10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. When speaking last night on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill I intimated that it was my intention to move that it be referred to a select committee. Such a motion, I understand, cannot be submitted until after the motion for the second reading has been carried, and before you, Mr. Speaker, leave the chair so that honorable members may consider the bill in’ committee. It is uncertain when a vote on the second reading will be taken, and urgent business having made it necessary for me to be absent from Canberra for a few days, I may not be here when it is taken. I, therefore, make this personal explanation, so that my absence, if I am absent, may not bo misunderstood.
– In view of the holdup of shipping, and the losses that are being occasioned to people in distant States, does the Government propose to grant permits to overseas vessels to convey cargo and passengers in the Australian coasting trade, or to repeal the coasting provisions of the Navigation Act ?
– The Government will give the fullest consideration to applications made by interested parties in the direction indicated by the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for Home and Territories say what amount of money has been expended up to date on the royal commission appointed to inquire into the Bundaberg serum fatalities, and can he indicate when an interim report will be made available?
– I cannot give the cost of the royal commission up to date, but up to the 16th May it was £3.199. The commission ha3 not yet presented a report to the Governor-General.
– A determined effort is being made to market Australian fruits in a case known as the North West case, which has a cubic content of 46 cubic inches less than the imperial bushel. The use of such case3 is illegal in New South Wales, but not, I understand, in the other States. I should like to know from the Minister for Markets if it is legal to export fruit in cases containing less than the imperial bushel, and if it is not, whether the Minister will closely consider how that can be prevented, and issue an instruction that prosecutions shall be instituted in all instances in which it is proved that an endeavour is being made to evade the regulations issued by his department.
– It is illegal to export fruit in cases of less than a certain capacity. Cases need not be of the same dimensions in length and width, but their cubic capacity must be at least one bushel before their export is permitted. I shall look into the allegations made by the honorable member that cases of less content than the regulations require have been used for export.
– In connexion with the proposal that has emanated from the Government of the United States of America that the nations should enter into treaties to outlaw war, I wish to know if the Australian Government has been recognized as a separate nation, and has received an invitation from the United States of America. If so, what action has been taken in the matter?
– Yesterday a formal invitation was received by the Commonwealth Government from the Government of the United States of America, sent through the British Government, to participate as an original party in the proposed treaty to outlaw war. I hope that the exact terms of the note will be available for honorable members at a later date; but until then it is impossible to indicate what the attitude of the Government will be.
– As an invitation has been received from the Government of the United States of America with regard to the outlawry of war, will the Treasurer give Parliament an opportunity to express an opinion on the subject, so that an answer may be given to the invitation - which I hope will express the unanimous opinion of this Parliament in favour of the proposal to outlaw war.
– I take it that, when the full text of the note is available, the Prime Minister will make a statement to the House and that honorable members will be given an opportunity to discuss the subject.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to the fact that many soldier land settlers are being ejected from their holdings in Victoria on the recommendation of advisory boards appointed by the State Government? In view of the fact that in making their recommendations these advisory boards were under the impression that the Commonwealth was undertaking the fresh repatriation of these soldiers, and as the Prime Minister has announced that the Commonwealth will not accept responsibility for their fresh repatriation, will the Treasurer communicate with the Prime Minister, who is now in Melbourne, and ask him to see the State Government and ask it to at least allow the men to remain on their holdings, so that during the cold winter months they and their families may not be homeless and unemployed ?
– It will be remembered that when the Commonwealth’ desired to assume full responsibility for the settlement of soldiers on the land, the States definitely refused to allow it to participate at all in that branch of repatriation work, and that subsequently the Commonwealth made £10,000,000 available to the States to enable them to write off losses incurred by them in settling soldiers on the land, so that the soldiers might be thoroughly established. Last year the Commonwealth made a further offer to the States to examine the position of soldier settlement, to contribute a further share of the ascertained loss, and to determine what further amount would be necessary to enable the cost of the holdings to the men to be written down to an extent that would permit them to make good. An investigation into the position is now being made by Mr. Justice Pike. His task is to inquire in every State, to ascertain exactly what losses have been incurred by the State authorities. It is quite impossible for the Commonwealth Government to deal with individual soldiers. That must be the responsibility of the States. Eight from the beginning of Australia’s repatriation effort, the principle has been laid down that repatriation should be in one direction only. That principle has been observed throughout.
Mr.RODGERS. - The Treasurer has omitted to reply to the vital part of my question. I am aware of the arrangement that has been made, and I do not find fault with it, nor do I charge the Commonwealth Government with neglect of duty in regard to the ex-soldiers. My sole purpose for the moment is to point out that a misunderstanding has arisen, inasmuch as the State advisory boards have been making their recommendations in the belief that the Commonwealth had accepted the responsibility for the further repatriation of unsuccessful soldiers, many of whomhad had their leases cancelled, and some had been ejected from their homes. My question was whether the Treasurer would communicate with the Prime Minister, and ask him to request the State Government to delay the ejectment of the soldiers during the cold winter months, and I suggest further that action might be postponed until Mr. Justice Pike’s report is available.
– I cannot see what possible effect my communicating with the Prime Minister would have, but I shall do what the honorable member desires.
– I should like to ask the Treasurer to make urgent representations to the Prime Minister. I remind him that these men are not unsuccessful soldiers in the sense that they are not suitable men to be placed on the land. They have been placed on the land in Victoria by Nationalist Ministers and bad governments. There has been a good deal of corruption.
– I ask the honorable member to put a question to the Minister, and not to argue the matter.
– I want to place the responsibility on those who ought to bear it.
– The honorable member cannot do so by allegations in submitting a question.
– Will the Treasurer ask the Prime Minister to get into touch with the Premier of Victoria with a view to granting financial assistance which will enable these soldiers to be truly repatriated ?
– I have already indicated the liberality with which the Commonwealth Government is prepared to deal with this question of soldier land settlement, and that it is my intention to communicate to the Prime Minister the representations made by the honorable member for Wannon.
Question in New South Wales Parliament - Employment on Northern Territory Railway Construction.
– Has the Treasurer noticed that questions have been asked in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly about the influx of Italian immigrants, and that Mr. Buttenshaw, the Acting-Premier, has replied that it is a matter for the Federal Government and not for the States, and that the State Government has no desire to interfere with the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction in the matter?
– I have not noticed the question referred to.
– Yesterday I received the following telegram from Darwin -
When the number of employees on Katherine to Daly Waters railway construction was being increased from two hundred to approximately six hundred the engineer when asked if any more labour would be required always replied “ Full handed.” This would be in response to requests for information on the matter by the local union and the Australian Workers Union and numerous applications by persons all over Australia. At the same time every boat brought sixty or seventy Mediterranean nationals who were immediately absorbed on railway construction. Bequest of Minister that this be not practised if extension operations renewed. Also from unofficial source I have been advised the department is endeavouring obtain Mediterranean labour in Townsville for railway construction Territory to leave by June boat.
In view of the unparalleled distress occasioned by unemployment in Australia will the Minister for Works and Railways issue an order that preference shall be given to Australians on the railway construction work in the Northern Territory ?
– I have no knowledge of the facts alleged in the telegram which was read by the honorable member. AH I can say is that the department has a number of men employed on the railway work mentioned, and so far as I am able to gather will not require any more for the present. Those men who are already on the spot will certainly be entitled to whatever work is available. As a matter of fact it is proposed to continue in the employment as long as the work lasts those already working; but it is not anticipated that any further men will be required at the moment.
– The Minister has ignored the vital part of my question. In view of the fact that 70 per cent, of the workers on the Katherine to Daly Waters railway were foreigners mostly from the Mediterranean, the union in the Northern Territory fears that the same conditions will prevail when the work of construction is recommenced: In these circumstances I ask the Minister, in view of the unparalleled distress caused by unemployment in Australia, if he will issue instructions to the engineer in charge of construction to give preference to Australian workers?
– I am not in a position to say definitely what is the proportion of European workers to those of Australian nationality engaged on the Katherine to Daly Waters construction works, but I shall call for a report as to the position, and let the honorable member know the result.
– I ask the Minister it he will give, an assurance that, after he has made the necessary inquiries and received a report, instructions will be issued to the effect that preference shall be given to workers of Australian nationality.
– After obtaining a report on the subject, I shall take whatever action I deem to be necessary to deal with the problem.
The following paper was presented: -
Nauru - Report to the Council of the League of Nations on the administration of
Nauru during the year 1927.
Ordered to be printed.
Hotel Accommodation - Sports Ovals
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
With reference to the revision recently made in hotel tariffs in the Federal Capital Territory, how many guests are affected by the increases, and how many by the decreases, taking the number of guests at the hotels on the date of the change from old to new tariffs as a basis of calculation?
– I regret that the information is not at present available, but I am taking steps to obtain it-
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I , regret that the information is not at present available, but I am taking steps to obtain it.
Case of Mb. Turton
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– asked the Post master-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– Asked the Minister for
Works and Railways, upon notice -
– I will obtain the information desired and furnish the honorable member with replies at an early date.
Debate resumed from 23rd May (vide page 5157) on motion by Mr. Latham -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- As a strong believer in the principle of arbitration, I welcome this bill, and I take this, the earliest opportunity I have had, to repudiate the suggestion that has emanated from certain honorable members to the effect that arbitration has been a dismal failure. I know that, in a great number of industries, arbitration has been a distinct success. If the unionists themselves were able to exert control in the administration of the affairs of their unions, arbitration would be even a greater success. Much of the trouble that now exists in the trade union movement is due to the fact that many unions are dominated by a handful of extremists, who are using the movement merely to further their own nefarious ends, and are not working in the best interests of the trade union movement.
I consider that this measure is one of the most important with which this Parliament has dealt. It has been introduced by the Prime Minister to honour a definite pledge which was given to the people of Australia by the right honorable gentleman before the last elections. Many honorable members opposite have contended that there is no mandate for this bill. I shall, therefore, read a section of the policy speech enunciated by the Prime Minister at Dandenong in October, 1925, when opening the last election campaign. This speech, taken in conjunction with the result of the last appeal to the constituents, should satisfy all honorable members that the Government has received a definite mandate from the people to introduce the measure with which we are now dealing. A portion of that speech reads -
We in Australia have pioneered many social reforms and have indeed done more than other people. Compulsory arbitration has been on the statute-book for many years.
For these efforts a distinct measure of success can be justly claimed. Our efforts, however, have not finally solved this great problem.
My Government stands firmly for the principle of the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes within the law. Freedom of contract and direct action are the methods of barbarism, whilst the bringing of industrial disputes under the reign of law is in accord with the first principles of human progress. Any other attitude by a responsible government in Australia to-day is unthinkable.
The very success of trade unionism has tended to destroy control by the individual worker over the affairs of his union, and nas increasingly made him the servant of bid paid official. Particularly has this been the case in those unions of the transport industries, where the conditions of his occupation make it difficult for the worker to have an effective voice in the control of his own union affairs.
The communist and extremist has seen in these great organizations a ready instrument by which to effect his illegitimate purposes. He has bored into and white-anted many of them, and is to-day endeavouring to use them not for the advancement ‘of the interests of the worker, but for his own nefarious purposes.
It is significant that no such action has been attempted in those other great beneficent bodies, the friendly societies. I believe the explanation is that the legislation of the past has wisely provided for the regulation of friendly societies in the interest of their members, and ensured that they may be conducted for the legitimate purposes for which they were formed.
The Government proposes to introduce legislation which will restore to the trade unionist control over his union, its officials, and its acts, which he at one time had, but which to-day he has largely lost. By means of the provision of a secret ballot democratic control of unionism will be restored to the workers of this country. It is also proposed to strengthen the powers of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
Reference was also made to the need for a provision to give arbitration court judges power to interpret their awards, and to ensure that their awards should be given effect, and to the need that provision should be made to prevent the duplication and overlapping of awards by the Commonwealth and State authorities. The people of Australia have endorsed that policy speech by an overwhelming majority. The definite mandate was then given to Parliament to put that policy into effect, and this measure has teen introduced as an honest effort to comply with the wishes of the people of Australia.
Unfortunately, this Parliament has, under the Constitution, but very limited powers to deal with industrial problems. It can provide by way of arbitration or conciliation for the settlement of disputes only when such disputes extend beyond the limits of any one State. This Government sought to enlarge the constitutional powers of this Parliament, and submitted proposals to that end to the country. But although the Constitution Amendment Bill to enable that to be done passed through this House with hardly a dissentient voice, and although the proposals of the Government were carried at the referendum in Queensland and New South Wales, the majority of States, unfortunately, rejected them. I regret very much that verdict of the people, as I am satisfied that had the necessary powers been given to this Parliament, it would “be in a position to do more than it is now proposed shall he done. This Parliament would then have been able to build up a properly co-ordinated system of arbitration, and to bring into operation the principle of round table conferences, at which all concerned would meet under a mutually appointed chairman, and give full’ consideration to their problems. Such a system would have enabled employers and employees to obviate the necessity, in the majority of cases, of appealing to an arbitration court.
I am a strong believer in conciliation, as it applies to industrial difficulties, and consider that the Arbitration Court should be used only in the last resort. Had the constitutional referendum been carried, this Government would have had power to legislate not only in regard to trade unions registered with the Arbitration Court, but with all industrial unions in Australia, and it would have been able to grant to them a code of laws similar to that applied by our State parliaments to the friendly society movement, which has done so much for the welfare of the com,munity generally. The Government deliberately refrained from rushing this measure through Parliament, and it was introduced designedly in December of last year, in order to enable honorable members and the community generally to investigate the proposals, with a view to suggesting amendments to facilitate the smooth working of the measure. A great number of suggestions have been received by the Government, many have been acceded to, and the large number of amendments that has been circulated by the Attorney-General afford further evidence of the intention of the Government to exert every possible effort to frame the measure in such a way as to bring about good will among all sections of the community.
Late in December of last year I took the opportunity to send copies of the bill and of the Attorney-General’s able secondreading speech to every trade union in my electorate, and I have been thanked very heartily by unionists for doing so. I also sent copies of the measure and of the Attorney-General’s second-reading speech to a large number of prominent union officials in my electorate, and I shall read a few extracts from some of the many replies that I have received. Here is one : -
I read the speech by the Attorney-General and the copy of “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1904-1927 “. Mr. Latham’s speech is a particularly fine one, and I thank yon for forwarding copies of the bill. I passed them on to a friend of mine to read, and he has come to the same conclusion that I have, that is, that there is nothing contained in the bill that would infer that the Commonwealth Government was out to smash unionism.’ ‘
– What is the name of the union to which the writer belongs?
– Knowing the way in which the Labour party acts towards those of its members who dare to criticize it, I do not intend to disclose any names.
– I challenge the honorable member to name the union.
– And I say definitely that this is a prominent leader of the trade union movement in my electorate, who is known to me personally. He has frequently taken an active part in opposition to me in my political campaigns.
– I rise to order. It is a well-established and sound practice in this House that when an honorable member accepts the responsibility of reading a letter to the House, that letter becomes the property of the House, and the honorable member is bound in honour, and as a matter of correct procedure, to disclose the signature to it as a proof of its bona fides.
– I shall be very glad to supply the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) with the copy from which I am reading, when I have finished with it. It goes on to say -
– I wish to have a ruling from Mr. Speaker on the point of order that I have raised.
– I understand that the honorable member for Moreton proposes to make a copy of the letter, which is only a private letter, available to the House.
– The House can have the copy which I am reading. It continues -
We believe that unionism is too strongly entrenched for any Government to smash. Should an attempt be made by any Government, it would have a tendency to strengthen unionism and put the much-needed spirit into it which it seems to lack just atpresent, due to the parasites that are living on it. I pen these lines knowing that you belong to a party whom I have opposed all my life. If I had my way I would give the Commonwealth Government absolute power in all industrial matters. The hue and cryabout the pending bill comes only from politicians, political aspirants, and highly-paid union officials. Unfortunately, the great majority of the people are apathetic and are incapable of discriminating between Federal and State laws. The industrial problem must be faced fairly and squarely by employers and employees, and the hangers-on. The disrupters of both sides will have to be abolished. I wish you and your party every success in its endeavour to find a solution.
This man has spent the whole of his lifetime in the industrial movement. He is satisfied that the Government is endeavouring to carry out the promise which it made to the electors. He believes, however, that it is faced with a difficult task, and, therefore, he wishes it well. He also shows clearly that the opposition of the Labour party to the bill, both inside and outside this House, is not based on reason.
There has been a definite effort, by the appointment of special committees, to inflame unionists and induce them to oppose the measure. Mass meetings have been called in an endeavour to arouse strong opposition to it, but dismal failure has been encountered everywhere. Unionists at heart arc quietly, but none the less genuinely, and keenly, supporting the bill. My investigations have satisfied me upon that point.
The insane folly of continuously waging industrial warfare is apparent to all except those who are avowed subverters of the Constitution and our existing social system. On every hand I have found that a great deal of commonsense is becoming manifest in relation to industrial questions. What is required is a practical method of eliminating industrial disputes and improving the position of those who are engaged in industry.
The first important provision with which I wish to deal is that which is designed to prevent the overlapping of Federal and State tribunals. Any person who has paid close attention to the industrial position in Australia must be satisfied that the conditions of any industry should be governed by only one tribunal, either Federal or State. The bill aims at securing co-ordination between Federal and State awards, with a view to removing the complexity and chaos that are the result of many awards today. It also contains special provisions aimed at developing to the fullest extern within the limits of the Constitution, the principle of round-table conferences and conciliation. It provides a new means for employers and employees to come to a mutual agreement for the settlement of their disputes, outside the Arbitration Court, the idea being that that shall be regarded as a final court of appeal. No reasonable objection can be raised to such a principle. The bill also contains provisions for improvements in procedure which will save unionists considerable sums of money. Provision is made for what is called a representative order. Hitherto all organizations interested in a dispute have had to be served with a special notice of any proposal to alter or vary the terms of an award, and any summons to attend the Court or an adjournment thereof has had to be served on both parties to the dispute. This was extremely costly, involving in many cases the expenditure of thousands of pounds per annum. The proposal of the Government will lead to the diminution - if not the absolute abolition - of that unnecessary expenditure. A further important principle is contained in the rule that an award must be accepted wholly by both the employer and the employee.
– That has always been the case.
– The bill extends the principle, and makes it more effecttive. There is nothing reasonable in either an employer or an employee being allowed to flout the terms of an award if they do not happen to suit him. This is a fundamental principle, which is essential for the maintenance of our system of arbitration. If people continue to depart from it, and flout the awards of the court, a deathblow will be aimed at that system.
The trade union movement should do everything that lies within its power to prevent the system from being destroyed by direct action or job control., The, Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers had to be sold because certain unions defied the Arbitration Court and resorted to direct action and job control. In that way they destroyed one of Labour’s delightful socialistic ventures. Clause 44 embodies a very important proposal. It provides for the taking of a secret ballot, and is designed to restore to members of trade unions the right of self-government.
– All ballots are secret.
– Unfortunately, all ballots are not secret. The honorable member has been associated with the Labour movement long enough to know that. If he wishes me to delve into. the history of ballot-boxes with sliding panels he will be disappointed, because I do not intend to do so. It does not do credit to his party. I could also if I wished, dilate upon the trouble that is being experienced in New South Wales in the selection of Labour candidates for the next Senate election. I regret these periodical recurrences of what I can only describe as doubtful practices within a movement which ought to be free from them. Under the provisions of clause 44, ten members of a union may apply to the Registrar of the Court for a direction that a secret ballot shall be taken upon any question affecting the union. The judge of the court must first satisfy himself that the applicants are bona fide members of the union, that the claim has been made in good faith, and that it relates to a matter of substantial importance, before he directs that a secret ballot shall be held.
Some union bosses maintain that this is a tyrannical usurpation of the rights of unionism ; but the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has stated that his party stands solidly for secret ballots. No trade unionist would object to this principle. He has gone further and said that if there are any unions the officers of which are not elected by secret ballot, they are the exceptions which prove the rule. As he has claimed this as one of the cherished principles of the party, I suggest that he should exercise to the fullest extent the privilege he enjoys to endeavour to amend the bill in committee in the direction of making this provision as stringent as possible. He has objected to the manner in which it is proposed that the secret ballot shall be conducted. If he can suggest a better method, it will have my support.
– But the honorable member has already endorsed the bill !
– I have endorsed the principle of arbitration; and I am also a strong supporter of the secret ballot. Every person who applies for employment in my State must produce his union ticket to prove that he is a financial member of a union before he can be engaged. A similar principle could be applied in connexion with an application for a secret ballot. The Registrar of the Court could satisfy himself, by a perusal of the union tickets of the applicants, that they were financial members and had the right to make application for a secret ballot. There would then be no fear of ? secret ballot being awarded on the application of other than bona fide members of a union. The principle of a secret ballot was recently put in operation by the State Arbitration Court of New South Wales. There was a protracted dispute, which involved litigation in the New South Wales courts, between the rank and file and the officials of the Breadcarters’ Union. Finally, it was brought to a head by the judge of the Arbitration court ordering a secret ballot to be held. The following extract from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 26th April last gives the result:-
The ballot for the election of officials for the Breadcarters’ Union, conducted under the supervision of the Department of Labour and Industry, resulted in an overwhelming victory for the rank and file candidates, who won all the important executive positions in the union.
Under direction of the Industrial Court the counting of the ballot was continuous, and as a result the returning officer and his staff were obliged to count throughout Tuesday night. They were locked up in the Trades Hall and meals were supplied to them. The counting commenced about 4 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon and continued for 28 hours. There were 31 candidates for the fifteen positions, and about 900 votes were recorded. All the present officials were defeated.
That case provides definite evidence of a union being rendered inoperative by internal strife and conflicts between its officials and members. When the latter were given the opportunity to vote at a secret ballot, they were able to rid themselves of obstructive officials, and to regain control of their affairs. That is an excellent example of the efficacy of the secret ballot in the direction of avoiding industrial trouble.
If we but realized the extent to which industrial strife causes suffering to individual workers, together with their wives and families and the damage to trade and commerce, we should be as one in our determination to accept this measure, the purpose of which is to restore control of their organizations to members of all unions by means of the secret ballot, and to put an end to internal rivalries of’ officials and factions. No honorable member who believes in the democratic principle of control of unions by the individual members of such organizations can have any objection to the provisions in the bill for the holding of a secret ballot.
Criticism has also been directed against the measure because of the proposed penalties for infringement of its provisions. I do not wish to deal with this aspect of the bill at length. I shall content myself with the observation that these penal sections, making unions and individuals liable in certain cases to a fine of £1,000 have been in the act since 1904, and that although Labour governments were in power since then, no action was taken to eliminate them. It is to the credit of the present Government that the penalties in respect of individuals have been reduced from £1,000 to £50.
The bill contains many other provisions which I should like to discuss, but since time is pressing, it is only fair to other honorable members that my remarks should be as brief a3 possible.
For this reason I shall reserve any further criticism of the measure until it is in the committee stage. I should like to say, however, that although it may not prove to be a complete solution of all our industrial problems, it will certainly go a long way towards restoring peace in industry and make for the progress of Australia. Wisely administered it should be a safeguard against industrial war. We in Australia are a great people. We have done much and have still greater possibilities. It is a thousand pities that our national progress and well-being should be so frequently interfered with by constantly recurring industrial strife. I offer my congratulations to the Government for having brought down such a comprehensive measure. It certainly will have my general support.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. J. Francis) reminds me of a schoolboy who, if he disobeys his master, will be placed in a corner and adorned with the dunce’s cap. He recited his speech in a manner that one would expect from a representative of the party that whips its members into obedience and makes them speak with one voice on this subject.
– The honorable member’s interjection is somewhat amusing, in view of the fact that the only differences of opinion concerning the bill have come from this side of the House.
– I am not at all impressed by the quotations read by the honorable member for Moreton from letters of certain alleged union officials in Queensland expressing approval of the bill. I invite the honorable member to show me privately, or inform the House, what union officials wrote those letters. That is a fair challenge. I could sit down and write opinions from a dozen members of employers’ federations giving the opposite views, if I thought it fair to do such a thing. The honorable member’s quotations are therefore not at aH convincing. I am firmly of the opinion that there is not a scintilla of truth in his statement that union officials in Queensland have written to him saying they are in favour of the bill.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark. The honorable member for Moreton stated that he was in receipt of such communications, and the honorable member for Capricornia must accept his assurance.
– As it would be unparliamentary for me not to do so, I-
– The honorable member must observe the usual parliamentary practice and withdraw his remarks unconditionally.
– I was about to say, Mr. Speaker, that as it would be unparliamentary on my part and not in accordance with the Standing Orders not to accept the statement of the honorable member for Moreton, I shall withdraw what 1 said.
– The honorable member must withdraw his statement unconditionally.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker, I shall obey your ruling, and withdraw my remarks unconditionally.
I am opposed to the bill because I believe that instead of bringing about industrial peace it is provocative and coercive in its purpose and, if passed, will lead to disruption and cause industrial unrest in Australia ; it will drive a wedge between employer and employee. I am opposed to it also because it stands for a. complete and definite departure from the fundamental principles of arbitration as laid down by the first President of the Arbitration Court in Australia, that in determining the minimum wage to be paid in industry due regard should be given to the amount necessary to sustain a man, his wife and family. This fundamental principle will be completely undermined by the proposed amendments to the act. Furthermore I am opposed to it because it will give unscrupulous employers an opportunity to have a lockout declared, and bring about serious industrial upheavals in order to put an end to small sectional strikes that may occur. Mr. H. G. Wells, the well-known writer, in his book The Englishman Looks at the World put the position very well when he wrote -
There is only one way in which our present drift towards revolution or revolutionary disorder can be arrested, and that is by restoring the confidence of these alienated millions, who visibly now are changing from loyalty to the Crown, from a simple patriotism, from habitual industry, to the more and more effective expression, of a deepening resentment……
The real task before a governing class that means to go on governing is not just the better of an argument, or the best of a bargain, but to lay hold of the imaginations of this drifting, sullen, and suspicious multitude, which is the working body of the country.
How are we going to restore that confidence? Is that much to be desired state of affairs likely to be brought about by the passing of a provocative measure like this which, as I have stated, will drive a wedge between employer and employee ? Most certainly not. In this debate the party to which I have the honour to belong has clearly demonstrated that in putting the case for the workers of Australia it has stated the case for 85 per cent, or 90 per cent, of the people of this country. The Labour Party does not represent only one section in the community. It represents all those who are working for a living. In short, it is the. guardian of the interests of all persons engaged in useful production.
It is just as well that we should examine the conditions that led to the adoption of the principle of arbitration in Australia. It is not many years ago since arbitration was established as an instrument for the settlement of industrial differences, and I- think that all students of industrial history will admit that credit for this progressive reform must be given to the Labour party. Even before Labour secured the reigns of government in the Commonwealth, public opinion, created largely by the advocacy of the principle of arbitration by industrial and political labour leaders and members, both inside and outside of Parliament, brought sufficient pressure to bear upon the Government of the day to take action in this direction. Prior to the passing of the Conciliation and Arbitration Acts there existed the system known as freedom of contract; and as we all know, discontented workers in those days were compelled to resort to direct action for the settlement of disputes, with the result that untold suffering was inflicted upon, the wives and children of workers whenever strikes held up our industrial machinery. Many reactionary employers of that time opposed arbitration because it threatened to place an effective check upon their practice of offering lower wages when the supply of labour exceeded the demand. The same class of employer to-day would welcome the abolition of the Arbitration Court and for the same reason. In this respect they are at one with the communists who stand for revolutionary methods in industry.
– They stand for. direct action.
– As the honorable member for South Sydney has remarked, they are with the direct actionists- that small band of communists which does not wish to see peace in industry. We have had ample evidence of the attitude of certain conservative employers in Queensland. We have been told also in the press that the few communists in Australia represent the views of trade unions in this country. That is not correct. I propose to quote extracts from the typewritten report of the conference of the Queensland Employers’ Federation, held in the Union Bank Chambers, Brisbane, on 24th January, 1922. Prominent among the delegates were representatives of pastoral associations and the shipping companies. It is interesting to note what these gentlemen had to say. Their attitude amply justifies the feeling of suspicion that exists to-day among trade unionists in Australia concerning anything this Government does, or, indeed, which any government may do, that owes allegiance to the reactionary employers’ federations. Mr. C. W. Campbell, the president of the Queensland Employers’ Federation, presided at the conference referred to. In his opening remarks he referred to the “ good old days,” and, when speaking of what the association had been able to do, said -
It had controlled the Queensland section of the hig shipping strike in 1890; acted as an advisory council to the shearers’ strike in 1891; assisted in handling the wharf strike in 1898; conducted the big tramway strike in 1912; and used its influence in frustrating the enactment of the Unemployed Workers’ Bill . . .
He was referring to a bill that had been introduced by the Queensland Labour Government of the day, having for its object the payment to unemployed workers of a certain weekly allowance, not as a charitable dole, but as a right. In the light of the quotation which I have just read, how can it be said that members of the reactionary employers’ federations in
Australia are the friends of the workers, as we are told by honorable members opposite ? Mr. Campbell went on to say -
As the President of this Federation, -which is a position,I might tell you, not of my own seeking, I have been connected with the Federation for the past sixteen years, and I know the work that has been going on in this organization. We have been doing it pretty secretly; but I think the time has now come when we should get out into the open. If you look for a moment at the splendid organization the employers have in South Australia, you will see an example of what might be done by a federation here in Queensland. They have a splendid organization in Adelaide. Why, it keeps the unions quiet every time.
These are the gentlemen whose hearts, we are told, are bleeding for the trade unionists in Australia! Mr. Campbell said further -
I hope that all of those who are outside the Federation will recognize the good work we have been doing, and link up. Give us a helping hand. On many and many a night we have gone up to the House when the Liberal Government was in power and secured alterations in the legislation going through, which have all been to our benefit. They were in touch with us all the time the tramway strike was on.
The Employers’ Federation, in conjunction with the Liberal Government, put their heads together in collusion, to defeat the demands of the workers. Brigadier-General W. G. Thompson, a Nationalist senator from Queensland, had something to say at that conference. He expressed the following illuminating view -
There is another aspect of the strike matter, and it is this : Have we any machinery able to provide for armed forces? Is there any machinery to-day by which you can put your hand on some reliable force to put against the forces of-
Mr. R. Bowen. Hooliganism.
General Thompson. -If you have a few regulars it is wonderful what they can resist. I have seen 500 men in the shearers’ strike held up by 75 mounted infantrymen.
That shows the bias, prejudice, and tory extremism that animates the minds of men such as he is, and also the minds of the great majority of the tory representatives in Australia. Can a speech such as that be said to amount to offering the olive branch to Labour in a genuine desire to bring employer and employee together ? “ What about armed forces ?” he said. It reminds one of the notorious order of another military person, “Eire low, and lay ‘em out.”
– We have had that sort of thing before.
– I know that it is nothing new; the workers have had to face it in the past, and if the trade unions were broken, it would occur again. The great majority of the primary producers are at the mercy of vested interests, speculative middlemen, and big banking institutions, who are fleecing them because they lack effective organization, which has won so much for the workers of Australia. Unfortunately the present representatives of the employers are not as democratic as many of those who sat in some of the State Parliaments away back in 1893.
– They have no B. R. Wise.
– No. Nor have they a Sir Samuel Griffith. The late Sir Samuel Griffith, once Premier of Queensland, afterwards Chief Justice of Queensland, and later Chief Justice of the Commonwealth, speaking in the Queensland Parliament on the economic position, said : -
The great social problem of the present day is not how to accumulate wealth, but how to get a more equal distribution of it.
In other words, he meant that we should endeavour to obtain a better share of the wealth of the community for the workers. Although he held office before political Labour was a force, he recognized the justice of the claimsof the workers for a better share of the profits of industry.
To hear the arguments of honorable members opposite, one would think that all the primary producers are opposed to the Arbitration Court, and believe that it has brought about the disadvantages with whrich they are faced to-day. But nothing could be further from the truth. The primary producers realize that before Labour came forward with the breadandbutter planks of its platform and provision for arbitration and a living wage, their produce was not bringing prices equal to those now obtained. Twenty-five years ago the prices received for butter, cattle, sheep, wheat and wool were not one-fourth of the present day rates. The bread-and-butter planks of Labour’s platform increased the wages of the workers. That meant an increase in the purchasing power of the great mass of the people; they were able to consume the produce of the farms of Australia, and pay better prices for it.
The real factors that militate against the farmers’ interests are want of organization and co-operative control, the absence of an adequate local market, exploitation at the hands of the speculator and middleman, and the lack of a national bureau of economic research to delve into the economic problems that confront the farming community. Successful industries that are established in a big way spend huge sums every year in research work. Henry Ford, the great manufacturer, has spent close on £20,000,000 in converting his plant to enable him to produce a new type of motor car. The Bell Telephone Company disburses close on £3,000,000 per annum for research work. Therefore, I think that the Commonwealth could help the primary producers in a marked degree by establishing a national bureau of economic research, comprised of practical men with the necessary experience to enable them to investigate the problems of the man on the land and assist in arriving at a solution. That would be far better than a mere condemnation of the Arbitration Court, and of the men who work for their living and ask for a fair share of this world’s goods. No arbitration court has been set up in Great Britain, and in that country there are 2,000,000 unemployed. We find that, after the great financial depression in Australia in 1893, an effort was made to blame the trade unions for what had taken place. The same is being done to-day.
– They were blamed even for the last war.
– Yes. T. A. Coghlan, in his book A Statistical Account of Australia and New Zealand, referred to the attempt made to blame the unions and the workers for the dreadful financial position in 1893 and the period of depression through which Australia then passed. He said -
It has been attempted in some quarters to fix upon unions the responsibility for the financial collapse of 1893. When it is remembered that the country was entirely overcapitalized, that land values had risen exorbitantly in the principal cities, and that the banks and financial institutions were largely concerned in maintaining the position of speculators, and were themselves, contrary to the spirit of the law and their charters, the holders, either as mortgagees in possession, or directly, of large squattages or landed properties in the cities and towns, it is easy to conceive that if the working classes had obediently acquiesced in all the demands for a reduction of wages, the crisis would still have happened.
That was an impartial survey of the position by a competent authority. The attitude of the Conservatives of that day was similar to that of present day tory politicians, who blamed the trade unions and the great mass of the working people for the period of depression through which the country is now passing. They attribute it to the awards of the Arbitration Court, or use any other convenient argument so long as they avoid an examination of themselves and their actions, and the economic problems of Australia.
The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), in his speech last evening, said that he would oppose the bill if he thought it would do any harm to trade unionism. The honorable gentleman made honorable members on this side smile when he said that; but we have to judge him on the company he keeps.
– And on the terms of the measure.
– Exactly. We have to consider the record of the Government, and that of the party to which the honorable member belongs, in their dealings with trade unions and the workers of Australia. The honorable member has sterling personal qualities and my criticism of his remarks is entirely impersonal. Being a pastor alist he is, no doubt, a member of the Pastoralists’ Association, and subscribes to the views of the official organ of that body. The Pastoral Review for 16th August, 1921, referring to the subject of arbitration, said -
To institute successful immigration, we must first burn our Arbitration Acts and abolish the basic wage and price-fixing.
That journal, no doubt, speaks on behalf of the pastoralists of Australia. It condemns Labour and espouses the cause of the tory party at every election. Then we have that tory organization, the Single Purpose League, which was formed with the one object of breaking down arbitration in this country. To some extent, certainly, it has created an atmosphere against arbitration. Senator
Thompson, when President of the Central Queensland Employers’ Federation, said - “I am, personally, not a believer in the Arbitration Court.” For verification of that quotation, I refer honorable members to the files of the Rockhampton Bulletin, of 3rd October, 1921. No wonder honorable members on this side view with suspicion the protestations of honorable members opposite that they stand for arbitration, and for justice to the workers. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) has definitely stated that he would do away entirely with arbitration courts. In a speech in this Parliament on 2nd April, 1924, he said - “I would remove the sugar embargo and do away with arbitration courts and high tariffs.” But now he is a member of a Cabinet that tells us it stands for arbitration.
Mr.C. Riley. - How does he square his former attitude with that now adopted by him?
– He will probably give us an opportunity to judge how he does it; but I think that, so far as he is concerned, the least said on the matter the better it will be for him. His real opinion is that the Arbitration Court should be abolished; yet he asks the workers to trust him as a member of a Government that professes to be desirous of improving arbitration and the conditions of the workers.
It is interesting to recall that the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures recently attacked the Arbitration Court. That attitude on its part accords with the political opinions of the members of that body. A leading article in the Pastoral Review of 16th September, 1921, states -
The Arbitration Court and basicwage legislation must be repealed. Allroundretrenchment must be enforced in the Government service. The railways must be sold to any one who will buy them. Indentured labour must be imported for the high wet-bulb temperature in the north.
That, of course, means cheap labour - black labour! Had it not been for the organized force of industrial unionism and the concerted action of political Labour, the kanakas would never have been removed from their employment in the sugar industry of Queensland.
– I suppose that the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) belongs to the Pastoralists’ Association.
– I do; just as honorable members opposite belong to the organizations which cover their callings.
– I have no doubt that the honorable member subscribes to the views expressed by the Pastoral Review, a wealthy newspaper which writes with authority in respect to the pastoral industry. It is one of the mouthpieces of the Government, and does its utmost to damage the Labour movement.
Invariably those who have most to say about the high wages of the workers, live in the lap of luxury. They rarely have less than four times the income of a worker, on the minimum wage.
– Four times the basic wage would not keep them in cigars !
– There is something in that. They have unlimited wealth. Statistics indicate that wages to-day are worth 5 per cent. less than the wages of 1922. Australia has fewer industrial disputes in these days than any country in the world. Although the AttorneyGeneral admitted that that was so, honorable members opposite almost ceaselessly wail about the industrial unrest in the community.
– It is the supposed justification for the introduction of this bill.
– It is so much dust thrown in the eyes of the people. The Government won the last election with the help of a bogus election issue. The people were told that if the Government were returned it would deport Walsh and Johnson. But similar tactics will not prove effective in the next campaign. The number of working days lost in Great Britain during the last five years as the direct result of strikes and lockouts averaged 2.37 per wage earner per annum. In Australia during the same period only 71 days per wage earner per annum were lost. In other words, in proportion to the number of her wage earners, Great Britain lost three times as many working days as Australia. The time lost per annum in Australia directly and indirectly through strikes and lockouts, averaged less than one day per wage earner per annum for the past five years. The loss through unemployment was two weeks per wage earner per annum for the same period. In these circumstances, it is ridiculous for honorable members opposite to prate about the industrial dislocation that occurs here. They take good care not to say anything about the 100,000 unemployed who are looking for work in Australia and who, during the winter months, will not know from where their next meal will come. The great majority of those men would accept work to-morrow if they could get it. The number of strikes and lockouts in Australia was four times as high in 1919 as it is to-day. There can, therefore, be no justification whatever for the introduction of a provocative and coercive measure of this description.
Clause 7 of the bill provides ‘for the repeal of section 7 of the principal act and the insertion of several new provisions, including the .following : -
Upon an order being made under this section declaring that a strike exists in the industry or a section or part of the industry, anything in the nature of a lockout done in that industry or in any section or part of that industry shall not, while the order remains in force, be a breach of the act or of any award or order of the Court.
Under that provision it will be possible for employers, if a strike exists in a section of their industry, to lockout the whole of their employees. For example, if the stewards or firemen on one ship cease work, the ship owners will be able to tie up the whole of our shipping services, and if a dispute occurs in the moulding shop of a foundry, the employers will be able to lockout the whole of their employees. Legislation which enables an employer to declare war against the whole community is immoral and is a direct incentive to lawlessness.
The Attorney-General summarized Clause 8 of the bill in the following words -
The principle of making a union responsible for its members …. the only method of making the act effective …. is introduced and enforced in a manner which is entirely proper.’
My interpretation of the clause is that any organization which retains the services of an officer or member who has been found guilty of an offence under the act may be fined £1,000. Consequently if the secretary of a small outback branch of the union advised 30 men to go on strike the union would be liable to a fine of £1,000 and” if the person guilty of the offence were removed from office it would still be liable to a fine of £100. If such a person were re-admitted to membership within twelve months the fine could be increased to £1,000.
Clause 48 contains some savage provisions which I am glad to say the Government proposes to modify. The severe criticism to which it has been subjected by trade union leaders throughout Australia and by honorable members on this side of the chamber during the recess and in the course of this debate, have caused this eleventh hour repentance. Had the clause been agreed to in its original form the court would have had power upon the cancellation of the registration of the union to dissolve the organization, wind up its affairs, distribute its property, and vest it in a voluntary organization, in other words, in a scab union formed of pliant arid servile individuals who would do as the employers wished. No doubt the Government hoped that if this provision were agreed to it would be possible to confiscate the funds of a union and completely smash it. That would place the workers at the mercy of unscrupulous employers.
I agree with those honorable members who say that if this measure is placed upon the statute-book it will be even more difficult than hitherto to get the electors to grant increased power over industrial matters to the Commonwealth Parliament. As the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) pointed out, ari enactment of this description must add to the distrust and suspicion with which the Government is already regarded by trade unionists. If the bill is passed the conservative employers will no doubt endeavour to place the iron heel of oppression upon the neck of the workers.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) indicated the attitude of the Labour party in regard to secret ballots when he said in the course of his second reading speech that-
Provision is made for secret ballots. Certainly no trade unionist will object to that principle. It is a system which the Labour party has always favoured.
