10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Sr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper- Treasurer) [3.1]. - I announce, with deep regret, the death, on the 19th instant, of Senator John Grant, and I move, by leave -
That this House expresses its sincere regret at the death of Senator John Grant, places upon record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and extends its profound sympathy to his widow and son in their Bad bereavement.
The regret I feel is, I am sure, shared by all honorable members. That our esteemed and honored friend should have passed away so soon after the death of the late Hon. H. E. Pratten, indicates the heavy toll that- parliamentary service is continuously levy-: ing on public men. The late honorable senator was born at Abernethy, in Invernesshire, Scotland, and came to Australia ‘ when a young man. For nearly fifty years he was associated with the Labour movement, being one of its founders in New South Wales. He was a member of the Annandale branch of the Australian Labour party, which was one of the first formed in Sydney. For several years he was honorary secretary of the Australian Labour party, and subsequently became its general secretary. At the general election of 1914 he was chosen for the representation in the Senate of the State of New South Wales, and held his seat until the general election of 1919. He was again chosen for the Senate at the general election of 1922, and retained his seat until his death. From July, 1926, he was Deputy-Leader of the Labour party in the Senate.
In the discharge of his parliamentary duties the late senator displayed great keenness, commanding the respect of all parties. He was at all times most con-, scientious, and . displayed, marked ability in discussing the many important Knitters that came before the Senate for its consideration. He applied himself with great energy to the work of the Royal Commission on National Insurance, and to that of the Royal Commission on the Moving Picture Industry, of both of which he was a member. For several years past, he had not enjoyed good health, and his death was not unexpected; but every one recognizes how rare was the courage he displayed in carrying on his parliamentary work almost to the week of his death, despite the painful disabilities under which he was labouring. He served the Australian people faithfully and well, and his death is deeply regretted by us all. Not only do we mourn the passing of a worthy citizen, and an experienced and sincere member- of the legislature; we regret the passing of one who, by his courtesy and kindly manner, endeared himself to those associated with him.
On behalf of the House and the Government I express very sincere sympathy with Mrs. Grant and her son in their sad bereavement, and trust that their grief may be . somewhat assuaged by this acknowledgment of his great public service, and our testimony to the esteem in which he was universally held.’
.- I second the .motion. The passing of Senator John Grant leaves a void in the public life of Australia, and particularly in the Tanks of the Federal Labour party. His loss will be especially felt by the party in New South “Wales. He had a kindly disposition, and his long and wide experience, and ripe judgment were at all times available to his friends ‘ and colleagues. The late senator led a very full life. Almost from his landing in Australia, over 40 years ago, he took a keen interest and played an active part in the political and industrial life of the country of his adoption. It can be truthfully said of him that most of the work he did for the industrial movement in Australia was done without fee or reward, and without thought of it. For long years his was the arduous task of assisting to lay the foundations of the Australian Labour movement, and this he did without payment, working not only’ at night in his own time, but also occasionally when this meant loss of time at his trade - he was a stonemason - so great was his enthusiasm for the cause he hadat heart.
One of the founders of the Labour movement in Australia, he had seen the party grow from a membership of half a dozen to the very powerful organization it is to-day. He did not spare himself day or night. In Parliament, in conference, in committee, or when travelling . to attend to his parliamentary duties, his experience and rare judgment were always available to his party, and to his friends. He was always hopeful and optimistic, and he had a keen, analytical brain. These characteristics he retained almost to the hour when he passed away. Until a week before his death, he transacted business, and dealt with his correspondence exactly as he had done for years before he was attacked by the disease which ultimately carried him off. His last thoughts were of his work, the Labour movement, and the people of Australia. To his wife, who was hig inseparable companion, and to his son we extend our heartfelt sympathy.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members - standing in their places.
Motion (by Dr. Em.E Page), agreed to-
That Mr. Speaker bo requested to transmit to Mrs. Grant the foregoing resolution, and a copy of the addresses delivered thereon.
– As a mark of appreciation of the work done by Senator Grant, and as an expression of our regret at his loss, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that you should now leave the chair until 8 o’clock this evening.
– As a mark of respect to the deceased senator, I shall now leave the chair, and resume it at 8 o’clock this evening.
Sitting suspended from S.10 to S p.m.
Assent to the following bills reported -
Dried Fruits Bill.
Wine Export Bounty Bill.
– In view of the distress existing among the unemployed -in Melbourne and elsewhere, will the Government issue instructions that drill halls and blankets be made available for the use of the unemployed who have no homes ?
– I shall refer the matter to the Minister for Defence.
asked the Minister in charge of Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
During financial year 1923-24, approximately 839.
During financial year 1924-25, approximately 860.
During financial year 1925-20, 842.
During financial year 1926-27, 834.
During financial year 1927-28 (to 1st May, 1928), approximately 700.
Layout of City
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Experimental Station in North Australia.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the 18th May the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
Debate resumed from 18th May (vide page 5063), on motion by Mr. Latham -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I suppose that no honorable member has had a more extensive experience of our arbitration laws than the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who, in the course of an exhaustive speech last week, indicated that his conclusion, so far as I could judge from his remarks, was that this bill, if passed, would merely be a continuation of the patchwork legislation that has been enacted since 1904. The right honorable gentleman said that we were sinking more deeply into the bog, and, although he claimed to be an advocate of arbitration, he was unable to give any assurance that this proposal would bring about that peace in industry which it was anticipated would result from it. Probably no act on the Commonwealth statute-book has proved so impotent, and so full of intricate and mischievous conditions that have led to illfeeling and strife between employer and employee, as has the Conciliation aud Arbitration Act. I listened with great attention to the speeches of the right honorable member for North Sydney., the honorable member for. Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), and other honorable members. They were all of the opinion that the principle we have adopted is wrong, and that a court with representatives of the two sides should confer and decide the conditions under which industries should be conducted. That would avoid the absurdity of having those conditions determined by an authority, probably a person with a legal training, who was not familiar with industrial matters.
– What would happen if a conference such as the honorable member suggests failed to come to an agreement? “Would not- arbitration then be necessary ?
– I have recently been examining the Canadian system, and I believe it is preferable to that which operates in the Commonwealth. It is simple and concise. When a dispute takes place, or if the Minister considers that a dispute is likely to occur, he immediately issues instructions that a committee representative of employers and employees be appointed. This body is asked to appoint a chairman; but if it fails to do so the Minister appoints one. If, upon an investigation of the dispute, an agreement is arranged with the parties, this is recorded and has the force of law. Should no agreement be arrived at, a report of the proceedings and opinions of the committee is published in the newspapers, and the public has full cognizance of the facts of the case. Then the parties may do as they like ; but the side that is not sup-‘ ported by public opinion cannot maintain for any length of time the stand that it takes. A long experience of its working shows it to be far preferable to our industrial law.
