration A.ct was passed in 1904. The great majority of the people of Australia will, when they thoroughly understand this measure, heartily approve of it being placed upon the statute-book. Only the extremists on either side who, in the past, have endeavoured to drive a coach and four through our existing arbitration legislation, will disapprove with it. Honorable members opposite cannot, in these days, claim to possess in any marked degree the virtue of consistency; but I trust that they will yet stand by the views which they expressed during the debate on the referendum proposals two or three years ago, and support this bill.
– Although the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), spoke at considerable length, he showed astounding ignorance of the bill which he was supposed to’ be discussing. He also made it clear that he was opposed to the- principle of arbitration.
– I said I was opposed to. compulsory industrial arbitration.
– The subject with which the bill deals is one of the most important to which honorable members could devote their time. Land and income tax measures are important- in their way, hut they are not by any means so far-reaching in their effects as measures of .the character which we are now discussing. It is vital to the welfare of the country that our industrial machinery should run smoothly. I strongly favour industrial arbitration. I know the history of this movement from its inception. The Prime Minister drew our attention to-day to the mariner in which the industrial conditions of Great Britain had been improved. He reminded us that 100 years ago the working people of the Mother Country were practically slaves, receiving wages only enough to keep body and soul together. But gradually humanitarian principles have been applied to British industry, and the condition of her working classes has been improved.
Forty years ago Australia “was only beginning to improve her industrial system. I well remember when the first industrial arbitration bill was introduced into the New South Wales Parliament by the late Hon. B. R. Wise, one of the most eminent lawyers of his day. That measure was attractive to trade unionists, and they registered their organizations under it, and so laid the foundations of industrial peace in Australia. Since then, however, the rights and privileges of the working classes have been gradually whittled away. The first arbitration bill that was introduced in New South Wales provided that employers and employees should each elect a representative to sit with the judge on the arbitration bench. Both those lay representatives had power equal to that of the judge, and the court, on which all interests in the community were represented, did excellent work for the first three years of its existence. During the next three years I had the honour to be a member of the court, and I can say conscientiously that its work in that period, too, was beneficial to employers and employees alike. The court took economic and other circumstances into consideration, and all parties were satisfied. Later, the constitution of the court was altered. The then Premier of New South Wales, the late Sir Charles Wade, withdrew the provision for the appointment of laymen, leaving the control of the court solely in the hands of one judge, who heard evidence and decided the conditions that were to apply. From that day to this there has been discontent, because the employees have not had direct representation on the court. “ If the employers assert that they cannot afford to pay higher wages, because of adverse economic conditions, the judge has the power to determine whether or not such wages shall be paid, but the employees have no say at all. If this Government wishes to make arbitration popular, itshould go the right way about it and appoint a court such as I have described. At present the system is really not one of arbitration, but merely of legal interpretation. I know that some attorneys endeavour to protract hearings, .merely to swell their earnings. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) referred to action that has been taken by seamen and ship’s cooks. But it must be remembered that those unfortunate individuals have no home life. They deserve special consideration. They live an unlovely existence in the fo’castle of a ship, alienated from all home conditions, and they cannot be expected to be as rational as those who enjoy a regular lorne life. My leader, and all honorable members on this side of the House believe in the system of arbitration. If has been asserted that we make no endeavour to prevent strikes. We may not give publicity to our efforts, but we make every endeavour to bring about an amicable ending to all disputes. I also believe in properly constituted peace conferences, which do a lot of good. Honorable members opposite have contended that industrial upheavals can be prevented. They certainly cannot be prevented by force of law. While I admit that it pays for disputants to come together in the endeavour to adjust matters, it must be remembered that human nature cannot
De regulated to too fine a degree. It will assert itself, and if men are unjustly treated, and unable to obtain redress, there is no law that can prevent them from striking. This bill proposes that compulsory ballots shall be taken on industrial disturbances. The law is to step in and make all the necessary arrangements. But the men may refuse to take part in a compulsory ballot and they then will each be liable to a minimum penalty of £10.
– That is not so.
– They are liable if they obstruct the taking of a ballot.
