10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr.MAKIN. - Has the Commonwealth Government been invited to be represented at the Conference of State Premiers convened by the Labour Premier of Victoria to consider unemployment and the relationship of migration thereto, and the best means of affording relief to the many workless families throughout Australia? If such an invitation has been or is extended, will the Commonwealth Government accept it?
– The Commonwealth Government has not been approached in regard to the proposed conference, but any representations that may be made by the State Premiers will receive careful consideration,
Economic Organization Committee
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to reports in the press that Mr. W. T. Layton, British delegate to the Economic Organisation Committee of the League of Nations, criticized the protection policy of Australia and other nations and said that the Australian Tariff Board report confirmed opinion as to the deleterious effect of excessive protection ? During the statement Mr. Layton quoted the following from the Australian Tariff Board’s report : -
The Geneva Conferenceshowed that the world is beginning to have more concern with the manner in which the different nationalities have exploited their natural resources, and will discuss whether a people has a moral right to monopolize and work ill . or well as it pleases, the resources of that portion of the earth, ever which, for the time being, it has control.
Will the Prime Minister inform the British Government that the Tariff Board’s report is in no way an official declaration of the views of the people of Australia ?
– Mr. Layton is the editor of The Economist and a wellknown advocate of free trade. On the Economic Committee the Commonwealth is represented by Mr, F. L. MacDougall, who will certainly let the conference know that any statement contained in the report of the Tariff Board is not a statement of the policy of the Commonwealth Government. It is not necessary, however, to bring that fact under the notice of the British Government. Australia and the United Kingdom have separate representation on the Committee, and we are not concerned in what the British Government representative may say. Wo are interested, however, in letting all nations represented on the Committee understand exactly that a statement by the Tariff Board is not an expression of Government policy.
-Is Mr. MacDougall; who is representing Australia at the Economic Conference in Europe, fortified with the opinions of this Government, and also instructed to maintain, at all hazards, the fiscal policy of Australia, irrespective of the suggestions of other nations f Does this Government consider that the fiscal question, so far as it concerns Australia, is entirely a domestic matter?
– The fiscal question is entirely a domestic matter with Australia, and this Government will maintain that attitude in all circumstances. A conference was held at Geneva last year, at which 51 nations were represented, and before it various problems concerning tariff policies and other matters came for consideration. At that conference, and at the League of Nations Assembly in 1026, this Government insisted that such problems, so far as they concern us, are within the domestic jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Australia.
– -Recently the mail service on the Murray Mats was reduced from three deliveries to two weekly owing to the curtailment of the railway services. It is possible that the number of trains will be further reduced because of the lack of freight offering. If that should happen, will the Postmaster-General consider the advisability of supplementing the carriage of mails by rail in order to save the residents of the district from inconvenience, especially as prior to the construction of the railway they enjoyed a daily mail service 1
– I have no knowledge of the local circumstances mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall have an inquiry made. Difficulties in maintaining the mail deliveries are caused where rail services are curtailed, but my department does its best to overcome them.
– A couple of weeks ago the Prime Minister promised to make an early statement to the House in regard to the proposal to hold an International Exhibition in Sydney. Is the information yet available?
– I promised, not to make a statement, but to introduce a bill relating to the exhibition and to explain the scheme on the motion for the second reading. If it is not possible to do that later this day, I shall endeavour to introduce the bill early next week.
– Having regard to the decrease in Commonwealth revenue, particularly from customs and excise receipts, can the Treasurer give to the House and the country an assurance that there will be a corresponding diminution in expenditure in order to ensure that the year’s accounts will balance?
– It is not usual to indicate the financial policy of the Government in answer to a question.
– As the financial policy of the Government was declared by the Treasurer in his budget speech, and as one considerable item of revenue, receipts from customs and excise, has been seriously miscalculated by him, will the honorable gentleman indicate to the House whether he proposes to make good the shortage by imposing extra taxation, by borrowing, or by curtailing expenditure?
– I repeat that the financial policy of the Government cannot be stated in answer to a question.
– Replying to a question which I asked yesterday, the Minister in charge of Repatriation said that he kept no records of the appeals that were made to him. He was therefore unable to furnish the information I sought. This morning I have received a circular letter from the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of New South Wales, in which the statement is made that on the invitation of the Minister 13 applicants appealed to him and 13 replies, each an exact replica of the other, were received confirming the earlier departmental decisions. Had the Minister anything to do with the decision of those 13 appeals, and the replies that were sent?
– I assure the honorable member that if my signature is attached to the replies I examined every file scrupulously to see if there was even a remote possibility of connecting the disabilities of the applicants with their war service. If I replied in the negative, the honorable member may be confident that I was unable to find proof of such a connexion.
– The Minister has repeatedly declared that the soldier applicant is always given the benefit of any doubt as to whether his disability is due to war service. Will he deny that iri many cases decisions have been given against the applicants, notwithstanding the evidence of non-departmental medical men that their disabilities were attributable to war service? Does the considered opinion of duly qualified medical men outside the department raise that element of doubt to the benefit of which the soldier is said’ to be entitled?
– All the evidence relating to an application is weighed, and the opinions of nondepartmental medical men receive full consideration. It is possible that doubts may’ be expressed, but when all the evidence is analysed by four specialists - not officers of the Department but leaders of the medical profession engaged in private practice in Melbourne - those doubts are resolved.
– By four departmental men!
– They are not departmental men ; they are civilians in private practice. If the honorable member will not accept my assurance, I assure the House that I also weigh the medical evidence very carefully and in not one of the hundreds of cases I have examined and rejected have I discovered any reasonable justification for assuming that the disability was due to, or in any way connected with, military service at home or abroad.
– In connexion with the appeals that are dealt with by the Minister personally, does he ever examine the individual applicants?
– I have pointed out repeatedly that no value would attach to such an examination. My responsibility is not to diagnose the disability from which the applicant is suffering, but to ascertain whether it is connected with the service - generally valuable service - he has rendered to the country.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance that he sympathetically considers each application that comes before him and that his decision is arrived at after fairly weighing all relevant circumstances. But the question I put to him was whether he had knowledge of the thirteen cases referred to by the association in New South Wales, or whether those cases had been dealt with by the Commission and not by him.
– If the honorable member will place a question upon the notice-paper, and furnish me with the names of the thirteen applicants, I shall let him have an authoritative reply.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral make available to honorable members copies of the statement he made yesterday regarding the Copyright Act and the Performing Rights Association?
– With an explanation.
– I shall make available copies of the statement, but am not prepared to explain a very clear explanation.
Parliamentary and Civic Representation
– I ask the Minister for Home . and Territories whether the Government has arrived at any decision upon the two petitions presented to the House by the residents of the Federal Capital Territory asking for direct parliamentary and civic representation.
– The petitions have been and are still being considered by the Government.
Wireless . Equipment
– Replying to representations made by me that wireless receiving sets should be installed by the Commonwealth Government at all lighthouses along the coast of Australia, the late Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) stated that the matter would receive further consideration. Will the present Minister (Mr. Bruce) give me an assurance that he will go into the matter with a view to some such action being taken as I have suggested ?
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) raised a similar question with regard to the lighthouses along the coast of Western Australia, and I then indicated that the subject was being considered. I give the honorable member the assurance that he seeks.
– Will the Prime Minister have included in the. terms of reference to the commissioner who is inquiring into the welfare of aborigines in northern and central Australia the petition that was referred to this House on behalf of the Aborigines Model State League of South Australia?
– Consideration will be given to the suggestion of the honorable member when the terms of reference of the commission are being framed.
– Several months ago I asked the Minister for Works and Railways whether his department would consider the desirability of installing wireless receiving sets on the Trans-Australian trains, with a view to relieving the tedium of the journey, and at the same time of supplying travellers with the latest news. The honorable gentleman then stated that that was not advisable. Since then such installations have been made on continental trains, and one has been made on the Victorian “ Reso “ train. Will the Minister, therefore, re-consider my proposal?
– I shall have inquiries made, to see whether it is practicable to carry out the suggestions of the honorable member.
Adelaide to Canberra
– Some months ago, I asked if the aerial mail service now operating between Adelaide and Cootamundra, could be extended to Canberra, in order to expedite the delivery of South Australian and Western Australian mails. Has the consideration that was then promised been given to the matter? If so, what is the result of that consideration? If finality has not yet been reached, will the Minister expedite proceedings ?
– The whole matter of civil aviation is at presentunder the consideration of the Minister for Defence, who will advise the Government upon the services referred to. That advice, when received, will be passed on to the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Works and Railways seen an article stating that Mr. Hogan, Premier of Victoria, has been in consultation with the
Acting Premier of New South Wales in regard to the construction of a railway from Orbost in Victoria to Bombala in New South Wales? Has his department been communicated with on the subject? If a conference of representatives of the two States is held, will the Federal Government be represented at it?
– The matter has not been brought under my notice, and I fail to see that the Federal department of Works and Railways is in any way concerned. The matter is one for the Governments of the States mentioned.