Some honorable members have expressed their emphatic belief in local boards or something akin to the wagesboard system. I presume that they suggest that that system would be preferable to the determination of disputes by a judge in arbitration. I am convinced that disputes can best be settled by means of round-table conferences between employers and employees, whether the decisions have the force of law or not. The members of such a body would be familiar with every detail of the disputes, and would understand the difficulties of each side. If representatives of the parties to industry are prepared to meet in an amicable spirit, there is a chance of arriving at a working agreement. Have we had anything in the nature of industrial peace as a result of the awards of the Arbitration Court? Most decidedly not.
– This bill provides for something such as the honorable member suggests.
– It was described by the right honorable member for North Sydney as a patch-work measure, and the speech of the Attorney-General himself (Mr. Latham) showed that he had very little confidence in it. The present act was of little avail in regard to the marine cooks. Why is, not action taken today by those who control the court ? Why are a few persons, who declare that they will not work, permitted to strangle industry owing to a false sense of loyalty on the part of other organizations?
– What would the honorable member do?
– I would not put a clause into this bill providing for the taking of a ballot. So far as I can £udge - I may be doing the Minister a wrong - that clause is ostensibly for the purpose of having a ballot taken in connexion with a dispute.
– That hardly answers my question.
– Take the position as we find it. I ask the Attorney-General himself why we have this great hold-up of industry by a few men.
– Because we have not the power to deal with it.
– The Government may provide for a secret ballot; but they cannot compel unionists to vote. The men would refuse to take part in a secret ballot conducted by the Government.
– The object of the clause is to enable a judge to order a ballot if a serious dispute or strike occurs. Are we to legalize strikes? The penalties, provided since the first Commonwealth Arbitration Act was brought into operation in 1904 have never been enforced. Is it fair that we should have a law under which one section is handcuffed and shackled and another allowed to do as it pleases? That is the position to-day. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said that this is a coercive measure; but what has been the nature of all our arbitration bills since compulsory arbitration was first introduced. They have been of a coercive nature - but coercive in respect of only one section of the community, the employers. Do honorable members favour a law under which one section is compelled to abide by the decision of the court and another is allowed to do as it pleases?
– That is not correct.
– That has been the effect of our arbitration system up to the present. Realizing the impossibility of drastic amendment at the present juncture, I intend to support the second reading of this measure, although I believe that some of its provisions should be amended. I refer more particularly to the removal of governmental activities, such as our railways, from the control of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Honorable members opposite have said that this measure has been introduced with the intention of destroying trade unionism in Australia; but I do not believe there is a member of this Parliament who would dare or who would care to attempt to destroy trade unionism. We all know the value that trade unionism has been to the workers, not only in Australia, but throughout the world. We know how some employers in days gone by oppressed their employees, and how essential it was that the workers should organize for their own protection. Laws passed by this and other Parliaments have legalized trade unionism. It would be madness and wholly unjust to attempt to destroy trade unionism, the value of which I am sure every one appreciates. But trade unions have developed into political organizations.
– That is the trouble, I suppose ?
– Years ago trades unions were more in the nature of friendly societies.
– Respectable debating clubs.
– They were ‘ useful organizations rendering assistance to men who were out of work and providing benefits in other directions. What benefits do they provide to-day? They are political agencies, and that is where the danger point arises. Trade union leaders do not represent the opinions of the workers, and the present system is not good for Australia or its people. The heavy levies made upon members of trade unions are spent, not in assisting the workers, but upon political propaganda. There is something in the nature of a bolshevik element at the head of industrial organizations in New South Wales, and members of trade unions in that and other States, in their loyalty to their organizations, are compelled in many instances to disregard the awards of the court and so to break the law of the Commonwealth. This is often done in consequence of a decision of a very fewpersons, supposed to represent the men. They do not see that they are being led into slavery by forces more unscrupulous and tyrannical than mankind has hitherto known.
Compulsory arbitration was introduced in Australia with the intention of removing industrial strife. Every one was desirous of some method by which we could avert a repetition of some of the terrible industrial crises which occurred previous to the introduction of industrial legislation, and to avoid the misery and destitution which follow strikes. Many, although sceptical concerning the advantages likely to flow from compulsory arbitration, determined to give it a trial. In New South Wales Mr. Wise introduced an arbitration bill, and encomiums were bestowed on him for the splendid legislation which was then placed on the statute-book. But it did not bring about industrial peace. The late Mr. Seddon also introduced into the New Zealand Parliament an arbitration bill which became the law, and it must be said for the New Zealand Government that it endeavoured in every instance to enforce that law. In introducing the first Commonwealth Arbitration Bill in the Federal Parliament in 1904 the late Mr. Deakin said -
It should prove the first and supreme power in the working of this and similar acts, by its own force guiding and elevating the necessary legal sanctions, fending to suppress industrial war, industrial destruction, industrial anarchy. By its own developed intelligence, its conscience, its judgment, and its humanity, it can combine employers and employees together with those who stand outside the ranks of both in consciously fulfilling the duties arising out of modern and industrial evolution.
What has happened since 1904? Is not there industrial anarchy and animosity in our midst to-day? The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), when Attorney-General in a Labour administration in 1910, said -
We say that neither employer or employee has any right for one moment to disturb that orderly conduct of the ordinary conditions of our civil and industrial life which is so essential in any civilized community.
In other words, he said that strikes are illegal.
– Who said that they are legal ?
– We expect industrial peace, such as Mr. Hughes expected at the time of which I am speaking. When an award of the court is made it should be observed by both parties.
– No one is disputing the point which the honorable member is making.
– Statements we have heard from some honorable members opposite are to the effect that there are occasions when strikes are justified.
I had great . faith in the first Arbitration Act as passed in Western Australia, but when the hearing of the first case under it terminated both sides were of the opinion that the judge had no knowledge of the industry into which he was inquiring, and that the case was decided in favour of those who could swear the hardest. The workers then formed themselves into strong organizations, engaged secretaries, and collected evidence in readiness for the next case which was to be submitted to the court. Employers adopted similar tactics, and this course has since been followed by both parties, with the result that we now have two armed camps arrainged against each other in bitter conflict. This is due largely to the system of compulsory arbitration under which we are working.
