10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom.) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– The Treasurer pro mised, last week, to make time available, if possible, for a discussion on the proposals of the Government of the United States of America for . the outlawry of war. Will the Prime Minister, before the time comes for that discussion, lay upon the table of the House the test of the proposals, so that honorable members may have an opportunity of considering it?
– I hope to be in a position very ..soon to lay upon the table of the House not only the text of the communication received from the Governmnent of the United States of America, but also the replies made to it by Great Britain, Germany and France. I shall certainly do so before there is any discussion of the subject in the House.
– Will the Prime Minister indicate whether it is the intention of the Government to afford this House an early opportunity to discuss the proposal to outlaw war which originated in the United States of America, and whether it has arrived at a decision as to its policy in relation to the matter? If so, will a statement as to that policy be made at an early date?
– I have already intimated that the Government had accepted with the utmost cordiality the proposals put forward by the United States of America. With the second part of tho honorable member’s question, I have already dealt. I hope to afford the House the opportunity of discussing these proposals.
– I have on several occasions asked when the Government will make available to honorable members the second and final report of the Development and Migration Commission on assistance for the gold-mining industry.. Can the Prime Minister give me any information on the subject?
– I regret that I cannot at the moment tell the honorable member when the report will be received by the Government.
-HUGHES. - Can the Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson) give any details of the result of the recent poll on the proposal to establish a compulsory wheat pool in Victoria? If not, will he promise to obtain them before Thursday next, on which date the motion of the honorable . member for Hume (Mr.. Parker Moloney), dealing with this subject, is listed for debate?’
– I know that the result of the poll was against the establishment of a compulsory pool. I shall secure the details of the polling by the time the honorable member has suggested.
German Development Project
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a cablegram which was published in the Times, London, onFriday last, to the effect that Herr Bosch had made a statement in Germany that “particularly large strides had been made in the synthetic production of motor spirit, and that he hoped that the production for this year would be 100,000 tons of benzine, and hoped it would be doubled in 1929.” An application for the admission of German capital into Australia for the purpose of establishing an extensive plant for the extraction of by-products from coal has been referred to the Development and Migration Commission for inquiry. Has the Government yet received the commission’s report on the subject? The matter is urgent because of the serious unemployment that exists in our coal mining industry.
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member has referred, but I have received information to the effect that great progress has been made in the production of motor spirit and other by-products from coal. While in Melbourne last week I discussed this subject with the Development and Migration Commission. I hope at an early date to announce the decision of the Government.
– Referring to the prohibition of the exhibition of the motion picture “ Dawn “ in Australia, is the Prime Minister aware that county councils in Great Britain have the power to decide whether particular films shall or shall not be exhibited in their districts, and that the London County Council has allowed this film to be exhibited, with the result that long queues of people are to be seen waiting in the streets for admission to the theatres in which it is shown? In these circumstances, will the Government reconsider its decision not to allow the film to be shown in Australia?
– I am aware that the film “ Dawn “ is being shown in parts of Great Britain, and that a great number of people are desirous of seeing it. As a profit-making picture I have no doubt that it is a great success. I am also aware that the system of film censorship in Great Britain is different from that in Australia, but I suggest to the honorable member that our system is superior to that of the Mother Country. I have already indicated the reasons which caused the Government to prohibit the public exhibition of the picture in Australia, and am not prepared to re-open the question.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the following statement which was published in the parliamentary news of the Adelaide Register on Wednesday, 23rd May -
Mr. Fitzgerald asked if the Government would consider the advisableness of constructing the Red Hill to Port Augusta railway for the purpose of absorbing the unemployed. The Premier replied that the Commonwealth Government was considering the matter. He would ask when it was going to start the work. His Government could not undertake the expenditure of ?300,000 or ?400,000 on the line.
Have the overtures referred to been made to the Commonwealth Government by the Premier of South Australia, and if so, what reply has been made to them? If no reply has been sent, will the Prime Minister undertake to give immediate attention to the matter, on acount of the acute distress that exists in South Australia ?
– The construction of the Red Hill to Port Augusta railway is an obligation which the Commonwealth Government has assumed. While the Premier of South Australia has acted with the utmost propriety and has not attempted to dictate to this Government the course that it should take in regard to this work, he has applied all the unofficial pressure he could to cause the work to he put in hand. I have previously indicated that the Government is most desirous of proceeding with the work, not only for the reason mentioned by the honor able member, that it would provide work for a certain number of unemployed, but also for the reason that it would be an important link in the Commonwealth railway system. Financially this is probably the best enterprise that we could spend money upon at present. But the construction of the line is entirely conditioned by the amount of loan money available. At present money is not available for the work and I am unable to say when it will be available.
– I have received a number of inquiries as to when the Commonwealth housing scheme will become operative. Can the Treasurer give me any information on the subject?
– The Government of New South Wales has officially committed itself to introduce legislation with the object of altering its existing housing scheme. to conform with the Commonwealth scheme. I understand that the State instrumentalities of Victoria and South Australia are also willing to do so. I have no information respecting the other States. The initiation of the scheme is now dependent upon action by the respective States.
– The Prime Minister is reported to have said at a recent meeting - of which I cannot give the exact date, but it was that at which he referred to the “ loud voiced raucous trade unionists disappearing over the horizon” - speaking of the Crimes Act, that it had had a most salutary effect, for since it had come into force “ these gentlemen “ - meaning revolutionary propagandists - “have got out of their revolutionary institutions like rabbits running from their burrows with a ferret after them.” I ask what are the names of the persons who as a result of the Crimes Act have got out of the revolutionary institutions, like or unlike rabbits ; about what date did they get out of them, and what are the revolutionary institutions referred to?
– The reference which the honorable member has made to an alleged statement of mine regarding trade unionists is not an accurate report. I was speaking of those very undesirable persons of an extremist character who now have control of some of our trade unions. Regarding the latter portion of the honorable member’s question, I reiterate that the passing of the Crimes Act has had a most admirable and salutory effect upon a number of very undesirable persons, who appear to be prepared to flirt with revolutionary ideas in this country. I have no intention of giving the honorable member or any one else information as to who those individuals were, when they left, or what organizations were concerned. The effect of the action of the Government has been all that was desired, and it is proposed to allow the matter to remain as it stands.
– Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been directed to statements that were made in Melbourne recently by Mr. Haldane, alleging that since the amalgamation of Australian wireless broadcasting companies, their programmes have been very bad indeed? Is the honorable gentleman aware that the Sydney broadcasting companies, which recently amalgamated, are now broadcasting gramaphone records and advertisements for the greater portion of their programmes? Will he inform the House what steps will be taken by his department to investigate those complaints?
– I have seen the statement made by Mr. Haldane, which referred to broadcasting programmes prior to the amalgamation taking place.
– No; after.
– The amalgamation has not yet taken place. ‘ My department is drawing the attention of all “ A “ class stations to the many objections that have been made as to the quality of the programmes that have been broadcast. It is hoped that, because of that action and the exercise of the powers that the Government possesses, better programmes will be given in the future. As a result of the recent co-ordination of the two stations, 3LO Melbourne, and 5CL Adelaide, the wireless broadcasting programme of the former was relayed by the Adelaide station last night. I arn hopeful that a similar state of affairs will apply as between Sydney and Melbourne and also, on a short wave-length, between Melbourne and Western Australia. I am confident that the public may look forward to better programmes being broadcast in the future.
– Apropos of the statement of the Prime Minister that the influx of Italians has been restricted, has his attention been drawn to the arrival last week of another ship load of Italians, numbering 250? I should like to know whether the Prime Minister was misinformed when he made his former replies regarding the restriction of Italian migration to Australia, and if he will take steps to regulate the entry of Italians?
Mv. BRUCE. - I am quite sure that the honorable member did not intend to suggest that I have deliberately, tried to mislead the House.’ There is a very definite restriction of the number of Italian immigrants coming to Australia this year, designed to maintain that proportion of British stock in our population that we all desire. The number of Italian migrants allowed into this country during the present year will be something less than half the number that arrived last year. After discussion with the Italian Consul-General and correspondence with his government, an arrangement has been come to with the utmost goodwill on the part of all concerned, and which has the co-operation of the Italian Government, limiting the number of Italian migrants to arrive in Australia during the present year to 3,000 for the whole twelve months. Practically only female relatives of Italians already resident in Australia will be permitted to come to Australia in that period, the only male Italians who may come in under the arrangement being the fathers or sons of those already resident here.
– What negotiations have taken place between the Prime Minister and the Italian Consul as to the restriction of Italian migrants? When did they take place? Will the right honorable gentleman lay upon the table of the House the documents relating thereto, showing quotas, &c?
– The negotiations with the Italian Consul-General have been going on for some months. I do not propose to lay upon the table any of the documents relating to those negotiations, but I have informed the House as to their result. I consider it most undesirable that negotiations of this character should be made the subject of public discussion.
– The following paragraph appeared in the Melbourne Herald of the 25th May :-
Claiming that £700,000 spent yearly by- the Federal Government in baby bonuses was wasted, Mrs. Morris (South Australia) told the interstate conference of the Australian Women’s National League yesterday that reforms were needed urgently. The allowance was demoralizing the people, she said. It waa never paid when it was most needed, so that it was ineffective in decreasing maternal mortality. It had no effect on the birth rate. The conference decided that the Commonwealth Government’ be requested to re-consider the form in which the maternity allowance is spent, with a view of securing better national results.
Has the Government any intention of amending the present system of maternity grants?
– The honorable gentleman’s question relates to the future policy of the Government. He is, doubtless, aware that it is not usual, when replying to questions, to indicate the Government’s policy. I point out, however, that the statement made by Mrs. Morris was not a suggestion that anything should be taken from Australian mothers and children; it was an honest expression of opinion that, possibly, the amount of money now paid by way of maternity bonus could be spent in a better way. The Government desires to do all that is possible to assist the mothers and children of this country in order that we may build up a healthy race. If a better method than that now in operation could be found the Government would unhesitatingly adopt it; but, having considered the matter carefully on many occasions, the Government has not yet discovered any better means of assisting the mothers and children than the continuance of the maternity bonus.
– Does the Treasurer anticipate being in a position to make an early announcement regarding the conversion loan due in September next?
– I hope to be able to make an announcement within a few weeks.
Mr. Larkin - Royal Prerogative
– In view of the publication in a section of the press of a report that an honour will probably be conferred upon Mr. Larkin, who was until recently . the chairman of the Australian Shipping Board, will the Prime Minister before making any recommendation take into consideration the advisability of appointing a committee to ascertain to what extent the policy insisted upon by Mr. Larkin, and the attitude adopted by him as a member of the board, affected the finances of the Line?
– As the conferring of honours is the prerogative of the British Sovereign, I am not prepared to make any statement as to the possibility of an honour being conferred upon Mr. Larkin.
– Is it a fact that prior to his departure for England, Mr. Larkin discussed this matter with the Prime Minister, and intimated that, if he were recommended for the honour of knighthood, it would be helpful to him in his business activities in Great Britain?
– I do not discuss with individuals - Mr. Larkin or anybody else - the claims which they may think they have for the conferring of an honour by His Majesty.
– Is it not a fact that in these matters His Majesty acts only upon the advice of his Ministers, and that in respect of honours for Australian citizens, His Majesty’s Imperial advisors act only on the recommendation of an Australian Government ?
– The conferring of honours is entirely the prerogrative of the King. The constitutional practice which has now been established is that His Majesty acts entirely on the advice of his Ministers, but the conferring of honours is entirely within His Majesty’s discretion, and he may exercise his prerogative in this regard even against the recommendation of his advisers. But, with the exception of the Victorian Order, no honours are conferred by His Majesty unless there has been a recommendation from his responsible Ministers. In this particular matter it is the Prime Minister - not the Government - that is concerned. In regard to Australian honours, His Majesty acts upon the advice of the Australian Prime Minister; in the conferring of British honours, he acts upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and similarly in conferring honours on the citizens of other dominions, he acts on the advice of the Prime Ministers of the dominions concerned.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral in a position to say whether it is proposed to renew the five-years’ agreement with the present “ A “ class broadcasting stations, or whether tenders will be invited for the service?
– The honorable member’s question refers to a matter of government policy, which will be determined later.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to give the House any further information regarding the resignation of Sir Hugh Denison as Australian Trade Commissioner in the United States of America, and to state whether his successor has yet been selected ?
– Beyond saying that after fifteen months’ service Sir Hugh Denison asked to be relieved of his duties as Australian Commissioner in the United States of America, which the Government agreed to, and that he expressed some definite views regarding Australia’s representation in the United States of America, I cannot give the honorable gentleman any information. I am not prepared, at the present moment to indicate the future policy of the Government regarding Australia’s representation in the United States of America.
– Will the Government, when considering the appointment of a Trade Commissioner for the United States of America keep in mind the solid claims of Mr. D. M. Dow, who has done wonderful work there, carrying the bulk of the responsibilities of the office.
– The Government will give the fullest consideration to the claims of every one when it is considering the matter. I suggest, however, that it is not desirable that the claims of individuals should be canvassed in this House.
– Has the Prime Minister received from Mr. Buttenshaw, the Acting-Premier and Minister for Labour in New South Wales, as well as from the Amalgamated Engineering Union, communications setting forth the unemployment existing among those engaged in the metal trades industry. If so, does he propose to give a more satisfactory answer to their representations than the curt acknowledgment of the communication which has been forwarded to them?
– The communication has not not yet been considered by the Government.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the newspaper report on an address recently delivered by him at a meeting of ladies in Melbourne - I cannot remember the date of the meeting, but it was the one at which the right honorable gentleman referred to trade unionists as “loud voiced, raucous persons “ - is correct. Referring to the attempted deportation of certain more or less notorious persons, the right honorable gentleman is reported to have said “ Some of you possibly share my regret that the limits of the Constitution prevented me from doing that.” Was the Government’s inability to deport the persons to whom the right honorable gentleman referred due to limitations imposed by the Constitution, or to faulty legislation introduced by the Government with the object of securing that end ?
– I am afraid that I cannot remember the exact words I used at the meeting to which the honorable gentleman refers, but unquestionably their purpose was more or less as he has indicated. It is true that the limited powers conferred upon this Parliament prevented the deportation of certain persons, but I must leave it to the honorable member himself as a lawyer, to determine whether the Constitution or the legislation introduced by the Government,was responsible for the failure of the Government to attain its desire in the specific case to which he refers. The only fact that impresses me in this connexion is that the Government failed in its efforts to achieve its purpose.
– I desire to quote from a letter received from the Victorian Monthly Newspapers’ Association -
We view with alarm the proposal to deregister newspapers published at intervals exceeding seven days, and the provision to increase the postal rates on such newspapers from1½d. per 20 ozs. to 2½d. per 20 ozs. The statement that monthly papers in Great Britain and other countries are classified differently to dailies and weeklies is not a sound argument when applied to Australia, for the simple fact that the type of papers we represent are published weekly in other countries, whereas in Australia, because of its very much smaller population, such a course would not be justified….. We desire to retain the privileges of newspaper registration which we have enjoyed for more than 40 years and the advantages that come with that registration, viz., press cable and telegraphic rates, railway concessions for parcels of papers sent by rail, and special railway fares for reporters.
As it appears that these privileges are imperilled by the proposal to cancel the registration of certain publications as newspapers, will the Minister explain the reasons for the proposed cancellation, and say whether the decision can now be reviewed.
– The matter mentioned by the honorable member is now before another place in the form of a bill which, when dealt with, will be sent to this House. Honorable members will then have an opportunity to discuss it.
– Has the Minister for Home and Territories seen the new supplemental rolls, as well as the revised lists of voters struck off the rolls; and, if so, does he consider the arrangements for the forthcoming election satisfactory?
