10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Treasurer if it is not a fact that the Government has issued a regulation fixing at 2£ per cent, the rate of interest to be paid by the Federal Capital Commission on the money advanced to it, and, if so, how the balance of the interest payable on the amount borrowed by the Commonwealth will be found?
– The matter is still under the consideration of the Government.
– A regulation, approved by the Governor-General in Council, has been circulated among honorable members, fixing 2^ per cent, as the rate of interest to be paid by the Federal Capital Commission on the money expended from revenue in the Federal Capital Territory prior to the Commission’s appointment; and the same rate for the money advanced to it out of loan funds. That being so, I wish to know how the balance of the interest payable by the Commonwealth on the money that has been advanced is to be met?
– The balance that would be necessary to make up the full interest charges will come from the general taxpayer.
– I should like to know if the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs has been drawn to a statement in the press that the latest and, apparently, the most effective cure for pernicious anaemia is a diet of raw or cooked beef liver, and that a duty of 40 per cent, is imposed on a tasteless American substitute which has been invented. Since this duty places this substitute beyond the reach of the poorer people in the community, who would like to avail themselves of it, I ask the
Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs if, in the circumstances, he would take into consideration the removal of the duty?
– On behalf of the Minister for Trade and Customs, I promise the honorable member that inquiries shall be made immediately into the matter to which he has referred.
Appointment of Executive Council
– Has any progress been made in connexion with the appointment of an executive council for the Mandated Territory of New Guinea? If not, can the Minister for Home and Territories inform the House what is the present position in regard to this matter?
– The matter is still under the consideration of the Government, but I hope to be in a position to make a statement concerning it at an early date.
– In reference to the negotiations now proceeding between the Eastern Associated- /Telegraph Companies, the Marconi Company and the Pacific Cable Board, with a view to a merger for a united control of the means of communication now administered by the respective companies, and the proposed absorption of the beam wireless interests, will the Treasurer give an assurance that the Government will not commit itself to the relinquishing of its interests in the Pacific cable or in beam wireless until the whole matter has been discussed . by Parliament ?
– It is obvious that the Government must be unaware of the recommendations of the conference recently held in London until it has received the report of the proceedings of the conference. When that report has been received, the Government will be in a position to deal with it. As it may be necessary to make an immediate decision, it is not possible to give an undertaking that the matter will be submitted to the House before action is taken. If practicable, the Government will submit the matter to the House before taking any action, but if it is not practicable to do that, Ministers must of course accept the responsibility of coming to a decision without reference to the House. In the latter event an opportunity will be given to the House to express its views upon the action taken.
– I should like to know if the Postmaster-General has read in the public press the following paragraph : -
Purchase by 3LO.
Control of Adelaide Company.
Adelaide, Monday. - It was learned on good authority in Adelaide to-night, that the Broadcasting Company of Australia Pty. Ltd., of Collins-street, Melbourne, had purchased between 10,000 and 12,000 shares in Central Broadcasters Ltd. (5CL Adelaide). This purchase with shares previously bought by the Broadcasting Company of Australia, will give that company the controlling interest in 5CL.
Does the Minister agree to this compelling of companies to come into what will be a broadcasting combine, and, if so, does his Government intend to force the Government of Queensland to come into the combine?
– I am not aware of the transaction which has taken place between the Adelaide company and 3LO; but I understand that an undertaking has been given that the two companies will work in co-operation. Later on I shall learn the full extent of that co-operation, but I understand that the intention is to have one control for the programmes of Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria. The two broadcasting companies in New South Wales have united, and in future there will be co-ordination between the New South Wales and Victorian companies. The Government of Queensland will not be forced into the association, but is quite willing to co-operate as closely as possible with the New South Wales company.
– I have received several letters from people interested in the Bundaberg Serum Tragedy, asking me to ascertain when the report of the royal commission will be tabled. I should like to know if the report has yet been submitted to the Governor-General, and whether it will be placed on the table of the House?
– Last week I assured the honorable member that the report would be laid on the table of the House as soon as it was received by the Governor-General. It has not yet been received by His Excellency.
– I should like to ask the Attorney-General if he is aware of the remarks made by Chief Judge Dethridge in Melbourne to the following effect : -
It is my inclination to put in all the awards a provision that in the case of an unreasonable strike or lockout the award should be suspended. and further on: -
Sometimes strikes happen in connexion with matters which are not matters of interstate dispute, or matters determined by an award of this court. I do not think that such strikes come within the ambit of the Arbitration Act, and I am doubtful whether they come within the powers of the Federal Constitution Act.
Is it the intention of the AttorneyGeneral to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill that is at present before this Chamber along the lines suggested by Chief Judge Dethridge ? I should like to know, also, whether the honorable gentleman is of the opinion that these strikes come within the ambit of the constitutional powers of this Parliament?
– It is impossible to discuss the subject in reply to a question. The High Court has determined that section 6a of the existing Arbitration Act is within the constitutional power of this Parliament. Until I have seen the full report of the judgment of His Honor the Chief Judge, I certainly shall not express an opinion upon any of the views that arecontained in it.
Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The work performed by the members of the Australian Air Force was in the nature of a preliminary reconnaissance, with a view to thu determination of the areas where a detailed aerial survey would be justifiable.
The photographs taken on the occasion of the aerial reconnaissance” have already been laid on the Library table.
The leader of the geological survey parties. Dr. Richardson, will leave Papua for Australia at about the end of this month. Upon his arrival lie will go into the question of the areas to be recommended for detailed aerial surveys.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
-The information will be obtained as far as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What was the total cost to Australia (showing the cost to each State and to the Commonwealth separately) in connexion with the Wembley Exhibition ?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Liquor Poll - Price of Bricks - Hotel Accommodation - Rating - Building Conditions
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The replies % to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
What is the price (per thousand) of -
Bricks from the new Northcote Brick Yard, Melbourne, delivered in the city of Melbourne?
Bricks from the Box Hill Brick Yard, Box Hill, delivered at Brighton, Victoria?
Bricks from the Canberra Brick Yards, delivered to a job in (i) Acton and (ii) Manuka?
Bricks at the kilns at - (i) New Northcote, (ii) Box Hill, (iii) Canberra, and (iv) Queanbeyan Brick Yard?
– I regret that the particulars are not at present available, but I am taking steps to obtain them.
On the 18th May the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) asked me the following questions: -
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : -
It was also stated that the rates would apply for the first six months from the date of transfer, and would then be subject to revision. Some time later, after receipt of applications submitted by public servants, the Commission - in the light of information supplied and the demand for the various kinds of accommodation, and also having regard to the increased number of female officers requiring accommodation - matte the following arrangements : - “Hotel Ainslie” was allotted for women only and was re-named “Gorman House.”
One of the boarding houses - “ Beauchamp House “ - was also allotted for womenonly.
Additional provision for applicants who desired hotel accommodation was made in the new “ Hotel Ainslie “ and the “Hotel Wellington,” and the concession charge, for those establishments, for the first six months, was made uniform with that of “Hotel Acton,” viz., £3 per week. “ Brassey House “ was allotted as a boarding House at the concession weekly tariff of £2 15s.
The rates granted to public servants upon transfer in 1927 were, as explained, tentative only, and represented a considerable concession on the rates to the public for the same establishment. There was no implication that, in revising the rates, those in any two establishments would necessarily remain the same.
and 7. Public servants were warned some time ago that the concession rates would obtain for a limited period only. The Commission has now established definite rates for the hotels in three categories -
Public servants come under (c). As the Com mission’s accommodation is limited, it cannot undertake to accommodate all members of the general public permanently resident in Canberra, on this basis, but only such as can conveniently be accommodated after the Service requirements are met. In fixing the rates, the Commission could not take into account allowances paid to public servants or to employees of private concerns.
On the 16th May, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) asked me the following question: -
Will he make a detailed statement to the House showing on what basis (a) the present rates for the Federal Capital Territory of 4d. general and 2d. lighting were arrived at; and
the value of land was assessed for rating purposes ?
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : -
The amount of the lighting rate of 2d. in the £1 was fixed having regard to similar considerations, and the limitations imposed by section 10 (5) of the Rates Ordinance 1926.
New South Wales. In assessing the valuations for rating purposes, allowance was made for the disparity in prices realized from time to time for leases offered to the public under competitive conditions.
On the 27th April the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked me the following questions : -
I am now in a position to furnish the following answers: -
I am placing on the table of the library a copy of the relative specification conditions for the supply of materials and a list of the materials.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will supply the House with a statement as to the total amount paid in bounty on sulphur to the mining companies at Broken Hill, and the respective amounts paid to such companies?
– Claims as under have been paid to the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd-., for material produced at the works of the companies mentioned hereunder : -
asked the Minister for Health,. upon notice -
With reference to the question asked on the 23rd November last by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, as to when the report of Dr. Cooke’s inspection of the aborigines of the North-West and Kimberley districts of Western Australia would be laid upon the table of the House, to which the Minister replied on the 30th November, that, owing to pressure of work in the Government Printing Office, the publication of the report would be delayed until early in the present year, is the Minister now in a position to say when the report will be printed and made available?
– The printer’s proofs of Dr. Cook’s report have just been received by the Department of Health and are nowbeing corrected. I am unable to say when the final copies will be available, but will see whether completion can be hastened.
– On 18th May, 1928, the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Perkins) asked the following questions : -
The Commonwealth Bank has furnished the following information : -
2 and 3. The Note Issue Department is under the control of the Commonwealth Bank. The board of directors has not considered the ‘ possibility of the transfer of the Note Issue Department to Canberra.
Official and Allowance Postmasters
– On the 16th May, 1928, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) addressed to me the following questions: -
I am now in a position to furnish the following particulars : -
The following paper was presented : -
High Commissioner of the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom - Report for 1927.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 22nd May (vide page 5090) on motion by Mr. Latham -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– In his opening remarks last evening the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) charged several honorable members who sit on this side with being opposed to the principle of arbitration, and added that we are supporting this bill with the object of aiming a death blow at that system. When he was challenged to name the honorable members to whom he referred he glibly recited the names of three or four, only one of whom - the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) - has so far expressed his views upon this measure. That honorable member said that he intended to support the bill, but that he would endeavour to have it amended in committee. There is very little difference between honorable members who sit on this side and those who sit opposite,- because, practically every Opposition member who has spoken has expressed his belief in arbitration, and has argued that the measure which we are now discussing is open to amendment. “We on this side claim that the existing arbitration system is open to amendment, and we have given tangible evidence of that belief by bringing forward a measure designed to effect the amendment that is necessary. It is nearly six months since the bill was introduced into this House. Thus honorable members have had an ample opportunity, not only to study it carefully, but also to advise their constituents of its merits or demerits. The leading spirits in the party that sits opposite, and the leaders of labour thought outside this Parliament, have declared an inability to find any merits in the bill, and are conducting a campaign in the various States in opposition to it, in the course of which they are charging against it demerits that do not exist. I shall quote first of all from certain remarks of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore). That honorable gentleman is reported to have said -
It would replace amity, goodwill and conciliation with intimidation and threat of gaol; it would discipline industrial unions; it would violate unionist principles; and it would interfere with union management, ballots, and rules.
That is purely an empty and unsupported statement, and when other members of his party endeavoured to support it. they signally failed. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), the newly elected Deputy Leader of the Opposition, is not content with discussing the bill in the House and on the public platform; he has used the press of this country in order to expound his views upon it. But all the objections that honorable members opposite have raised to the measure were amply answered a few days ago by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), who showed that their statements were erroneous. Notwithstanding that fact, the Leader of the Opposition, on a visit to Melbourne within the last few days, repeated from the public platform the identical arguments that have been refuted in this chamber. Every criticism from the opponents of the bill has been disposed of completely. .
Honorable members opposite would have the people believe that the object of the Government is to destroy democracy; but we know that, at the last election, arbitration formed no small part of the programme submitted by the Nationalist party. The Walsh and Johnson incident was generally discussed, and this raised the whole subject of the future of trade unionism. One of the planks of the party to which I have the honour to belong is ‘the restoration to unionists of the right to vote by secret ballot. In other words, we desire to restore to the members of the political unions their right to manhood. The public was called upon to express its opinion on this matter, with the result that the Ministerial party was elected by such a large majority that at least 50 per cent, of the members of the unions must have recorded their votes for Nationalist candidates, who otherwise would not have been returned to this Parliament in such large numbers as they were. Therefore, I maintain that this party’ “has as much right to speak on behalf of the workers to-day as has the so-called Labour party. To mention a personal experience during the last election, I called at a road camp in the Eden-Monaro district, thinking that I had no hope of support from the workmen employed there. There were ten or twelve men in the camp, and they belonged no doubt to the Australian Workers Union, or some other union. I found, to my surprise, that, with one exception, they had made up their minds to vote for the Nationalist candidate.
Members of the trade unions have awakened to the facts of the industrial situation, and are pleased to know that under this bill they will have the right to vote on matters concerning their individual welfare. In substantiation of that argument, I invite honorable members to recall the result of the recent state elections for Monaro. For the first time in 32 years the Nationalist candidate headed the poll, owing to the fact that many trade unionists stood behind him. Every honorable member on the Government side is bound to support the bill, because it gives effect to a plank of the platform on which the Ministerial candidates were elected, and all honorable members opposite should support it, because it is in the interests of the trade unionists. “We have had the spectacle of the Leader of the Opposition sighing and sobbing in the House, and telling us that if the measure becomes law it will ring the death knell of the trade unions. Nothing is further from the thoughts of the Government and its supporters than to do them injury. I take it that the unions will certainly be stamped out of existence if their own members do not make a move in the direction of restoring the old system of control that obtained when the unions were first formed. Personally I have nothing but admiration for the Leader of the Opposition. I realize that he is a fighter. Honorable members on this side are sympathetic towards him with respect to his new office, and I notice that that feeling has been expressed by the Melbourne and Sydney press. His ability is undoubted; it has enabled him to work his way to the top. He is at least the nominal leader of his party, and in that capacity one would expect him to be an actual leader, instead of practically following the members of his party. Yet if the views expressed by him with regard to this measure are his own, it is questionable whether he has sufficient authority .to lead his party. On the other hand, if they are not his honest views, it is still doubtful - .
– The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that he made a fine speech.
– Yes, but nothing like his speeches in this Chamber on other occasions. One thing was lacking, and that was sincerity.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to withdraw that expression.
– I withdraw it. I was speaking only in the political sense.
– The expression is unparliamentary, whether used in the political sense or in any other way.
– Then I regret its use, because I have no wish to hurt the feelings of the honorable member: but he certainly flogged himself into a temper and became red in the face. For the first time in my experience, h.e lost- his temper as the result of one or two interjections by me. This led to my making the remark that I have just been called- upon to withdraw. I do not know whether the honorable member’s heart is in his work as leader of his party. He may find his duties hard to fulfil. Possibly when making his speech, he was worried as to who was to be his deputy. Maybe he was driven by outside forces; but it appeared to me, when listening to his remarks on this “bill, he had not his heart in his task.
We have had a succession of bleats and bites from the honorable member for Darling. He surely knows that the statements he made concerning the penalties imposed by this measure were absolutely wrong and consequently misleading. It is indeed pitiful to see a political party which for some years was held in such respect and was able to control unionism in every State at present so far lacking in generalship that there is no immediate hope of it directing those whom it is supposed to represent and lead. The speeches of honorable members opposite strongly suggest that they have the forthcoming general election in view, and in addition to making political capital out of this measure they are also engendering a feeling of bitterness that should not exist. They are trying to fan the flames of discontent and dissatisfaction, and to cause industrial turmoil which will eventually bring about their own downfall, compelling them to remain in the cold shades of opposition. This measure, although it may not be acceptable to a mlitant section of trade unionism, has been introduced for the good of the people as a whole. I believe it will be of advantage to trade unionism generally, and for that reason I intend to give it my hearty support.
The big industrial strike at present in progress, which honorable members opposite have referred to as a lockout, is due to the action of a few marine cooks who have refused to work under the terms of an award of the Arbitration Court. Very little effort has been made by honorable members opposite to bring about a settlement of the dispute, which it was stated a few days ago has cost the country approximately £500,000 in consequence of the dislocation of trade caused by the laying up of a number of vessels. Notwithstanding the disastrous effect of this industrial dispute, not only upon those engaged in maritime work, but upon the community generally, honorable members opposite have not made any attempt to bring about a settlement of it. It is the duty of honorable members opposite to tell the men responsible that they are making asses of themselves, and should get back to work. The trouble in this instance, as is the case in most industrial disputes, is that the rank and file are blindly following the advice of their leaders ; they seem afraid to speak, and their attitude on this occasion is likely to lead to an extension of the trouble. The ideals of trade unionism to-day are. not what they were at the beginning, or even what they were ten or fifteen years ago. A study of the history of not only Australia, but of England, will show that the workers were once oppressed by being compelled to work long hours for a miserable pittance. Trade unionism then came into existence, not as a result of the efforts of the Labour party, but because the people, becoming more enlightened, bad a sympathetic desire to benefit those who were engaged in toil of all description.
– How were they treated?
– In those days workers were oppressed; but they are not to-day; indeed the conditions which Australian workers enjoy are better than they are in any other civilized country. Our friends opposite are trying to bring back the conditions which existed in the dark ages. They speak as if they were responsible for all reform ; they will not give honorable members on this side any credit. Reference to the records, however, will show that all the legislation that has been of benefit to the workers has been introduced by Liberal or National Governments. Was not a Liberal Government responsible for the introduction of the first Factories Act? The principle of an 8-hours day was introduced before the advent of the Labour party. Free education was also introduced before the
Labour party came into existence. An extended franchise in the form of one man one vote and adult suffrage was not the work of a Labour Government. Invalid and old-age pensions, conciliation and arbitration legislation and every other reform of benefit to the workers was introduced by a Liberal Government, or at least before the Labour party came into existence. Honorable members opposite should know that the right of free speech and a free press were established before the days of the Labour party. When the Premier of New South Wales, Sir George Wade, introduced the first wages board system into the State Parliament it was said that the unions would not register, and that the system was introduced to scotch trades unionism. The bill, however, was passed, and although at the outset only two or three unions registered, others eventually came into line. Notwithstanding this fact it has frequently been stated by members of the party opposite during electioneering campaigns, that the Labour party was responsible for the introduction of the wages board system. During the forthcoming election campaign, our friends opposite will doubtless say that they were responsible for the introduction of a measure providing for secret ballots, means to dispense with overlapping awards, and other improvements in our industrial legislation such as this bill provides. Comparing the wages and conditions which existed a few years ago with those now obtaining trade’ unionists have very little for which to fight. Generally speaking workmen to-day are paid decent wages, their hours of work are fixed by the Arbitration Court, and their conditions are so favorable that they have little reason to complain. Trade unionists of days gone by who fought so strongly for an 8-hours day would almost turn in their graves if they knew that many men now worked only 44 hours a week. The principle upon which trade unionism was first established has been departed from, and the institution now exists largely for political purposes. I intend to quote shortly several statements made in America and elsewhere in connexion with the relation of politics to trade unionism, and to show that in Australia we are working on wrong lines. I nave . already mentioned that the average worker in Australia to-day is so well paid that there is very little more for Australian trade unionists to do in endeavouring to improve their conditions. The total amount of wages paid in Australia, where we have approximately 2,500,000 wage earners, amounts to £450,000,000 annually. If that amount were divided equally it would give each £180 per annum. I know that some wage earners are not receiving that amount and some are unemployed, but many are receiving more than £180 per annum. These figures are not mere guesses ; they are taken from the report of the Commonwealth Statistician. An increase of ls. per day to the 2,500,000 wage earners of Australia would involve an expenditure of £39,000,000. It must be apparent to everybody that we have reached the point at which our industries cannot afford to pay much higher wages. I do not disapprove of the policy of paying high wages. A country that pays low wages is, generally speaking, a poor country. Our wages should be as high as our industries can reasonably afford to pay. That is the general opinion of honorable members on this side of the chamber.
– But we should have efficiency.
– That is so. I believe that Australians are efficient workmen, although some do not work honestly. The country will always have to carry them. It is often said that before wages can be increased we must increase our production. During the last ten years the average - output of the American workman has been increased by 22 per cent., while the increase in Australia has been only 2 per cent. In such circumstances increases in wages should not be expected. The contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that wage increases which the workers have received during the last ten years have been of little use to them because the purchasing power of money has decreased so greatly is probably quite sound. It is deplorable that that is so. But it makes it more apparent than ever that we shall have to increase our output greatly before we can effectively increase wages. In the United States of America, where the trade union movement does not threaten the general public as it does in Australia, and where there is no political Labour party such as we have here, wages are higher than in Australia, and in many respects working hours and conditions are just as good.
There can be no doubt that the trade unionists of Australia will have to be brought to their senses. I agree with honorable members opposite who have said that we have fewer strikes in Australia than they have in Great Britain, but our wages and working conditions are so much superior to those of Great Britain that our workers have no need to strike. The cooks’ strike, which is at present dislocating our shipping industry, is a ridiculous affair, and the great bulk of our trade unionists are opposed to it. I cannot understand why honorable members opposite, who profess to represent the workers, do not openly condemn it.
– It has been argued during this debate that honorable members opposite represent more workers that we do. Why do they not stop the strike?
– We are doing our best, but we have not captured the trade union movement like our friends opposite. It has been stated that more than 800,000 trade unionists in Australia are out of sympathy with the present strike; yet the political Labour party appears to be afraid to condemn it. The engineers’ strike, which occurred some time ago, was another extremely foolish attempt to dislocate industry. The engineers refused to accept the principle of payment by results. Yet the shearers of Australia have been working on that principle for. many years, and would strongly resist any attempt to abolish it. The shearers are members of one of the most important trade unions in Australia, and they are an intelligent body of men. The foolish conduct of many trade unions in Australia is bringing industrial arbitration into serious disfavour. Honorable members opposite, in the course of this debate, have quoted from a pamphlet issued by the Metal Trades Employers Association of New South Wales. I also intend to quote from it, but I shall go further than honorable members opposite have gone. The following is an extract from the presidential address delivered to the metal trades conference by Mr. John Heine, junior -
As our association has now decided to advocate the abolition of compulsory arbitration, we have no anxiety to see the Federal Government proceed any further in the manner suggested in the proposed amendment. In our opinion this amending bill will only aggravate the strife, bitterness and troubles prevailing at the present time.
It will be seen, therefore, that the metal trades employers are not only opposed to this bill, but also to the whole system of industrial arbitration. Dealing with the bill, Mr. Heine, inthe same address, said -
It is claimed for the bill that its penal clauses will have a correcting influence on union leaders, but we would point out that the court is already possessed of powers which it refuses to exercise, and one cannot, therefore, understand what benefit is likely to be obtained by additional powers. We are now opposed to the prosecution of employees for breaches of industrial awards. In the past we have instituted proceedings against individuals and unions for breaches of the award, for the reason that it was the only constitutional remedy that was available to us. At the same time the practice was repugnant to us, and we are now reluctant to move any further in that direction. We were under the impression that the Government desired to protect and uphold its awards, and acting on that belief, we were compelled to initiate proceedings, with the honest conviction that we were acting as a bulwark between the revolutionary elements of the community and our Government. It has been made quite apparent that the court is reluctant to proceed with any prosecution against employees, and we join with them in that reluctance, for from past experience we are quite convinced that there is little hope of securing industrial peace by prosecutions.
Mr.Forde. - Some honorable members are opposed to industrial arbitration.
– I have notheard any who have spoken during this debate say so; though I know that many employers in Australia are sick and tired of the system, for they realize that it has not done either them or their employees any good. Nevertheless I agree with the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) that the system has been beneficial, and that many of the awards and agreements made under it have been honored by both sides. Although we have fewer strikes than other countries, we have too many of them. Wages and working conditions are so good in Australia that there is no justification for striking. At one time, the sympathy of the great majority of people was with the strikers, when only by ceasing work could they remedy injustices ; but to-day there is no excuse for strikes in Australia. Honorable members opposite could do much to prevent strikes and to promote industrial peace ; but, instead, they adopt a policy of silence. This bill is the outcome of many years’ experience of arbitration legislation. If it fails, the whole system of arbitration fails with it.
– This bill will have the effect of a. charge of dynamite on industry.