State courts are able to handle disputes within a State, but for some time past industrial organizations have endeavoured to make disputes extend beyond the limits of one State so that they can. be heard before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. This involves the expenditure of considerable sums of money in paying the costs of officials and witnesses, who have to travel long distances in order to appear before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The expenditure so incurred in connexion with the harvester and wharf labourers’ cases amounted probably to tens of thousands of pounds. It would be impossible to determine the amount actually lost in consequence of strikes, and what their effect has been upon the people of Australia. Compulsion, which is the essence of the bill is, I think, wrong. In Australia there is no governing class such as there is in older countries. We pride ourselves on our democracy, and wish to give every one who has the brains, energy, and ability the opportunity to progress and partake of the benefits which a country with such boundless resources provides. Compulsory arbitration, by making the worker a docile and sometimes unwilling unit in a great organization, strikes at the root of that laudable ambition.
– Is it not correct to say that the minimum wage fixed by the court becomes the maximum wage?
– The present system prevents a man working to his full capacity.
– That is not an answer to my question.
– Too often the minimum, becomes the maximum.
– The evil exists, and the position is. exactly as I stated it. An industrious workman who is doing more than his mate is compelled to slow down.
– Is it not open for his employer to pay him more?
– Surely the honorable member for Hindmarsh is conversant with the butty-gang system in operation in the Victorian railway workshops, under which men were paid additional money for doing extra work. The honorable member should know of the protests made by certain unionists, and that the railways unions in Australia are strongly opposed to the butty-gang system, under which men are paid by results. If the honorable member is not aware of it he ought to be. Members of unions in many cases refrain from doing a full day’s work because of the trouble which would arise, and it is a great pity that the invitation by the Prime Minister for a conference was not accepted by the unions.
There can be no value in an award which can be repudiated by either section. I believe that the idea underlying the insertion in the bill of the clause which provides for the taking of a secret ballot is to give the people an opportunity to judge whether a majority of the employees are in favour of or opposed to a strike. The arbitration system is entirely different from that of wages boards. The following figures reflect the industrial conditions that existed between 1913 and 1921 in New South Wales under the arbitration system, and in Victoria under the wages board system: -
Those figures show that the awards made under the wages board system were infinitely more satisfactory than those made under the arbitration system.
– If the Commonwealth had been given the necssary power at the last referendum, it could have made provision for the appointment of wages boards.
– The electors told the Commonwealth Government, in no uncertain manner, that they did not want it to interfere in industrial matters, which properly were the functions of the States. It should be the aim of honorable members to live up to the literal meaning of the Constitution and not to try to dodge it in our legislation at every possible opportunity. I feel warmly on this subject. The electors told the Government so emphatically that it should mind its own business that I was prepared to see it provide in this bill for the exclusion of big State activities like the railways from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. It was never intended that the Constitution should give to this Parliament the power to delegate to a judge the duty of inquiring into the wages and working conditions of the employees on the State railway systems; in other words, to obtain financial control of the railways.
– The Commonwealth Parliament not many years ago expressly legislated to include railway employees within the scope of the Commonwealth Arbitration Act.
– That action was taken by the 1910 Labour administration, following upon a decision of the High Court with which the Attorney-General is familiar. The Labour party of the day readily grasped the opportunity which was then presented to it. I do not regard as sacrosanct any legislation passed, by a previous Parliament. Surely, if a majority of honorable members do not agree with it we should repeal it as speedily as possible. I propose to give honorable members an opportunity to repeal that provision when the bill is in committee. They will then show by their votes whether they believe that the Parliaments of the States or the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should have control of the administration of the State railway systems.
– Why railways particularly?
– Because they are the most important of the State activities.
– Would the honorable member exclude all State instrumentalities from this legislation?
– The honorable member should ask his questions at question time. Probably, he does not feel deeply upon this intrusion of the Commonwealth in the realms of the State, because Tasmania has not so far been affected. I have the greatest respect for Sir John Quick, whom I have known for the last 40 or 50 years; but T have no respect for a Parliament or a government which will authorize a Federal judge, or any other legal gentleman, to fix the working conditions and the wages of employees in such an intricate establishment as the railway systems of Australia. Nothing but chaos can result. Such a policy is both nonsensical and absurd.
– Who is to fix the wages? Is it not fair to leave the determination of that’ matter to an impartial tribunal ?
– The wages and conditions of the railway men in Victoria were formerly determined by what was considered an impartial board.
Let us consider the effect of the Commonwealth Arbitration. Act upon the three principal industries - shipping, wharf labouring, and coal-mining. Has there not always been chaos in those industries? Hardly a week passes without some trouble occurring in one or the other; yet no government has had the courage to step in and say, “ This sort of thing cannot be tolerated.” Between 1913 and 1921 the number of disputes under Commonwealth awards was 3,791. The workers involved totalled 1,081,000, and their losses in wages amounted to £11,000,000. I ask honorable members to imagine what could be done with that £11,000,000 if those men had been continuously in peaceful employment. A bolshevik element has apparently obtained control of many industrial organizations, and is constantly endeavouring to promote strife and antagonism between employers and employees. I invite honorable members to read a statement by Mr. Garden, which appears in to-day’s newspapers. Between 1912 and 1926 the loss in wages alone on account of industrial disputes in Australia amounted to no less than £16,000,000. That is sufficient to pay the interest bill on a debt of over £300,000,000; yet it falls far short of the total amount which was lost to Australia. To-day there is a big strike in the shipping industry. The shipping companies are losing heavily, and they will have to recoup their losses when their vessels resume running. Thus the workers and the producers will have to foot the bill. That will follow as surely as night follows day. There can be no question as to the suffering and hardship that is caused to those who are unemployed. In 1923 the enginedrivers in the coal-mining industry, who comprise only a small section, went out on strike, and caused the loss of millions of pounds. Only last December we witnessed the spectacle of honorable members urging the Government to intervene in another dispute; in other words, to supersede the court of which they are so proud. Now, a very small proportion of the men engaged in the shipping industry have caused the tying-up of a large number of ships, with the result that thousands of men have been thrown out of employment, and trade and. commerce is, suffering huge losses. Can the AttorneyGeneral assure me that this bill contains any provision that will remedy such a state of affairs? I should be very pleased to lend my support to any scheme which would compel obedience to an award by both parties to it.
The pastoralists, the manufacturers, and other sections of the community have a pitiful tale to tell regarding the lamentable conditions that exist throughout Australia. The manufacturers claim they can continue operations only if they are given ever-increasing customs protection. When customs duties are increased, the cost of living rises, and the working man feels the pinch. Probably the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) does not care if the working man has to pay an extra 3d. or 6d. a pound for his butter?
– That is a very cheap gibe, which is unworthy of the honorable member.