– I have not seen the lists to which the honorable member refers.
Preference to Returned Soldiers and Married Men
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– This information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
It may be added that at present there is an arrangement with the State Governments under which any cases are reported where migrants become charges upon State institutions on account of suffering from insanity or other mental defects, and it is the practice, where circumstances warrant such action, to take steps under the Immigration Act to deport such persons back to their home countries, in pursuance of section 8a of the act, which provides that deportation (at the expense of the shipping companies concerned) can be effected in any cases where a migrant, within three years of his arrival in Australia, becomes an inmate of an insane asylum, or charge upon a public charitable institution in Australia.
Home and Territories Department for consideration of the question of deportation under the Immigration Act, as indicated in reply to 2. A full record is kept of all such cases. In this connexion it may be mentioned that, at the last meeting of the Federal Health Council, a proposal was submitted that steps be taken to obtain complete information regarding mental deficiency in the Commonwealth. It is probable that action in that direction will be taken in the near future. Any such action would cover the cases of assisted immigrants who have become affected since their arrival in Australia..
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What amounts have been paid to Lysaghts’ Limited, as wire netting bounty year by year, and to date?
– The information is contained in the following table: -
Price of Bricks - Sports Ovals - Hotel Tariffs
– On the 23rd May the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked me the following questions: -
What is the price (per 1,000) of -
Bricks from the new Northcote brickyard, Melbourne, delivered in the city of Melbourne?
Bricks from the Box Hill brickyard, Box Hill, delivered at Brighton, Victoria?
Bricks from the Canberra brickyards, delivered to a job in (1 ) Acton, and (2) Manuka?
Bricks at the kilns at (1) new North cote, (2) Box Hill,. (3) Canberra, and (4) Queanbeyan brickyards?
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : -
– On the 24th May the honorable member for
Bourke (Mr. Anstey) asked me the following questions : -
I am now in a position to advise him as follows: - 1, 2, and 3. The Commission has at present under consideration the. question of the permanent control of these grounds, including a proposal that they should be vested in trustees, but a decision has not yet been reached. Meanwhile, to meet existing requirements, temporary arrangements are -being made by which certain football bodies, viz., the Federal Capital Territory District Rugby League, and the Canberra Australian National Rules Football League, will have the right to use the grounds during the present season on particular dates that have been mutually agreed upon between the interested bodies. A nominal rental of £5 is being charged, under these conditions, for each of the Manuka and Northbourne ovals, no charge being proposed for Kingston and Acton grounds. The only improvements carried out by voluntary labour consist of the erection of a pavilion at North - bourne oval and the formation of three concrete cricket pitches on the same ground by the Northbourne Cricket Club, with material supplied by the Commission. In considering the question of definite arrangements for vesting the grounds in trustees or for their control by other means, the Commission will have due regard to the public interest and to the requirements of the various sporting bodies interested, who are at liberty to submit their views for consideration.
– On the 24th May the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) asked me the following questions : -
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 am now in a position to advise him as follows : -
The number of guests affected by the increase in tariff is 209.
The number whose rates will be decreased cannot be given until the Commission has decided in regard to the applications received from persons desiring the rate for permanent boarders:
– On the 17th May the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
ment is to withhold the publication of information which would disclose the business of individuals or firms.
– On the 23rd May the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) asked the following question, upon notice: -
What was the total cost to Australia (showing the cost to each State and to the Commonwealth separately) in connexion with the Wembley Exhibition ?
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -
In connexion with the British Empire Exhibition, 1924-25, the various State Governments agreed to contribute £85,000, which was made up as follows: -
The expenditure by the Commonwealth was £157,879, making a total expenditure of £242,879. In addition to this it is understood that moneys were expended by the several States and services rendered by State departments in connexion with the work of preparation of exhibits in Australia, information in respect to the cost of which is not available.
Freight Charges - Motor Oils - Fines Imposed on Officers.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1. (a) - No. The Superintendent of Stores, Sydney (Mr. T. H. Cameron) did not arrange to have timber for private use consigned with departmental cross arms.
The freight (£2 8s. 6d.) was wrongly charged to this department, as the sending station has no weighbridge and the weight was taken at Sydenham, where the mixed consignment was not noticed by the postal officer who prepared the consignment note.
Medical Advisory Board
asked the Minister in charge of Repatriation, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the 27th
April, 1928, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) asked the following questions : -
The Commissioner of Taxation has now furnished the following information: - 1 and 2. All cases in which section 4 was applicable were located, and refunds were made by the Deputy Commissioners of Taxation, where necessary, irrespective of whether the taxpayers applied for such refund or not. The reports of Deputy Commissioners indicate that there are only four cases in the whole of the Commonwealth in which refunds have yet to be made under section 4. The returns of two of these taxpayers are lodged in Central Office, and action is being taken to effect refunds as soon as possible. The remaining two cases are being dealt with in the Adelaide office of this department. In these last two cases, the taxpayers have decided to have their assessments amended by bringing live stock into account at market values under section 1 (3) of the above act. Action to effect amendments under section 4 has, therefore, been postponed in these two cases, pending receipt from the taxpayers of details of market values.
Thefollowing papers werepresented : -
Development and Migration Commission - Dawson Valley Irrigation Scheme, Queensland - Report.
Ordered to be printed.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Health -
J. C. Spencer.
A. R. Tremain.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Federal Capital Commission (Finance) Regulations - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 40.
Australian Delegation to Ninth Assembly
– Several honorable members have questioned me from time to time as to the composition of the Australian delegation for the next meeting of the League of Nations Assembly at Geneva. I have already stated that Senator McLachlan will lead the delegation, and that Sir Granville Ryrie will also be a member of it. The full list of delegates is as follows: - Senator McLachlan, Sir Granville Ryrie, and Sir “William Harrison Moore. The two substitute delegates are Mr. Olive Baillieu and Mrs. Carlile McDonnell.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) asked a question regarding the composition of the royal commission which is to inquire into the serious charges made by Mr. Lambert and Mr. Cann. I am now in a position to say that the Royal Commissioner will be His Honour, Judge Edward Scholes, a judge of the district court of NewSouth Wales.
The commission has been appointed to inquire into and report in relation to -
The first of these statements is that made by Mr. Lambert, and the second statement that made by Mr. Cann. The terms of reference then proceed : -
If any such benefit as is referred to in the foregoing paragraph was given or offered -
It is hoped that the commission will be able to commence its sittings early in the coming week.
Debate resumed from 25th May, (vide page 5266), on motion by Mr. Latham -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– In the course of this debate, many and varied opinions have been expressed on the subject, not only of conciliation and arbitration, but also of industrial matters in Australia and generally. The opinions on arbitration may be arranged in three classes. In the first class are the few, but very few, members of the House who, if not opposed to arbitration altogether, are certainly opposed to arbitration being undertaken as a function of a federal authority. In the second class, are those who support arbitration, but appear to be unwilling to accept its logical consequences. In the third class, are those who accept arbitration as a principle, and are also prepared to accept its logical consequences. Those who come within the first class are opposed to arbitration because it involves the determination of industrial conditions by an outside authority, and because of the result which, it has been said, arbitration in Commonwealth hands has actually brought about in Australia.
The industrial problem will not solve itself by being left alone. It is a very difficult one, and no solution that may be suggested will completely overcome all the difficulties that present themselves. I have already said that the Government makes no pretence that this legislation will cure all our industrial troubles. Still, these troubles will not be cured by being left alone, nor can we get rid of them by passing them by on the other side. The Arbitration Court, despite some defects in its machinery, which this bill. endeavours to remedy, and other difficulties incidental to the subject of industrial disputes, is to-day doing most useful and valuable work. Let me repeat that it is wrong to concentrate attention upon the few, though I admit important, industries in which industrial trouble frequently occurs ; we should remember the large number of industries that are working satisfactorily -under awards and certified agreements, and in which there is no industrial trouble at all.
Honorable members opposite all say that they support the principle df arbitration; but I shall endeavour to show that they almost unanimously, if not unanimously, reject the necessary logical consequences and implications of that declaration. The Government on the other hand, accepts arbitration as a principle, and recognizes that the Federal Parliament is confined to the utilization of the two methods of conciliation and arbitration for dealing with industrial matters. Accepting arbitration as a principle, the Government accepts also its necessary implications.
The debate would hardly give an outside and unprejudiced observer a true view of the nature of thebill. The measure contains many provisions that are almost noncontentious, and many indubitable improvements on the existing system; improvements which for a number of years have been asked for by one side or the other in industry, and provisions which, it will be conceded when we come to deal with the bill in committee, are Undoubtedly wise and prudent. Very little attention has been devoted to those provisions. The discus sion has been directed almost entirely to three or four controversial matters with which the bill deals. I desire, therefore. to re-call the attention of the House to some of the general principles that the measure contains.
In the first place, our whole arbitration system, from its introduction in 1904, has been based on the acceptance of the principles of conciliation and arbitration in place of direct action. That has been its deliberate policy. Our Conciliation and Arbitration Act is distinct from, I think, all other statutes of this Parliament, in that it contains a section setting forth its chief objects. That section - section 2 - declares the chief objects of the act to
Other objects are also set forth, but that in the forefront is the prevention of lockouts and strikes.
I ask my honorable friends opposite whether they regard arbitration as consistent with an unlimited right to lockout or an Unlimited right to strike? If they do not, where would they draw the limit? The act declares that arbitration is not consistent with strikes and lockouts. Section 6, which was part of the original act passed in 1904, prohibits, under a penalty of £1,000, all interstate strikes and lockouts. Although that section has been in the act from the beginning, one would not have thought so,- when listening to the utterances of honorable members opposite. Now what is the opposition to this provision ? Section 6a was inserted in 1920j and, according to the interpretation of the High Court; it means; to put it shortly, that persons or organizations bound by an award; or entitled to the benefit of an award, must not strike against an award. Therefore; the act prohibits two classes of strikes-firstly; interstate Strikes; that is strikes ‘ on account of interstate industrial disputes; and secondly, strike’s against an award by persons or organizations bound by an award. Is it desired by the Opposition, or by the trade union movement; that the prohibition of strikes and lockouts should be removed ? . T have. here a pamphlet entitled “ No Compromise,” issued by the Australian Labour party and the Labour Council of New South Wales conjointly. On page 3 of that pamphlet these sentences occur -
The strike is the last and most powerful defence of the organized workers against capitalist aggression. Shorn of the right to strike, the workers would become the pawns of the politicians and the helpless victims of the 1 losses.
On page 14 appears the criticism of the Australian Labour party on the bill, the first point taken being, in effect, that the measure dispossesses the trade unions of the elementary right to strike. What is the position of our friends on the other side of the House on that question? Do they stand by the propaganda of the Australian Labour party and the Labour Council of New South Wales, and say that the right to strike must be preserved ? If they do not, where do they stand?
– What we have said is that, in certain circumstances the bill makes strikes and lockouts legal.
– No direct answer has been given to my direct question.
– We do not wish to interrupt the Attorney-General’s speech, but he is inviting interjections, and if he wishes for answers to his questions he will get them.
– I am quite prepared to allow the honorable member to say whether he supports the views expressed in the sentences that I have read from this pamphlet.
– I stand by the declaration that I made in my second-reading speech.
– That interjection does not answer my question.
– I have answered it. I ask the Attorney-General to deal with what I said in my second-reading speech.
– Both before and after this bill was introduced I had many opportunities of consulting and being consulted by all the interests directly concerned, including employers’ organizations and trade unions. Among other, the Australian Council of Trade Unions has seen me on several occasions, and on the 13th August last, before the bill was introduced, a deputation from that body waited upon me, and an interesting discussion took place which was reported i i the press at that time. This is an extract from that report -
asked if they regarded it as a principle that either side in industry should be at liberty to disregard any provision in an award which it regarded as objectionable.
– No, that is not so.
asked if they said the unions should be at liberty to disregard awards that broke down established principles which the union regarded as vital.
– That is the position.
Mr. Latham said if that were so the employers must be allowed the same degree of liberty. No system of regulation of wages and conditions could operate under a limitation of that kind.
I repeat that statement. If awards are to be effective, they must bind both sides, and it is impossible for those on either side to make an exception in favour of vital principles determined by themselves from time to time.
There are certain, well-recognized and vital principles of trade unionism with which this bill not only does not interfere, but which it indeed recognizes and supports. The primary principles of trade unionism are first, the right of association for industrial purposes - the right of the workers to band together in their own industrial interests, which is supported and promoted by our whole arbitration system - and secondly, the right of collective bargaining - the right of unions to deal on behalf of their members with employers or any other authority controlling wages and conditions. Those are the fundamental rights of trade unionism, upon which all the others depend. They are the rights for which the representatives of the workers have fought for so many years. They have been obtained, and are now conserved in our legislation ; not only are they recognized, but their assertion is facilitated by the law of Australia. The sixth object of the Arbitration Act is -
To facilitate and encourage the organization of representative bodies of employers and of employees, and the submission of industrial disputes to the court by organizations, and to permit representative bodies of employers and of employees to be declared organizations for the purposes of this act.
In other words, the act is, in fact, founded upon the basis of trade unionism and its continuance ; without trade unionism it is quite impossible for this legislation to function.
A trade union is bound by law as much as any other body of men, and the members of trade unions as a whole recognize this as do all other citizens of the Commonwealth. At the close of the deputation to which I have referred, I put a number of questions to the members of it. They asked me whether I was prepared to reduce those questions to writing, and I did so. The first question for which I asked consideration by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which claimed to represent all the trade unions of Australia, concerned - “ the retention or the abolition of penalties on lockouts and strikes.” I asked the deputation at the time whether it was in favour of abolishing strike penalties, and the answer was in the affirmative. I replied, “ Of course, you recognize that that would involve the abolition of lockout penalties.” To that they said, “We should like to think it over:” On the 30th September last, after I had written to ask whether the council had anything to say in reference to the four matters upon which I asked it to express an opinion, the secretary, Mr. Crofts, wrote -
In answer to your letter of the 17th instant, relative to the questions submitted by the Federal Attorney-General, Mr. Latham, bearing on the industrial peace, I am to say that in reply to question No. 1 - question of the retention or the abolition of penalties on lockouts and strikes - it has been decided to obtain the opinion of all unions interested in Arbitration Court proceedings.
That is the last that I have heard from them on the subject. I have heard from the council on various other questions, but I have not had an answer to the question, “Are the trade unions of Australia in favour of the abolition of penalties on strikes and lockouts ? “ There is a very good reason for that. The trade unionists recognize that the penalties on lockouts are remarkably effective, and they also recognize, too, that while the strike penalty may be an easy subject to speak about on the platform, especially before an ill-informed audience, the basis of the whole system upon which the Arbitration Court works is that strikes and lockouts are prohibited by law. Honorable members may take it that the trade union movement of Australia, whatever some speakers may say now and again to the contrary, is not prepared to declare in favour of abolishing strike penalties.
It is difficult to believe that in relation to arbitration some of the leaders of the trade unions really represent the rank and file, and in this connexion I mention one of the most important trade unions of Australia, the Australian Railways Union. During last week quite a number of honorable members were waited upon by, or received a letter from, Mr. Keane, the secretary of that union, strongly urging the retention of State instrumentalities within the scope of the federal arbitration law. Mr. Keane, in giving evidence before the royal commission on the Constitution, strongly urged the right of Australian railway employees to lodge plaints in, and obtain awards from, the Federal Arbitration Court. From this it would appear that the Australian Railways Union is very anxious to maintain its position with the court. Yet, judging by a matter to which I shall presently refer, it would appear that the officials of the union do not in all things represent the views of its members, who at the last annual meeting authorized the lodging of six new plaints with the Arbitration Court. There are in this measure provisions which have been incorporated at the direct request of the Australian Railways Union to meet the particular situations which arise in relation to the hearing of their claims.