– I admit that there are some employers who desire to abolish arbitration as a means of settling industrial disputes, but among employers generally there is no great desire to abolish the system so long as the awards of the courts are faithfully obeyed. Industries which have found it difficult to carry on have been assisted by the Government in the direction of increased protective duties; but they cannot for ever expect to receive assistance from that source. Some other remedy must be found. The industrial delegation which recently visited the United States of America reported on its return that . the American workers, although not better than the Australian workers, are assisted to a much greater extent by modern machinery and electric power. More could be done in that direction in Australia. Workers in the United States of America receive more for their labour than do their fellow workers in Australia, because in that country piece-work rates apply in many industries, and they are free from political control. The result is that the standard of living in the United States of America is higher than it is in Australia, notwithstanding the boast of honorable members opposite that the trade union movement in this country has made the lot of the Australian worker better than that of the workers of any other country.
This bill will prevent overlapping awards which cause so much trouble to-day. Surely honorable members opposite are not opposed to the introduction of legislation to remove the difficulties caused hy overlapping awards. Contradictory awards cause a great deal of the trouble which exists in industry. For that trouble the system of arbitration is sometimes wrongly blamed. As the Government’s referendum proposals which were recently submitted to the people were defeated, it can only introduce what the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) described as “patch-work legislation.” No one likes legislation of that character, but to give even the measure of improvement contained in this bill is better than to allow things to remain as they are. The bill is an earnest of the Government’s desire to do the best possible with its limited powers. ‘ Honorable members may be interested in the opinions of prominent men in different countries regarding the political control of trade unions. Mr. Samuel Gompers, when president of the American Federation of Labour in 1918, said -
The fact is that an independent political Labour party becomes either radical, so called, or else revolutionary; but it is primarily devoted to one thing, and that is catching votes. The question of the conditions of labour, the question of the standards of labour, the questions of the struggles and the sacrifices oflabour to bring light into the lives and the work of the toilers - all that is subordinated into the one consideration of votes for the party. Every sail is trimmed to the getting pf votes.
– What portion of the bill is the honorable member discussing?
– I am pointing out that in opposing this measure merely for party purposes the Labour party is proceeding along wrong lines.
– What a fine non-party attitude the honorable member assumes !
- Mr. William Green, who succeeded Mr. Samuel Gompers as president of the American Federation of Labour, said -
Between capital and labour there is an interdependence so fixed and irrevocable as to make complete success attainable only through understanding and co-operation. … To accept the doctrine that the establishment of right rela’tionship between employers and employees is impossible of attainment means that justice and righteousness have been dethroned, and that instead of refinement through education and the development of a keen, sense of justice and intellect, we still recognize the law of the primitive; the rule of force, where only might makes right.
The report of the industrial delegation to the United States of America shows that many of the objects sought by the trade unions of that country have been accomplished. In this connexion, the words of Mr. Snowden, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Ramsay Macdonald Labour Government in England, are of interest. Mr. Snowden said -
The best way to get high wages and high returns for all concerned in industry is to make industry more efficient, and the best results will be obtained only when employers and employees cease to be continually at war and get together for the general good.
I agree with Mr. Snowden that more has been accomplished by peaceful negotiation than by strikes. One of the rules of the British General Federation of Labour is -
To promote industrial peace, and by ali amicable means, such as conciliation, mediation, references, or by the establishment of permanent boards, to prevent strikes or lockouts between employers and workmen, or disputes between trades or organizations. Where differences do occur to assist in their settlement by just and equitable methods.
If a similar rule were adopted in this country the workers would be better off than they are to-day. There is a great contrast between the opinions of the men to whom I have referred and that credited to Mr. Lang, the ex-Premier of New South Wales, in a recent issue of The Labour Baily -
No economic improvement, so far as the workers are concerned, ever emanates from the employing section of the community.
Article No. 1, section 8, of the constitution of the American Federation of Labour reads -
Party politics, whether they be democratic, republican, socialistic, populistic, prohibition, or any other, shall have no place in the conventions of the American Federation of Labour.
All these authorities show that labour can gain more by peaceful negotiation than by direct action. It has been said that this Government arranged for the taking of a referendum at the last election because it required certain powers, which at that time were refused by the people, and that this bill has been introduced with the object of conferring those powers upon the Government.. That is not the case. At present the Commonwealth Government cannot take action when disputes are pending, and it has power to interfere with actual disputes only when they are interstate in character. That anomaly is to be remedied under the bill. Even had the re=ferendum been carried, the introduction of this bill would have been necessary. The present method df arbitration is awkward and expensive. The powers of the judges of the Arbitration Court are limited, and they are unable to make a common rule. In some cases hun’dreds of persons have to be cited as respondents. This procedure would have been unnecessary and the anomalies remedied had the Government been granted the powers that it asked for at the last election.
Clause 51 of the bill relates to the appointment of auditors to examine the accounts of trade unions. This provision has not been discussed to any extent, and I do not know whether it meets with the approval of the Opposition. Trade unions came into existence side by side with friendly societies. In New South Wales a publication is issued annually entitled “Report of Friendly Societies and’ Trades Unions of New South Wales.” Since the first report was issued, trade unions and friendly societies have drifted far apart. Under the law the accounts of friendly societies have to be strictly audited) and are open to the scrutiny of the department. Even the accounts of the individual lodges must be certified to by properly authorized auditors, and insurances must be taken out against embezzlement and defalcations. With trade unions there is a big loophole in the law, and there have been many deficiencies ‘in funds during the last year or two. In one instance the funds of the New South Wales branch of the Federated Felt Hatting Employees’ Union were embezzled to the extent of £650. In another instance that union suffered a loss of £923. The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners also missed £1,500 from its funds.- A few years ago the funds of the Seamen’s Union were practically squandered, because in June, 1924, the cash in hand amounted to only £164 13s,
– Are there not misappropriations among the friendly societies?
– Yes, but there is security in their case in the form of insurance. It would be quite impossible for persons connected with friendly societies to misappropriate large sums of money year after year. Does not the honorable member believe that the funds of the unions should be protected, or would he prefer the present condition’s to continue? The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners lost, through embezzlement, the sum of £1,477 10s.
– -The Main Roads Boards have suffered greater losses than those.
– I am dealing only with the bill before the House.
– But the honorable member has referred to friendly societies.
– I am dealing not with friendly societies, but with trade unions. The man who makes contributions to a friendly society is protected against fraud by law, but the same man paying contributions to a trade union is absolutely unprotected.
– The accounts of the Australian Workers Union are certified to by competent auditors.
– If that is so, the instances of embezzlement and defalcations that I have quoted reflect no credit on them.- The Amalgamated Engineering. Union suffered a loss of £400, and the offender Was sentenced to imprisonment. At a stormy meeting of the waterside workers held on the 23rd February of this year, the accounts were criticized and it was stated that three-quarters of the federation’s income for the half-year had gone towards paying officials’ salaries and expenses. Surely honorable’ members opposite must admit that clause 51, if given effect, would be of benefit to’ the unions. It is strange that they see no good in the bill. It is probable that this provision will be improved at the committee stage, and thus give an additional guarantee of protection to the funds of (he trade unions. In conclusion I wish to quote the statement of Mr. W. A. Appleton, Secretary of the British General Federation of Labour. It reads -
The people £re awakening-‘,- and as they understand themselves arid more clearly understand the facts that govern trade and employment they will demand a form of organization which cares more for trade conservation than for’ trade destruction. Reformed trade unionism will, I believe, readily accept the statement that the whole is greater than the part; that the interests of all the people must come before the interests of any group or section…… It will discountenance strikes which elevate any one section of trade or any particular occupation’ at the expense of others, and its officials will read trade barometers more skillfully than the bureaucrats of Whitehall….. Enlightened by its experiences, it will base its future enterprises upon the certain . knowledge that trade unionism is subsidiary to trade, and that those who needlessly interfere with the steady operation and development of trade are the worst enemies of the trade unionist. The movement may bo expected to bury the “ Red “ flag, and resuscitate the old formula of “neither religion nor politics.” It will enlarge its outlook until this involves consideration of the whole community, and it will, if it realizes the hopes of its well-wishers, come back, after the suffering and loss and disillusionment of these latter days, to that conception of trade unionism set forth in the first rule of the General Federation of Trade Unions.
I commend the views of Mr. Appleton to honorable members opposite as indicating a means whereby the conditions of trade unionism in this country may be improved. In any case the Labour party would do well to adopt an attitude entirely different from that which it has adopted towards this measure and, in fact, towards most measures that have been introduced by this Government.
.- It is not my intention to discuss in detail the provisions of the bill; to do that comprehensively and thoroughly one would require weeks. No doubt, in view of the importance of the measure, the discussion of it will yet occupy many months! Indeed, the need for full discussion is indisputable; the fact that the Attorney General has already given notice of a large number of important amendments indicates that the bill had not been fully considered and digested by the Government before it was presented to the House. Public opinion is just awakening to the significance of these proposals, and honorable members have received numerous communications regarding them from organizations, many of which are not connected in any way with the Labour movement.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Perkins) groped in the dusty recesses of the dim past to steal credit for the antiLabour parties for all the social and political reforms that have been in troduced since the days of Noah. I do not intend to follow the honorable member in his archaeological researches. Suffice it to say that during the last 40 years the Labour party in politics has been the driving force and impulse behind every social advance. It has been the spear-head which has opened a way through the ranks of reaction and won for unionism the rights it now enjoys. Honorable members opposite in discussing this subject are apt to ignore the present day constitution of society, and the leavening forces that are at work in it, and to debate this legislation with a mental outlook and psychology that might have been appropriate 30 or 40 years ago. The fact must be recognized that throughout the world organized labour is demanding more than it has hitherto enjoyed of the products of industry, and its rights are being universally recognized. What the honorable member for Eden-Monaro said about the refusal of American trade unionists to identify themselves with politics has nothing to do with the bill.
There is a striking lack of unanimity amongst honorable members on the ministerial side in regard to the principle of industrial arbitration. Some have advocated, if not in actual words at least by implication, its complete abandonment. Others have expressed their firm adherence to it. Apparently upon this subject the Government parties are without a concrete policy, and their spokesmen show a lack of understanding of trade unionism and its operations. Certainly, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who in earlier years was closely identified with industrial unionism and understands the psychology of - the Labour movement better than does any other honorable member on his side of the House, warned the Government against the coercive features of the bill. One grave defect in the measure is its undoubtedly class character. It is directed solely against one section of the community. The trade unionists of Australia are to be regimented, disciplined and controlled by the Government. They are to lose the ancient British privilege of free assembly and association, and are not to enjoy the rights that are extended to every other assembly or organization in modern civilized society. The Government does not propose to regiment and discipline aggregations of capital or combinations of employers with th& coercive and repressive severities that are prescribed in this bill. We are, therefore, justified in trying to arouse the public to an appreciation of the real purpose of the bill, and its attempted inroad upon the privileges accorded to unionism and for the last quarter of *a century enjoyed without challenge.
I question the statement repeatedly made in the course of this debate that the Government has a mandate - oh, blessed word ! - to introduce this measure. The Attorney-General cannot deny that the bill proposes revolutionary changes in the industrial arbitration policy which were never foreshadowed by the Prime Minister in his policy speech before the last general election. The Government may claim to have given the people notice of certain features of this legislation; but even in regard to them the people could hardly have given a mandate during an election which was won in a time of hysteria on issues which were calculated to excite the passions and fears of the electors, and prevent them from giving calm and unprejudiced consideration to the details of the Government’s policy. Therefore, I maintain that these proposals for the control of unionism were not one of the prominent issues upon which the last general election was fought and won. In confirmation of that statement, I remind the House that when the Government sought from the people, by way of referendum, a direct mandate to effect comprehensive alterations in the arbitration system, the people expressed their suspicion and distrust of the Government’s industrial policy by rejecting the proposals by overwhelming majorities. Therefore, I ask, when and where did the Government get its mandate?
Legislation such as is proposed may be challenged on the ground that no strong body of public opinion except that of a section of employers has demanded it: I have addressed public servants, school teachers, bank clerks, as well as manual workers in opposition to the bill, and have found them unanimously distrustful and hostile to this measure. Deputations have waited upon the Attorney-General, and directed his attention to what they regarded as the iniquitous features of the measure. Much though the Government supporters may prate about the bill being directed to the control of what they loosely term “the red trade unions,” I know that it is resisted by non-political unions of the so-called “ middle-class “ workers that are not affiliated with the labour movement. In other words, the bill meets with the solid opposition of all classes of organized labour in Australia. Ships’ officers, captains, and engineers, the Merchants’ Service Guild, and kindred organizations have expressed their keen opposition to the Government’s proposal, and I remind honorable members that at the 1922 elections, the arbitration rights of the “ middle-class “ workers, which were threatened by certain negotiations between the then Prime Minister and the State Premiers, were a leading issue on the hustings, and committees and organizations were formed to resist the Government’s proposals.
The most important clauses - in regard to which the Government cannot claim to have a direct mandate from the people - are those which have been designed to hobble the arbitration court and destroy its independence. It would have been more courageous and honest for the Government to have prescribed a formula for the guidance of the Arbitration Court than to restrict its powers as it is proposed to do in this bill. The amendment to section 25 of the act is an invasion of the independence of the court. Section 25, in its’ present form, reads as follows : -
In the hearing and determination of every industrial dispute, and in exercising any duties or powers under or by virtue of ‘this act, the court, or the President, shall act according to equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities or legal forms, and shall not be bound by any rules of evidence, but may inform its or his mind on any matter in such manner as it or lie thinks just.
That is the charter under which the court has functioned during the last twenty years. In order to inspire confidence in the public, and trust in the workers, the court was given the widest possible powers to examine claims, and determine them justly on the grounds of equity and good conscience.
– That section is left unaltered.
– Yes, but it is qualified by subsidiary sections, such as 25a which reads as follows : -
The court shall in making its award provide so far as possible for uniformity in an industry in relation to hours of work, holidays, and general conditions.
This proposed new section, if it becomes law, will be a direction from this Parliament to the court not to consider cases in the light of equity and good conscience, but with a view to securing uniformity. The court is bound to follow the directions of this legislature as prescribed by statute, and whatever the opinion of the court may be in the light of evidence it must say that it is bound by this amending bill to prescribe uniformity of conditions in an industry.
A more serious invasion of the rights of the court, however, is contained in the proposed new section 2od of the bill, which will destroy the basic principle of arbitration, and render it useless as far as the workers of Australia are concerned. The proposed new section states -
The court shall, before making any award or certifying any agreement, and in proceedings for the variation and cancellation of an award or agreement, take into consideration the probable economic effect of the agreement or award in relation to the community in general, and the. probable economic effect thereof upon the industry or industries concerned.
This, I presume, means that the court is bound to consider whether or not an industry can afford to pay a living wage. T cannot see how the section can be interpreted in any. other way. If that be the interpretation it would destroy the whole value of the Arbitration Court to organized unionism, because the court would not, in future, be free and independent to determine caaes. It would not have the right to apply the test of equity and good conscience alone when fixing wages or . prescribing conditions, but would have to carry out the directions of this Parliament. ‘ For the last twenty years the court has refused to consider whether an industry could afford to pay a living wage ; the fixed rule has always been that the workers were entitled to that wage. Mr. Justice Higgins, in his book called A New Province for Law and Order, lays it down that a living wage should cover “ the normal needs of an average employee regarded as a human being living in a civilized community.”When it was put to Mr. Justice Higgins in the early days of arbitration that he ought to consider the economic consequences of arbitration awards he laid down the principle that the “living wage should be sacrosanct”; that it should be the first charge on, industry, and that if an industry could not afford to pay that living wage it had no right to exist. To that opinion every honorable member on this side of the House subscribes. What do those persons want who are not prepared to support this principle? Are they prepared to reduce a section of the workers to the condition of serfs, to take away their present standard of living, and put them on a wage that is inadequate to supply their needs? In my opinion, behind this amending law is the desire of the Government to break down the principle of the living wage that has remained unchallenged during the last . twenty years.
– Unfortunately, there are many persons engaged in the primary industries who are not receiving a living wage.
– That may be, but we are not dealing with that matter now, and it does not justify destroying the living wage principle.
–Then there is only a limited application of the principle even now.
– I object to the charge against the workers that they are entirely responsible for this allegedly vicious circle of rising costs and rising wages.
– I have not suggested that.
– Perhaps not, but others have. Why are wages high now, when they were low before the war? I maintain that the present high wages are the result of the profiteering tactics, employed so freely during the war, which have increased the cost of living, but not the workers standards.
Mr.Fenton.- The workers have to pay too many hangers-on in industry.
– That is so. The trade unions are not responsible for the increase in the costs of production. When they go to the Arbitration Court for an increase, they have to satisfy the court that the cost of living entitles them to that increase. Therefore, the increase in the cost of living must always precede the increase in wages. I repudiate the slanderous suggestions of honorable members opposite, that the unions are avaricious and are always asking for more than their fair share of the proceeds of industry. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the unions are not getting what they are justly entitled to. They have lost a percentage of the margin which was given to them by Mr. Justice Higgins, in the Harvester award twenty years- ago. To return to what the honorable member said about the primary producers-
– I am not referring ta the workers in primary industries, but to the primary producers themselves.
– We do not say that the primary producers should not get more, but we do maintain that the workers should not receive less.
– Instead of talking about the inefficiency of the workers, and the slowing down of production, honorable members opposite would show more patriotism as Australians if they turned their attention to ensuring greater efficiency in the management and control of industry. The middlemen, parasitical growths that have battened upon primary producers and industry, have added to the cost of production, and rendered it difficult for us to carry on with the standard of living that we enjoy. in this country. Our primary producers will never succeed merely by cavilling against high wages. Their problems may be overcome by co-operation and by various other means which will enable them to thrive under existing standards.
There is too much talk in . this Parliament about the alleged wrongdoing of the worker. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) referred briefly and loosely to misappropriation on the part of two or three union secretaries - occurrences probably spread over the last twenty years.
The honorable member ‘did not give dates, nor did he tell us of other misappropriations that are occurring every day ; of the activities of “ snide “ speculative enterprises, the watering of stock, and the many doubtful operations of capitalistic concerns in this and every other country of the world. The sins and mistakes that are attributed to unionism are as nothing when compared with the other important matters to which this Government should turn its attention. The suggestion has been seriously made that the defalcations that take place in unions are of a very extensive nature. Taken generally, the unions are well managed, and there is a very small measure of scandal associated with their administration when the vast ramifications of unionism in Australia are considered.
Let me return to the proposed new section 25d which stipulates that the economic conditions of industry shall be. taken into consideration before an award is made. We hear much loose talk from honorable members opposite to the effect that the protective policy of Australia has tended to increase wages, whilst, on the other hand, the Tariff Board blamed the unions for persistently going to the Arbitration Court and asking for increased wages. I have stated previously, and I now re-affirm with emphasis, that the unions can obtain no more from the Arbitration Courts than the cost of living entitles them to receive. Wages are not responsible for the artificial conditions in which Australia is said to exist. Those conditions are due to the natural development of the country, arising from the consequences of the world war, and are bound up with the protective policy to which this Parliament gives overwhelming support. Those who declare that existing conditions are due to prevailing wages have failed to give the subject the consideration that it deserves. Any one who has studied the problem knows well that a drastic cutting of wages would end in disaster to Australia.
– Even Mr. Marks, the chairman of the Chamber of Manufacturers, made a similar statement to that in response to the suggestions made by Mr. John Brown.
– That is so. . It is well known that although it is comparatively easy to increase wages, it is practically impossible to reduce them. In addition to the basic wage, Arbitration Courts also determine what is known as the “secondary” wage or “margin for skill,” which in the words of Mr. Justice Higgins is defined as -
The extra payment to be made for trained skill or for exceptional qualities necessary for an employee exercising the functions required.
What is meant by the “basic” wage principle? The doctrine of a basic wage was first propounded as far back as 1890, by Sir Samuel Griffith, then Premier of Queensland, when he incorporated in a Parliamentary bill a clause to this effect -
The natural and proper measure of wages is such a sum as is fair immediate recompense for the labour for which they are paid having regard to its character and duration; but it can never be taken at a less sum than such as is sufficient to maintain the labourer and his family in a state of health and reasonable comfort. It is the duty of the State to make provision by positive law for securing the proper distribution of the net products of labour in acordance with the principles herein declared.
The bill in question never became law, but the same principle was enunciated in the New South Wales Arbitration Court in somewhat similar terms by Mr. Justice Heydon in 1905. In spite, however, of these pronouncements and the fact that wage-fixing tribunals had been in operation as early as 1896, in the State of Victoria, it was not until 1907 that the first basic wage, as such, was declared by a court in Australia. This declaration was made by His Honour Mr. Justice Higgins, President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and is popularly known as the “ Harvester judgment “ on account of its having been determined in connexion with H. V. McKay’s Sunshine Harvester Works. The rate of wage declared in this case was. 7s. per diem, or £2 2s. per week for Melbourne, the amount considered reasonable for “a family of about five.” The constituent parts of this amount were £1 5s. 7d. for food, 7s. for rent, and 9s. 5d. for all other expenditure. This rate has since been varied in conformity with the rise in the cost of living, and now includes the sum of 3s. which was added in 1921 for the purpose of securing to the worker during a period of rising prices the full equivalent of the “Harvester “ standard. I am at a loss to to understand what is the motive of the Government in trying to destroy the principle of the basic wage, as is indicated by the wording of proposed new section 25n. In the early days of Federal arbitration, following on the Harvester judgment, there were calamity howlers among employers, who contended that industry would be ruined by the fixation of a living wage. The mine-owners of Broken Hill went before Mr. Justice Higgins immediately after the Harvester judgment was made and stated that they could not afford to pay the living wage, owing to the economic condition of their industry. Mr. Justice Higgins in his judgment on their application said -
When the Proprietary Company asks me to fix award wages lower than are proper for the industry as a whole, and adduces as its reason the fact that the mine is now poor and is becoming poorer, ‘ I cannot discern either justice or . expediency in the request. Ordinarily, if a mine has not payable ore, the owners cease to work it.
First of all, is an employer who is poor to be ordered to pay as high wages as an employer who is rich? Now, without laying down a rule absolute and unconditional, under all circumstances, I s’trongly hold the view that, unless the circumstances are very exceptional, the needy employer should, under an award, pay at the same rate as his richer rival. It would not otherwise be possible to prevent the sweating of employees, the growth of parasitic enterprises, the spread of industrial unrest - unrest which it is the function of the court to allay. If a man’ cannot maintain his enterprise without cutting down the wages which are proper to be paid to his employees - at all events the wages which are essential to their living - it would be better that he should abandon the enterprise. This is the view independently adopted by Mr. Justice Gordon in Adelaide, and by Mr. Justice Burnside, in Western Australia. The former said, in the brushmakers’ case “ if any particular industry cannot keep going and pay its employees at least 7s. a day of eight hours, it must shut up.” In the Collie miners case, Mr. Justice Burnside refused an application of the employers to lower the minimum, and said, “ If the industry cannot pay that price, it had better stop and let some other industry absorb the workers.”
For- twenty years, therefore, arbitration courts have refused to take into consideration the probable economic effect of their awards ; they have laid down the sacred principle that the living or basic wage should be sacrosanct. I therefore regard clause 2od as the most serious provision in the measure. It is the one for which there is the least justification; indeed there is an absolute absence of warranty for it. It cuts right across the accepted principles of arbitration, and destroys the independence of the judiciary, which should determine the matters that come before it free of parliamentary direction, or political prejudice, and in the light of evidence.
– It does not compel the court to do anything.
– It does compel it. The clause says - “ The court shall.”
– Nevertheless, it cannot compel the court.
Mr- COLEMAN. - I do not know how the honorable member can argue in .that way. This court owes its existence, to a statute of this Parliament, and in that respect its position is quite different from that of the High Court.
– The arbitration judges have a life tenure, and no Government can interfere with them.
– I appeal to the Attorney-General to bear me out when I say that the Arbitration Court must be guided by the statutes of, and is bound to follow the directions of this Parliament. Here are the words of the AttorneyGeneral in his second-reading speech.
This Parliament cannot prescribe what awards the Arbitration Court shall make, but it can require the court to take into consideration the economic effect of its awards.
The Minister’s use of the word “ require “ indicates that Parliament can insist on the Arbitration Court taking into consideration those very things which the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) says the court need not take into consideration. This provision of the bill, and other qualifying provisions which direct the court to establish uniformity, and intended to direct the court, and no amount of cavilling or hairsplitting criticism can get away from that fact. I challenge honorable members on the Ministerial side to justify this drastic alteration in the principles of arbitration. They will not get one organization of professional men or manual workers in any part of Australia to concede that it is in keeping with the principles of arbitration to direct the court to take into consideration the probable economic effect of an award.
– The provision in the bill must have been intended to have some effect.