The Attorney-General knows very well that the officers of almost every trade union in Australia are elected by secret ballot and that such ballots are taken in regard to almost every matter of vital importance that comes before a union. I am of the opinion, however, that the secret ballot provisions of this bill will be entirely unworkable. It is provided that a ballot may be taken at any stage in a dispute and that even if a majority of the members of a union favoured a strike it would be illegal for the men to go on strike. Is the Treasurer, as the acting leader of the Government, willing to tell us whether the Government would agree to a ballot being taken to determine whether a strike is or is not to be declared off? It seems ridiculous that ten men may secretly apply during the period of three weeks for a secret ballot. It is also unfair that ten disgruntled individuals should be able to thwart the desires of the great majority of members in their organization. I concur in the following statement of the right honorable member for North Sydney, in regard to secret ballots -
I do not know a union in the country - certainly none that I have ever been connected with - that would take a vote on any question it the court ordered a secret ballot.
Honorable members opposite should bear in mind that the right honorable member speaks with experience and authority on these matters, for he has had more to do with’ trade unionism than any other honorable member on his side of the chamber. He understands the psychology of the Australian workers and knows how futile it is to attempt to force them to take any line of action against the wishes of the majority of their members. It is regrettable that the Government should even contemplate making it possible for ten disgruntled members secretly to ask a judge to order the taking of a secret ballot, whether a strike is to be declared off or on. It is quite probable that such men would be victimized subsequently, for trade unionists are only human beings.
We have heard something at different times about trade unionists blacklisting members who failed to observe the rules of their union. But that practice is not confined to the industrial sphere. I do not believe in it; but it is human nature. We know that the British Medical Association is particularly severe on members who disregard the rules of their organization. I know of medical practitioners in Queensland who belong to the British Medical Association, who have declined to consult with other practitioners not members of the association or who have committed a breach of its rules.
Mr.C. Riley. - That also occurs in New South Wales.
– Members of the British Medical Association refuse to have anything to do with medical practitioners who break away from arrangements that are made from time to time with the various friendly societies. But do we hear anything in condemnation of such action? Of course not. The British Medical Association can be quite as tyrannous as any other organization of employers or employees.
– And so is the Barristers’ Association.
– Honorable members opposite say that all union leaders are extremists, whereas their efforts are directed towards improving the conditions of those whom they represent. In the early days of industrial unionism in Australia its leaders were attacked in the same way.
– At one time Sir George Pearce was regarded as an extremist.
– That is so. Twenty years ago the right honorable gentleman made statements which were more extreme than those made in Sydney today by men who are branded as communists. Mr. W. A. Holman, who recently missed the Nationalist preselection for the Martin electorate by two votes, made statements years ago which were more extreme than are those of “ Jock “ Garden to-day.
– Senator Thomas at one time told the workers to arm themselves, if necessary, in order to obtain food.
– Now he is gathered into the folds of Nationalism. Mr. W. G. Higgs, who preceded me as the representative of the electors of Capricornia, addressing a meeting in Brisbane in 1893 said: “I suggest that you get bread or blood “. Were any union leader in Australia to make similar remarks to-day, honorable members would be loud in their protestations against this new communism, this new revolutionary spirit which at all costs must be kept in subjection.
In every age reformers have been designated as extremists and revolutionaries and to-day the Labour party, because of its efforts to bring about reform, is branded as a party of extremists. We are told that if the Labour party to-day was composed of men like those who constituted it in 1893, all would be well, but, as I have already said, its views to-day are no more extreme than were the views of the party a century ago. I remind honorable members that those who, under Garibaldi, united Italy, those who, under Bismarck, organized the German Empire, as well as those who were responsible for the liberation of 17,000,000 slaves in America, were in their day regarded as extremists. Now they are acclaimed as patriots whose views were in advance of conservative public opinion.
– The sum of £500 was offered for the head of Peter Lawlor, because of his part in the Eureka Stockade.
– Peter Lawlor had the courage to fight for better conditions for those whom he represented. The Government desires to destroy that spirit of independence, that desire for liberty and the brotherhood of man which is characteristic of trade unionism to-day. That great charter of British liberty - Magna Charta - was won practically at the point of the sword by men who were branded as extremists. The pages of history show that in every age there have been place seekers and unscrupulous adventurers willing to exploit the courage, force, and ability of the leaders and reformers of their day. They have misrepresented the efforts of the reformers and endeavoured to persuade the populace that they were a menace to the community.
I am glad that in Australia to-day comparatively few persons believe in revolution, or subscribe to a doctrine of communism. The political Labour party is opposed to communism and revolutionary means of achieving reform. At successive State and Federal conventions it was resolved that no communist can be a member of the political Labour organization. In Queensland every Labour candidate for parliament, before he is endorsed by the executive, must sign a pledge stating that he is not a member of the communist organization and does not subscribe to the communist doctrine. Communism seeks to achieve reforms by revolutionary means, whereas political Labour stands for constitutional methods. No one knows that better than honorable members opposite. Yet, at the last election their propaganda, which consisted of associating the Labour party with the communists was so effective that the people became panic stricken and resolved that at all costs the Labour party must be kept from office. The electors were told that in voting for the Labour party, they voted for revolutions, whereas Nationalism meant constitutional government. By such tactics the Government won on that occasion ; but the same tactics will not succeed again.
I believe that arbitration is the best means of settling industrial disputes; but the system is capable of considerable improvement. Many disputes could be avoided if the parties thereto were to meet together in conference and endeavour, by conciliatory means, to adjust their differences. I stand for the observance of awards of the court by both employers and employees. The Labour party does not want strikes ; it wants peace and justice for the workers of Australia, who comprise 90 per cent. of the electors.
It is because the Labour party has the interests of the masses at heart - the workers who use their brains as well as those who use their hands, whether members of trade unions or not - that it is opposed to this measure. Instead of creating peace in industry, as is claimed by honorable members opposite, it will only engender bitterness, hatred and rancour. It will widen the gap between employer and employee; instead of building up a feeling of confidence, it will create a spirit of mistrust. It is a blow directed at industrial unionism, which has done so much to improve the conditions of the people. It is, moreover, a blow at militant organized effort, of which Australia, particularly in so far as her primary industries are concerned, is so much in need. Believing that this measure is a retrograde step in legislation, that it is savage, coercive and provocative and should not pass into law in a demoratic country, I strongly oppose it.
Sitting suspended from 12.42 to 2.30 p.m.
.- [By leave.]. - On the 15th May last, the Prime Minister, by leave, made a statement in this Chamber regarding certain charges made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Lambert) on the 7th May described by the Prime Minister as affecting the honour of this Parliament. Prior to that statement being made the members of the Labour party had unanimously carried a resolution asking the honorable member for West Sydney to attend a party meeting to substantiate or withdraw the charges that he had made. The honorable member was too ill to attend then, hut he attended the party meeting to-day and stated that, in view of the proposal to appoint a royal commission to investigate his charges, he would prefer that the matter should remain in abeyance for the present. In the event of a commission not being appointed, he would request that a committee consisting of representatives of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party and the Federal executive be appointed to investigate his allegations. The following resolution was then carried bythe party: -
In view of the statement and the request made by Mr. Lambert the matter be postponed for further consideration at a date to be fixed.
My purpose in asking leave to make this statement was to repeat what I said when the Prime Minister made his announcement the other day: that, speaking for the Labour party, I hoped that the inquiry would be expedited, and not be permitted to drag on for political purposes. The Prime Minister then announced that he was inviting the Chief Justice of the High Court to investigate the charges. It was assumed that he had received the consent of the Chief Justice of the High Court to act in that capacity, and it was rather amusing to us to learn later that the name of the Chief Justice was mentioned as the possible commissioner without the Government having first obtained his consent. I make no further comment, except that
I wish to take this early opportunity, at the unanimous request of my party, to place before the Government the fact that the Prime Minister stated on the 15th May that there would be an immediate investigation concerning the allegations or charges made on the 7th May. I now ask the representative of the Government what has been done in the matter, and when the investigation is to commence?
.- [By leave] - It is the desire of the Government that the inquiry should be held as speedily as possible, and that it should be conducted by a member of the judiciary. As honorable members are aware, it has been impossible to obtain the services of a member of the High Court Bench, and an endeavour is now being made to obtain the services of a member of the judiciary of one of the States. It is hoped to make an early announcement respecting the appointment of a royal commissioner. The State Governments must be approached before the services of one of their judges can be obtained; but the Government considers it very desirable that a judge should conduct the inquiry rather than any other person, and every effort is being made to fulfil this requirement. The Prime Minister is now in Melbourne, and is concerning himself in this matter, and I hope that an announcement will be made within a day or two.
.- It is my intention to vote for the second reading of the bill. The debate, as far as it has gone, has presented the most depressing spectacle of party politics ever staged within the life of the federation. Here we have a measure of transcendent importance. The Arbitration Court decides whether the great industries of this country shall flourish and expand or languish and diminish. More than that, it has a widespread influence of a near, personal, and vital kind. It controls the wages, the hours of labour, the housing, the clothing, the food, the education, and the pleasures of the working men and women of a whole continent. Therefore, in the discussion of this hill, one might have expected a sinking of party differences and concerted action to protect this great instrument of industrial justice. But, instead of that most desirable unity, we have had the party line drawn here with a firmness rare in the political history of this country. On the one hand the Government maintains that the bill is a dispassionate, impartial, and most painstaking effort so to amend this great ambitious instrument of industrial justice that it will serve the purpose which its original framers had in view; on the other, the Opposition declares that it is nothing but a darkly conceived piece of gross class legislation, aimed at the smashing of unionism andthe oppression of the workers generally.
Before I go further into the merits of the bill, I should like to refer to two outstanding features of the methods of debate adopted by honorable members opposite. The first is a claim that they have asserted, and the second is a charge that they have made. The claim, of which we have heard so much in this House that it is getting a little tiresome, is that honorable members opposite have an exclusive monopoly both of knowledge of industrial conditions and of sympathy with the working men and women of this country. That I absolutely deny. There is as much sympathy on this side of the House with the worker as there is on that side. I feel this claim in a personal way. It is true that for many years I have been leading a relatively soft life in the city, but my hands have done, I think, as much manual labour as, for example, those of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) or of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). Other honorable members opposite, in all probability, may have done a great deal more manual labour than I have, but I have worked for wages as low and hours as long as they have, and because of that, and of the environment in which I was bred and the life that I have led, my sympathy with the workers of this country is as wide and tender as that of any honorable member opposite.
I come now to the charge that has been made, in the first place, by the Leader of the Opposition and repeated by others right down to the speech of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), who preceded me in this debate. The charge is that we on this side of the House, in our attitude to this bill, are impelled in the main by a desire to serve our masters outside. Moreover, it has been said again and again that on this bill we are the slaves driven by the party whip. Yet compare the slavery of members on this side of the House with that of honorable members opposite. First, take adherence to party in this House. Where is freedom displayed by votes in this chamber, and by which party is it ever displayed? I venture to say that in a month there is as much independent voting by members behind the Government as there is by honorable members of the Labour party in a year. Since I came here, I have crossed the floor of this chamber again and again, when I have felt strongly and independently on a particular subject ; but I have yet to see honorable members opposite cross this floor on any bill of the least importance, and there is no possibility of them doing so. On -that side there is the iron discipline. There is the influence of the whip, and it is in direct contrast to the freedom of honorable members of this side of the House. As for the control of honorable members by outside organizations, it is true that I was elected on the Nationalist ticket, and I hope to stand again at the forthcoming elections on the same ticket ; but if all honorable members on this side df the House went to the country in opposition to the ticket of their party, many familiar forms would still be seen on these benches after the election, whereas if all the honorable members of the Labour party went to the country in opposition to their ticket, not one of them would be returned to Parliament.
– The honorable member was elected to this Parliament on the second preferences of Labour.
– That is not so. I won my seat on the first count, having an absolute majority of all the votes polled. Honorable members opposite are constantly reiterating the statement that honorable members on this side are subject to outside control, but let me say that, if the Leader of the Opposition, notwithstanding the vast majority by which he was returned two years ago, stood for the
Yarra electorate again without being on the Labour ticket, he would be defeated, even if a blackfellow or a Chinaman were opposing him, so long as his opponent was on that ticket. ‘ The statements of honorable members opposite may be uttered without fear of contradiction on the Sydney Domain or on the Yarra bank, but they are not such as one expects to hear constantly repeated in this chamber.
I have said that this House is violently divided on this measure, and, listening to this debate, my memory is carried back to the happy atmosphere which prevailed in the old House of Representatives in Melbourne in 1903 and 1904, when the original measure, which we are now seeking to amend, was introduced and debated. It is true that the then members of the Labour party were not the authors of that measure, but it is also true that it was owing to the influence and persistency of that party that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill found its way into the Federal Parliament at so early a date.
– The honorable member admits that.
– I shall endeavour to be fair. The draftsman of the bill, as the House knows, although not a member of the Labour party, wa3 a very great radical whose memory is respected by all, and revered particularly by honorable members opposite - I refer to the late Mr. Kingston. But because of a political accident, the bill was introduced by the late Mr. Deakin. It was opposed outside by the Employers’ Federation, and, I think, largely by the Liberal press of Australia. But what happened in regard to it in the House itself ? Although there was then a fighting, capable, and aggressive Opposition, the bill was endorsed and blessed by the late Sir George Reid on behalf of the Opposition. There was practically no opposition to it. Mr. Kingston said of its subject, “I have never looked upon this as a party question, and I never will.” The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), then representing Vest Sydney, entered the chamber booted and spurred to meet the reactionary opposition to the bill, and he remarked that it waa “embarrassing to hear not one word of adverse criticism” of it. In other words, 24 years ago all parties sank their political differences and joined hands to frame and launch this grand experiment. The Government proposed, and the House gave its benediction and assistance. To-day the Government proposes and the House pours forth a flood of malediction and execration.
I propose to explore and disclose the source and reason of this peculiar hostility, but I first ask the Leader of the Opposition if he considers that the existing act is perfect? Is he satisfied with it? Does he regard its record of achievement as gratifying? Has it, in his opinion, realized the expectations of the original framers? Those considerations have an important bearing on the bill. I propose to quote some of the speeches delivered in 1903, when the original arbitration bill was before the House. I have extracted only phrases, but they are not unfairly torn from their context. Mr. Deakin, in moving the second reading of the bill said : -
The object of this measure is to prevent strikes. We now substitute a new regime for the reign of violence by endowing the State with power to impose, within the limits of reason, justice and constitutional government, its deliberate will upon the parties to industrial disputes. . . .
This bill marks, in my opinion, the beginning of a new phase of civilization. It begins the establishment of a people’s peace, under which the conduct of industrial affairs in the future may be guided. . . .
It is not a matter of to-day or to-morrow - in the sense of a single measure or device.
Mr. Deakin clearly anticipated amendment after amendment before this most complicated piece of machinery could be perfected. He went on to say : -
It is the introduction of a new principle which, when it has found its proper means of working and of exerting its influences, will prove, necessarily, as great a transformation as the creation of the King’s peace brought in civil society.
Here we have the introduction of a new test: the” question will be not which side has the .might, but which side has the right? What is the fair settlement of the industrial dispute ?
The following remark implied a disciplining of this legislation in the manner that the bill proposes -
It aims at placing .employees under obligations and control that would prevent the rebellious breaking away of unruly unionists in consequence of their dislike of any award.
Mr. J. C. Watson, then the honorable member for Bland, and afterwards the first Labour Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, said: -
Whilst I believe that strikes are necessary under some circumstances, I recognize that even when, they are successful they inflict such injury on the individuals who are most affected, as well as upon the State as a whole, that we should make any experiment within reason, adopt any expedient, and go to any length rather than suffer their continuance.
Mr. Hughes said:
I regard the measure as the coping stone of civilization.
I do not wonder that honorable members smile when they are reminded of the contrast between the high hopes and promises with which this legislation was introduced, and its subsequent performances. Would any honorable member say that the arbitration law has fulfilled the expectations of its framers? Has it established the people’s peace envisioned by Mr. Deakin - a peace under industrial law akin to the King’s peace we enjoy under the civil law?
– I think so.
– Apparently the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) thinks so too. He appears to be satisfied with the act. At any rate, he is most strenuously opposed to any amendment of it. Therefore, we must conclude that he likes the existing law, as it is, with all its blemishes and imperfections. Following that line of thought, he made an extraordinary comparison between the industrial disturbances in this country and those in Great Britain. He appeared to he highly pleased that strike troubles in Australia, and the money lost and the suffering inflicted thereby, are relatively less than in Great Britain, and claimed that such a comparison shows that our existing legislation is working satisfactorily. What is such a comparison worth? The industrial conditions of the workers in this country are vastly different from those in Great Britain. By common consent the conditions of the Australian workers are the best in the world. Improvement has followed improvement, until to-day we should be able to say that industrial strife is no longer within the bounds of possibility. In comparison with Australia, Great Britain is industrially lawless. There the strike is the recognized and accepted weapon, and industrial warfare is open. In Australia it is forbidden by a law that is absolute, and prescribes heavy penalties; we have expensive juridical machinery for the purpose of outlawing strikes and lockouts. Therefore, no comparison between the two countries is possible. But notwithstanding our courts, judges in wig and gown, and all the organization for the prevention or punishment of indus-‘ trial outlawry, the almost incessant strife in recent years constitutes a severe indictment of the principles embodied in the Arbitration Act. I ask honorable members opposite whether the framers of the original bill, if they had anticipated the long train of breaches of awards, strikes, lockouts, human suffering, and material loss, which have attended the ‘ operation of this legislation for 24 years, would have wasted the time of Parliament in forging such an ineffective instrument. I say unhesitatingly that they would not. But apparently the act in its present form is completely satisfactory to honorable members opposite.
– Certainly noi.
– What then is the reason for the hostility to the bill? No honorable member on this side of the House is wedded to every feature of it. . No one will say that every amendment it proposes is perfect. Certainly I do not intend to vote for all its clauses, but I do think that the bill represents a sincere and disinterested effort to improve the industrial machinery. It is not dictated by partisan prejudice, or private material interest. It is brought forward by the Attorney-General for the one purpose of endeavouring to give to this country the blessing of industrial peace. Yet members of the Labour par: y turn their backs upon it, and to the Attorney-General’s invitation to them to co-operate with him, they return a violent and emphatic negative. They will not even allow the bill to pass the second reading if they can prevent it.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said: “I agree that we cannot have it both ways. When a union or an. employers’ association enters the Arbitration Court, it should be prepared to obey its awards.” “ Prepared,” mark you, not obliged or compelled! Apparently it is the compulsion - and without machinery for policing the decisions of the court the original act would never have been passed - to which honorable members opposite object. I am reluctantly forced to the conclusion that in regard to this measure honorable members opposite are not entirely their own masters. Much as I appreciate their leader’s ardent love of industrial peace and abhorrence of strife, I cannot escape the conviction that in his opposition to the bill he is yielding not only to outside influences, but also to the worst elements in the Labour movement.
I deny absolutely that the amendments contained in the bill assail the principles of trade unionism, or menace in any way their funds, or question the use of them for political purposes, or raise the old controversy in regard to the inclusion of State instrumentalities. What is their aim? To ensure that the worker shall be oppressed, and the trade union officials harassed and abolished? Not at all. They aim merely to ensure that those who go voluntarily - there is no compulsion - in quest of industrial justice shall obey the awards which the court makes. The overwhelming majority of sober-minded, well-behaved and hard working unionists in this country will not be influenced or affected in any way by these amendments. All those unionists, and they are legion, who loyally obey the awards will never be aware of these new and amending clauses. These amendments which seek to discipline awards, will mean no more to the great majority of trade unionists than the policeman on his beat means to the overwhelming majority who make up the well-behaved citizens of the community. The civil police interfere with these not at all, but they do protect them against the very small law-breaking minority. Without the civil police, civilization as we know it would be impossible. Unhappily, human nature being what it is, we cannot look forward to the realization of that people’s peace envisioned by Mr. Deakin until industrial justice is disciplined and policed as the civil or the King’s peace is disciplined and policed.
While I see nothing objectionable at all in the tightening up of the disciplinary side of the Arbitration Act I do dissociate myself from the confident belief expressed by some honorable members that any system of penalties or secret ballots will work a miraculous change in the observance of awards. Even at the risk of being called idealistic, I maintain that we must go deeper into the matter than that. Let us probe .the source of job control and of most breaches of awards. Let us reflect on the particular unions and classes of workers who are the chief offenders, and who are the real authors of the opposition in this House to these amendments. Are the industrial lawbreakers who, all through the years, have fouled the system of compulsory arbitration, to be found among the best elements of trade unionism, or amongst those who are less fortunate? Are they to be found among the highly skilled, well educated, sober-minded men and women who, in their scores of thousands, distinguish the ranks of the workers in this country? Are these job control” men, and the others who have brought this act into disrepute, to be found among the great majority of workers in this country who, moved by an intellectual and laudable material ambition, and an admirable sense of citizenship, pursue education for themselves and their children? Are the law-breakers to be found among the tens of thousands of workers who frequent our art galleries and public libraries, who make up the rank and file of the great friendly societies and whose children are to be found in the high schools, technical schools, and universities? Those men and women do not constitute the lawless element with which, in an industrial sense, this country is so sorely troubled. The wrong-doer is the only man who is aimed at in this bill, and he is to be found elsewhere.
Those unionists who practise job control, who breed strikes and inflict loss and suffering on women and children, and on their fellow workers, and who are at the bottom of the opposition to this measure, represent neither the brains nor the best moral character of the great bulk of the Australian workers. I say that deliberately. I do not desire to speak harshly or unkindly of this section of our workers. They, in their thousands and tens of thousands, call for our sympathy and assistance, rather than our condemnation. I intend, however, to speak quite plainly about them. It is not possible to secure complete discipline under industrial law, any more than under civil law. These law-breakers represent that stratum among the workers which is lowest in education, lowest in self respect, and lowest in sense of citizenship. In this high Australian civilization of ours they are the least civilized. They are the least happy, the least to be envied, and the most to be pitied.
I did not intend to name any particular section of workers, or any particular union, but I shall make one exception. I shall give as an illustration that class of workers now happily passing away, the firemen of the mercantile marine. They are a good illustration, because, before the beginning of the transition from the coal to the oilburning furnaces - a transition at which we all rejoice - these workers held the key to the activities of the mercantile marine, and of many other industries. Will any honorable member suggest that from men who are compelled by cruel circumstance to serve in the brutalizing occupation of firing ships, there is to be expected that nice sense of respect for the awards of any tribunal that one gets from the great majority of unionists more happily placed? Such men might almost claim as a compensation for the harsh fate which was their unlucky draw in the lottery of life, to be outside the bounds of industrial law. Whether or not that is a legitimate claim I shall not say; but I have never looked to these men for the same obedience to awards as from unionists more happily placed. My attitude to them is one of pity, rather than reproof.
Unfortunately, what is true of the firemen is, in scarcely less degree, true of other classes of our workers whom. I shall not specify. I maintain that so long as we have large numbers of workers on that low social level, and so long as these workers supply the labour for many of our great key industries, so long will the highest level of industrial peace which is humanly obtainable prove impossible of attainment. The evil is not purely industrial ; it is, in the main, social. There must be more education, more effort from our social workers, more sympathetic thought followed by disinterested action. Popular education has already moved mountains, not only in the British Empire, but in all parts of the world ; but its application has so far been mainly general, and thus it has missed many of the low-lying levels, and darker corners. Before those can be reached education must become more special, and more searching. The case is one for the Commonwealth and the States; for the social reformer and the educationist, for the churches, and particularly for the employers, the great captains of industry in this and other countries, and for the leaders of organized labour. The call is for something more than for industrial law and industrial war. It is for more fraternity, more sympathy, with more and still more application of the spirit of Christianity. In other words, social uplift must precede implicit obedience to the discipline of any tribunal.
The right honorable member for North Sydney spoke of particular law breakers, and those who led them, iis a cancerous growth ou modern society, and he advised that this thing be cut out. It is true that strong action is necessary on occasions; but I believe that the only satisfactory means of achieving permanent relief is to educate this thing out; to reform it out. It is like sorrel, one of the worst agricultural weeds, which thrives on poor, sour soil. Cultivate and improve the soil, and the sorrel vanishes. We have heard something of communism during this debate, and something of Mr. “Jock” Garden. I believe that 25 years’ hence people will not speak of deporting Mr. “ Jock “ Garden ; the educated sense of Australian democracy will ridicule men of that sort out of their pretensions. Education is the great and necesary factor in overcoming this lawlessness with which we are confronted.
But we are not dealing with the future. We must take the Australian worker and the world as we find them. Industry must not be held up. It must continue, and until we do reach that more or less ideal state to which I look forward, and which I believe we shall ultimately reach, we must have discipline in the enforcement of the awards of the Arbitration Court. We must have discipline over those who come into the court in quest of awards, and particularly over their leaders. These lower grades of workers - I use the expression in its social sense - are not bad men. The overwhelming majority of them are good men; but they are easily led, and easily misled. In their crude ignorance, they are easily induced to follow false gods, to mistake loud glib language for reason; they make ideal material for the selfadvertising labour leader to work on. The “ red,” puffed-up, irresponsible persons, of whom there are far too many today in Australia, and who batten on these classes, flattering them, promising them the earth, the moon, and the stars, constitute the worst element in the official trade union movement. The new disciplinary provisions in the bill are not aimed at the backward men themselves, but at those who are unscrupulously leading or misleading them. These leaders are, I frankly confess, in a minority in the Trades Hall secretariats of the country, just as the unions with which they are associated represent a minority of the workers ; but they control a powerful and insidious minority, and their influence, because of the complexity of the industrial machine, extends far beyond those industries with which they are immediately associated.
Coining to the bill before the House, I submit that this discreditable and lawless minority is really the big stick behind the present parliamentary opposition to the measure. It is the leaders of these unions who will be disciplined; the men will not suffer. The men will not be fined or imprisoned ; but the law-breakers amongst the unionists will be disciplined. Bearing that in mind, it is interesting to trace the birth and development of the opposition to this bill. It did not originate with the party opposite at all; but outside the party room. The views to be expressed by honorable members opposite were formed for them by outsiders. When the provisions of the bill were disclosed, those trade union officials at whom alone it strikes, immediately raised a loud clamour. They held hole-and-corner executive meetings, and passed resolutions condemning the bill. Then the solidarity of the Labour movement became evident; the rank and file of union secretaries in that fraternal spirit which pervades the ranks of unionism, stood behind those who protested. The penalties, provided in this measure, however, are not there on their account, but because of the bad element in trade unionism. In that way the opposition to the bill ‘ was born. Those trades union secretaries who have opposed the bill outside this House control the political future of honorable members opposite: in the pre-selection ballot they decide who shall represent the Labour movement in this Parliament. The representation of the workers is not a matter for the electors at all. I am surprised at the manner in which honorable members opposite have allowed themselves to become the dupes and tools of the worst element in Australia.
– Order! The honorable member must not refer to other honorable members as dupes and tools.
– I withdraw the remark unconditionally, and apologize. Honorable members opposite have allowed themselves to become the servants of the worst’ element in their movement. There is not the slightest evidence that they have considered this bill on its merits. They have come sheepishly into line with the Trades Hall authorities.
Last night the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) had a good deal to say about the farmers of Australia. Probably he remembered that an election is to take place soon. He endeavoured to show that there was no association” between communism and the political Labour party. Indeed, he stated that it was impossible for a communist to get into the political Labour movement.
– I can supply the honorable member with a copy of the rules of the political Labour party showing that what I have said is correct.
– I shall place the facts before the House, and leave honorable members to form their own judgment. More than half of the trade unionists of New South Wales live in and about Sydney. As honorable members know, the centre of the great Labour movement of New South Wales is situated at the Trades Hall in Goulburn-street The guiding spirit of the Trades Hall - the most influential man in trade unionism in New South Wales - is the secretary of the Trades and Labour Council of New South Wales, Mr. “ Jock “ Garden, a member of the Third Internationale. Yet honorable members say there is no connexion between communism and the political Labour movement. A pre-selection ballot is now being conducted in New South Wales to decide who shall be Labour’s candidates for the next Senate election. More than half of the trade unionists who will participate in that ballot are under the thumb of “ Jock “ Garden. Is that not evidence of an association between the two movements to which I have referred ? Honorable members opposite go further, and say that there is no association between political Labour leagues and the trade unions. But I remind them that the same men and women who comprise the trade unions and are controlled by “ Jock “ Garden, are the members of the political Labour leagues. I am not aware of the position to-day; but a few years ago there was a rule that no person could be a Labour parliamentary candidate unless he was a member of a trade union.
– That is not so to-day.
– That was the position some years ago. Honorable members opposite who represent New South Wales constituencies will not deny that, for the most part, they are members of trade unions which are affiliated with the Sydney Trades Hall.
The speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) caused me more pain than any speech to which I have listened in this Parliament for many years. I am sorry that the honorable gentleman is not now in the chamber. Into his hands has been placed a rare opportunity. He has been appointed the leader of his party in a crisis in the industrial affairs of Australia when the representatives in this House of the party to which he belongs are not their own masters, but are controlled by the worst element in the movement. He has an opportunity seldom vouchsafed to a public man to render a great service to his party, and to the Labour movement. He cannot rightly seize that opportunity by blindly following others; but if he leads his party, he can achieve a great deal. The party of which he is the leader is a great force in this country, but it needs to be cleansed. One is pained to read in the Australian press the record of public statements and sworn evidence before royal commissions. Unfortunately the Leader of the Opposition has not devoted his energies towards the cleansing of the Labour movement.
– What does the honorable member desire him to do in that direction ?
– He was given the opportunity to strike a note entirely different from that which has characterized his utterances during this debate. As I hope to avail myself of the opportunity to make further observations when the bill is in the committee stage, I shall not detain the House longer at this stage.
– I listened with considerable interest to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), but I must confess I was not greatly impressed by his arguments. Possibly he prepared his speech too carefully. What I took to be long quotations from more or less sapient remarks by various persons, proved to be the copious notes of his own speech. In the course of his address the honorable member attacked the Labour party on the ground that its members in this Parliament are shackled, that they have gyves on their wrists, and are not their own masters. In contrast, he exhibited himself, and other honorable members sitting with him, as free and independent political agents. Honorable members may remember that during the debate on the budget last year, the honorable member for Henty gave an exhibition of his complete freedom and independence when he indulged in a caustic criticism of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) and his administration. But the Prime Minister took him to task next day, and publicly admonished him. Indeed, he humiliated the honorable member. The honorable member sat in his place and made no protest. Since that public censure, he has been as meek as any party hack supporting the Government. It is true that some other honorable members, who nominally support the Government, at times cause considerable concern to the party whips. But they are careful never to declare or to commit themselves unless they are sure that the Government has an ample majority without their vote. Notwithstanding their protestations of complete independence, honorable members belonging to the Nationalist party have been very careful of their actions and speeches since the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has been here to keep an eye on them. I do not plead, as did the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) for the complete independence of members of this Parliament from party ties. Indeed, the honorable member for Henty, when he advocated that independence, appeared foolish. Party discipline is an essential feature of the political life oi Australia to-day. A man who is elected to Parliament, pledged to support certain principles, must conform to the discipline of his party, in order the more easily to achieve those things for which the party stands. There is nothing wrong in that. Why should any man be ashamed of his party associations, or his loyalty to his political principles? The honorable member for Henty is the only member of this House who sets himself up as a free agent in these matters. And he has been publicly humiliated for so doing ! So far there is no evidence that he has recovered from his leader’s rebuke.
The honorable member asks whether we are satisfied with the ArbitraAct in its present form. If we are not satisfied with it, he asks do we not propose to amend it ; and, if we require it to be amended, why do we not support the bill. I fail to see any logic in that appeal. It is true that honorable members on this side are not satisfied with the present arbitration law. We have many times advocated its amendment, and pointed to its defects. Those defects are obvious, and well known. The court is too restricted and hampered in its powers; procedure is too slow and too costly; there is too much delay in operating awards, and not enough facilities for enforcing awards when made. But the bill does not propose to remove those defects. On the contrary, it seeks to graft on the existing act a kind of criminal code which will treat all unionists and unions, peace-loving or otherwise, as quasi criminals, placing all alike under severe pains and penalties for any offence against the act, and punishing with imprisonment any repetition of an offence. The bill is opposed by honorable members on this side of the House because it does this, and I cannot perceive how the honorable member for Henty can deduce that because we are not supporting this bill we, therefore, accept the existing act in its entirety and see no faults in it.
The early history of arbitration has been spoken of in the debate. The Attorney-General mentioned it, and so did the Leader of the Opposition. Most of us are acquainted with it. The basic idea behind arbitration is to replace the old barbarous method of settling differences between employers and employees by brute force with a more rational procedure, by setting up tribunals to hear the claims of the disputants and arbitrate upon them. Our arbitration law has been built up on those principles, and the tribunal we have set up is one whose chief function. is to bring reason to bear, in the settlement of differences so as to arrive at just decisions regarding them. The bill proposes to depart from that basic principle by giving the tribunal plenary and executive power, authority of life and death over industrial unions, the right to inflict severe punishment on unionists, and to gaol workers who do not conform to its orders. It is true that it contains a series of clauses relating to conciliation committees and voluntary arbitration, but these are inserted merely to hoodwink the public and obscure the real intention, which is to graft on the act provisions that will entirely subvert the basic principles of arbitration, and set up a semigovernment authority that will become coercive of the unions. In this way terrorism and victimization will be im-. ported into the administration of industrial matters. Ultimate good can come only from conciliation and the reasonable consideration of the demands of the workers.
The Prime Minister and other honorable members who have spoken have exhorted honorable members of the Opposition to consider- this bill in an entirely non-party spirit. Indeed, the Prime Minister condemned the Leader of the Opposition for importing party considerations into the debate. .Speaking a few days ago in this chamber, the right honorable gentleman said -
This legislation, which is designed to improve the industrial conditions of Australia, should not be discussed in any party spirit. . . These issues are so fundamental in our national life that I suggest it is hopelessly wrong for a debate on a measure of this character to be made a purely party political issue.
Then in Melbourne the other night, when addressing the Women’s National League, a political party organization, he criticized “ the unions in their attitude on industrial matters,” and said “ Gradually we shall see a number of these loud-voiced raucous trade union gentlemen disappear over the horizon.” If that is the right honorable gentleman’s manner of discussing the bill in a purely non-party spirit, how much sincerity is there behind his appeal and that of other honorable members opposite? Or is it all sheer hypocrisy?
– I am merely making an inquiry.
– By inquiry motives may be imputed, and the honorable member may not impute motives.
– If in the rules of the House there is so delicate a discrimination and it is unparliamentary to inquire whether there is sincerity in the appeal of the Prime Minister and others, or whether on the contrary it is sheer hypocrisy, I do not desire to offend by persisting in this line of inquiry.
– Say it on the soap box.
– One should not be afraid to say here what one would say on the soap box, or from any other public rostrum. I hope that I shall never make a different appeal or use different arguments here from those which I make or use outside.
The honorable member for Henty justified the introduction of this bill on the ground that it was intended to ensure the enforcement of the King’s peace in industrial matters. I thought the Prime Minister had some kind of pre-emptive right to the phrase “ the King’s peace.” At any rate, it seemed to appeal to him as one which could be usefully employed during the 1925 election campaign, when he exploited it to some purpose. But now the honorable member for
Henty asks, “ Should the King’s peace not be preserved under our present industrial law? Are we not justified in using compulsion to ensure its preservation?” In support of his contention, he said : “ We have the right to enforce the King’s peace under the civil law.” But is not the King’s peace broken under the civil law every day? Are there not prosecutions every day in courts under the King’s jurisdiction to enforce the observance of the civil law by the imposition of penalties for breaches of the King’s peace? Yet is that any reason why we should seek to scrap our civil law, under which 99 per cent. of our population live in harmony and peace, and set up in its stead some kind of dictatorial authority, or some form of terrorism? Or does it prove, as the honorable member for Batman suggests, that the civil law is a hopeless failure, to be cast aside and replaced by something that is as yet untried? If the argument applies in one case it applies in the other. I do not know that the AttorneyGeneral justifies the introduction of this bill on the ground that the King’s peace in industrial matters is sometimes broken. Is the fact that there is recalcitrancy among certain sections ofthe unionists justification for this Draconian law?
During the debate there has been frequent reference to one or two who have proved recalcitrant and are said to have no respect for the arbitration law. Is that justification for upsetting the whole arbitration system and imperilling the liberty of thousands of unionists? There are registered under the Federal Arbitration Act 149 unions, with 650,000 members. The interests of that great body of unionists are to be adversely affected by this bill; their organization, their right of free assembly to be interfered with.
– There is not the remotest justification for that statement.
– The Attorney-General has said that the unions are to be made responsible for the conduct of individual members, or any small section of them.
– The bill does not even say that.
– The AttorneyGeneral says that there is not the slightest justification for my statement that the interests of the whole body of unionists registered under the court are adversely affected by this bill.
– That was not the statement I challenged. It was that the right of lawful assembly now enjoyed by trade unions was affected by the bill.
– That is not all that I said. Among other things, I made allusion to the right of free assembly, but I was speaking of their right of organization, their right of assembly, free speech and criticism, as rights which they now enjoy, but which will be interfered with, and in some respects, taken away from them by the present bill. It is a fair deduction to draw, and a criticism which the Minister cannot dispute.
– I challenge it.
– My argument is that the presence of some recalcitrants among the unionists is not sufficient justification for a bill which will affect adversely 650,000 unionists, any more than the fact that there are some ordinary citizens who are recalcitrant under the civil law is not sufficient justification for taking away the liberty of hundreds of thousands of citizens who uphold the law. If there is no justification in one case, there is no justification in the other. The bill is not a bona fide attempt to amend the Arbitration Act, improve unionism, or give the workers a better opportunity to improve their conditions.
Honorable members opposite are contradictory. Some of them claim that the arbitration system should be scrapped, because it has hampered the economic progress of industry. Others say that the bill before us is designed to assist unionists. A quaint argument has been used by one honorable member that the provisions of the bill relating to the auditing of accounts of unions has been inserted in the interests of the unions to protect them against possible defalcations by officials. Was there ever so absurd an argument advanced! The honorable member must have imagined that his listeners were children. The facts are that the clauses relating to the audit of union accounts, the control of union rules, and many other matters in connexion with the internal management of unions have been inserted in the bill in order to give into the hands of a court which may have no sympathy with the unions, a power which it may use tyrannously a court that may be a packed court, partisan in the last degree. The Government want to give the court power to discipline and hamper the unions, to meddle in their affairs, to make it impossibe to conduct bona fide and decent unionism.
I have asserted that the billadversely affects the interests of a large number of unionists, and, in my opinion, it does so designedly. It will destroy the best features of our Arbitration Act, which is based on the wish to have industrial matters adjusted in a spirit of sweet reasonableness. This bill introduces a new element; it endeavours to achieve peace by terrorism, by intimidation, by coercion. It seeks to allay unrest by penalizing, and by putting into gaol, if necessary, those who dare to advance claims on behalf of the workers, or make or attempt to enforce a demand, even though it may be one justly based on grievances suffered by the workers.
It has been most interesting to hear hon orable members opposite refer, during the course of this debate, to the horrid conditions that existed in industry 50 years ago, and even more recently, and to hear their statements that all such undesirable conditions have been remedied, and that we now live in a different world. They recall without hesitation the sweating that went on one or two generations ago, the sweating of women, the employment of child labour, the long working hours, the drudgery and well-nigh slavery that existed even in Australia. But they claim that that is merely a page of history, that to-day conditions have improved considerably. For this they take credit. One honorable member referred to certain measures of reform introduced a few years ago, and now appearing upon the statute-books of the Commonwealth and the States, and declared that those measures were in no way attributable to the efforts of the Labour Party. It would not require much argument to refute that assertion. It is incontrovertible that, had it not been for the existence of the Labour party - I use the term in its widest sense, and refer not merely to the Parliamentary Labour party - there would still be the child slavery, the exploitation of sweated women workers, long hours of work in our coal and metalliferous mines, in our factories and shops, and the drudgery and semi-slavery that existed 50 years ago.
– But for unionism those conditions would still continue.
– Yet some honorable members opposite take credit to their own political party for the great improvement that has been made in labour conditions in this and other countries. Perhaps there is no need to examine that claim further, but we must recognize that even now, notwithstanding all the reforms that have been accomplished, and the great betterment that has been secured, we have not yet achieved all that has to be accomplished. Even had we done all that was needed in improving wages, hours of labour, and other material conditions, there would remain the necessity to maintain the conditions that have been won. Therefore unionism is as much justified to-day as it ever was in the history of Australia.
– Not as it exists at present.
– There are individuals, and among them some honorable members of this chamber, who are quite ready to applaud the “ old “ Labour movement, and the “old” unionism, but fail to see anything worthy in the Labour movement or its adherents of to-day.
– They said the very same things about our predecessors in the Labour movement.