– That is quite a different matter.
– It is much the same tiling. Supposing that the men engaged in a big industry resolve that they will not take part in a ballot, chaos must result. It would be impracticable to put 100,000 men in gaol, and the whole of the machinery of the Government would prove ineffective if the men refused to obey the law. There might be a dispute in the pastoral industry, and the union might decide not to do a certain thing. If a small minority determined to go to the Arbitration Court and asked that a secret ballot be taken, they would be acting against the will of the majority of the union, and putting their organization to the expense of a ballot. Very likely the other members of the union would refuse to participate in such ballot, and the whole machinery of the law must then break down, as men can not be dragooned into doing something that they refuse to do.
Some honorable members opposite have stated that trade unions are bringing this country to ruin by causing too many strikes. On examining the conditions in other countries of the world I find that for the last 30 years, Australia has made greater progress than any other of which I have read, notwithstanding the remarkable progress and wealth ascribed to the United States of America. Bloodshed, and almost revolution, have occurred in India and America, but fortunately we have been free from such violence in Australia. That is due to the fact that we have organizations which exercise some control over their members, and to a great extent, to the restraining and beneficial effects of arbitration. If our organizations are antagonistic towards this measure, and decline to register under its provisions, any attempt to compel them to do so will result in industrial upheaval. One may construct the finest ship in existence, at any cost, and possessing every comfort. But unless human labour is employed to direct that ship, it is useless and remains idle, and all the expenditure comes to naught. This Government should endeavour to bring about industrial peace in an amicable manner. We have had the experience of coercive legislation in some States, to the detriment of all concerned. Before my membership of the New South Wales Arbitration Court ceased, the tramway men of Sydney had made representations to have the front of the tramcars glassed in for their protection against the weather. After they had waited for eighteen months to get a hearing of their application, they applied to the Premier, Sir Charles Wade, to have the court’s term extended so that it could deal with their case; but he refused to allow that, and in consequence a strike occurred. At 12 o’clock on a certain day, every man in the Sydney tramway service left his tram standing in the street and walked off ! That great utility, the tramway service, costing many millions of pounds, remained idle for several days.
– In what year did that occur ?
– About eighteen years ago. The strike could have been avoided had the Premier of the day used commonsense, and allowed the court to hear the dispute, but he > insisted that the men should go before the Wages Board, which was not their desire. It is impossible to compel great bodies of men to do what they do not wish to do. I remember when the shop assistants first approached ‘the New South Wales Arbitration Court. Their employers, reputable respectable men, who stood high in society, and were strong pillars of their various churches, gave evidence for about six weeks. Then the court retired to consider an award. The President, His Honour Judge Heydon, said that we had an easier task than he had expected, as he had marked all the evidence, and discovered that every employer stated that he could not afford to pay higher wages. Being somewhat of a cynic on that point I smiled, and his Honour asked why. I said that I wanted verification of their statements, that I wished to see the profits they had made, and all figures in connexion with the industry. For three weeks we were examining the books and ascertaining the profits made. As a result of that investigation, notwithstanding the sworn evidence of the employers, the court awarded additional wages which cost the employers over £70,000 a year. In addition shorter hours and better conditions were prescribed. Strange to say none of those large firms has since .become insolvent; on the contrary they have extended their operations. The conditions prevailing in that industry before arbitration were appalling. Young women who had been in employment for seven, eight and ten years were receiving only from 7s. 6d. to 12s. 6d. or 15s. a week. In one case a married man with a family was working in the office at Mark Foy’s. He lived at Randwick and had to walk to and from the office, and his wage was 32s. 6d. a week. He looked to be in a state of semi-starvation and was poorly clothed. A great number of other men similarly engaged were in a like condition. Arbitration has altered that, and men and women who are to-day engaged in industry are living under decent conditions. I stand for arbitration, but if
I were a member of a big union I should try to keep out of tl, p Arbitration Court. A large organization is difficult to control by law, but a small organization can be protected. I am anxious to improve the provisions of this measure, because I do not wish arbitration to be scrapped. The Government has shown no disposition to consult the Opposition.
– We consulted the trade unions.