– That is so. No attempt was made to explain it in the second-reading speech of the Attorney General beyond the one sentence I have quoted. No attempt has been made to elaborate it. Prom my viewpoint it dwarfs into insignificance all the other clauses of the bill. If the court was doing what the Government intended it to do there would be no reason for its insertion. It has been put in the bill for no other purpose than to direct, guide, and influence the Arbitration Court. When it becomes part of our statute law that the court is directed to establish uniformity, and take into consideration the economic effect of its awards; let us see what will happen. A union official will appear in the court in support of a log or plaint. On behalf of his union he will apply for. the increased margin due to the cost of living, in addition to the preservation of the margin allowed for skill. But the presiding judge will say, “A new principle has been introduced into the determination of these cases. I must first of all satisfy myself as to the probable economic effect of this award. Can the industry pay the wages desired ? “ A discus- ‘ sion will then arise between the employers and the employees. All that the employers will have to do is to present facts to show that they are not paying dividends, and are not in a position to meet the workers’ claim; and the burden of establishing the economic ability of the industry will be. thrown upon the union official.
– Who will not have access to the fact3.
– Furthermore, the judge will not be in a position to determine the matter as he would if he enjoyed judicial independence. He will have to take into consideration facts that if he were free he might not consider. The unions, and certainly the judiciary, will be placed in an invidious position. I know of no previous instance in Australia in which an attempt . has been made to hobble, direct, or control arbitration, courts. One of the sacred principles of British justice is the absolute independence of the judiciary of parliamentary direction. It appears to me that the Government is asking the Arbitration Court to do something which it should do itself. If it really thinks that the economic conditions in Australia require the abandonment, alteration, or restriction of the existing wage standard, it should have the courage to introduce legislation to deal with the matter, and should not throw the responsibility on a court which is removed from the influence of public opinion. On this subject there has been a complete absence of frankness on the part of the AttorneyGeneral.
Another provision of the bill requires the court to consider the effect of agreements. It empowers the court to refuse to certify agreements. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have already dealt effectively with this provision, and I need say very little in regard to it. There is no justification for it. If employers are willing to enter into agreements with their employees to give them a larger margin of the profits earned by the industry, there is no justification for any interference by the Arbitration Court with such arrangements.
– The provision of the bill kills conciliation.
– It does. The specious argument advanced by the Government that these arrangements might serve to increase prices will not stand examination, because there are other ways of dealing with employers and others who conspire to increase prices unduly than that of restricting these agreements. For instance, Parliament could pass legislation controlling profits and fixing prices. But those are means which this Government has never attempted to apply.
The Government has approached the industrial problem from the wrong angle. The question has not received the consideration its importance warrants. If the Government had had any desire to keep the issue a non-party one, it should have had the fullest possible consultation with those who were likely to be affected by the legislation it was about to introduce. Ministers say very glibly that this bill is the result of consultation with the unions of Australia, but except in regard to one or two minor features there is no evidence in the bill itself of any such consultation. I make bold to say that the great majority of the proposals it contains are the outcome of consultation with organizations of employers, and are based upon the prejudices of the AttorneyGeneral as a leading advocate for the employers before the Arbitration Court.
– That is merely insulting.
– The honorable member may take it as such, but the inference to be drawn from the character of the legislation he has introduced can lead one to no other conclusion than that which I have mentioned. The Attorney- ‘ General claims that the representations of the unions have received adequate consideration, but the bill certainly does not indicate that those representations have received sympathetic consideration.
The bill seeks to restrict the right of trade unions to approach the Federal Arbitration Court. Here again there is an attempt to interfere with the autonomy of the court. At present, by virtue of its own authority, it can refuse to hear claims that are made by various organizations; it can refer them back to State tribunals. But the Attorney-General is now practically making it mandatory for the court to first determine whether it should hear such cases. When an application comes before the Arbitration Court it will be first required to decide whether it is expedient to hear it or whether the claim should go before a State tribunal. The Attorney-General said in his second-reading speech -
Section 38 of the present act enables the court to decline to deal with a dispute if it thinks it desirable that the matter should be dealt with by a State tribunal; but this clause imposes upon the court the obligation in every case to consider whether it is better for the court to deal with it or to refer it to a State authority.
Further limitations are thus to be imposed on the authority of the Federal Arbitration Court. The first argument an organization - a State instrumentality for example - will have to meet when it goes before the Federal Court will be whether the. case in which it is concerned should be heard before the Federal Court or before a State tribunal. Again, I say there is no warranty for this interference with the freedom of the Aribtratior Court.
It is also doubtful .whether certain of the provisions of this bill are constitutional. For instance, under one provision the Federal Court can prevent a State authority from dealing with a dispute, or can declare that State laws or awards are invalid. Apart altogether from the constitutionality of this provision, I question whether it is in conformity with democratic principles. An overwhelming majority of electors in New South Wales may resolve to fix a higher basic wage, or limit the hours of labour, but under the amendment to clause 30 of this amending bill the Federal Arbitration Court, i if it is called upon to make an award, may override all the industrial statutes passed by the New South Wales Parliament. It is preposterous that a court of three judges should overrule the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the people of a State. In this case also I claim that there is no warranty for amending the act. It may be argued that it is part of the Government’s policy to prevent the overlapping of awards, but there are more ways than one of dealing with that problem, and it could well be relegated to some future date, after there has been the fullest possible opportunity for consultation with those who are most concerned, and who are likely to be affected by the change.
The Attorney-General has been trying to palliate the criticism which has been expressed from this side of the chamber of clause 7, dealing with declarations as to the existence of a lockout or strike. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has most effectively exposed the fallacy of this proposed amendment, and has shown that in certain circumstances it legalizes lockouts. I dismiss the suggestion that it is to apply to strikes.
The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), during his speech, said that that particular provision had been inserted to deal with a situation such as that which developed last year, when the engineers were engaged in an industrial dispute with their employers. In his concluding remarks the honorable gentleman exposed both himself and the Government to contempt, by suggesting that there is no way to deal with those situations other than to allow the employers to use direct action and to starve the workers into submission. The suggestion that a strike will be legalized under this pro- vision is palpably absurd. A further example of the specious phraseology of the bill is found in the provision which relates to the taking of a ballot on the question of a strike. Here again, it would appear that a strike is legalized; but a further examination of the bill shows that that is not so. An overwhelming majority of workers in an industry can observe the requirements of the court and of this statute and vote for a strike; or during the existence of a lockout they can go on strike ; yet they will be liable to various penalties, including a fine and the cancellation of the registration of the union. When one examines the bill from every angle one is convinced that it is directed against organized unionism. To my mind it has been carelessly drafted. The features that have been referred to so aptly and eloquently by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) clearly show that anomalies will be created if the bill is passed in its present form. The prescription of reduced penalties in the case of unions which expel officials and members who have participated in a strike betrays a peculiarly distorted mentality and a misunderstanding of trade unionism. The Attorney-General has attributed many strikes to union officials. I quote his own words -
It is obvious in some cases that union officers are afraid that if they have not a dispute in progress it might be thought by someone who is anxious to get their job that they are not doing their work properly.
A little while ago the honorable gentleman interjected that one of my remarks was insulting. His covert sneer, in the quotation I have just made, at a lawabiding body of citizens, the overwhelming majority of whom are striving night and day to preserve peace in industry not only out of a desire for peace, but also for their own contentment of mind and personal security, is to be deplored. His language, too, does not convey a correct idea of the real position. I was a union official for fourteen or fifteen years, during which I was associated first with the
Seamen’s Union of Australia and subsequently with a clerical organization. Therefore, I am in a position to realize what a very big- part union officials play in preserving industrial peace in industry. The expression of such an opinion proves how little the Attorney-General understands the problem with which he is confronted.
Another provision that merits disapprobation is that which legalizes the expulsion of members who go on strike. If a union should expel any of its members for “striking” it will receive the benediction of the court and the Government, and be applauded for its act. That is the only instance of lawful expulsion that the measure contemplates. If, on the other hand, a union should expel any of its members for anti-union conduct, or for breaches of its rules in relation to any other question than that of a strike, it will incur the displeasure of the court and be liable to the penalties prescribed by the measure.
It has been suggested .by various speakers from this side that the bill in reality converts the arbitration law into a new criminal code. The bill certainly has a very strong flavour of the criminal code, because it not only provides the alternative penalty of imprisonment with hard labour for certain offences, but also sets out that the judge may insist upon a bond of upwards of £500 being lodged by a union as a guarantee that it will be of good behaviour during the currency of an award. A struggling organization may not be in a position to give such a security, but that may not be regarded as an excuse. Should any union refuse to do so, the court may decline to make an award. Even if we were to admit that there are strikes and breaches of the law, such a requirement is an insult to the lawabiding unions in Australia to-day. The Attorney-General certainly watered down, as a result of the amount of public criticism which was directed against it, the provision which gave to the court the power to smash unions, following upon their deregistration for offences against the law; but he has substituted a clause which also will require explanation. An organization is still to have an existence, even after it has. been deregistered by the court; but the question will arise whether the powers which were contemplated under the amendment orginally proposed cannot take effect under the provisions of the Crimes Act. Certainly no government that has introduced a bill providing for such a savage penalty as the absolute destruction of a union following upon its deregistration can claim to be friendly disposed towards trade unionism. The mere intent is sufficient to satisfy the unions of Australia’ that there is no substance in the hypocritical profession that the Government is well disposed towards them.
May I make a brief reference to the provisions that deal with the taking of secret ballots. They are palpably undemocratic. The provision which makes it possible for ten disgruntled individuals in an organization comprising 20,000 or 30,000 employees to demand a secret ballot has received the condemnation of every organization of wage and salary earners. It is preposterous to make it possible for a ballot to be demanded on every question. The Labour party is not opposed to the principle of a secret ballot. But whatever mandate the Government may claim to have to provide for secret ballots on general principles, it certainly has no justification for giving to ten men the power to upset the administration of a large organization.
Reference has been made to the penal clauses, in their relation to persons who obstruct the taking of a ballot under the agis of the court. One of their worst features is that any man who counsels another not to vote is liable to a fine of £50 or imprisonment for six months. Even if that were recognized as an admissible offence the penalty is completely out of proportion to the gravity of the alleged offence. It is proposed to make a criminal of a man who, upon a political or industrial issue, exercises his right to freedom of speech and freedom of conscience by urging another to have nothing to do with a ballot. It is preposterous and outrageous to make such a man liable to imprisonment for six months. The Government may sneer at our attacks upon the coercive character of this bill, and the penalties it provides, but that clause in itself is sufficient to damn the measure.
The provision which deals with the control of the internal administration of the unions can be dealt with more extensively in committee. The autonomy of unions is to be interfered with. It is proposed to control the admission of individuals to unions. The whole of the rules of a union are to be subject to the strict censorship of the court. The members of the unions themselves will not have the right to govern their organizations. These provisions certainly make the bill comparable in many respects with the new industrial code that is a feature of Fascism in Italy. The ultimate outcome will be the removal of practically every union in Australia from the register of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court if the bill is enforced. There are also other absurd penalties. For example, there is the penalty of £20 for daring to criticize a judgment of the Arbitration Court at a meeting of a union.
– There is no provision in the bill relating to criticism of a judgment of the Arbitration Court.
– The proposed new section 86c provides -
Any person who, at any meeting of an organization, or of a branch of an organization, or of the committee of management of any organization, or of a branch of such committee, or at any public meeting, moves, seconds, or puts to the meeting any resolution the terms of which are abusive of, or insulting to, the court or any judge or officer thereof, or which is in contempt of the court, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Twenty pounds.
– Exactly; but that is very different from what the honorable member said it was.
– I do not think there is any difference. The term “ abusive of the court “ could be construed so as to include almost anything. It certainly is a new principle in industrial law, to debar members of a union who are assembled to discuss the policy cif their organization from criticizing a judge or the Arbitration Court, and, presumably a determination of the court, and to fix the absurdly high penalty of £20 for such an offence. It is monstrous. It will be seen that a novel and an entirely, new code is to be applied to trade unionism. There are to be special penalties, special forms of punishment, and a special procedure.
– Unionists are to be regarded as quasi criminals.
– That is so. Another provision relates to the publication of a resolution that may criticize the court. A newspaper that merely publishes the report of a meeting at which such a resolution was carried is liable to a fine of £100. Would we be extravagant if we said that with the passage of this bill Australia would be returning to the dark ages when the right of free discussion was denied? Under this proposal, freedom of speech with regard to industrial matters is to become, in certain circumstances, a criminal, offence. If one considers the logical effect of the proposed penalties, one finds that it is not a matter of one penalty for one crime, because in certain instances- a fine of £100 or £500 as the case may be, does not expiate the conduct to which exception has been taken. The court may also de-register a union, and it may inflict penalties on the persons whose actions have led to the deregistration. This is all out of keeping with the ordinary principles of criminal and other legal procedure.
Why is section 61 to be deleted? This reads -
During the pendency of any dispute or matter before the court, no resignation of or discharge from the membership of any organization shall have effect.
I read the Attorney-General’s speech on the bill, and I believe he mentioned that he knew of one or two cases in which unions had “ unfairly “ refused to accept resignations.
– This section has never been challenged in 24 years.
– Of course not. It was put into the statute, after the most careful consideration, in order to prevent victimization. It was the habit a few years ago - and judging by certain affidavits sent to honorable members last week it is likely to apply even to-day - when application was made for a federal award, for employers in certain industries to bulldoze and threaten their employees, either forcing them to leave their unions or dismissing them from their employment. -That section of the act was inserted in order to prevent conduct of that kind, and the mere fact that the AttorneyGeneral thinks that anomalies have occurred in one or two cases is not sufficient to justify its removal. The professional classes of. employees will resent its deletion most strongly. I believe that, but for this provision bank clerks, journalists and others would have been unable to secure awards, because, as soon as they lodged their claims an inquisition was begun by employers in banks, newspaper offices and elsewhere to find out which of their employees belonged to unions. These employees were intimidated; but this section has proved extremely valuable in protecting them. Simply because one or two cases of hardship have arisen, the Government proposes to delete the section, although the proper and honorable course would have been to amend it acording to the needs of the case.
Another remarkable feature of the bill is that the welfare of the legal profession is to be safeguarded by the amendment of that section requiring that barristers or solicitors may appear only by mutual consent of the parties.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should like just two minutes more.
– I move -
That the honorable member’s time be extended.
– I object!
– The “ gag “ is starting early.
– That is not so. It is not the usual custom to extend the time of honorable members throughout a debate.
– The Government is adopting an extraordinary attitude, and one in keeping with the bill.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– The courtesy of an extension of time has been shown to a large number of speakers. I do not know whether you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have forbidden this extension, in exercise of your authority, or whether you merely consider that the honorable member for Reid has spoken long enough to explain his views. We should at least know why the courtesy of an extension was not given to the honorable member, who was dealing with a subject of grave importance to the people of Australia.
– Leave to an honorable member to continue to speak after the expiration of the time allotted to him by the Standing Order can be given only with the unanimous consent of the House. In this case there was an objection.
– The only objection came from the whip to the Nationalist party, and as he interjected while sitting on the Ministers’ bench, I submit that he was out of order, and notice should not be taken of his objection.
– I welcome this measure as an opportunity for a general consideration of the principles underlying compulsory arbitration. In so far as the bill is designed to make perfect an imperfect system, I am not very enthusiastic about it, and in so far as it may be regarded as an attempt to unduly discipline the unions, I think that undue concern has been shown on the part of the Opposition. I believe, however, that the Government is sincere in its desire to provide extended facilities for conciliation, and additional machinery to prevent overlapping, and to ensure control of the unions by the unionists themselves. After all, union regulations are in essence part of the laws of the land. In the main, these regulations confer punitive powers, and they have received legal recognition to the extent that power has been granted to the unions to enforce them. No body of men has a right to apply punitive rules for the conduct of its own affairs unless it has obtained legislative sanction. Personally, I see no objection to that on the principles of true unionism. But I am not concerned so much with that phase of the subject, because I believe that the central compulsory system of arbitration - our federal system - is unsound. After 24 years of operation, and the exercised patience by the nation, it has failed the worker, the employer, and industry. It has failed all those who originally believed in it. It failed its founders as a great ideal for the settlement of industrial disputes, the betterment of the conditions of the workers and the improvement of industry. It has now left the workers of Australia, on the statement of the Leader of the Opposition, 5 per cent, less value for their wages than they had in 1922. It has failed completely to give the Australian worker any clear money. It has failed industry, in so far as the economic conditions were never more unsound than they are to-day. It has failed the nation that set up the great ideal of finding a peaceful solution of the problem of the world-wide discord between employer and employee.
I was an interested observer of the work of a commission that the present Government recently sent to the United States of America to investigate the industrial and economic conditions there, and bring back a report in order that we might have a great national overhaul of the industrial life of Australia. In place of that overhaul I find this bill, a quite insufficient measure, in my judgment, to effect the fundamental change necessary for the national stocktaking that is long overdue. I give the Government credit for desiring to honour promises made to the electors, and, in so far as this bill represents the Government’s fulfilment of election promises, I shall support it to the second reading stage; but, like other honorable members, I reserve to myself the right to deal with each clause on its merits in committee. The Government should also listen to the views of experienced leaders of the trade union movement. This Parliament should take its courage in its hands, and the Ministry should call a continent-wide conference on industrialism. We should invite the States and the leaders of industry on both sides - but particularly let us have the States - to confer and thus get a form of industrial inquiry such as we have never had before. Let us decide whether we made a national blunder in establishing a central compulsory arbitration system. The Commonwealth should take the first step towards curing the national economic ills from which the nation is suffering by completely evacuating the whole field of industrial control, except only so far as the members of the Commonwealth Public Service, and perhaps those employed in maritime occupations in our. territorial waters. Close examination will show that there is no difference in essence and reality between taking off the wool clip and the wheat harvest in the different ‘States. One industry is no more federal in character than the other.
In my opinion, the time has arrived when representatives of the Commonwealth should confer with representatives of the States with a view to surrendering to the States complete and absolute control over all industries. After all, who could be more jealous custodians and guardians of the interests of the States and their workers than the State authorities themselves, which have a close and almost domestic knowledge of their industries and the requirements of their people. I am not one of those who believe in uniform industrial legislation for a continent such as Australia, because the conditions of the various States differ to a marked extent, and the industries of the States also differ. I do not consider that conditions” made to apply to industries in the eastern States, or in cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, should also be applied to similar industries in Tasmania or Western Australia, States whose population is smaller where development in a more backward state and the local market is also smaller. Industries in the smaller States now experience many handicaps, and owing to their distance from the eastern States, have not the same favorable local market. If we were only whole-hearted in this matter we could, while conserving the interests of employers and employees, remould our industrial and’ .economic conditions.
Prior to the vote on the last referendum, I was taunted with being an extremist. It was said that there -were extremists on both sides of the referendum question, and that they were the only people who were in opposition to the Government’s proposals. I emphasize, however, that on three different occasions an attempt has been made by different Governments to give the Commonwealth Parliament complete power in the matter of industrial legislation, and each time the people have refused. When the proposal to hold a referendum was last under consideration, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and myself were the only members in this chamber who adopted the unpopular attitude of opposing the Government’s proposal. We were taunted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) with being extremists. But what was theresult of the vote on that occasion ? In four States the referendum was defeated, and in only two was it carried. The majority against the Government’s proposal was 372,567. But what happened in the electorates? My own electorate was the only one in Victoria that supported its member. My majority at the last general election was 3,173; but the majority in my electorate against the referendum - which I had opposed - was 14,721. The majority of the Prime Minister in Flinders at the last election was 13,425; but in regard to the referendum his minority was 7,791 ; he thus went to the bad to the extent of 21,216 votes.
– What does that show ? Mr. RODGERS.- The honorable member must draw his own deduction. The Attorney-General had an election majority of 19,290 in Kooyong, but in regard to the referendum there was a minority there of 8,523, so that he went to the bad to the extent of 27,823 votes. There must be a number of extremists in Kooyong. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) had an election majority of 20,841 votes in the Yarra electorate, but on the referendum a minority of 10,593, or an actual minority of 31,434. These figures will show that the leaders who taunted us with being extremists found that there were extremists in their own constituencies far out numbering their followers. What does a serious consideration of this question disclose? It shows that the, Australian people are awake to the fact that a central compulsory arbitration system is a vehicle which travels at a caterpillar rate, and arrives too late to be of service. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court frequently only commences to function long after a dispute occurs, and has to make retrospective awards to overcome its own shortcoming. Yet it is the instrument on which we rely to adjust the disputes which frequently arise in connexion with wages and conditions. It is time we called a halt, and made a serious attempt to adopt modern methods.
I have listened patiently to honorable members on both sides of the chamber who have presented the case for and against this bill, and have come to the conclusion that some members of Parliament are among the worst interpreters of public opinion. Arbitration, as a world system, has much to commend it. It is a system of give and take, after consultation. But there is a great difference between arbitration and compulsory arbitration. Under the system of central compulsory arbitration this nation’s industries are held in shackles. At this moment, while we are considering a measure to improve our arbitration system, there is a good deal of unemployment in the land, notwithstanding that there is much work waiting to be done. There are many honest employers in this country who would provide emergency work of some kind to give employment in needy cases ; but they are rigidly bound and tied by awards of the Arbitration Court, under which remuneration and industrial conditions are fixed. These prevent helpful assistance to unemployed except on the most rigid court terms. The fact that high wages are provided under industrial awards, and that certain social standards are to be observed, is of little benefit to thousands who are unemployed, and cannot participate in them. Personally, I should like to see a change of heart in the community, and good faith substituted for compulsory arbitration. I should prefer in industrial disputes to allow some one like the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), representing the workers of Australia, and a reasonable man representing the employers, to decide what was fair and just for our workmen, to retaining the present costly litigious system. I have no faith in a system which elevates men, trained in the law, to an industrial tribunal, leaving them to determine industrial conditions of which they know but little, just as they know but little of the bitter struggles and trials through which the workers and employers have come. Yet it is such men who make the awards which the whole nation has to obey. .
– It is madness.
– It is at total variance with what is happening elsewhere throughout the world. New Zealand was really the first to introduce compulsory arbitration, but it must be remembered, in considering any success which has followed in New Zealand, that there are very few secondary industries there. It is only of recent years that New Zealand has commenced manufacturing. New Zealand is a small country, her industries are mainly rural, and are conducted principally by families who own the land they use. Therefore, the results of compulsory arbitration in New Zealand, and the fact that there are very few industrial disputes in the dominion, are not of much guidance to us.
The worker is not always wrong. I do not always blame the worker. He sometimes has to contend with conditions that more than test his humanity. But while we are here endeavouring to improve this industrial legislation, certain unionists - the marine cooks - are out on strike in contempt of the court, and are holding up our great coastal shipping trade. If the Commonwealth Parliament would drop its compulsory arbitration system it would be able to handle national questions, to develop Australia, and leave to the States the warring industrial interests of the community to settle as they think best. What judges are we, in this central Parliament at Canberra, of the industrial conditions best suited to, say, Western Australia or Tasmania? We frame laws here for governing a great continent, some of which are checking and stifling industry. I have referred to the report presented by the Industrial Delegation which visited America. In their minority report, Mr. Grayndler and Mr. Mcinnes states -
In pur opinion the real cause of success in American manufactures is the efficiency of management and supervision, machinery and equipment, up-to-date organization of plant, material and men, combined with large and cheap supplies of power, and behind these factors stands “ scientific research,” the whole being based on a market of 118,000,000 people.
On the other hand the .report submitted by Mr. H. E. Guy states -
In regard to conciliation and arbitration, there is a consensus of opinion that any form of compulsory arbitration would not be tolerated in America. Employers and employees are equally emphatic in this regard. The prevailing idea is that nothing should be done to hamper freedom of intercourse between those engaged in industry, and that every means should be adopted to forward progress. Whatever may be said of compulsory arbitration it is certain that it ‘does not encourage mutuality between employers and employees.
The central idea is strife - the engendering of disputes so as to get to court - before nonpractical men. In America when a difference of opinion ocurs the parties refer the question to some one conversant with the industry. This ensures respect on both sides for the decision. Such a course of dealing between employer and employee is of course more possible where industry unions prevail.