– Of course they did. For example, Mr. Andrew Fisher is now frequently referred to by honorable members opposite as a great man, a man of splendid ideals, and always honest and undeviating in the advocacy of them. He is set up as an example for the rest of us. I admit that Andrew Fisher set us a great example; yet less than 30 years ago he was victimized for being a unionist. He was dismissed his employment in the mining districts of Queensland because of his efforts in the Labour movement, and had it not been for his personal friends he would have been left to starve - simply because of his political and union principles.
– That was shocking, but things have been turned upside-down since. Who are the tyrants now ?
– Even the honorable member may have changed his opinion with regard to Andrew Fisher, and one may hope that, perhaps 30 years hence, even honorable members on this side may be spoken of. by such as he as great men, who were honest in their convictions.
It is for those who have been sneering at arbitration, and trying to demonstrate how great a failure it has been, to advance some alternative. It must at least be replaced with something that is rational and practicable, something which, on the face of it, at any rate, gives promise of success. So far, no such scheme has been advanced. From what I have read about alternative proposals, advanced both here and in Great Britain, I do not agree with them, because I do not think them an improvement on our present system. One honorable member opposite proposed something in the nature of Whitley councils. He considered that those presiding over our arbitration tribunals, learned in the law, but not particularly versed in industrial matters, are unsuited for the work to be undertaken. I do not think that anything corresponding to Whitley councils would be an improvement on our Arbitration Courts. In Australia we have achieved arbitration by a sort of evolution from wages boards and other bodies corresponding to Whitley councils. Whitley councils would deal with problems as they arose in individual industries and callings, and possibly it would be necessary to have a dozen such tribunals to deal with one industry. That would destroy the uniformity which is now lauded as a virtue. It would cause more overlapping, and overlapping is claimed to be an existing evil in our present system. Other honorable members advocate the straightout abolition of the Arbitration Court. I deplore that advocacy, and am confident that its adherents have not considered the consequences of such an abolition.
I have one or two references to show how intense is that advocacy for the abolition of the Arbitration Court. Even during the course of this debate honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) have advocated its abolition. The honorable member for Perth certainly qualified his proposal by urging that abolition should not take place before certain safeguards had been adopted. Recently the members of the Metal Trades Employers’ Association met in conference at Sydney, and boldly advocated the abolition of our Arbitration Courts. They circulated their views in the form of a pamphlet, a copy of which I have here, and from which I shall quote. One paragraph states -
Industrial arbitration has a beautiful ideal, and a righteous one. It was originally evolved to protect the workers who’ were unable to economically protect themselves. It has over-done it. It lias pampered them, so that they have become bowelless tyrants and unmitigated ruffians towards the industry from which they draw their sustenance.
Away with it, and let us get back to the clear, open economic ring. That is the only way to prosperity and increased employment.
– But they do not want to get back into that ring when competing with traders abroad.
– That is so. If their views were adopted workers who were strongly organized would receive high wages, because they could not be resisted. Concessions would be made to those who could fight their own battles; but God help the weaklings, the women workers, and those poorly organized in that “clear, open economic ring.”
I am quoting these statements because they contain opinions typical of some that are now quite widely held. I do not attribute them to the concrete platform of the Ministerial party, but they are largely current in Australia. They are being propagated in this country, and are figuring largely in all the controversies about the benefits of arbitration. Unless they are answered, they will tend to misrepresent the public opinion on this question. The views expressed recently by the executive of the Federation of British Industries, and cabled to this country, where they were freely published, are worth recording. I shall be careful not to accuse wrongfully any one who does not give adherence to these views, but they certainly represent the Chauvinistic opinion of many employers and
Nationalists in Australia, and need an answer. One portion reads -
We must face the fact that to secure a substantial reduction in prices we must effect a substantial reduction in wages. This can be done in two ways, either by reducing the rates of wages, or by the workers giving a greater output for the wages they receive.
– That would be an awful crime.
– I take it that that view has the endorsement of the honorable members. The statement continues -
This would, in many trades, have a substantial effect in reducing the cost of production, but it may be necessary to go further, and for the workers to be prepared to accept a money wage which may, until business revives, give them a lower standard of living.
That is the ideal which some of our employers seek to achieve. Some employers give their support to this bill because it will reduce the standard of living. They want to lower the standard of living in Australia, and they think that they can do so by giving to the Arbitration Court a basis for a lower minimum wage. If this bill is not an attack upon the standard of living, that is definitely advocated’ by honorable members opposite, why are they so concerned about the movement for a reduction of hours from 48 a week. The reduction of working hours is a definite material advancement for the workers. An increase in wages may not be a betterment in all cases, because the benefit of the increase may be taken from them ‘ by an increase in commodity price levels. A reduction in hours is a material improvement because it gives to the workers a greater amount of leisure. Of course, if it were carried to a foolish extreme it would probably cripple all industry, and the whole community would suffer. It can definitely be stated, however, that reductions of hours have not had that effect in Australia.
A third mode of handling the problem is advocated. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who interjects so frequently from the back bench, is not sympathetically inclined towards arbitration courts, and has no argument to offer in support of an improvement in the material conditions of the workers. He is constantly preaching the doctrine of increased production.
– I am not ashamed of that.
– I am not accusing the honorable member of being ashamed of anything. His idea is that the solution of all economic and industrial problems is to be found in increased production by the workers. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has spoken in similar vein; and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) last night advanced that as the most adequate solution. That honorable member, however, does not believe that we can continue to increase wages. On the contray, he says that arbitration courts in Australia have reached the maximum basic wage that can be fixed with safety, and that the next step is to obtain greater production from the workers. The burden of the speech delivered by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) was that if we can produce a greater output in industry we shall be in a position to pay higher wages. It sounds very simple; but, apparently, its advocates have not considered the implications involved. I freely grant that increased production would give an industry a better opportunity to meet wage and other industrial demands that are made upon it, and that it would be a solution of many of our problems, if there were an adequate and remunerative market for the increased production. But what do we find? Take some of our big industries; for example, meat, butter, cheese, maize, fruit, wine, sugar and coal. If the production of those industries increased, would they be in a position to pay higher wages to the people whom they employ?
– Yes ; the world will take larger quantities of our meat and butter.
– During the last seven years the meat export trade in Queensland has not, on the average, worked to half its capacity. Even this year more than half the meat works in Queensland have been closed down owing to a lack of remunerative markets overseas. In the butter industry numerous schemes have been propounded with a view to making good the losses that are incurred in the overseas marketing of that product, by a distribution of the total amount realized on the home market.-
– Does the honorable member mean to say that there have been fat cattle in Queensland to keep the works going?
– There was a shortage of fat cattle last year, but the meat works have not been closed down solely on account of seasonal difficulties.
– I shall have an opportunity later to deal with the honorable member’s arguments on the two items to which he has referred.
– I am glad that the honorable member’s interest in what I am saying is sufficient to make him wish to deal with the arguments. These are points which ought to be dealt with by those who advocate increased production by the workers.
– The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that the problem is connected, not with production, but with markets.
– I have referred only to certain industries, in which increased production would bring about economic consequences of a serious nature to the workers and all others concerned. There are other industries, such as thoseconnected with the production of wool and wheat, in which, presumably, production could continue to increase almost ad infinitum without their being overtaken by serious consequences ; but a tremendous increase in production in other industries would bring in its train far worse evils than those which exist to-day.
The honorable member for Forrest claims to be an authority upon questions that relate to primary industries. His only solution of the present economic troubles is to produce more. Let me pursue that argument a stage or two further. At the outset, I wish to say that if there has been any lowering in the volume of production, the worker has not been wholly to blame; nevertheless, he is solely blamed by honorable members opposite, and by no one more frequently than the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page).
– I have made that charge against the executives of the unions, but never against the men; and I shall prove it to-day.
– The honorable gentleman attacks the whole body of workers through the officials.
– I have never done so.
– He refers to certain supposed economic evils, and says that the executives are responsible for curtailing the output of the workers.
– The tyranny of union leaders is the cause.
-That charge has been made many times by the honorable gentleman since he became Treasurer, and he has been supported in it by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce). Both of those honorable gentlemen have attempted to make out a case against the workers on the ground that they have curtailed production.
– Not against the workers, but against their leaders.
– I shall put the position in another way. The honorable gentleman has attempted to make out a case against the Labour movement.
– No ; I have made it out against the leaders of that movement.
– The honorable gentleman is entirely wrong in his deduction. Statistics which are available to every honorable member conclusively prove, not only that theoutput per head has not been curtailed, but that, on the contrary, the value of production and the individual contribution to the total output is greater to-day than it was some years ago. Production Bulletin No. 20 shows that the aggregate value of production in all industries increased steadily between 1916 and 1925-26. During that period there was only one year in which there was a diminution compared with the preceding year; that was in 1925-26. The following table gives the annual production from all industries in Australia since 1916. These figures are taken from Bulletin No. 20 of Australian Statistics : -
I know that there was an inflation in the prices of some commodities, and that allowance must be made for the changed value of the pound sterling; but after making due allowance for those factors, it will be found that the increase is still considerable.
– Allowance must be made also for the increase in the population.
– That is so. The figures per head of population, which take into account every man, woman, and child in Australia, show that the value of production per head of population increased each year in the following way : -
Those figures cover all industries.When we study those that relate to manufacturing industries, in which the percentage of unionists is much larger than it is throughout industry as a whole, we find that the value of the output in 1916 was £60,000,000, and that it increased progressively until in 1925-26 it had reached a total of £143,000,000. The value per head progressed in about the same ratio, from £12 6s.1d. per head of total population in 1916, to £23 18s. 2d. per head in 1925-26. From whatever angle the statistics are examined it is found that production has not diminished, and that, therefore, the charge against unionists of slackening on the job is not a fair one.
– The honorable member has not referred to quantities.
– I have not; but I shall do so now. I have mentioned that one has to make an allowance for the diminished value of money. When it is seen that the output of manufacturing industries increased from £60,000,000 to £143,000,000, it must be acknowledged that the volume of production is greater to-day than it was in 1916.
I shall quote some comments by the Sydney Bulletin. It is by no means a Labour newspaper, but, on the contrary, has been highly critical of the Labour party, sometimes very unfairly. It deals with the increase in private wealth as well as the increase in production. It shows that in 1903 the estimated private wealth in Australia was £982,000,000, and that by 1921 it had increased to £2,166,000,000. Public wealth increased in a like ratio. Commenting upon the figures, this journal says -
In million pounds here is an unequalled record of factory output made by all Australia: 1919, £249; 1920, £292; 1921, £324; 1922, £320; and 1922-23, £32fi. This is the record of 5,688,092 people (half females), of whom 36.15 were under fifteen and over 05 years of age. What have our traducers got to say to that? If it were an ordinary record of work one would not mind the sneers, criticism, or advice. Being a story of hard work, clean living, and honest effort unequalled by any other people anywhere at any time, during this civilization anyhow, one fiercely resents this national calumny.
Let honorable members ask any big manufacturer who has had the employment of Australian labour in either Sydney or Melbourne what kind of service he gets from his workmen; the reply of 99 out of every 100 will be that the Australian workmen is the most adaptive, the most skilful, and the most willing worker of whom he has had any experience.
– There has not been a word said against the worker in this debate.
– Honorable members cannot challenge unionism, in the manner in which it has been challenged in this House, without reflecting upon the workers of Australia. If, as has been urged by the Prime Minister, there has been a slowing down in industry, the inference is that the workers of Australia are to blame. It is impossible to avoid that conclusion. It is, of course, an erroneous charge. The average Australian worker - I admit that exceptions will be found in every branch of industry - is as honest at his work and as desirous of promoting success in his industry as are the workers in any other country.
The Tariff Board has on certain occasions referred to the peculiar difficulties of particular industries, and has indicated that inefficiency and slackness are mainly responsible for losses in production. This charge is levelled at the workers by honorable members supporting the Government also, who seize on it as justification for the bill now before us. We are told that its purpose is to discipline the workers ; to compel a better state of efficiency.
– I did not make that charge.
– The honorable member for Wannon, who has been a persistent interjector, happens to be an exception. There have been inquiries as to the root causes for production losses. Those inquiries have not been instituted by this Government, which is not very much concerned about’ searching for the truth, but inquiries have been instituted by other authorities. Some time ago there was an inquiry into this important subject in the United States of America.
– I mentioned that matter last night.
– The honorable member’s attitude indicates that sometimes his thoughts travel along logical lines that are calculated to lead him to a reasonable conclusion. I can assure him, however, that I did not hear his reference last evening to the inquiry conducted in the United States of America into production losses, and that, therefore, in my study of this problem I worked along independent lines.
As I have stated, a committee of 80 engineers and their associates appointed by technical authorities, investigated this problem in the United States of America. The committee gave careful consideration to the many factors that might be responsible for losses in production, such as instability of labour, inefficiency in management, lack of standards of performance, lack of standardization of tools and products, inadequate costs control methods, inadequate transportation, labour organizations’ rules and customs, waste of material and lack of research. After a thorough investigation the committee fixed the responsibility for production losses in the following order : -
If the same inquiry were made in Australia, if the same exhaustive methods were adopted by men of similar competence and technical training, similar conclusions would be reached. I am- not saying that labour is not responsible for some share of production losses. I admit that to some extent it may be responsible; but I submit that the principal factor is not the slowing down by industrial unionists, but inefficiency in management.
There are one or two particular matters contained in the bill to. which I should like to refer before I resume my seat. Honorable members supporting the Government have alleged that the penalties provided in the bill are not so severe as those contained in the act itself. It is true that the act imposes severe penalties on individuals and organizations for contravention of its provisions, but those penalties have never been enforced, and have become a dead letter. Therefore, it is idle for the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to point to a penalty of £1,000 enforceable against a union or individual under the original act. The clear intention of the Government in imposing lighter penalties against the individual is to ensure that a penalty will be enforced where, heretofore none had been enforced.
– The honorable member knows surely that the penalties provided for in the bill are maximum penalties.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral mean that a penalty of £50 under this bill is as effective as a penalty of £1,000 under the act ?
– No. I mentioned the matter because I believed the honorable member was speaking under a complete misapprehension of the facts.
– The truth is, the honorable the Attorney-General does not care to face the facts. Obviously the position is as I have stated, otherwise there would be no occasion to reduce the penalty in the case of individuals to a fine of £50.
– “We made the alteration because we considered that the penalty imposed in the act was unfair to the individual.
– The penalty has been reduced so that it may be enforceable. The Attorney-General prides himself upon his impartiality, his fairdealing, his draughtmanship of this bill, and on being its author. Will he be good enough to explain why it provides as penalty, a fine of £50, and imprisonment for unionists who are guilty of minor offences against its provisions, and a penalty of only £50, without imprisonment, against an employer who may be guilty of victimization?
– I will explain those provisions of the bill when I am replying to the debate.
– The marked difference in the penalties shows callous discrimination on the part of the Government.
– Not at all.
– I say it. does. There has been victimization already, without any punishment. I suppose that every honorable member has been circularized about one particular case that has come under my notice. The affidavits disclose that a female member of a trade union in Sydney, an employee of the firm of Murdochs Limited, was penalized by her employer because she gave evidence on behalf of her union in an Arbitration Court case. No action has been taken by the Commonwealth Government in connexion with that matter.
– This is the first I have heard of it.
– There have been many such instances of victimization in the history of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– Send them along. I will consider them.
– It is not my job to do that.
– Very well, then, do not send them to me.
– There have been, I repeat, many cases of brutal victimization on the part of employers. Workers have been dismissed from their employment and black-listed because, as members of a trade union, they have given evidence in the Arbitration Court. No action has been taken against the offending employers. The bill provides for a fine _of £50 or six months’ imprisonment against any officer of a trade union who refuses to assist in the taking of a secret ballot that may have been ordered by the court. This means that any union official who so offends against the law is to be treated as a quasi-criminal, and he may he thrown into gaol for six months. Contrast this treatment with a fine of £50 without imprisonment, the punishment that may be inflicted on an employer like Mr. Murdoch, who dismissed a female employee receiving probably 30s. or 35s. a week, because she dared to give evidence in a case which her union had before the Arbitration Court.
– Will the honorable member deny that the girl was dismissed because she told lies about her employer ?
– That was the excuse which was offered by Mr. Murdoch. The honorable member’s interjection clearly indicates that he and other honorable members on the Government side have knowledge of the case, although the Attorney-General, by his keenness in asking for particulars, led me to believe that it had not come to his notice.
– I had not heard of it before.
– I see no good whatever in the bill. In my opinion it has been conceived in a spirit of hostility to unionism, and its purpose is to antagonize organized labour. It is designed to coerce the workers into submitting to whatever new order in industrial affairs the present reactionary Government may succeed in bringing about. The Government has prepared the way for it. They have a packed Arbitration Court Bench, consisting so far as a number of its members are concerned, of partisans of the worst type.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) has said of the judges of the Arbitration Court that they are partisans of the worst type. I submit that that statement is out of order.
– I did not hear the honorable member for Dalley make the statement referred to by the honorable the AttorneyGeneral. If I had I should have immediately called upon him to withdraw it.
– I made allusion to a packed Bench. If that remark is unparliamentary, I shall withdraw it.
– The honorable member said that the judges were partisans of the worst type.
– I speak with personal knowledge of one member of the
Arbitration Court. If what I have said about him is unparliamentary, I shall withdraw it. If it is held to be unparliamentary, I have no opportunity of justifying the statement. The way has been carefully prepared for the destruction or weakening of industrialism in Australia. The bill is designed to throttle unionism and terrorize its members. It has hardly one good feature. Under it the Government proposes to set up conciliation committees and appoint industrial inspectors, but these minor steps in our industrial progress by no means justify the introduction of this measure, which should be rejected in its entirety.
– I do not propose to follow the example of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), who was very careful to confuse the issue as much as possible, and whose speech consisted principally of abuse of- supporters of the’ bill and the imputation of motives to every honorable member who disagreed with him. I propose rather to give facts and arguments to vindicate completely the action of the Government in introducing this bill. As a member of the Ministry, and as a private individual, I repudiate entirely the suggestion that there is in it any provision that will hinder or harm trade unionism. It is designed really to assist the organization of industry. During the whole of my professional life I have known by actual practice the value of organization, and throughout my political life 1 have preached organization unceasingly to the producers of this country. The members of the Government and all thinking people realize that a solution of the problems of modern industry is not possible without collective bargaining. This bill is designed not to hinder or harm the trade unions, but to save arbitration and the arbitration courts from the disruptive action of the executives of certain trade unions.
– Which are these executives ?
– I shall give instances before I conclude my remarks. I have listened to the various attacks made on the bill both inside this House and outside, and I have failed to find any danger of harm being done to trade unionism.
It was said to-day, in the course of a typical speech from the other side, that one of the principal reasons why the measure should be opposed was that it brings a criminal code into the act. I point out that the code has been incorporated in the statute since 1904; but some honorable members opposite, apparently, have only just discovered the fact. Although the original act was passed during the life of the Labour party, and Labour governments have been in power since that time, nothing has been done by that party to improve it, or to remove the penal provisions of which it now complains. In common with everybody in Australia, I have listened in vain for some denunciation on the part of Labour leaders of the defiance by certain unions of the awards of the Arbitration Court, even to the extent of sacrificing the impartial awards of the court and having unions deregistered. Instead of being offered some data on which to build up constructive alterations of the bill, all we have had from the other side has been the same sort of . obstruction that came from the leaders of the workers 150 years ago when opposition was displayed to the introduction of machinery and improved methods. We are told that any change must be for the worse, and we have nothing more from the Labour party than a blind opposition to this bill ; a bemoaning of the fact that they lost the last election on an industrial issue, and evidence that they are terrified lest they should lose the next one as well.
The bill brings certain definite improvements into the domain of arbitration. First of all, it reduces to some extent, the duplication of Federal and State awards that exist at the present time. Italms at giving responsible and democratic self-government and control to the unions that are registered in the Federal Arbitration Court. It places the responsibility of disciplining the members of unions on the organizations themselves, and it provides means for the extinction of the smouldering fires of job control. All these things will help and not harm or hinder unionism at all.
The people of Australia have been waiting to hear some valid objections to the representation of Labour at the industrial peace conference that was summoned some time ago by the Prime
Minister; but they have waited in vain. A few amendments of minor importance have been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members opposite; but surely, if there was any place more suitable than another for the formulation of necessary amendments, it was at the conference called by the Prime Minister which was to be representative of all sides of industry, and at which the proceedings would have been free from the political atmosphere. Thi’ Government’s desire to remove causes of friction has been shown by its spontaneous action with respect to clause 48, which was so drawn by the draftsman as to leave possibly an impression on the lay mind that, by its legal interpretation, was not warranted. The amendment which we have circulated will alter it in such a way as to leave no doubt as to its actual meaning. It is remarkable that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), in speaking both in this House and in Melbourne, devoted at least half his time to the particular amendment of the principal act that has now been withdrawn.
– I can only judge of the honorable member’s speech in Melbourne by the newspaper reports, and at least half the space accorded him was filled by his remarks on that particular clause which had already been amended.
– The Treasurer said that half my speech in this House was directed to that point. That is not correct. Let him refer to the Hansard report.
– A considerable portion of his speech in this chamber had to do with that point. So oblique has been the outlook of the Opposition upon this bill, so obsessed has it been with the political advantage of fighting it, that it has had no time to give to wider issues, such as the effect of the bill upon industry and employment generally, and especially upon unionism as a whole. Apparently honorable members opposite have forgotten that arbitration systems, rules of conduct, and methods of organization are only instruments to secure a maximum return to the parties to industry.
There are four parties to industry - capital, labour, management, and the community. Too frequently we speak of only two parties - capital and labour - but the other two must be taken into consideration. The objective of all these parties should be the maximum material production that can be secured. Whatever increases production increases the purchasing power of the people, and, therefore, benefits all parties. The Government is trying to do everything possible to promote industrial efficiency, because only by high production are increased returns possible to all the parties to industry at the expense of none. I totally disagree with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), who says that there is a definite limit to the productive capacity of this young country, with its population of 6,000,000, and its area of 3,000,000 square miles. He remarked that it would be disastrous if Australia over-produced meat, butter, and other commodities. I point out that we have an enormous overseas market, and there must always be a big demand for our products, since hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world are half starved and half clad. Taking the world as a whole there is no excess of production here; but full production is prevented by the obstructive tactics of certain trade union executives who object r to the unions, especially those of transport, carrying on their work with the greatest efficiency, and with the least cost to the community, thus enormously increasing production costs and making it impossible to compete with other countries.
Many years ago, Pasteur, the great French scientist, pointed out that there were two great laws operating in society - one, the destructive law, which he called the law of discord and death, and the other, the constructive law, which he described as the law of peace, work, and health. Practically everything in life is operated by one or other of those two dynamic forces. The citizens of the Commonwealth must choose between the law of discord and death, or the law of peace, work, and health. What has been done by the leaders of the unions? Mr. R. S. Ross, a prominent Labour writer, who has articles in the press almost every week, and who is, I think, a member of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, stated, according to the official report of a meeting of that body, on 31st March of this year, that -
The industrial conference is simply an attempt to make it easy to introduce bribes to the working class in the form of piece-work and bonus systems. The weapon of industrial unrest is the only means whereby the working class can fight the forces arrayed against it.
He does not advocate industrial peace, but industrial unrest, and that is the law of discord and death. The Government believes that that is a hopeless attitude to adopt. It pleads for the operation of the constructive law of peace, work and health, and this bill is designed on those lines. It is designed to secure industrial peace.
Industrial peace must always be based on industrial justice, and industrial justice, if it is to have the quality of justice, must not be uncertain. If it is uncertain, it is not justice at all. The Government seeks to provide in the bill a method of securing industrial justice, and giving responsible self-government to industry, so that the individual will be assured of justice as well as the unions and the other parties to industry. Justice must be given to all the four parties to industry - labour, capital, management, and the community. In order to secure justice to the community, the proposed new section 25d, dealing with the economic position, has been inserted in the bill.
I have often pointed out that we can secure a satisfactory system only by determining the basic wage and the hours and conditions of employment on a physiological basis, to find the optimum number of hours that should be worked from a health point of view. During the war, it was found in Britain, Germany and other countries that the biggest output was obtained from those factories that regulated their working conditions on the basis of the physical health and well being of the employees. Rowntree’s Chocolate Works, in York, have been carrying on upon that basis for years. It was discovered in those works that a certain number of working hours led to the best results, and that those results were compatible with the highest possible wages to the employees. It is generally recognized that, on the whole, high wages are really an index of efficiency. It is remarkable to note the hypocrisy of Labour in this matter. Its leaders are always declaring that the ministerial parties seek to do away with the minimum wage ; but these Labour leaders object to piece-work, the bonus system, and co-partnership between employer and employee, which would increase wages. To that system we have their strong and undying opposition.
– They want to keep the workers on the bread line !
– They want industrial unrest that would make the workers an easy prey to the agitator. We must have peace between capital and labour, just as it is essential for husbands and wives to find a peaceful basis on which to live together. That must surely be the basis of fair play and a square deal for both parties. That is the only basis on which industry, like sport, can be conducted.
To enable us to have fair play, properly defined, we need a properly designed system of regulation and rules that enables us to determine any deviation from the main principle, and fair play in industry necessitates recognition of the principles underlying the law of peace, work and health. The first of those is that the interests of all the four parties to industry are common. Occasionally they may seem to be opposite; but they are always common, and never opposed. The second principle is founded upon a recognition of the possibility of discrimination between human and material values, and the recognition that human interests must override others if they conflict. The third principle is that to secure agreement there must be a spirit of mutual consideration and constructive goodwill. This has been shown already in Australia, because it is conceded that the right to form associations and organizations of capital and labour is fundamental, and includes the right to bargain collectively through chosen representatives. Thus there has been developed a sense of equality, and a system of collective agreements between labour and capital, between the great mass of the workers, on the one hand, and the organizations of capital on the other, has grown up.
To give force to such collective agreements, we must have a legal system to record them, and to provide for the formulation and enforcement of impartial decisions fair to the community and to other parties when capital and labour cannot agree. Such decisions must be final, and must be obeyed. To secure obedience to them, we must have some satisfactory system of. governing industries. Such laws of industry, like other laws, can only be administered with the consent of the governed. Unfortunately, the regulation of law and order in industry has lagged behind industrial development. The industrial revolution of 150 years ago came so suddenly, and caused such tremendous developments within so short a period of time, that the system of control lingered well behind the actual growth of industries, and personal contact between employers and employed was, to a large extent, lost. In the early stages of the industrial revolution, this permitted the exploitation of the workers. That still rankles in the minds of the wage-earners, even though such exploitation has -been completely banished, not only by legislative effort, but also by public opinion and tradition. The hardships of other days are not experienced by the workers of to-day. As a matter of fact, we have reached the stage at which the dangers to the working class and to unionism are not the rapacity or greed of employers, but the ambition and selfishness of those in charge of the industrial machine. The various systems of industrial law, which prevail in all important industrial countries, protect the workers from exploitation. But the enormous autocratic power which is placed in the hands of irresponsible, ambitious, and frequently, it is feared, unscrupulous leaders, is the chief danger which faces trade- unionism to-day. ‘
The government of industry tends to follow, to a large extent, the same lines of development as other forms of government. There comes first an autocratic centralized government; secondly, a partially representative government; and, thirdly, democratic, responsible self-government. The industrial revolution brought into being a highly centralized organization, and the government of industry presents all the problems which centralization of government has always presented. Units of “ industry find themselves at the mercy of officials and executive committees, and industrial war is often caused by the caprice of autocratic leaders, just as, in the old days, warsbetween nations were caused at the caprice of their autocratic kings and rulers.
In Australia to-day the leaders of trade unions have a great deal of power which they often exercise in opposition to the view of the members of their unions. That is so in the marine cooks’ dispute, which is at present engaging public attention. In corroboration of that statement, I direct the attention of honorable members to the following extracts from a letter which was sent to the Industrial Registrar, Mr. A. M. Stewart, by members of the Queensland branch of the Marine Cooks, Bakers, and Butchers’ Union : -
We feel that it is time that the management of the union was carried on according to the rules registered under the Arbitration Act, and not by the general secretary and executive committee, and a few members in Sydney, as at present. Matters in dispute are -
No members outside Sydney have any voice in the business of the union.
There are no nominations called or ballot held every year as per rules for election of executive committee and general secretary.
We know nothing about the financial state of affairs, only that we get an annual report and balance-sheet every year. And we find that expenses are by far too great.
We must pay our contributions and levies; obey orders from Sydney whether we like them or not. We are paying machines only. Now we want the rules carried out, nominations called throughout Australia, and ballot held, every member having his rights by the rules.
Every branch and agency to receive the minutes, and cash accounts of general meetings in Sydney, together with the business and motions and the right to vote on same.
We consider that if the voice of the whole of the members carried on the business instead of a few as at present, it would save a lot of disputes, and things would run smoothly.
That letter was written within the last fortnight, and it expresses the desire of a body of trade unionists for the power to govern their own union affairs. They feel that, if they could do so, there would be more likelihood of preserving industrial peace. Honorable members opposite do not support that attitude, nor do the executive officers of the union concerned. As Mr. Tudehope, himself, has said, “It is your business to pay, and our business to run the show.”
– Is that an official communication or a personal letter?
– The letter appeared in the Brisbane Daily Mail on 14th May. It was signed by a number of members of the union and sent to the Industrial Registrar.
But a change must be wrought in industrial methods. There must be a transition from centralized authority to decentralized self-government. It is with the object of bringing about such a change that this bill has been introduced. The evils of the centralized system of control are admitted by responsible leaders of the Labour party. “We are entitled to assume that ex-Senator Arthur Rae is still one of the responsible leaders of the Labour movement. “Writing in the Labor Daily on the 1st January of this year, Mr. Rae said -
It must be admitted “ That disputes do arise between members and their officials, and that charges of corruption, ballot-faking, and other unjust practices on the part of officials are sometimes made.”
The reasons for the mis-government of unions may be classified under two heads, the most important being the carelessness and. apathy of the membership, in some cases allowing a clique of officials almost unchecked powers, which are certain to lead to abuses. The other is the faulty construction of some unions, notably that of the A.W.U., which by failing to prohibit paid officials from acting in a legislative capacity has enabled them to amend the rules and constitution in their own interests and practically exclude the rank and file from the government of their own organization.
The Government is of opinion that the provision in this bill for the holding of secret ballots would give the rank and file of trade unionists the power to control their own affairs, and to avoid domination by executive officers. We do not believe for a moment that the secret ballot would be used only in connexion with strike and lockout proposals. We think it would be the means also of giving trade unionists a proper say in the internal management of their union, and in regard to the conditions under which they are prepared to work. The attitude of trade unionists generally on such questions as piece-work, bonus systems, job control, and so on, could be determined by means of the secret ballot. This would be of great value to trade unionists and industry generally.
To illustrate the difference between a well-managed and a badly-managed union, I propose to give some definite figures which are enlightening. I shall deal first with the New South Wales branch of the Gas Employees’ Federation. In 1925, which is the last full year for which the returns of the Registrar of Unions has been published, the members of that union paid £3,614 in contributions, and received in benefits £1,169. The management expenses of the organization were £2,583, and its funds at the end of the year £5,890. It is significant that that well-managed union was favorable to the proposal of the Government to hold an industrial peace conference. My authority for that statement is Mr. Rawlin, the secretary of the organization, who was reported as follows in the Labour Daily : -
The industrial peace conference is a very fine move which should be endorsed by lovers of peace on both sides.
My industry has since (by round-table conferences, &c. ), been working more peaceably than for the past 40 years to my knowledge. The men in seven years of negotiated peace have received three separate wage increases - more sick pay and accident pay - and fiveday week.
If the conference is successful the workers should gain by securing more constant employment, which means a regular wage coming into the home every week, instead of a casual wage as at present.
Such statements are in marked contrast to those of honorable members opposite, and the leaders of some industrial organizations. The fact of the matter is, of course, that trade unions which obey the law, do not fear legislation of this description. Only people who do wrong fear the law. That is always the case. Honorable members opposite may take that statement to heart. On our statutebook there are scores of penal laws, but if a man means to run straight does he worry about them? It is only when people are acting wrongly that they have this terrible fear which is expressed by honorable members opposite and by so many men outside, who by their tyranny and self-seeking, are keeping out of employment men who would be glad to go to work every day in the week.
– Is the honorable member in order in making statements of that description ?
– If the honorable member for Darling desires to raise a point of order he must do so in the proper manner.
– I rise to a point of order. The Treasurer has stated that only those who are doing wrong, fear legislation of this description.
– -That is not a point of order.
– I submit that it is. The Treasurer has stated that only those who fear the law and break it would oppose legislation of this character.
– That is quite correct.
– Seeing that honorable members on this side pf the chamber are opposed to the bill, it may be inferred from the Treasurer’s statement that we are doing wrong and breaking the law. Such a statement is objectionable to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The honorable member has not raised a point of order. If the Treasurer, or any other honorable member, makes a statement which is offensive to an honorable member, and a request is made for its withdrawal, it must be withdrawn. The Chair does not recognize that the Treasurer has said anything offensive.
– If anything that I have said is offensive to honorable members opposite, I withdraw it.
I ask honorable- members to contrast the position of the New South Wales branch of the Gas Employees’ Federation with that of certain branches of the Railways Union and the Miners’ Federation. The members of the New South Wales Railways Union in 1925 paid £6,102 in contributions, but received no benefits. The management expenses of the organization were £6,312, and its funds at the end of the year only £960. At a recent conference of the Miners’ Federation it was complained by Queensland members that since 1920 they had contributed £64,200 to the funds, but had drawn out only £19,103, and that although the Central Council should have been able to show a profit on the operations for the period of £45,096, it could not do so. The Illawarra men took a similar stand, and refused to pay any more levies. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth Government is a less formidable taxing machine than the Miners’ Federation, for the latter takes fortnightly in contributions and levies 5 per cent, of the wages of its members. The South * Coast miners have to pay a levy of 11 per cent, for the federation, lj per cent, for the district, li per cent, for the local authority, and lj per cent, for the checkweighmen.
– It is necessary for the miners, who are paid by results, to have checkweighmen, as the Treasurer would realize if he had any knowledge of the industry. Who is to pay them?
– In addition to the levy which I have mentioned, there is an additional levy of ls. for The Labour Daily. A man who earns £6 a fortnight therefore pays 7s. of it to the ‘ union, or £9 2s. per year. The balancesheet of the Miners’ Federation last year showed that the. miners have sunk £88,098 in The Labour Daily in the last three years. The sum’ of £10;000 has been loaned to it by the Miners’ Council, and another £10,000 have been invested in the undertaking. This money was collected through a levy of 10s. per member. Later every member was forced to subscribe to the newspaper.
– The Treasurer contributes to a political journal.
– That is so; but I do it voluntarily.
– And so do the miners.
– They do not, as I shall show honorable members. The federation has actually paid £8,029 more for newspapers than it has received from members in subscriptions. In other words, 2,000,000 copies of the newspaper were delivered to persons who refused to pay for them. In addition, the federation has put £30,297 more into The Labour Daily fund that it has received from its branches for that purpose. It then tried to have written off the £10,000 loan which it made to the paper, but the members were able to thwart that plan, for a ballot on the subject resulted in the defeat of the scheme by 9,114 votes to. 7,186. Yet honorable members opposite say that unionists will never avail themselves of the secret ballot. Is it not feasible that these unionists who have been bled unmercifully for years by their leaders will avail themselves of the opportunity to take a secret ballot to enable them to control their own funds? The sequel to the miners’ refusal to sink any further money into The Labour
Daily was the adoption of a new rule by the council to this effect: -
To raise funds to ensure better advocacy of principle and rights of labour in supporting and subsidizing publication of newspapers advocating the cause of labour.
When the Aberdare Lodge recently protested against that ‘ rule, the court was obliged to admit that the alteration of the rules enforced the payment of the levy. Although the unionists opposed the levy, the union executive was able to enforce it by altering the rules. Yet honorable members opposite say that there should be no law in this country to enable the rank and file of the workers to have control of their own affairs. These unionists were forced to purchase more copies of The Labour Daily than they required. In some instances three, four, and five copies were delivered to a house in which several miners, of the same family, were living. The bill seeks to control union officials and to prevent them, if the members so desire, from carrying out legislative as well as executive functions. The rank and file and not the leaders of the union will also control executive functions, such as declaring strikes, which only provoke misery and hardship. At present foolish disputes preponderate, in which the men frequently get badly beaten, because of the misjudgment of their officials.
The following table, taken from the Commonwealth official statistics, shows the results of industrial disputes during 1927 :-
On the 7th April last a dispute arose in Melbourne concerning the running of tram cars during the Easter holidays, and 1,100 men, approximately one-third of the Tramway Board’s employees, struck at midnight, Friday, until 5 p.m. Saturday. They demanded time and a half for Easter Saturday. The majority of these men did not wish to strike, and had they had an opportunity of expressing their will by secret ballot the tram cars would have continued running. These men ultimately resumed work on the hoard’s terms, having lost seventeen hours’ pay..
In the face of these facts, honorable members opposite cannot seriouslycontend that these men would refuse to make use of the secret ballot to give them the control of their own executive. It is only natural for them to desire a system of responsibleanddemocratic selfgovernment in union affairs similar to that whichthepeople enjoy by electing their representatives in Parliament. In the case of the Melbourne tramways dispute, the men engaged on thecable lines and northern electric lines considered that the correct thing to do was to submit the award to the court for an interpretation oftheclause in dispute, and they remained at work all day Saturday. The strikers eventuallyagreed to submit their grievances tothe court, and had thisfirstbeendone the men would not have lost seventeen hours’ pay and inconveniencedtheir fellow beings, who wereholiday making at the time. According to the Tramways Board, themeetingat which it was decided tostrike was attended by only30out of the 1,100 men affected.
Let me now givean instanceof the tyranny of the union executives. At Lithgow a man wasboycotted because one Sunday he helped at Cobar to stemflood waters.He did thiswork in a purely voluntary capacity, and refused to accept payment for it. The militantsofthe union, without making any inquiry, askedthat he should be dismissed, butthe management refused. The militants then decided that no men should go downin the cage with him, handhimanytools, supply him with any hot water for meals, or converse with him. One miner who spoke to him was fined £1. The secretballot would prevent anyunion executive fromexercising that form oftyranny.
The nextquestion is whethermen should workday labour, as at present, or piece-work if they so desire. That should be settled by the management of the union. What happens to-day? The two large unions : in Australia, theShearers Union andthe MinersUnion,although doing piece-work themselves,insist that otherunions in Australiashouldwork day labour.
Mr.Charlton.-The miners have been trying to work day labour forsome years.
– Is it likely that the miners would work for so many years under conditions that were not suitable to them? The men and not the executive shoulddecide whether day labour or piecework should be adopted. The following paragraph appeared in the Daily Guardian of the 21st of April last : -
Mr. Garden is annoyed because employers are putting in the pay envelopes of certain employeesmore money than the award provides for.
No one can deny that Mr. Jock Garden is one of the industrial leaders of this country, and as such canand does enforce his will upon the workers. Honorable members opposite prate about the minimum wage providing only for a bare existence, and yet they dare not condemn the action of Mr. Jock Garden They have repeatedly suggested that the wage fixed by awards for many unionists is not necessarily what their work is worth. The union’ leaders are always seeking more money by means of awards, and it is impossible tounderstand why they should refuse an additional wage when it is voluntarilyoffered. All profitsharing and bonus schemes are regarded by union executives with unwarranted suspicion. Let me tell honorable members what occurred in a Government workshop, and no one can accuse Governments of trying to exploit their employees.
– The Treasurer forgets to statethat theGovernment without going to the court tried to introduce the piece-work system into Government workshops where the day-labour system was in force.
– The instance to which I refer relates to theRedfern boilermakers. According to the Daily Guardian of the9th Maythe following circular was issued bythe executive to the members of the society: -
The Railway Departmenthas adopted the payment of a gratuity, which the union has not yet beenable to define. There is grave suspicionthatthe system isone of bonus or payment by results. Pending further inquiries, under no circumstances are members toretain this money, but are to handsame tothe society, to be held untilthe systemis defined.
The executive ofthatsociety refusedto allow its members to earn any money over and abovethe minimum wage, which is a strange procedure in view of its repeated claims before the Arbitration Court for increases in wages. The circular continue -
Should it be found that the system is not bonus or piece-work, the money will be handed back to the person who earned it. If, on the other hand, it is found that the system is one of bonus, task, or piece-work, the society shall decide what shall be done with the money.
Can any one, in view of that circular, deny the necessity for a secret ballot?
We have waited for a reasonable explanation why the Labour and industrial leaders would not attend the proposed industrial peace conference. They dare not say openly that they are against the secret ballot provisions of the bill. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) said that we cannot increase our production because the people cannot buy more, yet the Labour leaders refuse to allow the workers to earn extra money with which to buy more of our products. The refusal of the leaders . of Labour to attend the proposed industrial peace conference shows where the real hostility to the bill lies. They wish to refuse to the workmen what their own platform provides - the initiative and referendum - whereby all legislative reforms have been carried out.
– The Treasurer is all the time putting the case for the employers as they have supplied it to him.
– I have not consulted the employers, and I object to that statement.
– Does the Treasurer regard it as offensive?
– I ask the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) to withdraw his remark.
– If the Treasurer regards it as offensive I certainly withdraw it.