– What provisions are they?
– They are at the end of the bill, and provide for extending the power to refer matters to a deputy president. On the 14th July last the press published some resolutions passed by the council of the Australian Railways Union, the text of which I shall quote, and then ask honorable members to compare those resolutions with what I have just said about the expressed desire of the chief executive officer of the union to allow State instrumentalities to remain within the jurisdiction of the court. One resolution reads -
That the perpetuation of arbitration is to the detriment of the organized workers of the Commonwealth, and Australian Railways Union workers in particular, and, with a view to bringing about some measure of social justice, that the efforts of the Australian council be directed towards placing before members their real economic position.
Another reads -
That, with a view to uniform propaganda in relation to collective effort on the part of the working class in opposition to the chloroforming effects of arbitration courts and other wage-fixing tribunals, a committee of three be appointed to prepare and disseminate such propaganda.
Those resolutions are followed by others dealing with such matters as the elimination of the capitalist state, and the control .of industry by the workers. It would appear, therefore, that in the matter of arbitration these alleged leaders do not really represent the views of their supposed followers. The trade unionists of Australia, as a whole, approve of the arbitration system, and do not agree that it is to the detriment of organized workers of the Commonwealth. When Mr. Keane waited upon me, he asked me to include in the bill the provisions to which I have referred. I asked him if he would be good enough to send me a copy of the resolutions which had been passed, and which I had seen in the press. As I have Mr. Keane’s letter with me, forwarding to me a copy of the resolution referring to the perpetuation of arbitration being to the detriment of the organized workers of the Commonwealth, there can be no doubt as to the authenticity .of what I have read. This is clearly a case in which men who happen to be in charge of a big union do not represent the views of its members.
I believe that trade unions as a whole are prepared to accept arbitration and its logical implications provided for in the principal act and in thi3 bill. The principle of our arbitration legislation is the prevention of strikes and lockouts, but in addition to providing means for the prevention and settlement of disputes, our legislation has also provided penalties for those responsible for strikes and lockouts. It would be possible to have an arbitration system without the power to impose penalties, on those responsible for strikes and lockouts, but so far as can be discovered neither side wishes these penalties to be removed. In Australia to-day employers and employees are unfortunately divided into two hostile camps, not universally, but too frequently,and they are engaged in contests on either the legal or the industrial plane. As to the contests upon the legal plane we might just as well recognize the facts without pretence or cant. The penalties that can be imposed on employers for a lockout are very effective; but those that can be imposed upon organizations are largely ineffective. Personally I can not see the justice of taking proceedings against a private member of a union for doing something which it was known he was compelled to do; but the officers of an organization are in a different position. How can a case of job control or a sectional strike, when one employer out of a number is separately attacked, be dealt with under the present act ? The imposition of penalties is quite ineffective as against large numbers of private individuals who are members of a union ; but if the evidence justifies it, penalties should be enforced against an organization or its officers. As the remedies now provided in the principal act are often ineffective, clause 7 has been drafted to cover these cases. In addition to the penalties provided by the act, there is the cancellation of an award or the deregistration of an organization. In some cases all these are quite ineffective. Clause 1 therefore provides that where other methods are found ineffective the employers may approach the court for a declaration that a strike exists, so that their hands may be freed and they may be able to fight on the industrial plane by means of a lockout to the extent permitted by the court. Self help may be allowed, under the control of the court, in cases where the other side is already breaking the law. I invite honorable members’ attention to the fact that in making a declaration the court has discretionary power. Some honorable members seem to be under the impression that the clause means that whenever there is a strike there must be a lockout or vice versa; but if honorable members will refer to the clause they will see that the word “ may “ and not “ shall “ is used in each of the first four sub-sections of the proposed new sub-section. The power is purely permissive or discretionary. The proposed new section sets out that -
The intention - and the words express the intention - is to vest a discretion in the court, and not to make its action merely automatic. In some cases the only way to deal effectively with a dispute in which one party is breaking the law is to restore freedom to the other side. If that is done, many disputes which, under present conditions last for some time, will be settled in their early stages. Employers know that although they are unable to counteract job control by any form of lockout, job control is itself an illegal strike. There is every reason, therefore, for equipping the court with power to restore this measure of freedom to one side when the other side is deliberately breaking the law. Under present conditions such freedom cannot be exercised. This provision is, of course, limited to the industry in which the dispute is in progress. Some honorable members have spoken as though there will be power under this provision to cause a general lockout or a general strike. That is not the case. The words are quite clear on that point.
A good deal of misunderstanding has occurred as to the meaning of clause 48, which amends section 60 of the principal act, which deals with the position of a deregistered union. In my second-reading speech I explained that at present the legal status of a deregistered union is obscure. I repeat that to-day no one is able to say with certainty whether a de-registered union exists as a corporation or not. It is desirable to clear this up, and for that reason this new provision is introduced.
Much misapprehension has occurred through the use of the word “dissolution “ at the beginning of proposed new sub-section 6, of section 60 of the act. I point out that an ordinary trade union prior to registration is called an association. When it becomes registered it is called an organization. Under section 58 of the act an organization is a Corporation. A corporation is an artificial legal person above and beyond the natural legal persons of which it consists. When a corporation is dissolved it ceases to exist as an artificial legal person, and the natural persons who constituted it become merely an association of individuals. The object of clause 48 is to provide that an organization so deregistered shall no longer be a corporation by reason of anything contained in the act, but shall return to the status of a voluntary association. In order to clear up misapprehensions that have arisen in respect to the meaning of proposed new subsection 6 of section 60, 1 propose, in committee, to move that it be’ omitted with a view to insert the following : -
Upon cancellation of the registration of an organization, the organization shall cease to be an organization and a corporation under this act, but shall not by reason of the cancellation cease to be an association. The property of the organization shall, subject to any order which the court may make with respect to the satisfaction of the debts and obligations of the Organization out of that property, be the property of the association, and shall be held and applied for the purposes of the association in accordance with the constitution and rules of the organization in so far as they can be carried out or observed notwithstanding the deregistration of the organization.
This bill deals not only with the matters to which I have already referred, but also with our general conciliation policy. It contains provisions which, if agreed to, will considerably extend the scope and methods of industrial- conciliation in Australia. Very little attention was paid during the debate to this aspect of the measure, although quite a number of honorable members spoke of the desirability of our having more conciliation and less arbitration in industry. That is one of the objects of the bill. Some honorable members have suggested that the Industrial Peace Act provides a better scheme for the control of industry than the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and have advocated the appointment of shop committees and local bodies with power to deal with disputes on the spot. That is provided for in our existing legislation. In addition to the judges of the court, there is a conciliation commissioner. To substitute the Industrial Peace Act for the Conciliation and Arbitration Act would, I am sure, lead to unintended and unexpected results. It must never be forgotten that the power of the Commonwealth over industry is limited to dealing with interstate industrial disputes. If the Industrial Peace Act were applied to industry generally, it would break down, for if the representatives of either side on a tribunal constituted under it were to absent themselves from the meetings, the tribunal could not function. In the coal industry, and in some of the callings associated with mining generally, tribunals have been set up composed of an equal number of employers and employees, with a chairman chosen by the Government. This method of dealing with industrial affairs has been practicable hitherto only because both sides have been content with the determinations which have been made from time to time. It only occasionally happens that these disputes are of an interstate character. But if a board of this description were set up to deal with an interstate dispute, and its decision was subsequently challenged, serious results would follow. The great majority of the decisions which have so far been given by such boards might be declared invalid. On the one occasion on which it was overruled such a determination was challenged. To introduce such a system with the object of settling interstate industrial disputes would be most unwise, for it would have farreaching consequences of a totally unexpected nature. The chairman of such a tribunal really decides all questions which come before it upon which there is a difference of opinion between the employers and the employees. To apply the system generally to industrial disputes would involve appointment by the Government of a chairman as arbitrator for every industry in the Commonwealth. That, on the face of it, would be impracticable on a continental scale. The scheme involves considerable difficulties, even when confined to separate States. The wages board system of Victoria has in many cases worked very well, but it would break down if it were applied to industry all over the Commonwealth.
Honorable members should never forget that this Parliament is labouring under severe constitutional restrictions. If it were not so, it would be possible for us to deal with the subjects which come before us in a very different way. We have to do the best that we can within the limits of our Constitution; and under the powers conferred upon us we can only deal with interstate disputes.
One of the objects of this bill is to overcome the difficulties caused by the overlapping of Commonwealth and State awards. It is desirable to have one source of- industrial regulation in the case of each single industry. A number of provisions in the bill are designed to achieve that end. I shall invite the attention of honorable members to these when we reach the committee stage. I shall also when the bill is in committee, deal with a number of suggestions which have been made for the appointment of arbitrators, boards of reference, inspectors and so on.
Proposed new section 25d, has provoked a considerable amount of discussion. It reads -
The court shall, before making any award or certifying any agreement, and in proceedings for the variation or cancellation ‘ of an award or agreement, take into consideration the probable economic effect of the agreement or award in relation to the community in general and the probable economic effect thereof upon the industry or industries concerned.
Honorable members should read this clause in conjunction with the proposed addition to sub-section 1, of section 24 of the principal . act. This is contained in clause 21 of the bill and is as follows: -
Provided that the court may refuse to certify any such memorandum if it is of opinion that the agreement is not in settlement of an industrial dispute or contains clauses which the court has no power to insert in awards, or that it is not in the public interest that it should be certified.
These provisions have been criticized upon the ground that they strike a blow at the principle of the basic or living wage, in that they direct the court to reduce the living wage if it is of the opinion that an industry cannot afford to pay it. Nothing of the kind is intended. I have been surprised that some honorable members appear to be of the opinion tha’t the principle of the basic wage is not economically justified. The Government, and I as a member of it, regard the principle as economically sound and this is the view of the Arbitration Court. A living wage properly determined, is a minimum wage which, to give a concise abridgment of the language of the court, provides for the support of an employee in accordance with the standards of a human being entitled to live as the head of a family under decent conditions in a civilized community. The provision of such a wage is not only ethically just, but economically sound. Indeed, upon any view which looks beyond to-morrow, it is economically necessary. The payment of a properly fixed living wage merely complies with the minimum requirements of civilization as we understand it.
A most interesting and informative book was published recently, entitled A Study of the Minimum Wage, by J. H. Richardson. In it the author, having stated his conclusion that the best basis for the fixation of minimum wages appears to be the capacity of industry in general to pay them, says - the passage is to be found on page 69 -
This conclusion is in agreement with that reached in the chapter on the living wage, namely, that at the basis of the wage system there should be a minimum wage determined by the general productivity of the community as a whole without taking account of the prosperity of individual establishments or industries.
The result of fixing a minimum wage, he considers, would be -
As a consequence of this a number of “the least efficient workers might lose their employment, certain inefficient employers be forced out of business, and a few sweated industries of minor importance be eliminated. These consequences may well be lesser evils than the perpetuation of inefficiency and misery which follow the payment of a wage unreasonably low in relation to national productivity.
With those principles the Government is in entire accord. The Arbitration Court has always worked upon that basis, expressly taking the view that sound economic principles require the provision of a basic wage in accordance with the conditions to which I have referred. But that court and all the other authorities who have examined this problem agree that a general basic wage which industry as a whole cannot pay cannot be maintained, whatever any court may purport to award. A general basic wage must always be within the economic capacity of industry as a whole. Failure to recognize and apply this principle would lead to general bankruptcy and disaster. The character of the living wage in this regard was very clearly stated by Mr. Justice Jethro Brown, in the South Australian Arbitration Court. Referring to the South Australian definition of a living wage His Honour is reported in the South Australian Industrial Returns. volume 1, 1916-1S, page 122, as having said -
The statutory definition of the living wage is a wage adequate to meet the normal and reasonable needs of the worker. In other words, the conception is ethical rather than economic. The court has not to determine the value of the services rendered, but to determine what is necessary to meet normal and reasonable needs. It should be obvious that in the interpretation of reasonable needs the court cannot be wholly indifferent to the national income. The reasonable needs of the worker in a community where the national income is high are greater than the reasonable needs of the worker where the national income is low.
But it is not a valid objection to a general basic wage that a particular employer cannot pay it, or even that a particular’ industry cannot pay it. Human values are greater than material values, though it must be recognized that human welfare is conditioned by economic facts. An industry that cannot, under proper conditions, pay a decent living wage cannot justify its existence. If an industry which is necessary to the community is proved to be in that position, it is the duty of the community to take steps to make it possible for it to pay a living wage. It is almost equally obvious that a proper wages margin for skilled work is as essential to the maintenance of industry as is a sufficient basic wage. A basic wage having been fixed for unskilled labour, higher wages must be paid for skilled labour if the basic wage itself is to be maintained. Unless there is a sufficient additional margin for skilled work, young persons will not, and cannot be expected, to spend many years in study or apprenticeship, often on relatively low wages, in order to acquire the status of a skilled worker. In the absence of a sufficient supply of skilled workers, industry and the nation as a whole must sink to the unskilled level, with a consequent great fall in the general standard of living. The economic considerations, therefore, which justify the establishment of a basic wage also justify, and, indeed, necessitate the establishment of margins for skill. If a basic wage is fixed according to sound principles, the margins for skill must necessarily be preserved.
But other principles come into consideration when we approach subjects other than wages, such as the hours and conditions of labour, piecework, bonus work, travelling time, and other allowances additional to normal wages. In these matters, when full weight has been given to considerations of health and sanitation, it is proper to consider the economic circumstances affecting the industry concerned, and the relation of the industry to the community as a whole. Suppose that a claim is made for a 40-hour week and that it is based, not upon reasons relating to health, but upon other reasons. Such *a** claim may, therefore, properly be considered upon strictly economic grounds in the narrowest sense, to determine whether the specific industry to be affected can or cannot afford to give its workers full wages for a 40-hour week. Again, in an industry which has provided a basic wage and proper margins for skill, and whose conditions satisfy all requirements of health and sanitation, if a demand is made for additional payment for travelling time, or for a substantial reduction of hours, that demand should be dealt with in relation to the position of the industry and of the community. The present practice of the Arbitration Court concerning the basic wage, and the fixing of margins for skill, is in accord with the principles that I have outlined.
The practice of the Arbitration Court in relation to the basic wage may be summed up in three propositions, of which the first is that it must be sufficient to provide for the normal needs of the average employee regarded as a human being living in a civilized community. The next is that the basic wage so fixed varies with the cost of living. Lastly, the basic wage should, as a practically universal rule, be paid by all employers whether prosperous or not. In 1909 Mr. Justice Higgins, in deciding a case, said -
First of all, is an employer who is poor to be -ordered to pay as high wages as an employer who is rich? Now without laying down a rule absolute and unconditional under all circumstances, I strongly hold the view that, unless the circumstances are very exceptional, the needy employer should, under an award, pay at the same rate as his richer rival, lt would not otherwise be possible to prevent the sweating of employees, the growth of parasitic industries, the spread of industrial unrest - unrest which it is the function of this court to allay. If a -man cannot maintain his enterprise without cutting down the wages which are proper to be paid to his employees - a.t all events the wages which are essential for their living - it would be better that he should abandon the enterprise.
The bill does not interfere with these principles. They are sound economically and sound socially. But apparently some honorable members appear to doubt that the basic wage is in principle economically sound. On that point, the Government has no doubt at all. We are, however, determined to remove any uncertainty about our position in relation to this matter. Therefore, in committee, I shall propose the insertion after proposed new section 25d, of this proviso -
Provided that this section shall not affect the practice of the court in fixing the basic wage.