– The honorable member ought to be ashamed to support such a policy. I know that my remarks do not fall pleasantly on the ear of either the Government or the Opposition, but that will not deter me. I want honorable members to realize the position into which we are drifting. Recently a paragraph appeared in a newspaper to the effect that the captain of the Cornish steamer Tremeadow had stated that it was cheaper to take his vessel away from Australia in ballast than to load it with wheat in this country. The agents assert that for several years they have been urging the Government and harbour authorities in Australia to recognize that the existing charges are a factor in crippling the growers of wheat and other produce. Then there was the case of a steamer which was damaged by fire at Port Adelaide, and was towed to Holland to have repairs carried out there because it paid the owners better than to have the work done in Australia. Unemployment is the inevitable effect of industrial disputes. On account of our economic conditions an important mine like the Mount Morgan mine, which still has £15,000,000 worth of ore lying latent, had to be closed down, causing a couple of thousand men to be thrown out of employment directly, and at least an additional 10,000 indirectly.
Every man who engages in primary production carries five persons, if not more, upon his back. “We cannot throw a couple of thousand men out of employment without affecting industry throughout Australia. The supreme test of the value of any legislation is whether it assists to make the country more prosperous and the people happier and contented. It should be the aim of this Parliament to make the people prosperous and contented. Has the arbitration law ever brought about peace, contentment, or prosperity ?
– Of course it has.
– Not to the worker.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has admitted that the effective wage to-day is 5 per cent, less than it was in 1911.
– The working man has not gained in wages, but he has in the conditions of his labour.
– It is the profiteers that raise the prices. Ever since the war wages have been chasing prices.
– The economic conditions that the honorable member has assisted to bring about enable the profiteer to carry on. Has there been any contentment under our arbitration law? That should be the supreme test of anyi act that we pass. I assert that the Arbitration Act has not made the people either contented or prosperous. On the contrary it has undoubtedly created antagonism. Members of the Scottish delegation who visited Australia some time ago said that in no country had they observed such antagonism existing between employers and employees as in Australia. Honorable members opposite know that there is a section in the community which is doing its utmost to breed antagonism and strife in industry and disloyalty in the community generally.
In again voicing my opposition to the encroachment by the Commonwealth on the sphere of the States I remind the House of what the late Mr. Alfred Deakin said when introducing the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill in 1904: -
It was because I thought, looking at this question as a lawyer, that it was not competent for us to include the public servants of a, State within the provisions of this measure, as well as because I deemed it most impolitic, that I raised my objection to the proposal directly it. was drafted. . . . Although it may seem at first a matter of comparatively theoretical moment, yet it is the preservation of that poise and balance between the centrifugal and centripetal tendencies which makes the true federalist at one time the antagonist of State aggression, at another time the antagonist of the undue aggrandisement of the central Government.
Among a certain section of the community there is a great desire that the Commonwealth shall enroach on spheres which have always belonged to the States. I hold strong views in this matter. As one who has had a long experience as a Minister in a State Parliament, I know the difficulties which confront State Treasurers in preparing their estimates. They have either to reduce expenditure or impose fresh taxation if they would make their revenue meet their expenditure. Honorable members from South Australia know that because the Railways Commissioners of that State were unable to meet the awards made by Sir John Quick thousands of men have been dismissed from the railway service of that State.
– Their dismissal was part of the policy of the Nationalist Government.
– When the Constitution was framed it was never intended that judges should fix the conditions of labour on State railways. I resent the continual attempts on the part of the Commonwealth to encroach on the spheres of the States without the consent of the States. Only two members of this chamber and one in another place - I refer to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) and myself in this House, and Sir Henry Barwell in the Senate - rightly gauged the pulse of the people regarding the proposals submitted to them at the last referendum.
– What nonsense!
– Of the members of both Houses only the three I have mentioned advocated the claims of the States. While I do not claim that this bill still further encroaches on the rights of the States, I anticipated that the Government would have withdrawn many industries from the scope of Commonwealth legislation. Instead of this legislation, being limited to industries over which the
Commonwealth should have control, it applies to numerous small and comparatively insignificant industries. Persons employed as aerated water carters, agricultural implement makers, bedstead makers, brewers, builders’ labourers, candlemakers, carpenters, and a number of others are covered by it. Apparently it is thought that if an industry in New South Wales gains the benefit of a Piddington award, similar conditions should apply throughout Australia. For representatives of employers and employees in Western Australia to attend before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in Melbourne would cause considerable trouble and expense. I am satisfied that the majority of the people of that State prefer the system at present in operation there - a judge acting with two assessors - to the system of arbitration dealt with in this bill. Only recently an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court caused chaos in the clothing industry 5 businesses which previously were in a flourishing condition now find difficulty in carrying on. Probably they will seek relief by applying for higher duties. I should not object to the Federal Arbitration Court dealing with industries such as shipping and shearing, but not with coal mining, for conditions in that industry could scarcely be worse than they now are. Every appeal to the court by the coalminers results in their gaining some slight advantage, with the result that the mineowners seek a little more for themselves.
– The honorable member is on the right lines when he condemns the mine-owners.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) knows how industries in South Australia are suffering because of the high price of coal. It must be exceedingly difficult to carry on any manufacturing at all in that State.
– Cheer up!
– The honorable member himself should cheer up. Many of his friends must now be feeling the pinch because of the dislocation of industry.
– For twelve years the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has been painting doleful pictures.
– I do not admit that the picture is doleful. Surely I am entitled to protest against the introduction of legislation with which I do not agree. I believe in liberty.
– Then vote against this bill.
– I believe it is a great mistake for Parliament to take away the liberty of the people by interfering with industry. That such interference is inimical to the best interests of the community is patent to many people.
– Yet the honorable member will support the bill.
– I believe that this bill is an improvement on past legislation. I see in it no mention of the increased fines of which honorable members opposite have spoken.
– There are eight new penalties up to £100 each.
– Were there not penalties of £1,000 in previous legislation ?
– I am speaking of new fines.
– There should be power for the Commonwealth to say to a few men who are holding up a big industry, as to-day the shipping industry is held up, that if they will not obey the law they must leave the country. That was the law in ancient Greece. It is the duty of Parliament to see that its laws are observed by every section of the community, whether rich or poor, and irrespective of how strongly organized it may be. A wrong law should be repealed; but while it remains on the statute-book it should be enforced. To allow any section of the community to defy the law is to breed incipient revolution. In committee I propose to move that State activities be removed from the scope of the bill, and would prefer, if compulsory arbitration is to be continued, its control to be limited to a few specified industries leaving to the States the full control of all other industries. Failing this I will support the bill.