– We are conversant with the methods employed by Labour leaders who are opposed to the secret ballot, as interfering with the control of the unions. They wish to return to the bad old days when a man had to go on the hustings and declare himself and not infrequently got a broken head for his trouble. There is still a parallel in respect of some unions, the officials of which do all in their power to prevent an expression of opinion of their members. The secret ballot can really not be opposed by the Parliamentary party.
The next issue is the auditing of the accounts of trade unions. The honorable member for Dalley objects strongly to the inquisitorial nature of the provision in the bill relating to audits. We have during the last few years read in the press of this country of inumerable instances of embezzlement and misappropriation of union funds. Last year, as in other years, there were many instances. Surely the rank and file is entitled to know what happens to the money that is subscribed by them to the funds of the unions. The bill provides for the proper auditing of union accounts. No one has any objection to the Friendly Society Act of New South Wales, or similar State acts, which contain much stricter provisions for the auditing of accounts. The New South Wales Friendly Society Act provides that -
Every registered society and branch shall once in every year submit its accounts .for audit, and attach report with balance-sheet signed by auditors giving correct statement of the financial position of society or branch.
The secretary of the society or branch shall once a year send the Registrar a return of receipts, expenditure, funds, and effects of society as audited. This shall show separately receipts and expenditure in respect of the several objects of the society or branch.
One return must contain list of members of such society, together with age, and periods of sickness, death, and other contingency in which benefits are given.
The act provides for quinquennial valuation of assets by the Registrar, and that the balance-sheet and auditors report must be open to members.
The proper auditing of trade union accounts is very necessary to enable unionists to know exactly in what maimer their funds are being expended.
I now come to job control. Honorable members opposite, although deploring instances of job control, have done nothing to prevent them. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) likened job control to an isolated bush fire, doing little or no damage, except to its immediate surroundings; but I liken it to a bush fire that smoulders and spreads until it destroys everything in its path. The bill provides a reserve power, which will enable this problem to be dealt with. Every patriotic citizen must recognize that job control, which is practised by the unions, especially those connected with transport, is destroying the foundations of society, and is definitely hindering employment. Job control and irritation tactics not only brought about the termination of government ownership of the Commonwealth Shipping Line, but prevents more ships from being put into the Australian trade.
– That is not true.
– Order ! The honorable member may regard the statement as inaccurate, but he must withdraw the allegation that it is not true.
– I withdraw it; but substitute the statement that it is obsolutely incorrect.
– Mr. James Burns, managing director of Burns Philp, after a trip round the world, said recently -
The irritation tactics which are continually being practised in the shipping industry are the reason why this country is suffering a setback. Representatives of Australian shipping interests told me there was too much uncertainty in the interstate trade to .contemplate building new tonnage. One has to think twice before putting £500,000 into a new steamer which, on reaching the Australian coast, might bo held up.
That statement is fortified by the condition in Runciman’s tender for the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Line, that the Commonwealth should give a definite guarantee for three years against job control and irritation tactics. There we have convincing proof of the detrimental effect which the policy of the extremists has in restricting employment and preventing the development of new industries which would provide additional work. The Government believes that this bill, as a means of circumscribing and gradually abolishing job control, merits and will receive the approval of every rightthinking person. The suggestion that the employers will do all sorts of things to increase industrial irritation is absurd. “We have read recently how Mr. Hoare, a representative of the miners, was receiving from one company £d. per ton of coal won, on the understanding that he helped to maintain industrial peace. By paying to a union leader something in excess of award rates, the company was able to secure an increased output.
The bill is constructive. It aims at effecting many improvements in the present arbitration law. It does not interfere with the fundamental principles of the arbitration system, but, on the contrary, represents an attempt to save it from destruction through the acts of irresponsible and tyrannous union leaders. A scheme of arbitration, properly carried out and observed, is essential to industrial peace, and industrial peace, in turn, is essential to the prosperity and progress of the country. Recently an extraordinary gathering in Brisbane of churchmen of every denomination, and claiming to represent 90 per cent, of the Queensland people, issued this statement -
The churches could see no reason why there should not be, not only agreement governed by law, but good will and understanding of other peoples’ rights that would put an end to strikes, and result in the permanence of work without uncertainty on either side. Unemployment is largely due to industrial strife with consequent evil effects on the prosperity of the country.
Archbishop Duhig said -
Mutual co-operation is necessary to bring about industrial peace. Absence of that spirit is retarding progress.
– That is about as sound as the Treasurer’s argument.
– My argument is endorsed by every student of economics, and would be endorsed by honorable members opposite, also, if they had not placed themselves in a false position. They have decided not to help the Government in passing an effective arbitration law. We ask for co-operation and help, and are getting only opposition and discord. The arbitration system has been in operation for many years. It was first introduced by Mr. B. R. Wise, in New South Wales, and Sir Alexander Peacock, in Victoria, and was in operation in New Zealand before the advent of a Labour party in the Dominion Parliament. The Parliamentary Labour party was not the author of industrial arbitration in Australia; the system was brought into being through the forces of unionism and collective organization. This bill is an effort to help the organization of workers and to provide means whereby their collective agreement with the employers may be recorded and made effective. Only by such means shall we achieve .assured prosperity. Mr. Robert Williams, ex-chairman io£ the British Labour, party, said not ‘long ago -
The .day when a fight was the surest path to better wages or shorter hours has definitely passed .away. We have tried war and it has failed, and ‘brought in its train suffering and misery, pressing hardest on those least able to bear it.
The bill will improve the machinery for the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes, and I urge the Opposition to cooperate with the Government at the committee stage in making the arbitration system more effective, so that we may have greater peace in industry, and consequently greater and more continuous prosperity.
– This arbitration bill certainly calls for frank discussion, which I am bound to say has not been altogether lacking. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) made it perfectly clear that he would scrap the arbitration system, lock, stock and barrel, and abolish the duties on imports. One may logically infer that he would also scrap Australian industries. Frank expressions of opinion came also from the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), who controls the purse strings of the Nationalist organization.
– He controls a lot of honorable members on the Government side ,also..
– Yes, and the changed attitude of some -of them since he came into the House i3 significant. This mouthpiece of the Nationalist organization, the all-powerful influence behind the money bags, said that a great joke was put over the people of Australia at the last election, and that the Government had a bigger joke im store for the next one. That warning was at least candid, but the suggestion that the people can be gulled a second time is a reflection upon their intelligence. Abraham Lincoln said - :” You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Evidently the honorable member for Warringah has not grasped the truth of that statement. To-day the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) pleaded for the returned soldiers who are being evicted from their homes in mid-winter. From the Treasurer he received very little satisfaction, and the Minister for Works and Railways, although aware of the poverty that is .general through unemployment, and the fact that thousands of people are below the bread line, was not man enough to promise to give preference to Australian .citizens in connexion with the works that are being carried out by his department.
– I thought all the men employed .by the Government were unionists.
– Every good worker is a unionist, either voluntarily .or by the compulsion of law. But the Minister is not justified in .giving foreign migrants preference over native-born Australians. Should mot the returned soldiers, of whom the honorable member for Wannon spoke, hav,e preference in their native land? The Minister had not .the courage to .give a definite promise that they would take priority over foreigners. To-day the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) reduced to pulp the argument of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). The Treasurer tried to come to the rescue, but failed miserably. The honorable member for Henty sought to justify the penal clauses in the bill on the ground that they are intended to protect the good unionist against the bad one. When the honorable member for Dalley asked him if he would apply the same principle to the civil code, he was silent. The Treasurer reiterated the old gag about the damage which the extremists had done to the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers. It is proper that I should record some of the facts relating to industrial disturbances on those ships. The cooks’ strike a few years ago was caused by the union acting in accordance with the direction of the Arbitration Court. They approached the employers in connexion with this, and the employers said, “If you wish to obtain your rights under the interpretation of that clause, .go to the Arbitration Court.” The cooks went to the court, and won their case, but the managers of the Line then told them that they would have to fight every case singly. Ultimately the men refused to work at all. That was one of the disturbances which was caused by the idiotic attitude adopted by those in control of the Line. The next was the trouble with the stewards. What was the cause of that? The stewards struck because they refused to be warders for lunatics. That, I think, was a just reason. Other shipping lines were bringing out numbers of undesirable immigrants, lunatics and others, and these were being sent back on the Commonwealth ships. The stewards were expected to look after them on the return trip. The matter came to a head when one steward was nearly battered to death by a lunatic, and others who came to his assistance were also injured. When the stewards were told that they must continue this work they refused, and that was the cause of the strike.
In reference to the bill now before us, I have received the following telegram :-
At a general meeting of the North Australia Workers Union it was unanimously decided to convey through you to the AttorneyGeneral this union’s emphatic protest against the proposed Arbitration Amendment Act.
The telegram is signed - “ Toupein, secretary.” It is safe to assume that this is a fair reflex of the opinion of. organized labour in Australia. This bill, as I interpret it, may fairly be described as the most vindictive piece of class legislation that has aver been introduced by any Government in the Commonwealth.. I do not desire that there shall be any doubt as to my attitude on. this. bill. Those who framed it. are obsessed with a desire to smash all trade unions, and to reduce the workers, to a. state of servility, degradation, and poverty. As one who has been connected with organized labour im Australia for the last 30 years, and knows- something of the sufferings which the workers have to endure, I make no. apology for speaking on this subject in which I am so deeply interested. That industrial unrest is rife in Australia I am prepared to admit ; but, while admitting- that,. I maintain that it has arisen from circumstances of the most unparalleled distress on the. one hand and largely as, the result of the- actions of unscrupulous employers. The Government cites the action of certain sections of the transport, workers in justification of. this bill. To my mind the perseverance of those men in the course of action which they have adopted tends to prove that nothing short of absolute want and impoverishment of working conditions could have driven such a large, industrious section of workers to excesses which have inflicted injury on themselves and their families, and the community. A big percentage of these men are already liable to conviction on the clearest evidence for the capital crime of poverty, and that is their only fault. Some of them are guilty also of begetting large families, and they have learned now, as a result of the actions of this Government, that they are unable to support them. Yet, apparently, with the object of adding insult to injury, the Government brings down this bill which will serve to aggravate further the distress of these sufferers. But . the real reason for this bill is something much deeper than that which is admitted by the supporters of the Government. It is not on account of the alleged failure, of the arbitration system that this measure has been brought forward; but rather in response to the commands of the Chambers of Commerce, and the Employers’ Federation, backed up by the Single Purpose League, and ably advocated by members supporting the Government. As a preliminary to the complete destruction of the industrial machine, was not the chairman of the Employers’ Federation elevated to a judgeship on the Arbitration Court bench, and will it not be he who will give expression to the vindictive penal clauses of this bill? Will not those old confreres of his in the. Employers’ Federation smile while he plunges the legal dagger into the hearts of the workers ?
When we are told that the workers are destroying not only their own comfort hut their very means of subsistence, can we forget that it is the bitter and vindictive policy of this Government during the last five» years - the distinctive warfare that this Government has waged against the workers - that has. driven them to take drastic action, and has destroyed their comfort? Can we wonder at times like these, when convicted fraud’s and bribers - I use the expression advisedly - like the Abraham Brothers; can and do find ways to circumvent the law,, if the. poorer though more useful members of the community should, in their distress, forget their alleged duty, and become only less guilty than the moneyed classes “who constitute their oppressors, and the Government’s supporters?- Yes, on their behalf new penal clauses must be devised, new snares must be set for the wretched workers who are often starved into breaking the law. The men are willing to dig, but the spade is always in other hands. Their means of subsistence are cut off, and their excesses, however much we deplore them, can hardly be the subject of surprise. It has been said that the purpose of the Employers’ Federation is to degrade the workers,- and that to that end they inspired this bill. If that is true, and I think it is, then I think that such material accessories to the crime should be the principals in the punishment under the bill. I had hoped that the Government would have introduced a measure with conciliation as -its basis. I did not think that Parliament would be called upon, without due regard for the welfare of the community, to pass sentence in wholesale terms on the workers, and sign their gaol commitment orders blind-folded. But suppose, for the sake of argument I admit that the workers have no grounds for complaint, that their grievances are without foundation, and that they deserve the worst that can be done to them, what inefficiency and what imbecility has been shown in the methods chosen to discipline them? In all these industrial disputes, if meetings were held in the early stages between both parties, and the grievances fairly weighed and justly examined, we should hear little or nothing of strikes or lock-outs. Means can be found to restore the workers to their avocations and secure industrial tranquility; but it cannot be done by legislation of this kind.
This bill is a domestic tragedy. Well may the chambers of manufactures, and the members of employers’ federations, enjoy their triump in the midst of domestic calamity ! Their greedy achievements, however, are but paltry subjects for self congratulation. If the Government, by its legislation, divides the nation against itself, all its police, its military and its judges must be let loose upon their fellow citizens. Honorable members opposite have referred to the workers as a mob, desperate, dangerous and ignorant. They seem to think that the only way to quieten the mob is to cast them into dungeons, and to impose additional irritations and redoubled penalties. They forget that even a mob may be better reduced to reason by conciliation, tempered with justice. Are they aware of the obligations that they are under to the mob? Who is it that works our fields, our mines, who mans our navy and recruits our armies ? The mob that honorable members opposite despise. Are honorable members opposite aware that the same mob can be reactionary and defy authority when neglect and calamity have driven them to despair? They may call the masses the mob ; but let them not forget that a mob too often speaks the sentiments of the people. At this moment, when thousands of our fellow citizens are struggling with the extremes of hardship and hunger, they will not appreciate the fact that the Government is legislating in the interests of their oppressors. In order to appreciate their handiwork, Government supporters need only open their eyes, and see the squalid wretchedness that exists in our capital cities to-day - and this in an alleged Christian community !
What are the remedies which the Government proposes? Following upon months of inaction, and months of action worse than inaction, the Government at last comes forward with ite grand remedy, and after feeling the pulse of its victim, prescribes the antiquated remedy of bleeding. Setting aside the palpable injustice and the obvious inefficiency of the methods proposed in this bill, do honorable members opposite realize that there are already sufficient punishments provided in the statutes? Is there not blood enough already upon our penal code that more must be poured forth to testify against us? How will the provisions of this bill be carried into effect? Can the Government commit the whole population to’ its own prisons? Will it erect gallows at every street corner and hang up men like scarecrows, or will it proceed, as it must by process of martial law? The masses realize that when a proposal is made to emancipate or relieve the workers, the Government hesitates, and sometimes deliberates for years; but it is prepared to rush a workers’ oppression bill through Parliament off-hand and without a thought of the consequences. To pass this bill will merely be to add injustice to irritation and barbarity to neglect. In this bill can be seen the mailed fist of the Employers’ Federation, covered though it may be by a kid glove. It reminds me of a famous speech made by Lord Byron on the 27th February, 1812, when the House of Lords was considering a bill called the Framework Bill, which, to all intents and purposes, was similar to the measure which we have before us, inasmuch as it was specifically aimed at the workers, and was full of penal provisions the purpose of which was to reduce the masses to a state of degradation. Lord Byron put up an able defence for the workers, and concluded his speech by saying that all the Government needed to complete their damnable work was twelve butchers for a jury and a Jeffreys for a judge. With this bill in operation, and an ex-chairman of the Employers’ Federation as a judge, we shall practically have what Lord Byron suggested to the House of Lords.
We have heard loud cries from honorable members supporting the Government about sectional strikes and the holding up of industry by sections of unionists. In my opinion, small sectional unions are undesirable; but who is it that has on all occasions strenuously opposed the formation of one big union ? The Chambers of Commerce, the Employers’ Federation, the Single Purpose League, and, in particular, honorable members supporting the Government. They claim that one big union is dangerous, because they realize the truth of the old motto, “United we stand; divided we fall.” Why this hypocrisy on their part! They deceive none but themselves. They do not want a great industrial machine to function through one central authority, yet they cry out about sectional strikes. At all stages, they have displayed their inconsistency. In the past they opposed the Arbitration Court, getting up one after another and describing it as an instrument of evil; but now we find them greatly in favour of it. I think I am justified in asking the reason for this change. It is because of what this bill will do. It will emasculate the unions, protect the employers only, and provide machinery for confiscating union funds. It will impose woeful penalties on the workers while condoning lockouts. It makes provision for non-unionists to demand the holding of secret ballots at great expense to the unions. It does this by refusing to disclose the names of the ten who make application for the holding of a secret ballot. If the majority vote in favour of a cessation of work, because of the Government’s action in forcing them to take a vote, the union may be fined £1,000 for striking; and if a member of a union advises another not to vote, he may be fined £50, or be liable to six months’ imprisonment. The bill will give the court power to reduce wages below a living wage. It will simplify methods by which an employer can bring about the deregistration of a union, and the funds of the union will be handed over to the union wreckers. In short, this is a bill for the total suppression of unions, and the lowering of the standard of living. The only person it will protect is the exploiter. It will, however, serve one good purpose. It will demonstrate to the masses that the Government is not in sympathy with them, and that the longer it remains in power, the worse will become the worker’s lot.
.- I commend the Government for bringing down this very necessary piece of legislation. Arbitration was brought into existence some years ago, with the object of ridding the country of the devastating effect of strikes and lockouts. But I ask honorable members whether our Arbitration Act has had that effect ? They know very well that because of the inefficiency of the act the loss of wages alone to the workers of Australia has been, and is still, appalling. It is true that some other countries have a greater number of strikes than we have; but that is not to be wondered at when we take into consideration Australian conditions, and the efforts that have been made by Australian legislatures to improve them. With the conditions that the Australian workers enjoy, the marvel is that there should be any industrial strife here. I have no desire to speak at any length on this question. A great deal of time can be wasted through the delivery of perorations such as that just read by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). Listening to the honorable member one would think we were living under conditions that prevailed 100 years ago, or that his speech had been prepared for him by Trotsky or Lenin. In a country like this, where the conditions of the workers are the best in the world, phrases such as those employed by the honorable member in his peroration are a degradation to Australia and to this Parliament. Honor able members of the Opposition have said, “Do not defame your own country.” The speech of the honorable member for the Northern Territory has done more to defame Australia than any other speech I have heard in this Parliament. It- certainly’ had no application to the bill under consideration.
The bill is a sincere effort on the part of the Government to make the Conciliation and Arbitration Act a means by which the industrial peace desired by the great majority of the people of Australia may be achieved. It is regrettable that those who represent Labour did not seize the opportunity afforded to them by the Leader of the Government to take part in a peaceful consideration of the whole issue. If a Government that has been returned to power by a majority of the people of this country voting under a democratic franchise asks the workers and employers to get together and tell it how legislation may be framed to enable work to be carried on with benefit to both, and with benefit to the country generally, why should the representatives of labour stand aloof, and afterwards come to this House and decry a bill that seeks to improve the law in regard to arbitration?
Honorable members opposite declare that they believe in arbitration. In what way do they believe in it? Is it not British justice that the law should apply equally to all sections of the community; but our arbitration law is one-sided. It has already been pointed out that 600,000 unionists may submit a case to the Arbitration Court, and there may be only two or three employers involved. The country can easily get at those two or three employers; but the other night we heard the declaration of despair of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), that we cannot deal with or punish 600,000 men. Is it that fact which has led the honorable members of the Opposition to be so boisterous or dogmatic in their attitude towards this bill? One can easily understand their attitude when one examines the history of the Arbitration Court and notes the way in which its awards have been disobeyed when they have not suited the workers. Such disobedience is the surest way to destroy the. whole fabric of our arbitration system. The bill is an honest attempt on the part of the Government to put the Arbitration Court on a basis that will stand, and enable it to carry out the functions for which it was originally established.
We have recently sold the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. If the seamen and those who control them had recognized the privileges that they were enjoying because of the action of this Parliament in passing the Navigation Act, they might have helped to make the Line a success. But they abused the privileges conferred upon them and consequently caused so much loss to the taxpayers of this country that the Line had to be sold, and the Navigation Act itself is in danger. The White Australia policy is also imperilled by the attitude taken up by honorable members opposite. If Australia is to remain white, it must be an efficient country. It must prove that a white country can be efficient. I remind honorable members opposite that we cannot take out of a thing more than is put into it. I believe in having a high wages standard, but we must show ourselves deserving of that standard. The figures relating to production quoted by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) were entirely misleading, but even if they were not they were no justification; for the honorable member’s argument that it is of little use to produce more than can be sold, and that no harm would be done to production by having shorter working hours for the benefit of the workers. The honorable member’s argument, taken to its logical conclusion, would mean the preposterous assertion that great production is a disadvantage to a country. The honorable member pointed out that statistics disclose that there has been an advance in production per head of population amounting to 5 per cent., the estimate being made on a value basis. That basis is extremely misleading. During the period covered by those statistics there has been an increase in values of the main commodities in Australia, but no credit is due to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), or even to this Parliament; it is due to world markets. Our progress should be judged on quantities, not values. The production of wheat in Australia has not increased to any appreciable extent for the last ten years.
– That is not so in Western Australia.
– Western Australia is the only State that shows an increased wheat production, and that is due to the efforts of the men in that industry.
– There is a Labour Government in power in Western Australia.
– That same Government would almost have vomited had it heard some of the speeches that were made in this chamber to-day by honorable members opposite. The Labour Government of Western Australia realizes that true prosperity lies in the development of the country. There production is looked upon as an advantage - quite a different belief from the hopeless doctrine preached by the honorable member for Dalley.
If we are to maintain arbitration the awards of the court must be based on the ability of an industry to pay them, otherwise that industry must cease operation and cause unemployment. I believe that in the United States of America the system of round table conferences between employers and employees is greatly favoured, and the result is reflected in the prosperity of that country. It is for our employees to determine whether they will accept what an industry is capable of paying and continue to be employed, or demand more than industry can pay and be unemployed. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) got to the root of the matter when he spoke in this House yesterday. I believe that it is unsound for the Arbitration Court to base its awards on the cost of living. Increased awards add to the cost of production, and cause an advance in the cost of living. Soon the employee makes further demands for increased wages, and the whole process begins again. That has been clearly pointed out in the reports of the Tariff
Board, not in a casual manner, but as a well considered warning to this Parliament. This House should endeavour to deliberate upon the problem, uninfluenced by party considerations, and try to effect a solution. We should strive to introduce legislation of benefit to the whole of the people to which all parties can agree and abide by. Trade unionism is an excellent institution, but if it is to survive its leaders should advise their followers that they must obey the laws of the country. If they refuse to do so the labours of Parliament will be jettisoned and we shall retrogress instead of progress.
It has been said by honorable members opposite that arbitration is a good thing. When one has a good thing he should endeavour to retain it. The honorable member for Dalley admitted that there are defects in the system, and surely if he is entitled to recognize defects in it the Government, which has been elected by a majority of the people of Australia, is also entitled to recognize other defects and to endeavour to rectify them by well considered action. This bill must not be regarded in a flippant manner. I shall endeavour to give it logical consideration. Undoubtedly much ofour existing unemployment is due to the fact that the country is existing upon an uneconomic basis. Much has been said about the necessity to preserve our present standard of living. If wages were reduced the cost of living would be reduced; the reduced wages would have equal if not greater buying power; the country would be saved, and we should then be enabled to populate it and make the progress we ought to make. It is all very well for honorable members to mount the soap box, metaphorically speaking, and make startling speeches, but the people will soon discover that soap box oratory will not provide them with bread and butter. Governing economic factors must be considered, and when that is done it will be recognized that it is impossible to take more out of an industry than what is put into it. Instead of indulging in a prolonged and generalized debate on this bill, honorable members could better haveconstituted themselves a deliberative board of directors of the country, and endeavoured to assist the Attorney-General and the Government to provide an improved arbitration measure. I shall reserve my further remarks on the bill until it reaches the committee stage.
.- I shall not have much opportunity before the dinner adjournment to debate the merits of the efficiency about which the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) spoke, but I shall endeavour to have placed in Hansard a table which was referred to by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore). It is a remarkable contribution to the discussion that occurs from time to time as to what is the cause of the defects in our industrial system. The table, which is taken from the annual report of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, of 1922, edited by Sir G. H. Knibbs, gives the sources and causes of waste in industry. The article is headed “ The elimination of waste in industry,” and the following table shows the percentage values of each of the agencies against which responsibility for waste is assessed : -
Those statistics are based upon an investigation made into the principal industries of the United States of America, industries in which millions of pounds of capital are sunk in land, plant and buildings, and in which millions of men and women are employed. Although management and machinery in America are up to a very high standard of efficiency, those figures disclose that there is an average waste of over 70 per cent, attributable to management and less than 15 per cent, attributable to labour, the remaining amount being chargeable lo outside contacts. That affords a complete and independent reply to the statement made so repeatedly by honorable members opposite that most of the waste in industry is attributable to the workers. We may safely claim that the United States of America stands second to Germany in the matter of organization. If those conditions apply to the second ‘best organized country in the world, how much more responsible must the factor of management be for the waste in industry in Australia ?
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Some of us had the pleasure, of meeting that great motor magnate, Mr. Morris, of Great Britain, during his recent visit to Australia, t was very much struck with a speech that he delivered in Melbourne just prior to his return to the Old Country. In that speech he stated that there was nobody despised more by the efficient workmen in a shop or factory than the inefficient manager. Speaking of the workers generally, he said that he was abundantly satisfied with the work that they carried out. Sir Henry Cowan, a member of the House of Commons for over twenty years, was also here a few months ago. He is associated with very large concerns in both the Old Country and Australia. One of his companies has been established in Australia for forty years, and he unhesitatingly paid a very fine tribute to the capability and the efficiency of the Australian workmen. In the light of those expressions of opinion, it illbecomes honorable members opposite to gibe at the Australian workmen, to say that they are going slow, and to charge them with lack of efficiency.
Honorable members opposite resent our suggesting that few of them have been associated in any way with the industries of this country, particularly from the aspect of the working man. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was at one time a member of the Trolley and Draymen’s Union and other transport unions, but I do not know whether he has retained his membership in them. I believe it is safe to say that, apart from the members of the medical and legal professions, there is not a single unionist among honorable members opposite. Some of them, like the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) did this afternoon, claim to have worked long hours for a miserable pittance. We have all had that experience to a greater or less extent. But neither the honorable member for Henty nor his
Associates opposite have been connected with trade unions. On the other hand, some of us on this side can trace back for a number of years our association with trade unions, although we may not have been closely associated with them during the whole of that time. My first association with unionism was well back in the last century, when I was practically a youth. It was in November, 1885, that I joined the Melbourne Typographical Society. But my first real baptism in unionism was during the maritime strike. Although I was not a participant in that upheaval, I am pleased to recall the fact that I willingly contributed my levy out of a comparatively small wage, and did all that I possibly could in other ways to assist the workers who were engaged in that mammoth struggle. It was during that dispute that the employers issued the challenge, both in the newspapers and in the public addresses that they delivered, “ Why do not you men, instead of striking to uphold your rights, send representatives to Parliament, and there advocate a change in the laws for the improvement of your conditions?” That challenge was accepted, with what success can be realized when one examines the personnel of the Labour parties, both Commonwealth and State, that have since been elected. It has already been stated that in every State in the Commonwealth, as well as in this Parliament, the Labour party has been supreme, and has had the support of large majorities on a number of occasions.
I do not want to import into my remarks too much suspicion; but one cannot help feeling suspicious when gifts are supposed to be offered to the unionists of Australia by those whose lives have not been such as to make them sympathetic to trade unionism. I read recently in a report of the industrial commission which visited the United States of America, that in that country many big firms had established what are known as company unions. My mind immediately went back to an occasion, a comparatively few years ago, when I and others endeavoured, to form a union among a section of the employees in the warehouses in Flinders-lane, Melbourne. We managed to distribute circulars among the storemen and packers, intimating that a meeting would be held in the Temperance Hall, with the object of forming them into a union. I rejoice to say that they rallied to the meeting. I had the pleasure of addressing them, and of playing a part in the formation of a union, the majority of whose members were recruited from Flinders-lane. It is questionable whether there is a greater aggregation of wealth in a similar area in any other part of Australia than is to be found in that narrow thoroughfare. York-street, Sydney, may be comparable to it. Thousands of men and women are employed in its warehouses. Having succeeded in establishing a branch of the Storemen and Packers’ Union, we essayed the task of securing another section, and again called a meeting; but the audience was composed principally of commercial travellers, the heads of departments in the great Flinders-lane warehouses, and quite a number of men who held leading positions in those establishments. Hardly had the chairman taken his seat, when there were hoots, cat-calls, and other forms of interruption, with a view to preventing the speakers from placing their views before the meeting. The late Senator Barker and I had to dodge over-ripe tomatoes, bananas, and other missiles which were thrown by persons who were acting as the agents of some of the leading men in Flinders-lane. A man who was dressed in a gentlemanly fashion tried to drag me off the platform with the hook of his umbrella. All kinds of obstructive tactics were employed to prevent us from forming a union of the workers in Flinders-lane who were employed under sweated conditions, and the meeting was broken up before we had succeeded in obtaining our objective. Only the other day, from some inquiries I made, I learned that there are still, about 2,000 of that class of employee in Flinders-lane who have not been unionized. Our meeting had one good effect, however; it shamed those workers into forming what I and some others term a bosses’ union, which enabled them to obtain at least higher wages and better conditions than had ruled prior to the date of the meeting. But from then until now they have held aloof from the general union.
Before the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) entered Parliament, and even while he was a private member, he was actively associated with one of the biggest firms in Flinders-lane. Can he, therefore, have any sympathy with trade unionists? If any honorable member were to go through Flinders-lane at the present time he would find that, with the exception of the storemen and packers, the employees, both men and women, are working for the wealthiest people in Australia and London under conditions that would not be tolerated if they belonged to a union. Persons who are engaged in similar capacities with other firms that have not nearly so strong a financial backing as these warehouses, are receiving a far higher wage, and are working under superior conditions. To hear the Prime Minister and others of his cult talk about unionism, one would think that, instead of placing obstacles in the path of these men and women, when they wish to form a union to better their conditions, they would lend a helping hand.It is because of the experience I have related, and many others of a similar character, that unionists hold suspect the warehousemen of Flinders-lane, and many other big employers, when they seek to bestow upon them gifts such as this amendment of the Arbitration Act. I have known women to grind at a machine from 6 o’clock in the morning until midnight, providing their own cotton, to make trousers and jackets out of dungaree and other materials in order that they might earn from 10s. to 15s. a week. That was in what are termed “ the good old days.” I do not say that those who are in charge of affairs in Flinders-lane to-day are acting in a similar manner; but I do say that their firms have been made wealthy at the expense of the sweat and blood of men and women.
– It is not rot, but the absolute truth, which is made manifest when the history of those firms is studied.
Are they the class from which unionists can expect favorable consideration?
A number of comparisons have been made between the workers in the United States of America and in Australia. Many quotations have been made from the report of the Industrial Commission which visited the United States of America to investigate the industrial affairs in that country. Another gentleman also has made a report, and from that report I intend to quote. I refer to Mr. Hugh Grant Adam, associate editor of the Melbourne Herald, a newspaper which cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be regarded as favorable to the Labour party. Mr. Adam states that members of the delegation evaded the bypaths in industry and visited what may be termed the show places in the United States of America. I gather from his remarks that he took advantage of the opportunity to inspect certain industrial establishments where preparations for visitors had not been made. This is what Mr. Adam has to say about the position as he found it in America -
In the last three years five more or less official delegations have travelled from foreign parts to study industrial conditions in America, with particular reference to the relationship between employer and employee. Studying the records of these missions, I have been struck by the fact that in all that huge continent, with its thousands of manufacturers, they all went to the same places and saw precisely the same things. Such delegations are very much at the mercy of the Government Department of Trade and Commerce and the Associated Chambers of Commerce.
Mr. Adam states that in many of the establishments which he visited there were no welfare committees at work in the interests of the workers, nor were there any other social activities promoted by employers to make the lot of their employees easier. Summing up his impressions, he says that the worker of Australia has nothing to learn from America.
As I said at the outset of my remarks I do not wish to import into the debate anything of the nature of suspicion; but I cannot help a feeling of scepticism concerning any proposals that emanate from this Government. There is, I believe, a desire to encourage the establishment of company unions in connexion with a number of our industrial undertakings, and certainly there is a tendency, for which the Government must be held responsible, to encourage the introduction of people from southern European countries in such numbers as eventually to bring about a reduction in the standard of living. That labour leaders in America have reason to suspect that the same influences are at work there is evident from the following comment in Mr. Adam’s report : -
The unskilled workers in the manufacturing industries are drawn mostly from immigrant labour of all nationalities, without any qualifications of education, training, or experience. Since the operation of the immigration restrictions, employers have become less particular over the nationality or colour of the labour they use. Many factories that until recently employed no coloured labour, now employ negroes and Mexicans on the same class of work as they employ white Americans. There is no discrimination in wages.
How do American employers keep unionism out of the open shops? Well, there are several things in their favour. In the first place, they are dealing with a great body of polyglot labour. In one department of a factory, I stopped six times and tried to talk with men at their work. I found only one man out of the six who did not have to translate what he had to say into a foreign tongue. That was, without doubt, an extreme instance; but you can imagine how difficult it must be for union officials to organize workers when they are separated from each other by racial habits, prejudices, and language.
– If the union representative attends a meeting of miners his remarks have to be translated into four or five different languages.
– I understand that is so. I believe also that the same can be said of certain other big concerns. A man addressing such gatherings needs to be an expert linguist to be understood by those whom he is addressing.
Reference has been made by other speakers to the part played by the late Mr. Samuel Gompers in the organization of American labour. Undoubtedly he accomplished a great deal, and although we may not all agree with his methods, we must respect the man for what he did for labour. Mr. Green, his successor, was interviewed by Mr. Adam, and the following appeared in his report: -
I asked Green why it was that the Federation of Labour had failed to organize a larger proportion of American workers. “ The biggest obstacle to labour organization in America,” he replied, “ has been unrestricted immigration. We simply cannot get amongst these millions of foreign workers who do not speak our language and cannot comprehend our ideals. The new immigration laws mean everything to us. They give us out big chance. Large employers of labour are going to fight to have the restrictions removed. They never will be removed.”
I am glad to see that definite note in the report - “ On the contrary, they will be tightened. In time, we are going to unionize the whole of labour in America. That means there is going to be plenty of trouble in the next twenty years, but all our plans are laid for the fight.”
My object in quoting somewhat extensively from Mr. Adam’s report is to show that much the same influences are at work in Australia, and that the leaders of Labour in Australia must be watchful.
I propose now to quote from the reply given by the Secretary of tha Australian Workers Union to the invitation of the Prime Minister to appoint representatives to the industrial conference - I decline to speak of it as a “ peace “ conference, because obviously it would not make for peace. Similarly I object to the emphasis of the Attorney-General on the alleged virtues of the “ secret “ ballot provided for in the bill, because all ballots are secret. The great fight on the part of democracy in the early days in both Britain and Australia was for the right to vote by ballot. This, of course, meant a secret ballot, so there is no necessity at all for the use of the word “ secret “ in the clause relating to the ballot of members of trade unions.
– It is used to differentiate between the “ secret “ and the “ open “ ballot.
– The word is superfluous. In replying to the Prime Minister’s invitation to the Australian Workers’ Union to send delegates to the proposed industrial conference, the secretary of that organization stated -
Bodies such as the New Settlers’ League, acting in connivance with the migration authorities, are throwing large bodies of men on our labour markets without the slightest regard for established standards of living or the needs of our own population. Evidence of this is afforded in a circular issued from the head-quarters of the New Settlers’ League, 19 O’Connell-street, Sydney, wherein branches of the league are informed that 200 adults can be secured for farm work, and that “ arrangement can be made that they accept 30s. per week and keep.”
The secretary of the league (P. I. G. Fleming) states in this circular, referring to migrants available for rural occupations - “ Their ages are from 25 to 35 years, some with experience, others without. The more recent arrivals from overseas have had little experience, but are good workers, and anxious to take up farm work. In the interests of migration it is necessary that these mcn should be placed at once.”
He goes on to say -
A’ recent exhaustive investigation made in Western Australia further discloses the harmful effects of labour importations, particularly from foreign countries. The following is an extract supplied from an authoritative source: - “ The effect of the influx of foreigners upon employment has been most marked. Despite the fact that there has been a succession of good seasons, with a record harvest this year, there has been during the summer months more unemployment than for several years past. This is almost entirely due to the fact that men from southern Europe have been arriving in large numbers and have been drafted into the country- often, it is believed, under contract - to undertake clearing and other farm work. In other industries the increase in the number of alien workers has been so great that Australian and British workers have been forced upon the unemployment market, thus assisting in the creation of a very serious economic position.” My council feels that, if your Government earnestly desired industrial peace, it would put a stop to migration schemes having such evil consequences and creating conditions which cause unrest and discontent and might at any time be productive of industrial disturbances. In every State there is a huge army of unemployed, which is being continuously added to by a ceaseless influx of cheap labour from various European countries. There is no need to exaggerate the seriousness of the position. The bare facts are sufficient to show how alarming and dangerous is the state of affairs existing. Thousands of Australians are tramping the city pavements and the country roads searching in vain for work, while jobs which belong to them are given to recent arrivals in this country.
These quotations are from a reliable source. They prove conclusively that the Government is indifferent as to the result that would probably accrue from the introduction to Australia of large numbers of people from cheap labour Mediteranean countries.
The Prime Minister has offered as an excuse for the Government’s inaction that if any steps were taken to check the influx of southern Europeans, grave international complications might arise. But the Government is in possession of a remedy. The Immigration Act provides that if industry cannot absorb all the labour that is offering, the Government may prohibit immigration altogether. The Governments of European countries are aware of these provisions in our act. I repeat that this Government is absolutely indifferent in the matter. During its five years term of office, between 50,000 and 60,000 foreigners have come to Australia. By far the greater proportion of these are from southern European countries, and they have secured employment which rightly should be given to Australians, or migrants from Great Britain. I could quote numberless extracts from various newspapers in Australia, the conservative as well as the labour press, to prove that an undue proportion of cheap labour from southern Europe has been introduced into Australia during the last few years. No intelligent person can deny that the introduction of 50,000 people from cheap labour European countries will not have its effect upon the Australian labour market. This is one of the sins for which this Government and its supporters will have to answer when next they face the electors. The industrial conditions in Australia in recent years have not justified the encouragement of this influx of foreigners. I object to any kind of immigration while good Australians are out of work. I know that reputable members of British families who have desired to come to this country for a number of years have had obstacles placed in their way.
An article by a French writer, published in four different newspapers, has drawn attention to the fact that a splendid organization has been established whereby southern Europeans are assisted in migrating to Australia. This body provides each migrant with the necessary £40, and an arrangement is made, I understand, whereby that money is immediately sent back to southern Europe to enable other migrants to gain admittance to this country. Although a man may be unable to speak a word of English, he is allowed to land here if he can show that he is in possession of £40. The continuance of this class of immigration while unemployment amongst our own people is rife, is deplorable. But this Government connives at it. “With the exception of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) no honorable member on the other side has protested against this indiscriminate immigration. s My objection to it is not due to racial feeling. I resent it merely because many of our own people are unemployed. When I have to decide between them and foreigners, I say the preference should always be given to Australians. I do not know why the Prime Minister has tolerated this foreign influx. His attitude certainly creates suspicion. Men of varying political views, including ex-soldiers, have objected to the influx of southern Europeans when Australians are starving. It is startling to discover that all the men employed in the work of laying out a new golf course in Sydney are southern Europeans, while men who have paid taxes in this country for years are out or work and hungry.
Trade unionists cannot be expected to submit quietly to a lash of this kind. It appears to me that there is a deep and black design beneath it all. The Government desires, in my opinion, to create a situation in Australia similar to that brought about by foreigners in the United States of America, where the workers cannot be organized into unions. Yet the Government expects the unionists of Australia to say, “ Thank you, Mr. Bruce ; thank you, Dr. Page; thank you, Nationalist party, for conferring upon us the benefits of this bill.” My intention is to tell the people from every platform exactly what the Government has and has not done, and I believe that in doing so I shall be performing a service to the country and to our own kith and kin, without offending the susceptibilities of any nation.
In view of the use that the Nationalists make of the communist bogy at election times, I imagine that the Prime Minister continually prays that Mr. “ Jock “ Garden may be preserved to the Nationalist party.
– Leave him alone!
– He is one of that party’s best assets. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) will admit that without him and a few others that party would have been in a hopeless position at the last election.
Do honorable members opposite consider how the -great financial world operates? Did they read of the meeting held at Lord Ashley’s house, and attended by men representing German, French and Belgian capital to the extent of £6,000,000,000? The object of that gathering was to bring about international financial co-operation. The varying nationality of those present did not affect their business; they were there to combine. Lord Ashley, when asked what business was transacted, merely replied - “ We had a very good meeting.” It has been said that some members of Parliament have been in receipt of Russian gold. What was the nationality of the men who were the keenest buyers at the earliest wool sales in Australia this year? They were representatives of .Soviet Russia, and the hands of the graziers and wool brokers were stretched out greedily for the Russian gold. A number of factories in my electorate are largely kept going by work for Russia. Russians are not only having their Australian wool scoured, but they are also turning it into wool tops in Australia. Some of this wool was purchased from Dalgety and Company, and it is interesting to recall that an honorable senator, who has been prominently connected with this firm, has been shouting about Bolshevism for a long time. I believe that the Russians bought a million pounds worth of wool before any of their competitors could get a “look in.” The Bradford, French, and Japanese buyers commented on the high prices paid by the Russians; but in the end they had to pay even higher prices themselves. I merely mention these facts to show that internationalism is at work in the financial and commercial world. Nationality does not count one whit; but money talks, and conservatives will always respond to it whenever profit is to be made - even when it comes from Soviet Russia.