I have quoted “one of the deductions drawn by Mr. Grayndler and his colleague for which there is much to be said. In Australia, of course, we have a population of under 7,000,000 persons, and consequently our home market is limited. Having examined very closely existing rural conditions I have no hesitation in saying that there is a marked disproportion between the social, industrial, and economic conditions existing in primary and secondary industries. The primary industries are staggering under a load of economic inequality. . Our secondary industries enjoy artificial conditions which have not been provided for our primary industries and are placing a burden upon them which they are unable to stand. I do not specially seek to blame either the Government or the Opposition for our present troubles, but this Parliament is blameworthy for not finding a remedy for them. This bill is not a remedy for the economic ills from which the nation is suffering. Whether we like it or not, the truth is that owing to false economic laws and excessive cost of production Australia cannot sell the products of her secondary industries, or of some of her primary industries, in the markets of the world. Wheat and wool, and to a lesser extent, meat, are the only Australian industries which can hold their heads up against our false economic conditions. None of our secondary industries and few of our primary industries are able to make progress under the conditions which have been prescribed by the Arbitration Court, even though some of our primary industries like fruitgrowing, wine making,’ &c, receive a bounty in Australia and a preference in Great Britain.
We talk a lot about our high social standards. Who enjoys them? Do our thousands of unemployed, our soldier settlers in outside rural areas, our dairy farmers, our potato and onion growers, or our orchardists? They do not. If we are to have high social standards they should be made possible of enjoyment by every class in the community. Such social advantages as we have to-day are maintained on borrowed money, and not because the nation is producing sufficient wealth to justify them. The Leader of the Opposition told us that the high wages which the worker enjoys to-day are worth 5 per cent, less to him than the wages he received in 1922. It is apparent, therefore, that these standards cannot be maintained under the present artificial conditions. The economic condition of the nation is, in my opinion, deplorable. Prior to 1914 the Commonwealth had no public debt. It owed £19,000,000 in respect of transferred properties and certain trust funds, but it had floated no loans. It now owes £366,611,000. The States in June, 1914, had a total public debt of £320,000,000, on which they paid interest at the rate of £3 12s. 6d. per cent. Since 1914 the State debts have increased to £677,121,000, and the rate of interest has gone up to £4 18s. 2d. per cent. In the last thirteen years, therefore, the States have borrowed the colossal sum of £356,866,000- more money than they borrowed in the previous 59 >years that followed the granting of responsible government. This is additional evidence that our industries cannot maintain the burdens piled on them or the present false standards. Courts or no courts, judges” or no judges, we should face the fact that our economic position is unsound, and it is regrettable that this Parliament seems to be afraid to do so.
Such measures as that we are now considering do not touch the “ root of our troubles. I suggest that the Commonwealth Government should call the State Governments into conference, with the object of considering ways and means of counteracting our economic drift. I suggest also that we should allow each State to manage its own industrial affairs. Such a system would be more plastic than our present centralized, uniform and rigid method.
I trust that I shall not be charged with making inflammatory speeches. I feel keenly that we have taken the wrong industrial road. I recognize that the Australian worker is entitled to fair and honest conditions. He is not the first man who should be penalized. What we need more than anything else is a reduction of the cost of living and of production to such a point that we can place our industries upon a competitive basis. It is essential also that the interest rate on money should be reduced and that rents should be lowered. As things are to-day, our industries are shackled. It is impossible for a young Australian, with even a little capital - his savings - to set himself up in either primary or secondary industries, and it should not be so. While Parliament allows our present unsound economic position to continue, it stands condemned. We are standing idly by while Australia is drifting, and our economic clutch is slipping.
.- In the course of the policy speech which the Prime Minister delivered prior to the last election, he invited the electors of the Commonwealth to compare the programme of the Government with that of the Opposition, and to vote conscientiously for what they believed to be the best interests of the community. He also stated that the supremacy of Parliament had been challenged by certain extremists who had captured the Labour organizations of Australia. He made it clear that in his opinion the majority of the working class of Australia entirely disapproved of the methods which were adopted by a few busy agitators, whose main business appeared to be to foment industrial strife, and to preach class hatred and direct industrial action. The right honorable gentleman made it quite clear that if his Government were returned to power, it would do its utmost to exterminate Soviet propagandists, who were spreading their nefarious doctrines throughout the Commonwealth. In order to enable the Government to do all that it desired to do in this respect, the Prime Minister asked for a clear mandate from the people, and he received it, for ministerial candidates were returned with an overwhelming majority.
It stands to the credit of the BrucePage Government that during the last two years no less than four attempts have been made to find a solution of our industrial troubles.
The first administrative act of the Government was to set in motion certain legislative machinery which had been enacted to combat the efforts of a few prominent agitators who had been directly or indirectly responsible for huge economic losses to Australia. It was discovered that certain amendments to the Constitution were necessary to enable the Government to do as it desired in that regard. Consequently, the people were asked by referendum in 1926 to clothe the Government with the additional power that it needed. Unfortunately, only two States favoured the proposals. It is significant, however, that these were New South Wales and Queensland, the two strongest Labour States of the Commonwealth. I believe that to-day a great many more electors in the other States would vote in favour of those proposals than did so in 1926. The Government was justified in expecting a favorable vote, and it is regrettable that it did not get it.
The next effort which the Government made to find a solution of the economic ills from which the nation was suffering was to send an industrial delegation to the United States of America to study industrial and economic conditions there. The personnel of that commission was above reproach, and adequately represented both the employers and employees. The delegation presented a comprehensive and an informative report to Parliament, but I regret to say that no practical results have followed.
The third attempt of the Government to bring about a better understanding in industry was made just recently, when the Prime Minister issued invitations to the various organizations of employers and employees in the Commonwealth to attend an industrial peace conference, with the object of exploring all possible means of conducting our industries in a more cooperative spirit. I believe that the Prime Minister was influenced in calling that conference by the excellent results which followed the holding of a similar conference in Great Britain. In his letter of invitation to the various organizations of employers and employees, the Prime Minister said -
The question of the prosperity and progress of our industries in relation both to our internal and external trade is of vital importance to the whole of the people of Australia, and I am confident that a round-table conference, animated by a spirit of reason and goodwill, can do more to assist in the 80lution of some of the problems that confront us than any other action.
It is proposed that the conference should be essentially industrial in character, and not political, and the invitations which I am extending are limited to those who are actually engaged in the industrial and productive activities of the Commonwealth, or who are directly concerned with t£e organizations of employees and employers.
It was most unfortunate that the industrial organizations refused to attend the conference, for I feel sure that a hearttoheart talk between accredited representative men on each side could have had excellent results. It is noteworthy that a similar conference was held last week in New Zealand, and the reports of it which have come to hand indicate that it was instrumental in removing a good deal of misunderstanding on both sides. It is true that before issuing invitations to the conference the Government had introduced the bill which we are now considering, but it is reasonable to assume that any recommendations which such a conference might have made would have been incorporated in the measure.
The Government is now making its fourth effort to improve industrial relations by endeavouring to place this measure on the statute-book. I do not think that any one could honestly believe that the Government is hostile to trade unionists,” for it has tried in every way in its power to obtain peace in industry by voluntary means. It is now forced to proceed with this bill in order to fulfil the promises which it made prior to the last general election. It is absurd to deny that in Australia we have men who lose no opportunity of preaching industrial warfare and defiance of the system of arbitration. The bill places restrictions on the activities of these extremists. During this debate honorable members opposite have stated frequently that “ Jock “ Garden is the best friend the Nationalist party has.
Opposition Members. - Hear, bear .’
– Honorable members opposite say “hear, hear.” Is it not remarkable that Mr. Garden is the secretary of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council, and that he professes to speak for the Australian Labour .party ?
– He is not a member of the organization.
– No member opposite has repudiated him. Mr. Garden attended the fourth conference of the Moscow Internationale. .
– Why not deal with national politics? We are sick of these tarradiddles
– Honorable members will have to listen to more of these statements. Having waited long for the Labour party to disavow the extremists in its ranks, I am inclined to agree with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) that the leaders of that party arc prepared to follow rather than to lead. Speaking at Moscow, Mr. Garden said -
The Communist party in Australia is based on the nuclei system. Every union has its nuclei from twenty down to two, and every discussion of problems they formulate their tactics and then go out to the various unions, factories, workshops and mines, and carry out their policy as directed. On every burning question you will find that these leaders are the first “in the field to give directions to the workers.
Honorable members opposite do not appreciate these quotations.
– We do not appreciate the action of the honorable member ‘in engaging in an electioneering stunt in this chamber.
– During the last election campaign this matter was discussed from almost every platform.
– It was a winning card; so why not continue to use it?
– Honorable members could rob it of its power if they would rise in their places and say definitely that they disapprove of the communist doctrine. If it is true, as has been stated, that Mr. Garden has renounced his connexion with the communists, why was he recently elected a member of the executive of the “Red” Internationale? I have here an extract from the Telegraph, published in Brisbane on the 11th May, 1928-
Mr. Ryan, according to despatches made available at the Trades Hall, was received with open arms in Russia. With Mr. N. Jeffrey, who represented the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council, he submitted a report to the “ Russian Comrades “ on ‘ the progress of the left wing movement in Australia.
How can honorable members opposite say that the Labour party has severed its connexion with the communists when that party sent a delegate to attend the Moscow conference ?
– The Labour party did not send a delegate to Moscow. The honorable member should endeavour to be fair.
– It is evident that the unions sent Mr. Ryan to Moscow.
– The honorable member said that the Labour party sent a delegate to Moscow. That statement is untrue.
– I call upon the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the remark that the statement is “untrue.”
– I withdraw it ; but it is incorrect to say that the Labour party sent a delegate to Moscow. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) should endeavour to be fair.
– I am endeavouring to be fair; and I think it is evident that Mr. Ryan represented the Labour party in this conference. I remind honorable members that during the speech of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey), we on this side listened patiently, although he was quoting statements made in 1922. I am giving something right up to date. The statement in the Telegraph proceeds -
The visit of Messrs. Ryan and Jeffrey created, it is stated, a profound impression, and was largely responsible for the elevation of Mr. J. S. Garden (secretary of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council), to a seat on the Executive of the Red International.
There is no lack of evidence that the Russian Soviet is engaging in propaganda in Australia. During the recent railway strike in Queensland a special* strike bulletin was issued from Room 3 of the Trades Hall. The following is a sample of the literature which was circulated in Brisbane: -
If you can paralyze industry by folding your arms - why use arbitration?
Arbitration is the boss’ method of keeping industrial peace.
Make every industrial fight a class issue. Always widen the basis of a dispute beyond your own craft union, and thus assist the development of revoluntionary industrial unionism.
In Soviet Russia the working classes own the industries. They didn’t arbitrate - they took them by force. The railway men control the network of railways, and the sailors control the shipping. We can do the same when we decide that capitalism must go.
The power of the seamen rests in the fact that a ship cannot float without them. And since there are particular seasons in the year when overseas shipping is in full swing - particularly the wool and wheat seasons - then it rests with the seamen as to particular methods to be adopted to enforce their demands.
Honorable members are familiar with the statements of labour delegates at the recent labour conference in Sydney. I shall therefore not weary the House by repeating them. The evidence of the activities of these extremists is so convincing that neither the Government nor the Labour party can continue to ignore it. This propaganda is responsible for a great deal of unemployment and for untold injury to our primary and secondary industries. Judging by their frequent protestations in this House one would think that members of the Opposition do not favour the communist doctrine. If they are sincere, why do they not condemn the action of the communists in Australia? It is idle to say that they are unaware of their activities. These extremists have entered the trade unions, hot for the good of the members, but in order to engage in propaganda which is intended to wreck our present economic system. Tens of thousands of the workers of Australia are satisfied with their conditions of labour, and would welcome a straightout declaration from their representatives in this Parliament that they disapprove of the propaganda of the communists. The majority of the workers are content to bring about reform by constitutional means. When we reflect on the inaction of honorable members opposite, it is refreshing to find in Queensland a Labour Premier who has the courage of his convictions and has not hesitated to speak his mind.
– Will the honorable member support him at the next State election ?
– No; but I think a great deal more of Mr. McCormack for his courage than I do of men who are content to remain silent in the face of such propaganda. At a Labour conference held in Townsville last week the Queensland Labour Ministry was “ on the mat “ for its courageous action during the railway strike and in connexion with the trouble at the South Johnstone sugar mill. Replying to a motion of censure on the Ministry, Mr. McCormack, the Premier of Queensland, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, said -
They could not have their great public utilities held up at the instigation of a small section, and have that section terming any man who continued in his work a “ scab,” and condemning the Government because it attempted to govern. Labour could not timorously deal with those who claimed the right to term things “ black,” and hold up the community to the detriment of the worker. If it did, was there any wonder that Mr. Bruce introduced the amending Arbitration Act.
Mr. McCormack said he was convinced that if the convention adopted some of the motions of delegates, the Labour party would not win twenty seats at the next elections. He asked the delegates to use their intelligence and watch where they were going. If they were satisfied to go the way of the Hew South Wales Labour party - into the wilderness for ten or fifteen years - well and good, but if they did that they need not blame him.
– Half the people of New South Wales are behind the Labour party.
– Mr. McCormack continued -
If they desired the Government to adopt the Communist principles laid down in one of their motions, they would do it there and then, so that they would know where they stood. He was certain that if the Government had not undertaken its responsibilities it would have been driven from office when it went to the country.
Such statements do Mr. McCormack credit. Honorable members opposite might well follow his example. Ninetyfive per cent, of the workers of Australia are opposed to communism, and would welcome a declaration against communism by their representatives in this Parliament. They will welcome any legislation which will tend to provide continuous employment under fair conditions. It is true that this bill has been strongly condemned by a small section of unionists, but it is equally true that the rank and file of the unions have displayed no enthusiasm in supporting the protests of certain of their leaders.
– The honorable member should have been in Melbourne last Monday night.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) went to some trouble to work up a meeting in Melbourne.
– It waa the biggest meeting that has been held in the Melbourne Town Hall for many years.
– For months past efforts have been made to create a feeling of antagonism against this bill, but with indifferent success. The intention of the bill is to strengthen the position of the trade unions, and it will undoubtedly correct many of the abuses that we are suffering from under our present system of arbitration. No honorable member will deny that it is commendable to encourage voluntary arbitration, and to endeavour to prevent the overlapping of awards in both Federal and State spheres, and that it is desirable to give the Arbitration Court power to enforce its awards, and also to give members of Labour organizations the option of recording, by vote, whether they will continue to work or go on strike. The secret ballot obtains in our political life, and is used by the people in electing their Parliamentary representatives. Surely it should be available to the worker to enable him to earn his living and to support his wife and children.
I am prepared to admit that there are debatable provisions in the bill, but I suggest that many of the statements that have been flung about the House do not help us in the slightest in arriving at a solution of our difficulties. There are many differences of opinion respecting the secret ballot, but surely we should not, at the second-reading stage, condemn the whole bill because it provides for that, or for the expulsion of individual members of unions if found guilty of fomenting strikes. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) clearly showed that it would be to the advantage of the unions to have an examination of their accounts made from time- to time by a responsible- auditor. These are suitable subjects for deliberate debate, and if it can be shown that the provisions of the bill will, in their effect, be dangerous or oppressive, they can easily be amended. Honorable members opposite should not waste time in fighting details, but should get down to essentials. I feel certain that there are, in this Parliament, constituted at it is, many reasonable men who would be only too pleased to support the
Opposition in getting rid of any undesirable features of the bill.
– Is the honorable member in favour of a public audit of the books of the Employers’ Federation ?
– If an audit is good for organizations of. employees, it should also benefit any other organizations that are registered in the Arbitration Court.
It is ridiculous to contend for a moment that the intention of the bill is to strangle the unions. No member can seriously support such a contention. Every member of this Parliament is responsible to his constituents, and should do nothing to humiliate or weaken the great trade union organizations of this country. I believe the Government to be sincere in its attempt to place the control of unions in the hands of their members. Surely that is a democratic principle which we can support. Trade unionism is one of the most powerful forces in the national life of Australia, and any Government that mistakenly and needlessly attacks it deserves defeat at the hands of the people.’ There are something like 149 unions in Australia, with a membership of 693,000. These unionists are working under arbitration awards and agreements, and the majority of them are contended. It cannot be denied that there is an extreme element in Australia, particularly among the transport unions, which has done, and is doing, much mischief, and is responsible for much of our unemployment. The Government cannot delay any longer in taking steps to deal with that element.
As I have already said, the Government is deserving of credit for its previous attempts to deal with the problem on a voluntary basis. The members of the various trade unions have had an opportunity of reading the report of the Industrial Commission, which body has undoubtedly come to some reasonable and convincing conclusions. In refusing the invitation of the Prime Minister to attend the proposed peace conference, the unions have made a fatal mistake, which will rob them of a great amount of sympathy which they might otherwise have gained. The Government should not weaken in its resolve to amend the Arbitration Act, or to take such other action as will restore the control of unions to its members. By reducing the number of strikes there will be an expansion of our trade, to the benefit of all classes of the community. The bill is of great importance, and that, I think, every honorable member realizes. But the best results will not be obtained if the members of the Opposition, as they have indicated, have made up their minds to fight every clause, whether its effect be beneficial or otherwise. I suggest that the provisions of the bill, with which both sides of the House agree, should be speedily dealt with. In regard to those about which there is a difference of opinion, I feel certain that, in the interests of this country, the Government will endeavour to meet the views of the Opposition as far as possible, consistent with adequate protection being guaranteed for the industrial progress of the Commonwealth.
.- I agree with previous speakers about the. importance of the measure that we are now debating. Any legislation relating to the regulation of wages and conditions of employment must affect the economic and social life of the nation, and therefore places upon this Parliament a very great responsibility. I speak as a representative of a primary producing constituency, and I hope, before I resume my seat, to state the views, as I understand them, of the average producer, and certainly of the producers of my constituency, respecting arbitration and its effects. I, although a primary producer, can, if I may be pardoned for so doing, also view this subject from the angle of those engaged in the industrial world, because I was born and nurtured in an industrial constituency: I have, consequently, felt very keenly the remarks of honorable members about the hardships and sweated conditions of days gone by. I worked in a factory in this country during the early part of this century, and I have a keen and vivid recollection of the industrial conditions of those days. I hesitate- to strike a personal note too strongly, but when a boy of thirteen or fourteen years my first job was at the Melbourne Glass Bottle Works, working night shift at 7s. ft week. Not long ago I had the pleasure f again visiting those works, and I found a boy doing work similar to that I did some 24 or 25 years ago. I said to him, “How much are you getting for this work V He replied, “ Thirty-five shillings a week, and the job is worth it.” I informed him that formerly I had done that work for 7s. a week, and his observation in reply perhaps would be rather disorderly if I attempted to repeat it. I mention that illustration as an indication of what trade unionism has done for this country, in spite of what has been said about it getting the workers nowhere. Actually the conditions of the average industrialist to-day in almost every industry are far better than those which obtained years ago. In discussing this subject, we are too prone to think that the problems affecting organized labour and capital are confined to Australia. Some honorable members in this Parliament would say, “ Do away with the Arbitration Court and the tariff; let us get back to the old days of individualism.” The day of individualism has gone, which is a good thing for this country, and if we cast our eyes to the other side of the world, we shall find that there, to a large extent, it lias gone too. At present, we are living in a world of organization. Take, for instance, the trade unions.
– Be careful.
– If any one should be careful when speaking on this subject, it is the honorable member. The following table is from the Labour Report of 1926, No. 17, issued by Mr. C H. Wickens, of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics: -
Those figures emphasize the fact that the organization of the workers is a world wide movement, and that the problems and difficulties which confront this Parliament are precisely those which are testing the statesmanship of every other civilized country. We must see this matter in proper perspective. Opposed to the world-wide organizations of labour are the world-wide organizations of capital. There are huge combinations of capital, trusts and combines international in their scope, trade cartels, and so on. As an instance of the operations of these bodies I mention the Steel Rail Trust, which actually fixes the total output and rations the exportable surplus amongst the various producing countries. Numerous other illustrations could be given of the manner in which in ever-increasing degree labour and capital are organizing into groups, whose ramifications extend far beyond the boundaries of any one country. Out of this extensive organization and counter-organization class consciousness has developed. It is evident in this country, in this Parliament, in this debate. It exists in every part of the world. Not unnaturally this bill is viewed with grave suspicion by members of the Labour party. Any proposal to deal with the trade unions and the organized workers, coming from such a source as the Ministerial party, is bound to be suspected and distrusted by the members of the Opposition. Between .the combinations of capital and the massed battalions of the trade unionists there is almost incessant warfare, in as much as in the arbitration court or the industrial arena a fight of nome sort is in progress at all times. When the parties are not in actual conflict they are measuring each other with critical and suspicious eyes. A third party - more or less an onlooker at the fight - consists of the people engaged in the great primary industries. They are the least organized section of the community. The farmer by reason of temperament and environment is essentially an individualist. Because he is an individualist and is possessed of initiative and independence he left the comforts of the city and is pioneering in the outback, and because-, he is in the backblocks, almost entirely segregated from his fellows, he continues an individualist and is difficult to organize for collective effort. Men in the shearing shed, the forecastle, or the factory, work in company, lunch together, and are accessible to trade union organizers and political speakers.
In similar manner the manufacturers and other employers foregather, and daily contact develops in them the herd instinct to come together for mutual protection and advantage. But the wheatgrowers, the dairymen, and the graziers who are scattered throughout the land in isolated units rarely meet’ together, and in consequence have been and are the most difficult class to organize politically or industrially.
– That is one reason why the primary producer to-day is suffering.
– I agree with the honorable member. Too often the primary producer is the innocent victim of the eternal conflict between organized labour and organized capital. For instance, when shipping is held up at a critical stage, involving the destruction of primary produce or delay in getting it to the market, the innocent victim who knows nothing of, and probably is not concerned in the quarrel, is the heaviest loser. Experiences of this kind have shaken the primary producers out of their lethargy. To-day there is a spirit of organization, a get-together instinct amongst them, which, although belated, is none the less resolute and effective. It will be increasingly manifest in the days to come, and it will be good, not only for the primary producer, but for the community generally. At any rate, whether or not the farmer believes in organization, whether he is an individualist or a collectivist, he is driven by the force of circumstances to combine with his fellows for protection. Thus we have associations of dairymen, wheatgrowers, graziers, egg producers, and so on, which, originally intra-state, are now linking up federally. In short, we find that in the ranks of the primary producers the very same spirit of organization is growing up. We find them organizing politically to secure better representation in this Parliament and in the various’ State Parliaments. The Country parties, both here and in the State Parliaments, have been charged by the producers specifically with the safeguarding of their interests. With the advent of the Country parties, clamour has been raised for embargoes, control boards, bounties, compulsory pools, and tariff concessions. Recently, a schedule was passed through this Parliament increasing the tariff on butter, and a little while before that the tariff was increase-! on rice. Even though the majority of the primary producers are avowed low.tariffists. and while many of them disbelieve in tariffs altogether, they are forced by the fact that tariff burdens have been imposed on them by this and other Parliaments to seek such tariff amendments as will protect their own industries. When a new tariff schedule is before Parliament, we see the representatives of the organized workers, and the representatives of the manufacturers voting solidly together to impose fresh burdens on the primary producers. Honorable members behind the Government are apt to sneer at the word “ solidarity,” but on tariff matters we see an excellent example of solidarity in the association of the manufacturing interests and the labour representatives. The primary producer to-day is asking, in a fiscal sense, for a hair of the dog that bit him.
– They want to get into the vicious circle.
– The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) was very weak on maize, but very strong on rice.
– In justice to the honorable member for Riverina, it must be admitted that the vicious circle of rising tariffs has placed him, and other honorable members of the Country party, in a somewhat invidious position.
– What about the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) ? He said that he would wipe out tariffs altogether.
– I should hate to be placed in the position of being an apologist for the political sins of the Minister for Works and Railways. I make these observations in order to emphasize the fact that we are now living in a new age, and it is necessary to realize that, if we are to approach this matter from the proper angle.
I listened with interest to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who spoke forcibly on this measure. It is well for us to remember, when we speak about our high standard of living, that while the Arbitration
Court and tariff walls can, for a time, artificially raise the standard of living, there is a point beyond which that standard cannot go. If we analyze the position, we shall find that the high standard amongst the workers in the secondary industries is too often obtained at the expense of many of those engaged in the primary industries.