.- It is remarkable that many honorable members opposite who have consistently condemned arbitration as a means of settling industrial disputes and adjusting wages and conditions of employment, now profess to be supporters of the system, and intend to support this bill. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said that he favoured voluntary conciliation and round-table conferences for the settlement of industrial disputes. He may not be aware that round-table conferences are held in connexion with almost every industrial dispute that arises. Only when such methods fail do employers or employees seek to settle their grievances by approaching the Arbitration Court. I have attended some hundreds of rounds table conferences. The executives of various unions and other organizations attend them almost every day.
The honorable member for Swan also condemned what he described as the political levies made by trade unions. I have been an officer of an industrial organization for many years, yet I have never known it to strike one political levy. It is true, as the honorable member said, that arbitration is costly, but I remind him that direct action is even more costly to both employer and employee. On more than one occasion, Mr. justice Higgins, having fixed a living wage, stated that he would leave it to employers to reward extra skill and to pay additional wages for work of a dirty or objectionable nature. Yet we have found that almost without exception, employers have made the minimum wage prescribed by the award the maximum wage, and have failed to adopt the suggestion as to additional pay for dirty and objectionable work, or for special skill.
That honorable members who have advocated the abolition of arbitration are now found supporting this bill is conclusive evidence that they believe that it sounds the death knell of compulsory arbitration. Honorable members behind the Government who are now supporting this bill have, up to the time of its introduction, and ever since I have been in Parliament, condemned the principle of arbitration. Among them are the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook), the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook). These honorable members are bound to outside organizations that are opposed to arbitration. I have advocated the principle of arbitration ever since I have been a member of an industrial organization. I realize that direct action is a costly and cumbersome method of obtaining redress, and places enormous burdens upon the people. The Labour party’s platform provides for the retention of the Arbitration Court, and we contend that instead of amending the act, as is proposed, we should attempt to perfect our arbitration machinery, so that the people may have more confidence in the Arbitration Court. The hearing of claims should be expedited and a system of price fixing instituted, in place of the present system of altering wages and conditions in accordance with cost of living statistics. In this way the exploitation of the people generally would be greatly lessened.
The Government has introduced this bill for many reasons. Chief among them is the desire to strangle trade unions, and to abolish the present system of adjusting wages and conditions. As I mentioned just now, honorable members behind the Government have not a free hand in connexion with this bill, because they are tied to anti-labour organizations that are pledged to a single purpose, and that is to abolish arbitration. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), and other honorable members behind the Government have stated that they support the retention of arbitration. I have in my hand a letter which I received some time ago from the Single Purpose League.
– What is the date of the letter?
– It is dated 23rd November, 1922, and signed by Mr. J. H. P. Eller, the Secretary of the Single Purpose League, which I believe to be still in existence. The Prime Minister during his speech said that this Government took office five years ago with one ideal, and that was arbitration. This letter discredits that statement. It reads -
I am instructed by my executive to ascertain your attitude in regard to the abolition of compulsory arbitration and the substitution of voluntary conciliation.
For your information and guidance I desire to inform you that -
1 ) The Federal Country party are pledged to advocate the abolition of compulsory arbitration.
The Liberal Union platform provides for the abolition of compulsory arbitration and the substitution of councils of conciliation and wages boards.
The Tasmanian National candidates will be pledged to advocate the abolition of Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
South Australian Liberal candidates will be pledged to vote for the abolition of compulsory arbitration.
The South Australian Industrial Disputes Bill, which aims at the abolition of compulsory arbitration, has passed the second reading.
I am pleased to say that that measure did not go beyond the second-reading stage. It was introduced by ex-Senator Sir Henry Barwell, when he was Premier of South Australia, with a view to abolishing the industrial code of that State. The Labour party strenuously opposed the bill, and in consequence of the strength of public opinion, and incidently of several trips to Melbourne to interview certain individuals, he was forced to withdraw the bill. At the next election his Government was defeated, and his attempt to abolish the State Arbitration Court was one of the main factors in bringing that about. The letter continues -
In view of the contents of that letter it is idle for honorable members behind the Government to pretend to support the principle of compulsory arbitration. The resolution that was carried by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures has been responsible, to some extent, for the introduction of this bill, which, if carried, will practically abolish the system of compulsory arbitration. When speaking on the subject of arbitration during the election campaign not very long ago, I discovered that the community generally was inclined to favour the retention of the Arbitration Court. Those who are strongest in their request for the abolition of the Arbitration Court are the Chambers of Manufactures and other bodies that finance and keep intact the anti-Labour forces of Australia.
– For instance, the Cooks’ Union !
– I am quite prepared to deal with the cooks’ dispute, and also with the lockout that has been responsible for the non-manning of certain vessels trading on our coasts.
The moneyed interests of Australia have forced their will upon this Government, and the introduction of this legislation has resulted. Let me place before honorable members some other opinions that were expressed in 1922. In the Melbourne Age of 26th October, 1922, appeared the following: -
The inner circle of the masters of finance had met to prepare the way for raising funds for the conduct of the “ Nationalist “ party’s Federal campaign. It was a secret gathering, to which only the veryclite of the wealthy section of the community -were admitted.
Mr. Bruce was the lion of the gathering. His connexion with Flinders-lane is sufficient to guarantee him a cordial welcome to all such conventions. Mr. Bruce impressed on the meeting that they had everything to gain by clinging to the “ Nationalist “ party. . . .
The National Union is an irresponsible and secret junta which collects and administers the funds used by the “Nationalist” party in fighting campaigns. It consists wholly of representatives of the wealthy interests. It is the head and front of money power. It receives almost fabulous cheques from shipping., pastoral, commercial, importing, mining, and financial concerns, and in dark secrecy it allocates the money to various branches of the “ Nationalist “ party for expenditure along definite lines, carefully laid down by the Union itself. . . .
The Brisbane Courier is no less emphatic regarding the sinister influence of the National Union. In a leading article on 4th February. 1925, it refers to the National Union as -
A small coterie of men who, as an association, represent interests that are the remnants of reaction, and the hard core of special privilege. … A self-appointed oligarchy that dare not tell the people for whom it stands, for what it stands, or what interest it seeks to conserve. . . . An unknown dictatorial oligarchy.
And on 14th May, 1925, the Brisbane Courier stated, quite openly and frankly that -
Democracy is a futility, a howling farce in fact, if the electors are to be subservient to a coterie of representatives of the moneyed interests such as the National Union is.
It is therefore evident that the moneyed interests that control the Nationalist party, and also this Government, are giving practical effect to their desire to abolish the Arbitration Court.