I realize that this debate is merely a preliminary skirmish. The real fighting over the bill will take place during the committee stage, and therefore I have not attempted to discuss specific clauses. If an attempt is made to Americanize Australian industries they will certainly be injuriously affected. Only one-tenth of’ the workers in the United States of
America are organized; the other ninetenths are unskilled. They are mere cogs in the wheels of industry, and have to keep pace with the machines. When they are not sufficiently skilful to do this, their services are dispensed with. We may not all agree with the methods of Henry Ford; hut he was the pioneer employer in introducing the five-day week. He believes that men and women employed in the monotonous work of a factory should have two clear days off in every seven in order to recuperate their health. He holds the view that short hours and high wages lead to maximum production. The opinions of those who advocate a reduction of the standard of living in Australia are inconsistent with those of that great manufacturer. If I had to choose between the “ Red “ and the reactionary, I would prefer the “ Red.” The reactionary is one of the worst enemies Australia has ever had, because he is generally a greedy exploiter of his own kind.
Flinders-lane will not tolerate anything except company unions. The merchants there do everything in their power to prevent their employees from linking up with industrial organizations. We should not expect one who was born and bred in that atmosphere to sponsor a satisfactory conciliation and arbitration bill. The gentleman from whom I have already quoted also had the following to say in respect of American conditions: -
The fact is that most of the workers’ grievances in these factories are settled without dispute by one very potent and effective factor - the worker’s knowledge that if he is not satisfied with his conditions he will have to go, for there will be no difficulty in getting some one else more easily satisfied to fill his place. This is a condition, you might think, that would breed secret discontent and induce the workers to organize. But the employers have guarded well against that danger. In Chicago I talked with Victor Orlander, the secretary of the State branch of the American Federation of Labour, one of the most capable and sincere of the Labour leaders in America. He told me that there must be at least 200,000 operatives scattered throughout the American factories who are secret-service agents employed by the big corporations to report the sources and signs of labour discontent. Orlander picked up the Chicago telephone directory and opened it at two whole pages of advertisements of private detective agencies, each of which specialized in “ industrial investigation.” He told me that employers hire men from these agencies to take jobs as workmen in the factories; to go in and break up labour organization: to worm their way into unions and bring about foolish strikes at times when the men are certain to be beaten. All the numerous cases in America of trade union treasurers disappearing with the union’s fighting funds cannot be put down merely to human frailty and cupidity. Once, on the eve of a carefully-planned strike, Orlander discovered by the strangest accident that his first lieutenant, who for ten years had been an official of unionism,was a stoolpigeon of the employers.
It will be realized, therefore, that every effort is made by the employers to resist trade unionism. Some of the people in their employ are bound to them body and soul.
– Surely the honorable member does not suggest that that kind of thing occurs in this country?
– In my own union there is a person who has been in the pay of the Nationalist party for the last ten years. Is he not similar to the “stool pigeons “ of the American employers ? I do not make that statement without consideration. Fancy a man of that description going to a judge and asking him for a declaration that a strike exists!
– Is that person still connected with the honorable member’s union ?
– He is.
– Why is he allowed to retain his membership?
– We do not expel members for that kind of thing. We do not make any effort to force a man to accept political views which may be repugnant to him. If any honorable member opposite doubts my statements in regard to this person, I am prepared to supply his name and address so that the case may be investigated. It is quite likely that the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General were cheek by jowl with individuals of this kind while this bill was in course of preparation. It has been said of him that “he sold his soul for Nationalist gold.” If he had been worth powder and shot I should have taken action against him long ago for defamation of character. But his machinations cannot injure me. The people of my division know him too well to take any notice of his lying and cringing, and his crawling for Nationalist gold.
If this bill reaches the committee stage we shall fight it clause by clause. The Government, in my opinion, has no desire whatever to assist trade unionism. It is playing a political game’ all the time. It hopes to make some political capital out of this measure, and to injure the Labour party through i&
I had something to say a while ago about prayer. As a younger man I used to hear prayers often, and I hear them still at times. One prayer that I remember was “ that the ermine might be kept unspotted and pure.” I am sorry to say that in this country the ermine white has become besmirched by the black inky blot of political patronage. That is all I shall say on that aspect of the subject on the moment.
The honorable member for Henty made some observations about irresponsible, strife-creating individuals, who, he alleged, controlled the Labour party, and organized the opposition to this bill. For his benefit I shall read the names which appear at the’ foot of the manifesto which has been issued in opposition to the measure by the Combined Campaign Committee of Victoria. They are as follow: -
Those gentlemen were all elected at the first meeting organized to fight the bill, and I am proud to have my name associted with them, for they are among the finest and the whitest men in Australia. Many of them have rendered signal service to the working class and long after they leave this sphere they will be remembered for the work that they have done. The meeting in the Melbourne Town Hall a few nights ago in opposition to the measure was one of the most magnificent demonstrations of the solidarity of the Labour party that Victoria has known. The hall was crowded to the doors.
I cannot do better than conclude my speech by quoting the introductory paragraph to our manifesto. It was taken from the New Statesman and reads -
The trade unions are the twentieth century - both of which you may resent, hut both of which are facts. Conceivably you may capture or disintegrate the trade unions, but if you fight them they will inevitably trample you down as an elephant tramples grass.
Many more meetings will be held in opposition to this bill. The Ministry will find that though by the use of a brutal majority it may force the measure through this Parliament, it will not be acceptable to the people of this country either in its present form or in an amended form, and before long the Government itself will be ignominiously ejected from office by the people of Australia.
.- I have been informed on reliable authority that at least three persons in my constituency of 60,000 read Hansard regularly. I therefore feel it my duty to them as well as to my constituents generally to place upon record my views on this measure.
In my opinion one of the main reasons for the economic troubles of the nations to-day, is that the United States of America is demanding payment with interest to the last penny of the money that she loaned to the Allies for the prosecution of the great war, which was fought for its salvation as well as their own. That opinion has been formed’ only after wide reading on the subject and four trips to the United States of America and to other countries. Fifteen months elapsed after America joined the Allies before she landed a single soldier in Europe, but she has demanded full payment of, and heavy interest upon, all the money which she advanced to the Allies for prosecuting the war during that period. This money was spent upon boots, bayonets, rifles, food and clothing for the troops, and a great deal of the material came from America. If we had not a war debt of approximately £600,000,000 to meet we should be in a much better position to stabilize our economic life. Europe is being kept poor by America and so is the Mother Land, for I think there are never less than 2,000.000 unemployed amongst the allied nations. Large families are “living on the smell of an oil rag,” because there is little money in the country, and even that is filtering through London into America. This is causing grave concern to prominent Americans. I refer honorable members to a book which is available in the library entitled Honour or Dollars, written by Mr. Peabody, a great American lawyer. It is most instructive and informative, and describes the position exactly.
I join with other” honorable members on this side of the House in deploring the refusal of the union leaders of Australia to nominate delegates to the industrial peace conference proposed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce). I play tenuis every morning with the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) and while playing with him the other morning, it occurred to me how alike are tennis and politics. In tenuis the ball is hit backwards and forwards across the net, and in politics words are exchanged from one side to the other across the table in this chamber.
While listening to the debate I could not but be impressed with the fact that the method of constituting this Parliament makes it practically impossible by legislation to bring the people closer together. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) truly said that honorable members on this side must uphold the Government, and the organizations behind it, while the members of the Opposition must fight for the Labour party and labour organizations. It is the cursed party system that is helping to engender suspicion and unrest in the economic world. Until we evolve a better system, present conditions must continue. While in this Parliament I have never made what is called a fighting speech against honorable members opposite. No act of Parliament will bring peace and contentment to our working people unless both sides in politics get together and work in harmony. We must set them an example.
I am a great believer in unionism. There is no need for me to endeavour to trace its history, because that has already been done by other honorable members. The honorable member for Dalley claimed that the labour movement had brought about the happy conditions under which our people are working to-day. That may be true, but I was under the impression that unionism was responsible for that improvement. Whichever it was does not matter, because our industrial conditions had to improve. The sweating that takes place in America to-day, despite its great prosperity, does not exist in Australia, and mainly on account of unionism. But the parting of the ways must come because present conditions cannot continue. This nation cannot progress with continual industrial strife.
When considering the bill, I naturally ask myself whether it will strengthen unionism, and also the Labour party. Of course it will. But is it not worth it? Unquestionably, it will hasten the advent of the Labour party to these benches. If the Government is sincere, and there is no reason to doubt that it is, it is doing its best to try to put honorable members opposite on the Treasury benches, because, if the labour unions are rid of what is called the Red element, unionism must be strengthened and the quicker that comes about the quicker it will bring the Labour party into power. But is not the Government’s action justified. I take a deep interest in this subject, because a lot of the money I have, outside of what I earn as a member of Parliament and at the Law, and of certain real estate in which I have a share, is invested in industrial concerns, and unless those working in our factories and mines are happy and contented, and unless strikes are abolished, what chance have I of getting dividends? The bigger the dividend that I get, the more money I have to invest in industrial concerns, and that must eventually benefit the community as a whole. I believe that the bill will help in that direction. The number of strikes that we have in Australia is appalling, although not so great as in Great Britain, and any Government that refuses to take action to prevent strikes undoubtedly deserves defeat at the hands of the electors.
The following table shows the result of strikes in Australia over a six-year period : -
In six years
aggregate pecuniary loss exceeded £6,900,000. Imagine that amount of money in the hands of the working classes to spend, and imagine the loss in the nation’s production of wealth. These figures are staggering. They are not the worst in the world, but they are a poor example to other nations. Something must be done. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) during his speech said that the trade unions were becoming ends in themselves. That is perfectly true. They have reached a stage when the members of the executives have taken full control of the unions, the unionists themselves having little say in their affairs. The other day in Sydney I was sitting in a tramcar alongside a working man. We talked about the bill, and I found that he was from my electorate. He knew who I was, and I asked him what he thought of the bill. He replied, “ For God’s sake put it on the statute-book.” I asked him why he took that attitude, and he said, “ I seldom attend a union meeting. What is the good of going there? I am not game to vote, but give us the secret ballot, and there will soon be a wonderful change in the unions.” There are many such instances. People say to me, “ How do you get your large majority?” I have sufficient Nationalists in my constituency to elect me, but there are a lot of working men who vote for me simply because they know that I stand for the whole of the community. As I have already said, my money is invested in industry, and I want the workers to be happy and contented. I want all sections of the community to benefit from the prosperity of this country.
Let me give a few examples of how unionism has been prostituted. Last year, according to the press, certain pilfering and stealing was taking place on the Queensland railways, and apparently there was a dishonest section among the employees. The police patrolled the railways so effectively that the stealing was checked. The Railways Union thereupon wrote to the Police Union threatening that if it did noi discontinue its work its members would be labelled “ scabs.” Mr. McCormack, the Premier of Queensland, and a strong personality, was notified of this, and he took action to put the Railways Union in its place. That union endeavoured to place itself above the law itself. It tried to dictate to the police force that is engaged in maintaining law and order, and instructed it not to interfere with the nefarious practices of a section of the railway workers. Is it any wonder that the sensible working man takes little interest in the affairs of the union to which he belongs?
The Sydney Morning Herald of the 28th April last published a most informative interview with the secretary of the South Australian branch of the Seamen’s Union, Mr. A. C. Woodsford, who, I understand, has been declared “black” because of that interview. The report reads -
The secretary of the South Australian branch of the Seamen’s Union (Mr. A. C. Woodsford) said to-day that he was concerned that the Russian Soviet had begun operations in Australia, with a view to causing frequent dislocation of maritime services.
When he was in Sydney recently, he said, several members of the union handed to him printed copies of a notice, which said : “ To the seamen of all nations. - An international seamen’s club has been opened in the southern hemisphere. Every member of the maritime transport industry is welcome. The club shall be a social, educational, and recreation centre. It shall actively support unionism among the workers in the industry. The club shall furnish information of all kinds to seamen transacting their business while in port. Mental and physical food provided. Come and inspect.”
Mr. Woodsford said that his inquiries showed that the club had not originated among the seamen in Sydney, or by Australians, but that a Russian had gone there to connect Australia, through the club, with a network of similar bodies the Third Internationale had formed, or hoped to form, in all parts of the world.
The Third Internationale and the Red Trades Union International, with head-quarters in Moscow, he added, existed to make the workers in all countries believe Russia an earthly paradise, and to establish a dictatorship of the Proletariat wherever the communist party could get control of the Labour movement. He could not discover that any subscription was required from intending members and wondered what was desired in return for the hospitality extended. Some people knew only too well the object of such lavish expenditure. A large section of the Australian public and shore workers did not believe that a Red movement existed in this country, directed and financed by the Third Internationale, which promoted the class war and aspired through a proletarian revolution to a dictatorship in every country. It was indisputable that the Russian Government dominated the Third Internationale and that its money and arms were at the back of political and industrial discontent, for which militant Labour parties, left wing parties, and minority movements were held responsible. The most important part of the Third Internationale’s propaganda was to instil a belief that the state of the workers in Russia was happier and more free than elsewhere; that continually repeated falsehood and the world reaction against war were weapons with which the Russian-led revolutionaries attacked the industrial arteries of the nations, especially those on which Moscow had designs. Its bitter hostility to the British Empire was no secret. The keystone of its policy was the destruction of Britain’s industrial existence. Indifferent while the Russian workers perished, they were still more oblivious of the inevitable suffering of those in British countries. The world saw the baneful effects of Moscow’s work in England during the general strike, when the British workers lost millions which were gained by Soviet officials, who thus obtained markets. The next movement would be to paralyze transport, in which activity the cosmopolitanism of seamen would be an advantage. One mission of the propagandists was to delude seamen into distrust of their union officials, and to have them replaced with Soviet emissaries, to remodel their . union and its objects on a Russian plan.
The International Seamen’s Club, said Mr. Woodsford had the avowed object of collecting militants, enthusing the mind, and obtaining recruits. Some years ago an English communist seaman offered an official of the Seamen’s Union a salary equal to that he received from the union to help in organizing the Seamen’s Club in Australia. The matter was dropped then, and revived recently. This time the Russian was warmly welcomed by the Sydney branch of the Seamen’s Union, of which he was made a member, without having to undergo the formalities observed with British seamen. Some explanation was desirable why the Russian was permitted without protest to establish a rival organization. Why did (he union officials in Sydney permit that, seeing that only a few months ago the National Union of Britain had to abandon a branch formed in Fremantle? Australian seamen should ask the Sydney officials why they lent themselves to Soviet propaganda. There were religious and benevolent organizations already looking after the recreation of seamen, and the Seamen’s Union guarded their industrial interests. All acquainted with communist activities were aware of its “support of unionism,” and its methods of manufacturing, embittering, and prolonging disputes and strikes. The object was to make it impossible to live by labour. The Labour party would not obtain the influence and support desired while it did not protest against such insidious propaganda.
I whole-heartedly support the views of Mr. Woodsford, for if the extreme section has its way I shall lose what capital I have invested in Australian industries and the workers must also suffer. As this matter affects every section of the community we must do our best to clean things up.
Now let us take the employers’ point of view. I propose to quote the opinion of Mr. W. T. Appleton, whom I fought in the first case ever dealt with by the Federal Arbitration Court. It was heard by Mr. Justice O’Connor over 26 years ago. In connexion with that case, in which I acted for a section of the employees, I briefed a then little known barrister who was junior to a leading K.C. I understand that I gave that gentleman - I refer to the Right Honorable “William Morris Hughes - one of his first briefs at the bar. At that time I had a large shipping practice ; but while I was absent serving my country at the war those who remained behind took much of it from me. I have before me a press report in which it is stated that -
The chairman of directors of Huddart, Parker Limited (Mr. W. T. Appleton) said to-day that no move would be made by the shipowners before Monday. A meeting of the Commonwealth Steamship Owners’ Association will be held on Tuesday to determine future policy. Mr. Appleton said that the shipowners would consider the position over the week-end, and would probably arrive at a decision at the meeting on Tuesday. “There is no doubt,” said Mr. Appleton, “that behind the present marine unrest there is foreign influence.”
His statement agrees with that of the Secretary of the Seamen’s Union. The report continues -
Foreign gold is financing the men who are fomenting the disturbance, and foreign gold is financing the unions when their members are out of employment. The establishment of an International Seamen’s Club in Sydney and the attempts to form a similar organization in Melbourne show to what extent the Communist activities have thrived. I have seen a letter from a Soviet emissary offering to an official of an Australian trade union a salary equal to that which he was receiving from the union, and an addition to that salary if he would stir up trouble on the Australian water front.
The same incident is mentioned by the Secretary of the Seamen’s Union. Mr. Appleton’s statement continues -
A temporary settlement of the present dispute is of no use. Although a strike is bad for everybody, there is no doubt that if shipowners were to be given a free hand in waterfront disturbances they would win hands down and establish peace for many years.
Huddart, Parker Limited estimate their losses as the result of the dispute with the cooks at £70,000.
The whole of our interstate commerce is now held up at the dictation of one or two union leaders. I hope that this legislation will be powerful enough to deal with them.
I never thought that the time would come when I should be able to quote the remarks of Mr. Tom Walsh in support of my views ; but to-night I propose to do so. It is only by searching the minds of men who hold views contrary to our own that we can understand the true position of affairs. The Sydney Morning Herald, of 22nd May last, contained the following report: -
Mr. Tom Walsh yesterday replied to the statement of Mr. A. T. Baker, president of the Australian Seamen’s Union, that the union was not under Soviet influence, and that Mr. Walsh had altered his views regarding Russia. “ Except it is that Mr. Baker is absolutely unsophisticated,” said Mr. Walsh, “ it is difficult to understand how he can say that he does not know that the union has any connexion with the Soviet or with the governing body at Moscow, when he must be and is aware that the person called Harlin (which is not his name at all, but a pseudonym, composed of Marx-Lenin) is persona grata with certain officials of the union in Sydney. Mr. Baker must also know that all the business of the Seamen’s Union of Australasia is discussed at the International Seamen’s Club and support for Soviet tactics and policy rallied there. Moreover, Mr. Baker is aware of the fact that the meeting which elected Mr. Johnson as pro tern, general secretary, was entirely unconstitutional; in fact, Mr. Baker said so within 30 minutes of the end of that meeting. Will Mr. Baker say that it was not a Soviet tactic to excommunicate, industrially, Mr. Woodsford for having the temerity to use the press in his efforts to warn his fellowseamen against the tactics now so extensively used by a certain faction in Sydney? Is it not a Soviet tactic to emasculate the voting rights of the Western Australian branch on the committee of management, and thereby eliminating some of the opposition which Mr. Baker’s friend desired should be removed?
Evidently Mr. Walsh at last realizes where we are drifting. The statement continues -
If the “ militants “ were to employ any of their present tactics upon ships belonging to Russia, they would meet very short shrift, indeed. I know, and Mr. Baker, as general president of the Seamen’s Union of Australasia, should know, that disruption of maritime communications and of industry generally is not for Russia, but for foreign countries only, and Mr. Baker ought to know by this time that the objective of such disruption is the Imperial aims of the Moscow Soviet, and for this purpose the International Seamen’s Club is being established in this as well as other countries. I regret the necessity for repeating statements of this kind, but the occasion demands it.
Let us now see what the Labour Premier of Queensland, Mr. McCormack said, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, of 18th May last -
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. The Government had only to start on a downward path and they would find it would go down all right. 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.
In that statement Mr. McCormack practically admits that the Prime Minister is justified in introducing this bill. Any man who loves the Labour movement, as Mr. McCormack apparently does, and sees whither it is drifting, cannot help sounding a warning. The report of Mr. McCormack’s speech continues -
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.
During the last two or three years the Seamen’s Union and various other maritime unions seem to have vied with one another to dislocate shipping. Mr. Moate, president of the Maritime Stewards Union said that direct action would be the weapon used against the new owners of the Australian Commonwealth- Line of Steamers. That sort of thing cannot continue for ever, and, therefore, “the: Government has done right in introducing this measure. I adopt a fifty-fifty ..-attitude towards arbitration in view:r (of the fact that we have had many strikes within recent years, notwithstanding the existence of the Arbitration Court. I favour round-table conferences on the lines suggested by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) . The method suggested by him was also recommended in the report of the recent industrial delegation to the United States of America - a report which is worthy of more praise than has been given to it. One member of the delegation, Mr. J. C. Valentine, a delegate from the Queensland Trades and Labour Council, as reported in the *Sydney Morning Herald of 1st May last, expressed regret that the trade unions of Australia had not accepted the invitation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to take part in the Industrial Peace Conference - “ I am still a staunch believer in trade unionism - but in sane unionism,” declared Mr. Valentine, in recounting his experiences abroad, “ I am sorry that wc have not the sane unionism that is so desirable if industry is to progress. (Hear, hear!) The sending of trade unions’ representatives to the United States With the industrial delegation enabled us to glean information that will be valuable if it is properly utilized. I can see in the methods adopted by the United States a way out for the workers of the Commonwealth.”
The way out suggested by Mr. Valentine is almost identical with that recommended by Mr. Hughes - a committee within the works itself to govern disputes on the spot. On my first visit to the United States of America I was surprised to learn that 85 per cent, of the workers there were non-unionists. I do not agree with so large a percentage of the workers being outside the ranks of the trade unions, but that was the position there at the time of my visit. It must be remembered that the great majority of the workers of that country are not members of the white races. There are in the United States of America 10,000,000 negroes who already constitute a problem. They are to be seen in great numbers in factories and in the railway companies. The men whom one may see hanging spider-like on the outside of 40 or 50 storey sky-scrapers are mostly Italians. That these men do not make good unionists is mainly the reason for so large a percentage of non-unionists among the workers of the United States of. America.. Probably the biggest industry in that country is the United States
Steel Corporation, which has a capital of some £400,000,000. Judge Gray, who, I believe, recently retired from the position of president of that corporation in favour of one of the Vanderbilts, giving evidence in 1919 before the Congressional Committee as President of the United Steel Conference, said -
I think it is immoral for a small minority of men, organized if you please, to compel by force a° large majority to yield to their desires and to submit to their control. Because, if the industries of this country, or any other, were controlled by union labour, it would mean decay, less production, higher cost; and this country could not succeed in its contests with other countries for the world’s business. It would be in the condition that, I fear, England is in to-day, but which I hope it will come out of……
Labour unions are practically in control of the industries in England to-day, I am inclined to think …. I am afraid they are. And if they have control I believe it i3 a very great hindrance to the progress, prosperity and happiness of England. Of course, I may be mistaken, but that is my belief. I think England is dealing not only with conditions of unrest, but with conditions which compel her to do things which are not the best things to be done.
And I firmly believe, whether I am right or wrong, if labour unions had control of the industries of this country, it would not only mean the “ closed shop,” but it would mean the imposition and enforcement of conditions which would restrict output and increase cost and add to the expenses of living. . . .
It has been my policy, and the policy of my corporations, not to deal with union Labour leaders. We do not believe in contracting with unions. When an employer contracts with the union Labour leaders he immediately drives all of his employees into the unions. Otherwise, they cannot get employment. . . .
If a committee from any particular department desires to confer with any of our people, they are welcome, regardless of the question as to whether they belong to unions or not. . . We stand firmly on the proposition that industry must be allowed to proceed untrammelled by the dictates of Labour unions or any one else except the employer and the employees and the Government. That is where we stand.
Speaking at the annual stockholders meeting on 19th April, 1920, he said -
You will notice by the annual report scores of thousands of our workmen are stockholders. We do not combat Labour unions as such. We of course, acknowledge the natural right of Labour to organize; but we insist that a Labour organization should be subjected to governmental control and regulation like other organizations.
Here we have a reason for the bill before the House. By means of the secret ballot it is hoped to curb the power of the men whom Walsh and others have spoken against. Such men are seeking to lead us to absolute destruction. The statement continues -
Discrimination by law in favour of, or against, any particular class is detrimental to the interests of the general community. It contradicts the fundamental principles of our government.
In the United States of America in 1919 there was a great strike, which lasted for a fortnight, in the steel industry, and two or three days before the strike took place the same Judge Gray sent a circular letter to all the subsidiary companies of the steel corporation. This letter gives the reasons why the open shop is so popular in America, - a matter which is fully dealt with in the report of the industrial delegation. On page 27 of the report, the following statement appears : -
At the same time the Federation of Labour recognized the position and has modernized its views to the newer ideas that employer and employee are inter-dependent, and that cooperation between both for the benefit of industry is essential - efficiency and strict application to work for the maximum output on both sides is the only way that industry will be made to provide further remuneration for both.
Truer words were never spoken or written. On page 28, under the heading of “ Company Unions,” the report mentioned what the right honorable member for North Sydney indicated as a way out of our difficulties, namely, the shop representation scheme. This scheme operates under various titles, such as Company Unions, Shop Councils, Shop Committees, and Employees’ Representation Plans. The report states -
Their object is to organize the employees in a particular plant to deal with matters of mutual interest. We saw ample evidence of their operations in union and “ open “ shops, and in all instances they appear to be accomplishing a better spirit of co-operation and understanding.
Further, on page 29, the following appears : -
These factories began to build up on these lines in 1922, both employers and employees recognizing their responsibilities to each other and the necessity for co-operation. The employer realized his obligations for progressive and efficient management which, while insuring profits for himself, would also provide a fair opportunity for hia employees to earn sufficient money and be reasonably comfortable. The employee recognized that industry cannot pay what it does not earn and that on his own efforts as much as on those of the management, depended his earnings.
During this period trade union membership generally dropped very considerably, notably in factories, and has never recovered anything like its former members, in spite of the increase in population. Some large trade unions, maintaining their standing, changed their methods and adopted the newer ideas of co-operation, viz., co-operation with employers for the benefit of their individual industries in the direction of promoting the general efficiency of plant and personnel, and in improving production generally. In man? cases this has worked admirably.
The following comment on page 40 is rather informative -
The secretary of the American Federation of Labour, State of Illinois, in. an interview with the delegation, stated that the trade unions of America stood for high standards of efficiency, and welcomed the introduction of labour-saving machinery, believing that the higher the standard of efficiency, the higher the standard of living. The unions were in favour of piece-work where it could- be operated successfully and on the principle of collective bargaining, but not on repair work.
The principle of the secret ballot is recognized in American industry, and, on page 63, the report sets out how the members of the industrial council in the Harvester works are elected by this process. Again, on the following page, it shows that the great Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company has an industrial assembly consisting of a Senate of 26 members, and a House of Representatives of 40 members, all of whom are elected by secret ballot. The firm of Hart, SchaffHer and Marx have a Trade Board, and Board of Arbitration, to which the employees elect representatives by secret ballot.
It will be seen, therefore, that in America, a country of great economic riches, they believe in the secret ballot. We hope that when this bill becomes law, the principle of the secret ballot will be established here, and will produce the same good results as in America. On page 70 of the report, there appears a statement by Mr. R. Wolf, a member of the Hoover Committee on the Elimination of Waste. Mr. Wolf quotes the opinion of Mr. John D. Rockfeller, jnr., who recently said -
If the Labour movement with its important contribution of collective bargaining will do its share in outlawing industrial warfare and substituting partnership therefor …. if more men of broad vision and high purpose respond to the opportunity for constructive leadership which Labour unionism offers, it may be that the trade union movement will enjoy the glory and honour of ushering in industrial peace.
To this the American Federation of Labour replied inter alia “ That the materials of increased productivity are essential to sustained increases in standards of living and that the union holds itself ready to do its part in working out better methods and plans for production. Where employers are ready to make co-operation possible trade unionists are ready to do their part.”
To go back nine years to that inspiring but nervous moment when I rose to make my maiden speech in this august assembly, I remember that its theme was the subject we are now discussing. On that occasion I said that with a box of cigars and a few bottles of beer on the table, more might be achieved in the direction of attaining industrial peace than by any other means. It is only by all sides getting together, and putting their cards on the table, that we can ever achieve anything. We want more happiness, more luxury, and more contentment for everybody. £ am sure that if the members of the unions will help the Government to rid this country of the men against whom the Secretary of the Seamen’s Union, the Premier of Queensland, Mr. McCormack, and even Mr. Tom. Walsh, himself, have warned us we shall go a long way towards the goal which we are seeking. I congratulate the Attorney-General on bringing down this bill. The subject with which it deals is bristling with difficulties, but he has made an honest and sincere attempt to overcome them. I regret very much that some honorable members have stated that this bill is an attack on unionism. lt is nothing of the kind. Any one who accuses Mr. Bruce, or Mr. Latham, the Attorney-General, of doing anything dirty to the working men of this country, is both cruel and unjust.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Having been all my life connected with the industrial movement, I feel that I should not be doing my duty if I did not offer the strongest opposition to this bill. It is wrongly called an Arbitration and Conciliation Bill. Conciliation means to gain love and good-will, to make friends, to pacify. Arbitration means to refer matters, private or public, to the judgment of a selected person or persons. This measure, instead of aiming at conciliation and arbitration, is designed to create criminal offences and to prosecute those who should be encouraged and assisted, if the purpose of the bill is what its title indicates. It is the most anti-working class bill ever produced in a British Parliament. It is a barefaced attempt to smash unionism, and is full of legal deviltries. Those are harsh words, but I shall justify them.
I propose to review briefly the origin of legislation relating to industrial conciliation and arbitration. In 1882, when I was secretary of the Trades and Labour Council in Sydney, several minor disputes occurred. Sir George Dibbs and others approached me and asked if they could address the council regarding legislation for the prevention of strikes and lockouts. This first created some interest in the question. When the maritime strike occurred in 1891, Sir Henry Parkes was Premier of New South Wales. Unfortunately for him and Australia, he sustained a .broken leg, and during his incapacitation the Government was controlled by Sir William McMillan and Mr. Bruce Smith. They did everything possible to hinder the strikers and assist the ship-owners. The system of stipendiary magistrates had just been established, and representatives of the Government filled one of them with liquour, and sent him to Circular Quay, where two policemen held him up while he mumbled something about the Riot Act. Nobody could understand a syllable of what he said. Fortunately this ruse to create a disturbance failed, wisdom prevailed, and the men did nothing of a riotous character. After a time Sir Henry Parkes appointed a royal commission to report upon the best means of preventing strikes and lockouts.
Many honorable members opposite have said that they could not understand why the recent invitation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to attend the Industrial Peace Conference was not accepted by the Labour organizations. The reason is plain enough. The Government had already introduced this vicious bill, and while negotiations were taking place with the employers’ and workers’ organizations, newspapers mentioned the names of certain people who were likely to be delegates to the conference. Amongst them were a representative of the National Women’s League, Sir Robert Gibson, and Mr. Baillieu, of Melbourne. Neither of the latter is in favour of arbitration; they hold that there should be no interference with private enterprise, and that employers should have liberty to do as they please, so that it is obvious that a conference with persons of their views would be futile. The workers’ organizations therefore wisely refused the invitation to a conference which they realized could be exploited dangerously by capitalists who had no sincere desire to promote industrial peace. Had the Government been sincere in its proposal, it would have followed the example set by Sir Henry Parkes 37 years ago. The men’ whom he appointed to the royal commission were not merely wealthy employers and chairmen of public companies; but were representative of the trades unions and industries - men who had a direct interest in helping to bring the inquiry to a successful issue. If honorable members opposite desire to understand the industrial movement, they cannot do better than read the report and evidence of that commission.
Unfortunately, the parties that have been in power in the Commonwealth for the last few years do not include one statesman. The Prime Minister is merely a politician, with an eye always fixed on the next election. During the life of this Parliament, the Government has done nothing constructive. Its policy has been to destroy or weaken institutions that, if left unhindered, would have rendered great benefit to the nation. I remind the House of the sale of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers, the undermining of the Commonwealth Bank-
– Can the honorable member connect those remarks with the bill?
– Yes ; this bill is designed to destroy the Arbitration Act which the Labour party had placed upon the statute-book, and I am snowing that this endeavour is in conformity with the general policy of the Government.
I am afraid that there is little prospect of defeating the bill at the second-reading stage*; therefore any improvement of it will have to be effected in committee. That any good can come of it I doubt, because Ministerial members are not taking a broad national view; they are blinded by prejudice, and are not actuated by christian and humane ideals: The Government may have a mandate from the people to improve the arbitration and conciliation law, but the electors did not expect that they would go to the extremes that are proposed in this measure.
The Attorney-General had hardly moved the second reading of the bill before the Government Printer was busily engaged in printing 28 amendments to it. I do not know that we have had in this Parliament anything to parallel that. I do not think the Attorney-General knew the baby he was to carry when he introduced a bill so utterly opposed to the wishes of the people. There is no one on the other side of the chamber who really understands the industrial position.
I notice that the press of Australia has haled the introduction of this bill with delight. The proprietors of the great journals of Australia are delighted to think that a bill may be passed which will enable them to do their utmost to combat the efforts of the Australian Journalists’ Association to secure better wages and improved conditions. Some years ago when a few gentlemen connected with the Australian Worker and Truth, and a few casual contributors to the Bulletin and similar publications, formed the nucleus of the Australian Journalists’ Association and opened an office in Pitt-street, the journalists on the leading newspapers did not dare to be seen entering that office. Employment at that time was not very plentiful. The proprietors used all the forms of the court to prevent the registration of the association, contending that the journalists were not engaged in an industry, but they were unsuccessful, and eventually the association was registered and submitted a claim to the court. To-day all the journalists of Australia are members of the Australian JournalistsAssociation, and the proprietors of the newspapers have to pay them decent wages. The Bank Clerks’ Association had a similar struggle before it was registered under the Arbitration Act. I remember when bank clerks could hardly call their souls their own. On miserable pittances, which no workman would accept, they had to dress like dukes. If they worked at night they were given ls. 6d. for tea money, and were compelled to get their meals at a particular restaurant where the full amount they were allowed would be absorbed. They could not marry without the permission of the directors of the banks in which they were employed. When a Labour Government was in power in New South Wales some of the clerks in the Government Savings Bank formed a union, gradually clerks in other banks joined up, and the membership was sufficent to enable it to secure registration and apply to the Arbitration Court for an award. The directors of the banks who at that time did all they could to interfere with this organization are to-day delighted at the introduction of a bill which will enable them to interfere with it with more effect.
It must be apparent to the dullest-witted person that the desire of honorable members opposite, and those with whom they are closely associated, is to abolish the Conciliation and Arbitration Act so thai they may control their business affairs without interference. A few days ago, at a meeting of the Graziers’ Association, it was frankly said that employers “ should be permitted to pay their employees less than the rate of wage fixed by the Arbitration Court,” but Sir Graham Waddell advised the meeting to be careful lest it might leak out that the aim of the Graziers’ Association was to reduce wages, and this might do a lot of injury to the Government. I mention this to show that those who employ labour look upon this bill as an opportunity to reduce wages and lower the industrial standard in Australia.
Under this bill the Arbitration Court will have power to refuse the registration of any agreement that has been mutually drawn up by employers and employees, on the ground that it is not in the public interest. That this provision should be included in the bill is beyond my comprehension. In the plumbing trade the employers and the employees meet each November and fix the rate of wages and the conditions of employment for the following year. There has never been a strike in the plumbing trade. This may be due to the fact that master plumbers are practically all professional men ; they must go through a technical course before they can get a certificate that they are fit and proper persons to hold a master plumber’s licence. The only people who have tried to block the plumbers are the members of the Builders and Contractors Association, for whom this bill will provide a very fine lever. Agreements between employers and employees were entered into long before I came on this planet. When the first arbitration bill was drawn up I received from Great Britain a book containing the coopers’ rules which was 150 years old. Every year the coopers of Great Britain meet and fix in detail the wages that should prevail in the industry for the following year. In Leeds there has always been a system of fixing wages by mutual arrangements between employers and employees, and every arrangement so made is duly registered and stamped just as the agreements in the plumbing trade are brought into the Arbitration Court for ratification. But this bill will smash all such agreements if the court is given power to take into consideration the economic position. It is a most dangerous power to give to a court whose members are legal men with no knowledge of industry, trade or commerce.
Another feature of the bill to which one is justified in offering strenuous opposition is that which provides for the holding of secret ballots among the members of a union. How easy it will be for an employer to select ten persons out of an organization of, say, 5,000 men, and induce them to apply to have a secret ballot taken. By selecting men in necessitous circumstances, and offering each a £10 note, an unscrupulous employer will be able to achieve his nefarious ends. 1 cannot understand the attitude of the AttorneyGeneral. He is a young man with bright prospects .before him. No doubt he possesses his full share of vanity. Probably he expects to become a High Court judge on some suitable occasion - yet he is assisting the Government to use this miserable instrument to punish- those who really deserve sympathy. The honorable gentleman must remember that he is the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, not merely the representative of the Employers’ Federation or of the National party. I recollect that, a few years ago. he and the present Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Bavin) were retained for the purpose of frustrating the endeavours of our civil servants to obtain access to the Federal Arbitration Court. Surely, those people have as much right as anybody else to enjoy the privileges of the court.
The mere mention of certain names appears to give some honorable members opposite nightmare. Apropos of that, I remember that on one occasion I spoke in the Domain in Sydney on a very contentious subject, assisted by a person who occupied a prominent position in New South Wales. Classing us as undesirables, the then Attorney-General, who later became a High Court judge, caused us to be shadowed by the police in an endeavour to create trouble. He also sent a certain barrister to Broken Hill in the endeavour to cause a riot. That barrister possessed an insatiable thirst, under the influence of which he said outrageous things, and his objectionable behaviour precipitated trouble. The Tory newspapers of the time called us very nasty names. That merely illustrates how some people are obsessed by tlie “ extremist “ bugbear. After all, the extremist of today is the moderate of to-morrow. It must be apparent to any thinking person that all this talk about Jock Garden being “ red “ is mere childish babbling. Of what are the Attorney-General and honorable members opposite afraid? Of Jock Garden telling the truth? Throughout the pages of British history we read of men who have been more advanced than others in their ideas. That is necessary to the advancement of a nation. The moment we become merely a mutual admiration society we shall retrogress, and the fall of Borne will be as nothing compared with that of the British Empire.
Some people see no further than their waist-coat pockets, and I pray that our Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) may yet rise above being merely a party politician, -and become a statesman. A statesman has a broad vision, and considers the present and future, whereas the vision of a politician is restricted to the next election. The Prime Minister has considerable ability, and probably the only honorable member opposite who could take his place satisfactorily is the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). That right honorable member has been AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth, and in referring to ±his bill he said that if its wording is intended to convey what it legally means, it is a measure that should be opposed by every honorable member who believes in liberty and justice. How, after the action of this Government in connexion with the Crimes Act, and also the maritime strike,- can the industrialists be expected to have any confidence in the Government. Beared as I have been in the cradle of democracy, I cannot condemn the British seamen who struck just before the last election, for striving to obtain justice from the ship-owners of Great Britain, who wanted to reduce their wages from £10 to £9 per month. We need strong unions to protect our workers from the tyrannical action of these huge shipping combines, which have an aggregate capital of £85,000,000. They may be placed in a similar category to the public company in Sydney which was stated to have “ Neither soul to be damned nor body to be kicked.” I have always found that mining and shipping companies are most despotic employers, and their employees are justified in protecting themselves against their tyranny.
Until the claim of Labour to a share in- the control and division of the products of industry is recognized, no peace is possible. I believe that the principles of arbitration and conciliation will pave the way to a realization of that objective. I am not a revolutionist; I believe that we can gradually effect an improvement in our social system by constitutional means. Honorable members must make up their minds that the existing conditions cannot continue. We were assured that the last great war would effect wonderful changes, but what has been the result? Instead of so many millions of pounds being spent in providing powder and shot to blow out men’s brains, they ought to have been utilized in more productive channels. The Government will never succeed in breaking the spirit of unionism; all that it will accomplish will be the generation of a spirit of unrest and antagonism. I believe that every worker should be a member of an industrial union. During my apprenticeship, and later when I became a journeyman, I belonged to the organization in my particular trade, and when I became an employer I joined up with, the employers’ organization. The banding together of the different units in the industrial field will prove the salvation of our race. It is the duty of every man to advance the interests of his calling and raise it to the highest possible standard. I admire the medical profession, because every practitioner of any note is a member of its organization. They have no need to demand preference for unionists. Four years ago a doctor of medicine came out from England to practise in the City of Adelaide. He had passed through the London and Dublin universities, and had there secured the highest diplomas that are obtainable in any part of the world. He was called to a patient and wished to perform an operation ; but he was told that he would not be allowed to touch the sick man until he had become a member of the local organization. That attitude may incur the condemnation of many persons, but in my view it merits approbation, because I believe that it is essential for the members of the medical profession to conserve their interests, and to see that every person who practises medicine possesses the necessary qualifications. The legal profession also comprises a body of men which jealously guards the interests of its members. In earlier times I spent many evenings in the Athenaeum Club in Sydney, in the company of the Hon. B. R. “Wise, who introduced in the Legislative Council of New South Wales the original State arbitration bill. He proved to me that in the year in which he sponsored that measure, his income as a barrister amounted to £6,000; but in the two following years it did not average more than £2,000. He had a retainer from the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney to appear in all litigation in which they were interested. He visited Melbourne in connexion with a banking case, and he informed me that. he had to pay £50 before he was allowed to appear in the Victorian court. Yet honorable members opposite hold up their hands in horror when they learn that wharf labourers are asked to pay 6d. or 9d. a week towards a fighting fund to maintain their wages at a level which will ensure them reasonable comfort.