Canberra-Tumut Road - Approaches. to Canberra - Signs on Roads.
– Yesterday the Minister for Works and Railways stated that the construction of 20 miles of road between Canberra and Tumut would cost £400,000, the estimate being supplied by the Main Roads Board of New South Wales. Is the honorable member aware that the Main Roads Board has not made any investigation of a searching character of that route? If he will not accept that statement, will he state the nature of the investigation made by the Main Roads Board, upon which that body justifies its estimate?
– I have been assured by the Main Roads Board that a surveyor was operating for months in the locality concerned. It was on the estimate of that surveyor that the amount of £400,000 was mentioned as the probable cost of constructing 20 miles of road through the worst part of the country which the road to Tumut has to traverse.
– Has any agreement yet been approved by the Commonwealth and the States under the Federal Aid Roads Act? If so, will the Minister make available at an early date the conditions of the agreement?
– Agreements have been arrived at between the whole of the States and the Commonwealth, and they have been ratified by the various State Parliaments.
– Following on the questions asked by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) and Swan (Mr.’ Gregory), does the agreement referred to include a schedule of the road works to be carried out by the States? Is it an agreement at large or does it purport to do something specifically? Is it a fact that there is a detailed agreement as to what shall be done with the money handed over to the States by the Commonwealth for the current year? Does that agreement include the construction of roads in the Federal Capital Territory? If not, why not?
– The agreement has been available to honorable members, and I presume that the right honorable member has seen it. I am surprised that he is not familiar with its contents. I am informed that the road from Goulburn to Collector, a distance of 22 miles, has been surveyed and that a temporary road has been constructed. A contract has been entered into for five miles of road skirting Lake George, and the survey has been completed as far as the Federal Territory boundary. The new road gives a better ruling grade than the road via Queanbeyan. I hope to meet the chairman of the Main Roads Board within the next fortnight, when I propose to discuss with him the matter of roads leading into the Federal Capital Territory. Under the Federal Aid Roads Act the proposals must, in the first instance, emanate from the State Governments. I am prepared to give consideration to any proposal submitted by the States. So far the only approach to the Federal Capital Territory that has been proposed by the Government of New South “Wales is the road from Goulburn to Canberra.
– As local engineers consider ridiculous the estimate of £400,000 for the 20 miles of road to which I previously referred, will the Minister ascertain the kind of road the Roads Board proposed to construct and the manner in which they calculated the cost? “Will he also ascertain the nature and extent of the investigation which officers of the board made in the district, for none of the local people seem to have heard anything of such a visit?
– I ask the honorable member to give notice of the question.
– Of the 20 miles of road mentioned by the honorable member for Hume ‘(Mr. Parker Moloney), only five or six miles present any difficult constructional problems. Is the Minister aware that a resident in the district through which this section of the road would pass is prepared to construct a road quite suitable for motor traffic, though not of concrete, for £6,000 per mile?
– I have heard something to that effect, but I can hardly believe that the report is accurate. If the honorable member will obtain a definite quotation from the person to whom he has referred, and also an indication of the nature of the road he would construct for £6,000 a mile, I shall have pleasure in submitting the proposal to the Main Roads Board of New South “Wales.
– When consideration is being given to the allocation of money for the purpose of Federal aid roads, will the Minister for Works and Railways give me an assurance that the claims of various parts, of the different States, the needs of which are worse than those of Canberra, will be considered?
– All proposals for the construction of roads under the Federal aid roads scheme must originate with the State authorities. I have nothing whatever to do with the initiation of such schemes.
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways consider placing signs on Federal aid roads, so that roadusers will know to whom they are indebted for the highways on which they are travelling? This system is in operation in the United States of America.
– A report by the engineers of the Federal Aid Roads Board on the subject will come up for consideration at the next meeting of the board.
– As the rumor is current that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) has been appointed Minister for Trade and Customs, will the Prime Minister make an announcement on the subject?
– I regret that the honorable member is so out-of-date. I was sworn in as Minister for Trade and Customs more than a week ago.
– Is it a fact that in consequence of the recent eulogy of the Prime Minister by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) the portfolio of Minister for Trade and Customs has been offered to that gentleman to the exclusion of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) ? Is it also a fact that the honorable member for Barton has, with his ears back, intimated his willingness to accept the position?
Question not answered.
-As heavy borrowing abroad, necessitating the importation of big consignments of goods, must obviously increase the customs revenue, will the Minister have prepared a report showing the customs revenue paid in the various States of Australia during the past three years ?
– I am not aware that the Department of Trade and Customs prepares such a report. I shall discuss the matter with the Minister concerned.
– Will the Prime Minister be good enough to consult the Minister for Trade and Customs and endeavour to ascertain the reason for the great decline that has occurred in our customs revenue.
– I should be delighted to do so, but I fail to see how I can consult myself.
– The late Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) had under consideration about two months ago representations from the Queensland Cotton Pool Board for an increase in the duty on cotton piece-goods to enable the Australian manufacturers to purchase the whole of this year’s Queensland cotton crop. About a fortnight ago, representatives of the industry waited upon the late Minister in Sydney and made additional representations to him. Is the Minister now in charge of the department able to state the intentions of the Government in regard to the matter?
– This subject was dealt with by the late Minister for Trade and
Customs. His decisions upon it are on record and are at present receiving consideration.
– Will the Minister for Health (Sir Neville Howse) make a statement to the House at an early date of the intention of the Government respecting the distribution of radium for use in public and private hospitals, and by medical practitioners generally?
– I expect shortly to be able to inform honorable members of the arrangements made for the distribution of radium to the universities of Australia and to certain hospitals including, I hope, some in big country centres.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Allowances to Staff
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
When is it expected that the manual exchange at Manly, New South Wales, will be closed, and subscribers connected to an automatic exchange?
– Conversion to automatic telephone working in the Manly area will probably be effected about June of next year. The material is on order and should be delivered next month.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– As the note issue is now under the control of the Commonwealth Bank, the bank has been requested to furnish replies to the questions.
The following paper was presented: -
– I wish to inform honorable members that I have received from Mr. H. G. Pratten, a son of the late Honorable H. E. Pratten, a letter on behalf of his mother thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Debate resumed from 17th May, 19 28 (vide page 5030), on motion by Mr. Latham -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– It is sometimes said that industrial arbitration has failed. When one compares the promises made by the enthusiasts who were responsible for the introduction of this legislation with the results that have followed, it would seem that there is some ground for complaint; but as the Attorney-General himself has pointed out, our industrial arbitration laws have not failed to any greater extent than our criminal code. And no one would suggest that the criminal code should be repealed. To illustrate the immense importance of good laws and simple procedure, I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that the United States of America has, in proportion to its population, sixteen times as many homicides as Great Britain. This is due, to a very large extent, to unwise laws and complicated procedure. We are now considering a bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That is no new thing. The act has been patched so many times that it is not an exaggeration to say that it is now nearly all patches. The strange thing is that almost every patcher of the measure has given an assurance that the patch for which he has been responsible would effect a complete and final reformation. But as time has passed we have continually found ourselves in a position similar to that of the motorist with a flat tire - the patch has held, but the fabric has given way in some other place, and more patching has had to be done.
But we must deal with things as they are. One of the reasons why this measure now requires amendment, and has done so often before, is the limitation imposed on the powers of the Commonwealth by the Constitution. It would therefore have been preferable to wait until our powers had been extended to enable us to deal effectively with industrial matters before again attempting the amendment of the Arbitration Act. No one would suggest for a moment that this bill can be at best, more than a temporary expedient of doubtful benefit, and there is some justification for the contention of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that it will be more difficult to secure for the Commonwealth Parliament wider powers over industrial matters, if this measure is placed upon the statutebook in its present form. It is distinctly unfortunate that the Government did not first move towards the amendment of the Constitution by taking a referendum of the people, and even had it been necessary, to postpone another appeal to the people, this measure could have stood over until the election. However, the Attorney-General is not be censored for the decision of the Government to press on with the bill. He has to deal with the position as he finds it. He tells us that this measure will enhance the prospects of industrial peace, will simplify procedure, will to some extent prevent overlapping, and will cure some of the more glaring defects which time has disclosed in the act.
Every member of this House wishes to improve the act, and the question is, whether this bill will do that. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) made a strong attack upon the measure, which he regarded as provocative and as a blow aimed at the very heart of unionism. I was not able to hear the Prime Minister’s reply, but I venture to say that whatever faults this measure might have, it was certainly not the intention of the Government to aim a blow at the heart of unionism. I do not believe that any effects detrimental to unionism that the bill might have are part of a deliberate policy to crush unionism. But the subject is extremely complex and difficult, and any measure of this kind, although intended for one purpose, may easily have a quite unexpected effect.