Honorable members behind the Government know that this legislation, once it becomes law, will sound the deathknell of arbitration. They are opposed to it because it provides for a living wage. The last speaker expressed himself in that strain. Any person who contends that a man is not entitled to a living wage is inhuman. Every worker is entitled to a living wage, but honorable members supporting the Government say that payment should be made on the basis of results. Under that system many of our aged workers could be practically destitute. If we abolish the Arbitration Court and take away the right of the workers to a living wage, it will be necessary to establish institutions for the care of those who had passed their prime. The poorer classes have a right to be protected; but, unfortunately for them, this Government is now proposing to do away with their only means of protection.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that the effective wage now was 5 per cent, less than in 1911.
– But I am thankful that working conditions generally are better to-day than they were in 1911. We are at least proud of our standard of living. For years past the opponents of labour have endeavoured to discredit the Arbitration Court. This is particularly evident by the recent appointment of Judge Drake-Brockman. I have nothing to say about that gentleman except that, prior to his appointment, he was a member of the Nationalist party, and the president of the Employers’ Federation, and as such was bound to view industrial conditions through the spectacles of the employers. He had for years represented the employers, and it is very difficult for the workers to believe that he, as a judge of the Arbitration Court, will be able to give unbiased decisions. It is not unusual also for some persons to be unconsciously biased by reason of their environment.
Mr.Rodgers. - Has the honorable member read Judge Drake-Brockman’s award in the clothing trades dispute?
– Yes; but one swallow does not make a summer. The award given by Judge Drake-Brockman in the clothing trades dispute is not likely to so enhance his prestige as to cause the workers to feel enthusiasm for a court of which he is one of the judges.
The sharp denunciation of the Arbitration Court by certain honorable members who are supporting the bill is in line with its condemnation by their “fellow workers,” “ Jock “ G arden, and others of his way of thinking, and I suggest that, since they are as one in this master, they should in future address “ Jock “ Garden as “ Comrade.” In the Sydney News of the 3rd May, 1928, there appeared the following : -
On one big industrial issue at least employers are not out of tune with Mr. J. S. Garden, secretary of the Trades and Labour Council.
Employers concur in the view expressed by the president of the Chamber of Manufactures, Mr. R. A. Marks, in his article in the News, and by Mr. Garden, that compulsory arbitration has failed as an instrument of industrial peace.
Mr. Garden’s strong plea in the News yesterday for the round-table conference as a substitute for arbitration is regarded as significant in view of the present move by employers throughout Australia, aiming at the same reform.
This is the course which, has just been urged by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). There is reason to believe that certain honorable members oppose arbitration because it has done something for the workers of Australia - it has kept peace in industry. Mr. “ Jock “ Garden and the communist element in Australia also oppose it for the same reason. It would appear, therefore, that those who have expressed denunciation of the system are really representing those exploiting interests which believe that if the court were abolished or discredited, and if unemployment resulted from an influx of migrants, the standard of living would be reduced. Sir Henry Barwell, formerly the Premier of South Australia, declared that the standard of living in this country was too high, and that if the workers were not prepared to accept a reduction in wages he would do his best to bring about that state of affairs. I have no doubt that there are many others who share this opinion with Sir Henry Barwell, but they have not the courage to come out in the open and declare themselves. It is probable that because of his frank utterances the Government did not wish to have him as a ministerial candidate at the next election, and, therefore, the South Australian Government appointed him to the position of Agent-General in London. Others holding the same views have their ears to the ground, and realize that it would hot be to their interests politically to declare frankly what Sir Henry Barwell has said on many occasions.
The bill now before the House is based upon a foreign model, and its purpose is to break down the industrial power of the unions by the coercive infringement of the rights of their members. It is designed to prepare the way ‘ for unemployment, to be followed later by a rush of British capital to supply cheap exploitable material for an impoverished population. I believe it is being introduced also because honorable members opposite desire to abolish or strangle the activities of the Arbitration Court, and because the Government wishes to use it as political propaganda. The Government fought the last election on a similar issue. It endeavoured to stampede the people into the belief that grave industrial unrest was threatening the welfare of the Commonwealth. Whatever policy it had was placed in the background. The record of the Government for the previous three years was scarcely mentioned. The Government and its supporters concentrated on every aspect of the seamen’s strike, which at that time was responsible for a certain amount of industrial unrest. It appears that the Government, assisted by its friends in the person of “Jock” Garden and the communistic element, is going to give us a repetition of that experience.
It is well to recall that political Labour had nothing whatever to do with the industrial unrest, which gave the Government its majority at the 1925 election. It did all it possibly could to bring about a settlement of the matters then at issue and at the same time directed attention to the mal-administration of the Government. The marine cooks’ strike, which has now developed into a lockout, has occurred almost on the eve of the forthcoming Federal elections. It is remarkable that the conditions on the Ulimaroa. which have existed for over two years, should suddenly have become intolerable. The Government may be able to work this stunt occasionally, but it cannot expect to work it all the time. In the Melbourne Herald of Tuesday, 8th May last, there appeared the following report of a speech made by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) at a meeting of the Australian Women’s National League -
Stressing the advantages of the proposed amendments to the Federal arbitration laws, Mr. H. S. Gullett, M.H.R., speaking at the annual meeting of the Glen Iris branch of the Australian Women’s National League, at the Methodist school hall, Burke-road, East Malvern, this afternoon, said the present marine cooks’ strike was a disgrace to trade union leaders and to all political Labour parties, State and Federal.
An example of the present unfairness of the industrial influences was the fact that at a time when unemployment, with its attendant miseries, was being felt, he said, one cook was permitted to hold up a great coastal fleet and throw hundreds more out of work on the eve of winter.
The strike, he said, would become a classic , as an example of stupidity and cruelty on the part of individual workers, of futility and cowardice on the part of union officials and Labour politicians, and of failure of the system of compulsory arbitration.
A few. days later there appeared the following in the Sydney .Morning Herald -
An offer aiming at a settlement was received in Melbourne yesterday morning from the Federal secretary of the Marine Cooks’ Union (Mr. Tudehope), who forwarded the following telegram from Sydney: -
Our members to resume under suspended award; question of roster to be subject of conference if required after resumption. Above terms, if agreed to, will be subject to ratification at our meeting to-morrow morning. In view of these negotiations, again request extension of time until Wednesday.
This telegram shows clearly that the marine cooks were prepared to return to work at the rate of pay operating prior to the strike, and that they desired a round-table conference, such as has been suggested by the honorable member for Swan, for the settlement of the matters in dispute. There comes a time in all disputes when the disputants welcome any overtures that will bring them together for the calm consideration of the matters at issue. Therefore it is much to be regretted that the owners refused to meet the men. No one in Australia has more influence with the employers than the Prime Minister. It is a pity that he did not adopt the suggestion which I made when I raised this matter in the House, and asked him to use his influence with the employers to meet the employees. In the circumstances, it ill becomes the honorable member for Henty or any one else to lead the people of Australia to believe that political Labour is in any way responsible for industrial unrest. As b matter of fact, it has done its part to have the present dispute settled. There was a chance of settlement recently, and since advantage was not taken of it, the opportunity may not come again. If so, the Prime Minister must accept the blame.