I was struck to-night by the speech of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page). It was supplied to him by the opponents of the arbitration system, and I was amazed at its stupidity. If the honorable gentleman is anxious to serve Australia well, he should devote his energies to unravelling the financial tangle that has resulted from his administration. He recently floated a loan of £10,000,000 on the American market. That excursion abroad will have cost Australia £22,945,000 by the time the loan is redeemed. I have learned from the financial columns of the Australian newspapers that the money could have been obtained in Australia, because at the time there were those who were anxious to invest in Commonwealth loans. The Treasurer must have been possessed of that information, and he should have seen to it that the interest on the amount raised was distributed in this country, thus assisting the unemployed, instead of being sent abroad.
As I have said previously, I am prepared to donate £20 to a fund to be used in burning this bill publicly in every city in Australia. It is not susceptible to alteration, and it cannot do other than cause injury. The only reasonable course for us to adopt is to cast it into oblivion. Under it the people will grow discontented, and disregard the golden rule - Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you. It is extraordinary that a measure designed ostensibly to improve our arbitration machinery should require to be so materially altered in committee to achieve the desired objective. I can easily imagine what would have been said by such men as the late Mr. Alfred Deakin, Mr. Glynn, and Sir Joseph Cook, if a Labour Government had introduced a proposal along the lines of this amending measure. Sir
Joseph. Cook, 37 years ago, declared that preference to unionists must be a cardinal principle in any arbitration bill, and he issued a warning against any provisions that would permit of the appearance of members of the legal profession in any proceedings for the settlement of industrial disputes. His proposal was that tribunals should be established, comprising one person from each .side, with an impartial chairman. How different is the position to-day. We have a number of highly paid judges appointed for life presiding over the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. These gentlemen have been drawn from the legal fraternity, and when practising their profession were engaged always by the opponents of arbitration. There was little hope of their being retained by labour organizations to watch the interests of the working classes. There is also at present a costly commission of inquiry sitting in Sydney. Some of the legal gentlemen appearing on behalf of the respective parties are drawing fees of 50 guineas a day and over. Since it is such lucrative employment f or _ the gentlemen referred to, no one can say how long it will last.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), but found it difficult to connect his remarks with the subject-matter of the bill. He said that the measure was on a par with the Government’s decision to sell the Commonwealth Government Shipping Line, and employed that argument as a reason for condemning it. It seems to me that if the Government’s decision to sell the Line was on a par with its decision to introduce this bill, then honorable members should have no hesitation in accepting the measure, because, unquestionably, the sale of the Line was a wise transaction from every point of view.
I do not propose to speak at length upon the measure. In my judgment, the objections to it are not well founded. I doubt even if they are genuine. I wish, however, to comment briefly on certain criticism that has been levelled against- it by honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney). The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), in the course of his remarks, read from a pamphlet issued by the communists in Australia which was described as “ a call to arms “ for the purpose of smashing “Brace’s bill.” Communism to a man is opposed to it. The honorable member for Hume stated that the communists are opposed to arbitration, and he then proceeded to tell the House that this measure was a blow at arbitration. If it were, then the communists should approve of it. I suggest that members of the political Labour party are opposing it for much the same reason that the communists are: because it is designed to strengthen arbitration as an instrument for the promotion of industrial peace. It is a pity that some, at least, of the Labour unions, I refer particularly to those who are responsible for so much of our industrial troubles - the waterside unions - do not pay their officials in the same manner that the Chinese pay their doctors. The Chinese, we are informed, pay their doctors to keep them well. If they fall ill, pay for the doctors ceases. If trade unionists paid their organizers, or disorganizers, as often they prove to be, only during times of industrial peace and withheld pay whenever strife occurred, we should be assured of a long era free from industrial troubles of any kind.
Honorable members opposite do not appear to be in agreement concerning the ballot provisions of .the bill. We have been told by some that trade unions already employ the ballot for the management of their organizations, and by others that the holding of ballots as contemplated under this bill is impossible. Personally I can see that the holding of a ballot in a union with a large Australianwide membership would be extremely difficult and costly, and possibly impractic-able. But the objection of honorable members opposite to the ballot provisions of the bill is not based on this ground, nor is it founded on the contention that ten men should not have the right to ask for a ballot, but rather on their fear as to the effect of a ballot when taken. When the food upon which one lives is taken away, death follows. When certain organizers, political and otherwise, no longer can have industrial troubles at will, they will die politically. Hence the opposition to any legislative proposal that may tend to industrial peace.
It has been objected that the ballot clauses of the bill will give the right to ten men to say whether a ballot should be held. What the provisions really provide for is that ten men shall have the right to ask for a ballot, and, as I understand them, the court alone will determine whether a ballot shall be taken. It is only fair that honorable members opposite, if they truly represent the people, should tell them what really is in the bill, and not attempt to camouflage their objections to it by reading into it provisions that are not contained in it, and which by no stretch of the imagination can be read into it. Those portions dealing with conciliation are a step in the right direction. As one who places the advancement of Australia first at all times I welcome them, because they will make possible the settlement of industrial differences without turmoil, which, unfortunately, is experienced so often. These conciliation proposals in practice will be just what the employers and employees make of them. As a representative of the people I warn both, that the people of Australia will expect the provisions of the bill to be used sincerely and effectively in an endeavour to free Australia from industrial disturbances that lead to the dislocation of industry, to the injury of those immediately engaged in it, and are also detrimental to the true interests of Australia.
If I thought that this bill was in any way an attack on trade unionism I should strongly oppose it, because I believe that trade unionism - true trade unionism - can be a great factor for good, though, unfortunately, sometimes it is prostituted for political purposes. I feel sure that my support of this measure is endorsed by thousands of trade unionists in- my own constituency. .
– The honorable member has not thousands of trade unionists in hia constituency.
– There are some large industrial concerns and railway towns in my electorate. This bill, and particularly the ballot provisions, are favoured by many thousands of trade unionists. Shortly after my election I got into touch with a prominent official of a trade union in South Australia. He is a constituent of mine, and he told me that at the last elections not one member of his organization, so. far as he knew, had voted according to the Labour ticket, and he doubted whether on any occasion they had voted in that way. The reason, in his opinion, was that my side in politics better represents the aspirations of the genuine working man than does the Labour party.
I have been purposely brief in my remarks, and I think that honorable members opposite, in the interests of those whom they claim to represent, should assist the Government in making the arbitration system more effective than it has proved in the past. In that way we may attain the ideal aimed at when the system was established, and eliminate strikes and lockouts. I regret that honorable members opposite have not offered one iota of constructive criticism. It is not difficult to indulge in destructive criticism; but brains are required to advance constructive arguments. I hope that members of the Opposition will not persist in their foolish attitude^ but will realize that it is their duty to assist in making the measure as perfect as a bill of this kind can be made. I am prepared to listen to helpful suggestions, no matter from which side of the House they may come, so that after full debate and mature consideration in committee the measure may be effective in the maintenance of industrial peace.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Parsons) hopes that Labour members will assist the Government in passing the bill. It is easy to make statements such as those uttered by the honorable member; but in complaining of our criticism he has impugned the honesty of purpose of the party on this side of the House. Several members of the Opposition have taken considerable pains to discuss the bill in detail, and have pointed out the objections that they and the trade unionists generally have to it. If they fear that its provisions would be injurious to the workers, they would be neglecting their duty if they did not point that out.
I propose to deal with four of the nine parts into which the Attorney-General divided the measure. First. he referred to the necessity for co-relating awards of the court with economic realities. In short, the intention of the Government is to give an instruction to the judge presiding over the court to abandon the old method of considering the wage that a worker requires to keep himself and his family in a reasonable standard of comfort. If an industry cannot pay the basic wage, the court is to have jurisdiction to award a lower wage. That condemns the. bill immediately from the workers’ point of view. No matter what opinion honorable members opposite may hold, the unionists will have to work under the measure, and if it is likely to lower their standard of living they are entitled, in accordance with British traditions, to resent what they deem to be unjust. If the bill is passed, we shall have industrial turmoil such as we have never previously seen.
I do not suggest that the AttorneyGeneral has introduced the measure for the purpose of creating a strike psychology that will enable him and his party to continue in office; but it must be recognized that members of the Opposition have not merely indulged in captious criticism. It is unfair to give a direction to the court that is contrary to all ideas of equity.- The court should be untrammelled by outside influences, and should not be given an invitation to reduce an award when it ought to decide the issue according to principles of equity. In these circumstances, is it a matter for surprise that trade unionists all over Australia have expressed disapproval of the bill in no unmeasured terms, and that the members of the. Opposition are unanimously opposed to it? One honorable member said that he had a letter from a trade unionist, who expressed himself entirely in favour of the bill; but for every trade unionist who has made representations of that kind, I could find a thousand who are entirely against it. Any section that was prepared to support a measure calculated to lower the standard of living would display a lack of mentality. The Government, by inserting this provision in the bill, has displayed a lack of faith in the Arbitration Court, because it has declared, in effect, that claims must be decided in accordance with economic conditions rather than according to the judgment of the court itself.
Take the position of the gold-mining industry with which I am familiar. I mention that particularly because the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said last evening that the wages paid to miners had brought about the failure of the industry. I do not agree with the fiscal beliefs of the honorable member; but he rarely makes such extravagant statements as that to which I have just referred, and which he must know is entirely unsupported by facts. While coal-miners and other miners were enjoying fair conditions, the gold-miners in Western Australia had to accept an award which, if the industry had been prosperous, they would certainly have refused to accept; but they knew that the industry was threatened with extinction because of the increase in the cost of mining requisites since the war by 150 per cent. They realized that it would be unwise for them to ask for a wage that it was impossible for the industry to pay, aud therefore they accepted a lower award than those applying to other miners in Australia. Much has been heard about industrial unrest and strife; but I must say at once that the Western Australian gold-miners have never gone on strike, or done anything in the nature of a strike. They have always gone to the court, and even when their wages were fixed at a rate that made it impossible for them to live in reasonable comfort, they abided by the award.
Another matter has been entirely overlooked by honorable members opposite. It has been said that the wages paid to the workers have prevented industry from becoming prosperous, and that the unionists have not worked as faithfully as might have been expected of them. In general, it is declared that they have been inclined to “ go slow.” .Such a statement can be refuted immediately by reference to the Australian mining industry. “Wherever possible, gold, silverlead and coal-mining are conducted on the piece-work principle. “Wages are only fixed by the court to ensure that a man shall receive sufficient to maintain himself and his family in the event of his being unable to earn a reasonable amount by piece-work. Nine out of every ten workers engaged in gold-mining do piecework. It can hardly be argued, therefore, that those engaged in the mining industry are not doing a fair thing, for; they are working for themselves.
Honorable members opposite frequently extol the piece-work principle; but I am not particularly enamoured of it. I worked as a bricklayer with my father and brother in Melbourne years ago, before the land boom burst, when times were supposed to be good, and after the collapse, when times were as bad as they could be. In the so-called good old days, my father who was growing old found that his grey hairs prevented him from securing work on wages, so we had to take piecework. “When the wages were 10s. 8d. per day of eight hours we frequently worked, on piecework, for nine, ten, and more hours a day for about 9s. per day; while we were paying our labourer 9s. 6d. My father was one of the old school, who would not scamp his work, so we had to work very hard to get even near to the ruling rate of wages. It may be true that the piece-work principle operates satisfactorily in America, but I cannot see much reason for advocating its general application to Australian industries.
I come now to those provisions in the bill which deal with the responsibility of an organization for the conduct of its officers and members, and for the proper observance of awards. The AttorneyGeneral said that frequently in these days unions did not control their officers. He added that the penalty upon an organization for retaining the services of men found guilty of an offence under the act was £1,000, but that a reduction to £50 had been made in the penalty to which an individual was liable for inciting or taking part in a strike. He said that it was a mistake to provide penalties which could not be enforced. I am entitled to assume, therefore, that the reason which actuated the Government in proposing a reduction of penalities in certain cases was not that it desired to deal more leniently with the workers, but that it realized that as. penalties of £1,000 could not be recovered against ordinary workers it was ridiculous to place them in the act. For that matter it would be just as possible to recover £1,000 as £50 from most workers. The mere fact that penalties are to be reduced in certain cases is not in itself a sufficient reason for assuming that the Government was actuated by the spirit of goodwill and sweet reasonableness in introducing the bill. The AttorneyGeneral has .had some experience in our Arbitration Courts and ought to know by now that it is. impossible to coerce the Australian workers. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) may have some excuse for not understanding the temperament of our wage-earners ; his lines have been cast in different surroundings. Nevertheless even he should know, as the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) pointed out the other evening in such a convincing fashion, that the angle from which the workers look at this subject is entirely different from that from which he regards it. The point of view of the man who has to earn his living by hard physical labour is naturally different from that of the man who from his earliest days has been surrounded by luxury and has enjoyed every advantage that a first class education can provide. But we may logically assume that neither the employing class nor the wageearning class is entirely bad. Consequently the Government is not justified in forsaking the counsels of peace and arming itself with the sword. In justification of the attitude which ministerial supporters have adopted the Attorney-General quoted the recent engineers’ strike which occurred in Sydney. He said that it was not proper* that the workers should be able to strike in one establishment and continue to work in others in the same line of business. I am not well informed of the facts in the engineers’ dispute, but even if they are as the Attorney-General stated, I point out that it frequently happens that under exactly similar wage conditions men will work for one employer but not for another. A policy of pin-pricks, a lack of supervision or unfair supervision may cause men to revolt in one establishment, while they might work peacefully in another.
It appears to me that honorable members opposite are too ready to believe every statement that is made in condemnation of the Australian workers. Our men are not as a general rule fractious, disloyal or susceptible to revolutionary propaganda. They desire to give a fair return for the wages which they receive. As an Australian I am proud of our record, although some honorable members opposite seem to think that we have not progressed with sufficient rapidity. I believe that Australia is the best country in the world. I think I may also say without being charged with jingoism that the British race has a record of which it may justly he proud. Our people have been able to do more than those of any other nation in.colonization in different parts of the world. Though a German may have different ideas, I do not think that it could be denied by any unprejudiced person that the British race is slightly superior to any other. If that be granted I ask whether we are not entitled to assume that the Australian worker is in his sphere quite equal to the Australian manufacturer. We have been flooded lately with literature extolling the virtues of Australian manufacturers; but I contend that they are a good deal more to blame than the workers for any industrial unrest that there is in the community. I intend to give the reason for my opinion. During the debate we have had allegations of men loafing on the job, particularly in connexion with works at Canberra. If there is a man on any job who is not giving a fair return, the fault lies with the supervisor of the job. With few exceptions - I refer to certain positions in the public service - no man is exempt from the liability to have his services dispensed with. That is the unalienable right of every employer. But not every man is a good boss. Much industrial trouble has been duc to misfits among employers. Henry Ford says that a sectional strike indicates that the employer is not fit to be an employer. To show what is in the Government’s mind re.garding the way the workers of this country should be treated, we have only to refer to clause 48, which proposes to alter section 60 of the principal act by adding the following sub-section -
Upon cancellation of the registration of an organization, the organization and its members shall cease to be entitled to the benefits of any award made under the act, and subject to any order to the contrary made by the court, the award shall in all other respects cease to have any force or effect.
Upon cancellation of the registration of any organization, the court may make an order for the dissolution of the organization, and may, from time to time, give such directions as it thinks fit, for the winding-up of its affairs and the distribution among its members of any surplus property after paying its debts, or for the vesting of the property of the organization, subject to such terms as the court thinks proper in relation to the satisfaction of the liabilities of the organization, in a voluntary association consisting of members of the organization.
If a union became liable under that section to a penalty, the Government could take away its property and give it to a union comprised of free labourers,! or loyalists, as they are sometimes termed in this country. In France they are called “ yellow “ unions, and in the United States of America, “ scab “ unions.
– The honorable member, has misunderstood the clause. The position has now been made clear beyond the possibility of misunderstanding.
– The original clause has been dropped because of its drastic nature.
– The same thing is now expressed in different words.
– Together with 875,000 workers in this country, I believe that the Government proposes to impose on the workers penalties that are not to apply in respect of similar offences committed by employers. The property of a union which disregarded an award of the court could be confiscated; but not that of an employer. This bill proposes to sacrifice man’s liberty to the rights of property. I am reminded of an ignorant and mean farmer in the Midlands of England to whose mind the sound of his horse’s feet as he cantered conveyed only the words, “property, property.”
I can hardly believe that in introducing this bill the Government has set the stage for an election, yet I can see no other reason for its introduction.
Clause 44 provides for the insertion of the following new section 56a -
Any ten members of an organization may, when any vote is taken or about to be taken in any election of the committee or officers of the organization or of a branch thereof in respect of any resolution proposed for adoption by the organization or the branch, as the case may be, demand, either verbally or in writing, that the vote be taken by secret ballot and the vote shall thereupon be so taken accordingly.
Such a provision is manifestly unjust. In the case of the Northern Miners Union of New South Wales a ballot would cost about £200. I have tried to understand the reason for the introduction of this measure. Certainly the number of strikes in Australia is not sufficient to justify its being placed on the statute-book. With the exception of New South Wales, no civilized country where trade unionism exists has fewer strikes than take place in Australia. I admit that in New South Wales a few misguided men have their own ideas as to the value of the Arbitration Court, or even of Parliament itself; but even one of those has, on the authority of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), recently been converted. The unions which have caused the most trouble are those composed of transport workers.
– And the miners.
– No. The miners in New South Wales have recently worked under an agreement which has proved fairly satisfactory. Most of the strikes that have occurred in Australia have been among the transport workers. Such strikes are indeed serious. While I do not believe in strikes, I do not think that any legislation, however perfect, will ever entirely prevent them. Honorable members opposite have reiterated the charge that trade union leaders foment strife and industrial unrest. One of the mo3t abused men in Western Australia at one time was the present Minister for Works and Labour, Mr. Alexander McCallum, who was previously secretary of the Perth Trades Hall. Whenever there was an industrial dispute Mr. McCallum was called upon to put the case of the workers before the employers; and generally at those round-table conferences matters were adjusted. Notwithstanding the success of those peaceful negotiations, Mr. McCallum was blamed for creating chaos in industry. To be successful the secretary of a trades union must possess certain qualities such as those which made Mr. McCallum so effective in preventing industrial strife. Other union leaders in Australia, particularly those connected with a group of unions in and about Melbourne, as well as those in Western Australia and South Australia, are excellent men, who in commercial life could easily earn £1,500 a year. Indeed, Mr. McCallum was offered a salary of £1,500 a year to join a shipping company as an organizer. His would-be employers having met him in conference in connexion with industrial disputes recognized his worth.
I have no serious objection to the holding of a secret ballot. In many union meetings which I have attended the ballot box has been passed round in connexion with the voting on various questions. But the secret ballot referred to in this bill is entirely different. The workers of Australia, regard with suspicion proposals emanating from men like the Prime Minister. Consequently the bill before us, which provides for new penalties for various offences, and for the taking of secret ballots along the lines proposed by the Government, cannot do other than lead to industrial chaos. If the bill has been introduced to bring about ii, set of circumstances similar to those which existed in 1925, and so enable the Government to be returned to power, I certainly question the loyalty to Australia of any honorable member who supports it.
The Prime Minister talks always of imperialism, and has more consideration for a country 12,000 miles from these shores than he has for Australia. That is not my idea of loyalty. I prefer to put the interests of the men and women of this country first. We should be very careful at this particular juncture not to bring about industrial turmoil. We should act in the best interests of Australia. The views of the people are likely to be distorted by the exaggerated reports of the influence of the red element in trade unionism. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) is obviously obsessed with what he calls the red menace, and he has swallowed holus bolus the press report of an interview with a disgruntled gentleman from South Australia. Even Mr. TomWalsh, for his own purposes, now professes to believe that there is a red element in the community. I do not mind what happens in Russia so long as the Soviet does not interfere in the affairs of this country. At the recent election in Germany, 3,000,000 people voted for the apostles of communism, yet here in Australia alarming reports are circulated about the operations of half a dozen men with extreme ideas. There have always been hundreds of men in Australia with extreme ideas. They are everywhere. If the Government desires political propaganda, I invite some of its members to visit the Sydney domain on a Sunday afternoon. I guarantee that what they would hear there would frighten all the womenbelonging to the AustralianWomen’s National League to such an extent that they would have no sleep between now and the next elections, in their frantic efforts to return this Government and thus save this country from the evils of communism!
We, on this side, love Australia, and are content to do our best for its citizens. Provided that at all times we put Australia first, it must become a great nation. Honorable members opposite have to bow to the dictates of those organizations that supply the funds for the Nationalist party’s election campaigns. The provisions of the bill are drastic and oppressive, and it is indeed unfortunate that the Government has not seen fit to accept some of the recommendations that were submitted to it by the representatives of trade unionism. It is only fair that the Government should amend the bill in the interests of those who have to work under its provisions.
There has been circulated among honorable members a pamphlet from the Metal Trades Employers’ Association of Sydney, and in reading it I was struck with the tribute paid to Australian workmen by Mr. J. Heine, junior.My name is Green, and is pure British. This gentleman has “ junior “ attached to his name, and that may be some excuse for his lack of experience and ill-timed exuberance. I cannot help wondering whether he has not had something to do with the framing of the bill.
– He is opposed to the bill.
– I doubt whether the bill was framed when that pamphlet was written. Mr. Heine first of all said that there was overlapping of Federal and State awards. So does the AttorneyGeneral. Mr. Heine said that there was a tremendous complexity of the various awards. The Attorney-General said that also. Mr. Heine said that awards affecting the cost of production are made, quite regardless of tariff considerations or conditions. So does the Attorney-General. That is what we complain about.
– Mr. Heine is opposed to arbitration altogether.
– He is not opposed to this bill; its provisions must undoubtedly meet with his approval. This gentleman also said that employers are compelled to obey decisions of the court, while employees are not; and that lockouts, the employers’ form of strike, are entirely abolished. This bill will give the employer in the event of a strike occurring in any section of his works an opportunity to declare a general lockout. This class of legislation has not been introduced in any other part of the world, even in that much-glorified country known as America, which the honorable member forWentworth referred to.
I wish now to deal withstrikes. We have been told that 693,000 men are working under court awards in Australia, and that, incidentally, 149 unions and 27 employers’ organizations are registered in the court. I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) that the speech of the Attorney-General was very fair, well-thought-out, and moderate.
– The speech was better than the bill.
– The speech was the sugar that coated the pill. At the commencement of the Attorney-General’s speech, I thought that he, like the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) had seen the light, but as he continued, it was impossible for us on this side to keep our tempers, particularly when he dealt with the bad features of the bill that are intended to suppress trade unionism. The Attorney-General has said that most of the trade unions are working in peace and satisfaction under the awards of the court, and that the troubles which have occurred in Australia have been practically confined to the transport, mining, and engineering industries. In the course of his secondreading speech he told us that -
We have had no such upheaval as the transport strike in England in 1920, the general strike of 1926, and the coal strike of 1926. These were greater proportionately than anything we have had in Australia since the strikes of 1890 and 1891.
We do our country a grave injury by exaggerating the number and importance of the strikes that occur in Australia. It is a pity that that is not realized by many honorable members supporting the Government. Under the shelter of false patriotism and protestations of great reverence for Imperialism, Australia is being defamed.
The Prime Minister contends that the intention of the bill is ‘ to bring about industrial peace, but he is intelligent enough, even though he knows little of the conditions of industry, to comprehend that it will have the opposite effect. The day before yesterday, speaking at ..a meeting of the Australian Women’s National League, he said that “ the loud-voiced raucous trade union gentleman would soon be disappearing over the horizon.” I suggest that the Prime Minister, in making that statement, and in his zeal to impress the league, forgot for the moment his assumed role as the advocate of moderation. The remarks of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), both in this House and in the country, are a dis-service to Australia. His speech to-day from beginning to end was a defamation of our workmen. He is continually making similar speeches in the country districts, and he cares not how he harms Australia so long as he keeps his position in the Ministry. I suggest that the Treasurer of this country should place loyalty before place and power.
Sitting suspended from 12 midnight to 12.30 a.m.
Friday, 25 May 1928
– In Australia the situation is entirely different from that prevailing in any other country in the world. In this country there are two parties, Labour on the one hand, and the Nationalist and the Country party on the other. As is very natural, each party tries to put the other in the wrong, so the National party attacks political Labour, and through us the industrialists, with the idea of making political capital out of it. That may be considered a brutally frank statement of the position, but I have no apologies to make for it. It is, I think, the real reason for the attacks made by the supporters of the Government on the workers of this country. Whether the Labour party get into power this year or in another three years’ time does not matter very much in the long run, because eventually it must take the place for which it is fitted, and must bring in that progressive legislation which the country so urgently needs.
It is regrettable that the wireless service issued from this country abroad seems to be confined almost entirely to disseminating news of strikes. Last year I spent some months abroad, and prior to that I had been on the eastern coast of China. I think I saw only about twelve news items from Australia on the ship’s bulletins altogether, and all of them dealt with the engineers’ and other strikes. I almost forget where the strike was, or what it was about, .and of so little moment was it that it really matters to no one now what it was about. Yet during that time it formed the subject of all the news which was sent abroad from this country through the Government wireless service. On the China coast I had the galling experience of hearing a man to whom I was trying to boost Australia say, “ Oh, that is the ‘place where they have all the strikes.” I said to him, “As a matter of fact the only serious trouble that we have had in Australia was years ago, when the workers were endeavouring to improve your British seamen’s conditions.” In America they do not broadcast their industrial troubles. There is a large number of strikes there - more than in this country, but we do not hear so much about them. Moreover, when the workers are engaged in industrial fights there, it is not always even with employers of their own blood, but with those of an alien race, who have no sympathy with them or with their class. In the report of the Industrial Delegation which visited the United States of America occurs this sentence -
A noticeable feature was the absence of publicity given by the newspapers to local strikes, yet room could be found to refer to industrial troubles in Australia and other countries.
In the Old Country, industrial trouble is very much more rife than it is here. In Australia the average days lost per year during the last five years were only . 71 per wage-earner, while in England the average was 2.37 per wage-earner, or three times as many. In . the weekly magazine known as The Outlook, published in New York, there appeared in the issue of 14th March last an article called “Is Coal Committing Suicide?” The article pointed out that the annual record of strikes in the coal trade was:- 1916, 373; 1917, 325; 1925, 100; 1926, 78. It stated that the number of working days lost were seldom less than 1,000,000 a year. In 1914, according to this article, 11,000,000 working days were lost; in 1919, 15,000,000 working days were lost; in 1920, 16,000,000 days, and in 1922, 73,000,000 were lost. I regret that although there is much more that I desire to say the time allowed me under the Standing Orders will not permit me to finish my speech, as I feel confident that I should be able to furnish the House with interesting information on this subject. I trust that the Government will not proceed with the bill.
.- This is certainly one of the most important bills that has been before Parliament during my parliamentary career, and I regret that there has been so much cross-firing on an issue that should be approached with a desire to do the very best thing for all parties concerned. It is generally regretted that the suggestion of the Prime Minister for the holding of an industrial peace conference was turned down by the industrial unions. I am sure that the unions generally were in favour of the proposal, and that an overwhelming majority of union representatives were agreeable to meet the captains of industry, with a view to solving our present industrial problems. If such a conference had been held, it would probably have furnished us with much valuable information, and might, indeed, have resulted in altering to some extent the text of the bill now before the House.
It has been stated by honorable members opposite that we, on this side of the House, are opposed to the principle of industrial arbitration, and my name has been particularly mentioned in this connexion. I do not think that there is any person so devoid of commonsense as to wish to scrap even our present compulsory arbitration system until something else has been evolved to put in its place. There are about 343,000 employees associated with the system ofFederal industrial arbitration, and it would be disastrous to take away from them the right to approach the court for an adjustment of industrial differences unless some other means of settling disputes were provided. The Country party platform on this point reads as follows : -
Conflict in industry to be avoided by a limitation of Commonwealth arbitration powers to the determination of standards of basic wage, hours of employment, and child endowment in industry, and to the making of general awards in relation to interstate shipping and pastoral industries.
I feel that the present Conciliation and Arbitration Act requires amendment, and I hail with satisfaction the bill now before the House. I trust that it will be amended in such a way as to remove the harassing, costly and overlapping conditions at present in existence.
I think that the majority of honorable members opposite, as well as those on this side of the House, will agree that the federal compulsory system of arbitration as it exists now has not given anything like the satisfaction that was expected of it. As to the awards which have been made, I am satisfied that if the artificial conditions created by them in the capital cities were applied to the primary industries, not one of the rural industries - with the possible exception of the wheat-growing and wool-raising industries - would be able to struggle along, or export any of its produce. The secondary industries would be in the same position only they can unload their excessive costs on the consumers. They cannot manufacture for export. The judgments of the Arbitration Court are in conflict one with another, and the judges are not infrequently in disagreement. Moreover,Federal and
State awards are sometimes at variance, and for that reason I regret that the recent referendum was not carried, so as to give the Commonwealth Government greater powers in industrial matters. Duringthe hearing of a case in Melbourne, on the 24th April, 1928, when the Merchant Service Guild was before the court, Captain Allan gave evidence, and a newspaper report of the case states -
Captain Allan said that underthe Federal award officers on motor vesselsreceived £4 5s. a week, whereas in New South Wales, under a State award, the wage was £5. A Statetribunal in Queensland went further, and fixed the wage at £5 9s. “ Moreover, the federal award fixed a 48- hour week; and State awards a 44-hour week,” he said. “ An unsound system has been adopted by many of the State tribunals and legislatures, and I see no reason why this court should extend it,” said Chief Judge Dethridge. “ I only hope in time - and it will take a long time - that the State legislatures will amend their ways. They have gone wrong.”
That is strong language from a judge. If the awards of the court were applied to rural industries, most of them would, as Ihave stated, be destroyed.For nine years I represented the employers on a wages board, and I have had upwards of 40 men in my employ for a term of fourteen years. The knowledge I have gained convinces me that hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of work in country districts, including fencing, tank sinking, and other developmental jobs, cannot be undertaken because of the excessive cost. The individual cannot be blamed for not incurring expenditure which does not promise a reasonable return, and for which the law, in its present form, is responsible. I have said on other occasions that in respect of much of the borrowed money that has been spent in recent years the Government is getting not more than 8s. or 10s. worth of value for every £1 expended. Private individuals cannot be expected to imitate that reckless policy, and certainly the primary industries could not comply with the awards unless they had some power to pass on the increased burden. This cannot be done with exports in competition with the markets of the world. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) said that any industry which could not pay the wages awarded by the court should go out of existence. That means that all primary industries, with the exception of the two I mentioned, would have to close down if the awards of the court were applied to them.
I have discovered the provisions in the bill relating to the control of unionists with men who have always voted for the Labour party, and the views they expressed to me were very different from those I have heard from the honorable members of the Opposition. They were unanimous in saying that something must be done to safeguard them from the extremists. Upon this phase of the matter the Treasurer gave to the House some startling information, which showed that the sooner something is done to safeguard the unions in the manner proposed in the bill, the better it will be for the men who provide the union funds. I quote the following, which is only one of scores of instances I could give of the great power of the extremist in labour unions, from the Brisbane Daily Mail -
Cooks’ Union Control
General Secretary’s Visit
It was further stated in the letter that the matters in dispute were: -
We must pay our contributions and levies; obey orders from Sydney, whether we like it or not. We are paying machines only. Now we want the rules carried out, nominations called for throughout Australia, and ballot held, every member then having his rights by £he rules. Every branch and agency to receive the minutes, and cash accounts of general meetings held in Sydney, together with the business and motions, and the right to vote on same.
We consider if the voice of the whole of the members carried on the business, instead of a few. as at present, it would save a lot of disputes, and things would run more smoothly. “ abide by head office.”
A member of the Brisbane branch complained that the executive committee had always been elected by the members in Sydney alone. It is reported that Mr. Tudehope replied to this complaint on Friday night by stating that the Brisbane branch had no voice, and it must abide by what the head office said.
Another member at the meeting informed Mr. Tudehope that the Brisbane members had been paying machines, and were voiceless long enough, and that they now wanted the rules carried out.
After a great deal of discussion Mr. Tudehope was asked what was the use .of the branches carrying motions when head office in Sydney simply put them in the waste paper backet. lt is s«.id that Mr. Tudehope replied that he could not be put out. Head office could do as it liked, and branches had to abide by head office.
The meeting then carried a vote of confidence in Mr. Llewellyn.
The unsatisfactory condition of affairs revealed in that statement is of. direct concern to all of us in this Parliament. Many of us have not only pastoral interests, but also interests in secondary industries. Just as greater co-ordination amongst parties in the House makes for more effective work, so in industry smooth running is a benefit to all sections of the community. Industrial upheavals affect every trade, occupation, and industry. The country needs harmony instead of incessant fighting. “We are told that the dispute with the marine cooks will cost £100,000. “Who will foot the bill? The shipping companies are not philanthropists; they will expect to recover the loss from somebody, and either freights must be increased or wages reduced. The primary producers will be the hardest hit by the increases in freight. The policy pursued by the unions is a penny wise and a pound foolish. Honorable members of the Opposition have been severely criticized for not having taken action to settle the trouble, but I have a great deal of sympathy with them. Even in the small organization of which I am a member, head-strong men create trouble, and it is not as easy to remove them from positions of influence as some may think. Many Labour members in the Victorian State Parliament have done their best to maintain peace in industry, but without avail. Some honorable members have asked why the Federal Government has not intervened in the marine cooks dispute. Because of constitutional limitations, the Government has not as much power tei settle the strike as has the Leader of the Opposition.
We have been reminded of the promise made by the Government at the last general election that if it were returned to power it would take steps to end the machinations of agitators. The Crimes Act was passed, and as the result of the increased authority it gave to ‘‘the Government neither of the two gentlemen whose names were particularly before the eyes of electors at that time has since given us any great cause to put the law into operation against him. Those who rejected the referendum proposals must accept the blame for the inability of the Commonwealth Government to intervene in the shipping dispute.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) referred to the 44-hour week, to which he says he is now a convert. He stated also that the reduction in hours had done no perceptible harm in the Commonwealth as it was not proved that production had been lessened. The Mr. Theodore of to-night is a very different person from the Mr. Theodore of 6th December, 1923.
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in referring to other honorable members by their names.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) is reported by the Daily Standard and the Courier, of Brisbane, as having said at a meeting of the Trades and Labour Council in. Brisbane -on 6th December, 1923 -
There is no royal road to an industrial ml.lenium. We have to weigh exactly the effect of every phase of legislation that we pass. Therefore, the passing of a statutory 44-hours week would have been very unwise. Even in a nationalized industry, if eight hours were knocked off in the week, they would get eight hours less production. It is a reform not for a 44-hOur week, hut a reform for knocking four hours off the existing working weekly. If the 48-hour week were reduced to 44, it would be necessary to reduce existing 44-hour weeks. If there were no economic consequences following such a reduction of hours, why stop at 44 V Why not have a 24-hours week? The Trades and Labour Council had not carried a 24- hour week because it knew it was impracticable, and it was only a question of degree where it stopped. It was obvious that the 24-hour week would mean closing down of industry and they had to consider how far they could go in arbitrarily reducing hours without bringing great evils in the train of that reform. Reforms meant a gradual and slow process because of the finance involved. All reforms resolve themselves into the question of cost. We have to adopt a policy that can only he called cheeseparing, because of the financial difficulties. Many have suffered in Consequence of that. We have to endeavour to pay our way. It might be said, “Raise new revenue to cover expenditure.” I would remind the people who say that, that we have imposed taxation practically to the limit in Queensland at the, present time. We have had to increase income tax, primary exemptions and increase deductions for wives and children of taxpayers. Industry can only be carried on if it produces sufficient to pay for raw material, wages and other costs of production and a reasonable return for the capital invested. Therefore, it was unwise to legislate for a four-hours’ reduction. Some ..industries are impossible to give a 44-hours week, because of interstate competition. The legislature might fix 35 hours for all industries. In a few months industries depending on oversea markets would cease to exist; industries not subject to competition might carry on, but at high cost to workers who use commodities. It might be said by my critics that I am advocating an employers’ policy. That is not so. The Labour policy must be founded on practicability. We have never set out as dreamers and theorists.
If the chameleon-like attitude of the honorable member for Dalley is characteristic of that of other honorable members opposite, very little reliance can be placed in their speeches.
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) referred to Australia’s great national debt, and -would have every one believe that the country is just about insolvent. Although our debts are heavy, we possess many fine national assets, and, as ours is a young country, I am not disposed to feel pessimistic. There is every hope for the future, provided that we can bring about industrial peace. If industrial peace and cooperation is attained the development of our unlimited resources in accordance with schemes outlined by the Development and Migration Commission will soon reduce our debt. I agree that in Australia we have as fine a type of workman as may be found anywhere else in the world. Australians hold their own in all branches of sport, and I am confident that they can also do so in every section of industrial activity. We want to work along the lines set out in the report of the Industrial Delegation to the United States of America, which contains excellent and sound advice. In the United States of America reasonable methods are employed to overcome industrial difficulties, and Australia could well follow that example. All that is needed is co-operation between employee and employer. We are a young country with a handful of about 6,000,000 people and we have scarcely scratched the surface of our resources. We are not as nearly insolvent as the honorable member for Wannon would have us believe. . The private wealth of Australia amounts to £2,166,000,000, or nearly £400 for every man, woman and child in the community. In that respect we eclipse even the United States of America. The cheque paying banks of Australia hold in deposit the huge sum of £339,448,576, as against £311,321,503 in 1923. Their assets to-day are £404,149,263, whereas in 1923 they were £327,458,496. In . 1923, 3,598,901 depositors in the’ savings bank had £171,643,812 to their credit. In September last the accounts numbered 4,531,664, and the deposits amounted to £205,319,987. The average savings per inhabitant of the entire population of the Commonwealth have risen from £30 3s. 6d. in 1923 to £33 2s. 5d. last September. It is my hope that, when we reach the committee stage, honorable members of the Opposition will abandon their present hostile attitude to the bill, and assist the Government to improve it. There is room for improvement in our existing industrial legislation, and surely the combined brains of the House can devise some means whereby it can be effected. I voice the opinion of the great bulk of my constituents, and also of the people of Australia generally, when I state that an amendment of the existing Conciliation and Arbitration Act is imperative. It is our bounden duty to cease cross-firing, and to put our heads together with a view to making that amending bill effective, so that Australia may progress in the manner that we all desire.
.At the outset I wish to voice my protest against the method adopted by the Government in attempting to exhaust honorable members physically during the second reading discussion of this bill. I consider it to be one of the most important measures that has come before Parliament, and it is not a fair thing to expect honorable members, after a continuous sitting of sixteen hours or more, to address themselves to the problem that confronts them with the vigour and enthusiasm which it demands. The absence of the Prime Minister, who is in Melbourne, indicates either that the right honorable gentleman does not consider that there is any need for haste, or that the measure is not of sufficient importance to warrant his presence in this chamber as head of the Government during its consideration. An attempt is being made to push the measure through with unseemly haste. The debate on the second reading was resumed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) last “Wednesday week, and we have had only about 35 hours devoted to its discussion. I regard the measure as one designed to embarass the trade unions of Australia, and particularly their responsible officials. It endeavours to discipline and control workers’ organizations by imposing heavy penalties for ‘ certain offences. Yet the Government makes no endeavour to control employers’ organizations. The Prime Minister admonished the extremists in the ranks of the Nationalists, but his action ended there. The right honorable gentleman was satisfied with talk, and was not prepared to take drastic action against the people who supply the election expenses for his party, but with the workers drastic action is proposed. The bill is designed to prevent workers suppporting just claims for awards, and nominating a fair and reasonable price for their only commodity, labour. It will be an offence for a unionist to refuse to sell his labour at rates that are unacceptable to him, yet the manufacturers, the merchants and other wealthy indviduals who are strong supporters of the Government can refuse to sell their commodities unless the prices offered are acceptable to them. They can even demand exorbitant prices. Yet they are to be protected under the penal clauses of this bill, which have been framed with the object of ensuring that the workers shall maintain a regular and continuous operation in the workshops and factories.
A great deal has been said during this debate respecting the penal provisions in the original Arbitration Act. Ministerial supporters have urged that they are as drastic and irksome as the present proposals. They have also advanced the argument that although the Labour party has been in power since that law wa3 placed on the statute-book, it has not made any effort either to remove or alter those penal provisions. I remind honorable members that the Labour party has been out of office for the last ten years, and in the meantime, we have gained in experience. Because there were penal provisions in a measure that was placed upon the statute-book 24 years ago, it does not follow that we. should be prepared to accept them now, or that the workers who wish to seek redress for their grievances, through the agency of the Arbitration Court, should now be expected to be content with conditions that they were then willing tb accept. This is only one of many instances of the Australian people being governed by acts that were placed on the statute-book many years ago, the authors of some of which have been dead for a couple of decades. We have the right at all times to review legislation, but we do not do so as frequently as we should. In too many instances are the Australian people .being governed by the .legislation of the dead.