I propose now to refer to the criticism, logical, connected and fair, of the Leader of the Opposition. I do not suggest that there is not another side to the case than that he presented, but he dealt with the subject in a manner which left no ground for complaint. His speech- was free from personalities; it was logical; and, granting his premises, convincing. He called attention first of all to clause 48, and elaborating a little, showed what would have been the effect of its provisions, had the Government persisted in its retention in the bill. I am exceedingly glad that it has been decided to abandon it, because I am inclined to agree with the Leader of the Opposition that its effects would have been singularly unfortunate.
The honorable gentleman declared this bill to be a deliberate declaration of war on unionism by the Government, and in support of his contention referred us in particular to clause 22. In that clause, he contended a blow was aimed at the basic wage, and the fundamental ‘ principle of arbitration directly threatened. I agree that the clause is capable of that construction, but if, by an unhappy chance, the court so construed it and were to use the powers that are conferred upon it by this clause for this purpose, I am certain that that is not contemplated by the Attorney-General. But admitting that such interpretation of the clause is remotely possible, the bill would be fatal to the interests of this party, and indeed to those of the country. I suggest, therefore, that whatever be the purpose of the proposed new section 25d, it should be made perfectly clear that nothing contained in it could impair, involve or affect the principle of the basic wage. Let us look at the clause a little closely. Under it the court is adjured to consider the probable economic effect of agreements or awards upon the industry or industries concerned, and upon the community in general. When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) interjected that the court had always done this, and the Leader of the Opposition replied that that was so, but that hitherto the court had had a discretionary power, but it was now intended to make such consideration obligatory. Whether proposed new section 25d can be construed in that way is open to argument; but any ambiguity should be removed. If the court is to be compelled to survey the whole economic field, and consider what will be the effect of “a declaration or award giving to an organization certain wages or conditions, by what principle is it to be guided? What does the economic welfare of the country mean? Every increase of wages has an effect upon the economic life of the community. As a stone thrown into a pool causes ripples to extend to the farthest shore, so the whole of the economic conditions of a country are disturbed by every award; but to what extent is this to go before it becomes a factor which shall govern the decision of the court, and at what point is that factor to be taken into consideration so that it will override every other factor? It is vital to the welfare of this country that there shall be such a standard of living as will enable a man, in the words of Mr. Justice Higgins, to maintain himself and his family in decency and comfort as a citizen of a civilized community. If this standard is reduced it must have a profound effect upon the economic life of the community. Here then are two conflicting principles. By which is the court to be governed? Hitherto, while the court has considered the economic effect of an award, it has never regarded itself as free to go beyond the length of its rope; that is, it has felt bound to decree that the basic wage must be paid irrespective of any economic effect. I cannot believe that it was the intention of the Government that this principle should be invalidated, and I ask the AttorneyGeneral to make that point perfectly clear, because I, for one, will not go before the people and say that I am in favour of this measure when its provisions can be construed to mean an attack upon a principle for which I have stood all my life. I am certain that the Government does not wish to attack the principle of the basic wage.
I come now to clause 7, which provides among other things for sectional strikes. Shortly, the proposal may be stated, in the terms of the proposed new section 7, as follows: -
The Attorney-General explained what the provision was intended to do. He gave an instance of a sectional strike such as might occur at, say, the McKay Harvester Works. Suppose that in such a factory there was a dispute with 50 of the moulders. Because of the interdependence of the sections of the factory, these men might be able to hold up the whole establishment, or, alternately, to enforce their terms, although 5,000 other employees were willing to remain at work. By such a dispute not only might one factory be affected; every engineering firm throughout Australia might become concerned in it. There is a short way to deal with a case such as this, and the Minister has proposed to adopt it. Clearly a strike is not, ipso facto, a general strike, though under the clause, with the aid of the court, it may be made so. Let us face the position. If every sectional lockout or strike may be turned by order of the court, on the application of a few, into a general lockout or strike, where should we be?
– It would be the end of arbitration.
– Admittedly it is easier to put out a small fire than a large one. In many parts of our bush one can read notices prohibiting the use of wax matches, and the lighting of fires except in places set apart for the purpose, because when a fire gets a good hold, the whole countryside is imperilled. Yet it is here proposed to fan a small fire into a great one, in order that we may extinguish the small one. That is obviously wrong. The Government says that the provision is necessary to enable us to deal with sectional strikes. Let me put the other side of the case for a moment. Job control is one of the most vicious, subtle and dangerous things in industry to-day. It eludes every attempt to cope with it. We cannot altogether hold the unions responsible. As soon as the court takes cognizance of job control, the handful of employees concerned turn to again, or they become recalcitrant and will not obey the executive of their union. Job control is one of the causes of the disaster that overtook the Commonwealth Shipping Line. It, as much as anything else, was responsible for that. Job control is a danger which both parties recognize. It should not be thought that the majority of the responsible leaders fail to recognize its menace. It is, in effect, a throwing off of the bonds of discipline. Half the strikes in the mining industry arise from the action of men who would defy any union. A few wheelers - mere boys - can stop all work in a mine. That is bad, but to try to cure job control by creating a strike or a lockout would be disastrous. I hope that the Attorney-General will realize that this proposal is a two-edged sword. It is a direct encouragement of the one big union movement. It will make craft unions impossible. It will compel everybody to join one big organization, because under the clause every sectional strike can be converted by somebody apart from those concerned in it into a general strike. A general strike or lockout can be dealt with only by a general organization, composed of all the employers or employees as the case may be. That in effect means industrial civil war. Therefore I sincerely hope that the Government will amend its proposal.
I come now to the clause dealing with the secret ballot. I was glad indeed to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that he welcomed the secret ballot. Every sensible man does, and a good many unions hold secret ballots. But the honorable gentleman is right, I think, when he says that the provision whereby the court may, on the secret application of ten men order a secret ballot will be either futile or disastrous. The Attorney-General must permit me to tell him something about the manner in which unions operate. We ought to know these things; it is part of the business of this Parliament to know them. It is of no use making laws relating to unions - whose members and those connected with them compose roughly half the community - as if we were dealing with a handful of men engaged in petty larceny or some other crime. We must face the fact that we are dealing with nearly half the law-abiding citizens of the country. The law has compelled the unions to register. For all practical purposes the man who is not a member of a union cannot obtain employment in most industries; indeed, I know of none. The law encourages preference to unionists. It is of no use to blame the unions for this. The law says that men must belong to the claimant organization before they can participate in the benefits of an award of the court. Let us assume that a dispute is in progress, and the question is whether it shall be allowed to drag on, or whether steps shall be taken to bring matters to a head. There is a meeting at which the more turbulent, those who make the greatest noise and are most closely organized, control the proceedings. This almost invariably happens; indeed I have never known a case where it has not happened. The section that exercises this control is the “ red “ element. In my whole experience as a union leader, I have not known concerted action to be taken by the moderates until the damage has been done, and a strike being declared through the insistence of the extremists, the moderates have been driven to combine as a result of some bitter experience, and generally when it was too late. Many a time I have seen men arrive at a wharf at Sydney where a notice informing them that a strike was on was the first they had heard of a dispute. This provision is intended to deal with such a situation. If in such circumstances the union does not hold a secret ballot, the Attorney-General has provided that any ten men may go in fear and trembling to the court, without disclosing their names, and the court may accede to their request.
– “ May.”
– Of course. If the court does not grant the application that is the end of the matter; but I assume that the court will grant it in some cases. The provision is intended to be used. Let me ask the AttorneyGeneral a simple question. How can the court or a registrar know that those making the application are members of an organization unless it refers to the organization itself? They may produce a medal or a card as evidence of membership, but the registrar is not” to know whether they are bona fide financial members of the organization to which they profess to belong. It may be that the men would be required to make an affidavit on which the court could act. In that case the court- would be acting upon an ex parte statement, and the result would perhaps be turmoil throughout the country. It might appear subsequently that the applicants to the court were not in fact financial members of the union. It is impossible to know whether a unionist is financial or not without access to the books of the union, and that would be impossible without a disclosure of the purpose of the inquiry. ‘ If the court sent for the books of a union, the union would know that this was done to provide means of establishing the bona fides of applicants for a ballot. I do not know a union in the country - certainly none that I have ever been connected with - that would allow its members to vote if the court ordered a secret ballot.
As to the penalties that are proposed I tell the Attorney-General candidly that he does not realize the magnitude of the task to which he has set his hand. He cannot fine or imprison 50,000, or even 5,000 men. The ten men who secretly asked the court for a secret ballot would be marked for life. Any man who voted when the union declared that he should not vote for a secret ballot would be regarded as outside the pale, and -would so remain. I do not say that that is right or wrong, but even in the legal profession, to which I belong, a man is not allowed to act in opposition to the rules of the Bar Council. The Treasurer is a doctor. Would he work in his profession or even consult with a practitioner who was not persona grata to the British Medical Association? He would not. This attitude on the part of unionists, industrial and professional, may be wrong ; but it is human nature, and we are legislating for human nature. Our objective is to prevent strikes or to settle them peaceably when they occur. An effective secret ballot can be conducted only through the instrumentality and machinery of the union. We may attempt to do it some other way, and to compel a union to take a ballot; but it cannot be done, and there are no means of punishing the union when it refuses to obey the order of the court. This legislation runs counter to human nature. I do not defend human nature; but every man looks out on life from his own particular angle. This problem is not only economic; it is also psychological. We want the workers to respect and obey the law; we must therefore view the matter from their point of view. Disputes occur between them and their employers - between the buyers and sellers of labour - and this bill proposes to count the votes of the sellers in the interests of the buyers. This procedure is not to be applied to the employers at all ; the Government does not desire to do that. The employees say that they, too, want to manage their own affairs. They want industrial peace ; it is vital to them. Who suffers most from strikes?