There remains to be discussed the other subject to which I have referred; hours and conditions of labour regarded apart from the requirements of health and sanitation. Upon this subject an opinion is held in some quarters with which the Government does not agree, and for that reason proposed new section 25d has been included in the bill. The view has been expressed, even in the court itself, that the court is not concerned with economic possibilities in relation to these matters; that the court should award such hours and conditions as it may think proper, leaving it to Parliament to make it possible for industry to comply with the awards. But a result of the application of that principle to conditions of employment is that Parliament may be forced to give assistance to an industry, in the form of bounties or customs protection, in order to make it possible for the industry - not to pay the basic wage or margin for skill - but to provide conditions as to hours and other matters which have been fixed by the court without regard to the economic condition of the industry. In the case of the Amalgamated Engineering Union v. Adams and others, in 1924, the then President of the Arbitration Court made the following pronouncement : -
Parliament must, in my opinion, be left to protect industries from overseas competition to the extent and in the way it thinks advisable, to enable them to pay wages according to the Australian standard.
Parliament has already appointed the Tariff Board to ascertain how far further protection is necessary to enable industries to be carried on profitably under Australian rates and standard hours, and to recommend ‘ to Parliament what it considers necessary for that purpose.
The court’s duty, in my opinion, is to fix fair wages and fair conditions for the work to be done by members of unions in Australian industries.
The court will not, therefore, in this case, fix any hours solely on the ground that the employers claim that the industries are not sufficiently protected to enable them to carry on profitably.
Neither will the court in this case fix any lower basie wage or margin than it would if all the industries were paying good dividends, and on the ground that the respondents claim that the manufacturing portion of the industry cannot compete with the overseas competition without further protection. That must be proved to Parliament - not to this court.
– I rise to a point of order. I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that you are permitting the honorable gentleman to do something that would be objected to if done by honorable members on this side of the chamber. He is not making a speech; he is reading a lecture.
– The Standing Orders provide that an honorable member may not read a speech; but it has not been customary to enforce this rule strictly, and on both sides honorable members have been given some latitude in the matter. As in the present case, they have been permitted to refresh their memory, by referring to notes which they have prepared.
– When interrupted, I was not reading a prepared speech: I was quoting an extract from a judgment. That pronouncement means that the court is to make its award independently of economic considerations, and to leave it to Parliament to alter economic conditions, if necessary, to fit the award. It is proposed to change the practice of the court in relation to these matters by the provision of proposed new section 25d. The view of the Government is that, subject to the provision of a basic wage, with the provision of margins for skill which are necessarily involved, and attention to considerations of health and sanitation, the court should make its awards within the limits of existing economic possibilities.
After the award has been made, it will be for Parliament to determine whether it is desirable to make provision whereby the industry shall pay higher wages or give better conditions. These are essentially problems of economic policy which should be determined, not by a court, but by the representatives of the people ir Parliament. Moreover, the representstives of the people should be unconstrained, so far as is possible, by any awards of the court in determining these matters. Hd to the present the maintenance of a fair basic wage and the preservation of a margin for skill have presented no economic difficulty; but the other matters to which I have referred ought to be regarded in their relation to the economic capacity of the industry and of the community as a whole. Unless that is done, an artificial and unreal standard will be set up - a standard, moreover, not supported by humanitarian or social considerations.
What is the alternative to the view which the Government commends to the House? In its report on the iron and steel industry, the Tariff Board pointed out that the measure of customs protection was determined largely by the gap between Australian wages and those, paid by our oversea competitors; that that gap was necessarily widened by any advance in Australian wages or conditions made without reference to the economic capacity of the industry concerned; and that further demands for protection inevitably followed the granting of higher wages, which, when conceded, resulted in further applications being made for still higher wages and better conditions. The board stated that while manufacturers and merchants engaged in the iron and steel industry had undertaken not to make any advance in prices, the industrial unions had given no assurance that they would not apply for increased wages. I propose to read from the report of the Tariff Board -
The Tariff Board desires to place on record in this report its firm conviction that without some such assurances from the industrial unions to this effect, the granting of the recommendations the Tariff Board is making will in all probability be of no avail to the industry, and will simply result in a still wider wages gap, and an ultimate paralysis of the industry. The board desires to make clear that it does not reflect in any way in this statement on the high standard of wages maintained in Australia; rather as Australians it takes pride in such, hut it has considered it a duty to point out without possibility of misinterpretation its opinion as to the inevitable trend of concessions granted without consideration for the capabilities of the various industries, and the conditions existing overseas.
The Government considers that it would be lacking in a sense of responsibility if it failed to pay heed to these obligations and to the facts which lie behind them. The policy to be adopted in economic matters should be determined by this Parliament, not by the court. Any other course threatens disaster to our present Australian standards, which we are anxious not only to maintain, but also to improve. Parliament is asked to give a legislative indication to the court that, subject to the preservation of the principle of a basic wage, which involves the retention of a. margin for skill, the court should take into consideration economic facts when making its awards or when dealing with agreements submitted to it. We have only to consider for a moment what might take place in our transport industries to realize the necessity for a provision of this nature. Transport within Australia is free from foreign competition. The conditions in the transport industry are of the greatest significance to all other industries. It would be possible for employers and employees in the transport industry to combine together in such a way as to leave only the poorest profits to all other industries together with high prices to the community as a whole. The court should not be made a means to such an end. The possibility I have mentioned illustrates the principle contained in the proposed new section, 25d, and the new proviso to section 24. - [Extension of time granted.] For the reasons I have mentioned, it is proposed to indicate to the court that it shall expressly consider the public interest in making its awards, certifying agreements, and determining questions relating to the variation or the cancellation of awards. Some honorable members have suggested that a reference to economic considerations or the public interest is too vague to be embodied in a statute. I remind them that provisions of this character already appear in the existing act. The definition of “ industrial matters “ concludes - and includes all questions of what is fair and right in relation to any industrial matter, having regard to the interest of the person immediately concerned and of society as a whole.
That is the principle which the Government desires to express in the most explicit terms in relation to the particular matters with which the proposed new sections 24 and 25d deal.
Another matter to which a good deal of time has been devoted during this debate is the provision in the bill for the taking of a secret ballot. Apparently, all honorable members agree that the secret ballot is sound in principle, and that there are many matters in connexion with industrial organizations which their members should determine by means of a secret ballot. The rules of every industrial organization are filed in the Arbitration Court. At my direction the officers of the court searched those files, and succeeded in finding that only seven unions provide expressly for a secret ballot. I” do not suggest that secret ballots are not taken by the other unions; but there are, so far as can be discovered, no general provisions in their rules for the taking of secret ballots.
– Very few unions have not the power to take a secret ballot.
– While all honorable members appear to agree that the principle of a secret ballot is sound, there are some who appear to believe that it is a bad thing that the Government has discovered that principle, and embodied it in this measure.
– That does not represent the view expressed by honorable members on this side.
– The criticism offered by honorable members opposite was not directed against the principle of the secret ballot, but against the machinery proposed to give effect to that principle. This matter is, therefore, essentially one for consideration in committee.
I wish to make it clear that the bill does not enable the Government to force a union to take a secret ballot ; it enables the members of a union to make application to a judge of the court to direct the union to take a secret ballot. It is only after the court has considered the application thus made to it, and decided that the application affects a matter which is of substantial importance to the union, that its members are given the opportunity of expressing their views by means of a secret ballot. It is difficult to see what objection in principle can be raised to that provision, although honorable members doubtless will make suggestions for improving the machinery for the holding of such ballots. The Government is satisfied that these provisions have the support of the community as a whole, including the great majority of trade unionists, who have no objection to their right to manage their own affairs being secured to them by a Commonwealth statute.
In conclusion, I desire to refer to the penalties provided for certain offences. In some quarters strong exception has been taken to the penalties said to be contained in the bill, whereas many of them are contained in the principal act, and have been in force for many years. It is unfortunate that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley), the honorable member forReid (Mr. Coleman), as well as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) with all his experience, should have stated that penalties which have existed since 1904 are to be imposed by this bill.
– The honorable gentleman claimed that they had been remitted.
– The DeputyLeader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley) said in an article published under his name that this bill introduces a penalty of £1,000 for the commission of a strike. That is not so. It is true that both the existing legislation and this measure contain provisions which are obnoxious to certain persons; but no law-abiding union or trade unionist need fear them. Some of the misstatements on the subject of penalties have been most extravagant. I desire to refer again to the official publication of the Australian Labour party and. the Trades and Labour Council of New South Wales, in which, under the heading “ Savage Penalties,” the following passage appears, on page 9: -
Careful note should be taken of the savage penalties which are attached to almost every clause of this infamous bill. These penalties range up to £1,000 and various terms of imprisonment.
I remind honorable members that the provision for a penalty of £1,000 is contained in section 6 of the act passed in 1904, and that, although since that time the Labour party has been in power in the Commonwealth more than once, no attempt has been made to repeal it. The publication referred to states further -
The following are a few of the many penalties which it will impose.
Then follow eleven examples of penalties which, it is stated, may be imposed under the provisions of this bill ; but unfortunately for the case put by the organization responsible for the pamphlet, only two are correctly stated. All the others are inaccurate, either in whole or in part. This is the sort of propaganda which is being indulged in by the Australian Labour party in New South Wales. Does the Opposition agree with it or not? Let us consider some of the new offences which are provided for by the bill, and see to what extent they constitute an “ invasion,” to use the phrase employed by the honorable member forReid, of the privileges of trade unionists. Proposed new section 86a provides -
No person shall -
Has it ever been pretended that hitherto it has been the privilege of trade unionists to prevent by violence, intimidation or threat any person from working in accordance with an award or order of the court? I still have to meet the trade unionist who is prepared seriously to argue that this proposed new sub-section takes away any of his privileges. The inclusion of this new section is absolutely justifiable in every particular. If Parliament sets up a court to determine theworking conditions inany industry, it surely is also the duty of Parliament to see that no person, by violence or threat, takes action to prevent observance of the order or award of that court. I come now to proposed new section 86b, which reads -
If an organization or if the committee of a branch of an organization. . . . imposes or declares that it imposes, or that it intends to impose, a penalty, forfeiture or disability of any kind upon a member of the organization by reason of the fact that the member has worked, is working or intends to work in accordance with the terms of an award or order of the court, the organization shall be guilty of an offence.
Should not an organization be deemed guilty of an offence if it does any of the things set out in this proposed new section? The next provision to which criticism has been directed is proposed new section 86c. It reads-
Any parson who at any meeting of an organization….. moves, seconds or puts to the meeting any resolution the terms of which are abusive of, or insulting to, the court or any judge or officer thereof. . . . shall be guilty of an offence.
Has it ever been claimed to be the privilege of trade unionists to pass resolutions abusive of, or insulting to, the court or its judges? Every one understands the difference between comment or criticism and abuse or insult in relation to any decision of the court, and it is the duty of this Parliament to protect the judges of its court from . insult or abuse. The Government’s intention, in submitting this measure, is to ask Parliament to make a reasonable law, which shall be binding on all concerned, and will commend itself to the people of Australia.
There is in the bill no attack on trade unionism. On the contrary, its provisions are designed to give the greatest assistance to trade unionism that has ever been offered by any legislature in Australia. The bill, if passed in its present form, will enable members of trade unions for the first time to direct the policy of their own organizations. I invite honorable members to consider the present position of trade unionism in the Commonwealth. There is ample evidence in the marine cooks’ strike of the inability of trade unionists to control their own affairs. Even the Australasian Council of Trade Unions is impotent. It is unable to exercise any control over, or even to influence in any way, the Marine Cooks’ Union.
– It is the only body that will settle this trouble in the end.
– I hope that it may; it has my best wishes in its endeavours to that end. I mention this dispute merely to emphasize the absence of control by members over their trade unions. I feel certain that if a secret ballot of members of the Marine Cooks’ Union were held as to, not whether there should be a strike or not, but whether the present officials have the confidence of their members, we should have a speedy and effective solution of the present trouble.
It has been suggested by honorable members opposite that the bill is being introduced by the Government for political purposes, and with an eye to the next election. Strangely enough, it has also been urged that all trade unionists throughout Australia are opposed to it. If this be true, how can it be urged that the Government has introduced it for political purposes? Why do honorable members opposite refer so often to the next election, and why do they speakso mournfully of what happened at the last election ? They do so because so many of them fully recognize that the bill is founded on reason and justice, and that it commends itself not only to the great majority of trade unionists in Australia, but also to the people as a whole.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title and citation).
– I had no opportunity to say what I intended to say during the second-reading debate, and I propose to do so now.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member would not be in order in doing so now.
– I propose to do so on the different clauses as far as it is in order for me to do so.
– The honorable member would not be in order in discussing the merits or demerits of the bill on clause 1.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Chairman. I deprecate the stand you have taken on this matter. The honorable member for Riverina rose to address himself to clause 1, and I submit that it is no part of the Chairman’s duties-
– Is the honorable member raising a point of order?
– Then will he state it.
– My point of order is that your action was irregular in calling the honorable member for Riverina to order at the point you did, and in stating what he was and was not entitled to do in committee. The honorable member has the right to address himself to the clause while it is before this committee, and your power is limited to calling his attention to any transgression of which he may be guilty.
– The honorable member is well aware that when the honorable member for Riverina. rose to his feet he said that as he had not previously an opportunity to address himself to the bill, he intended to do so on clause 1, whereupon the Chair, in order to save time, pointed out that he would not be entitled to do this.
– Have I not the right to speak on the title of the bill? This bill is called a bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1927.
– The honorable member may discuss the title.
– That is what I propose to do. I think that it admits of a great deal of argument as to whether the right title has been chosen for the bill. Personally, I should rather have seen a good deal more conciliation in thisbill, and a good deal less compulsion. In my opinion, it is very regrettable that in discussing a measure of this kind, which is of such vital importance to the whole country, to the prosperity of our industries, and to the welfare and happiness of the people, party considerations should have been allowed to obtrude themselves.
– The honorable member is not in order in pursuing this line of reasoning. The question before the committee is clause 1 - Short title and citation.
– Have I the right to compare the system of compulsory arbitration with voluntary arbitration? .
– The honorable member would not be in order in doing so on this clause.
– The honorable member may do that during.. the consideration of later clauses in the bill.
– I shall exercise my right to do so when the other clauses are under discussion.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Amendments of the principal act).
– I propose to move a new clause to follow clause 3, and I wish to have your ruling, Mr. Chairman, as to whether I may do so now, or whether it should be done at the end of the committee stage. My proposal is as follows : -
After clause 3, insert the following new clause: - 3a. Section 4 of the principal act is amended by inserting in the definition of industrial matters after the word “ includes second occurring, the words “piece-work, payment by results, and similar systems of payment.”
Am I in order in speaking to that now ?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member may move only one amendment at a time. The honorable member may move a new clause after the consideration of clauses and postponed clauses has been completed.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Penalty for lockout or strike).
.- Clause 4 amends section 6 of the act, which deals with the penalty for a strike or lockout. In his reply to the secondreading debate, the Attorney-General was at great pains to explain that the only effect’ of this clause was to reduce the penalties which might be imposed on unionists. I differ from the AttorneyGeneral. Section 6 of the act provides for a penalty of £1,000 against an organization in the case of an illegal strike or lockout, but in the bill there is a differentiation between organizations and individuals. The penalty in the case of an organization is still £1,000, but the bill provides for a reduction of the penalty to £50 in the case of an individual worker.
– The penalty on an organization or an employer is £1,000. The honorable member has stated the position wrongly.