The Labour party is uncompromisingly hostile to this measure. Since 1904 hundreds of thousands of Australian workmen have left their workshops and factories to participate in a war that was supposed to make the world safe for democracy. When they took up the rifle they believed they would be able to effect a considerable improvement in their conditions upon their return to their native land. Many of them sacrificed their lives, and hundreds of thousands took that risk in defence of the ideals that trade unionism cherished. Can it he expected that they should he satisfied with the conditions which prevailed prior to the outbreak of war? These men, and their comrades in industry, have every right to expect better conditions and a larger share in the comforts of this world. It is only by bringing about greater contentment and happiness among the workers that we are likely to improve the relations between labour and capital.
The bill contains many provisions which will not be tolerated by the Australian worker. Clause 7, for example, while protecting the employer, will have a detrimental effect upon trade unions. Under its provisions employers will be able to lockout the whole of the employees in an industry, if a strike should occur in any particular section of it. The captains of industry will be in a position to utilize the whole of their resources to crush industrial organizations. Unions whose resources are not equal to those of the wealthy organizations of employers will eventually be forced by starvation and misery to accept whatever terms are offered to them:
The proposed new section 25d provides that the’ court must take into consideration the probable economic effect of any award upon the industry concerned. If that provision finds a place in the act, the court must regard it as an intimation that it is bound to consider the probable economic effect when making an award. Therefore, it would be justified in lowering the standard of Australian labour, reducing the rates of pay, and generally impairing the conditions that are at present enjoyed by the workers. This is a subtle attempt to pave the way for the breaking down of existing
Working conditions. I believe that it will result in protracted hearings and congestion in the business of the court. The door will be opened to associations of employers to endeavour to convince the court that they are unable to pay existing wages and to observe existing conditions, and that, therefore, a considerable variation of both is necessary. The wealthy organizations will be able to avail them.salves of that provision to break down conditions that have been won by many years of hard battling on the part of trade unionists.
The proposed new section 56a provides for the taking of a secret ballot. I am an ex-secretary of an industrial organization, and I have a fairly intimate knowledge of the manner in which those organizations are controlled. In my opinion this proposal of the Government is absolutely unjustified. The members of different industrial organizations have every opportunity and facility to take part in the election of their officials, and in any other business that has to be dealt with. This provision will entail considerable expense, and unnecessary delay in arriving at important decisions. Those organizations which have a small membership will not be able to stand the expense of a secret ballot upon every question that may be brought forward by ten members. There is no friendly society, no progress association, no association of employers or employees, which has not in its ranks a small number of dissatisfied individuals, and, under this provision, the road will be made easy for any ten members of a union who are disgruntled to interfere with the work of their organizations. Therefore, when the bill is in committee I shall offer strenuous opposition to it. Instead of the bill assisting and making more efficient our system of arbitration, I believe that it will have a deleterious effect upon it.
Honorable members opposite have indulged in a great deal of make-believe. Many of them have pretended that they stand for both sides. I say quite frankly that I represent the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole, and its well being, but more particularly the workers. Those honorable members opposite who have claimed to represent both sides will find that they cannot protect the interests of each section. We on this side consider that the interests of employers and employees are diametrically opposed to each other. If the Government is genuinely concerned about the welfare of the workers, let it take practical steps to protect their interests.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has made many references to co-operation and goodwill. The honorable member for’ Barton (Mr. Ley) also has referred to copartnership, and urged that we should be impressed with the necessity for settling our industrial disputes. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) has expressed his concern for the consumers. If the Prime Minister and his supporters are sincere, let them start immediately to protect consumers from the exploitation of the wealthy section of the community. The spirit of copartnership could be furthered by decreasing the profits of employers and increasing the wages of the workers. Instead of the Prime Minister talking so much about co-operation and goodwill, a9 he has done during this debate and on previous occasions, it would be better if he made some attempt to check the profiteering and plundering that is going on in our midst. Goodwill and peace in industry can only be brought about by the employers and their representatives in this House doing something of a practical nature to ease the burdens on the workers.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly refused to accept responsibility for the unemployment that exists to-day, which, I submit, is the result of the Government’s indifference. Because of its attitude towards unemployment, the workers are not in a frame of- mind to accept any proposal that may be brought forward by this Government to bring about industrial peace. The Ministry unquestionably is responsible for much of the present unemployment in the Commonwealth to-day. For the year ended 30th June, 1927, the number of employees in the Commonwealth Public Service, exclusive of those in the pay of the Federal Capital Commission, of the Commonwealth Shipping Board, and several Commonwealth undertakings, was 47,484. If we add to this number the employees of the other governmental activities mentioned, the total in the Public Service of the Commonwealth must have been approximately 55,000. During the last six months or so, several thousands have been, for reasons of economy, dismissed. Those affected have been principally temporary and exempted employees in the Postmaster-General’s Department, workers at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and employees of the Federal Capital Commission. Ministers cannot claim that responsibility for these dismissals and the unemployment which followed should be borne by the Shipping
Board or the Federal Capital Commission, because these undertakings are under governmental direction. In December last the Treasurer reduced the vote for the Federal Capital Commission by £250,000. This meant that the Commission had to cut down its staff. No fewer than 500 men were dismissed. Although the Treasurer is faced with a deficit this year, he has relieved the wealthier classes, the income tax and land taxation payers, of legitimate burdens that should be borne by them. Instead of the Federal Capital Commission being in a position to employ about 2,500 workmen, the number required to carry on a continuous works programme, it has been obliged to cut its staff down to slightly more than 1,300 men. In other words, 1,200 men formerly employed by the Commission are now seeking other avenues of employment. Similar dismissals were made at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, with the result that skilled men formerly employed there are looking elsewhere for work. Because of the Government’s policy, important work which could have been carried out at Cockatoo Island Dockyard was sent overseas. The Ministry is not entitled to expect State Governments, with their limited financial resources, to accept responsibility for unemployment. Because of the indifference and apathy of this Government with regard to this problem, it is little wonder that the workers challenge the bona fides of the Prime Minister with regard to this amending Arbitration Bill.
The workers have not received the benefits to which they have been entitled following the adoption of labour-saving devices in industry. There have been many improvements in industrial machinery in recent years, but the whole of the benefits have gone into the pockets of the employers. Labour organizations are suffering many disadvantages, and feel that they are being subjected to many injustices which should be set right. Because of the congestion in the Arbitration Court and the consequent delays in getting their claims before that tribunal, trade unionists have on many occasions been forced to resort to direct action. In such circumstances at least the strike is a legitimate weapon to use. Honorable members supporting the Government never tire of declaring that the workers should wait their turn to have their grievances rectified. An organization of which I was secretary, waited for two years, and as there appeared to be no prospect of having the case heard, our members resorted to direct action. Within 48 hours of the commencement of a strike, the whole of our demands were acceded to.
The Government, during the five or six years it has been in office, has not given sympathetic consideration to the position of the workers. Men engaged in our timber mills, our iron and steel works, in our mines and underground sewers,- and in unhealthy factories and basements where the atmosphere is laden with dust and other impurities, have been informed time and again that they must wait patiently to have their grievances dealt with by the Arbitration Court. They have been told, also, that it is a crime for workmen to refuse employment, even if the conditions are not favorable or suitable. Heavy penalties have been imposed upon trades union officials and members of organizations who have gone on strike. Contrast the treatment meted out to the workers with the consideration shown to the employing section of the community. Ship-owners may refuse to put vessels on the run if, in their opinion, the service is likely to be unremunerative. The Zealandia was taken off her run last month because the Government refused to pay a subsidy for the service, and Ministerial supporters in this House justified the action of the shipping company concerned. But if seamen or stewards refuse to accept work on the ground that the conditions are unsatisfactory, they are immediately denounced by the Govern? ment and the press. City agents may, with impunity, fleece primary producers , middlemen may manipulate markets, hoard up foodstuffs, and. eventually destroy them rather than make commodities available to consumers at a reasonable price. And yet we hear no word of protest from Government supporters or the people they represent.
A great deal has been said in this debate regarding the alleged autocratic attitude of various union leaders. The Ministry and its supporters .have made much of the fact that union executives and unions have expelled certain of their members for varying offences, and allegations have been made of victimization. Nothing is said, however, if similar ‘action is taken by the employing section of the community. The British Medical Association, for example, has, on many occasions, expelled certain of its members for having been guilty of certain offences, or for holding rather pronounced views on particular subjects. I have in mind the case of a medical practitioner in New South Wales, who, a few years ago, came prominently under notice in connexion with the case of a lady inmate of a mental hospital who, it was claimed, had been wrongly incarcerated. Because of the courageous stand which he took, he was expelled from the British Medical Association. He was conducting a private hospital, and subsequent to his expulsion had occasion to request a consultation with a member of the British Medical Association, with a view to an operation on a patient. Although it was a case of life and death, members of the British Medical Association declined to consult with him, and refused even to administer the anaesthetic. Whilst cases like this go unchallenged, there is always an outcry if union executives take action to discipline their members. Contrast the attitude of members of the British Medical Association in the case which I have just mentioned, with the spectacle of miners, who, although they may be idle, have no hesitation whatever in entering a mine in the event of a catastrophe occurring, and risking their own lives for the purpose of rescuing fellowworkers, or for the protection of property. When one realizes the many injustices and inequalities borne by the workers, one is amazed at the infrequency rather than the prevalence of strikes in Australia.
During the last fifteen years wages in Australia have steadily increased, but the worker has not received any advantage, because the cost of living has increased more rapidly than wages. The workers are no better off to-day than they were in pre-war days, for the wages they are receiving only afford them a bare existence. The fact that the Government has failed to deal with the profiteering and rack renting in our midst disqualifies it from attempting to deal with industrial matters. The. . proposed industrial gettogether movement was ill-timed. There must be a reduction in rents and profits before the workers can be expected to regard any industrial proposals of the Government without suspicion.
I have been surprised during this debate by the solicitude of honorable members opposite for the welfare of the women and children of the working class. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) referred to this subject in an address which he delivered a few days ago at a meeting of the Australian Women’s National League of Victoria. Much has been said of the misery and distress caused through strikes, but if Government supporters had any sincere desire to protect the interests of the women and children in the community they would have tried before now to provide work for the unemployed. Until that is done, we cannot accept as bona fide their protestations that they desire to help our wage-earners.
It has been said that the trade unions of Australia are not properly conducted, and that they are controlled by a handful] of extremists. I deny that statement, and assert that they are in a healthy condition and well managed. The rank and file of wage-earners have no complaints to make about the manner in which their union affairs are administered. A good deal of use has been made during this debate of certain statements which have appeared from time to time in the press. Honorable members opposite would have displayed more wisdom had they refrained from repeating such remarks, for most of them were made originally by pimps or agents of the employers. The Treasurer and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) read a letter which they allege was written by certain members of the Marine Cooks Union in Queensland to the Industrial Registrar respecting the cooks’ dispute and the internal affairs of their union. - I endeavoured to ascertain who were the authors of the letter, but neither honorable gentlemen Would tell me. Unless that information is divulged, the letter is worthless even from the point of view of honorable members opposite. The Marine Cooks’ Union is a federated body, and the branches of it in the various States have certain rights under the rules which they exercise. In these circumstances I repudiate the letter.
It is not many weeks since the AttorneyGeneral delivered his second-reading speech on this bill, but in response to various representations that have been made to him he has tabled more than a score of amendments. If so many imperfections in the bill have already been revealed, how can we expect that it will stand the test of practical application to industry? The Government has dealt with this subject like a lot of infants. I regret that it has not seen fit to give effect to the suggestions that have been made to it by the federated unions of Australia, the representatives of which appear regularly in our arbitration courts and know the defects of the existing industrial legislation in the Commonwealth. Even at this late hour, I trust that the AttorneyGeneral will agree to delete the objectionable clauses of the bill, and accept certain amendments which will be suggested by honorable members on this side of the chamber.
– I oppose the bill, for I believe that it is against the desires of the people. These proposals have never been submitted to the electors for their consideration. My main objection to the measure is that it alters the whole basis of industrial arbitration. In 1907 Mr. Justice. Higgins laid it down that the first consideration in the fixing of wages should be: “What amount is necessary to maintain a man and his wife and children in decency and comfort ? “ It is now proposed that that principle shall be abandoned, and that our Arbitration Court judges shall take other matters into consideration. For very many years I have lived in a mining district, and in the days gone by I have fought strenuously for the setting up of wages boards to determine the wages and conditions of the mining industry. Even in those days we insisted that an industry should pay a man a wage which would enable him to maintain his wife and family in comfort. The Labour party holds that industries which cannot afford to pay such a wage should be abandoned.
– Then we shall have to close up practically every industry.
– The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) had better inform his constituents accordingly. Merely because a company whose stock has been watered cannot pay a dividend of 5 per cent., are the workers to receive less than a living wage? Such a principle upsets all our previously accepted ideas of justice. Yet that is the principle embodied in this bill. The Labour party does not accept all the doctrines that were taught in the past. At one time it was said that there must be no interference with the law of supply and demand, but the Labour party dared to interfere. It also interfered with the long-accepted principle that there should be freedom of contract. .It insisted that a man should receive a sufficient remuneration to enable him to keep himself and his family in reasonable comfort. In the recent Great War the greatest sacrifices were made by the toilers. Now that they have won the war the Government desires to lower their’ standard of living, thus compelling them to make a further contribution to the cost of the war. In order that the few may live in even greater luxury than they now enjoy, the many are to be penalized.
I am strongly opposed to the new principle embodied in this measure. I do not agree that Australia’s production is.p insufficient to maintain its workers .in decency. Statistics show conclusively that Australia is the richest country in the world. In such a country there should be more than enough for all. When I was a lad we were taught the old Malthusian theory that the natural tendency of population was to increase faster than the means of subsistence - that if the means of production increased progressively as indicated by the figures, 2, 4, 6 and 8, the population would increase in the ratio of 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and so on. People were then satisfied to believe that doctrine, they accepted poverty as part of the will of God. That theory has been discarded for many years. Man has enlisted the aid of science, with the result that to-day one man can produce as much as ten or fifteen men produced a few decades ago. The experience of other countries is that low wages do not mean prosperity. The underlying principle of this bill is to lower the standard of living; yet to hear the AttorneyGeneral and the Prime Minister speak, one would think that it had been introduced in the interests of the unionists of this country.
A stranger listening to honorable members opposite might be led to believe that the members of the Employers’ Federation would use every means in their power to prevent this bill from becoming law. But the reverse is the case; they are the strongest supporters of the measure. Recently they made it clear that they desired a reduction of wages. When I was a young man and first advocated the principles of the Labour party, an organiser of the Employers’ Federation named Walpole publicly declared that marriage was a luxury for the working man, and that employers could not be expected to pay their employees sufficient* to maintain their wives and families. That doctrine is not preached openly to-day; but in a recent issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr. Drummond, the Minister for Education in New South Wales, referring to the problem of unemployment in Australia is reported to have said -
One-half per cent, of the people had to be regarded as unemployable, and. until some method was adopted of preventing them from prorogating their species the unemployment problem would always be present.
Was ever a more cruel doctrine than that preached? The statement continues -
Another difficulty lay in convincing the worker that steady work which yielded low wages was better than work which yielded a high wage and which left him periodically unemployed.
Years ago the late Sir George Reid predicted that in the plenitude of time, when our millions had become tens of millions, there would be hundreds of thousands of unemployed persons in this country, and that then the wage-problem would be solved. We should be thankful that such doctrines are no longer preached openly. Nevertheless, the Government has now come forward with a proposal to reduce the standard of living in this country to the level of that of other lands. If this bill is agreed to, and instructions are given to the judges to make inquiry in various directions as to the cost of production, it will, indeed, be a sorry day for the working classes of this country. Ninety-eight per cent, of the trade unionists of Australia desire industrial peace. The unions operating on the waterfront are not concerned about this bill. So far as I am aware, not one of them has troubled to make any representations regarding it; but the 650,000 workers in other unions keenly resent these proposals. The maritime unions are strong enough to win a satisfactory award from the employing class, but many of the smaller unions will suffer considerably by this legislation.
There is nothing new in the principle of the unions taking a ballot of their members. To say that two or three men can run the rule over thousands of their fellow-workers is an insult to the great body of trade unionists. My experience is that members generally take a keen interest in the affairs of their unions, and are desirous that they shall prosper. The leaders of the trade unions are the last persons to promote industrial strife; a strike entails much work and worry for them. Nobody in the community is doing better work at the present time than the Industrial Disputes Committee Associated with the Melbourne Trades Hall Council is doing. Many of its members work at their trade every day, and devote their evenings to settling industrial disputes. But to listen to honorable members opposite, one would think that these men are keenly desirous of throwing their fellowworkers out of employment.
Australia once had a Prime Minister who knew his business. Were he in office now, he would endeavour to bring together the parties to the marine cooks’ dispute, with a view to arriving at a , settlement. But the present Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) does nothing except taunt honorable members on this side about their inaction, notwithstanding that it is well known generally that the representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions are doing all that is possible to bring about a speedy settlement of the trouble. No reputable trade unionist will ever seek to promote a strike while peaceful means of settling the dispute are open to him. But the right to strike must be preserved. That does not mean that a union can approach the Arbitration Court and receive an award, and also retain to its members the right to strike should that award not be regarded as satisfactory. The only answer that the ship-owners have given to the cooks who are on strike in Melbourne is that the number of cooks now provided was regarded as sufficient eighteen years ago. They overlook the fact that conditions have changed since then, and that what was considered to be good enough eighteen years ago is not necessarily good enough to-day. Some years ago £600 was regarded as a reasonable salary for a member of this Parliament. To-day £1,000 is not sufficient to maintain him in decency Avith the conditions existing in Canberra. Neither the Prime Minister nor the Attorney-General would suffer any loss of dignity if he were to make an effort to bring together the parties to the present dispute. Is the Government anxious for the shipping dispute to spread so that it may make political capital out of it ? Does it wish every Australian vessel to lie idle? Has the Government no responsibility, and has it not the interests of the people of Australia at heart? The Australian Council of Trade Unions is making every endeavour to ‘‘bring about a conference with the ship-owners with a view to the settlement of the dispute. Surely it is not beyond the power of this-Government to help in that direction. When the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was Prime. Minister, he intervened in many disputes, with satisfactory results. Before this dispute becomes general, the Prime Minister, instead of throwing gibes at the unionists of this country before the members of the Australian Women’s National League, would do well to devote some of his spare time to an effort to bring about a settlement.
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) complained about a unionist who had been continually fined because his union was practically always on strike. That particular instance is imaginary, yet it is constantly quoted in this chamber. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) to-day referred to a disgraceful incident, concerning which the Attorney-General, even at this late hour, might take action. I have never known the Prime Minister to say one word against the employers, even when industrial disputes have arisen.
The honorable member for Dalley referred to the awful conditions of employment in many Sydney establishments, such as Grace Brothers,Farmers’, David Jones, and Anthony Hordern. The principal offender in this respect is Murdoch’s, which firm pays only 35s. a week to young girls employed in its establishment.
-What is the age of the girls ?
– I believe that they are adults.
Mr.C. Riley. - When they become 21 they are sacked.
– Nothing else could be expected from such a firm. These girls out of their weekly wages have to pay 12s. 6d. for rent, 2s. 6d. for tram fares, 10s. 6d. for mid-day meals, and 7s. for other meals. The remaining 2s. 6d. has to cover the cost of clothing and medicine, &c. These wealthy retail firms are allowed to inflict sweating conditions upon their employees, and no action is taken against them. When these girls appeared before the Arbitration Court and gave evidence respecting their conditions of employment, one of them was sacked and the others concerned were refused the usual bonus. One girl’s affidavit reads-
Accompanied by the said Maggie McLauchlan, Catherine Ellen Dickinson and Mary Ellen Kenny, I then went to the office of Mr. Drummond, the secretary of the said company, and interviewed him. Just before I spoke to him Mr. Dodds came in, bent down and whispered something to Mr. Drummond, and then went away. I said to Mr. Drummond, “We have not got our bonus; if we are not going to get it will you give us the reason?” He said, “What section do you belong to?” I told him. He then opened a drawer in his desk and took out some papers, and wentthrough them, and took out one paper from the remainder. I saw this paper, which contained a lot of names, and near the end was my name and the names of the said Maggie McLauchlan, Catherine Ellen Dickinson, and Mary Ellen Kenny, with a black line through each of the four names. There was also some writing at the side of the names, but I do not know what the writing was. Mr. Drummond then said. “ The chief, Colonel Murdoch, has decided that you are not getting it for being disloyal and telling lies.” I said to him, “In what way did we tell lies?” He said, “You went to court.” The said Mary Ellen Kenny then said, “Well, if we told lies you had your remedy.” He said, “We had, and we brought the judge through.” The said Mary Ellen Kenny then said, “ To put it baldly, it is a mean revenge.” To this remark Mr. Drummond made no reply.
I have made these facts public, because the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), when this instance was mentioned by the honorable member for Dalley, said that one girl was sacked for telling lies. These employees gave evidence before the court on oath, and if they were telling lies their employers could have taken action against them ; but there is no evidence that they did tell lies. They were pleading for a living wage. I mention this case to give publicity to the miserable wage pittance that is paid by some of the retail firms of Sydney. These girls have to spend the whole of their wage in meeting the cost of the necessaries of life, and yet we boast of our Christian community. No action has been taken by the Attorney-General against Colonel Murdoch, yet under this bill if a unionist advises a fellow-worker to have nothing to do with the secret ballot he is liable to a fine of £50 or six months’ imprisonment. This bill provides also that if ten men secretly disclose their names to the judge or his associate, no matter whether they be unfinancial members of the union concerned or non-unionists perhaps doing the dirty work of their employers who wish to smash the union, the judge may order a ballot to be taken. If one be taken and a strike declared in consequence, the officials of the union will be liable to a heavy penalty.
I would remind the Government that it has not dumb-driven slaves to deal with; that was clearly demonstrated on the battlefields of Prance. Our fighting men were heroes, and it was said then that nothing was too good for them. Now they are told that they are not capable of running their own unions, and if they dare advise their fellow-workers not to vote by secret ballot, heavy penalties will be inflicted upon them. They are to be made criminals because they express their own opinions. Surely they have as much right to manage their own affairs as have the members of the Chamber of Manufactures, the Employers’ Federation, and the Pastoralists’ Union. These organizations are given a free hand, but organizations of employees are now to be controlled.The Prime Minister went to Melbourne and there declared that he could not understand why the Opposition did not adopt a conciliatory attitude towards the Government’s proposals. The Leader of the Opposition and members of the Labour party would be unfaithful to the trust imposed in them if they did not strenuously resist the provisions of this bill. If this legislation is placed upon the statute-book, “we shall not rest until it is removed. In 1902 there was operating in Victoria a system of wages boards, which although not perfect, was doing some good. Then the Kyabram reform movement started. It swept Sir William Irvine into power, and he did exactly what this Government is doing to-day. He practically abolished wages boards by making the law so stringent that it was impossible for them to come to any decision. Within five years of the passing of that legislation it was repealed. Labour, up to that time, had not been in power in Victoria, but the Liberals were so heartily ashamed of that legislation, and so fearful of the resentment of the people, that they were only too pleased to assist the Labour party in repealing it. I believe that history will repeat itself in this instance.
We know that arbitration is not a cure for all our industrial evils; we look upon it more as a palliative. It has undoubtedly solved many of our industrial problems and it will solve many more if the Arbitration Act is amended in accordance with the wishes of this party, and if the pathway to the court is made easier, so that the unions can plead their causes, and obtain awards quickly. Little or no attempt is made in this bill to make that path easier; in fact, every effort is being made to prevent peaceful settlement of industrial disputes. It has been practically a custom in many unions, notably in the Tramway Union, not to go to the court at all, but to arrive at an agreement with the employers by means of conciliation, and then to present that agreement to the court for registration. If this bill becomes law that system will no longer prevail. Some of the members of the Employers’ Federation, which finds the money for the Ministerial party at every election, must have their pound of flesh. They resent the action of some of the decent bosses in coming to an arrangement with their employees, and they insist that the Arbitration Court judge shall in every case investigate agreements before they are registered. There will not be much conciliation under this bill; the judge will have to be satisfied that the wages to be paid are not so high as to interfere with any other industry. One would imagine that we, in this country, are on the verge of bankruptcy. It is true that we have a great national debt, but the workers did not contract that debt. It was not the maligned workers, but the employing classes which were responsible for the late war. It was their greed for money, and their desire for some one else’s land, that brought about the war.
The Labour party of Australia, when it was first formed, set out with the determination that the oppressive conditions which prevailed in older countries should not be perpetuated here. The employers, on the other hand, are seeking to bring about the same conditions here as prevail in America, and in other countries. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) referred to the small membership of the unions in America, and spoke of the large- number of different languages that ‘ were spoken amongst the workers. It is part of the policy of the employers to bring out men of many different races, so that they will not understand one another, and, distrusting one another, will not unite for their mutual good. In this respect it is worth noting the many different races which are being brought to this country.
– Yet they are all admitted to the unions.
– When labour was in power in this country it was laid down that they should be admitted to membership of the unions. Why should they not?’ The Prime Minister said that this was a 98 per cent. British community. Let us see how long it will remain so. In the following list is set out the nationalities of the immigrants which arrived in Australia during last February -
British, 4,148; Danish, 2; Dutch, 5; French, 12; German, 71; Greek, 118; Italian, 380; Maltese, 9; Norweigan, 3; Russian, 48; Swedish, 7; Swiss, 18; U.S. American, 33; Austrian,- 15; Belgian, 0; Bulgars, 11; Czecho-Slovaks, 51; Esthonian, 24; Finnish, 24; Hungarians, 3; Jugo-Slavs, 82; Lettish, 1; Lithuanian, 3; Polish, 44; Portuguese, 1; Albanian, 102; Spanish, 18; others, 1. Total, 5,240.
Out of a total of 5,240, only 4,000 were British, so that the foreigners were in the proportion of one to four.
– What about the natural increase? That maintains the balance.
– If the natural increase were dependent on the wealthy and privileged classes of this country it would not do much to maintain the balance. Those classes seem to be proceeding on the principle of only one, or at most two, in. a family. It is amongst the working classes that the large families are to be found. The honorable member for Macquarie questioned whether it was the workers who had the large families.
– I did not say that. The honorable member knows I did not.
– I do not wish to misrepresent the honorable member; I maintain that the workers have the largest families, because the standard of morality is much higher amongst them than amongst the other classes. They have no time for luxuries, and they are much more faithful to their women than are the privileged classes. A very undesirable class of immigrant is coming to this country. I cannot understand how men possessed of hearts can fail to realize the intense misery and poverty caused in Australia by unemployment. It is of no use saying that this is all due to strikes. It cannot be contended that the unemployment in the coal industry is due to strikes among the miners. According to the Yellow Booh issued by the British Government, there are 200,000 miners in England to-day who will never again obtain employment in. the coal mines. Conditions are so bad that the Government does not know what remedies to propose. I have heard it stated on good authority that in some of the suburbs of Melbourne 80 per cent, of the adult population is out of work.
– What is the Labour Government doing there?
– The Labour Government was left with a deficit by its predecessors, with a railway system which was losing £1,000,000 a year, and with a great load of debt which had been incurred by previous governments. The Labour. Government has been striving in a manly way to rectify the wrongs which were perpetrated during the last 50 years.
There are people who talk about the unemployables, but when men have been calling at the factories for two or three months without obtaining work, when their boots are wearing out, and their pants going at the knees, they lose their self-respect, and before very long some of them cease to care whether they obtain work or not. This Government has remitted yearly nearly £2,000,000 by way of taxation to the wealthy taxpayers of this country, but it does not concern itself with relieving unemployment. The revenue so lost would have enabled the Government to provide work for the unemployed. The remission of income tax on the wealthy classes has been of no benefit to the country, and has done nothing except to enable a few people to buy more motor cars or to take more trips to Great Britain.
This country still has its immigration agents in Great Britain, some of them being the men who have betrayed the Labour party in this country, and who helped to bring about the British seamen’s strike during the last election. One of them is a man named Barnes, who in years gone by was a militant labour man. The rest of us were reactionaries compared with him; but when the conscription issue was raised he joined the Nationalist party. He is now receiving a large salary for trying to induce people to come to Australia. In the present crisis if the Government, instead of trying to reduce the standard of living, would withdraw the migration agents, and tell the High Commissioner in London to discontinue making foolish statements at political dinners - such statements for instance as that there is room in Australia for 100,000 servant girls - it would be doing something useful for our people.
Unfortunately, all we can say against the bill will probably be of no avail. The Government still maintains that it has a mandate from the people to introduce this legislation. The Prime Minister may have mentioned in his pre-election speeches the secret ballot, but he never told the people that he intended to make it practically impossible for a judge to assent to a private agreement between employers and employees, and he never spoke of his intention to wipe out the minimum wage. Those two main features of the bill were not submitted to the people. The measure is the most serious blow that has been struck at the wage-earners in the history of this Parliament.
– Tell us something new.
– We shall tell something new to the miners represented by the honorable member. They shall learn how their interests have been betrayed by the party to which he belongs. The honorable member never dared to tell them that he intended to vote for the reduction of the basic wage.
– The honorable member knows that there is no provision for that in this bill; he is drawing on his imagination.
– Clause 22 says in plain English that the court shall no longer follow the precedent of Mr. Justice Higgins, who said that he must consider, not what an industry could afford, but what was necessary to maintain a man and his wife and children in reasonable comfort.” In future the court is to have regard to the economic effect of its awards - how they will influence the costs of furniture, railway fares, &c.
– Does the honorable member object to that.
– Absolutely. An industry that cannot pay a living wage is not wanted in Australia. I remember that in my boyhood days the highest wage paid to miners was 7s. 6d. a shift. Men were making fortunes by gambling in the shares of mining companies, and others were dying at the age of 25 or 30 years because of the conditions under which they worked. Yet when the organizations asked for the appointment of wages boards they were told that the industry could not afford to pay a penny more. We said then, and we maintain now, that if an industry cannot pay a living wage to those engaged in it, it should be closed down. Of what use are the inventions and discoveries of science if the toilers are not to get a decent living from the proceeds of the industry in which they are engaged? Are all the comforts and benefits of civilization to go to one class only?
– The honorable member’s policy compels much of the machinery that science has invented to lie idle, when it could be producing.
– Increased production is not so important as some honorable members have declared. Almost every potato farmer in my constituency is faced with insolvency, not because his crop has failed, but because it has been so bountiful that the market is glutted. So it is with the apples of Tasmania, and almost every kind of fruit. Yet we are repeatedly told that increased production will solve our economic problems. I remember the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) saying to the apple-growers in the Bendigo district, which he then represented - “ Prune back your trees, do not let them produce so abundantly. That is the cure for overproduction.”
Under-consumption is largely the cause of our economic troubles. If, as a result of the operation of this bill the basic wage is reduced, less goods will be consumed, and unemployment will increase as surely as day follows night. The provisions for a compulsory secret ballot will have little effect. If the judges attempt to put them into operation they will force most of the unions out of the Arbitration Court, and much of the good that arbitration has achieved during the last twenty years will be undone. The responsibility for such a development will rest upon the heads of those honorable members who blindly follow the Government, and who think that if they yell “ Communism “ loud enough they will scare the people. A few years ago the bogey was anarchism, later it was syndicalism, and then the socialistic tiger. Always a bogey has been raised to scare the workers, and leave the capitalists free to pursue their own ends. In international affairs also the same tactics are employed. At one time the Chinese were the scarecrow, then the Russians, and now the Japanese.
I shall take no part in attempting to amend the bill. If men who know nothing about the working of trade unions are determined to force this legislation upon them, they must have their own way. There is some comfort in the thought that the judges may show more discretion than the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral. But if the hill is put into operation, and ten “ scabs “ attempt to impose a secret ballot upon the members of a union, it will recoil upon its authors, and will have to be repealed, as the repressive legislation introduced by Sir William Irvine in the Victorian Parliament in 1902, was repealed in later years. I shall take every opportunity to prevent this bill from becoming law.
.This bill is designed to overcome the difficulties that arise in the relations of employers and employees. On more than one occasion I have expressed regret that partisanship and bitterness are introduced into debates upon matters of vital concern to the community. We, should endeavour to discuss these problems dispassionately, because a just solution of them is essential, not only to the industrialists, but to all sections of society. Unfortunately, all sorts of unworthy motives have been attributed to those honorable members on this side of the House who have had the temerity to express frankly their opinions. We are just as sincere in our desire for the well-being of the workers as are those honorable members who claim to be their direct representatives. The statement by honorable members opposite that we have no interest in the workers is amusing. Some of us worked as hard in earlier years as did any members of the Labour party. Several honorable members have enriched their contributions to the debate by drawing upon the fund of their own experiences. I, too, have known what it means to work long hours for a low wage, and under very trying conditions, and because of that, I have always sympathised with the genuine workers.
I regret that in the debate more attention has not been given to the conciliation side of the bill. I believe that the best interests of the community can be served by paying more attention to the bringing of people together at a table to discuss their differences. Conciliation is preferable to compulsory arbitration.
– Does the honorable member believe that an agreement should be taken into the Arbitration Court, or merely registered?
– An agreement to be effective would require to be made legally binding. We should not give as much consideration to compulsory, arbitration as to voluntary conciliation.
– The bill will enforce arbitration after conciliation.
– There would be less need to appeal to the Arbitration Court if a greater spirit of conciliation ‘ waa exhibited between employer and employee. I have in mind the practice which exists, and has existed for a long time, in the Sunshine Harvester Works in my electorate, which employs from 2,000 to 3,000 men. Each week representatives of the employees in the different sections of that establishment meet representatives of the employers and discuss conditions. I am informed by the managing director, Mr. Samuel McKay, that the majority of the difficulties which necessarily arise in such a huge establishment are successfully overcome by the cooperative and conciliatory efforts of both parties.
– I suggest that the honorable member should ask the men for their version of the story.
– I know that even in that industry there are men who do not approve of the principle of conciliation as a method of settling disputes. The Sunshine Harvester Works employs men both on piece-work and on the day-labour system. An inspection of the work shops reveals that the men on piece-work are thoroughly satisfied with their conditions. Those working under the daylabour system are not so satisfied, and generally speaking, the negligible amount of trouble that occurs emanates from them. The policy of conciliation as adopted in that establishment is commendable, and in the best interests of the country.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) claimed that this bill strikes a blow at the ‘ heart of unionism, and that its whole intention is to penalize union officials. Any one familiar with the facts must decline to acknowledge the accuracy of those statements. This Government is not hostile to trade unionism, and I am surprised that such a viewshould emanate from a gentleman occupying a high position in the political life of Australia. During his second-reading speech the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) said -
In dealing with this subject I suggest that it. is a mistake to expect too much from legislation. Nor should legislation be blamed for all the industrial evils which exist. Legislation can help or hinder industrial activity; but legislation cannot produce anything.
The honorable gentleman put his finger on the true state of things.
Honorable members opposite have devoted a considerable amount of time to misrepresenting the attitude of the Government towards labour. One of the chief causes of industrial unrest is the excessive borrowing of money overseas, which is spent largely on non-productive works.
– The honorable member supports the Government that indulges in that policy.
– The honorable member must admit, in fairness, that on practically every occasion when a vote for such expenditure has been before this House I have opposed it. No one can justify the extravagant waste that takes place in theFederal Capital Territory, for example.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) Order ! The honorable member must connect his remarks with the bill.
– I was endeavouring to show that one of the causes of unemployment is the excessive borrowing overseas and the spending of that money on nonproductive work. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) and the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey), contended that any industry in Australia that could not pay a wage sufficient to maintain our high standard of living should be permitted to go under. I interjected that there were very few industries in this country that could survive if that theory were put into effect. I do not know of any industry of consequence, apart from our wheat and wool industries, which stands on its own feet. Every secondary industry has to be supported by our tariff, and most of our primary industries are bolstered up by bounties.
– I am confident that the honorable members for Ballarat and Grey referred only to secondary industries.
– How many secondary industries are there in Australia which could pay the fates of wages fixed by the Arbitration Court and still remain solvent, without the assistance of a tariff or bounties. Being a protectionist, I believe in the encouragement of both primary and secondary industries, but I disagree with the view of the honorable members for Ballarat and Grey.
An endeavour should be made to promote a spirit of goodwill among members of the community generally. Unfortunately, there has been a tendency to separate capital from labour, setting one at the throat of the other. We must admit that, alone, either is of very little value. It has been said by honorable members opposite that workers are better off to-day then they were some years ago. That may be the case when it applies to the single man or the man with no family; but the unfortunate individual who has a big family is in a deplorable position. Although his wages may be higher than they were years ago, their purchasing capacity is much less, and increased awards have been of little use to him owing to the excessive manner in which the cost of living has risen.
– Does the honorable member consider that this bill will remedy the excessive cost of living? .
– It should have the effect of promoting industrial peace in Australia, and I believe that if we have anera of industrial peace we shall eliminate much of our unemployment, so bringing about greater prosperity. The honorable member for Ballarat referred to the number of miners who are out of work in Great Britain, while the honorable members for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) and Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) cited the number of miners unemployed in Australia. We cannot close our eyes to the fact that there are contributory factors to that state of affairs, over which we have practically no control. The day of the propulsion of steamers by the use of coal is gradually passing, as oilf uel is being substituted for coal. That necessarily has an effect on the coal production of every country in the world. We cannot but deplore the fact that there are so many of these men out of work. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has made the statement that the men engaged. in the coal-mining industry in hi3 district have for quite a long period beer employed not more than two and a half or three days a week. “We know perfectly well that any man who has only half-time employment under existing conditions cannot for very long keep the wolf from the door; distress and destitution must ensue. I have often marvelled why it is that able-bodied men who are accustomed to toil very hard prefer to remain around the mouth of the coal pit and take the chance of getting two and a half or three days’ work when, by going into the country, they might be able to make a much better living.
– Where does the honorable member suggest that they can secure employment at the present time? ;
– Let them do as others have done. As a young man, I worked at railway and road construction, dam sinking, and other hard manual occupations, for very long hours, and received only a 3mall wage. I was not content to continue under those conditions, so I went into the back country and took up land. Thousands of others have done the same. Why cannot many of these men who are accustomed to hard work follow the example of the pioneers and assist to develop the primary industries under more healthy conditions than those under which they are at present employed? Many men object to that kind of work; they will not leave the cities and suffer the disabilities that country life entails, so long as they can obtain sufficient to keep body and soul together.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has said that this measure is regarded as an attack upon the workers of Australia. That is a fallacy. This country will continue to prosper only 30 long as there is a mutual recognition of the rights of employers and employees, accompanied by action which will offer the greatest measure of protection to both sections. That such protection is necessary has frequently been demonstrated, but never to a greater extent than when the lifeblood of the nation - its transport -has been cut off. One would think, from the observations of honorable members opposite, that those who support the Government have no other object than to deliberately bring about the dislocation of trade and the ruination of the country.
A little calm and dispassionate thought will show how foolish such a statement really is. Of what advantage would it be to the manufacturer, the primary producer, and particularly the wealthier people in the community who have found in Australian securities a profitable source of income, to support legislation which could have no other effect than to dry up that source of income? I have pleasure in supporting the bill with the amendments foreshadowed by the Government.
– As I always desire to be helpful, I propose to make a couple of alternative suggestions to the Government. I understand that one day, just as the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) had emerged from Selborne Chambers he met the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), who at that psychological moment had emerged from the Athenaeum Club. They were animated by the single intention - I had almost said the single purpose, but as that term has a sinister meaning I shall not employ it - of benefiting the trade unionists of this country, and their combined genius has taken shape in the bill which, at this early hour of the morning, is receiving the consideration of some of the bright spirits of the Commonwealth Parliament. I understand, also, that they, and the Minister for Repatriation (Sir Neville Howse) - whose mind is intent upon the subject - are quite satisfied that this bill has been demanded by the trade unionists of this country; that it will satisfy a long-felt want; and that, secretly, though not ostentatiously, they are congratulating themselves upon the fact that, in spite of the Labour party, in spite of that apocryphal body of men known as “ the Reds,” and of all other evil influences, the Government can look forward hopefully to the time when the bill will have become law. I confess that, while moving about as a member of the rank and file of the Labour party, attending meetings of industrialists, and grasping the sense of the executives of the Labour movement, industrial congresses, and branch meetings of the party, I have formed the impression that the measure is not a favorite in the Labour movement. But I am always ready to reconstruct my judgment in the face of convincing evidence, and while listening to the speeches that have been made from the other side of the House I have gathered the impression that the general view of honorable members opposite is that the bill will be palatable and acceptable, as well as beneficial to the Labour movement, and that the rank and file of the industrialists can be trusted to give a sound judgment upon any question that immediately affects their interests. It is here that I desire to be helpful and I, therefore, submit my alternative suggestions. If I am right in my views that the bill is unpalatable, and that the Government do not wish to promote industrial unrest and deep di» satisfaction in the industrial movement, I suggest that the bill be withdrawn. But if, on the other hand, I must waive that view and accept that put forward by the Government and its supporters, I offer a second suggestion: Why not take a secret ballot upon it?