– The Government also consulted the employers, and it has put their interests first. In view of those circumstances the Labour party cannot be expected to support this measure. The Government would have been wise to call a conference of employers and employees before introducing this measure. The original Arbitration Act provided for a conference between a ‘representative of the employers and a representative of the employees, and that system worked very well until the act was amended. Since then, as a result of the delay in and expense of appearing before the Arbitration Court, the industrialists have become tired of arbitration, although they still believe in the principle. We do not want strikes. The Labour party believes in conciliation but there is no improvement in the bill so far as that method of settling disputes is concerned. It is obvious that the best way to dispose of disputes is to settle them out of court. I am afraid that the bill meets with the opposition of the industrial unions. Had this Government convened a peace conference before it introduced this measure the labour organizations would have readily responded. Unfortuntely the Government before proposing the industrial peace conference laid the bill on the table of the House a!nd the Attorney-General delivered his secondreading speech, copies of which were distributed amongst honorable members. When the industrial unions ascertained the extent of the proposed amendments, they declined to attend the conference. Personally, I should have attended it to ascertain how far the Government was prepared to go in meeting the wishes of trade unionism, but the majority of those connected with tlie labour movement decided otherwise. I shall oppose the bill because it has not been framed in the best interests of the industrialists o£ this country. Under its provisions unions can be forced to act in opposition to the wishes of the majority of their members. The Government is attempting to control the unions, and under those circumstances it is impossible for me to vote for the bill.
– This bill deals with a question of immense importance, and one which presents almost insuperable difficulties. Some of these difficulties, indeed, are insuperable; but that is not a reason why we should not make an honest attempt to find some solution for what is generally admitted, to be the greatest problem confronting modern civilization. The ramifications of this question are infinite. There is no phase of social, economic or financial life that is not conditioned by it.
The industrial question is not new. Industrial unrest is as old as society itself ; it has existed under every form of society. It was known in the ancient world even with slave labour, and at times took a form that was not unlike our general strike. In at least one instance what occurred amounted to a civil war, which was protracted for months, and no doubt caused infinite distress and harm to the society of that day. But while industrial unrest created disturbances in a simpler state of society, they were unimportant compared with the difficulties that it causes in the complex society in which we live to-day. The modern world, by adopting what are called machine methods, has become habituated to a condition of labour which makes an individual dependent upon others, some of whom may be half the world away from him. It happens therefore that disturbances in England may have a disastrous effect upon the people of Australia and vice versa. In our own community each person goes his individual way, relying on other individuals to perform those duties which by chance or choice have been allotted to them. We are dependent upon those who are engaged in producing food to provide the means of carrying on our avocations, whatever they may be, and every one is dependent on the transport services, which are vital. Commerce, of course, is a phase of industry, and as the world progresses the dependence upon transport increases. Transport and fuel are as it were the pillars of the industrial, indeed of the national temple. In the modern world the wheels will not revolve unless we have fuel for the various processes by which society is supplied with the things that it requires, and the supply of fuel is dependent upon transport. By the refusal of individuals to work, the whole community is thrown into confusion.
There are two main methods of dealing with industrial unrest when it reaches the acute stage of a lock-out or a strike - by force or passive resistance, and by arbitration. Australia and New Zealand are perhaps the only countries that have adopted arbitration, and have steadily adhered to its principles. I venture to say - and here I am entirely with the Leader of the Opposition - that the records of this country relating to industrial unrest compare favorably with those of any other. It is perfectly true that a great deal of unrest has occurred in Australia, and is present to-day; but industrial unrest, as the Attorney-General himself said, is a world-wide phenomenon. It assumes in different countries the colour of its environment, but in essence is everywhere the same. The root causes are everywhere the- same, and are not to be solved. We may apply emollients, which may reduce the smart and the soreness, hu* when one man has something to sei) that another wishes to buy there must be conflict. I am sure we all were sorry to read a denunication of arbitration that appeared in the press a few days ago. Those responsible for it can hardly have surveyed the subject with that wide outlook that it demands.