– The community.
– There is no doubt of that, but the strikers, and particularly their wives and families, suffer also. If anybody is to be singled out for special consideration it should be the wives of the workers; they suffer more than anybody else from a cessation of work. During the big coal strike in 1909-10 I saw a woman faint through lack of food, and when she was carried into an adjacent store she was found to be wearing nothing but a mackintosh. I visited her house; it was devoid of furniture and the children were crying for want of food. Our aim is to obviate suffering of that kind. A secret ballot with the goodwill of the workers would do great things ; but if the Government attempts to force it down their throats they will reject it.
I ask the Government to remember that it is dealing with a force that is very powerful, and that views with suspicion every act of the Ministry and the people who support it. That is quite natural. “ The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” It is true that most employers to-day treat their employees well, but not long ago the employers had the power, and used it tyrannically. Bitter memories of the past linger; they were imbibed by the infant at the mother’s breast. Now the rod is in other hands; the serf has become the- master and in gaining power, has in his turn become a tyrant. We must recognize circumstances as they are. We want to protect the community, but we cannot do it in the way that is suggested in the bill. Unionists cannot be forced to take a secret ballot or be punished for refusing to do so.
The honorable member for Yarra referred also to the provision relating to agreements. The court is now given power to refuse to register or certify a memorandum of agreement which it considers to be not in the public interest. The purpose of that is obvious. Employers and employees make an agreement to their mutual advantage upon the understanding that the increased cost of production is to be passed on to the consumer. Although the agreement has brought about peace in the industry, the court may hold that it is not in the public interest, and should not be certified. The court must consider the probable economic effect of the agreement upon the community. This repeats the provisions of clause 22 in different words. Let us consider what may happen under this clause to the Australian Workers Union, the most powerful organization of its kind in the Commonwealth. Let us suppose some small dispute to be settled by the union or a section of it by agreement with the employers, and the agreement to be brought before the court so that it may be made legally binding. The court examines the agreement to ascertain what its effect is likely to be; if it considers it not in the public interest, it refuses to certify it, and the dispute is revived. But under clause 22 the court must consider “ the probable economic effect of any award it may make.” The parties are thus up against the brick wall of public interest. Failing to get an agreement or an award, the only alternative is to strike. The railway workers’ branch of the Australian Workers Union may have made an agreement with the employer, which is a State Government. The court may hold that it is not in the public interest that railway fares and freights should be raised to meet the costs that the agreement will involve. Being denied redress in that way, the union may apply to the court for a declaration of the existence of a lockout, or the employers may apply for a declaration of the existence of a strike. In either case, industrial war is declared. That is not what we desire. We do not want to wait till a mere spark of unrest becomes a conflagration; we want to extinguish the trouble almost at the moment of ignition. There is a stage at which when strikes can be dealt with most effectively.
– By conciliation and meting out even-handed justice, of course; there is no other means. If the honorable member asks for some panacea, some patent medicine to be taken from a bottle or in tabloid form, I cannot supply it. I am endeavouring to point out that the provisions in the bill are not calculated to achieve what the Attorney-General is seeking to do, and what we all desire to be done.
I shall vote for the second read- ‘ ing of this bill; but in regard to those clauses I have mentioned, and others which I have not time to deal with at this stage, my attitude does not coincide with that of some honorable members supporting the Government. The Ministerial party is composed of representatives of different sections of the community, and it would be in the last degree unfortunate if the notion were to become general that the opinions expressed by some honorable members on this side represent the policy of the whole party. Certainly some of the opinions which have been voiced during this debate do not represent my views. When the- Nationalist party was formed it was supposed to have room for men holding different views. I have expressed my opinion; I have no quarrel with honorable members who differ from it. But having had considerable experience of industrial affairs, I am convinced that some of these provisions will not work as they are intended to work by those who framed them; they are at best two-edged swords, and at the worst, they may destroy the very thing we are anxious to cultivate and develop. [Extension of time granted.’]
I shall not trespass upon the indulgence of the House much longer. We should endeavour to approach this problem in a non-party spirit. No one can get any lasting good out of strikes, and in many cases the workers are in the long run the worst sufferers. I have stated that the industrial problem is, in some of its aspects, insoluble, but wise laws, properly administered, would do a great deal to minimize the effects of unrest, which is a natural corollary to an educated and progressive democracy. Men cannot be expected to journey in a rut all the days of their life. They want a share of the good things of modern civilization. To obtain perpetual industrial peace one must go to a stagnant country. But even China, after thousands of years of industrial peace, is now waking up. Industrial unrest is the price that we pay for progress.
But while the origin of some diseases is unknown and for others of which we know something there is no known cure, there are many which spring from definite and preventable causes. One of the reasons why industrial unrest is so often fanned into flame is the existence in our midst of an element whose influence and power is growing daily. There is no doubt that the great danger now confronting civilization is what is known as communism. Communism sets itself with malevolent and deliberate purpose to destroy society. The communist is openly opposed to civilization. He stands alongside the reactionary as Australia’s most deadly enemy. The reactionary and the “ red “ are equally the enemies of industrial peace, as every one who has had personal experience of unionism knows. In every union there is at work an agent of the communist movement, animated by fanatic and sleepless . zeal. The moderates are apathetic; the extremists are persistently aggressive. Day in and day out they labour, their minds inflamed by fanatical purpose to breed unrest. They obtain more satisfaction from the precipitation of one strike than from the settlement of thousands. They do not desire industrial peace; they want industrial turmoil. It is their object to make things worse, not better. That is perfectly well known by every union official in Australia, and only recently it was publicly acknowledged by an executive of the Australian Workers Union.
If we are to cure the disease of communism we must appeal to the unionists themselves. No one else can effect a cure. The community may provide the machinery, but it can operate only through the agency and with the cooperation and goodwill of the unionists themselves.
We well know what communism stands for. The Soviet makes no pretence at all to stand for law and order. It spreads abroad the doctrine of anarchy, but itself enforces discipline with an iron hand. It does not permit strikes, and strikers are given short shrift at its hands, its treatment of them being similar to that meted out to strikers in America and South Africa. Yet the unions of Australia are permitting themselves to be dominated by the agents of these wreckers of society. I read recently, and no one appears to have protested against it, that the president of the Sydney Trades Hall, as a special mark -of recognition of his many merits, had been made a member of the executive of the Third Internationale. The sinister significance of this can hardly be exaggerated. It is a reflection upon the intelligence and commonsense of every institution, governmental and other. An organization which admittedly exists for the destruction of our civilization is permitted to appoint its agent amongst us, and he still lives in peace in our midst. We may ransack the world and not find another such case. That man has lived for many years in’ Australia. He has been an avowed communist, has disavowed his connexion with communism, and has been appointed an executive of the communist movement. What are the unionists of Australia going to do about it? What is the Government of the country going to do about it? It is evident that we shall spend our labours to promote industrial peace fruitlessly if we fail to deal with such men. Half measures are useless. We must treat the disease as surgeons treat cancer; the disease of communism must be* cut out from the body politic or we shall be undone.
We all want industrial peace. Undoubtedly this measure has aroused party feeling; but we must try to forget that. We are here as the representatives of the people, and they are looking to us for effective action. It is of no use for us to say to some party or section, “It is true I failed to give peace; but I held up your end.” The people want industrial peace, and we cannot get peace by shutting our eyes tofacts. After hearing the opinions expressed in regard to this measure, the Government must be prepared to ask itself whether the bill will bring peace or a sword. The unionists must take their courage in both hands, and deal with the dangerous element in their midst, otherwise it will destroy them. I repeat what has been said in every union in Australia: only the unionists themselves can bring industrial peace. If I had my way I would inaugurate councils of industry, one for each State and a grand council for the Commonwealth, with a board for each industry and trade. The machinery governing those councils would be simple. I would place on the shoulders of the unionists themselves the responsibility of maintaining law and order, and I honestly believe that we should get better results in that way than by a bill such as this. But we have to deal with the measure before the House. I welcome the bill, I shall vote for the second reading and, in committee I shall do whatever I can to assist in improving it.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- It was refreshing to hear the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), from his long experience of industrial matters, demonstrate how unworkable this measure would be. His legal training also enabled him to point out serious drafting faults in the bill. He, like myself, has always been favorable to the appointment of local boards to deal with local disputes, with the object of preventing them from spreading throughout the Commonwealth. In the circumstances, it is regrettable that the right honorable gentleman is not able, because of the peculiar circumstances in which he finds himself, to give effect to the views which he has expressed.