We are a debtor nation. If we are to PaY the interest on our overseas debts it is necessary that our exports should exceed our imports by £30,000,000 a year. Unless we have an export surplus of that value we must either repudiate our debts, or borrow more money with which to pay the interest on them. Ninety-six per cent, of our exports are composed of primary products which have to be sold at world parity prices. That is what I mean when I say that our much vaunted standard of living, and the burden of our national indebtedness, is being carried, to a very great extent, by the primary industries. We, as a nation, are in the very illogical position of continuing to borrow money overseas from countries with a lower standard of living than our own, in order to maintain in this country what are largely artificial conditions. The Tariff Board, in its report of the 30th of June, 1926, complained of the fact that many of the trade unions, whose members are engaged in secondary industries, joined with the employers to go before the Tariff Board and appeal for increased duties. When their request was granted, they promptly went to the Arbitration Court and asked for more wages, so that they might participate in the advantages which had been won by the employers. The report of the Tariff Board stated -
This action of the Textile Workers’ Union seems to have been influenced by the judgment of Mr. Justice Powers, wherein it was laid down that his Court could take no cognizance of the capacity of an industry to pay certain wages, but would fix what wages it thought necessary, and the industry would then have recourse to the Tariff Board, which had been created by the Federal Parliament to make recommendations for the granting of whatever protection was necessary. In this case ti.e various unions appeared before the Tariff Board to assist the employers in obtaining the necessary increases in order to make it possible to work the mills at a profit, instead of at a loss, and then immediately approached the Arbitration Court for their share in these increases
In this way a precedent is created for passing back and forth between the Federal Arbitration Court and the Tariff Board for increments in wages and duties, which can only result in an ever increasing wage rate, and an ever ascending tariff. This course must ultimately defeat itself, and by continuously raising the cost of living, bring about an industrial paralysis.
That was on the 30th of June, 1926, and the board, in its report of the following year, reiterated those observations after having had twelve months’ further experience of the conditions referred to.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8.15.
– The Ministry, in this bill, recognizes the points I have made with regard to the present position of organizations, of both capital and labour, and the newly awakened spirit of the primary producers, and seeks by it to institute a better system under which the Arbitration Court shall function. I listened with the closest attention to the speech of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), which I have since read. The honorable gentleman made a very reasoned, temperate and nonprovocative speech, in view of the contentious matter with which he was deal- ing. Although the Government has been credited by honorable members of the Opposition with being actuated by an ulterior motive in introducing this measure, I prefer, if there is any doubt as to whether the Government is actuated by good or bad intentions, to give it the benefit of the doubt. I shall discuss the bill in a dispassionate way and give my opinion upon what I consider will be ite effects.
The suggested industrial peace conference has been mentioned, and honorable members on the Government side have strongly deprecated the action of the organized trade unionists of Australia in refusing to be represented at that conference. In my opinion the Government made a great blunder by first introducing this bill and then inviting the trade unionists to attend a peace conference. Probably, had the Government first con- vened the conference and later introduced a bill, in which was incorporated the recommendations of the conference, all would have been well, and there would have been an opportunity to reach an amicable working agreement. I am confident that, whatever our political convictions may be, we all desire to see a better relationship between capital and labour.
– Had the Government called the conference first there would have been a complaint that the bill was being rushed on the House.
– I still adhere to my opinion that it would have been preferable first to convene the conference. The fact that the Government has had to introduce a sheaf of amendments, almost bewildering in their number, in an endeavour to mitigate to some degree the effect of the penalty clauses that appear in the bill, suggests to me that it recognizes that it went too far in some of its original proposals.
– Was not this bill drafted a good while before any conference Avas mentioned?
– Possibly, but it would have been better had the conference been called first and the bill introduced later. I consider that the clauses of the bill that deal with procedure are, generally, very desirable and will have a good effect. I have in mind the clause dealing with the formation of voluntary committees consisting of representatives of. the parties concerned and presided over either by the present conciliation commissioner or by one of the commissioners who will be appointed. Theoretically, that appears to be a very valuable step towards the prevention of disputes, which will be dealt with before they reach the court.
– That can be done under the old act, without applying to a judge, as has to be done under this bill.
– These proposals introduce procedure which will make for conciliation between employer and employee. Proposed new section 25a, which is covered by clause 22 of the bill, deals with the uniformity of hours, working conditions and holidays in an industry. That is very desirable. If the conditions of labour in any branch of industry are such as to make the work more than ordinarily arduous or dangerous, discrimination of treatment should be made by the payment of higher wages and not by shortening the hours. The provision reads : -
The court shall, in making its awards, provide so far as possible for uniformity in an industry in relation to hours of work, holidays and general conditions.
I consider that proposed new section 25 (d) is a very important, but contentious one. It reads -
The court shall, before making any award or certifying any agreement, and in proceedings for the variation or cancellation of an award or agreement, take into consideration the probable economic effect of the agreement or award in relation to the community in general, and the probable economic effect thereof upon the industry or industries concerned.
That appears to me to be a very farreaching provision, which will be exceedingly difficult of interpretation. Already arbitration judges have a sufficiently difficult task to adjudicate on the questions of hours, wages and conditions which are submitted to them, and which have to be based upon what is termed our standard living wage. This clause places upon those judges an exceedingly onerous and difficult task, and I fail to see how they will be able to discharge it. Take a suppositious case. Presume that the agricultural implement makers apply for an increase of wages and a decrease of hours, and that, so far as their evidence discloses, the judge considers that ,they are entitled to have their claim granted. Before that is done, however, the judge, under this new provision must ascertain what would be the economic effect of such an increase. He discovers, that the increase will have to be passed on to the primary producers in the form of increased prices for agricultural implements. That will raise the cost of production, of, say, butter and wheat. Already the wheatgrowers have organized, and they ask for assistance to enable them to decrease their costs. The judge will probably determine that an increase of wages to the agricultural implement m alters would, by increasing the cost of production, increase the cost of living, not merely in that trade, but in all other trades. In turn, the employees in other industries would seek higher wages, and so we should have the vicious circle again. I understand the reasons which actuated the Government when it introduced this provision. I shall give an illustration of my point. In 1924 the dried fruits industry was very badly hit through low prices, a bad drying season, general financial depression, reduced land values and various other causes. The industry was in such a bad economic condition that it could not obtain advances from the financial institutions, and was practically down and out. In order to help it to carry on, the Government introduced the Dried Fruits Advances Act, which appropriated £200,000 for the purpose of assisting the dried fruit growers. In that very season, however, the Arbitration Court granted an increase in wage3 for pickers and others in the industry, I think from £4 6s. to £4 8s. a week. I am not certain as to the figures, and speak subject to correction. The Government must have had such an example in mind when it inserted this clause.
– Does that not indicate the impossibility of fixing these things mechanically?
– It is one more indication of the ease with which one can point to the evils of the existing system, and of how difficult it is to suggest a remedy. I fail to see how the judges will be able to carry out the proposed nev/ section.
Clause 7, which amends section 7 of the principal act, provides that a sectional strike may be made an excuse for a general strike. It was described by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) in a picturesque and terse manner, as having the effect of starting a big fire in order to put out a small one. It makes strikes and lockouts, in certain conditions, legal. We shall he in the rather extraordinary position of having a legal lockout or a strike which will, in effect, be sanctioned by the Arbitration Court. It is, to say the least of it, a novel provision. In moving the second reading of the bill, the AttorneyGeneral said : “ Let us suppose the court does make such an order, declaring that there is a strike in an industry. Other employers in the industry will then be in a position to lockout their employees.” Does not that mean that if there is a strike in one portion of the works of a big manufacturer, and the manufacturer secures the necessary declaration from the court that there is a strike in the industry, he may lockout all his other employees, and every employer of labour in the same industry from one end of Australia to the other, may also lockout his employees in sym- ipathy with the employer originally affected? Or, alternatively, if there is a lockout in a section of one particular industry, and the union concerned gets the necessary declaration from the court that there is a lockout in the industry, does it not mean that all the unions in that particular industry throughout Australia may strike with the sanction of the court? If that is what it means, an extraordinary position may arise, and it is difficult to foresee what may happen.
Clause 8, which imposes penalties on union officials, is a highly contentious provision, and, in my opinion, in operation is bound to fail, because in the end compulsion, .when applied to large bodies of men, is always bound to fail. If a union official is fined, or, in the alternative, is sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, the punishment inflicted has no terrors for him; as a matter of fact, union officials glory in being given the opportunity to pose as martyrs. This is amply proved by history. Some years ago when certain British seamen in Melbourne were ordered to return to their ship or go to gaol, they did not cower in fear and trembling; they formed fours in the streets of Melbourne and, with heads up, marched to gaol. And when they returned to Great Britain they told the people there that they received better treatment in an Australian gaol than they could get on a British ship. If British ships are anything like what they were when I starved in the forecastle, they could say this with a good deal of truth.
The most contentious, and if I may say it, the most absurd clause of the bill is clause 44, which proposes to enforce the taking of a secret ballot before a strike can be declared. I have a great deal of admiration for the logical mind of the Attorney-General; but I cannot understand how the honorable gentleman could bring himself to the point of drafting, or even approving, of a clause which aims at the impossible. I cannot see the utility of inserting a provision in a bill, making it mandatory to do something which is absolutely impossible. I do not know how many thousand men there are in the Seamen’s Union, but the number is large. Let us assume that a dispute has arisen, and that the union has refused to take a ballot; that under the powers conferred upon it by this bill, the court, insists on, and assumes control of, the taking of a ballot. I do not know whether it is in the bill itself or in the sheaf of amendments which the Attorney-General proposes to move, but there is a provision which gives the court discretion as to whether it will allow absent voting or not. I want to know how it will get a ballot-paper into the hands of every seaman on the coast, how long the ballot will take, and what will happen in the meantime? And, putting aside all these difficulties, and assuming, for the moment, that by some means or other the court finds a way of performing expeditiously the work of getting a ballotpaper into the hands of every seaman on the coast, I want to know what then will happen. I have no desire to say anything that will suggest to the seamen, or any other body of men, what they ought to do in such circumstances; but unless there has been a change in the spirit of the seamen since I knew them, I am inclined to think they will tear up the ballot-papers and toss them out of the portholes. “What will happen then ? It is an attractive ideal to give the unionists control over their own unions - I can quite understand the Prime Minister making the election promise which was repeated on a hundred platforms and published in a thousand newspapers that the Government proposed to compel trade unions to take secret ballots - but it is an attempt to do something which is utterly impracticable. The provision that compels the taking of a secret ballot is the most contentious and one of the most impracticable in the bill. When the Attorney-General replies, I should like him to tell me what proportion of the ballot-papers issued must be returned to ensure a decision. If 10,000 ballotpapers are sent out and but 500 are returned will the decision of the few who choose to vote be accepted?
– Why should it not be if the others refuse to vote?
– I am not discussing that aspect of the question, I am seeking some information from the AttorneyGeneral. The honorable member who interjected must admit that this is one of the cardinal points of the bill. I am merely giving my opinion on it, and my opinion based upon some experience with large bodies of men, is that no matter how attractive it may be in theory, it will be utterly impracticable, and impossible to carry out.
It is useless for us to aim at perfection, or strive for a Utopia in which there shall be “ peace, perfect peace “ in every industry throughout Australia for all time. Under our present social system it is utterly impossible to prevent strikes and industrial upheavals. I was very glad, therefore, to hear the Attorney-General, in his excellent second-reading speech, deprecate the statement repeatedly made, particularly in the press, that Australia is a land of strikes and upheavals, and in this respect worse than any other country. The only way in which we can achieve our ideal of industrial peace is to eliminate as far as possible all coercive measures, and try to appeal to the better nature of people and to the spirit of sweet reasonableness as between class and class, man and man, employer and employee. Honorable members may smile at that, but there is no other way to achieve our object.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) has asked me if 1 would abolish compulsory arbitration. I am inclined to think that the method suggested by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is the better one to adopt. His suggestion, as I understand it, is to have an industrial organization in each industry, and to have councils in each industry in each State, with a central Federal council. It is a moot point with me whether it would not be better to allow each industry to be separately organized, and, if necessary, to have all the machinery ready for State courts or a Federal court, to operate if both sides appealed for a decision.
– Only if they appealed ?
– Yes. The conciliatory clauses of the bill will be productive of good. The point raised by the Attorney-General with regard to the policing of awards, while we have the court as it is at present constituted, is well worth trying. Theoretically, it is to be commended. I gather from the sheaf of amendments to which I have already referred - no doubt there will be many move before the bill gets through committee - that we will not know the bill by the time it emerges from committee. If the second reading is agreed to, I propose to move - “ That the bill be referred to a select committee.? If a select committee representative of all sections in this Parliament were to get to work and study the measure, I think it would be possible to make it a workable piece of legislation. At any rate, the experiment would be well worth trying. It would save time. To take the bill into committee after a rather acrimonious second-reading debate, would simply b.e to have the fight all over again ; it would only lead to a prolonged debate, and I am sure the Attorney-General would not know his own bill by the time it emerged from committee.
So far as the primary producer is concerned, the present pastime of passing the burden on to him will not get this country anywhere. A proper system of organization among employers and employees, and particularly among the primary producers, is what I believe the future holds in store. That will be a big improvement upon the existing conditions. I may be accused of uttering platitudes, but I cannot refrain from saying that one of the principal necessities to-day is a reduction in the cost of distribution. On all sides one hears complaints regarding the disparity between the price which the primary producer receives for his product and that which is paid by the consumers of that product in the capita] cities. That disparity is altogether too great. If we look around us and study the facts that can be gleaned from our newspapers we find that a tremendous amount of money is spent in the advertisement of almost every industry. In every capital city one can see glaring blatant advertisements, the cost of which is tremendous. In addition, hordes of travellers are employed. It must be apparent to every one that that is a direction in which unanimity can be arrived at among organized workers and organized primary producers.
– That is private enterprise. It cannot be eliminated.
– I disagree with the honorable member. I favour an extension of the co-operative spirit, which is becoming more pronounced among primary producers. This Parliament should tackle the important question of eliminating foolish and wasteful methods of distributing our primary products, and bridging the gap between the producer and the consumer. I submit in all earnestness and with due deference to honorable members that that is a channel into which this House should divert its energies. The one thing certain is that constant increases in tariff duties and Arbitration Court awards must cease. We should call a halt immediately and tackle the question of organizing upon an efficient basis both .primary and secondary industries. Only in that way can we make this country progress.
– I rise to support the measure before the House, believing that it will assist us to attain the all important objective - industrial peace on a sound and . lasting basis. If I” thought for one moment that the amendments of the principal act for which it provides would in any way affect injuriously trade unionists in Australia, it must be obvious to any honorable member that it would be an act of political suicide for me to support it, because it is my proud privilege to represent an important industrial constituency, which is comparable in that respect with those of some of my honorable friends who sit on this side and many honorable members who sit opposite. I am quite sure in my own mind that when it is placed upon the statute-book this bill will not have that effect. In fact, I believe that it will help to attain industrial peace and to improve the conditions of the workers generally in this country.
I listened this afternoon with keen interest to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who delivered a most eloquent and impressive address. He stated quite definitely that he believed that the central compulsory arbitration system in Australia had utterly failed. He also maintained that the Arbitration Court had not succeeded in any way in securing industrial peace, and apparently agreed with those who have stated that the court has tended to promote the organization of conflicting parties and interests in opposite camps. Probably there are other honorable members who hold similar views, but they may not be prepared to state them so definitely. I remind the honorable member for Wannon, however, that it is 24 years since compulsory arbitration was established in this country. If we had had then all the knowledge that we now possess, probably we should have endeavoured to secure some other method of bringing about industrial peace. However, there are to-day tens of thousands of workers in Australia who are satisfied with the existing system, and are abiding by the awards of the court. After all, only a few unions - important ones, undoubtedly - come into conflict with those awards. I certainly think - and I am sure the honorable member for Wannon will agree with me - that a system which for the last 24 years has been working satisfactorily from the point of view of tens of thousands of workers must be continued, and that the main duty of those who believe in arbitration is to try to improve it wherever that can be done. I have no knowledge of the intentions of the Government, but I personally think that this should be regarded as the last attempt to place that system on a sound basis; and should it fail I do not think that any one would cavil at the Government if it endeavoured to find some other means of obtaining industrial peace in this country.
Honorable members of all shades of political opinion agree that it is the duty of every man who plays a part, however humble, in the public life of this country, to strive by every means in his power to bring about satisfactory conditions and peace in industry. No one would be foolish enough to believe or to maintain that this bill is going to cure all the evils and troubles which at the present time are associated with our industrial system. It would be absurd to imagine that that is likely to be the result. I, however, share with the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) the belief that it will be a big step forward towards that goal; that it will improve the conditions for both employers and employees; and that, therefore, it will benefit the community at large. That there is an urgent need for amendment I do not think any honorable member has denied during the course of this debate. For a long time industry in this as well as in other countries has laboured under very difficult, almost intolerable, conditions. That has been due in Australia, I think, to the overlapping of Federal and State awards, and also in many instances to the incompatibility of the decisions of the court with economic realities, as well as to the irresponsible activities of a few persons who, if they had set out to do it, could not. have had greater success in the direction of wrecking our ship of progress. Really the main object of this bill is to do something towards modifying those conditions, short of removing them altogether.
I should like to refer briefly to that provision in the bill which aims at making the awards of the court recognize in some way the economic facts with which Australia is faced. I have listened very carefully to the speeches of honorable members who sit opposite, and it has appeared to me that that is the feature of the bill to which they take the strongest exception. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) strenuously opposed the provision. Apparently, he sees in it a sinister motive and a desire on the part of the Government to upset the principle of a basic wage. I entirely disagree with the honorable gentleman. I am quite sure that nothing is further from the mind of the Government. In fact the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has definitely made that statement. I do not believe that any honorable member on this side of the House would support any move in the direction of upsetting the principle of a basic wage in this country.
– Is not that the necessary implication?
– I cannot see that it is. To me this is one of the most important provisions in the whole measure. Some persons believe that behind the shelter of our tariff protection we can go on piling up the costs of production. Nothing could be more harmful to our progress than such a policy. The Tariff Board, in a report which it presented to Parliament last October, uttered a warning to which, I think, every person in this country must pay heed. It was of the utmost importance, and I take this opportunity of reminding honorable members of its purport. Said the board - .
There is a danger of the tariff being used to bolster up an ever-increasing cost of production, irrespective of any consideration as to the ever-widening gaps between the standard maintained within the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom. It is obvious that the increased duties imposed on certain industries have failed to afford any increased protection. In other words, in some industries it is apparent that protection is failing to protect. Increased duties have largely failed to achieve their objective. Instead of expansion of manufacture the figures rather revealed stagnation, notwithstanding that stimulation of Australian industry was aimed at.
The board went on to express its regret at being obliged to place on record its conclusion that there is in the Commonwealth a tendency to abuse the protective system, and by forcing the pace under disadvantageous conditions to endanger its efficiency. The board also expressed its profound conviction that if Australian industry is to be maintained and safeguarded it is essential that the leaders of our industrial life should recognize the serious menace of the rising costs of production. The situation was regarded by the board as being too critical to waste time on trumped up charges of bias. The serious attention of all parties to this matter was requested by the board, and it stated definitely that, if that is not given, we can look forward to nothing but disaster. Those remarks from an authority the impartiality of which I do not think any one has ever questioned must be regarded as a warning to us.
We have been told that, if an industry cannot concede the hours and wages that are demanded in Australia it does not deserve to exist. I entirely agree with that contention. But if, when we refer to industry, we include in our observation only capital and management, we do not really speak of industry; for, after all, the duty of the employees in regard to advancing the interests and making n success of an industry is as great as that of the employers. I say quite definitely that I am not one of those who would be a party to lowering the standard of living of the wage-earner in Australia. That is the last thing I should like to see done. But it must be admitted that there is a vast difference between maintaining a reasonable standard of living and following a policy that must lead to the annihilation of industry in Australia. That, I think, is the choice which confronts the people of the Commonwealth to-day. We must choose between reasonable comfort and a reasonable standard of living on the one hand, and stagnation, unemployment and impoverishment on the other. Obviously itis in the interests of the wage-earner, as much as anybody else, that Australia should make steady progress along the road to national greatness inwealth and power, built upon a “vast network of flourishing industries. If this bill helps to bring about a realization that economic facts must be considered, it will justify its introduction on that score alone.
With the other provisions of the measure aiming at doing away with the tyranny sometimes exercised by union officials, the placing of responsibility for the conduct of union officials directly on the organizations that they represent; and requiring the taking of secret ballots to enable the members of unions to control their own organizations, I am heartily in accord. Honorable members opposite cannot advance any definite reason why they should prove injurious to trade unionism or why the Government and its supporters would try to do injury to the trade unions or to the unionists themselves.
A definite mandate was given by the people to the Prime Minister in November, 1925, to do all he could to suppress industrial disorder and unrest, and the bill under discussion represents’ as near an approach as possible to meeting the demands of the electors. The Prime Minister, in discussing the bill, stated that the Government was merely carrying out the pledge that it gave to the people at the last election. He explained that the Nationalist party asked the people for a definite mandate on certain matters, and he reminded the House what some of those matters were. He. and I think every honorable . member who sits behind him, promised to take definite action against that section of the community, few in number though they were, who were endeavouring to subvert constitutional institutions, and to hinder the external and internal commerce of the country. We also promised the people that we would take action against those who were endeavouring to foment industrial strife, class war, and direct action. We said further that we would do everything in our power to overcome the chaotic industrial conditions due to the overlapping and duplication of Commonwealth and State awards, and would give trade unionists full power to deal with their own affairs, conferring upon them the benefit of the secret ballot. Those were the definite assurances on which the Government and its supporters went to the country, and on them the Government was returned with an increased majority.
There is no sinister motive whatever in the minds of the Government or its followers in introducing this bill. We believe that arbitration is an effective instrument for maintaining the industrial peace of the country, and for controlling industrial conditions. The Leader of the Opposition, and those who sit behind him, hold the same opinion; but it cannot be denied that some people - admittedly not a great number - openly state that their objective is to smash arbitration. Surely those of us who believe in arbitration and conciliation, no matter on which side of the House we sit, should join forces in order to amend our legislation and make our arbitration laws as effective as possible in assisting to maintain industrial peace.
I propose to read two pamphlets that have come into my possession. They were issued by the Central Executive of the Communist Party of Australia, and printed by the Proletarian Press, of 52 Trafalgar-street, Annandale. One of the pamphlets reads as follows -
A Move tosmash Trade Unionism.
The Communist Party’s Call to Action.
The entireboss class of Australia is clamouring for a reduction in our living standard in order to satisfy its greed for greater profits.
The British financiers, who are planning to make Australia a special field for the investment of their surplus wealth, are demanding “ economy “ in the State administration as a guarantee for their dividends. This explains the retrenchment in the Government service.
The Nationalist party is the mouthpiece of the exploiters.
Legalizing the Bludgeon.
The Federal Government now proposes by means of its Arbitration Amendment Bill to secure full control over the trade unions, making them mere appendages of the governmental machine.
Every attempt at militant action can be legally suppressed under the penal clauses of the bill.
Scabbery will be accorded full protection, and, by means of heavy fines for any ordinary act of trade union routine, our organizations can be “ legally “ outlawed.
Parliament of No Use.
The mock debates that will take place in
Parliament will not avail in preventing the passage of the bill. The anti-Labour majority will be successful.
Reliance on Labour politicians is futile, for did they not place on the statute-book compulsory training and the infamous War Precautions Act?
The real struggles of the workers are not fought in Parliament, but on the industrial field by the militant action of the workers themselves.
Take Action- Now! ! !
There is no time to be lost.
Agitation and organization must be commenced on an Australian-wide scale.
Force every trade union official and Labour politician into the campaign.
Hold workshop meetings.
Arrange mass meetings for Saturday mornings.
Establish fighting councils of action on industrial lines (where none already exist) to organize a break with arbitration and militant opposition to the union-smashing measure.
Brace’s Bludgeon Must be Destroyed.
Arbitration is completely discredited, and must be discarded.
Only militant action can protect the workers.
The other pamphlet issued by the Central Executive of the Communist Party of Australia is as follows -
Bruce’sPlanforthe Next War.
Down wilh the Anti-Union Bill.
Conscription during the last war was only defeated in Australia by the militancy of the Labour movement.
For the Next War.
The designs of the Imperialist Powers against Soviet Russia and the clash of interest between Great Britain and the U.S.A. are speedily tending towards another outbreak of war, which will centre around the Pacific Ocean countries.
Conscription, both for war and industry, will inevitably be brought in by all countries involved.
Bruce has already stated that “ When Britain is at war, Australia is automatically at war.”
To Crush Militancy. lt is in order to render the Australian
Labour movement more docile and submissive, both to the economic demands and the warlike designs of Bruce and his imperialist masters, that this union-smashing bill is introduced.
It is intended to crush the last ounce of militancy out of the trade unions, to so weaken the resisting power of the workers as to leave them mere productive machines and cannon fodder for the benefit of British Imperialism.
Workers of Australia, the situation is critical.
Bow the Workers will Win.
Get together against the war-mongers!
Fight every scheme to weaken militancy in the Labour movement!
Kill these plans by killing Bruce’s bill!