It is impossible in a second-reading speech to cover the almost infinite phases of this great subject; I must confine myself to a few that are relevant to the bill before us. This is a progressive ana democratic country, and industrial unrest must be regarded as the price we pay for democracy and progress. Broadly speaking, this unrest is due to -the efforts of the individual to adjust himself to a changing environment, and the more frequently . the . environment changes, that is to say the greater the rate of progress, the more acute and widespread must industrial unrest be. We know from experiencethat the obverse of wages is prices, and in the complex society in which we live, where one set of ‘individuals controls prices, and the others, constituting the vast -majority of mankind, are grouped under the heading of wageearners, any alteration of prices must have its . effect on wages, and any alteration of wages a corresponding effect on prices. There is no authorityand apparently it is hopeless to expect one - with sufficient wisdom and power to control both so completely that there shall be no movement of the one without a corresponding movement of the other, nor is any authority able to foretell the effect of an increase in wages in this or that industry not only upon other industries but upon prices, finance, and the general economic and social life of the community.
Having some experience of industrial matters, I am profoundly convinced that their adherence to arbitration is the most convincing evidence of the wisdom of the people of this country. In Australia, arbitration legislation came about as a result of a great upheaval, when there had been an appeal to force and the unions were broken, beaten and driven from the field, where they had been unfairly defeated. I say unfairly, because the law and all its powers were in the hands of one party. The State machinery was controlled by their opponents; the great mass of the people having no voice in its control, took to politics. They realized that the law was all powerful, and that the people of this country believe that the settlement of disputes by law is the better way to adjust the differences between employer and employee - “ adjust “ is the proper word, for there can be no final settlement - is the greatest assurance that Australia will continue a law-abiding community.
There are shorter ways of dealing with industrial disputes thanby arbitration, and they have their merits. I am not likely to forget what I was told by a member of the Empire Press Association that visited this Capital City last year. The party comprised representatives from various parts of the Empire, and among them were representatives from South Africa. One of the latter spoke to me about industrial affairs, and said, “ We settle strikes in South Africa in a very different way from that which you adopt.” I asked, “ How do you settle them?” He replied that they did not adopt the cumbersome and unwieldly procedure of arbitration, with an appeal to a judge who was not versed in the technicalities of industry, and had been neither an employer nor an employee. The powers of the community were exerted, he said, and in the end it was better for all parties. A colleague, who did not see things from exactly the same angle, remarked, “Yes, General Smuts settled the great strikes on the Rand. Do you know how he did it?” I replied, “No; how did he do it?” He said, “Well, he killed 400 white men.” Yetwe are able to say - and I think very few countries in the world can say it - that during the 30 years in which arbitration laws have figured in the statute-books of some of the States nobody has been killed in Australia in the settlement of a strike. Our record in this respect compares more than favorably with that of any other country. Arbitration in any case is infinitely to be preferred to brute force. It leaves no sting behind. The parties go before a court and plead their cause. If the court’s award is a practical one, they can go on working; but, in no case is there the bitterness of defeat which is felt by men who are driven by circumstances to accept conditions which they know to be unfair; nor that which follows the settlement of strikes by such means as I am informed are used in America. I ask leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Dr. Earle Page) read a first time.
The following papers were presented -
Development and Migration Commission - Berry Fruit Industry of TasmaniaReport.
Fat Lamb and Fig Industries of Tasmania, and’ the utilization of the Somerset Freezing Works in connexion therewith - Report, with Appendix.
Tasmania - Investigation into present position - Second Interim Report with Appendices.
Rural Credits - Report, issued by the Do- minions Office, of the Committee on Rural Credits in Australia. (Prepared at the request of the Development and Migration Commission.)