– The clause states that in the case of “ any other person “ the penalty shall be £50. The AttorneyGeneral tried to lead the House to believe that the penalty clause in relation to strikes and lockouts had not been altered to the disadvantage of unionists. I call the honorable gentleman’s attention to the fact that in this bill there is a wider definition of a strike, or rather that which may be termed a strike.
– But there is no definition of a strike in the bill.
– There is no definition in the bill, but clause 8 widens the area of the definition given in section 8 of the principal act. That section defines those things which may be described as a strike or lockout, and this clause widens the scope of that definition.
– If the honorable member reads section 6, he will see that the offence is not a strike, but the doing of “ anything in the nature of a lockout or strike “ so that there is nothing in the nature of an extension.
– If the honorable gentleman, reads clause 8, he will see that, for the purposes of this section, an organization will be “ deemed to have ordered, encouraged, advised or incited its members to refuse to offer or accept employment” if certain things are done. Those things apply to the definition of an industrial dispute, and to actions which may be construed as “ doing something in the nature of “ a strike. This wider definition of what constitutes an offence against the strike clause will bring in a vast number of people never contemplated in the original act.
– Section 8 of the original act deals only with organizations, and any amendment of that section can deal only with organizations.
– But by clause 8 that section is amended so as to cover the acts of “ a member of the committee of management.” An organization is thus to be liable to a penalty of £1,000 for the act of an individual. Hitherto that has not been the case.
– The honorable member’s statement as to the effect of clause 8 is inaccurate. A.n organization was previously liable for the act of an individual, if he was an officer of the organization, and it will still be liable for the act of an individual if he is an officer, but not otherwise.
– But, under section 6, the organization would not have been liable to a penalty of £1,000 for the action of an individual member of a committee of management. It could not have been adjudged guilty of . an offence under that section because a member of its committee of management had encouraged or incited members of the organization to strike.
– Yes, it could.
– Then why is clause 8 necessary?
– I shall deal with that when we reach it.
– It is easy for the Attorney-General to dismiss an argument in that way. He has provided for an alteration, of the section relating to the responsibility of an organization that orders its members to refuse to offer or accept employment. Sub-section 2 of section 8 is proposed to be deleted, and a new subsection is to be inserted, the effect of which will be to hold an organization liable to a penalty of £1,000 if even a solitary act of an officer or a member of a committee of management could be construed into being “ something in the nature of “ a strike, or if he could be regarded as counselling a strike. That is the point that the Attorney-General has not made clear. It is true that the proposed new sub-section 3, of section 8, provides that where the court is satisfied that, after the commission of an offence to which this section applies, the organization or branch has bona fide removed from any office or position held by them, and, where they are members of the organization, has expelled from the organization the persons by reason of whose acts the organization has been found guilty of the offence, the maximum penalty which may be imposed on the organization in respect of that offence shall be £100. But there will still be a penalty applicable to the organization for an act committed by an officer or a member of a committee of management over whom the organization as a whole may or may not have control.
– Then it had better see about getting control.
– It is easy for an honorable member to suggest that the unions take dictatorial powers and act as autocrats ; but it is not an easy matter for a union to put such powers into practice. Let me cite a case that may serve as an example. Take a federated organization, say, the “Waterside “Workers Association, which seems to be held up to execration by honorable members opposite. That body has branches in nearly all ports in Australia, and those branches are more or less loosely bound together by the federation. That system of organization does not repose complete and autocratic powers in the hands of the central committee ; no organization in Australia can confer that power on such a committee. Assume that some member of a branch committee, possibly in Tasmania, “Western Australia, or Queensland, advises or incites men not to accept employment in an industry in which a dispute exists. In such a case the whole organization would be liable to the penalty of £1,000 provided under section 6.
– Unless it “ sacked “ that man.
– If it “sacked” him it would still be liable to a penalty of £100, and, if it re-admitted him within a’ certain period to the organization after having expelled him, it would be liable to the original penalty of £1,000. That is not a rational mode of disciplining a union. It would not add to the power of the Government or the prestige of the court in upholding the principle of arbitration”; but rather would it bring the arbitration law into ridicule and contempt. Cases can be cited where the responsible officers of unions do their level best to help carry on industry in a peaceable way, and honorably observe the awards. . But it would be impossible for them to exercise such tremendous disciplinary control over individual members as to be answerable for every act of every member of a committee of management or other officers of the organization. Yet the AttorneyGeneral requires that an organization making default in this respect shall, for the individual acts of a member of a committee of management be liable to the heavy penalty provided. The Australian Workers Union has 140,000 members distributed throughout Australia. Its officers and members of committees of management number thousands. Is that organization to be threatened with penalties amounting to £1,000 for the act of every individual officer who may advise members of the union against acceptance of employment under terms of an award ? That is an absurd penalty to provide against an organization, and that is why the bill is so objectionable to the unions.
– On whom would the honorable member place the responsibility, and how would he do it?
– As far as possible the responsible bodies should carry it. The officers and members of the union should, as far as practicable and reasonable, carry their responsibility; but there is a limit to practicability. There is a limit to what can reasonably be done in such matters. This bill attempts the impossible. It is expecting too much of an organization to ask it to accept liability for a penalty of such a drastic nature for the individual acts of thousands of minor officers who, in many cases, will not own disciplinary allegiance to a central executive. Does the Minister expect so drastic a discipline on the part of other associations? In most other cases the individual is responsible for his own actions. Mr. Anstey. - And action is taken against the individual.
– Yes, and the onus of proof is on the Crown. In this case it is proposed to punish an innocent organization for some possibly illusory offence on the part of an individual officer. I have referred to clause 8 only because of the bearing it has upon the clause under discussion, and because it introduces the uew words “ doing something in the nature of “ a lockout or strike. Some of the acts against which penalties are provided are not acts that can be construed as strikes or lockouts except by applying legal definitions. For instance, an officer of a union who counsels a body of men against accepting employment is not, according to the ordinary interpretation of words, doing something in the nature of a lockout or strike. But the Attorney-General proposes that those words shall be construed in that way.
– That has always been the law.
– The Minister seems to be emphasizing it in this case, for some reason or other, just as the ostensible reduction of the penalty in the case of individuals is likely to be more harsh to individuals than was the original penalty which was not enforceable. The Attorney-General tried to score on that matter. He tried to make out that in that case he had been generous, and had actually reduced the penalty. But, if he were honest, he would admit that his intention was not to reduce it, but to make the enforcement of the law more effective by applying a penalty where no penalty was previously applicable. That, I think, is a fair interpretation of the Government’s intention with regard to the strike penalty. How many times has the fine of £1,000 . been enforced against the individual since the passing of the act in 1904? Can any such case be cited? Actions have been taken to enforce penalties against individuals; but no honorable member can recall a case where action has been taken against an individual to recover a- penalty of £1,000 where the individual was concerned in a strike or lockout. The Attorney-General thinks that a £50 penalty against the individual can be more easily applied than a £1,000 penalty. Therefore he widens the area of application in order to rope in all those to whom he thinks the punishment can be applied. He intends to use this most disciplinary measure against those who may be concerned in industrial disputes - against all those who may offend the Government’s sense of propriety. I object to the clause - and for that matter I object to the whole bill - because it has been made more severe than before, despite what the Attorney-General has said.
– I am interested to know that the final conclusion of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) is that he opposes this particular clause. It deals with one thing, and with one thing only. It reduces the strike penalty from £1,000 to £50 in the case of members of trade unions. That is all that the clause does, and the only point that arises in connexion with it is whether the strike penalty should be left at £1,000 in the case of employees, or whether, on the other hand, it should be reduced to £50. The honorable member is opposed to the reduction. But I recommend it to the committee, because it appears to me to be a fair proposal. The observations of the honorable member have been entirely directed to clause 8, which we shall have an opportunity of considering when we reach it. At the present time, however, all we have to decide is the amount of the penalty. As to the eases in which organizations or persons are to be subject to the penalty, that is a matter that fairly calls for discussion under other clauses. Every reference to clause 8 is entirely irrelevant to clause 4, because clause 8 deals only with the liability of organizations, and not with the liability of persons as distinct from organizations. No alteration is proposed in clause 4 as to organizations, but only in relation to persons. Accordingly the changes in clause 8 have nothing to do with any of those in clause 4.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral explain what is meant by the words “ any other person,” as distinct from “ an organization or employer “ ?
– Those words apply to a member of an employees’ organization - a worker - as distinct from an employer or an organization, being either anemployers’ or employees’ organization.
.- It is quite true that this clause, on paper, reduces the fine in the case of an individual worker; but if the Attorney-General intends to try, at the committee stage, to do what was done during the second-reading debate by the Prime Minister, who endeavoured to prove that the bill actually reduced the penalties that may be inflicted upon the workers of this country, then he is using an argument which would be better received by a body of people not so intelligent as are the members of this committee.
– The bill widens the scope of the penalties.
– I agree that the Labour party cannot oppose this clause, because, on paper, it does reduce the penalties to the individual, but we are entitled to refer to other clauses, which show that this measure provides not for a reduction, but actually for an increase in the number of offences with which an individual may be charged. The original act provided a penalty of £1,000 in the case of an individual or an organization concerned; but this measure provides for a penalty of £1,000 in respect of an organization and £50 in the case of an individual worker proceeded against under section 6. The magnanimity and the generosity of the Government in proposing not to extract £1,000 from any working man is certainly wonderful, but how could that sum be collected?
– Why did the Labour party leave the original penalty in the act?
– The fact that a man was liable to a fine of £1,000 meant little. It meant no more than a fine of £50 as is now proposed. This provision is evidently to be rigorously enforced in the future, and it shows the frame of mind of its sponsors. I do not now wish to debate clause 8, because that can be debated when we reach it; but it is only fair that I should refer to it if only to show that the scope of the offences is to be extended and particularly those relating to organizations. The original penalty is to stand, but it is proposed to include in the act an infinitely larger number of offences than it is possible for an organization to commit. I propose to direct my criticism to the extension of offences, and when clause 8 is under consideration we shall fight every line of it right up to a division. We do not intend to oppose clause 4, not that we think it does any good, but subsequent clauses are certainly harmful.
.- It is right that honorable members should discuss this clause, if only to make clear to the public that, so far as the proposed amendments to the Arbitration Act are concerned, the statements that have been constantly made outside this chamber, that increased penalties are provided, have no foundation. Section 6 of the act provides that any person who commits an offence under its provisions, whether it be in connexion with a strike or lockout, is liable to a penalty of £1,000. I understand that that is the maximum penalty only.
– That is so.
– This penalty has been provided in our legislation for the last twenty years. During that time there have been strikes and lockouts, and I know of no instance in which an organization, either of employers or employees, has been mulcted. There have been instances of individuals being fined. In one case a man named Walsh was fined £100, but, according to the press, no attempt was made to collect it.
– The fine has been paid.
– That is so, but only after the present Attorney-General took office. I congratulate the AttorneyGeneral on taking an actio?* that no previous Attorney-General attempted. When an act is passed to prevent lockouts and strikes, it is only right that there should be some penalty for an infringement of its provisions, otherwise we might just as well repeal it altogether.
– Has any attempt been made to impose the penalty under the act in connexion with the marine cooks’ strike ?
– I cannot understand why that that has not been done. I do not know whether the AttorneyGeneral or the Court should take action. At present a small organization or section of it can prevent the trade and commerce of this country from being carried on. We know perfectly well that if the shipping company concerned in the present dispute employed a non-unionist as a cook, the trouble would extend throughout Australia. I wish to make it clear that penalties have been provided in the act for the last twenty years, but little effect has been given to them. If the act continues to operate in this country, I hope that the Government will insist upon its provisions being observed. To me it is absurd that one small coterie should be able to do grave injury to the trade and commerce of this country. .An immense bill of costs is amounting up because of the obstruction of industry, and it must ultimately be met by the people of this country.
– Will an alteration of the penalties make a difference?
– I do not know that it will. I have no faith in the Arbitration Court, but I wish to feel satisfied, when providing these penalties, that efforts will be made to compel the employer and employee coming within the scope of the act, to abide by the decisions of the Arbitration Court.
.- I understand that the object of the bill is to cure all the ills of this country that result from lockouts and strikes; that it is necessary to reduce the evil so far as possible, and that this Government is seeking to counteract that evil by reducing, as it alleges, the penalties imposed for offences against the act. Let us examine the provisions of the bill to ascertain how generous this Government is to the industrial malcontents. The bill, instead of reducing the offences, actually increases them. The act provides for a penalty of £1,000 upon any person or organization guilty of causing a strike or lockout. That penalty has never been imposed, because, in the first place, employers are never guilty of a lockout! If they are, they do not come under the term “ employer “, and the penalty cannot be collected. There is a distinction. They, apparently, are not “ persons “ because the bill makes it clear that a “ person “ is not an “ employer,” and an “ employer “ is not a “ person.”
– The interpretation placed by the honorable member on the bill is new, and highly original.
– The Attorney-General cannot convince me that the changes provided in the. bill favour the working man. This bill is the result of clever drafting by shrewd lawyers. The act, as it stands, provides that any person found guilty of causing a lockout or strike shall be liable to a fine of £1,000. . It was never intended that that fine should be imposed upon any individual. It would be absurd to conceive of collecting £1,000 from a unionist, and we can take it for granted that the court, in interpreting the act, took that view. That penalty is to stand in respect of an organization or an employer, but a new provision is to be inserted imposing a penalty of £50 on any individual member of a union found guilty of doing something in the nature of causing a strike. Under the bill, the organization shall be deemed to be guilty if its members refuse to offer or accept employment on the advice of the committee, a member of the committee, an officer, or a person in control of the organization or a branch of it. The fine imposed on the organization will be £1,000, and upon each individual member concerned, £50. I trust that I have made the position clear to the people of Australia.
.- Almost every honorable member opposite has said that under this clause, which is more or less inoffensive, in comparison with other clauses in the bill, the Government is making considerable remissions in respect of the penalties provided in the principal act. This afternoon the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), dangling this provision before honorable members in an attempt to edify the people of Australia, pointed out how reductions in penalties are proposed. As a matter of fact it is the only clause in which any remission of penalties is provided for. It is true that it differentiates between individuals and organizatons, and that a line of £50 instead of £1,000 may now be imposed in the case of the individual. But I cannot see that any considerable remissions have been made by the Government in the matter of fines. There has been no reduction, in the fine for hindering a judge.
– That remains at £10.
– Yes. In other provisions it has been thought necessary to increase the penalties provided in the original act.
– I do not think there are any increases in existing penalties; but there are new penalties.
– I think I am right in saying that increases are proposed.
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will quote an instance.
– For hindering a judge a fine of £10 can be imposed.
– Does the honorable member think it should be lower.
– No. I am merely showing how hollow are the AttorneyGeneral’s assertions when he speaks of remissions of fines. For disobeying an order of the court or refusing to give evidence a fine of £100 may be imposed. There is no reduction in that instance. A person who discloses trade secrets may be fined £500 or he may be imprisoned for six months.
– That is a new penalty.
– The fine remains at £500; but for some reason which the Attorney-General has not explained the term of imprisonment has been increased from three months to six months.
– I shall explain that later.
– It requires some explanation. What is the use of the Attorney-General coming to the House with letters and representations from employers organizations as to the need for doing this or that, and at the same time declining to give reasons why it is intended to impose higher penalties.
– I have not submitted any letters or representations from employers organizations.
– The Ministershould give some reason for departing” from the penalties now in force. There.has been one remission, if it can be sotermed, but there are other instances where increased and additional penalties have been provided. For non-observance of an order of the court regarding an observance of rules a new penalty of £50 may be imposed. For refusing to forward information to a -registrar the penalty is to be £100, and for refusing to supply certain information a penalty of £100 is proposed in the case of an organization or a branch, and in the case of a secretary or other prescribed officer £2 for each week in default. For refusing to appoint a qualified auditor the penalty is £50.