The Prime Minister yesterday made what was supposed to be a pacific speech on this bill, but he took good care to direct all his criticism to the trade unionists, though I admit that hesaid there were some unreasonable employers. The right honorable gentleman gave us a brief account of the industrial emancipation of the working classes of Great Britain, but many of his statements were not historically accurate. The inference from all that he said on this aspect of the subject was that the trade unionists of Great Britain had never done a thing to help themselves, and that their organizations are and always have been useless for that purpose. The truth is that in Great Britain, as elsewhere, the workers have had to organize and fight long and strenuously to gain even the comparatively few concessions which they at present enjoy. In the years gone by, the British industrialists lived and worked under conditions which were comparable with slavery. After the great plague, in the early years of the 19th century, the British Government passed a law which compelled men to accept the first work offered to them, for whatever wage the employer cared to fix. Every attempt to form a trade union was vigorously resisted. At one time the punishment to which a man was subjected upon the third conviction for attempting to establish a trade union was the lopping off of an ear. It may be said that those days have gone for ever, but I am afraid some honorable members would like them to return. The use of the club has been abandoned, it is true ; but every scheme that the cunning mind can devise is being used to keep the worker in subjection.
A good deal of the discussion on this bill has centred around the coal-mining industry. Since my early childhood I have been associated with coal-mines and coal-miners. As a young man, I walked into mines which were so foul that on many occasions I lost my breakfast and had to work for the rest of the day without nourishment.
– Of what use is it for the honorable member to talk as though similar conditions prevailed to-day ?
– The honorable member would permit a return to those conditions to-morrow.
– All improvements in wages and conditions which have been exacted from the employers have been secured only after long fighting and many sacrifices.For many years the employers flatly refused to meet their employees in conference.
– Nowadays the employees refuse to meet their employers.
– I remember years ago appealing to the management of a company which had paid 100 per cent. in dividends on its original capital, to provide stretchers at a cost of £2 10s. each for the purpose of carrying wounded men out of the mines. At that time an injured worker was placed in a skiff, taken some distance, then removed to another skiff, and so on, until he reached the mouth of the tunnel. My application was refused. On one occasion we were compelled to strike for three months before the employers would make an agreement with us regarding working conditions. The rate of wages was not in question on that occasion.
I have respect for the legal fraternity, generally speaking; but a legal training is not in itself sufficient to enable a man to determine what should be the working conditions in an industry. He needs practical knowledge. One of the provisions of the agreement which was made after our three months’ strike was that extra payment should be granted for working coal seams of less than 5 feet in width. It is well known that the width of coal seams varies greatly. An eminent barrister was appointed as the referee in matters which required determination under that agreement, and he decided that a narrow seam which was 11 or 12 feet high could be worked in 5-ft. sections. That meant a loss to both shareholders and employees, but the system was persisted in for three years.
– That shows the folly of appointing other than practical men to determine such matters.
– That is my argument. That actually happened. When I was appointed official head of that union, the agreement provided that refuse had to be paid for at the rate for the standard seam; but the company tried to avoid payment for the work known as lifting bottoms. I at once arranged for a hearing before the tribunal and a practical business man. He not only reversed the previous decision, but for refuse work made his award retrospective for three years. That is an instance of the difficulties with which the men are faced when their claims are heard by a judge who has no technical knowledge of the working conditions of the industry concerned. I have nothing against the judges of the Arbitration Court as legal men, but I contend that a system of settling disputes by a local board would be preferable to the present method of arbitration. Strange to say, the demand for compulsory arbitration arose from the Newcastle district, because the employers there would not meet the men in any way. The men at that time had no idea that compulsory arbitration would lead to. costly and protracted proceedings, and be hedged about by legislation prescribing all sorts of impracticable conditions, as has been pointed out by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). I do not say for one moment that compulsory arbitration has not prevented strikes, which, had they taken place, would have been disastrous to this country; but this Government has overstepped the mark by introducing legislation which, instead of promoting industrial peace, must assuredly lead to industrial turmoil, and destroy the system of compulsory arbitration. I admit that the time has come to review that system. We are all agreed upon that, but we expected that the law would be amended so as to make arbitration more practicable and workable, and to enable claims to be heard with more expedition. Men have been kept waiting eighteen months and two years before their claims have been heard, and during that period conditions have changed, and, as a result, the men have been compelled to take direct action. The penalties provided in the bill are to be enforced as far as the employees are concerned ; but the employers will be immune, although they have committed, and will continue to commit, many “and various breaches of the original and amending acts. They at all times are able to find loopholes in the law, and, consequently, no penalties are imposed upon them. It has been stated that the unionists are the only persons in the world who refuse to obey awards. My answer is that they cannot afford to disobey awards. Proposed new sub-section 25d provides that a judge of the court when fixing the wages and conditions of employment must take into consideration the economic position of the industry concerned. Unfortunately, the bill provides no means whereby an inquiry can be made to ascertain to what extent the shares of companies, such as the steamship and coal mining companies of this country, have been watered. It is well known that £1 shares have been watered to the extent of £3, £4, and £5, and the industry concerned has had to meet the increased interest bill. Practically every company in Australia has watered its shares, and this has prevented the adjustment of wages and the successful working of industry. In one case £10 shares, paid up to £6, were declared fully paid up, and on those shares a dividend of £6 was paid for years. Their value rapidly increased to as much as £54. The mine in question had to bear the increased cost not only of interest, but also of haulage due to the gradual deepening of the workings. That is a common instance. Recently it has been stated that to enable industry to be carried on we must return to 1914 conditions. Surely before considering whether the wages of the employees should be decreased, we should insist on the reorganization of these companies in accordance with sound business practice. Had the shares not been watered, the companies would have been paying dividends of up to 70 per cent, of their capital. During the war the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), then Prime Minister, allowed the mining companies to increase the price of coal by 4s. a ton, and again by 3s. a ton, although the increase in overhead charges and in the cost of hewing relatively did not amount to more than ls. and 8d. a ton. The cost of hewing coal does not fluctuate to any considerable extent. In view of those circumstances the charge that has been made of collusion between the men and the owners to bring about an increase in the price of coal, goes by the board. The owners receive 75 per cent., and the miners 25 per cent, of any increase, although I admit that the owners have, in addition, to bear the expense of day labour and the employment of certain temporary hands.
The Government would be well advised to withdraw the bill with a view to remodelling it on practical lines. When the Government invited the. repre1 sentatives of the trade unions ‘to attend a peace conference, it was told that the obstacle in the path of such a conference was the bill which we are now discussing. Meetings are to be held all over Australia in opposition to- this -measure. . The workers could see that while the Government was offering peace with one hand, it held a bludgeon, in the shape of this cast-iron proposal, in the other. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has said that some of the clauses embody suggestions that have been made by the trade union congress. Those suggestions did not go nearly so far as the proposals in the bill. This is not an endeavour to find a peaceful solution of our difficulties, but is practically a reversion to the practices of the olden days, when leg-irons were employed. It is far better for all concerned if disputes can be settled at a round-table conference. I have handled as many disputes as most men in both New South Wales and Victoria, and I have never failed to bring about a settlement.
– The honorable member understood both sides of the question.
– And he had reasonable men to deal with.
– There was some hard fighting, but we managed to find a solution. Some time after the inauguration of the Commonwealth I played a part in the settlement of a dispute that had been in existence for eighteen months. Neither lawyers nor judges were engaged to effect a settlement. I represented the men, and the employers were represented by a man who was keenly alive to the difficulties of the situation. We sat for a week, at the end of which an agreement was drawn up and work was resumed. I do not wish to be offensive, but I contend that there is no necessity for an industrial dispute to be heard before a judge, or for either the men or the employers to be represented by a member of the legal profession. I voted against the third reading of the original , Arbitration Act because it embodied that provision. There must, of course, be a registrar entrusted with the duty of bringing the disputants together in an endeavour to find a settlement. In the event of failure to reach- an agreement, an umpire could be appointed by either the Chief Justice or the Prime Minister of the day, on the condition that his views were neutral and that he understood the nature of the case to be. decided. He could be assisted by assessors, representative of the two parties. Greater satisfaction would result from such a scheme than from any hide-bound law. The decisions so arrived at could have the force of law, and there could be an appeal from any that were wrongfully given. Many disputes would thus be settled in the initial stages. The bill makes provision for conciliation, but only upon application; and it will be within the power of the judge to either allow or refuse the parties the right to conciliate.
– The honorable member is making a mistake. .The proposed pew section 18, paragraph c, provides for the appointment of conciliation commissioners. There will be no heed for an ‘application ‘to be made before those commissioners intervene.
– The parties will not be able to meet round the table and draw up an agreement. Under the act as it stands, that course can be followed, and when the agreements have been registered they have the same effect as an award of the court.
– Those provisions will “still exist.