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- This morning I had on the notice-paper a question dealing with a very important matter affecting tie people on some of the Pacific Islands. Incorporated in the question as I originally framed it was an extract from the report of the Administrator of Norfolk Island. When I received my copy of the business-paper this morning I found that this extract had not been included. I regard this as a very grave matter, and up to the present I do not know why the extract to which I have referred was omitted from the businesspaper. The question dealt with the the operations of the Burns, Philp Shipping Company, and it affects the people on Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, and the New Hebrides. This company has the contract for carrying mails to the islands, and for the last seven years I have been endeavouring to have a better service instituted. The influence of the firm is so strong, however, that it seems able to control even the departmental officers. These islands are the gems of the Pacific; and they are places for the people of Australia to visit them either as tourists or as healthseekers. I . propose to read the extract from the report of the Administrator which I endeavoured to get on to the business-paper to-day, as I wish to induce the Department of Home and Territories to see that a better service is provided to the islands. The report states -
Bitter complaints continue to be received regarding the service provided for Norfolk Island with Australia, both as regard passenger accommodation and matters generally relating to cargo. As regards the former, many tourists have stated to me that much as they are charmed with the island, they will never visit it again as long as the present service continues. The cargo accommodation also falls far short of modern, requirements. The holds are not ventilated, and this, added to the slow speed of the steamer employed, often results in fruit arriving in Sydney “ cooked “ and -unsaleable. The accommodation for horses and cattle is so bad that intending importers hesitate to use it-, nor has the proper time-table been always strictly adhered, to. What is wanted is a larger and faster . ship, with much improved accommodation both for passengers and cargo. A more frequent timetable is also highly desirable. Until these can be accomplished the Norfolk Island producers will continue to be severely handicapped. As a consequence, trade with Australia will diminish, and that with New Zealand correspondingly expand.
I draw the attention of the House to the last portion of the paragraph. The New Zealand Government has steamers of its own which visit these islands three or four times a year, and are a real godsend to the people there. The inhabitants of the islands went so far as to have built a steamer of their own, but, unfortunately, they were unable to make the . service pay and the ship is now lying out of commission in Auckland Harbour. This matter affects the inhabitants of the New Hebrides and Lord Howe Island as well as those of Norfolk Island. Anything which hampers trade between Australia and the islands must be regarded as a very serious matter. Australia is endeavouring to build up its industries. The islands furnish a ready market for its exports, and in return we can take their fruit and other products. The Burns, Philp Company receives a subsidy of £55,000 a year forthe mail service between Australia and the islands. I have been on the steamer which runs to the islands, and I know that unless one is fortunate enough to obtain a berth on deck, one suffers the torments of hell in the confined and illventilated cabins below. The cabins are so narrow that I could not walk into them; I had to go in sideways. The steamer is so slow that the passengers often wonder whether it is moving or remaining still. The company has promised to provide a new vessel for the service. I had sufficient influence once to hold back the contract for twelve or fourteen months; but when Parliament went into session it was decided that the contract should be made. The company said, “Now we have got the subsidy, and we can tell the people to go where they like.” I maintain that Australians should have the opportunity of visiting these islands in comfort. There is no better sanatorium in which to have one’s health restored. If people who now travel to Paris to see the sights of that fashionable metropolis were to go to these islands they would enjoy the beautiful climate, and return well satisfied that they had gone to the better place. I am not now seeking the votes of the inhabitants of the islands. My majority is so great that I need not worry about them. But while I represent these islands I am not going to shirk my duty because of the influence of the Burns, Philp Company. I know that steps have been taken by this firm to keep me from obtaining justice for the island residents. The answer which I have received from the department to my representation is so evasive that I hesitate to send it down to the islands, or to the Sydney people who do business with them. The people there look to me to. do something to remove the disabilities from which they are. . suffering. The fare for ‘the two days’ trip from Sydney to Norfolk Island is about £5 10s., in return for which the passengers get very little to eat and practically no sleep. Certainly, when I travel I am always given a deck cabin, but that form of bribery has no influence on me. It should be compelled to put on the service a new steamer which would provide comfortable accommodation and travel at a reasonable speed. On behalf of the islanders, and also the large body of the Australian public which is denied reasonable means of access to some of the brightest jewels of the Pacific, I thank honorable members for the opportunity they have afforded me to place these facta before the Government. I hope that they will further assist me to induce the Government to break up the present injurious monopoly.
– I assure the honorable member for East Sydney that the representations he has made will receive the careful consideration of the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.49 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 May 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280517_reps_10_118/>.