Political Labour -stands for industrial peace. Only about two years ago, when a serious dispute at the Islington workshops threatened to dislocate the whole of the South Australian railway system, Mr. Lionel Hill, the then Labour Premier, induced the parties to come together, and by that means effected a settlement of the dispute. The other day the honorable member for Hunter spoke of what the right honorable member for North Sydney had done when Prime Minister; how he had arranged conferences between parties, and by this means prevented large industrial upheavals. Honorable members opposite are not fair to political and industrial Labour when they make such statements, and suggest, or leave it to be inferred, that the leaders of Labour have been inactive in that regard. Labour has played its part in settling industrial disputes, and it did so only recently when the present Prime Minister had failed to get the employers to participate in a conference for the purpose of settling the cooks’ dispute. Industrial problems must be solved; but I do not think that this can be done by coercive legislation such as that proposed in this bill. This measure is unworkable and impracticable. I contend that it is impossible to apply clause 44, that dealing with the secret ballot. Under that clause a large industrial organization could be compelled to be continually conducting ballots. An organization such as the Australian Workers Union requires’ practically six months for a ballot of its members for the election of officers, and that fact should give some idea of the enormous amount of work involved in the conduct of a ballot by a large union. It is laid down in this clause that ten disgruntled members may ask for a secret ballot on any matter, even one which might, in the ordinary course of events, be adjusted at meetings of members, or by the executives. It would be a very costly matter for an organization to be compelled to hold a ballot every time a few of its members desired it. Honorable members must know that union secretaries and executive officers of industrial organizations do not create disputes, nor are they responsible for strikes. As a matter of fact, their influence is exerted in the opposite direction. Executive officers and disputes committees have prevented more strikes than the Arbitration Court has settled. Under this clause a few members of an organization may demand that a secret ballot be held, and a strike would go on during the whole time that the ballot was taking place. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) spoke the other night about the extraordinary things which happened in union circles; but under this clause it would be possible for one man to send in ten applications for the holding of a secret ballot, using fictitious names, and the Registrar of the Arbitration Court would be unable to check them. Provided a man knew the names of members of the organization he could quite easily write out ten names, and attach them to applications for the holding of a ballot. The matter could not be inquired into, because the bill provides that no such inquiry shall be made. Thus a demand for the holding of a secret ballot may be made at the instigation of one member of a union. There are men who, at the will of the employers, and sometimes in consideration of monetary reward, are prepared to do things which are detrimental to their organization. It was said during the last general election campaign that facilities for the holding of secret ballots amongst unionists were to be provided, and it was made to appear that Labour alone was responsible for industrial trouble. It is evident that the
Government has it in mind that the bringing down of this bill will revive that propaganda against Labour. In fact, it has already had that effect. On the 15th of this month the Adelaide Advertiser published the following article dealing with this bill: -
The Arbitration Bill. Opposition, to Secret Ballot. “ The secret ballot provision of the new Arbitration Bill is being destructively criticized by Labour leaders,” says the Federal Country Party’s committee in its comment to-day. “ Labour publicly attaches a sinister meaning to the word ‘ secret,’ yet applauds the Chartists whose agitations last century were responsible for the gaining of the, secret ballot principle in politics. This form of voting enables a man to express his opinions without fear. Even the recent election of the Federal Labour party of the Deputy Leader was conducted on the secret ballot principle, and every effort was made to hide the voting lists.”
That article was supplied to the Adelaide Advertiser, or to one of its representatives, by the organization of the Country party, and is part of the political propaganda which that party is turning out. Personally, I am in favour of the secret ballot when it can be applied. That article is incorrect, and the latter portion of it actually contradicts the first. In one part it says that the Labour party is opposed to the principle of the secret ballot, while in another it says that the secret ballot was used for the election of the deputy leader of the party.
I believe that the people will realize that they have been misled in the past, and that they will come to look for something more than hollow propaganda of that kind. They will inquire into the administrative record of the Government, and into the policy which it is pursuing. Honorable members opposite are in the habit of blaming the employees for all industrial troubles, but there have been occasions upon which men have actually been on strike at a time when employers desired their industries to be closed. I have known a large industry in Australia to be closed< for two years, and the employers, against whom the workers were supposed to be on strike, were actually paying maintenance to the men concerned - a most ridiculous position. This clause lays it down that if any section of an industry is involved in a strike the whole industry may be closed down. There are industries in which one part is not in any way related to another. One may be worked by skilled labour and another by unskilled, but according to this clause, if the employees in one section come out on strike, the employers may close down the whole works. This, in effect, is legalising strikes and lockouts.
– As my friend says,s it would not be possible to get a lockout. An unscrupulous employer can so irritate his employees that he may force them out on strike. This bill will have the effect of creating more industrial trouble than there has been in the past. It will hamper the operations of executive committees and other bodies which, in the past, have worked for industrial peace, Arbitration has not been a complete success in the past, but the awards of the courts have been observed in the main, as well as most laws. After all, our industrial troubles have not been very numerous. This is a one-sided measure, which increases the penalties directed against the unions, while those designed for the employers have been allowed to go unaltered. The employees have been regarded as blameworthy for all industrial trouble. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that there are two sides to every dispute; certainly there are two sides to most industrial disputes. The pity is that as soon as a strike takes place the average person says “ Those men are out on strike again,” and the employees are regarded as responsible without any inquiry whatever being made into the facts. I think that honorable members will agree that nobody else in the world has made such a success in industry as Henry Ford has done. Some time ago he wrote a book called My Life and Work. Mr. Ford has made a huge success of the industry in which he is chiefly interested, and is entitled to speak with authority on the control and management of commercial enterprises. He states -
Men can strike with justice - that they will thereby get justice is another question. The strike for proper conditions and just rewards is justifiable. The pity is that men should be compelled to use the strike to get what is theirs by right. No American ought to be compelled to strike for his rights. He ought to receive them naturally, easily, as a matter of course. These justifiable strikes are usually the employer’s fault. Some employers are not fit for their jobs. The employment of men - the direction of their energies, the arranging of their rewards in honest ratio to their production, and to the prosperity of the business - is no small job. An employer may be unfit for his job, just as a man at the lathe may be unfit. Justifiable strikes are a sign that the boss needs another job - -one that he can handle. The unfit employer causes more trouble than the unfit employee. You can change the latter to another more suitable job. But the former must usually be left to the law of compensation. The justified strike, then, is one that need never have been called if the employer had done his work.