– That is the maximum.
– This is the measure in which we are told provision is made for a remission of fines, and for relieving the unions from some of the penalties provided in the principal act. If an auditor fails to report to the registrar a fine of £50 may be imposed. The bill also provides a penalty of £100 or imprisonment for six months, or both, for creating a disturbance near the court.
(Mr. Hurry). - I do not wish to interrupt the honorable member; but I ask him to confine his remarks to the clause under discussion.
– I intend to do so; but as other honorable members have been allowed sufficient latitude to discuss many matters irrelevant to the clause,, including the actions of Mr. Walsh and Mr. Johnson, I think I should be entitled to refer to the penalties proposed under this clause. I do not wish to pursue this matter further than to say that for the boycott of goods the fine in the case of a person is £20, and in the case of an officer, £100. For imposing illegal penalties on members, the fine is £500. Apparently, it is the intention of the Government to impoverish unions and unionists by imposing new penalties upon organizations and their members.
.- I wish to stress the point raised by honorable members on this side of the chamber, that, in reality, no remission of penalties is proposed. It is begging the question, and is sheer humbug, to say that remissions are provided. The attitude of the court, as I understand it, has always been, not to impose a penalty of £1,000 upon a workman. Obviously it would be ridiculous.
– Such a penalty has never been imposed.
– No. It is provided’, however, in this clause that a penalty of £50 may be imposed upon an individual workman doing anything in the nature of a strike. I protest against such a penalty, which is absurd and monstrously high. Even admitting, for the sake of argument, that punishment should be imposed, it is ridiculous to inflict a penalty of £50 upon a workman who pai– ‘ticipates in a strike. It is out of all pro-, portion to the offence, because, after all, a workman doing anything in the nature of a strike has not committed an offence of a criminal nature in the generally accepted meaning of the term. In addition to the imposition of a penalty of £50 the union is invited to expel a workman who strikes.
– If he is expelled from the union he cannot possibly pay the fine.
– No. The statements of honorable members on this side of the chamber to the effect that the bill is savage and coercive can easily be justified by a reference to the penalties provided, and which are closely interrelated. Its provisions are contrary to the accepted principle that a man shall not be punished twice for the same offence. This bill enables the union to inflict a penalty upon a man who ha3 done something in the nature of a strike, although the court may have already done so. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has said, we are unable to vote against this clause because in a specious manner it purports to reduce a penalty whilst it does not do so.
.- I am surprised that honorable members opposite have expressed so much opposition to the imposition of penalties. . If the law is to be enforced, penalties are necessary. The great majority of honorable members opposite have definitely told us that they believe in compulsory arbitration. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said that if a person supported compulsory arbitration he should be prepared to obey its awards. I agree with him. The imposition of penalties is the only way in which we can ensure that awards will be reasonably well obeyed. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) said “It has been the sincere desire of the Opposition to improve our system of compulsory arbitration.” I suggest to him that penalties are essential if the system is to be improved. It appears as though the Opposition desires to have a system of arbitration under which the workers may strike when the awards are not acceptable to them. We must ensure that that shall not be done with impunity. I consider that the penalties provided in this clause are necessary.
– The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) made it clear that this amendment is being inserted in the act with the object of reducing and not increasing penalties. The reduction which we are being asked to accept is more favorable to the employee than to the employer.
– Does the honorable member really believe that the object of the clause is to reduce penalties!
– Whether it is or is not the intention, it is certainly the effect. The opposite number to “ employer “ is naturally “ employee “, but what is the opposite number to “ organization”? It is, as shown in the memorandum of the alterations which are being made, “ association “. Yet, under this clause, the penalty of £1,000 is provided in the case of an organization or employer, but not in the case of an employee. Under this provision a small employer - say a barber - who gives work to only two men might, in the event of a lockout occurring in his establishment, become liable to a fine of £1,000.
– That is the maximum.
– Quite so; but we have to face the fact that an individual person may be fined £1,000. I suggest to the AttorneyGeneral that the word “ association “ should be substituted for “ employer “. It would then be provided that the fine of £1,000 could be imposed only on an organization or an association. If the clause is agreed to in its present form great hardship may be inflicted upon an individual employer. It has been suggested by the honorable member for Bourke that there is never a lockout and that therefore the eventuality that I am indicating will never arise, but in framing an Act of Parliament we should endeavour to cover every possible contingency. If the amendment that I ha.ve suggested is accepted, the penalties will be imposed evenly in respect of each side, and the clause will be fairer than it is at present.
– I have no doubt that the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) is inspired with the desire to improve the clause.
– To make it fairer.
– It is certainly capable of being made fairer; but the alteration that has been suggested would not be an improvement. An association is already defined in the act, and it includes trade unions. Seeing that “organization “ means all organizations registered under the act, the term covers organizations of both employers and employees. It would not make the clause any fairer to draw the distinction which has been suggested.
– It would limit the imposition of these penalties to combinations of employers or employees.
– I do not believe that the intention of Parliament, when it passed the original act in 1904, was that the heavy penalty of £1,000 should be applied to individual workers engaged in an industrial dispute. It was intended to apply only to organizations representative of the workers on the one hand, and of the employers on the other. In the course of my second-reading speech, and also earlier in our discussion on this clause, I made this clear. I also pointed out that the Attorney-General (Mr.
Latham), by securing the agreement of the committee to this alteration, would make it harder and not easier for organizations of workers to carry on their operations. This is one of the ways in which the Government is endeavouring to tighten up the penal provisions of the measure, with the object of using them as a weapon against the organized workers. Honorable members opposite have inquired whether, seeing that compulsory arbitration is the settled policy of the country, provision should not bemade for the enforcement of awards. Those who advocate compulsory arbitration acknowledge that awards should be complied with; but cases occur in which either real or fancied grievances of employees are not met by the awards, and they take the law into their own hands. If such individuals could be disciplined, it might be a good thing; but it is not fair that, in order to discipline one or two men, persons 1,000 miles away, the organization should be made to suffer. Yet that will be the effect of this clause. It makes possible the imposition of penalties upon individuals who have not participated in a strike, and had no intention of doing so, and upon organizations which have not disobeyed the law and had no intention of doing so. That is one strong objection that I have to the clause, and I am sure that many honorable members opposite do not appreciate how serious it is. They appear to be prepared to allow this measure, with its ill-considered clauses authorizing heavier and more severe penalties, to go through merely on the ground that compulsory arbitration is the accepted policy of the country; but they forget that they are forging a weapon which may be used to coerce and threaten the workers and their organizations. I am amazed that they should pretend that they represent the workers of this country. The Attorney-General told us seriously this afternoon that he felt that he was speaking for the majority of trade unionists in Australia when he urged that the bill should be accepted. There is little or no justification for such a claim. As a matter of fact, the Government seems to be actuated by the desire, on the one hand, to do everything it can to curb, if not entirely to take away, the power of the workers to organize with the object of protecting themselves and on the other to assist the employers to resist the claims of the workers.
is that the clause be amended to provide that the maximum penalty of £1,000 shall be imposed only in the case of organizations and associations, and that individuals shall in no circumstances be liable to it. The proposal in the bill is that in the case of an employer or an organization, which means registered associations of employers or employees, the maximum penalty shall be £1,000, and that in the case of individual trade unionists or employees the maximum penalty shall be only £50.
– Some individual employers are as big commercially as some corporations.
– The Government cannot accept the suggested amendment, because the maximum penalty must be regarded in relation to what may be described as the maximum offence. It is readily conceivable that lockouts may be caused by individual employers in respect of which the only adequate penalty would be the maximum fine. Such a case could not be met by the imposition of the relatively small fine of £50. Some employers employ hundreds of hands, and must be considered in that light. The introduction of the word “ association “ into the clause would add little to its value. All organizations which are registered associations are corporations, and as such are artificial legal persons, and are liable if their officers or certain other persons mentioned in section 8, as proposed to be amended, do certain things. This is specifically provided for in clause 8. An association is not a legal person, and it would be very difficult to impose penalties upon it, but the members of it who act illegally would be liable individually. It is in that way that provision is made to meet breaches of the law by associations.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) in some general remarks that he made on the subject of penalties showed that he did not draw a- proper distinction between the act and the bill.
He said that individuals who did not participate in a strike might be held liable for strike penalties. That is not the case.
– They certainly would be held liable as members of organizations.
– Seeing that the discussion upon the clause turns upon the difference between an organization and an individual, I suggest that there was no foundation for the statement which the honorable member made. An organization is a corporation, just like a company, and a company is liable only for the acts of certain natural persons - ordinary human beings. If an organization is to be held liable at all, it must be merely for the action of certain identifiable human beings. These must be the officers or persons in control of it. Those are the persons referred to in clause 8. Their acts may make their organization liable, but there is no provision, either in the principal act or in the bill, which proposes to amend it, under which any individual person can be penalized for taking part in a strike unless it is proved that he participated in that strike.
.- Surely the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) recognizes that the whole scheme of arbitration is based upon the rights and responsibilities of organizations as against those of individuals. The honorable gentleman also surely recognizes that an organization, independently of its members, as an organization, may render itself liable under this act. It may affirmatively, through its authorized officers, take some definite official act as an organization. In other words, it may act in the only way that an organization is empowered to act, under its rules, according to the powers which the law gives it - as the AttorneyGeneral says, as a corporation. In such circumstances nobody would object to an organization suffering penalties. The question whether a penalty of £1,000 is excessive or not does not, perhaps, arise immediately, because a similar penalty was admittedly provided in the principal act. The extension of the penalty to the organization by reason of the acts of an individual is a matter for subsequent consideration, under a later clause in this bill. I rose principally to register my opinion, which I think is consistent with that of other honorable members, upon the clause with which we are now dealing, which, for the first time, fixes a penalty of £50 upon individuals, and retains the penalty upon organizations and employers at £1,000.
It has been pointed out in this chamber and elsewhere that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and the Attorney-General have endeavoured to tickle the ears of their supporters by declaring that this Government, being a benevolent one, for the first time reduces the penalties in connexion with arbitration. More than once the reply has been forthcoming that this is not intended as a reduction of penalties, but designedly to make the penalties effective. It has been repeatedly and truthfully pointed out that the old penalty of £1,000, so far as it was applicable to individuals, from its very absurdity was allowed to sink into disuse. The Attorney-General, while he was still in his political infancy, conceived the thought of making penalties in arbitration what he was pleased to call “ effective.” The way to make penalties effective is to make them bite to make them hurt, to apply them, and that is being done. This clause must not therefore be urged in extenuation of what the Government proposes under other clauses. The AttorneyGeneral spoke in this House on the enforcement of Commonwealth laws on the 9th July, 1925. He then moved a resolution which will be found reported at page 874 of volume 110, Parliamentary Debates, in these words -
That, in the opinion of this House, means should be provided for the effective enforcement of all the laws which Parliament places or allows to remain upon the statutebook…..
I shall not read the whole of the resolution, which continued at some length, but it concluded with these words - . . . and of enforcing the provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
The honorable gentleman went on to say-
My mind was brought to this subject more particularly by reason of what occurred in, I think, January last, when the general president of the Seamen’s Union was prosecuted for inciting persons to strike, or for some offence of that nature. At the time very strong protests were made by the friends and associates of that gentleman, because, as action of that kind had not previously been taken, it was felt that the prosecution was a political one. It is unfortunate that the enforcement of the law should have been allowed to get into such n condition that there was room for the genuine belief, on the part of a large section of the community, that it had been, as it were, exhumed for a particular purpose.
That quotation serves to bring out in the very clearest light the purpose underlying this alteration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Frequently when it comes to a question of penalties or the interpretation of a statute, we hear in argument in courts of law the phrase, “ What was the intention of Parliament?” While this penalty remained at £1,000, while, as the Attorney-General himself .admits, it had fallen into desuetude, it could not be effective; but now it is clearly the intention of the Government to provide for the severe penalty which it is intended shall be imposed - not necessarily the maximum penalty but a substantial part of it, according to circumstances. I cannot allow the Prime Minister to “get away “ with that grotesque picture which he presented to the House on another occasion, nor can I allow the AttorneyGeneral to “ get away “ with the suggestion that this “ benevolent “ Government is now endeavouring to make the penalties on unionists less than they were before. This clause may well be read with the clause dealing with the probable economic effect of an award. When we come to that clause, I shall point out, as I do on this, that its object is to direct the attention of the court to the particular intention of the legislature that it shall be given effect to in a way in which it wa3 never previously given effect to. That is the sinister meaning underlying both that clause and, to a large extent, the clause which is now under consideration.
I wish to register that view upon this clause at this stage, so that we shall hear no more about this Government having set itself out, as allegedly no other Government has done, to mitigate the penalties on trade unionists.
.- My adorable friend, Mr. Duncan-Hughes, who is the learned and distinguished member for Boothby, in spite of his legal learning, appears to be somewhat at sea as to the effect of this clause. He seems not to understand the difference between an organization of human beings and an association of human beings. He fails to distinguish that an organization of human beings is not an association of human beings. But I feel quite confident that, notwithstanding hia forensic knowledge, after having listened to the explanation of the” AttorneyGeneral, he understands the position just as clearly as he did before the honorable gentleman made his explanation. I am prepared to wager all my worldly possessions against one-tenth of the worldly possessions of the honorable member for Boothby that, in spite of his legal training, he cannot explain the explanation of the Attorney-General on this matter.
– Will the honorable member explain it?
– How could I be expected to explain the conundrum when the honorable member, with his ability and legal training, could not comprehend it. The culture is there; the lack of training and illiteracy here. How could I be expected to understand that which, notwithstanding his wisdom, is incomprehensible to the honorable member? The act as it existed was quite clear. It made a distinction between an individual - an employer - and an organization of employees. It did not recognize the individual workman as an individual, but as an integral part of his organization.
– The principal act dealt with both persons and organizations.
– Just so. Who could imagine that the founders of our arbitration law, who, as the honorable gentleman has said, were not members of this party, but of his party, flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone, soul of his soul, men allegedly of understanding, of sympathy, ever contemplated imposing a fine of £1,000 upon an individual workman? Does the honorable gentleman dare to say that the men who brought this law into existence ever imposed a fine of £1,000 on an individual workman?
– They provided for it.
– They did nothing of the -kind. It was never understood from their speeches or from the law, and there is no court in Australia that ever applies to the provision the interpretation that this Government desires to have applied. Mr. Latham. - The High Court did.
– The honorable gentleman is prone to interject, hut he always objects when subjected to interruption, and claims the protection afforded by the Standing Orders. The intention of Parliament was quite clear. Not even in the Nationalist party could there have been a body of persons so insane as to lay it down that a penalty of £1,000 should be imposed upon an individual workman. The intention of Parliament, as understood by all the courts of the country, was that “person” should be the employer as distinct from an organization. It is wrong for the Government to claim that it is endeavouring to reduce penalties. It is superimposing new penalties upon the old penalties. The old law provided if an organization defied the awards of the court or took direct action, it was liable to a penalty of £1,000. I quite admit that, under the old law, an organization could dodge its responsibility by throwing the onus of the action upon individuals, who did what it dared not do as a “ corporation,” “ association,” or “organization.” I also clearly understand that the individual employer was able to dodge the law when he caused a lockout, so avoiding a fine of £1,000. This bill does what the old law did not do. It imposes a fine of £50 upon any individual member of an organization of unionists who dares to refuse work, either by himself or in conjunction with other men, in certain conditions. The Government should either withdraw the provision or make some attempt to cover its hypocrisy. I refuse to let it announce publicly that it does not intend to impose fines without raising my voice in protest. I do not think, that the fines will be imposed ; this legislation is introduced only to delude the electors into supporting the Government. Nor do I ask that the penalties be reduced by even one penny, for to the extent that individual workmen may be fined to that extent will the Government sow the seeds of its own destruction and the seeds of Labour’s growth. When the AttorneyGeneral says that this bill does not increase the fines, I can only say that he is what he i3.