Move through your unions and Labour Councils for a mighty stop-work demonstration of all workers in the Commonwealth, the date to be fixed by the A.C.T.U.
On to the Victory of the Working Class.
That is the sort of poison that is spread throughout the country. As I have already said, those of us who believe in arbitration, irrespective of which side we take in politics, should join in an honest attempt to preserve and improve our present system. The need, too, for maintaining the safeguard of constitutional government must be patent to-day to the least imaginative among the people.
I shall now refer to one or two of the objections that have been raised to the bill. In the first instance, it has been said repeatedly that the measure follows the lines of the British Trade Unions Bill. As a matter of fact there is no resemblance between the two bills. The Round Table of June, 1927, gives, at page 566, a short account of the British measure. The Attorney-General, Sir Douglas Hogg, introduced it in the House of Commons, and, in explaining the Government’s intentions, he declared them to be founded on four propositions -
The Labour party opposed the bill to the uttermost and some Liberals, including Mr. Lloyd George, voted with Labour for its rejection. Sir John Simon was absent unpaired, having previously given his blessing to the objects of the bill, though he considered it needed amendment. He pointed out that the objections to the bill were of three kinds, and he said -
When the Government of the day introduces a contentious bill and asks the support of the House for its principles on second reading, there are, I suppose, three kinds of grounds upon which the Government application may be rejected. We have had, in the course of the debate on the second reading of this bill indications that all three grounds are -taken. First, I suppose, it is possible in reference to any bill, to challenge the avowed objects of the bill altogether, and to declare that the authors of the bill, when they describe what they are aiming at doing, are aiming at something which is wrong and bad. There arc some members of the House who will, I think, take up that attitude in regard to this bill.
There is a second and quite distinct line of attack and one which it is very material to mention in connexion with this bill, namely, the criticism that, whatever may be the avowed objects of the bill the method which it seeks to adopt and the language in which it seeks to express its objects are such as to make the bill worthy of rejection at this stage.
There is the third and it seems to me a perfectly legitimate ground in a proper case, upon which a contentious bill may sometimes be resisted, and it is this : That even . if the avowed objects of the bill and even the methods and language of the bill are appropriate, none the less as a matter of high policy it is much better to leave things alone.
In some cases all these grounds were taken by the same critic. Mr. Lloyd George contended that what was wanted was not negative, but constructive proposals in the direction of improving the machinery of conciliation. The third and fourth of the Government’s propositions dealing with subscriptions to funds of political parties and the allegiance of civil servants to the State, while strongly opposed, presented a plain issue. The first and second propositions dealing with the illegality of a general strike and intimidations were different. It was claimed that the main purpose of statutes existing at the time was to protect the right to strike, and that the object of the” new measure was to limit it within the terms of these propositions. The first question raised was whether the clauses concerned with the general strike and intimidation were not so drawn as to go beyond the declared intention. There was a fear that they might even cripple the right to strike. The material part of the provision as it originally stood was as follows: -
It is’ hereby declared that any strike having any object besides the furtherance of a trade dispute within the trade or industry in which the strikers are engaged is an illegal strike, if it is a strike designed or calculated to coerce the Government or to intimidate the community or any substantial portion of the community, and that it is illegal to commence or continue, or to apply any sums in furtherance or support of any such illegal strike. For the purpose of the foregoing provision, a trade dispute shall not be deemed to be within a’ trade or industry unless it is a dispute between employers and workmen, or between workmen and workmen in that trade or industry, which is connected with the employment or non-employment, or the terms of the employment, or with the conditions of labour of persons in that trade or industry.
Provisions follow prescribing penalties for participating in illegal strikes, and safeguards against trades union workmen who refuse to take part in them. The advocates of the bill claimed that it was necessary to protect, not only ordinary citizens, but trade unionists themselves. Labour claimed that the right to strike is the sole substance of collective bargaining of trade unionists, whose rights it contended would be unfairly limited by the bill.
There are thousands of trade unionists who dislike class warfare. Mr. Phillip Snowden, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Ramsay MacDonald Government, in January last said -
They recognized the existence of the class war, but he had always understood socialism to aim at the abolition of the class war.
Referring to Mr. Cook, of the Miners’ Federation, and those who, claiming to speak on behalf of a section of the working class, deny that it is possible to improve the lot of the wage-earning class under the existing system, Mr. Snowden said : “ That was tie sheerest nonsense,” and he added, “he welcomed the work upon which Mr. Ben Turner and his colleagues were engaged, and hoped that it was evidence of a genuine and deep desire on the part of both sides to come together to remove at least some of the obstacles which barred the way to progress.”
Mr. Ben. Tillett whose words and views still count for something with trade unionists speaking at a labour meeting in England in February last, said -
The Trade Union Council had definitely entered upon a national campaign for reconstruction and re-organization. Most of the obstacles to 100 per cent, trade unionism were created by the flagrant and malignant elements of mischief in their midst. The work of the Trades Union Council was to educate and encourage the rank and file to realization of the sense of personal and individual responsibility. The most hopeful recent sign was the coming joint conference between the Trades Union General Council, and the miners’ executive to consider the stops to be taken to defend trade union principles, and maintain the strength of the Miners’ Federation. He hoped that this conference would result in file elimination of the “ mad mullah,” element which has been too long running amok.
The most impressive speech delivered in the House of Commons in support of the Trades Union Bill was that of a miners’ representative, Mr. Spencer, who, after the breakaway from the policy of the Miners’ Federation, last year, had begun in Nottinghamshire, took charge of and organized the breakaway. Mr. Spencer has been ejected from the Labour party in the House of Commons. His personal testimony to the overbearing methods practised within the federation, and the diversion of industrial machinery to political ends, was unanswerable. It is clear that noisy, active political minorities tend to conduct industrial business of many trades unions.
It has been said that owing to the defeat of the referendum in 1926 this bill is an effort on the part of the Government to save its face. A circular prepared by the Attorney-General’s Department has been issued to honorable members clearly setting out the difference between the referendum proposals of 1926 and the provisions of the bill, which no doubt honorable members have closely studied. I listened with keen interest to the Speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), the Hansard report of which I have since read more than once, but I cannot find where he gave any definite reasons for his statement that the measure, if placed on the statute-book would destroy the faith of the workers of the Commonwealth in the principle of arbitration. Its real object is to control the activities of that tyrannical minority to which I have already referred - to make industrial unions stronger and safer, and in the hope of securing industrial peace and placing industry on a sounder basis much brighter. I sincerely trust that honorable members opposite, although strongly opposed to the bill in its present form, will do all they can during the committee stage to improve it in any possible way. I am sure that every proposal or suggestion they make will receive the most earnest consideration of the Government, I feel convinced that those who do believe iri’ arbitration will do all they can to improve the present system by assisting to pass this measure, since in doing so they will at least; be making a definite attempt to bring about industrial peace and better conditions in industry.
– The speech of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) will not, I think, convince even himself. He commenced by making the father amazing statement that this is the final attempt which this Government proposes to make to bring about industrial peace.
– He did not say any thing of that kind.
– And that this measure was intended to carry out the mandate given to the Government at the last general election. I do not wish to misrepresent the honorable member for Brisbane, and perhaps the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who is nearer to the honorable member than I am, heard his exact words’. If, however, I understood the honorable member for Brisbane aright, he said that if this bill were passed the Government would be able to say that it had done everything in its power to carry out the mandate given to it at the last election.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– Then the honorable member should speak distinctly instead of reading his speech at such a rapid rate that it is difficult to understand what he is saying. I am, however, placing my interpretation upon his words as I heard them. If he did not actually use the exact words I have attributed to him, similar . statements have been made by other honorable members on that side of the chamber. In bringing forward this bill the Government makes the amazing claim that it is giving effect to the promise it made to the people prior to the last general election. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) enunciated the Government’s policy at the last election, and fortunately we have on record the statements of the right honorable gentlemen. These I propose to quote. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) and the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) quoted words used by the Prime Minister during the last election campaign, and endeavoured to make his utterances on that occasion coincide with the provisions of this bill. The honorable member for Brisbane read from a document containing statements made by certain persons known as communists, or wild extremists, and who are opposed to arbitration. Of course, I can quite understand honorable members opposite being anxious to quote from such documents; a number of them would not occupy seats in this chamber but for the utterances of these persons. This bill proves conclusively that there is an alliance between the extremists and the Government. Communists say, quite definitely, that they are opposed to arbitration, and if honorable members will peruse the bill they will see that from beginning to end it strikes a blow at compulsory arbitration. If honorable members will read clause 7 of the measure, which has been referred to by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), they will see that such is the case. The honorable member for Brisbane congratulated the honorable member for Wannon upon the splendid speech he delivered; but the honorable member for Wannon summed up the measure in these words, “ This bill does not touch the fringe of our troubles.” If the honorable member for Brisbane will refer to clause 7 of the bill, he will find that if a section of an industry creates trouble or causes a strike, the employers can approach the Arbitration Court, and if the court agrees that there is a strike in a section of the industry, a general lockout is automatically proclaimed.
– And the law is suspended.
– Tes. Any honorable member who challenges that statement has not read the bill. Thai provision was illustrated by the right honorable member for North Sydney when he said that if a fire occurred in a corner of a paddock the remedy, according to the principle embodied in this measure, was not to extinguish it, but to set fire to the whole paddock. The right honorable member delivered an admirable speech, but spoilt it by saying that he intended to support the bill. His attitude reminded me of the doctor, employed by an assurance company, who, on examining a person who wished to assure his life, said that although his heart, lungs, kidney and liver were diseased he would pass him. The right honorable member for North Sydney said that, although everything in the bill was wrong, he intended to support it. It is regrettable to find that some honorable members opposite, who do not approve of the bill, intend to support it, merely, I suppose, because the party whip has been cracked.
The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) have told us that, at the last election, the Government received a mandate to introduce a bill of this description. But what was the mandate? The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) discussed this point in a speech which he delivered in the Sydney Town Hall on the Monday prior to the election. I quote the following paragraph from the report of that meeting which appeared in the Melbourne Age : -
The audience listened seriously to his explanation as to how communists had got control of the Labour movement, and cheered wildly when he said they should be taken by the seat of the trousers and the scruff of the neck and thrown out. His statement that he would take the return of his Government as a definite mandate to maintain law and order was heartily welcomed, and his determination to put strife-mongers well out of the sight of every decent citizen was wildly cheered.
I suppose that the right honorable gentleman said the same kind of thing in practically every speech that he delivered during that campaign He used the name of “ Jock “ Garden and certain other names frequently. I daresay that he will repeat similar arguments during the next campaign. It cannot be denied that he gave the people the impression that, if the Government were returned to power, persons like “ Jock “ Garden would be included among those who, he said, would not be allowed to continue to mingle with decent people. At a pre-election meeting which he addressed at Mitcham, in Victoria, the right honorable gentleman said -
We have seenour industries held up, our laws defied, and suggestions made for the overthrow of constitutional government. We have no room for such doctrines here. . . . The Government, if returned to power - as it certainly would be - would get rid of those people who were spreading extreme doctrines, and take measures to bring about industrial peace.
It is remarkable that two and a half years after the election the same bogies are being held up to frighten the community. I have no doubt that, during the next election campaign, the bolsheviks, the communists, and the particular individuals referred to by the Prime Minister in 1925 will be blamed for our industrial turmoil and that the Labour party will be held responsible for their presence in Australia.
But will such statements be accepted * by the general public? I hardly think so.
Let me read tohonorable members a paragraph from an article which appeared in a typical provincial newspaper, which circulates throughout the Riverina.
– What is the name of it?
– The Border Morning Mail. This newspaper has probably as large a circulation as any New South Wales country journal. The article, which was written prior to the introduction of this bill, reads -
The Federal Parliament resumed its session last Tuesday - the final session before it goes to the electors again. The session is bound to be of certain importance, because, if the Government wishes to appear in the best light before the electors at the next elections, it will have to give serious thought to those things not done, which were promised to the people at the last election. It will be remembered that at the last elections the seamen’s strike was a strong lever, used to the final dimension by the Nationalists, in their passage to victory, and the assurance of the
Prime Minister andhis supporters that the Government, if returned to power, would bring about a drastic change in the matter of strikes, helped materially to secure that return. Nothing has been done to meet that promise. Only a shadowy effort to bring about a conference between labour and capital has been attempted. Unless the Federal Government docs something effective in the way of keeping the promises of its Ministers and members at the last election, the public will have some nasty questions for Nationalists and coalitionists at the hustings. Meanwhile, another hold-up of the shipping of the Commonwealth is well under way, and that will not be of much help to the Bruce-Page Ministry.
It is gratifying to honorable members to find certain newspapers not hesitating to expose such political dishonesty and admitting the futility of the Government trying to repeat, with any hope of success, the tactics that it used during the last campaign. Let honorable members compare the quotation which I have just read with the claims which have been made during this debate to the effect that the Government is now giving effect to the mandate which it received upon its last appeal to the people. The same newspaper published a very interesting article after this bill was submitted to Parliament. I quote the following from it: -
The Government has failed inall its promises to bringabout a state of greater peace and prosperity in theindustry of the country for the simple reason that political considerations were too strong for those few individuals who have found themselves in this foreign galley who wish to take the bull by the horns and to legislate from a commonsense point of view. The Coalition Government will fall again simply because it has not the courage to face political considerations. That which it is doing now is a mere tinkering with the question. We are again hearing vague threats of deportation, of the Crimes Act and of some clauses which are being introduced to “ tighten up “ the bill. The bill cannot be tightened up; it is rotten from the first clause to the last because it is a truckling to votes and to the franchise of the electors. It has not one feeble motive to assure the country that it is true arbitration. For it is not. It is a farce, and, in adding to the scenes the Coalition Government, even if it succeeds in its intentions, will only be adding further farcical matter to it.
The Border Morning Mail does not support the Labour party, and has never clone so; but it rebounds to its credit that it is fearless enough to expose the Government’s glaring breach of its election promises.
– The article points out that the bill is not sufficiently drastic.
– It says quite definitely that the bill i3 rotten from beginning to end, and is not capable of improvement. No one with any sense attempts to build upon a bad foundation. We were told prior to the last election that if the Government were returned it would hurl out of the Commonwealth the extremists who, acording to the Prime Minister were disturbing our industrial activities. Many easily-led people were excited to a state of hysteria and said “ This is the Government for us. lt will deal with these agitators.” It was upon the appeal to prejudice and passion ihat the Government won its majority at the last election. But it will not be able to repeat at the coming Section the tactics it adopted upon the last occasion.
– The men whose names were mentioned by the Prime Minister during that campaign have never been brought before a court.
– And they never will be brought before one, for they are too useful to the Government and its supporters. They will be used during the coming election. But I sincerely trust that the people will see through such unworthy tactics, and will not allow their passions to be excited. Has any honorable member opposite the courage to say now, as the Prime Minister did during the 1925 campaign, that mer. like Jock Garden should be deported ? If not, let them be manly enough to refrain from tickling the ears of the electors with such threats at election time. Those old stalking horses will not be as effective in the next campaign as they have been previously.
– We have been told that Jock Garden has abjured communism and become a good reformer.
– The same has been said of Tom Walsh.
– If the name of Jock Garden or Tom Walsh does not serve the purpose of the Government during the next campaign, some other name will be found to do it.
The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) spent a good deal of his time this afternoon in talking about a person” who, he said, had been sent to Moscow recently as the representative of the Australian Labour party. Although his statement was corrected, the honorable member did not withdraw it. First he read a long statement which he attributed to the person he mentioned, and then he endeavoured to connect him with thu Labour party. Such statements may be accepted without question at election meetings which the honorable member addresses in Queensland, or at a Sunday School tea meeting, but they will not be accepted here. The honorable member is unable to prove that there is one communist in the Labour movement.
– What about Payne?
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) is so accustomed to issuing misleading statements in election pamphlets that he thinks they will not be disputed in this chamber. Communists are not allowed in the. Labour movement. No person is admitted to the Labour movement unless he signs the Labour party pledge.
– The communist merely signs the pledge and walks in.
-I am not aware that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) is an authority on these matters.
– Have any communists walked into the Nationalist party!
– That is possible.
– The Labour party is the only political party which has definitely debarred communists from membership.
– The honorable member knows that that is not so.
– Is the Sydney Trades and Labour Council outside the Labour movement?
– It is not affiliated with the political Labour movement.
– Mere bluff!
– Will any honorable member say that with clause 7 on the statute-book arbitration can remain? If a strike takes place in any section of an industry this clause legalizes a general lockout affecting the whole industry. It is clear that the objects of the Government and of the communists are the same. If the Government is really sincere in its desire to rid the country of the communists, who are held responsible for the disorder which exists in the community, now is the time to act. It should not wait until the next election. This party invites the Government to deal with these so-called disturbers of the peace as it indicated at the last election it would do.
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said’ that he would take the communists down Hobson’s Bay in a vessel and tip them overboard.
– The honorable member for Henty makes these wild statements at meetings of the National Women’s League, but in this House he is very meek and mild. Probably during the next election campaign he will repeat the statements.
I agree with the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) that many things in our midst which ought to be remedied will not be remedied by this legislation. Reference has been made to the disabilities under which many of our primary producers labour. This bill will not improve their lot. One would think from the remarks pf those opposite that all their troubles were due to the high wages they have to pay to their employees ; but there are in Australia hundreds of struggling farmers who only at harvest time employ a few men. Many of them employ no labour at all. Yet they suffer hardships. This bill will not alleviate their troubles. If the Government were to make an effort to remedy the evils spoken of by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) it would extend the functions of the Commonwealth Bank, and render practical assistance to the primary producers. In my electorate, which is a typical country district, there are only two branches of the Commonwealth Bank. So far as financial assistance is concerned, the producers there are in as bad a way as they were before the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, owing to the faulty administration of that great institution. The difficulties which confront +he man on the land to-day because of alleged high wages are infinitesimal compared with those which arise from other causes. A farmer who desires to settle his sons on the land finds it. extremely difficult to do so.
– Should this bill deal with that matter ?
– I am replying to the statement made by honorable members opposite that the disabilities of the man on the land to-day are caused by trouble with his employees. That is not the cause of his present unsatisfactory position. The antiquated system of distribution referred to by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) imposes a much heavier burden on the primary producer than do the wages he has to pay to those he employs. Nearly everything that he buys passes through a number of middlemen, each of whom wants his profit. The same is true of practically everything he sells. These are some of the real grievances of the farmer. My experience has been that the intelligent farmer is wide-awake to the election bogies about wages, and knows well where his chief disadvantages come from. The Government knows that these are the read difficulties confronting the primary producers; but because their removal would offend its friends who contribute to its election funds, it does nothing. If the Government believes that it received from the electors a mandate to remedy the state of affairs existing in industry, why has it delayed the introduction of this bill for two and a half years? Once it had regained the Treasury bench the Government did not even call Parliament together for many weeks. To use a colloquialism, it sat back and laughed up its. sleeve at the joke it perpetrated, on the people.
– Parliament met early in January.
– But little more than the swearing in of members was done.
– And’ we will have “ another joke “ of the same kind at the next election.
– That is the only way by which the Government will retain office. When the last appeal to the electors was made the Government knew that its record of achievements would not satisfy them. Its sins of omission and commission were so many that it knew that it stood condemned in the sight of the people. It, therefore,. resolved to raise the old bogy of communism. Its election cry was “ Law and order.” The Treasurer’s words at that time have been ringing in our ears ever since. Ho said that a few foreign individuals were throwing spanners into the industrial machinery, and were responsible for the industrial turmoil in Australia, and that if the Government were returned, it would rid this country of those extremists. Since then two and a half years have elapsed, and these individuals who were named by the Treasurer are still here. I suppose that the Treasurer will now make the last speech on the second reading of the bill in order to repeat his trite statements without any honorable member having an opportunity to reply to them. That action is typical of him/ The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) laughs, yet he admits that the Government has another “ joke “ ready for the next election.
– I have no need to deny it.
– We have the admission that it was only a joke that the Government put over the people at the last election.
– That is so. I have not the slightest doubt that the Treasurer will have the last say, as he did when we discussed the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. He will use the arguments that he used at the last election. Let me tell him that he will then have to find another joke, to use the words of the honorable member for Warringah. I venture to say that the people of Australia, as a result of the last election, have been taught a lesson, and the Government will have to make careful preparations if it wishes to again deceive them.
The provisions of this bill, if given effect, will not decrease, but rather increase strikes. No one would seriously contend that the object of the bill is to decrease strikes. That cannot be the interpretation of its provisions. Honorable members behind the Government contend that by providing for a secret ballot much of our industrial turmoil will cease. The Labour party has no objection to the secret ballot. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) to-night said that the secret ballot would result in a farce, because the men could not be made to vote. Ballot-papers can be issued to them, but they need not be filled in. Let us concede that the men will accept the ballot-papers and vote on the merits of the dispute. What will happen if they vote for a strike ? If they vote in the affirmative their organization may be fined £1,000 and each individual member £100.
– After forcing the men to vote!
– That is so. If the men vote against a strike, all will be well as far as the Government is concerned. Yet honorable members say that this bill is to give effect to the great principle of arbitration, and to the secret ballot, in accordance with their promise to the people at the last elections.
– Is that a free exercise of the franchise?
– Apparently, in the opinion of the Government; yet it says that the bill has been introduced in the interests of the great majority of the trade unionists of Australia, who, it contends, have for years been looking for some effective means to save themselves from the extremists. That argument is so absurd and ridiculous that it is a wonder that the AttorneyGeneral has the effrontery to ask honorable members to consider seriously the acceptance of a measure that has such stupid and impractical provisions. Honorable members who say that the trade unionists are anxiously awaiting this measure know little of their views.
– To what particular clause is the honorable member referring ?
– To clause 44 which provides for the taking of a secret ballot. Let us concede, for the sake of illustration, that the so-called extremists have been responsible for most of the industrial turmoil in Australia. If the guilt is sheeted home to these individuals, what does the Government intend to do? It proposes not to deal with them in the way suggested at the last election, but to give the employer permission to approach the Arbitration Court, and to ask it fo declare that a strike exists in the industry. The employer then declares a general lock-out. The Government has undoubtedly fallen down on its election promise.
I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), that there are faults in our arbitration system. It is by no means perfect, and nobody contends that it is. We should have in our system of arbitration more of the spirit of conciliation mainly by means of round-table conferences. The time has come for that. The bill will not get us anywhere, except to increase our troubles. We should endeavour to get down to basic facts by bringing both parties together in a spirit of conciliation. Unfortunately under this bill the Government proposes to use the big stick, and that will not be tolerated by the workers of this country. At the time of the last election there was a shipping strike on our coast. The then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), interviewed Sir William Clarkson, Chairman of the Commonwealth Shipping Board, and as a result the Commonwealth fleet continued its sailings. That practically had the effect of settling the dispute.
– It was for that reason that the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was recently sold.
– I believe that there is something in that suggestion. When Sir William Clarkson refused to fall into line with the other ship-owners by tying up the Australian Commonwealth Line the Prime Minister asked him for an explanation. Sir William Clarkson quite properly reminded the Prime Minister that the Commonwealth Shipping Board was outside political control. It was a very effective answer. Sir William Clarkson entered into an arrangement to end the shipping dispute so far as the Australian Commonwealth Line was concerned, and he contended that he had a perfect right to do so. If another shipping strike occurs, the Shipping Board will not be in existence, and the Government will thus be able to get all the political capital it requires for election purposes. There should be in the relations between the seamen and the ship-owners more of that spirit of conciliation which brought to an end the shipping strike of 1925. This bill is an attempt to dragoon and bludgeon the workers into accepting the dictum of the Government. To settle industrial disputes we must have a greater measure of conciliation.
– The honorable -member should try it on the marine cooks.
– Is there any provision in this bill which, if given effect, would end the cooks’ strike? If there is, let the honorable member for Wakefield point to it.
– If I had my way the strike would quickly end.
– No doubt he will tell the electors of Wakefield what he would do to settle the strike, but this is the place where he should state his remedy. Honorable members opposite will say on the hustings, as they said before, that the extremists should be seized by the scruff of the neck and hurled out of the country. A lot of people fall for that’ sort of guff. The honorable member for Wakefield asks what we on this side of the House will do to settle the marine cooks’ dispute. My reply is that we are not in power; the Government has a sufficient majority, and it promised the people at the last election to put an end to all industrial trouble. Yet it remain helpless and futile. What does it propose to do to settle this dispute?
– Ve are trying to pass this bill.
– Is there any provision in the bill that will help to settle any trouble?
– Why is the honorable member so afraid of the bill?