The next paragraph in the chapter deals with the kind of strike which is encouraged by a section of employers to bring the works of another section to a standstill. Mr. Ford then deals with still another class of strike. He says -
There is a third kind of strike - the strike that is provoked by the money interests for the purpose of giving labour a bad name. The American workman has always had a reputation for sound judgment. He has not allowed himself to be led away by every shouter who promised to create the millennium out of thin air. He has had a mind of his own and has used it. He has always recognized the fundamental truth that the absence of reason was never made good by the presence of violence. In his way the American workingman has won a certain prestige with his own people, and throughout the world. Public opinion has been inclined to regard with respect his opinions and desires. But there seems to be a determined effort to fasten the bolshevik stain on American labour by inciting it to such impossible attitudes and such wholly unheardof actions as shall change public sentiment from respect, to criticism.
Merely avoiding strikes, however, does not promote industry. We may say to the working man - “You have a grievance, but the strike is no remedy - it only makes the situation worse whether you win or lose.”
Then the working man may admit this to be true and refrain from striking. Does that settle anything?
No! If the worker abandons strikes as an unworthy means of bringing about desirable condition, it simply means that employers must get busy on their own initiative and correct defective conditions.
This Government is endeavouring to fasten upon the Australian Labour party the tags of communism and bolshevism. It hopes thereby to give our .party a bad name. It is significant that the tactics of Labour’s opponents in the United States of America are similar to those of our opponents in Australia.
Strikes rarely occur in small industries where employers and employees are in close contact with each other; yet it should be easier to cause a strike in an industry employing only ten persons than in one employing 1,000 persons. Strikes occur in large industries because they are usually controlled by big companies which are totally indifferent to the welfare of their employees. I know of thoroughly justifiable strikes that have occurred in industries in Australia. The workers have had no way to obtain redress for their grievances except by striking. On the other hand, I know that the conditions in some industries are such that a strike could not be justified. When the employer is in direct contact with his men, an industry is generally carried on without interruption; but when soulless companies apply unjust conditions to their employees, strikes are almost inevitable. Mr. Ford justly pointed out that unfair conditions cause more strikes than anything else.
I regret that Australia is so frequently spoken of as the home of industrial unrest. This country does not deserve such a reputation. For every strike that occurs here, hundreds of agreements are made. Awards are varied and adjustments made by mutual consent every day in. the week, and the executive officers of the various organizations responsible for these negotiations deserve all credit for their work. The average number of working days lost per annum in Australia during the last five years has been .71 per wage-earner; in the same period in England the average number of working days lost has been 2.37 per wage-earner. It will be seen, therefore, that in proportion to her population, Great Britain has, on the average, three times as many men on strike as Australia. We do not hear much about the strikes that occur in the Motherland, for the policy of her people is not to discredit their country. But when a strike occurs in Australia, news of it is sent by cablegram to every part of the world. One would imagine from the remarks that are frequently made about industrial conditions in Australia that there is more dislocation of trade and commerce here now than ever before, but statistics disprove this. In the five years period from 1918 to 1922, the number of days lost through industrial disputes was 10,500,000, while in the following five-year period only 6,215,000 days were lost. Those figures indicate that the position in Australia is improving.
In these circumstances, honorable members opposite should cease to assert that there is more unrest here than ever before, and that the Labour party is responsible for it. Such statements are absolutely untrue, and may be classed with the equally false accusations that the Labour party is connected with communism and bolshevism; As a matter of fact, the Labour movement has condemned communism and bolshevism, and still condemns them. The communists and bolsheviks are one with honorable members opposite in their desire to abolish arbitration and in their antipathy to the Labour party. It is astonishing that on the eve of almost every recent election an industrial dispute has been organized. Prior to the last election the Labour party appeared to be in the ascendency; but a strike was organized by the extremists, with the result that the composite government was able to retain its majority.
As evidence that Labour is opposed to communism, I quote the following passage from a report of a meeting of the Port Adelaide Trade and Labour Council, which appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser an the 14th May -
A resolution was carried supporting the Port Adelaide branch of the Seamen’s Union and their secretary in their opposition to communist influences, and stating the intention of the council to ignore the resolution of the communist section of the Sydney seamen.
The penal clauses in this measure have been drafted, in my opinion, with the object of forcing industrial organizations to withdraw themselves from the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court. A deliberate attempt is being made to discredit the court. If the bill becomes law, job committees will be set up in industries which at present are free of them, and there will be considerably more industrial unrest than there now is. Organizations will be encouraged to deregister, for by so doing they will place themselves outside of the penal provisions of the measure. The result will be that industrial unrest and suspicion will be accentuated, and we shall be forced to return to the days before we had any effective conciliation and arbitration machinery. For instance, in the shearing industry, under present conditions, before the wool is ready to be taken off the sheep, employers and employees can go to the Arbitration Court and get an award under which the employee knows how much he will be paid per 100 for the sheep he shears. If this bill is put into operation, and the union is de-registered, no such award will be made, and the wage to be paid for shearing will not be determined until the wool on the sheep’s backs is ready to be clipped. Is that a state of affairs that is likely to lead to industrial peace? Could there be stability in the pastoral industry if the wages to be paid were not known until shearing actually started? Yet that will be the position if the penal clauses in this bill are applied, and the Shearers Union is de-registered and is compelled to resort to the conferences with the employers recommended by the last speaker.
One thing that has dealt a blow at arbitration and prevented the Arbitration Court from being as valuable as it was expected to be is the length of time that elapses before cases cited for hearing can be heard. A few days ago a Sydney newspaper published the following account of what has taken place in connexion with the hearing of a claim made by the Clerks’ Union : -
Clerks Indignant. Delay over Claims.
The council of management of the Clerks’ Union is indignant at the delay in hearing the claims submitted to the Clerks’ Metropolitan Board twelve months ago, states the secretary, Mr. Katz.
After many vexatious delays by the Conciliation Committee, the claims were referred to the industrial commission. The date of hearing is not yet fixed, although the claims were filed twelve months ago with the Department of Labour.
It is the intention of the management committee to ask the Minister for Labour and Industry to receive a deputation relative to the undue delay. This is considered unfair to over 20,000 clerks in the metropolitan area.
If, by expediting the hearing of cases, we can overcome the delays that now occur, we are likely to secure more industrial peace than .it will be possible to have if this bill is passed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Perkins) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 May 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280522_reps_10_118/>.