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) is under such a complete misapprehension regarding this clause that I may be pardoned for speaking again. The honorable member apparently believes that the existing act imposes no liability upon any individual, particularly an individual workman.
– He said no such thing.
– The honorable member appears to be under the misapprehenson that section 6 of the principal act in no way penalizes an individual worker for taking part in a strike.
– I say so still. Parliament never intended that an individual should be penalized.
– It . is sufficient to refer to the case of Tom Walsh, who was convicted under that section or section 6a, which is in similar terms; and although on appeal to the High Court one conviction was set aside on certain grounds, another conviction was upheld. There has never been any contention as to the applicability of the original section to an individual employee.
– If the fine provided by law was £1,000, why was Tom Walsh fined only £100? He was not fined under section 6.
– Evidently the honorable member does not understand that under the Acts Interpretation Act, the penalties provided in section 6 and section 6a, under one of which Walsh was convicted, are in all cases the maximum penalties. The penalties imposed by this legislation are therefore the maximum penalties which may be inflicted. The honorable member speaks with a high degree of inaccuracy when he says that the original section was never meant to apply to individuals. Not only does it expressly apply to individuals, but it has also been so applied both in the lower and in the higher courts.
.- This clause deals with penalties for lockouts and strikes. I hold a different view regarding this matter from that which has just been presented to the committee. My objection to the penalties is that they are not equitable; they can be applied to industrial unions and individual employees, but it will be very difficult to apply them to employers. I ask honorable members how many lockouts have taken place since the principle of arbitration was established in this country.
– None that can be proved.
– Under the principal act no penalty has ever been imposed upon an employer for causing a lockout; and this bill will not remedy the position.
– That does not mean that there have been no lockouts.
– The reason is that the definition of “ lockout “ makes it very easy for. an employer of labour to avoid committing an offence. He need not close his establishment, or unreasonably suspend its operations : he merely has to change the conditions under which his employees work. If they refuse to accept the altered conditions they are guilty of having done something in the nature of a strike. Hundreds of so-called strikes which have occurred in this country have in reality been lockouts. In my own electorate numbers of miners are now unemployed, not because they do not want to work, but because they are unwilling to work in a mine where their lives may be endangered. Some years ago an explosion took place in an adjoining mine; but the effect of those explosions on the mine in which they are expected to work has never been investigated. The possibilities of accident are so great that until the mine has been thoroughly examined the men are afraid to work in it. They are out of employment because they value their lives. Yet they may be held guilty of having taken part in a strike. Until this Parliament amends the definition of “ lockout “ so that there can be no alteration of the existing conditions of employment unless mutually agreed upon between employers and employees, or by direction of the court, the penalties provided by this legislation will continue to fall only on the employees. It does not matter whether the penalty for the breach of the act by an employer is £50 or £1,000, he will never have to pay the fine. I have brought this matter forward on many occasions since I have been in this House because I realize that so much depends on it. Arbitration legislation cannot be -effective if the penalties it imposes have to be borne only by one party to a dispute. In order to hold the scales fairly between the two contending parties the definition of “lockout” should be amended. Although since 1904 there has never been a penalty imposed “for a lockout as defined in the act, no one will be foolish enough to contend that during that period every employer has obeyed the law. I could cite many instances of breaches of the law by employers, yet they have not been charged with an offence. But let the workmen resist changed conditions and they are accused of having done something in the nature of a strike. Under this legislation their organizations will be liable to a fine of £1,000.
– Would not such cases come under section 9 ?
– No such case as that referred to in section 9 has ever been dealt with by the court. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley), with his legal training, must know that the definition of “lockout” makes it easy to bring about changed conditions.
– If a change were brought about the employer would be liable under section 9.
– We cannot deal with section 9 at this stage. In these matters experience must be our guide ; and our experience is that up to the present no lockout has ever been proved. There should be power to prevent the alterations of working conditions except by mutual consent or by direction of the court. If the workmen are to be liable to penalties, their employers should also be liable. So long as the present definition of “ lockout “ remains, so long will employers continue to escape. I suggest that there should be a better definition of “lockout”.
.- That the penalty of £1,000 provided in the principal act for certain offences was not intended to apply to individual employees is clear from the fact that in only a very few cases has a fine been inflicted on an individual, and then only when he was one of the principal officers of a union. As the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has pointed out, no employer has ever been fined under this legislation, although there have been cases in which fines should have been imposed on them.
– Employers have been fined for breaches of awards, but not for having caused lockouts.
– I desire to bring before the committee the case of some girls employed in Murdoch’s, in Sydney, who, out of a wage of 35s. a week had to pay 10s. 6d. a week for their midday meal. Other expenses necessarily incurred left them with only 2s. 6d. a week to clothe themselves and provide medicine in case of sickness. Yet because those girls gave evidence in the Arbitration Court regarding the conditions under which they worked, they were brought before their boss, Colonel Murdoch, M.L.C., who is a fervent Nationalist Some of the girls were denied the bonus and one was dismissed. Was not that a lockout ?
– Were some girls dismissed for the reason stated?
– One girl was dismissed. It ill becomes the honorable member for Riverina, with his half a million sheep, to gay anything in defence of the way in which Colonel Murdoch has treated some of these unfortunate girls, many of whom can earn only sufficient for a bare existence. Let me show how the penalties can be imposed, if this bill is passed as it stands. The cooks on the Jervis Bay had a difference with the management as to the interpretation of an award, and they were advised to appeal to the police court. One of them did so, and the magistrate gave an award in his favour. One would have thought that the management would then treat all the cooks alike, but, instead of doing that, they informed the cooks that every man would have to appear before the court to prove his own case. The cooks quite properly decided to strike. Under this bill they would’ each be liable to a fine of £50. It is absurd to suggest that every man should have to go to the police court to prove his own claim. Another case bearing on this point has come under my notice. A privately-owned steamship company brought to Australia a number of immigrants, among whom were several who proved to be lunatics. Instead of sending those men back to their country of origin by the same vessel, the Government placed them on board the Moreton Bay, one of the steamers of the Commonwealth Government Shipping Line. During the voyage one of the stewards was savagely attacked by a lunatic, with the result that the stewards as a body declined to act as warders for the lunatics. They took the stand that they were paid to study and look after the comfort of passengers. Because they declined to act as warders to lunatics they were dismissed, and a strike occurred. Under this bill each man who took part in that strike would be liable to a fine of £50. It is no use for the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General to tell the people that, because the maximum penalty has been reduced, in the case of individuals from £1,000 to £50, the measure will benefit trade unionists. The maximum penalty in the original act has never been enforced against the individual. I am strongly opposed to the whole bill, and especially to those provisions dealing with the penalties. Notwithstanding what the Attorney-General has said of the letter written to The Worker by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), I am firmly convinced that every word in it is true. I believe that the penalties which will be inflicted upon individual trade unionists under this bill will be extremely harsh. I see no necessity for the measure, and I shall vote against every clause. It will not bring about industrial peace. On the contrary, it will be provocative of a great deal of trouble.
.- I understand that the objections to the clause may be divided into two parts. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) states that actually there will be no reduction in the penalty.
– No reduction, in effect.
– On the other hand, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) suggests that the penalties imposed under it will be substantially increased as compared with penalties under the act.
– My contention is that, under the bill, the punishment will be more severe.
– Under the law as it stands any person who does anything in the nature of a strike is liable to a fine of £1,000. If the honorable member for Batman admits that, he gives the whole case away. According to the honorable member’s argument a workman who goes on strike is not regarded as a “ person “ under the law as it stands, which lays it down that any “ person “ who is guilty of anything in the nature of a strike is liable to a fine of £1,000.
– The present law is not enforced because of its absurdity is regard to the fine on the individual.
– The penalty provided, I remind the honorable member, is the maximum penalty. The court quite properly takes this matter into consideration and imposes penalties which, in its judgment, are commensurate with the nature of the offence committed.
– I invite the honorable member to cite one case of an individual having been proceeded against under this provision.
– I could cite a sufficient number of cases to fill a volume. The plain reading of the law is that a person who does anything in the nature of a strike is to-day liable to a fine of £1,000, and under the bill the maximum penalty is reduced to £50. It is very difficult, therefore, to understand the reason for the objection of honorable members opposite. Certainly they will find it extremely difficult to convince the people that the penalties have not been reduced. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has again raised the point that the definition of a lockout is not satisfactory, and states that an employer who is not satisfied with an award may vary the conditions in his industry. On that point I suggest that if an employer varies conditions that are not the subject of an ward the employees may object and bring the matter before the court.
– Does not the honorable member see that if employees decline to accept conditions that have been varied their action is interpreted as being something in the nature of a strike?
– That is what the honorable member says. I am perfectly clear as to his meaning. What I am suggesting is that the employees, in circumstances such as those mentioned, have their legal remedy, and that, therefore, there can be no justification for a strike.
– But the point is, who should take the initiative?
– I should say that if employees are not satisfied with the conditions in respect of matters not covered by an award, manifestly they, being the aggrieved party, should approach the court. The definition of a lockout refers only to matters that are within the scope of the act.
– But I was speaking about an alteration of conditions that may have been observed in an industry for many years.
– There may be vital differences of opinion between employers and employees as to the justification for any such alterations. If they are at issue on this point it should be taken to the court.’ That is the whole object of the law. The honorable member has no right to complain of the definition of a lockout, merely because of the possibility of an alteration of conditions that are not the subject-matter of an award.
– Can the honorable member explain why there has never been a “ lockout “ in the history of our arbitration system?
– I am not sure that the honorable member is right.
– The Attorney-General has admitted that there has never been a prosecution for a lockout. That is the point I wish to make.
– I have admitted that there has not been a prosecution for a lockout; but I would not presume to say that there has not been a lockout.
– If there is a variation of conditions in an award the employee has his legal remedy, and if there is any variation of conditions outside an award the employee can appeal to the court. I cannot follow the honorable member’s argument that we should insert in the clause a definition of a lockout merely because people who are aggrieved will not apply to the court for redress. The penalty has been reduced, and there is no justification for an amendment of the definition of a lockout.
.- Obviously a fine of £50 is less than a fine of £1,000. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) has apparently been stressing the obvious, in the belief, possibly, that honorable members who object to the clause are under the impression that a fine of £50 is more than a fine of £1,000. In his second-reading speech the Attorney-General when dealing with this phase of the bill said -
I invite attention first to clauses 4 and 5, which deal with the penalties now provided for strikes and lockouts. The penalty at present provided is £1,000 in all cases. The Government considers that that amount is unreasonable in the case of an individual person. It therefore proposes to amend the act by providing that the penalty shall be £1,000 in the case of an organization or employer, and £50 in respect of any other person. It is a mistake to provide penalties which cannot be recovered, or which are out of proportion to the gravity of the offence.
It is of no use for honorable members supporting the Government to hypnotize themselves into the belief that the bill is more acceptable to trade unionists than the act is. The heavier penalties provided for in the act have never been enforced against the individual; therefore, it is only a specious argument to say that the penalties have been reduced. Under the bill a fine of £50 against individual members of a huge organization like the Australian Workers Union would amount, in the aggregate, to an enormous sum if the penalties were enforced. I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter with regard to the definition of a lockout. In his secondreading speech the Attorney-General said it was difficult to prove a strike but easy to prove a lockout. His statement was an admission of complete ignorance regarding industrial matters. I regret that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) is not, at the moment, in the chamber, because I wish to give him some information on this point. Not long ago the management of a mine in my electoral division wished to close down to have the machinery attended to. The men had been complaining about faulty lamps. Contending that the lamps were dangerous, they demanded that they be examined. This was done. When the pump was put on to them ten lamps went out one after the other. And he condemned the lot. The management said “ We will not give you new lamps ; you must go down without them.” They knew that the men would not go down, and the result was that a strike occurred. The Attorney-General would call that a strike, but I maintain that it was a lockout. The same trouble is likely to occur as the result of varying conditions in mining. The men may be working under an award, but in one or two mines, because of local conditions, the earning power of the men is reduced. The honorable gentleman says that they should go to the court and apply for a variation of the award, but before they could obtain the variation normal conditions might be restored, and the men would have no redress for their grievances. By refusing to comply with the men’s request for more pay in such cases, the owners may deliberately cause a strike. In the metal trades recently there was a lockout when the employers sacked 30,000 men in order to avoid paying them for the Christmas holidays. Technically, it was not a lockout, because the men were no longer in employment.
– That was done to evade an award of. the court.
– That is so. A somewhat similar case occurred when the seamen, obeying the award of the court, held a stop-work meeting on the day following a holiday. In this case the Monday was a holiday, and the award sets out that when the day set apart for the monthly stop-work meeting falls on a holiday, the men are entitled to hold their meeting on the day following the holiday. They did this, and their pay was stopped. Yet no proceedings were taken against the ship-owners for locking the men out, and refusing to take them back unless they were prepared to sacrifice the pay to which they were entitled. The employers at the abattoirs also deliberately flouted the award, and though a few of them were fined, the others continued to break the award, and the men had to go on strike in order to obtain their rights. I am opposed to the imposition of any penalties in connexion with arbitration, because all penal clauses are one-sided in their operation. For instance, it is practically impossible to prove a case of victimization against an employer. If an employer, for any particular reason, wishes to be rid of two or three men, all he has to do is to say that he is reducing his staff, and he can then dispense with these men’s services. When the staff is increased again, they are not taken on. That kind of thing is done even on Government works.
– Governments are often the worst offenders.
– As the honorable member for Maribrynong has said, governments frequently offend in this way. I am convinced that it is impossible to apply the penal clauses in this bill in the same way in which the criminal law can be applied. For that reason I intend to vote against this clause, as, indeed, I shall vote against most of the other clauses in the bill. The penalties provided are harsh and unreasonable. That is why every labour organization in the country is opposed to the measure. The AttorneyGeneral said that it was very easy to prove a lockout, and very difficult to prove a strike. I think it can be shown quite conclusively that the very opposite is the case.
.- It should be remembered that ever since 1904, our industrial legislation has provided for a penalty of £1,000 against associations of employers, labour unions, and individuals convicted of certain offences. Since that time a Labour government has been in power, and if it was thought desirable to repeal that penal clause there was ample opportunity to do it.
– Every one knew that it was a dead letter.
– Apparently, members of Labour Governments did not desire to remove the penal clauses. Possibly they regarded the penalties as operative only against the employers, and, therefore, permitted them to remain. The Attorney-General has pointed out one aspect of this matter which was previously to a large extent overlooked. That is, that a penalty of £1,000 is the maximum which can be imposed, and the court is not obliged to inflict a fine of £1,000 in every case. It was pointed out by the Attorney-General that, in the case of Walsh, who was prosecuted under this section, the court imposed a fine of £100. I maintain that the act will be improved by the fact that the penalties, in many cases, have been reduced. Surely honorable members opposite will not vote against this clause which will reduce a penalty from £1,000 to £50. I propose to be perfectly frank, and to state that I welcome this reduction, because it will make the penal clause operative against the unions, which previously it was not. Personally, I wish that the AttorneyGeneral would make the penalty £25 instead of £50, because in that case the penal clause would be still more effective.