– The honorable member misrepresents me? To consider the bill is a mere wasting of time. The Government claims that it received a mandate from the people to deal with industrial trouble. Such trouble has been more or less constant ever since the last general election, and the Government is as helpless as a child regarding it. Peace can be established between grown men only in one way - not by using the hobnailed boot, and the big stick, but by conciliation and reasonableness. The bill will get the Government nowhere. Ministers know that, and have brought it forward only to save their faces. The honorable member for Brisbane said that this measure represents the final attempt to handle this problem, and that if it fails the -Government will at least have done everything in its power. The bill is bound to fail; it will promote rather than prevent trouble, and therefore all persons who wish to see the right thing done should tell the Government frankly what they really think of the measure. If that were done the Government would cast these proposals to the four winds.
.- I do not propose to refer now to the details of the bill that have been discussed so freely in the course of this debate, but seem to me more appropriate for consideration in committee; I prefer to review the bill in its general relation to the legislation and government of the country. When compulsory arbitration was first introduced, many people shook their heads and doubted that it would effect the objects for which it was designed. Some thought that the very words “ compulsory arbitration “ were in themselves a contradiction of terms, inasmuch as compulsion was at variance with the spirit of conciliation, which should permeate arbitration. But those who had conscientious doubts had their voices drowned by the plaudits of those who thought that a considerable step was being taken towards the industrial millenium. However high the motives and ideals that prompted this new legislation, time alone could determine whether it would be beneficial or injurious to the country. At first it appeared to work well, and there was no cause to doubt that a great and beneficial reform had been introduced. After all, arbitration is a system of compromise. When employees demanded improvements in their conditions, they did not always get all they wanted; every settlement was a compromise, yet invariably they gained by their application to the court. No harm was seen in this process at the time, because the increased cost to industry was simply transferred by the employers to the public, and the public paid because it was persuaded that industrial peace was worth the extra price. The peace thus created was more apparent than real; it was rather a temporary quiescence such as follows the pouring of oil on troubled waters: the great undercurrents and heaving tides are unaffected. The temporary alleviation of local troubles through the medium of the Arbitration Court had no real effect upon the great under-currents of human thought and desire. The use of the words “ industrial peace “ is an example of the widespread tendency nowadays for the public mind to be dominated by mere phrases, and I know of no subject in connexion with which more highsounding phrases are current than arbitration. We have heard in the course of this debate a great deal about the need for industrial peace. What is peace? Different people have different conceptions of it. A peace may be very destructive. Tacitus said, “ There are ‘those who would make a desert and call it peace.” Although at first no difficulties arose out of arbitration - the new panacea for industrial ills - time and experience gradually revealed developments which had not been foreseen. We often hear scathing remarks about men whose one idea in business is to make profits. But profits are an essential part of business; without them business is impossible. They provide the funds which render possible the extension of existing industries ‘and the establishment of new ones; therefore, if profits are eliminated from business, sooner or later industry will cease. At first the higher wages awarded by the arbitration courts had little noticeable effect ; but with successive increases of the burdens on industry profits became less and less, and more precarious.
It may be said that the Arbitration Court deals with many other things besides wages; but, as a matter of fact, everything it does affects the proportion of output which must be allocated to the wage fund. Its awards deal either with increases in pure wages, with reductions of hours, so that the same wage is paid for less work, or with alterations of conditions, every improvement of which is a further tax on the proceeds of industry. Wages is a sufficiently generic term to cover all these things. Presently, therefore, this ship of arbitration did not seem to be sailing very well.
It was not keeping steadily on its course, and it was thought that an increased spread of canvas should be given to it to steady it upon the waves. The manufacturers, finding that their profits were being threatened by the awards of the Arbitration Court, and by competition from abroad, united with the employees to demand increased tariff protection, by means of which they could extract from the public that increased contribution, which alone could keep in existence the system which arbitration had established. In other words, the reduction of profits occasioned by increases in wages could only be made up by an increased protective tariff, under which an extra toll could be levied on the public. The public still paid the increased prices, and carried the burden of the tariff, because they had been persuaded that it was necessary, and because a dominance had been acquired over their minds by preaching to them all sorts of patriotic rubbish. By these means they were induced to take on burdens which they knew they should not have to bear. A big leak had developed in the ship, but it still continued to float. This demand on the people increased regularly, but it was found that it could not go on increasing indefinitely. The continual rise in wages, and the consequent increase in prices, began to tax the buying power of the people unduly, and now the situation has got beyond the limits of wealth production. For a further period economic difficulties which were pressing upon the community were staved off, and the system of tariffs, plus Arbitration Court, was maintained by borrowing from abroad. Presently, however, the effects of that became so obvious that a public outcry was raised against excessive borrowing, and there seems at last,to bc a certain amount of determination on the part of the Government to curtail this mischievous practice. Now we have come to a very interesting, but very difficult period in the development of this system : The public are beginning to protest by refusing to buy. That is the most effective protest of all; the only really effective one which the public can make when their interests are being systematically sacrificed by both employers and employees. This feeling of exasperation on the part of the public is aggravated by the realization that this thing for which they have been asked to make such, sacrifices, this goal of industrial peace for which they have suffered so much financial loss, is notbeing attained. Strikes are continually taking place, causing dislocations of trade, and interrupting national services, while there is great and growing unemployment everywhere throughout the country. The poor old ship of compulsory arbitration is now almost dismantled. A last effort .is being made to save it, and this measure is by way of a jury mast to bring it into a safe haven.
The bill is the natural and logical sequel to a whole series of past events. It is the natural development of policies which have been imposed on the people of Australia without any real regard to the deep, underlying economic effects which they would produce. There is a demand on the part of the public for a bill of this kind. They say that they have made sacrifices enough, and have not got that for which those sacrifices were made. Strikes still occur, and the people are becoming tired of them. Every day there is some fresh complaint, more absurd and more unreasonable than the last. This sort of thing should stop, and it is the duty “of the Government to stop it. There is also a feeling amongst a large section of the community that the employers have had the thin end, and the employees the thick end of the stick, so far as arbitration awards are concerned. I am not concerned at the moment as to whether that is true or not. The very able speech of the Prime Minister - one of the best I have heard from him in this House - dealt with that aspect of the matter, and showed how it has become necessary to supplement the Arbitration act by such compulsory measures as will make those who come before the court respectiful of its decisions and awards. Unfortunately, the Government has been placed in a difficult situation. It is really very much in the position of the foolish person who intervenes in a quarrel between a man and his wife. Both the combatants will be sure to unite and turn upon the peacemaker. That is what is being done now. From both the employers and employees we hear nothing but criticism of this bill : complaints of its inadequacy and insufficiency. We have heard during this debate the criticisms of Labour. I shall quote one or two statements that have been made showing that dissatisfaction seems to be as strong on the employers’ side as on that of the Labour unions. Much has been said about a certain circular that was distributed by the Metal Trades Association, from which I shall quote the following paragraph : -
Industrial arbitration has a- beautiful ideal, and a righteous one. It was originally evolved to protect tha workers who are unable to economically protect themselves. It has done so. It has overdone it. It has pampered them so that they have become bowelless tyrants and unmitigated ruffians towards the industries from which they draw their sustenance. Away with it, and let us get back to the clear, open, economic ring.
The employees want to maintain the Arbitration Court, and to retain the right to strike or exercise job control, as they will. The employers want to abolish the Arbitration Court and to maintain the advantages of a protective tariff, and at the same time they want to preserve the monopoly given to them by the Navigation Act. Obviously, both parties are wrong. They cannot have it both ways. The statement from the Metal Trades Association is a very extraordinary one. I do not know whether it was written by the same gentleman who made a statement on behalf of that association a year or two ago. If I remember rightly it was about three years ago that a representative official of the Metal Trades Association made a public statement which attracted a good deal of attention. At the time the employers were being hard pressed under arbitration awards, and many fresh applications were being lodged with the Tariff Board for increased duties. The statement intimated that if the Nationalist Government would not give the metal traders the increased duties that they demanded, their association would be forced to support the Labour party politically. They did not care one rap about public policy so long as they could maintain the protective duties that they demanded. They were quite willing to throw themselves into the arms of the highest bidder. Now their representative considers that the Labour men, whom he was willing to assist in order to line his own pockets, are “bowelless tyrants and unmitigated ruffians,” and he demands that the Arbitration Courts shall be abolished. But, at the same time, he wants to preserve special tariff privileges. In an article which appeared in the Adelaide Register of the 14th May,, written by Mr. A. A. Simpson, C.M.G.,. who, I understand, is a past president of the Adelaide Chamber of Manufactures, this bill is condemned, root and branch,. The employers like the motto “Heads I win, tails you lose “ just as much as the unions do. This is an extract from the article -
The truth is that since compulsory arbitration has’ become the law of Australia, it is no good uttering sob stuff about “ friendship “ and appointing salaried “ conciliators “ to preside over a multitude of committees. We employers are sick of being cited to the Arbitration Court, and then, for the crime of being employers, being “ conciliated “ as well. We resent being prosecuted twice over for the same offence. We arc quite competent to settle our disputes in conference with employees, but we do not applaud the intervention of civil servants, whose pay and interest may depend upon the continuance of “ conciliation.” Besides the boards of reference, the bill contains other amendments tending to avoid the consequences of the last Constitutional referendum and to destroy the State industrial legislation.
I believe that compulsory arbitration has failed through the very nature of its structure. I would abolish arbitration if I had the power, but not on the manufacturers’ terms. The employers expect to maintain their tariff privileges, also those that they enjoy by the operation of the Navigation Act, which is one of the greatest impositions to which this country is subjected, and one of the primary causes of industrial trouble on our coast. Remove the restrictions of that act and half our maritime strikes would be permanently abolished. The shipping companies cannot be allowed to retain their privileges under that act, and at the same time have the system of arbitration abolished. Throughout their dealings with the seamen the shipping companies have been weak and vacillating, and have failed in their duty to the community because they have feared the repeal of this act. The public, is not yet ready to accept such a complete reform of public policy as is suggested. We must realize that we have been gradually building up our system of arbitration on high-sounding euphonious formulae without any sound economic basis, and having as its three principal props an increased tariff, compulsory arbitration and the Navigation Act. Until these three incubuses on the national life of Australia have been removed we shall continue to have economic disturbances and industrial unrest. I am sorry to say that public opinion does not yet appear to realize this, but it certainly is the duty of public men, whose principal business it is to study and endeavour to understand these questions, to voice their opinion on these matters in no uncertain tone, because it is only in that way that public opinion will be trained along the right lines.
This bill has been brought in because public opinion has still a certain pathetic faith in what has been done in the past, and still believes it worth while to make sacrifices for the ideals of the Arbitration Act, the Tariff Act and the Navigation Act; it is still foolish enough to entertain those illusions, and cannot get to the point of realizing that despite all its sacrifices we still have employer and employee quarrelling, and still have grave economic disturbances hindering and hampering the business life of the community. This bill is the logical completion of a system which has been built up in the past, and I am giving my support to the second reading because I cannot abolish the system which renders it necessary. I would be the first to abolish it in the sense I have described, not partially, not simply removing privileges -from one party and leaving them to another, but by putting all on an equal footing. But because I cannot do so, I am compelled to support the bill, although not optimistic as to its effects. I regard it as the last despairing attempt to keep going a system which, in my opinion, is quite impracticable, and economically unsound. At the same time I think it is utterly foolish and unfair to accuse the Government of bringing it in deliberately to wreck the arbitration system. I believe the measure will prove futile, but at the same time I believe it is necessary for the Government to demonstrate the failure of the present system before it can get the public to support it in a more radical and sensible reform. It must be tried; but I believe it will fail. There have been many admissions of this fear in the speeches to which we have listened. “We have had a tremendous crop of beautiful phrases. We have heard a great deal about “ voluntary arbitration,” “ conciliation,” “round-table conferences,” and “cooperation in industry;” beautiful phrases which seem to suggest a rosy dawn creeping up over the horizon if only we contrive to keep our eyes fixed on these ideals. I give everybody credit for sincerity in the hope to which they have given expression that good may come of the utilization of the machinery generally associated with wages boards, boards of reference, and such like. When people speak of conciliation as opposed to arbitration, I am afraid they are not realizing clearly what they meanThey speak in general terms of bringing employers and employees together and letting them settle matters between themselves, but that is really the principle of the wages board. I have always repudiated any suggestion that faith should be reposed in the ultimate result of wages boards, because I believe that these boards have contributed - equally with the Arbitration Court - to the present economic position. The burden that has been placed on industry by wages boards has not been so obvious to the public, but it can easily be demonstrated by a reference to what happens. When the employees make a demand for certain wages, and the employers say “We cannot give them to you,” a wages board is formed for the industry. Representatives of the employers and employees meet with an independent chairman, and eventually a compromise is reached, which is, in the majority of cases, to the benefit of the men, as is the case in arbitration awards; and very often it is arrived at on the casting vote of the chairman. What is the difference in the effect on the community generally between a compromise arrived at by a wages board for the benefit of the workers, and one which is arrived at by means of an Arbitration Court? The increase in wages is passed on in just the same way to the industry and to the public. The only difference is that there is not the same amount of publicity given to the proceedings of a wages board as is given to a claim submitted to an Arbitration Court. A wages board decision is simply an agreement between the employers and the employees as to the amount of contribution which the public will have to make to keep their industry going. I have no faith in wages boards. From the public standpoint, the Arbitration Court has this advantage - that the judge is supposed to be looking after the interests of the public, whereas a wages board is simply a private meeting between employers and employees, with an independent chairman, to determine what toll they will make upon the public. To me, the one system is as bad as the other. Although the system of wages boards looks all right, it works out in just the same way as an Arbitration Court, and is contributing in just the same way as the latter to the increasing toll on industry which has led to the present economic position of Australia.
The same remarks are true of conciliation as carried out by the gentleman referred to by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) in his speech as the Conciliation Commissioner. The Attorney-General was good enough, as he promised in his speech, to make available to me the report of this Conciliation Commissioner. I glanced through it, and tried to ascertain the principles he had followed, or how he had arrived at the results which the Attorney-General said were so very satisfactory. I could find nothing in it to indicate the lines which the commissioner followed. All that the report contains is a series of cases with the words “ This was referred to me, and a settlement wa3 arrived at.” Of course, as long as you get a settlement, everything is well; but there is nothing in this report to indicate the lines on which any settlement was arrived at. You can always get a settlement with your enemy if you give him all he demands, and it is a very easy thing for a civil servant in a permanent position, unaffected to any marked extent by these awards, to effect conciliation between contending parties so long as the public is content to pay.
– Does the honorable member realize that all the conciliation settlements are settlements accepted by both parties, and that no award or determination is given by the Conciliation Commissioner ?
– That is the system of which I am complaining. I maintain that the proper way to view the matter is to regard both parties as the servants of the public. Industry has a right to exist only so long as it serves the public. When employees and employers combine, they can settle a difference of opinion upon any terms that may be mutually agreeable to them, without taking into consideration the interests of the public. That is the whole trouble. You can conciliate so long as you satisfy both of those who demand a portion of the carcass. The essential trouble caused by this system of conciliation is that it results in giving everybody what he wants, except the public who pay.
– The honorable member has condemned the three forms; what does he suggest?
– I am coming to that. The only illustration which adequately describes the process adopted by both wages boards and arbitration courts is to be found in old English history. It will be remembered that King Ethelred II. was greatly perturbed by the invasion of the Danes and the’ devastation that they wrought among his people. He, therefore, conciliated them by making them payments of money. The Danes were given the Danegeld, and went away; but when they again wanted money they returned. How did King Ethelred find that money ‘ He raised it by placing a tax upon the people.’ instead of giving them the opportunity to repel the invaders. In Australia under our existing arbitration system commercial Danegeld is being raised from the public in return for peace, so called.
– There is no difference between the workers and the public. What does the honorable member mean when he refers to the public?
– I thank the honorable member for Werriwa for that interjection. I am aware, of course, that the claim is constantly made that the whole of the people are represented by honorable members who sit opposite.
– Oh, no!
– It is claimed that the public consists of those who are supposed to be represented by honorable members opposite - the workers. I certainly admit that those whom we have been designating employees constitute a very large section of the public. One of the strongest complaints of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) against the existing arbitration system was that the effective wage of the workers had been reduced by 5 per cent.; in other words, that the workers, who arc supposed to benefit by the arbitration system, have, in common with the general mass of the public, suffered as a result of its operation. They do not realize that increased prices have lowered their effective wage, no matter to what extent their nominal wage may have been ‘increased under awards of the court. The burden of my remarks, in this House on various occasions has been that honorable members who sit opposite are the last to realize that the workers, whose interests they profess to conserve, are the greatest sufferers when any additional impost is placed upon the community, because they feel most acutely an increase in prices and a lowering of the purchasing capacity of their wages.
We have heard a great deal about the necessity for arbitration to take cognizance of economic realities. That is merely another well-sounding and well-meaning phrase. During the course of the discussion that took place on the proposed amendments to the Constitution in May of last year’ it was stated that the new Arbitration Court would be established in such a way that these questions would be properly studied, and that the effect of awards on economic conditions would be taken into consideration by that court. So clearly was this understood that a short while ago Chief Judge Dethridge drew attention to it. He said that the court was supposed to endeavour to take economic considerations into account when framing its awards. He went on to say that, as a result of his experience in the court, he had come to the conclusion that there were no economic principles which they could grasp, and that ail they could do was to meddle and muddle through.
– What he said was that they could not always give economic justification for their decisions.
– I have given the sense conveyed by his words: that it is impossible for the court to study economic conditions. I am not surprised that he should say that it is impossible to take economic facts into consideration. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has demonstrated very effectively this evening the difficulty that surrounds the adoption of such a course. Except in a general way, no person can foresee the economic effects of an award. All that is apparent is that it will place an extra burden upon the industry concerned; but to what extent that burden can be borne by other industries cannot be determined. What may be a fair burden upon the community to-day may be an absolutely unfair burden in six months’ time, if in the meanwhile a drought should be experienced.
– It might be unfair even without such a contingency.
– Of course it might. We cannot make fixed and unvarying laws to deal with variable economic conditions. Without wishing to be disrespectful to the judges of the Arbitration Court, who may be very able lawyers, I contend that the study of economics and the effect of varying influences in trade upon the economic conditions of a country is a matter for economic experts. These judges cannot be expected to rank as experts in every subject, nor can they profess to a thorough understanding of all the questions they are asked to settle. There is only one method by which the economic effects of any particular movement or of any legislation can he demonstrated; that is, by practical experience. It is only by actual trial in a free economic field that the results can be ascertained. We cannot possibly judge of the effect of an award upon economic conditions, or its relation to what are called economic realities, while we are attempting to buildup a system that is based upon economie artificialities. That is what we are doing to-day. I admit that compulsory arbitration has to choose some system upon which to base its awards. It has chosen the cost of living. I do not know of any other that it could have chosen. But, at the same time, it cannot frame its awards satisfactorily on that basis. Better results would accrue if awards could be framed according to production; but it is not within the power of any court to do that. Immediately the court makes an award that is based on the existing cost of living it increases the cost of living to the whole community and upsets the very basis upon which its own award was given.
Consider the conception of economics embodied in the oft quoted dictum that an industry which cannot pay the wages awarded should not exist. The awards of the court are increasing wages in every industry, and making it almost impossible for some industries to continue at all. To overcome this difficulty, we give these industries, by way of stimulant, a dose of commercial strychnine in the form of protection ; but eventually there must be a crash. A crash has actually occurred in the case of some industries, and that is why we have so much unemployment in Australia to-day. Until we face the realities of the situation, unemployment will increase. The compulsory system of arbitration will be accepted only so long as wages and prices are on the increase. That process has been in operation throughout the whole history of our Arbitration Court, and in that respect we have been fortunate: but once we reach the reverse position - and we are faced with it to-day - there must be a fall in prices and wages, or industries will go out of existence. “When that happens the Arbitration Court cannot function. As soon as it reduces wages, its awards will be flouted more than ever, and it will become a logical absurdity.
I admit it is easier to criticize than to help; but anybody who does not try to suggest a constructive policy shows want of thought on this important subject. T feel sure that the Government realizes the difficulties with which it is faced. If I am asked what constructive suggestion I can offer it is only fair to say that it is impossible to build on bad foundations. Before we begin to erect a new building, we must clear away the structure that now encumbers the ground. Personally, I do not think that we can make progress with constructive, helpful criticism of any scheme for the removal of industrial unrest until we realize that the existing structure must be -scrapped. Once we do that, I believe that we shall open up a way for a better understanding between the parties to industry. I am afraid that the very existence of the compulsory Arbitration Act is the principle obstacle in the way of better relations between employers and employees.
Honorable members, opposite tails about their adherence to arbitration; but I point out that in those countries where better industrial arrangements than those obtaining in Australia have been or are being brought about, there is no compulsory arbitration. In my opinion the goal at which we aim could be achieved without legislation. As soon as we seek to cure our industrial ills by legislation, we introduce compulsion and restriction. We cannot . have laws without restrictions, and it is impossible to have arbitration without sanctions. I remind honorable members who are so eager for international arbitration, that the difficulty in the international sphere has also arisen over the necessity for “ guarantees “ or “ sanctions.” It is just the same in the industrial sphere. Only by the removal of the compulsory arbitration laws can we have a chance of bringing about improved relations between the parties to industry.
A great deal has been heard about the Prime Minister’s efforts to secure a conference on the subject of industrial peace. He was honorable and sincere in his efforts in that direction, and if he is to be blamed at all in connexion with that matter it is because he ought to have known that his action would be turned to political account. I believe that the sole reason why the proposal was not successful, was that it emanated from a political leader. The right honorable gentleman might have committed an error of judgment, but the steps that he took were certainly not prompted by a sinister motive, as has been suggested. 1 believe the proposal would have succeeded if, instead of coming from a political source, it had resulted, as in England, from action on the part of employers and employees themselves.
– They would not do it.
– That was due to the Arbitration Court, which has stood as an obstacle to such action. The Government should tell both sides in industry that they will no longer be given artificial support, but must learn to realize that they both owe a service to the public, and that it is their duty to co-operate. It is empty idealism to talk about people being led to do this merely from high, disinterested motives. Human nature works better when its interests lie along the path of duty. If industry were free from the Arbitration Court and its restrictive control, it would be easier than it is today to introduce a system of copartnership, profit-sharing, and mutual management of business concerns by employers and employees, such as has been successfully practised in other parts of the world. That, I believe, is the solution of our industrial troubles.
– Does the honorable member think that Parliament can help in that direction?
– I am afraid not, because Parliament obstructs by its laws. Many of the most notable acts of Parliament have been those which repealed preexisting mischievous legislation. If the Arbirtation Act were abolished, the employees would be led to realize that their personal interests are bound up with the increase of production. Only by both sides in industry realizing that fact can we solve the economic problem, and render better service to the community. The statistics show that increases in wages and reductions in working hours have resulted in the production, per head of the population, falling.
Mr.Fenton. - I think thehonorable . member is wrong.
– I am sure that I am right in that statement. The effect of artificial remedies is to divert attention temporarily from the actual position. Experience is the only true teacher; it is from hard and bitter experience that we learn facts and truths. Personally, I can see a great opportunity for employers and employees to learn from the experiences of other countries. Instead of rushing to the Government for artficial support, those engaged in industry should draw upon the store of knowledge and experience which has been rendered available by enterprising business men and thoughtful labour leaders in other parts of the world. They would then soon see along which road lie greater prosperity and happiness for themselves, and increased prosperity for the country. As long as these artificial props remain, it is only human nature for people to spare themselves the effort, self-denial, and strenuous endeavour necessary to bring about reform.
The bill is an attempt, though I doubt if it will succeed, to secure justice to both sides in a badcase. I wish to refer to two statements made during the debate, one of which was uttered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) to show how a false idea of what is proposed is being given by members of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition said that “ this bill would destroy faith in the impartiality of the law.” The very object of the bill is to endeavour to give equal justice to each side, and to ensure that the penalties imposed on one section should also be imposed on the other. If the honorable member’s idea of impartiality is that we should have a law which will benefit only one of the parties to a dispute, I venture to say that his idea of impartiality will require a great deal of justification and apology.
– The honorable member knows that that is not my idea of impartiality.
– I am only using the honorable member’s own words. One object of the measure is to provide that penalties for infraction of the law shall be imposed on both sides alike. I do not know whether the penalties are capable of application or enforcement; but, at any rate, this is an attempt to make them so. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) twitted the Prime Minister for his inactivity in connexion with strikes. He said it was the bounden duty of the Government to intervene when strikes occurred, to bring about a settlement. That statement is characteristic of the attitude of honorable members opposite on the question of law generally. They demand law. They want protection under the law; but as soon as the law goes against them they say that the Government should intervene to protect them.