– I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that it would be far better if the Commonwealth had the power to deal with all industrial disputes throughout the Commonwealth. Under our existing Constitution, our powers are limited with respect to certain industrial troubles. Any disputes that are confined within the borders of a State must be dealt with by the State Court.
– Is “not that as good as, if not better than, having the Commonwealth dealing with everything?
– We should have the power to legislate in such a way that we can stamp out a conflagration before it goes too far. If the federal authorities had had the necessary quarantine power they could have confined the tick trouble in Queensland to the area in which it originated. Because it had not that power, the State of New South Wales was compelled to erect a fence along the whole extent of its border, to prevent the spread of the trouble into its territory. The same principle applies in re.gard to industrial troubles. The lack of uniformity makes it difficult for us to frame legislation that will meet every particular case. Local boards have been given a trial, but their activities have been confined to industries that are federal in character. The history of the working of those boards proves that it would be better if the Government were to extend their operations. The effect of this ironbound legislation will be to inflame the minds of the people. A great deal has been said regarding the dispute that exists at the present time, because of the claim of the Marine Cooks’ Union for the employment of an extra hand in the galley. If that trouble is not settled, it may eventually hold up the whole of the industries of Australia. The number, of hands to be employed in the galley is a small question in the running of a ship?
– Does the honorable member for Franklin realize that he is now in the National Parliament?
– Are only ‘big questions dealt with here?
– Yes, bigger than the honorable member -can grasp. The employment of an extra man in the galley would add very little to the cost of running a ship.
– Is it not .a question of obedience to an award?
– Apparently the honorable member’s case rests upon the old-fashioned basis of “principle.”
– The Navigation Act stipulates the number of hands that shall be carried.
– The manning of a ship, I admit, must be in accordance with “ the provisions of the Navigation Act. Has the honorable member for Franklin ever been in a ship’s galley in the tropics ?
– He would not be here now if he had been.
– He would not live in one for a day. If we had had the power to refer that dispute to a board we might have been able to prevent the present trouble from occurring. There is a lack of mutual trus’t between the two opposing forces in industry. Honorable members should not lay the blame for all stoppages of work on the employees, because the disputes are often due to hardships imposed upon the men by supernumeraries.
– We have the best regulations in the world.
– I am not talking of the regulations, but of the administration. A bad law well administered i3 better than a good law badly administered.
My final advice to the Government is that the bill be withdrawn and recast on the lines that I have indicated. As it stands, instead of assisting in the settlement of disputes, it will create more industrial trouble and greater bitterness and hatred than obtain to-day. Already a whole sheaf of amendments has been drawn up by the Attorney-General, show* ing how little the bill has been considered by the Government. In view of all that has been said by honorable members - and there are a number on the other side who agree with the remarks of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) - the Government ought to withdraw this measure and bring in one that would be likely to lead to the peaceful settlement of industrial trouble. The Government has the power to pass this bill; but it cannot compel the artisans of this country to give up their rights of citizenship. Honorable members on this side do not stand for the extremists. We have always said that the extremists in the Labour movement are the friends of the opposing side. If they were paid for their services, they could not do their work better than it is now being done. Action has been taken from time to time to make it appear that this Government wishes to settle the industrial problem. But legislation of this kind will not achieve that object. From the time when coercion was practised, and workers who sought to secure reforms were put into leg-irons, trade unionism has progressed. It will continue to make progress and will not submit to coercive legislation of this character. All the workmen of this country cannot be cast into prison, and they cannot be frightened by threats of imprisonment. “ The schoolmaster is abroad.” The unionists now see how the ways of industry are hidden by the employers, who are not dealt with by this measure or in any other direction by the government of the day. Realizing this, they demand proper recognition for the work they do, and no legislation by this Government will prevent them from demanding a fair deal.
Debate (on motion by Mr. GREGORY adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate “without amendment.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure provides for comprehensive and up-to-date legislation in connexion with compensation for injuries to Commonwealth employees. These employees are not entitled to participate in the rights conferred under State laws, and Commonwealth legislation is, therefore, necessary. The existing act was passed in 1912, but in many respects it is out of date. The bill now before us provides for the repeal of that act and the introduction of new provisions. It contains many important variations from the present law. Chief among these are that the administration is to be in the hands of a commissioner; the act is to apply to all employees of the Commonwealth, irrespective of salary, but will exclude members of the naval, military and air forces; provision is made for the payment of increased compensation and also for the payment of medical benefits, and specified payments for certain injuries.
Under the present act questions of compensation are decided by agreement, arbitration, or by the court. In the case of death it is the practice to refer questions of dependency to the court, thus causing delay and expense. Provision has accordingly been made in the bill that the act shall be administered by a commissioner. The powers and functions of the commissioner are set out in clause 6. They provide that he shall determine all matters subject to the provisions of the bill. His decisions are not to be final; there is to be a right of appeal to a county court.
The existing act applies to all civil employees of the Commonwealth receiving £500 per annum or less. In this bill the limit of £500 has been abolished, and the bill will thus apply to all civil employees. The existing act also applies to members of the naval and military forces, except when on active service. The defence regulations, however, contain comprehensive provisions for compensation in respect of injuries to members of the forces. It is proposed therefore, that this bill shall not apply to the members of the forces.
Provision has also been made for the bill to apply to employees of any authority established under the Commonwealth, subject to such authority being so prescribed by regulation. The bill can thus be made applicable to such an authority, for instance, as the Commonwealth Bank, and the authority will, unless otherwise prescribed, be responsible for the payment of compensation in accordance with the provisions of the act.
The scale of compensation has been materially altered and liberalized. Under the present act the compensation to dependants, wholly dependent, is a sum equal to three years’ earnings, subject to a minimum of £200 and a maximum of £500. Under similar conditions the bill provides for payment of a sum equal to 156 times the weekly pay at the time of injury, subject to a minimum of £400 and a maximum of £700. In the case of total or partial incapacity, the present act provides for a weekly payment not exceeding 50 per cent, of the average weekly earnings and subject to a maximum of £2. The bill provides for payment not exceeding two-thirds of the weekly pay at the time of injury and the maximum is increased to £3. In addition, a payment of 5s. for each child under fourteen years of age is provided.
The present act does not prescribe payments for specific injuries. The absence of this provision makes it necessary to arrive at an agreement in each instance, or go to the court. Modern compensation laws, including most of the State acts, contain a schedule of fixed payments for specific injuries. The bill accordingly contains a schedule in keeping with modern requirements. In this schedule ihe payments vary from £600 downwards, according to the nature of the injury, and they will be found to conform roughly to the average payments made in the various States.
The present act contains no provision for payment of medical benefits to injured employees. The trend of modern legislation is to provide for such benefits. Provision has accordingly been made in the bill for payment of medical, surgical and hospital treatment up to £100. This payment is in addition to compensation otherwise provided in the bill.
The bill declares that the liability of the Commonwealth shall be limited to. £700, plus medical expenses, except in the case of permanent total incapacity. It is felt that this limit should not apply in the case of an employee who has received injuries that render him totally incapable of doing any further work. It is considered that the best way to assist such an employee is by a permanent weekly payment instead of by lump sum compensation. The bill accordingly provides for a weekly payment of two- thirds of his pay subject to a maximum of £3, without any limitation as to the period and the total liability.
– Does not the bill also provide for settlements in lump sum?
– No; it provides for permanent weekly payments only. “When the Workmen’s Compensation Act was passed in 1912 there was no Commonwealth Superannuation Act in existence. The principle was laid down, however, that an employee should not be entitled to receive compensation or payment from the Commonwealth in respect of an accident, both independently of and also under the Workmen’s Compensation Act. The Superannuation Act was passed in 1922, and under it provision was made for pensions to be paid from joint contributions by the employees and the Commonwealth. Where an employee receives an injury resulting in permanent and total disablement, that employee, if a contributor to the superannuation fund, is entitled to a pension. If death results, his widow receives a pension of half the amount that would have been payable to the employee, and in either case a pension is also paid in respect of children under sixteen years of age. As the Commonwealth provides half of these pensions - for the majority of the present employees the Commonwealth contribution exceeds half - the Government has carefully considered the question as to what additional payments should be made in such cases under the provisions of this bill. As a result the provisions which the Government deems equitable have been set out in clause 17 of the bill. Briefly stated, their effect is: - Where death results, the widow, in addition to the pension under the Superannuation Act, will receive a lump sum compensation, less the capitalized value of half the pension. There is a saving clause that a minimum, payment equal to half the compensation will be paid to the widow. Where the employee leaves a widow and another dependant, such as a mother, the mother will be entitled to her full share of compensation, and the widow’s share will be reduced, as already indicated, subject, however, to a minimum payment of half that share being made. In the case of permanent and total incapacity, the employee will receive in addition to his pension under the Superannuation Act, the weekly payment prescribed by the Compensation Act, less the amount of that pension.