– I believe the honorable member would find the House unanimous on the question of taking a secret ballot.
– I - I refer to a secret ballot not of honorable members but of the trade unionists of this country. Is the honorable member not willing to accept that proposal?
– Not unionists exclusively. What about the electors of the Commonwealth ?
– Will the Minister for Repatriation, who for the time being is in charge of the bill, give me an answer immediately to the proposition that the bill be submitted at the earliest possible moment to the bona fide trade unionists of this country for either their acceptance or rejection?
– If there is to be a submission it should be to all of those who are interested.
– The honorable member must not attempt to escape from his difficulty by that easy pathway.
– Why not make the summission truly democratic ?
– Honorable members on that side of the chamber have issued a challenge. They have repeatedly made the declaration that the bill is acceptable to the trade unionists of Australia. They have cheered themselves on with enthusiasm. They have said “If only the trade union movement were made articulate - if the evil hand were removed - if it could speak with the utmost secrecy, it would be found that, at heart, it is absolutely sound. The trade unions comprise the best workmen in the world. They know what they want. Their judgment may be relied upon. We do not want to force the bill upon them if it is distasteful or repugnant to them ; but we believe they will embrace it.” I say now to the Government - “ Test them by your own method: the secret- ballot.”
– Very well, I agree.
– I have one convert at all events, and I can assure the honorable gentleman that he has not heard the last of this proposal. It is not submitted facetiously.
– Or secretly?
– Nor secretly. It is submitted in all good faith. The Minister for Repatriation, the sole representative of the Government in the chamber, does not accept the proposal, I understand.
It is curious that a great deal of acrimony attaches to the discussion from time to time of conciliation and arbitration; but after all, though curious, it is not impossible of comprehension. Conciliation and arbitration, and especially compulsory arbitration, are not two quite harmonious principles to run in double harness. “ Conciliation “ means the exercise and possibly the exhaustion of the spirit of sweet reasonableness to arrive at a common understanding, while arbitration suggests an arbitrary falling of the meat axe - the sharp decision. Mussolini is arbitrary, they tell me, but not always conciliatory. When one adds compulsion to this element of arbitrariness, the natural repugnance of the two elements becomes more marked. This, I believe, is the fundamental difficulty which we have to face in connexion with compulsory arbitration.
It must not be supposed, however, that I disapprove of the element of compulsion. I regard it as an evil, but a necessary evil, and it is worthy of note that in the past international arbitration has not been aided out by any kind of sanction. It has rested in the past merely upon the expression of pious wishes as between nations. There has been no method of compelling obedience to the finding of any arbitrator in international disputes. It is a matter of interest and also of some significance, that at this very time “when we are discussing this measure, the League of Nations is considering the codification of international law for the purpose of investing it with the necessary force and sanctions to make it in a sense compulsory or at all events more effective than it has ever been. I can only say that I wish the League of Nations all good luck in its purpose.
I submit, that, in connexion with industrial questions, our efforts should be to minimize as far as possible the element of compulsion which, as I suggested, 13 necessary, but a necessary evil. Already we have proceeded too far along the lines of force. This possibly may flatter the numerous opponents of the’ principle of arbitration who foregather among the ministerial ranks and who have manifested their enthusiastic pleasure at the probable passing of this bill, which is likely to compass the final destruction of the arbitration principle in industry so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. But I warn these gentlemen not to proceed too far, or too lightly in this spirit of exhilaration. They may imagine that when they have destroyed arbitration they will be able to return with satisfaction and success to the old condition of tooth and claw - the survival of the fittest, that is to say, the strongest - and with their friends will be able to work their will upon the undefended wage-earners of this country. I warn them that, if arbitration fails, those will not be the conditions to which they will return. Having destroyed the bulwark of the Arbitration Court, they will be faced, not with a disorganized rabble, but with a well-knit body of wage-earners so organized for the purpose of mutual defence, for the defence of the weakest amongst them as well as the strongest, as to be able effectively to prevent the reintroduction of those conditions of sweating, oppression and spoliation to. which the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) and others on this side have referred.
The last state of these gentlemen who now look forward hopefully to the destruction of the principle of arbitration will undoubtedly be worse than the first.
But we do not wish that position to arise. We do not wish to see a resumption of this tooth and claw struggle, even if the Labour movement believes confidently that the victory, though more or less a brutal one,- will rest ultimately with those who do the world’s work. Accordingly, we stand by that principle for which the Labour party has so long fought, and which it has so ardently and capably supported - the principle of conciliation buttressed, as we regretfully admit it must, be, by arbitration and penalties. I am quite prepared to believe that members of ihe Ministry, and especially the AttorneyGeneral, do not wish to destroy the Arbitration Court.- I am equally well satisfied that the Ministry cheerfully accepts support for the passage of the bill from people who do, and I feel too that whatever may be the intention of the AttorneyGeneral he, as an intelligent man, by this time must realize that the consequences of the forcible passage of this bill will be what I have stated.
The dominant note of the bill is unquestionably coercion. The AttorneyGeneral submitted it in his characteristically amiable and able manner; but it is difficult to reconcile his gentle words with some of its drastic provisions. I was very sorry to hear the AttorneyGeneral and the Prime Minister both playing to the gallery, by which I mean the rank and file of their supporters who cheered their references to the penalties provided in the bill. The Prime Minister made a point with the unthinking members of his party when he quoted from an article in The Worker dealing with the provision for a fine of £1,000 upon organizations and members of organizations. He went on to show that, under the law a3 it existed before the introduction of this benevolent measure, an organization like the Australian Workers’ Union could possibly have been fined, in the aggregate, the fantastic sum of £160,000, or some such amount, and that this merciful Government had reduced the penalties in the case of the individual from a fine of £1,000, as provided in the act, to £50.
I remind the Attorney-General - indeed, he referred to the fact himself - that on the 9th June, 1925, when he was still a political infant, he took an early opportunity, in this House, to move a motion for the purpose of enforcing Commonwealth laws, and, in particular, the awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. At that time the act made provision for penalties up to £1,000 for certain specified offences, but the honorable member knew perfectly well, as, indeed, did every one else, that the absurdity of making those provisions applicable to individuals was never attempted. The grotesque pretence that it was ever intended that individual trade unionists should be fined £1,000 was, of course, never seriously entertained, and when on one single occasion a prosecution was launched against a certain notorious individual, with the object of having him fined some particular sum, it was strongly argued that the section was not meant to apply in that way and that, in fact, it never had been so applied. The AttorneyGeneral, who says now that the Government wishes to make these individual penalites lighter, and that this is a measure of mercy, must remember that it is to be read in conjunction with his repeated declarations concerning the desirableness of enforcing Commonwealth awards.
The object of this amendmentis, therefore, to make these penalties more effective, or, in other words, more biting. Surely no one would be guilty of the absurdity of inflicting a fine of £1,000 upon a working man ! It was never contemplated that that would be attempted. But the Government has expressly admitted that the intention of this legislation is to reduce the fines with the object of enforcing them. It says in effect that though it is not possible to recover a fine of £1,000 from a working man, it may be possible by means of garnishee orders or fraud summonses, distress warrants or imprisonment to recover any amount up to £50, and this penalty has been fixed with the deliberate object of enforcement. The Attorney-General should not, therefore, throw dust in the eyes of honorable members by suggesting that the change has been made in a spirit of undiluted benevolence. I submit that it cannot be denied that the object of this alteration in the existing law is to make the measure more punitive, although the tendency certainly should have been to make it more conciliatory and less punitive.
I point out that many of the penal sections at present in the act were placed there by anti-Labour governments. Many were introduced by a government which was probably even more tyrannical in respect of the Labour movement and Labour organizations than this Government. Nevertheless I regret that this attempt has been made to add to the penal provisions of the act.
Another and even more important principle is involved in these amendments. An effort is being made to make an innocent principal liable, as for a criminal offence, for the act of a remote agent. An organization is rendered liable to a fine of £1,000 for the act of a member of the board of management of one of its subordinate branches. The whole scheme of the principal act is designed to subordinate the individual to the organization. It is right that an organization should be able to bind every individual in it; but it is contrary to the spirit of arbitration that an individual should be able to control, imperil and penalize the organization. As a matter of law it is true that a man may become liable as for a semi-criminal offence by an act done innocently. It is equally true that a man may do a civil wrong through an agent. But so far it has never been true that a man may render himself guilty of a criminal offence through an agent acting without his authority, knowledge or approval in any way. This is the new principle which strikes at the basic idea of organization upon which arbitration rests. It also strikes at the fundamental principles of the administration of the criminal law.
There has also been some discussion upon another important principle of the bill, which is that a judge may take cognizance of the probable economic effect of any award that he may make. This led the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) to develop an argument on a phrase, “ economic realities,” which deserves to live. The honorable member contended that it was useless to make an award without having regard to the ability of an industry to comply with it. The honorable member forWilmot (Mr. Atkinson) and several other honorable members argued along the same line. They declared that it was of little use to award a wage greater than the particular industry, perhaps a languishing industry, was capable of paying.
In this connexion I recollect that the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) has on more than one occasion taken Mr. Justice Higgins to task for having laid down the principle that the living wage should be fixed independently of the capacity of a particular industry to bear it. But His Honour carefully explained that he did not mean that, he would not take into account the economic position of a particular industry for which he was required to make an award. I invite honorable members opposite to intimate what they think should be the prime consideration: whether an industry should languish or whether an individual should be sweated and starved. What would be better in the public interest? I submit with great respect that the dictum of Mr. Justice Higgins marked a new era in our industrial outlook and should be regarded in the sense of a landmark in history. His Honor made it clear that the standard of living of the unit was more important to the nation than the success of a particular industry. By that the Labour movement stands.
The honorable member for Warringah, in speaking of economic realities, was pleased to go to the Mother Country for examples. I followed him there. In an article which appeared in the Melbourne Argus on 12th May under the headings “ Looking to an Election ; Mr. Baldwin’s Programme; the Unemployment Problem,” I find the following -
The surplus of £4,240,000 is due to the high mortality rate among millionaires. Eight estates have yielded £6,500,000 in death duties, among them £1,600,000 from Lord Cowdray, £2.000,000 from Mr. P. Wills, the tobacco magnate, £614,000 from Mrs. Douglas Hamilton, £550,000 from Sir Robert Jardine, and £409,000 from the Marquis of Lansdowne. Altogether the yield from death duties was £9,500,000 more than was expected. 1
I assume that it was one of the “ economic realities” in England that the eight estates from which £6,500,000 came were worth at least £15,000,000.
Another of the “ economic realities “ is referred to in the same column. It arises from unemployment. The paragraph reads -
The real danger for the Conservatives at the next election Ties in unemployment. There are 50,000 men out of work in South Wale* alone. This means that 150,000 men, women and children are “ on the dole “ in a singledistrict, apart from 75,000 other men, women and children whose wage earners are working- “ short time.” Thousands of miners have not earned a penny since the general strike and most of them will never have a job in a pit again.
The report then proceeds to give the menu of one of these unfortunate working class families. It is as follows -
Breakfast - Bread, margarine and tea without milk. Dinner - Bread, potatoes and water. Supper - Bread, rice pudding and sugar.
Liberalism in England is, as the writer points out, benefitting by the prevailing discontent, and Mr. Lloyd George has been quick to see where his advantage lies.
It is worth quoting these “ economic realities “ of the present day in England, in reply to various statements which the Prime Minister has made which might lead one to believe that what he admitted were hideous conditions in the old world no longer exist. Listening to the right honorable gentleman, one would think that the great industrial reforms which have been won with the loss of so much sweat and tears by the reformers of this country, had emerged from Flinders-lane, or had originated in Selborne Chambers. We know that right up to 1890, when the Labour party came into being, conditions similar to those which existed in England at the beginning of the 19th century were repeated here in Australia. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr; Parkhill) objects to what he calls “political unionism.” That remark comes quaintly from an expert political placeman, an honorable gentleman who would discipline the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and whose motto is, “ My party, right or wrong.”
I do not propose to discuss seriously a number of phases of this bill. For instance, I do not propose to discuss seriously the secret ballot, for I do not believe that the AttorneyGeneral, or any member of the Ministry, thinks that it can be successfully applied. Nor do I think that the members pf the Ministry really believe that an insignificant minority of ten treacherous and disgruntled members of a union, not even going together, but in succession, to the court, ought to control an organization comprising possibly 50,000 members. But I ‘do believe that the reasons why there are occasional instances of disobedience to the awards of the court are that the weapon of the “ sack “ is still mercilessly used by employers, that designed lockouts, under various devices which serve to make the law, are a constant invocation to legal contests, and that difficulty is experienced in getting to the court for an award. These things create increasing and bitter discontent, and often lead to industrial trouble.
These observations lead me to mention a very important industrial dispute which is threatening to develop in Melbourne while I speak. In 1919 the Timber Workers’ Union lodged a claim in the Arbitration Court for a 44-hours’ week throughout the industry. Mr. Justice Higgins, at that time the president of the court, heard evidence from both sides. While the matter was pending the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) proceeded to amend the act in the direction of preventing a single judge from decreasing the hours of labour. As might be expected, the Labour party made a strong protest against such a law prejudicing the claims of those whose cases were then sub judice before the Arbitration Court. Upon that point it succeeded. The Timber Workers’ Union had a plaint before the court at the time. Eventually Mr. Justice Higgins made a 44-hour week award throughout the industry. In September, 1922, the employers applied to the court for a variation of the award. The Full Arbitration Court, after argument, decided not to apply a 44-hour week to log sawmilling in the bush, leaving other sections of the milling and timber working industry, including timber merchants and city timber yards, with a 44-hour week. The court refused to extend the hours in those sections of the industry. In March, 1923, the question was again argued before the Full Arbitration Court, which decided in favour of the status quo - 48 hours for sawmilling in the bush and 44 hours, for timber merchants and city timber yards. Mr. Justice Powers then said that the question was whether’ the Full Arbitration Court should approve of the standard hours being increased from 44 to 48 in those sections of the industry in which 44 hours were worked. The Full Arbitration Court endorsed the previous judgment given in September, 1922. The president stated that the decision of the Full Arbitration Court on the reference before it was that the court disapproved of the standard hours in the branches of the timber industry in which 44 hours was the standard being increased to 48. On the 13th May, 1926, the Full Arbitration Court refused to disturb the hours that had been recognized as the correct intention of the 1922 Full Court judgment. In 1927, both the union and the employers made a claim to the court on the question of hours. The union asked for 44 hours, while the employers sought 48. In February, 192S, the present Full Arbitration Court decided to adjourn the case until February, 1929, for the reason that the court was unable to obtain satisfactory evidence as to the ability of the industry to pay, and also for the reason that it was thought desirable to see whether the tariff would give a fillip to the industry. That was done on the assumption that the hours previously prescribed by the Full Arbitration Court should continue in force. In a new plaint lodged this year, the unions asked for a new general award as well as an award on the question of hours. During the pendency of this plaint, Judge Lukin informed the representatives of both parties that he intended to interpret the hours clause in the present award, by which he meant the judgment of the Full Arbitration Court given in 1922. On the 27th April last, the learned judge made his interpretation by which practically all members of the Timber Workers Union are to have a 48-hours working week.
This perfectly gratuitous and unsolicited interpretation has caused little less than a panic throughout the ramifications of this immense industry for the following reasons: - There Avas no dispute between the parties as to the actual hours prescribed in the separate sections of the industry; there was no request by either party for a new interpretation of the existing award as to hours; for six years the meaning and effect of the award as to hours had been accepted, and, in fact confirmed by the court; the question of altering the hours had been expressly postponed by the Full Arbitration Court. The judge in the meantime was to give consideration to the general case and make an award thereon “ on the assumption that the hours prescribed by the Full Arbitration Court should continue in force “, and, I venture to add, on the assumption also that the interpretation to be placed on the provision relating to hours would be that placed upon it by common consent at the time, the Full Arbitration Court dealt with the question. The position is that the men are now working peaceably under an existing award as interpreted by the court, not by themselves. The interpretation was accepted by all parties, and has continued for a period of six years. It is to be noted that in this industry, 44 hours work each week is regarded as the standard. In these unprecendented circumstances, and in the interests of peace in industry, the union applied to Judge Lukin for a variation of the award as now interpreted by him. That is, by a paradox, a variation to preserve the existing interpretation - the status quo in industry. The judge could have granted the variation without going to the Full Arbitration Court, because he was not asked to reduce the hours below the standard rate. He refused to grant the variation, but offered to state a case for the High Court or, alternatively, to obtain an order of interpretation. That was poor consolation. The union had already had too many interpretations. It wanted to retain the award as generally accepted. Asit is, the accepted practice goes for no other reason than that lawyers have differed. Now 10,000 or 12,000 men are informed that the interpretation of an award under which they have worked for years, was technically incorrect, and, therefore, had no effect. I do not argue the question of law, whether the judge was right in the disastrous interpretations which he made. I merely say that in perusing “ with meticulous care “ - I use his own phrase - the strands of his legal labyrinth in a court which is expressly not bound by legal technicality, he has brought us to the very edge of another serious industrial upheaval. I hope that the Attorney-General will use his influence to put an end to this judicial finessing.
– Order! The honorable member must not reflect on the judiciary.
– I had no intention of reflecting on the judge. I have been careful in my choice of language.
– I ask honorable member to withdraw the term “judicial finessing.”
– I withdraw it. I invoke the sympathetic attention of the Attorney-General to this matter. This early hour of the morning is most inopportune for the serious discussion of a pressing industrial problem, but I venture to say that it was never foreseen that His Honor was likely to make excursions, without any request from the parties concerned, into the settled meaning of a pre-existing award which had run the gamut of a number of his predecessors whose views were probably as correct as his own. Although it is not the business either of this Parliament or of the Government to give a direction to the court, it is seriously hoped that in this important matter of conciliation and arbitration the court will take some cognizance of a rapidly developing public opinion which, in this particular case, seems to be founded on facts which justify the grievance of the workers in this great industry. I understand that His Honour was inclined to be peevish or irritated.
– The honorable member is not in order in referring to a judge in that manner. It is .the duty of this House to uphold the dignity of the judiciary.
– That is my desire and intention; but I do hope that no honorable member or member of the judiciary would be so thin skinned as to take exception to words designed to describe accurately and with proper respect the attitude of a judge towards statements alleged to have been made outside the court. I suggest, and I have suggested before, that their Honours in this jurisdiction should not be too sensitive of criticism. The Conciliation and Arbitration Court is different from other judicial tribunals. Its business is to deal with large masses of men, some of them rugged men whose form of address is not always patterned upon the Chesterfieldian style, but who are nevertheless as honest as they are strong in the pursuit of what they conceive to be their rights. I hope that as the matter is not sub judice and is of vital interest to the whole community, it will be reconsidered before these men, smarting under what they conceive to be a grave wrong, take, in their resentment, some action which all law-abiding citizens would naturally regret.
At this early hour of the morning one can address himself only in a very disconnected manner to the bill now under consideration, I am opposed to it for some reasons which I have given, and for many other reasons, the elucidation of which, for the moment, I must postpone, as I have had to devote a considerable time to this other pressing and. practical question of the timber workers’ trouble. I hope that the Government will reconsider the bill. It must surely have formed a different opinion of the view of labour and the industrial movement outside. Before the Government pledges itself to the principle of the secret ballot for determining the desires of unionists, it would be a fair thing to submit the question to a ballot of the trade unionists themselves. There would be no difficulty in getting the whole-hearted co-operation of the trade union movement to obtain an expression of opinion on the secret ballot as provided for under the bill. If that were done, and it was found that it was repugnant to the men and regarded as coercive, oppressive, and unduly penal in that it would be prying into their private concerns, taking the management of their affairs out of their hands, and placing it, in the hands of a hostile government, as may happen, then the Government should abandon the bill and especially those clauses that are unquestionably, in our view obnoxious to the trade union movement of Australia and, we hope, to the general community.
– I do not intend to occupy the time of the House very long at this hour of the morning, but I wish to make one or two observations so that a wrong impression of the proposals contained in the bill and of the intention of the Government will not be gained by the general public. I wish to throw back into . the teeth of honorable members opposite the statement that members on this side are against the working man. The people cannot be led astray by such humbug. We have never said that wages should be cut down. On the contrary we have always advocated the improvement of working conditions. We condemn the strike promotors, and we desire to substitute for direct action, some system which will operate in the interests of the working man, the industries of Australia, and the people generally. That is the object of the proposals contained in the bill. With the exception of the speeches of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) and one or two other members of that side the debate has been conducted by the Labour members generally with a great deal of praiseworthy moderation, and there is evidence that they are very much concerned about the industrial problems with which we are dealing to-day. The extreme element in the Labour movement has been responsible for much of our industrial turmoil, and its insidious work is destroying the fair name of this country. The present method of fixing wages and conditions of employment and of settling disputes imposes severe hardships upon the general community, and the bill will give considerable relief in that “direction, because it will take the control of the unions out of the hands of strike promoters. I believe that the Government is sincere in its efforts to promote industrial peace, and it has proved its bona fides by securing the approval of a great many of the working men of this country. I have never been a bad friend to the worker and am never likely to be, but if I had my way I should get rid of the strike fomenter. It is my opinion that the cream of the working men of Australia will stand by the Government and its proposals, and if justice is not meted out to them the bill will not receive my support.
I rose principally to say that I have never been a believer in compulsory arbitration. Our present system has failed, and has done a considerable amount of harm to this country.
– Whose fault is that?
– It is the fault of the system. Australia and New Zealand are the only countries in the world that have adopted the compulsory arbitration system.
New Zealand is getting tired of it, and has been holding an investigation to ascertain whether it is worth continuing. T know that arbitration will continue in Australia for a while, and as I cannot have my way and abolish the system altogether, I shall do the next best thing by assisting the Government to make it as perfect as possible. I believe in the Canadian system of arbitration, and, failing that, the system adopted in the United States of America. The Canadian system is simplicity itself, involving very little public expenditure, whereas our is complex and ruinous. Is there anybody in this country who will try to justify the strikes that we have had ? I know that there are some on this side of the House who believe that we have had no more than the ordinary number of strikes that obtain in other parts of the world, but that is not a fair comparison because conditions in this country are so much better than those prevailing in the older countries.
The Canadian system of conciliation means that when private rights become public wrongs the private rights have to give way. The investigation of disputes is a very simple matter. The Canadian Industrial Disputes Investigation Act came into operation in 1907. Under this act strikes or lockouts were forbidden. A board of three persons was appointed, and it was laid down that ali disputes must be referred to a public official whose duty it was to arrange for a board meeting on the spot where the dispute occurred, between representatives of the employers and the employees. When a decision was come to, the board adjourned for 48 hours, and the public official published in the daily papers a synopsis of the decision. After that the parties returned and confirmed the agreement. The system was so successful that from 1907 to 1923, of the 588 applications which had been heard, 534 were peacefully settled. During the last year for which statistics are available, 54 boards were called together to handle disputes, and only one of that number failed. There is no better system in operation in any part of the world, and I should like to have seen it working here during the years that are past.
Compare the results obtained in Canada with those achieved in Australia under our system of arbitration. In New South Wales alone during the years from 1913 to 1920, there were 2,027 disputes involving 646,748 workmen, who lost in wages £6,881,956. In Victoria, during the same period, there were 336 disputes, while the loss of wages was £1,054,845; in South Australia there were 171 disputes involving 24,359 workmen, and resulting in a loss of £337,602 in wages. These are the figures compiled by the Government Statistician. This enormous loss could be prevented if the Canadian system, which is even better than that proposed by the Government, were introduced.
– Unemployment has cost us far more than that.
– Yes, but I have been quoting merely the loss of wages. The loss to the country, arising out of strikes, is infinitely more than that. Some very strange statements have been made by honorable members on the other side of the House about the victimisation of the workers. One man who ought to know better has been talking a lot of that stuff, but he has not told us about the unions victimising men who are striking out for freedom. These men have been refused the right to work. If an employer gives them work the unions tell him that he must get rid of them very quickly. I intend, whenever I can, to support the Government in bringing about better conditions for the worker, and better representation for labour in this Parliament. I know that the workers would appreciate it, and that they would try to do “the right thing but for the brutality of the men who force their discipline upon the workers.
– The honorable member can have nothing to say against my union.
– No, there are many unions in Victoria against whom nothing can be said, and they should be all like that. It is the duty of this Parliament to afford them the opportunity. I hope that honorable members on the other side of the House will find that the day of their liberation from bondage has arrived, and that all parties will unite to do a fair thing for the workers and employers alike. -
.I should lite to congratulate the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. Foster) on the very vigorous speech which he has delivered at this unromantic hour. It speaks volumes for the honorable member’s earnestness. This measure has been much discussed, and rightly so, because no more important bill has ever been brought before the House. It touches very closely the social and industrial life of the community. I do not intend to discuss the early struggles of labour more than to say that I am familiar with the industrial legislation which was passed at the beginning, and the obstructions which were placed in the way of the unions in their infant days. These obstacles were successfully overcome until the movement finally passed through the chrysalis stage of its existence, and emerged into what it is to-day, possibly the greatest factor in the life of the community.
Nobody can deny the importance of the trade union movement. It has been said again and again in this Parliament that we in Australia to-day enjoy a standard of living which is the envy of the civilized world. That is true, even though that standard may, perhaps, be somewhat artificial, and its benefits more apparent than real. That we are indebted to the trade union movement for the raising of the standard of living, I readily agree. The ills of the old social system compelled the formation of trade unions. Questions of hours, recreation, wages and conditions of employment are social matters. Thirty years ago, so far as these were concerned, Australia was to a very large extent, in a deplorable condition. The improvement has been due .to the efforts of the trade unions, and to the greater spread of enlightenment. I admit that even among the employers to-day there are some who, if given the opportunity, would revert to the iniquitous conditions of 30 years ago ; but, while conceding that, we must also recognize that even ‘ as far back as 30 years ago, there were many employers who did the best they could in the way of wages and conditions for the workers they employed. If there are employers to-day who wish to revert to the old-time conditions, they dare not do so; to the credit of unionism they cannot do so.
I readily admit that trade unionism is indispensable and vital to the welfare of the community, and is here to stay, i am as familiar with its aims and aspirations as is any other honorable member, for I have worked as a miner and also as a stoker on a mine furnace for what would be considered to-day a paltry pittance. I have also had the privilege and experience of practising my profession in the “black country” of Scotland where I was in intimate contact with the people and had excellent opportunities to study first hand their standards of living and conditions of employment, which were appalling. Repeatedly in the depths of winter I saw women and children picking over the coal dumps to obtain enough inferior coal to furnish their homes with meagre warmth. My experience of life has taught me that a great debt of gratitude is due to the trade unions. I prefer to regard them as social rather than political benefactors. They have made articulate the demand of the masses for those rights which in the past were denied them. But because I am an advocate of social reform I am not a socialist, nor, because I believe in trade unionism, am I obliged to support the Labour movement. Some of the greatest thinkers and leaders in the industrial movement, men whose names are written large on the scroll of fame because of their efforts to uplift the masses, are no longer to be found in the ranks of the Labour party. They have found themselves out of step with its aims and methods and realizing that they could not continue loyal to the movement, are to-day in the ranks of the so-called tory party.
Believing in trade unionism and what it stand for, and recognizing that industrial progress which is vital to the national well-being is unobtainable without industrial peace, we have endeavoured to devise a system for the settlement of difference between employer and employee. Gradually a special type of judicial machinery was evolved until we have the present day arbitration courts established to obviate or minimize the waste and suffering that are occasioned when industrial unrest gets beyond control and develops into a strike or lockout. The arbitration system was originally a bold experiment, which even now is in operation only in New Zealand and Australia. It is recognized, however, that the conditions of a few years ago called for the experiment, and that the system adopted has since justified. itself. Industrial arbitration is now something more than a Utopian venture. Differing from the honorable member for Wakefield, I say that the principle which underlies the system is right even if the instrument we have forged for giving effect to it be faulty. The imperfections which have been revealed would not justify the scrapping of so bold an experiment in social legislation. They are merely a challenge to us to frame such modifications of the existing law as will correct the faults. With that object in view, the Government has submitted the amendments of the principal act which are now before the House.
There is room for division of opinion on so important a matter, but I do noi pay much heed to the views of extremists, honest though they be, who say that the court- is’ an unwieldy monstrosity and should be abolished. On the contrary I pledge my loyal support to the Government in its present endeavour to improve the law in order to command for the court the respect of those who have recourse to it and make its decisions binding on employer and employee alike.
In his policy speech the Prime Minister told the people clearly that he was dissatisfied with industrial conditions, especially with the cavalier treatment of the Arbitration Court by various organizations and that it was his intention, if the people would give him the necessary authority, to introduce corrective legislation. There is no lack of evidence that under present conditions the Arbitration Court cannot function effectively and cannot enforce its awards. Thousands of unionists and employers honor the court and loyally respect its jurisdiction, but there are recalcitrants on both sides who, to suit their own ends and gratify personal vanity, flout the court on every possible occasion. But must we, at the dictates of an intractable minority abolish the courts? Decidedly not ; rattier should we exercise our utmost power to make the machinery of the court more effective, so that it may impartially impose its will upon litigants who appear before it. That, I believe, is the desire of most honorable members on both sides of the House. There are some who do not believe that arbitration is the best system for the avoidance of industrial strife, but most are agreed that arbitration, or some method akin to it, is needed for the prevention or speedy settlement of disputes.
We have to admit, that so far compulsory arbitration has not yielded the results that its champions expected of it. The reason is obvious. Unionism has run riot and having allowed all other considerations to become subservient to political bias, it has failed to take advantage of a system which it should have been the first’ to embrace. An unfortunate state of affairs has arisen and is being daily accentuated through the unions regarding the court only as a means of getting increased wages, regardless of the effect upon industry and society generally. They gladly accept the jurisdiction of the court when it is favorable to their claims; but should it decide that it is impossible to accede to their demands, they too frequently flout its findings, and flout them with impunity.
It has been stated by speaker after speaker on the Opposition side of the House that this bill has behind it some sinister motive; that the Government is actuated by a desire to deliver a crushing blow at unionism. That is a ridiculous statement. Any political power that sets out to crush unionism merely asks to be relegated to political oblivion. If unionism is smashed, it will be through the activities of its malcontents. This Government has no intention to seek political oblivion by attempting to achieve something that is impossible. I say emphatically that there is nothing, explicit or implied, in the bill to show that this party is antagonistic to unionism or to the aspirations of the workers. The present position has been brought about by the pernicious activities of a small but active section of political agitators who are prompted by the desire to bring about industrial upheavals. The right honorable member for ‘North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) emphasized that fact and crystallized his views very pertinently. And who in this chamber has had such an extensive experience in industrial matters as the right honorable member? The insidious influence of that small extremist section continually disrupts the harmony that would otherwise continue between employer and employee, and its activities threaten to engulf trade unionism, to its great detriment.
Time and again honorable members on this side have made reference to the disruptive influences which are at work, but honorable members opposite with ribald laughter, have asserted that we are dealing with a bogy. I have here a copy of the last issue of The Rotarian Worker, the organ of that section of unionism which is continually trying, and with a considerable degree of success, to whiteant the movement. These “ rotarian workers “ are entirely in sympathy with the expressions of opinion that have emanated from honorable members opposite in regard to this measure. An article in the journal is headed -
£1,000 Fine if Union Official Advocates a Strike.
Militant Unions to be Banded over to Scabs. £100 fine for picketing or declaring jobs black.
The Coolie Wages Clause.
Dealing with the various clauses of the bill, the article says, inter alia :
Other clauses prohibit any one criticizing those great big bluffs, commonly known as Arbitration Court Judges; and inflict penalties on persons who criticize awards of court, or who even urge workers to repudiate awards.
That indicates their attitude towards this measure. I have no wish to weary the House, but I shall read a paragraph which in its hostility to the bill is practically on all-fours with the speech of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). It reads: -
The Need for Rank and File Action. ‘
Already the various trade union executives, trades and labour councils, &c, have laid down a policy of action to oppose the bill. But this is not enough; too often have the workers been betrayed by leaving too much to their executive. The supreme need of the moment is rank and file action; the ultimate battle will be fought and won, or lost, by the workers themselves. It may be all right for the workers in New South Wales to be pleased because Mr. Theodore is opposing the bill, and is apparently on their side. But Mr. Theodore proved himself as good a capitalist servant in Queensland as Mr. Bruce is to-day for Australia.
There are many points of interest or amusement in this journal, according to the opinions of the reader. Here is a paragraph -
This paper is financed solely by militant rank and file waterside workers. In Rotary ports the custom has been for member’s to be levied ls. per month, and the new levy, if carried, will be 2s. 6d. per month for the six busy months of the year. The rotary conference decided that rotary groups in non-rotary ports must also pay this levy……..
Remember ! This paper is distributed free to all ports in Queensland, whether rotary or not; and in the future it will be sent free to ports outside this State, if only we can get the finance.
I wonder whether, if they cannot obtain finance locally, they will make application to Moscow? There is another short extract from a newspaper of current date, which will be of interest to honorable members. It expresses in tabloid form the position as I see it, and also as honorable members opposite must really see it - although they will not admit that it is so. It states: -
Trades Unionism in Chaos.
For long enough now it has been evident that trades unionism has been upon the down grade; but during the last few weeks it has descended so fast that, unless some drastic method of arresting its decline be found and used, its final catastrophe is imminent. And that would mean the disappearance from the stage of industrial and social activities of a power which for many years has exerted a wholesome and rational effect upon the general health of the State. There is no quarrel with trades unionism as such; but all decent citizens must condemn any organization which prefers to adopt Bolshevik methods. These are as far from being in accordance with the real principles of trades unionism as the extremists, who are rapidly bringing it to destruction, are from representing the real desires of the great majority of its members. Trades unionism, as properly conducted, is based on democratic methods; it is founded upon the right of every man to express his opinion in order that the sense of the majority may be revealed; upon the agreement of each individual to submit his will to that of the majority so ascertained; and upon the endeavours of all who have the decisions so arrived at brought into effect by every legitimate means. Shortly stated, that is the true gospel of trades unionism, and no one who believes in the principles of democracy can quarrel with it. But can anyone, witnessing what has happened in
Australia for some years past, and is happening here to-day to a more miserable degree than ever, be heard to say that the things that are being done in the name of the unions are the things that true trades unionism would ever permit?
That puts the whole matter in a nutshell. I should like honorable members opposite to make some definite effort to stem this tide. They should be prepared to take their courage in both hands. Mr. McCormack, the Labour Premier of Queensland, when speaking in Cairns last week, answered a question in regard to this bill by stating that Mr. Bruce had been compelled to bring it in, but that its introduction was the fault of the unionists themselves. That was a very courageous statement for a Labour Premier to make, and honorable members opposite might well emulate Mr. McCormack. I regret that they have not endeavoured to fall into line and help unionism to regain the position from which it fell through the action of the militants.
I wish to refer briefly to a few of the statements that have been made during the debate. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), rightly or wrongly drew comparisons between industrial unionism and the British Medical Association. I should like to refute the erroneous impression that i3 fairly widely held in this House respecting the objects of the British Medical Association. In the first place, it is not a militant union or association, nor is it compulsory for medical practitioners to become members of it. There are hundreds of doctors in New South Wales who have never subscribed to it, and they cannot be punished on that account. They would have an action at law against the association if any effort were made to compel them to become members. The association will, of course, protect the public by taking disciplinary action, where necessary, against individuals who commit any offence that is outside medical ethic3 or that is deemed to be against the interests of the’ public or the profession.
– I challenge the honorable member to mention one medical man who has been prevented from earning a living because he has had the courage to express his views upon any ‘political question which affected the policy of the British Medical Association.
– Dr. G. S. Thompson, of Sydney.
– -I am particularly well acquainted with that case and the litigation that took place. The honorable member for Cook should make himself more familiar with the facts before rushing in where angels fear to tread.
– Will the honorable member deny that the members of the British Medical Association refused to consult or work with him ?
– A member of the British Medical Association may refuse to consult with a man who has been expelled from that association, but not for a moment does it lay down the principle that the expelled member shall be restrained from engaging in his profession or earning a living. No honorable member can mention one instance of a medical man having been compelled to leave a town on account of the activities of the British Medical Association. On the other hand numerous cases have been cited in this chamber of men in the industrial world who have been victimized, drummed out of a town, hounded from place to place and compelled to live on charity for the rest of their lives, honorable members opposite have been unable to offer a satisfactory reason for such treatment.
I listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore). He has apparently undergone an extraordinary metamorphosis. I remember the time - and it must be indelibly imprinted upon the minds of honorable members opposite - when the honorable member for Dalley, who last night posed as the champion of unionism, after having climbed into power on the backs of the railwaymen, skull-dragged them through the Arbitration Court and had their wages reduced. So far as I know, he is the only Labour Premier who has had the courage - if courage it can be called - to drag through a court a union on whose back he had climbed into power, and have the wages of its members reduced. Those wages have not yet been restored to their former level. That action of the honorable member precipitated one of the most disastrous strikes that Queensland has ever experienced. It temporarily strangled her progress. The honorable member for Dalley also fought to the last ditch the proposal to- inaugurate a 44-hour week, and eventually consented to have that measure bludgeoned through the Queensland Assembly only for the sake of winning a plebiscite. I remember, as though it were yesterday, that during the last big industrial fight in 1925 he was asked what should he done to effect a settlement. His reply was characteristic of his attitude generally towards strikes. He said that he was particularly keen on fighting an election campaign and was not interested in the strike.
I again draw attention to the fact that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley) has delivered in this House at least one speech in which he applauded action taken by the Arbitration Court, and said that, as the representative of a large body of industrialists, he was prepared to accept certain provisions in a previous arbitration measure. Those provisions have been toned down in this bill, against which he has not only delivered a scathing indictment in this House, but with respect to which he has also contributed an article to the press. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) I think dissipated any idea the honorable member might have had of again rushing into print. I suggest that, in view of his disastrous effort on that occasion, he should serve a comparatively long apprenticeship to journalism before contributing further articles, and that even then he should be compelled to write, in invisible ink.
I shall deal now with some of the remarks of tho honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), who is displaying a certain amount of restiveness. He probably imagined that I should overlook him. At the commencement of his speech he apologised for harbouring any suspicion regarding the motives of the Government in introducing the bill.
– I made no apology.
– I understood the honorable member to say that he did not wish to import suspicion into his speech. Then in characteristic fashion he proceeded to relate to the House harrowing details of a meeting which he and others held one night in Flinders-lane, when an uncouth gentleman wearing a silk hat exploded an over-ripe tomato on his pate.
– I did not say that the meeting was held in Flinders-lane.
– That was a mistake on my part; it was held at the Temperance Hall. It is undoubted, however, that the honorable member came into violent contact with an over-ripe tomato, with disastrous results to himself. In his subsequent remarks the honorable member insidiously endeavoured to connect the incident with Flinders-lane, and then stated that the Prime Minister was at one time interested in’ a business in that well-known thoroughfare. I draw the attention of the honorable member to’ Bulletin No. 17 of the Advisory Council of Science and Industry. Even in his most suspicious moments he will, I think, free that journal from any ‘ suggestion of bias. The Advisory Council of Science and Industry made an exhaustive review of the activities .of various businesses and showed to what extent they had adopted the desirable principle of co-operation. Strangely enough,’ one of the firms with which they dealt was Paterson, Laing & Bruce. Referring to the activities of that firm, the journal states : -
Messrs. Paterson, Laing & Bruce, merchants, of Melbourne, recently established a scheme of profit-sharing. The basic principle on which’ the scheme was prepared is thus set out: - “That the staff shall receive a fair wage by way of salary, and that capital shall receive a fair wage by way of 6 per cent, interest on the amount involved. After the staff and capital have received what might be described as a minimum wage, any surplus profits shall be divided between the. two interests concerned.” - The minimum wages for capital and labour are regarded as working expenses of the’ business in the same way as debenture interest, directors’, auditors’ and trustees’ fees, payments into reserves, and pensions fund, &c. After taking all the above items into account a minimum profit and loss figure is reached. The turnover necessary to produce the minimum profit is worked out and the amount of turnover is then apportioned to the different branches and again subdivided among the individual departments. Every department’ throughout the business has thus a definite amount of trade to do, and if it does thai trade at the net rate fixed, the minimum profit will be realized.
It- -will thus be seen that the right hon’orable gentleman -who is entrusted with the leadership of this Souse’ has made a definite attempt to take into copartnersnip’ tile employees of h-id firm, te whom he nas always! been a most generous eni’ployer, and by whom he has always been held in the highest esteem. I hope that when the Advisory Council of Sclent and Industry undertakes further investigations it will look into that perfect instrument of business acumen, the Labor Daily,- and ascertain if it has shown the same desire to co-operate with its employees and the same regard for the distribution of profits among those who compulsorily subscribe to its funds.
I have very rauch pleasure in supporting the bill, and trust that it will be instrumental in tightening tip the arbitration law in such a Way that it will function according to our desires.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Latham) adjourned.
Motion (by Sr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That the House, ‘.at its rising, adjourn until 3 o’clock p.m. on Tuesday next.
House adjourned at 5.30 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 May 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280524_reps_10_118/>.