– That i3 absurd.
– That is the logical conclusion to be drawn from the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter. Instead of it being the Government’s bounden duty to intervene in these cases, it is its bounden duty not to intervene. The duty of the Government is to maintain the law. The law does not provide that the Government shall intervene, but it does provide a proper means of intervention and control. It is the bounden duty of honorable members on both sides of the chamber to uphold the law instead of asking the Government to intervene. As an instance of what the honorable member for Hunter claims should be done, I may say that in Victoria, in connexion with the wages board system to which I have referred, it was found that under an award a grave injustice was sometimes done. A court of industrial appeal was therefore specially appointed as a reference board to which an appeal could be made from a wages board award in order to correct anomalies or remedy grievances. The appeal board, which was constituted of representatives of employers and employees, with a presiding judge, did not function for a long time because, if those on one side did not want an appeal to be heard they did not appoint a representative. For a long time the board could not function, but the last Victorian Government introduced a measure under which if either side refused to appoint a representative the chairman could do so to enable the board to function. The board then sat and satisfactorily dealt with a number of appeals, but because it is a tribunal which prevents one side gaining an unfair advantage over the other the present Labour Government has intervened and abolished it. That is the way in which that Government considers that the law should be treated. It is of paramount importance that every government should maintain the law until it is amended, and it is not right for a government or its representatives to intervene to protect either side when acting in contravention of the law.
On a measure of this nature, it is imperative that every honorable member should declare his position. It is true that one’s time is limited, but one at least must indicate one’s attitude in general terms. Honorable members will admit that what I have said in connexion with this bill is consistent with my attitude on other questions which have come be- ‘ fore this House. I hope that the debate will help to clarify the position in the minds of the public, and that these artificial props which we have erected and which are really only keeping each other standing will eventually be removed. We want freedom, liberty and a just relationship between the different sections of the community. It is only by this means that progress can be achieved. Justice and liberty are two fundamental essentials of organized society, and they can be obtained only when we remove those artificial supports, which are providing artificial conditions that cannot possibly last.
.- The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), has declared that our arbitration system is artificial. He should have got down to fundamentals and quoted a law which is not artificial in one form or another. Laws are made to govern communities, and without them a state of anarchy would prevail. Our arbitration laws were framed as a result of the experiences of those engaged in industry and those conversant with the requirements of the people. The honorable member declined to reply to a question put to him as to what would be the position of the people, if the just demands of employers and employee* were not considered. The honorable member could not reply to my question. He asserted that the Navigation Act, the tariff schedule, and the Conciliation and” Arbitration Act were three incubuses upon public life, and left us in no doubt whatever that if he could have his way they would be removed. I asked him what he would give us in their stead. H« replied that he would tell me a little later, but be did not do so. He then proceeded to deal with another aspect of the subject, and when I interjected, he told me that he intended to make his speech in hi3 own .way, and would not suffer dictation from me. I had no desire to dictate to the honorable member. I merely wished to get a clear understanding of his views. The honorable member had something to say about “clearing the debris,” and observed that before a new structure could be erected the old one which cumbered the ground had to be removed. Unfortunately, he did not indicate the kind of new structure that he would erect.
– The honorable member could not have paid- much attention to my speech. .
– I asked the honorable member to be definite in order that he might make his meaning clear, not only to me, but to the general public. He did not do so. It is unfortunate for him that freetrade is about the only plank in his political platform. He said that the Chamber of Manufactures of South Australia desired the abolition of the Arbitration Court, and condemned our system of arbitration root and branch.
But how did we come to institute this method of controlling industry? It is the result of the influence of the Labour party in politics. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) told us that the first rule of the American Federation of Labour was “No party politics.” His statement was approved by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster). But the Labour party is in politics in Australia because of suggestions made by our opponents during the great maritime strike of 1891. We were told then that if we were not satisfied with the conditions that existed we should enter political life with the object of altering them. That is how the political Labour party came into being. We realized that strikes involved our wives and children in a good deal of misery and suffering, and endeavored to find a better method of settling our disputes.
Honorable members opposite who have spoken so glibly about the effectiveness of the wages board system do not seem to realize that compulsory arbitration is a development of it. We have been told that the object of this bill is to make our arbitration machinery more effective. I do not think that that is the intention of the Government. Its desire is to make the system so unworkable that it will have good grounds for asking that it shall bc scrapped. If one listened only to the speeches which honorable members opposite are in the habit of delivering, one might be led to believe that Labour is indebted to its political opponents for every advantage that it enjoys. The fact is that Labour representatives in Parliament, and in industry generally, have had to struggle for many years to place upon the statute-book the measures which we now enjoy. Labour governments have been in power at different times in all the States of the Commonwealth, and also in the federal sphere; but even when they have been in the minority, they have been able to force their opponents to grant concessions which have improved the standard of living.
The wages board system of South Australia was granted grudgingly, and after much agitation. It was necessary that a. motion should be carried by both Houses of the State Parliament before a wages board could be appointed for an industry. Another evidence of the reluctance with which the Government of the day granted this measure of reform was that a provision was inserted in the act that wages boards could only be established for industries operating within a radius of 25 miles of Adelaide. That limit was fixed so that Gawler, which at the time was an important centre for the manufacture of locomotives, could not be granted wages boards. Yet honorable members opposite would have us believe that from the earliest days our opponents have been only too ready to set up wages boards to determine industrial conditions. It was a long time before the wages board system had general application. It took seventeen years for the system to apply to the industry in which I was engaged. After I left the factory in which I had been employed the employees went on strike for a week in order to obtain justice. At the end of that period the person who controlled the industry approached the Hon. R. P. Blundell, who at one time represented Adelaide in this
House, but was at that a time a member of the South Australian House of Assembly, with a view to having the wages board system applied to that industry. From that time that industry has had a wages board, although recently the employees gained an award from the Arbitration Court. I mention these things to show that what is asked for now has been tried. The arbitration system has grown out of the conditions that existed in industry in the past. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) said that the workers are penalizing industry. Seeing that the awards of the Arbitration Court are made by judges, and based on sworn evidence, I cannot understand his statement. Under the wages board system a matter is sometimes determined by the casting vote of an individual who is biased. I know what I am talking about, because I have been a member of a wages board.
– There is always the possibility of intimidation.
– That is true. Members of wages boards who represent the employees are not free to express themselves as they would like. They cannot speak plainly in the presence of their employers without jeopardizing their interests. But in the Arbitration Court the representatives of the employers meet on equal terms with the representatives of the employees. The real cause of the objection of the employers to the arbitration system is that under it the employees are not so liable to victimization as they are under other systems. The South Australian legislation governing wages boards provided that representatives of employees must be actually engaged in the industry, and have been so employed at least three months prior to their appointment to a wages board. Fortunately, when I was a member of a wages board, I had lately left the active work associated with the industry, and was, therefore, free to express my opinions without fear of victimization. The sole purpose of the insertion of that provision was to intimidate the employees. The representatives of the employees in the Arbitration Court are usually men with actual experience in the industry - not men brought in from outside. If honorable members opposite are successful in their attempt to scrap the arbitration system, are they willing for it to be supplanted by direct action?
We have made such progress in industry in this country that it is now too late to retrace our steps and go back to what some still describe as the “ good old days.” The Government’s action in introducing this bill is in conflict with public opinion. The public generally believe that industry must be regulated, and that the worker has some rights. Do honorable members opposite say that the workers have taken more from industry than the employers have taken? It is not a question of whether industry can stand the strain which the payment of fair wages imposes upon it, but whether it can meet’ an interest payment of £1,000,000 per week on the part of the Commonwealth.
– The amount is more than that.
– That interest has to be earned by the workers. Of all the members who have spoken in support of this bill not one has suggested that there should be any investigation into the amount of profits earned by an industry.
– Nor have they advocated the limitation of profits.
– The wages board system in South Australia precluded any investigation into the profits made by a business. Moreover, a wages board could not make an award which would place an industry in that State at a disadvantage compared with a similar industry in another State. There were all sorts of restrictions. But the Arbitration Court deals with questions in a different manner; its awards are made only after full evidence has been tendered by both sides.
Do honorable members opposite contend that the awards of the Arbitration Court are made without a proper investigation? When a union submits a plaint to the Arbitration Court it gives reasons in support of its claim. Generally, the case of the workers is put to the court by men engaged in the industry, so that the exclusion of lawyers from the Arbitration Court would not affect the unions very much.
– The unions would prefer their exclusion.
– The employers, having greater funds at their disposal, are generally represented in the court by the best advocates procurable. After hearing the representations made on behalf of both parties to a dispute, the judge arrives at a decision. Will any honorable member go so far as to say that the employees in industry should not receive reasonable treatment ?
The Government has now decided to attack the arbitration system. The workers have striven for arbitration, and they understand the system, but the Government has introduced the bill to restrict the operations of the court and to overload the act with amendments so as to make the present system inoperative, and, as the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) has suggested, to educate the public mind to the belief that there is only one thing for Australia, and that is to scrap the Arbitration Court. I do not know what may be in the mind of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), but if he expressed himself candidly he would say that that suggestion has a lot to do with the introduction of the bill.
Honorable members behind . the Government have spoken of reducing the cost of living and the cost of production, but they have not explained how this can be brought about other than through the Arbitration Court awards. It has been suggested that the hours of labour should be increased, and that payment should be by results, which really means the survival of the fittest in industry. The time has long passed, in Australia at least, for that system to be revived and made universal. It is not the custom nowadays to exact the last ounce of energy from a man for the least amount than can be paid to him. Some suggestion for reducing costs might well come from honorable members behind the Government. The majority of the workers to-day are on the basic wage. No one would suggest that there should not be a margin for skill. Honorable members opposite will not say straight out that the basic wage should be reduced; but the trend of their remarks is in that direction. At whose expense is the basic wage to be reduced?
– It can be done under the provisions of this bill.
– I daresay, and perhaps it will; but at whose expense? Would it be in the interests of Australia to reduce our standard of living? I, for one, as a representative of the workers, would certainly not vote for a decrease in the basic wage, which’ has been arrived at only after years of effort on the part of the workers. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said that he represented the workers, and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) insinuated that the Labour party had the interests of no other section of the community at heart. He endeavoured to place the Leader of the Opposition in a false position. We certainly represent the working class; but when measures of a non-party character are introduced which, in our opinion, make for the development of Australia, we are very pleased to support them. When the interests of those whom we represent are attacked, as they are being attacked to-day, we should not be worthy of our positions as the people’s representatives in this chamber if we did not fight tooth and nail for them.
The Prime Minister has gone to some pains to convince the House that this bill is not an attack upon trade unionists. It would be absurd to expect anything else from him, but his assurance has been discounted by the utterances of his supporters. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) well summed up the position when he said- that the relations between employer and employee were ever-changing, and that an adjustment of the conditions between buyer and seller, whether of labour or of any . other commodity, would always be extremely difficult. He also stated that in the past the question of fixing prices and wages has always been one for the employers, and he made a partial reference to the tyranny which used to be practised by them in their unbridled strength. No thought was given for the employee except to get as much out of him for as little outlay as possible. His physical condition was no concern of theirs. It did not matter to them what hovels the workers were housed in, and oftentimes they had . barely room to work. It is not difficult to carry our minds back to the days when our women-folk worked under sweating conditions. Since then we have evolved our present system of arbitration. Australians will never countenance a return to the conditions that prevailed in the past.
If this Government went to the country and fought the elections on the issue of this bill, I am quite satisfied that it would be defeated. The workers have gained many advantages through Labour in politics. At one time an honorable member supporting the Government stated that all that the workers held that was worth having had been given to them by the Nationalists. He referred particularly to our educational system. I remember the time the Hon. Thomas Price, then Labour Premier of South Australia, was endeavouring to make compulsory education more effective, and the Hon. John Darling, who was head of the Liberal party in that State, said boldly and without reservation, “If you educate all the workers, who will do the dirty work?”
-. - I have never heard that before.
– The remark will be found in the records of the South Australian Parliament, and it shows that the conservative element was not so desirous of giving increased advantages to the workers as honorable members opposite have claimed. In more recent times a prominent New South Wales Nationalist - I think Sir William McMillan - made the callous statement that marriage was a luxury for the workers, and industry should not be called upon to pay the incidental cost.
– He could not be called a Nationalist.
– He was one of the honorable member’s crowd; he certainly was not a worker. Men of his class are never seen wearing bowyangs. A “ Sir “ is never seen at the business end of a shovel. The times are not long past when children slaved in factories under appalling conditions, and when all workers had inadequate space for their employment, and lived in dirty, illlighted, and ill-ventilated hovels. To-day factory buildings compulsorily conform, to the requirements of modern hygiene; but I am afraid that the cost will be included in the economic effects which are to be considered by the court in making an award.
– Surely that is governed by the Shops and Factories Act, and cannot be altered by any judge?
– That is so ;. but the cost has to be paid by the boss from the proceeds of his industry, and this outlay will be considered amongst the economic effects of awards. At one period not many years ago the whole penalty of an accident or misadventure fell on the worker; the boss had no liability and no concern in it beyond getting another man to take the place of the one who had been injured or killed. Presumably the provisions of the Workers Compensation Act will be taken into account as an “ economic effect.” Honorable members opposite may ridicule that suggestion, but I recollect that when the Prices Regulation Commission was taking evidence in New South Wales in 1915 one witness included in his production costs a donation of £250 to the War Chest Fund. Under cross-examination by the commission he said that other business men subscribed to the fund, and he, therefore, was obliged to do so; the obligation was one which would not have fallen on him if he had not been in business. The evidence I heard at that time convinced me that every item of expenditure, including taxation and all other charges upon the owner, is included in the cost of production, and will be covered by the term “ economic effects.” Thus the liabilities of the boss in respect of his employees under the Workers Compensation Act will be taken into account by the court when making its awards.
Much has been said about extremists, and the trouble they cause, but the conditions that preceded the development of unionism are forgotten. I do not justify the actions of men who are never satisfied, and are always looking for grievances. Such persons are found in every section of society; no matter what conditions are prescribed some people will always be dissatisfied.
– Those are the people with whom we want to deal.
– The bill might not be so objectionable, if it dealt specifically with individuals; but it is so comprehensive in its scope that it will apply to the innocent and probably allow the guilty to escape. The bill should be made more specific, as to the persons whom it is proposed to prosecute. I suggest that in the trades unions the extremists do not, in the main, occupy official positions.
– Some of them are occupying official positions.
– There may be one or two, but this is a drag-net measure which includes everybody, while not specifically mentioning any one. As to the employers, it would be the hardest thing in the world to prosecute any of the extremists in their ranks under this bill.
– It would be quite easy to do so.
– It has not been done up to the present, and it will not be done under this measure. This bill is obviously directed against the workers’ wages and conditions. That is evident from the remarks made by honorable members on the other side. Nothing is said about the enormous profits that have been made out of industry. My friend opposite cannot deny that such profits have been made, because if he did, he would deny the statistics prepared by the Commonwealth officials. Never was there so much accumulated wealth in the country as now, nor have there ever been such large bank deposits. ?
– The bank deposits are largely the savings of the workers.
– There are two kinds of bank deposits, and the amounts deposited in the trading banks have gone up by more millions during the last few years than they increased by thousands during a similar period prior to 1915.
– But not out of proportion to the savings bank deposits. _
– Yes, out of all proportion. But even if they had not, it would merely prove that industry has not lost as a result of the arbitration system, but is giving the workers something, as well as giving the bosses millions more than they ever received before. -Labour has no need to apologize for its conduct of industrial affairs. I have a very keen recollection of the~ early industrial days in Australia. One honorable member on the other side who spoke against the bill never, I think, did a hard day’s work in his life. When he was speaking on some aspects of industry he showed a woeful lack of knowledge. I do not think that he ever worked for a wage, or that he was ever what is called a “wage plug,” such as those who worked year in year out on low wages and with no holidays.
– The honorable member surely does not suggest that any one wants to get back to those conditions.
– I do suggest it. I say that this bill was fashioned with that end in view. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) said that he would wipe out the compulsory arbitration system altogether, and the Navigation Act as well.
– But this bill does not propose to wipe out the arbitration system.
– No, it only makes it impossible for the arbitration system to be carried on. The honorable member for Perth is anxious to wipe out the system, and that opinion is held, I think, by most members on the other side of the House.
– The honorable member for Perth is the only one who has said so.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) said the same thing by implication. He said that our arbitration system was antediluvian, and should be brought up to date. He went further, and said that the compulsory arbitration system held this country in shackles, and asked what comfort it was to those who were unemployed to know that there was a high standard of living if they were not able to enjoy ft. New Zealand and Australia were the first two countries in the world to adopt this system, and later, he said, New Zealand was forced to scrap the arbitration system and go back to conciliation. Even with that he was not satisfied. Though very few honorable members opposite are game to say that they are against the arbitration system, they recognize that this bill will, if passed, destroy it, and therefore they are in favour of the measure.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) told the House how impotent this bill would be to do the things claimed for it by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) said in regard to the British seamen’s strike that the threat of gaol held no terrors for the workers when their economic existence was in danger. It is not possible to gaol men by the thousand; it is too big a proposition. If what is proposed in this bill is put into operation, there is a possibility that the general public will be stampeded into the belief that it really is arbitration which is bringing about unemployment and industrial unrest. I believe that those who evolved the bill were actuated, not by any desire for industrial peace, but rather by a desire to discipline the workers by means of the hob-nailed boot and the big stick, as suggested by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney). History shows us that it is not possible to dragoon the workers and flog them into submission by the exercise of powers such as this bill would provide. The honorable member for Barker says that no one wants to get back to the “good old days’”’ Mr. John Brown, thecoal baron, says straight out that he wants to get back to the good old days, and to the conditions which prevailed in 1914. He wants to return to’ such conditions as will enable him to sell his coal for 8s. 6d. a ton. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) also knows very well that Sir Henry Barwell fought an election on the slogan “Wages must go down,” and “ We must get back to the good old days of the law of supply and demand, and of freedom of contract.” The honorable member for Darwin says, by interjection, that Sir Henry Barwell does not now count for much. I suggest that he counts to a considerable extent with the section which he represents. The main thing that was considered wrong with Sir Henry Barwell was that he spoke as he thought, which cannot be said of many people. The reply that he gave to the Chamber of Commerce which entertained him in 1922 - and he would say the same thing to-day in similar circumstances - was -
The Arbitration Courts and the arbitration laws stand right in the way. By various awards the Arbitration Courts have said what shall be the basic wage for various industries and what marginal differences shall be paid, and those awards stand regardless whether or not the industries concerned can pay them. The industries have either got to pay them or to close down. For an employer to pay less is an offence: for an employee to take less is an offence. Bach case is subject to a heavy penalty.
At that time there was a great deal of unemployment, and the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) had called what he termed a “ peace “ conference, just as the present Prime Minister is doing today. It was in discussing that proposal that Sir Henry Barwell made the statement I have just quoted.
This bill is an attempt to make the Arbitration Court worse than useless - to make it anathema to the workers - so that it will merely stand in the way of a peaceable solution of existing difficulties. Let the Prime Minister take his courage in both hands and get down to the root of the trouble. The Government is introducing clauses that will make the bill inoperative, and arbitration will have to be scrapped. Honorable members opposite want to get back to the “ good old days “ of the law of supply and demand, of the right to use the black list on the worker, of the right to have individual bargaining and to victimise men who endeavour to get out of the economic slough into which they have been precipitated. When the public has details of the general discussion that has taken place on this measure it will be convinced that the bill is a mere subterfuge, and an attack upon trade unionism. Industrial peace can be obtained only when the worker participates in the correct ratio in the profits of industry. I admit that the worker has reaped a wonderful advantage from the Arbitration Court, and I am prepared to stand for it as it is, but not as the Government propose to amend it. When a Labour Government occupies the Treasury bench it will incorporate provisions in the act to enable an investigation to be made into the affairs of capitalized industry.
– That will be too late for the present-day worker.
– I admire the optimism of the honorable member, but it will not be many years before my forecast is consummated. The honorable member must realize that he is not here because of the policy of his Government, but because of the hysteria that took possession of the country at the time when he was elected. However, that cock will not fight too often. Our arbitration law now provides for a basic wage.What becomes of the unfortunate basic wage earner when he suffers misadventure? Then he is scarcely able to exist, proving that he is not getting sufficient out of industry, even with the assistance of an arbitration court. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has been twitted about saying that the present effective wage is 5 per cent, less than it was in 1922. We are now undergoing a period of depression, but production is still plentiful, and a good deal of wealth is being taken out of industry by capitalists. It is unfair to make the allegation that the claims of workers before the Arbitration Court afford the reason for any existing depression, and to attack trade unionism by the introduction of this bill. Let the Government act fairly. Let it look into the cost of production and the cost of living by first examining the bank balances of the big industrial concerns. It will not be, because the opportunity lay at hand during the war for the exploiter to exploit the “bleeding nation.” I am reminded by an interjection that wages have been chasing the increased cost of living, but wages have not been able to get abreast of it because those who are in the position to manipulate the industries and the production of this country are too cunning to allow any act of any workers to prevent them from making big profits. Quite recently we heard Sir Henry Barwell declare that wages and prices must come down, and only to-night the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) declared that rents must come down. How does he propose to bring rents down? Fair rent courts are anathema to the honorable member and his friends. But let the honorable member, who knows thousands of rentlords, ask them to come together in a peace conference with the idea of reducing rents. Let him go further. Let him get all the bosses together so that they may declare, “We have more than we ought to have. It is a fair thing to give some of it to our employees.” Let him get the pastoralists together so that they may declare how they bled the nation during the war. What were the words of the late Senator E. D. ‘Millen, as recorded in Hansard? He said, “ I grew a little wool, and if I got 6d. per lb. for it I thought I was getting a good price; when I got 8d. per lb. I began to fancy myself; but I never dreamt of getting1s. 31/2d. per lb for it.” The price of wool is now 3s. and 4s. per lb. Yes, let us get the woolgrowers together, and find out what their position is to-day compared with what it was prior to the war. Let us get all the manufacturers, the- farmers, and the rentlords together at a peace conference so that, for the sake of the community, they may call a halt in their profit-making.
– Would they attend such a conference?
– The honorable member would have to drop a little of his “ pile.” I guarantee that if he found a stray farm in Western Australia at a price that suited him, although he is already gorged with land, he would buy it. But if awages board should seek to determine what he should pay his jackeroo,he would say, “ You are ruining me, I cannot afford to pay that wage.” Let the honorable member start with himself. In fact, I would say to honorable members on the Government side generally, “ Start with, yourselves.” The worker has to go before a judge and justify his claim for a better wage before he can get it, but the merchant and big business man can” slug “ the community, and the community has no say. When honorable members talk about giving the general public a chance, let them make some attempt to bring down prices so that the worker can say,. “ These chaps are trying to be a little honorable.”
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. J. Francis) adjourned.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That the House at its rising adjourn until 11 a.m. this day.
– I move -
That the.House do now adjourn.
I take this opportunity to amplify the reply I gave at the beginning of this sitting to a question asked by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), in order to prevent any misapprehension in regard to the regulation prescribing the rates of interest to apply to the total capital liability of the Federal Capital Commission at the 1st January, 1925, the date at which the Federal Capital Commission became liable for all expenditure incurred prior to the commencement of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act. The regulation providing for interest at21/2 per cent, on the total capital liability of the Commission at the 1st January, 1925, roughly maintains a charge that was borneby the consolidated revenue fund in respect of services of the’ debt incurred for Federal Capital Territory. The expenditure prior to 1st January, 1925, amounted in round figures to £2,966,000. A large proportipn of that expenditure was provided from revenue, and the amount that was still a public debt charge at 31st December, 1924, was approximately £1,800,000. The Seat of ‘.Government (Administration) Act provided that the Commission should be liable for interest at rates to be prescribed. In considering the rate of interest, the fact that a large portion ofthe capital liability had been provided from revenue was taken into account’ and a composite rate of interest was charged on the total liability in such a way as to bring about a result approximately equal to the burden carried by the consolidated revenue fund. This rate was found to be 21/2 per cent., and it was adopted accordingly. The total capital liability of the Commission at the 1st January, 1925, including capitalized interest, amounted to approximately £3,400,000. Interest at 21/2 per cent on that sum will be £85,000 a year, which is approximately the charge that was borne by the consolidated revenue fund in respect of the services of the debt incurred for the Federal Capital Territory.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.18 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 May 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280523_reps_10_118/>.