This bill includes very comprehensive provisions for compensation in respect of injuries sustained by all civil employees of the Commonwealth. These provisions are in keeping with the trend of modern legislation, and are very much more liberal than those of the existing act. The Government considers that they should apply uniformly to all civil employees of the Commonwealth, and therefore proposes that the power to make provision for compensation for injuries to civil employees under any other laws of the Commonwealth shall be abolished. The bill, in clause 14, accordingly provides that such a power shall be taken away from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Arbitrator, and that existing awards shall be non-effective. The bill, in clause 13, also makes similar provision in respect of the regulations affecting civil employees under the Defence Act. The measure is one that can best be considered in committee. I commend it to the House in the hope that the second reading will not be delayed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lacey) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
That the message be taken into consideration in committee forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the holding of an exhibition in Australia.
Standing Orders suspended.
That Mr. Bruce and Mr. Latham do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 3 -
Where a prescribed authority is satisfied that any person to whom a licencehas been issued under this section has contravened or failed to comply with any term or condition of the licence, the prescribed authority may cancel the licence, and the licence shall thereupon cease to be of any force or effect.
Senate’s Amendments. - After “Where”, sub-clause (5), insert “the Minister on report by “ ; leave out “ prescribed authority “, insert “ Minister “.
– I move -
That the amendments be. agreed to.
The object of these amendments is to provide that the power to cancel a licence if the conditions under which the licence has been issued have not been observed shall rest with the Minister on report by the prescribed authority instead of with the prescribed authority. This alteration was suggested during the discussions which took place in committee in this chamber, and was made in the Senate at the instance of the Government. It was pointed out that there was a danger of the authorities in the different States cancelling licences for divergent reasons. The amendments will ensure that the reasons for the cancellation of licences * will be uniform.
– Will the Minister be guided in what he does by the report of the authority?
– It will be quite open to the Minister to make the final decision after he receives a report from prescribed authority.
.- The amendments made by the Senate, throwing as they do on the Government the responsibility for the cancellation of a licence, which may deprive a man of his means of livelihood, and preventing bodies not responsible to this Parliament from doing so, will improve the bill. When some of us were criticizing its provisions previously there seemed to be a certain amount of restiveness on the part of the Government. I regret that I was not here on that occasion, because I object most strongly to a man being compelled to take out a licence before he can conduct his business. Before federation the States had the right by the imposition of Customs duties to place restrictions, to the extent of the duties imposed, on men who did interstate business, but this bill introduces a new phase of the Constitution by making it an offence for a mau to conduct interstate trade without a licence. It is the gravest instance we have had in the history of the Commonwealth of interference with interstate trade, though certainly the Senate’s amendments will modify that interference to the extent that the responsibility for preventing a man from doing business from one side of Australia to another is thrown on the Commonwealth Government.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the measure is to authorize the holding of a British Empire Exhibition in Australia in 1932, and I am sure that it will commend itself to all honorable members, as it is one to which party considerations cannot apply. Honorable members are aware that for some time the Government has considered this project, and that it was discussed at a recent Premiers’ Conference. Its purpose is to promote a better knowledge of Australia, give our country a great advertisement, and, at the same time, promote the ideal of close inter-Imperial trade relations. Prior to the war, inter-Imperial trade did not loom very large in the minds of the people in most parts of the Empire. We in Australia have for many years appreciated its great importance, and .the preference which we gave to the products of Great Britain in our markets by means of the customs tariff was a lead to our sister nations. Since the war a change has come over public opinion in all British countries. Almost all of them, Australia less than others, were adversely affected by post-war economic conditions, and, as the resultant difficulties became accentuated rather than diminished, increasing attention was given to the possibility of fostering inter-Imperial trade in order to meet the keen competiton of foreign countries, and give a tonic to British industries. At the Imperial Conference in 1923 the subject was considered, but it aroused very little enthusiasm in the general public. With the passage of years, however, the increasing realization of the menace to Britain’s trade in the various markets of the world, has led to a growing conviction of the importance of developing the great potentialities of the dominions and the dependencies of the Empire. To Australia this is of the utmost concern. We look to a great advance in primary production, and the problem of finding markets for our present exportable products will become more acute as our population and production increase. A survey of the markets of the world must convince every one that the one to which we must look for the absorption of our increasing production is that of Great Britain. Our principal exportable products are foodstuffs and raw materials. The industries of the United Kingdom are almost entirely dependent upon imported raw materials, and because of the great industrial movement during the last 100 years, it is not in a position to produce more than a fraction of its food requirements. It is to the interest of Australia that British trade should flourish, that the workers of the United Kingdom should be in full employment, and that their standards of living should improve, so that their purchasing power may be augmented, and thus provide a greater market for our products. Great Britain, on the other hand, has a reciprocal interest in. Australia’s progress. The Commonwealth is the greatest undeveloped area in the Empire, and it is to the interest of the people of Great Britain that our country should become more prosperous, and our people more wealthy. There has been a growing realization of that during the last few years. The Imperial Economic Committee was established after the Imperial conference in 1923. At first it had but a luke-warm reception from many parts of the Empire ; but trade developments throughout the world led to such a change of opinion that at the Imperial Conference in 1926 the representatives of all parts of the Empire were highly appreciative of the work done by the committee, and enthusiastically in favour of its continuance. The appointment of the Empire Marketing Board was further evidence of the move towards closer trade relations between different parts of the Empire. The board is doing valuable work, particularly in coordinating the application of science to industry on an Empire basis. Gradually, thinking men and women have become convinced of the imperative necessity for developing the resources of the outlying parts of the Empire, increasing their purchasing power, and bringing about a better distribution of the . white population. But it is not sufficient that this need is grasped by thinking men and women. We must bring it home to the minds of all people in Great Britain and the dominions.
The greatest work done towards bringing about a better general realization of the possibilities of inter-Imperial trade was the holding of the Wembley Exhibition in London four years ago. It stimulated to an extraordinary degree the interests of the people of Great Britain in Australia, Canada, and the other great dominions, and did a great deal to promote the consumption of our products throughout the United Kingdom. Today, largely because of the work of the Empire Marketing Board and the picture which Wembley presented to the people, posters advocating the consumption of Empire products may be seen in almost every village store;. the grocer behind the counter can talk to his customers of the products of different dominions, and has at least some of them in stock. The development of this trade is of great interest to us, and it is essential that it be continued. At the Imperial conference in 1926 a sub-committee submitted the following report: -
As to the value of Empire exhibitions, either from a political or an economic stand-point, the sub-committee feels that there can be no room for doubt. Great economic advantages accrued to the Empire as a whole through the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. In assessing these advantages it is necessary to take into account, not merely the orders, immediate’ or prospective, which may have been obtained by government organizations or private firms participating in the exhibition, but also the influence the exhibition exercised in stimulating the impulse towards buying within the Empire. The work done at Wembley was carried on by the Dunedin Exhibition in New Zealand, which proved an unqualified success.
After careful consideration of the report the conference unanimously resolved that it was desirable to promote a chain of such exhibitions in different parts of the Empire at intervals of a few years. As soon as that decision was made, I said that Australia contemplated the holding of an exhibition in 1930. All the other representatives acquiesced, and said that they would stand aside so as not to interfere with the exhibition which we proposed to hold. On my return to Australia I took the matter up, and in July of last year a meeting was held in Sydney at which representatives of, not only our great primary and secondary industries, but also all the big organizations associated with the trade and commerce of Australia were present. A resolution was unanimously passed and speeches were delivered by many of these gentlemen, in favour of the holding of the exhibition. Particular interest attaches to the speeches made by Mr. Justly Rawlings and Mr. Lee Neil, who acted as Australia’s representatives at the Wembley Exhibition. Both gave their testimony as to the benefits which accrued from the Wembley Exhibition, and supported the holding of a similar exhibition in Australia. The resolution to which I have referred read -
This meeting cordially endorses the proposal to hold a British exhibition for the purpose of promoting the interests of the Empire in general, and of the Commonwalth of Australia in particular. ks there appears to be a little anxiety on the part of some honorable members that an exhibition of this character might in some way be detrimental to Australia’s secondary industries, I point out that the resolution which I have read was seconded by Mr. Marks, the chairman of the Australian Manufacturers’ Association. It will thus be seen that the proposal has the support of Australian manufacturers, as well as of other sections of the community.
A few days after the meeting in Sydney the project was submitted to a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, which met- in that city. The then Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Lang) cordially supported the proposal, and, on behalf of his Government, agreed to contribute £100,000 towards the expenses of the exhibition, and also to make available a site in Centennial Park on which it could be held. Subsequent to that conference, Mr. Lang went out of office, but his attitude has been confirmed by the present Premier (Mr. Bavin), who has also agreed that, subject to parliamentary approval, his Government will make available a site in Centennial Park, and will also contribute £100,000 towards the expenses of the exhibition. The representatives of the’ other States, with the exception of the Premier of Victoria (Mr. Hogan), who adopted a non-committal attitude, expressed their general concurrence. I have no doubt that the proposal to hold an exhibition will be supported by the Governments of all the States, and that they will erect pavilions in order to display the products of their respective States. It is not proposed to ask any of them, with the exception of New
South Wales, in which State the exhibition is to be held, to make any contribution towards the cost; it is proposed only to invite them to become exhibitors.
Before referring more particularly to the actual site which has been selected, I would stress the point that it is very desirable that the exhibition should be held in Australia, both from the point of view of Australia itself and the object which it is designed to promote. Australia today, as I have already said, is a part of the Empire which it is imperative that the people of the rest of the Empire should know something about, because there are greater possibilities of development here than in any other dominion, colony, or protectorate.
No fewer than 26 sites were examined, and Centennial Park was finally selected. Centennial Park is admirably situated for the holding of such an exhibition.
– There are many other equally suitable sites. It is a pity to destroy such a beauty spot.
– The site is incomparably better than that of Wembley, where the previous Empire Exhibition was held. It is practically in the heart of the City of Sydney, is easy of access, and is provided with ample means of communication. The area itself presents very little difficulty to its utilization for the purpose. To those who may feel a little apprehensive in regard to the selection of such a wonderful beauty spot as Centennial Park for this purpose, I would point out that it will ultimately be to the benefit of the park and the people of Sydney. It is proposed to utilize only about one-third of the area. Within the area chosen there are sports grounds, and places of amusement; but one of the conditions under which the exhibition will be held there is that playing fields and other recreation facilities are to be provided in a part of the park at present undeveloped. These will remain as permanent improvements after the exhibition i3 closed. There will also be a number of permanent improvements within the exhibition itself. These, after the park is restored, will remain and will be of great advantage to the park, and, incidentally, to the people of Sydney. I think that, on inquiry, those who are somewhat apprehensive concerning the site, will find that there is no ground for complaint. This measure, however, does not in any way authorize the holding of an exhibition in Centennial Park. That is a matter entirely for the decision of the Government of New South Wales, but it has intimated that it. will pass the necessary legislation to make the site available.
The benefits that will accrue to Australia from the exhibition must be apparent to every one. Australia’s greatest need to-day is that the peoples of the world should know of its resources and its possibilities. We have only to bring people here, to give them an opportunity to see for themselves what a great country this is, and the rest will be done for us. Unquestionably, the holding of this exhibition will bring to Australia tens of thousands of tourists who in ordinary circumstances would not visit the Commonwealth. They will see and learn of its possibilities, and in this way Australia will be brought more prominently before the eyes of the world than by any other means.
The cost of the exhibition is set out in the bill at £500,000, and the appropriation of that amount by the Commonwealth Parliament is provided for. Including preparation and other charges, however, it is estimated that the total cost of the exhibition will be £1,250,000. The estimate of the receipts from an exhibition lasting six months is £750,000, leaving a deficiency of £500,000 to be made good by the Government. Some persons are sufficiently optimistic to believe that the exhibition will pay its expenses, and, of course, it is impossible, to say with certainty what the financial result will be; but, after full consideration^ the Government adopted the estimate I have mentioned aa reasonable in the light of the information available.
– Do the figures mentioned by the right honorable gentleman include the cost of preparing the exhibits ?
– Every expense which will have to be borne by the Exhibition Commission is included. In addition, a tremendous amount of money will necessarily be spent by exhibitors and also by other persons in the erection of buildings for amusement and other purposes. The sum of £1,250,000 is the estimated expenditure of the commission itself, and £750,000 its estimated receipts.
– Has the Government, as was done in the case of the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, arranged with the States to share the financial responsibility?
– No. The Government has not sought the financial co-operation of the States other than New South Wales, which will derive a considerable and direct benefit from the exhibition, as it will be held in Sydney. The New South Wales Government has agreed to contribute £100,000 towards the expenses of the exhibition. It may be remembered that, during the second year of the Wembley exhibition, the Commonwealth bore the whole cost and accepted the full responsibility in connexion with the Australian pavilion there. I do not propose to go over the story of Wembley now; it is sufficient to say that our experience there was such that the Government considers it preferable to have only one authority to control this exhibition, in place of a committee representative of various interests.
– The right honorable gentleman may remember that, had it not been for the co-operation of the States, there would have been no Australian pavilion at Wembley.
– We have invited the States to co-operate - indeed, their cooperation is essential - but we do not propose to ask them, except New South Wales, to bear any part of the cost. This being a national exhibition, it is proper that the Commonwealth should be the authority responsible for it. Half a million pounds is a large sum; but it is only .16 per cent, of the value of Australia’s trade for the year 1926-27, which was £309,000,000. The exhibition will be a great advertisement for the Commonwealth, and I suggest that any business concern would be more than satisfied if its advertising expenses were only .16 per cent, of its turnover. The holding of the exhibition will attract many people to this country, and it is hoped that it will synchronize with, another important event in Sydney - the opening of the bridge across the harbour. It is proposed to organize tours in the different States, so that visitors may have the opportunity of seeing this country and its possibilities.
In connexion with Wembley we had a number of guarantors to cover any loss on the exhibition; but that arrangement caused a great deal of friction. After a full examination the Government decided that a direct appropriation was the best means of financing this exhibition. The bill, therefore, appropriates the sum of £500,000.
– To whom will the permanent buildings belong at the conclusion of the exhibition?
– At the termination of the exhibition all but the permanent buildings will be removed, and the materials sold, and the park made as it was, except for the improvements made in the way of permanent buildings and playing grounds. These will remain for the benefit of the people of Sydney.
To control the exhibition it is proposed to appoint a commission of two persons - a commissioner and an assistant commissioner, the former being appointed by the Commonwealth Government and the latter by the Government of New South Wales. Honorable members will remember that, during the first year it was open, the Australian section of the Wembley exhibition was controlled by a committee composed of representatives of all the States and the Commonwealth. That system was not satisfactory. During the second year the Commonwealth assumed control of the exhibition and accepted the responsibility of financing it. It appointed two commissioners - Mr. Lee Neil, who was in control for three or four months, and Mr. Justly Rawlings, who was in charge for the remainder of the time. It is also proposed to have an advisory committee to assist the commissioners in the control of the exhibition. It is hoped that a number of business men and others will be willing to assist the Government by accepting seats on the committee.
– In the early stages, in order to stimulate interest, it will be advisable to widen the scope of the commission.
– That aspect of the matter has not been overlooked. Committees will be established to create interest in the exhibition, and to ensure a sufficient number of exhibits. My remarks had reference to the actual and direct control of the central organization - the building of the exhibition and its immediate control. Already Sir Charles Nathan, who assisted the Government in its preliminary consideration of the subject, has gone to Great Britain, where he will consult with the High Commissioner with a view to forming committees of British manufacturers and others, and establishing an organization there. The British Government has already intimated that it will be represented at the exhibition. “ I have no doubt that the Governments of the other dominions will regard the exhibition as they did that at Wembley, and will be well represented by exhibits.
The remaining provisions of the bill are of a machinery character. They deal with the admission and return of exhibits, tariff considerations, the application of awards, and other subsidiary subjects.
The Commonwealth Government can, of course, deal only with the matters in which it is directly interested. Those I have explained. Matters such as the provision for awards will have to be dealt with by the Government of New South Wales, and it has undertaken to do all that is necessary, on its part, to make the exhibition to be held and brought to a successful conclusion. I am confident that honorable members generally will be gratified that Australia is to be the second of the countries of the Empire to hold an exhibition! of this character. If we do not proceed with this project, Canada will jump at the opportunity to do so, and much as we admire the people of our sister Dominion, we should not like them to supersede us in this regard.
I commend the bill to the House. 1 believe that every honorable member will realize that a great deal of good will accrue to the Commonwealth particularly, and the Empire generally, from the holding of this exhibition in Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. E. Riley) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
To Absorb Beam Wireless.
It is understood in financial circles that the merger of The Eastern Associated, the Pacific Cable Board, and the Marconi Company will be represented by a new “holding” company, which will have a capital of from £55,000,000 to £60,000,000. Latest advices from the United States indicate that there will be a similar merger between the Mackay.and Western Union interests in the United States by the formation of The International Communications Company, which is to have a registered capital of at least £55,000,000.
From the commercial standpoint the main consideration is that the world’s long distance traffic will have to provide interest, maintenance charges, and depreciation annually on this enormous capital for an undefined period, which may be taken to be at least 25 years, and possibly double that time.
I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to give me an assurance that he will make a statement to the House on this subject next week if he is in a position to do so, for it is of the utmost interest to Australia.
. -I agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr.Fenton) that he has referred to a subject of vital importance. I am not in a position at present to make a statement of Australia’s attitude in respect to it, and I cannot say that I will be able to do so next week. A committee representative of all the countries which are particularly concerned in beam wireless and cable communications has been sitting in London since January of this year, exploring every angle of the problem. The statements which have so far appeared in the press on the subject are mere guesses, for no one is in a position to speak with authority in regard to it. I assure the honorable member that immediately finality is reached I shall be most anxious to give the House the fullest information on the subject.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 May 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280518_reps_10_118/>.