This amendment, if passed, will make the penalty effective so far as individuals are concerned. I wish to refer to the case of Murdoch Limited, of Park-street, Sydney. This case was mentioned during the second-reading debate by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), and it has been referred to to-night by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath). The speakers saw fit to cast aspersions on Colonel Murdoch, the proprietor of this establishment. I have no hesitation in saying that there is not an establishment in Sydney to-day–
– I rise to a point of order.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).If the honorable member had listened to the earlier debate, he would know that this case was cited as providing an instance of a lockout. The honorable member for Warringah is in order.
– The fact that other honorable members have done something wrong does not make it right for the honorable member for Warringah to do the same thing. I submit that the honorable member is not justified, when discussing this clause, in making excursions into the affairs of any business in Sydney. I submit, further, that reference to the speeches of honorable members during the second-reading debate on this bill is not in order.
– The honorable member for Warringah is in order.
– I was referring to the fact that reference had been made to that firm, and it was claimed that because employees of the firm had given certain evidence they had been dismissed.
– They were penalized.
– The honorable member for Ballarat said that they were dismissed, and I remarked that none of them were dismissed. The honorable member repeated his assertion, and I am now replying to it. I submit that I am entitled to refer to it, because it has been claimed that unionists do not get a fair deal from their employers. The firm in question treats its employees more favorably, probably, than any other firm in Australia. It has about 1,000 employees. The girls who gave evidence in the Arbitration Court had been in the employ of the firm for eight years, and the man had been employed for four years. I am quoting from a statement that I took the trouble to obtain from the firm, because a union secretary named Carter had gratuitously sent a circular to me, among others, giving his version of the matter, and this had been mentioned in this chamber. I may say, parenthetically, that I strongly resent the attitude of the Opposition in trying to prevent me from presenting my view of the case, although it has placed the statements of the employees on record. It is reasonable to hear both sides of a case. It was stated, in the course of the evidence, that the manager was a nigger driver, that the forewoman should be driving cattle, that, the employees were allowed no time to get a drink, that the lavatories were always out of order, and that the apprentices were not taught. As a matter of fact, for years this firm has endeavoured to conduct its business on model lines.
– The honorable member is now going beyond the particular matter to which reference has been made.
– I submit to your ruling. The statement that these employees were dismissed is entirely untrue. Only eight out of 1,000 were prevented from getting their bonuses. The amount of the bonus paid by this firm last year greatly exceeded the sum received by the shareholders in dividends. That shows that it is a model firm.
The clause under consideration is a reasonable one. I repeat that when penalties are provided under industrial legislation, they must be of a reasonable character if the law is to be effective. If this provision has been inoperative for years, it should either be expunged from the act or should be made effective. The clause has my support because it will make this part of the act effective by reducing the maximum penalty from £1,000 to £50. That is the reason why the Opposition complains about it so loudly. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), in his clownish way, has a good deal to say about hypocrisy.
– In a manner that he imagines to be humorous, the honorable member for Bourke has said something about the hypocrisy of honorable members on this side. Could there be greater hypocrisy on the part of the Opposition
– I ask that the word “ hypocrisy “ be withdrawn.
– I shall substitute “ make-believe “.
– I again ask for the withdrawal of “ hypocrisy.”
– The expression must be withdrawn.
– I have already withdrawn it. The statements of the Opposition are so much make-believe, because they know perfectly well-
– I object to “makebelieve “. The honorable member has no right to impugn the sincerity of any honorable member. I resent the expression most strongly, and ask for its withdrawal.
– The words used being objectionable to the honorable member for Batman must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the expression “make-believe”, and say that honorable members opposite are speaking with their tongue in their cheek. The clause should receive the support of the committee as it will have the approval of the country.
.- We have had a vicious attack on the Opposition by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), who has been not entirely truthful in his remarks. During the second-reading debate I referred to the employees of Murdoch’s Limited. I made definite statements then, and I shall repeat them to-night. I have before me a declaration, signed before a justice of the peace, which strengthens the case presented by me. The statutory declaration, to which I refer, states -
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 3aid 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 went through 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 - that is the bonus - 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.
– The honorable member said that they were dismissed.
– The point is that they were penalized for giving evidence in the Arbitration court. I read out a list, in my second-reading speech, showing how the 35s. a week, which the girls received was spent. They paid 12s. 6d. for rent, 2s. 6d. for tram fares, 10s. 6d. for mid-day meals, and 7s. for other meals, leaving only 2s. 6d. for clothing, medicine, &c. I did not think that industrial conditions were as bad as that in New South Wales. I thought that conditions such as that had been remedied long ago. This treatment was received by the girls because they were forced to go to the Arbitration Court. The honorable member for Warringah does not deny that they were compelled to forego their bonus. That was a mean and petty revenge on the part of Colonel Murdoch. If Murdoch’s Limited are ideal employers, I do not wish to see any bad ones. All that I said was true. Because these girls dared to go before the Arbitration Court they were treated in this way by their so-called gentlemanly employer.
The honorable member for Warringah ought to be ashamed of himself for championing a man who thus victimizes unfortunate women earning a paltry 35s. a week. The honorable member himself, when remunerated to the extent of £1,000 a year as a member of this chamber, held on to his highly paid job as secretary of the Consultative Council. He and the organization behind him practically controls the destinies of the Nationalist members from New South Wales, and can put the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) in his place when he criticizes the Government. He represents the wealthy section that put up what he calls a little joke at the last election. He can perpetrate any act that suits his political ends. He has no sympathy for girls receiving a paltry 35s. a week, who, in a legal way, seek to have their wrongs repressed in the Arbitration Court. Because they pleaded their cause in the only way available to them in this so-called free country of Australia, their bonus, the honorable member admits, was denied them. One of these girls was dismissed. That should be a satisfactory answer even to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill). My statement has been verified to the hilt. This firm declared a lockout, and action should be taken under the laws of this country to place Colonel Murdoch on his trial for the victimization of these unfortunate girls.
– I submit that I am entitled to place before this chamber the other side of the subject under discussion. The honorable member for Ballarat has made use of much hot air and many irrelevant remarks. He has made references to myself which are utterly untrue, and which I hurl back with scorn. I do not propose to reply to his suggestions. I represent a -class of people whom I am proud to re~ present. I represent no moneyed interests. I am as free as any honorable member in this House. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), said that these girls were dismissed, and had I not pinned him to that statement, it would have appeared in Hansard uncorrected. I informed him that, according to sworn evidence these girls were denied the gift, or bonus, given by Murdoch’s to its employees. The honorable member then changed his ground, but he still used his abusive tongue on the person controlling that firm. Colonel Murdoch is the most humane employer in Australia to-day. What are the facts ? These are the words of Colonel Murdoch himself
It is true the officers of the union made n request to see me personally why- these girls had not participated in the Christmas bonus. It is also true that after asking them questions, taken from the transcript of the evidence, I expressed the opinion that they were either lying or deliberately disloyal to the firm.
– Was that evidence given on oath?
– It was unnecessary in this case. Colonel Murdoch continued -
Despite this they were not dismissed, but their leader, Miss Scrivner, who had previously been detected in incorrectly booking her work, has recently been dismissed for n repetition of the same offence.
All this talk about these girls earning only . 35s. a week is entirely incorrect. The facts are that a number of employees, among whom were the four girls who gave evidence, agreed to make five garments in excess of the ordinary work for an increased weekly wage of- 6s., making the wages £3 for a week of 43$ hours. That agreement is still in force. Those facts are very different from the so-called facts presented to this House by the honorable member for Ballarat. I do not wish to add anything further to my remarks. This firm has treated its employees in a most exemplary fashion and Colonel Murdoch is the most humane employer in New South Wales to-day.
.- This subject, since it has been opened up, should be adequately and fully dealt with, and I certainly shall not sit idly by while the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), with his characteristic ferocity, which may easily by the unthinking be mistaken for eloquence, attacks the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), a man who has given many years of useful service to this Parliament, and whose character, I am happy to say, is as unblemished as his eloquence is great. I have before me a statutory declaration, which reads -
In the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
In the matter of Industrial Disputes between the Amalgamated Clothing and Allied Trades Union of Australia Claimant and
A.N.A. Clothing Company and others, T. C. Braddy and others, A. E. Beeston and others, D. E. Arnall and others, “ Adette “ and others, and Alaska Fur Proprietary Limited and others, Respondents.
On this 21st day of January, 1928, Catherine Ellen Dickinson, of William-street, Paddington, near Sydney, in the State of New South Wales, Order Trousers Machinist; Mary Ellen Kenny, of 25 Ferris-street, Annandale, near Sydney aforesaid, Order Trousers Machinist; Peter Fallon, of Trades Hall, Goulburn-street, Sydney, aforesaid, Union Secretary; and William James Gibb, of Trades Hall, Goulburnstreet, Sydney, aforesaid, Union Organizer, being duly sworn, severally make oath and say as follows: -
And I the said Catherine Ellen Dickinson, for myself say: -
I am an Order Trousers Machinist in the employ of Murdoch’s Manufacturies Limited, of Reservoir -street, Sydney, aforesaid, Clothing Manufacturers (hereinafter referred to as “ the said company “).
I have been in the employ of the said company for the past eight years.
In the month of June, 1927, I gave evidence as a witness in this honorable court in this matter on behalf of theAmalgamated Clothing and Allied Trades Union, an organization of employees duly registered under the provisions of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1926.
I am and was then a member of the said organization.
For the past seven years, except for the year ending 31st December, 1927, at the end of each year I have been in receipt of a bonus from the said company in common with other employees who at the end of each year have been in the employ of the said company for the period of at least twelve months.
I have read the affidavit of Jessie Jean Stuart Scrivner, of “Leeholme,” Station-street, Westmead, near Sydney, aforesaid, Order Trousers Machinist, sworn the 21st day of January, 1928, a true copy whereof is hereto annexed marked with the letter “A “.
I say that the statements deposed to by the said Jessie Jean Stuart Scrivner in paragraphs 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19 of the said affidavit are true.
I say that all the evidence I gave as a witness in this matter before this honorable court was true and accurate, and that I did not tell any untruths.
I consider that I have been punished by Colonel Murdoch referred to in the said affidavit in being deprived of my bonus to which I was entitled because I gave evidence as a witness on behalf of the said organization in this matter.
And I the said Mary Ellen Kenny for myself say: -
I am an Order Trousers Machinist in the employ of Murdoch’s Manufacturies Limited, of Reservoir-street, Sydney,aforesaid Clothing Manufacturer (hereinafter referred to as “the said company “ ) .
I have been in the employ of the said company foT the past eight years.
In the month of June, 1927, I gave evidence as a witness in this honorable court in this matter on behalf of the Amalgamated Clothing and Allied Trades Union, an organization of employees duly registered under the provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1926.
I am and was then a member of the said organization.
For the past seven years except in respect of the year ending 31st December, 1927, at the end of each year I have been in receipt of a bonus from the said company in common with other employees, who at the end of each year have been in the employ of the said company for the period of at least twelve months.
I have read the affidavit of Jessie Jean Stuart Scrivner, of “Leeholme.” Station-street, Westmead, near Sydney, aforesaid, Order Trousers Machinist, sworn the 21st day or January, 1928, a true copy whereof is hereto annexed marked with the letter “A”.
I say that the statements deposed to by the said Jessie Jean Stuart Scrivner in paragraphs 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19 of the said affidavit are true.
I say that all the evidence I gave as a witness in this matter before this honorable court was true and accurate and that I did not tell any untruths.
I consider that I have been punished by Colonel Murdoch referred to in the said affidavit in being deprived of my bonus to which I waa entitled because I. gave evidence as a witness on behalf of the said organization in this matter.
And I the said Peter Fallon for myself say: -
I am the president of the said organization, and am also the secretary of the New South Wales branch of the said organization. I know and am well acquainted with Jessie Jean Stuart Scrivner, of “Leeholme,” Station-street, Westmead, near Sydney, aforesaid, Order Trousers Machinist; Catherine Ellen
Dickinson, of William-street, Paddington, near Sydney, aforesaid, Order Trousers Machinist; Mary Ellen Kenny, of 25 Ferris-street, Annandale, near Sydney, aforesaid, Order Trousers Machinist; and William James Gibb, of Trades Hall, Goulburn-street, Sydney, aforesaid, Organizer to the said organization.
On Thursday, the 29th day of December, 1927, at 1.1 o’clock in the forenoon, an interview took place in the office of Colonel Murdoch, a Director of Murdoch’s Manufactures Limited, of Reservoir -street, Sydney, aforesaid, Clothing Manufacturer, (hereinafter referred to as “ the said company”).
The said Jessie Jean Stuart Scrivner, Catherine Ellen Dickinson and Mary Ellen Kenny are members of the said organization and were members thereof in the month of June, 1927, and prior thereto.
I have read the affidavit of Jessie Jean Stuart Scrivner, sworn the 21st day of January, 1928, a true copy whereof is annexed hereto marked with the letter “ A “, and I say that the statements deposed to by the said Jessie Jean Stuart Scrivner in paragraphs 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 10, 17, 18 and 19 thereof are true.
And I the said William James Gibb for myself say: -
I am an organizer of the said organization. I know and am well acquainted with Peter Fallon, of Trades Hall, Goulburn-street, Sydney, aforesaid, the president of the said organization and secretary of the New South Wales branch thereof. I also know and am well acquainted with Jessie Jean Stuart Scrivner, of “ Leeholme,” Station-street, Westmead, near Sydney, aforesaid, Order Trousers Machinist; Catherine Ellen Dickinson, of William-street, Paddington, near Sydney, aforesaid, Order Trousers Machinist; and Mary Ellen Kenny, of 25 Ferris-street, Annandale, near Sydney, aforesaid, Order Trousers Machinist.
On Thursday, the 29th day of December, 1927, at 11 o’clock in the forenoon, an interview took place in the office of Colonel Murdoch, a Director of Murdoch’s Manufactures Limited, of Reservoirstreet, Sydney, aforesaid, Clothing Manufacturer (hereinafter referred to as “the said company”).
The said Jessie Jean Stuart Scrivner, Catherine Ellen Dickinson, and Mary Ellen Kenny are members of the said organization, and were members thereof in the month of June, 1927, and prior thereto.
I have read the affidavit of the said Jessie Jean Stuart Scrivner, sworn the 21st day of January, 1928, a true copy whereof is annexed hereto marked with the letter “ A,” and I say that the statements deposed to by the said Jessie Jean Stuart Scrivner in paragraphs 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 thereof are true.
All those facts were deposed to. It has caused me great pleasure and satisfaction to learn for the first time that they were relevant to this debate, and I have, therefore, taken this opportunity of placing them on record. They bear out what has been said by the honorable member for Ballarat. He has established a strong case of victimization against this firm. It has been unanswered, and, in my opinion, on the facts so far stated, is quite unanswerable. Notwithstanding the strong claim that the honorable member for Warringah has made, as one big business representative pleading for another, I still say that the charge made by the honorable member for Ballarat stands, and will stand. It is, I am delighted to find, peculiarly relevant to this discussion which is taking place in regard to the Arbitration Act. I should not have been able to relate the facts, hut for the clarity with which you, Mr. Chairman, have ruled on the subject.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member is distinctly out of order.
– In what respect?
– In referring to the Chair in such terms.
– I withdraw my words and express regret for what I have done. I am pleased to have been within the limits of your ruling, Mr. Chairman, and thus able to discuss under this clause the matter raised by the honorable member for Ballarat.
– If the honorable member accepts the advice of the Chair he will make no further remarks in that strain.
– I shall endeavour to be as polite as possible; but, with great respect to you, Mr. Chairman, I do not propose either to solicit or to accept your advice in this or in any other matter. That concludes all I have to say on the clause now before the committee.
– if the allegations mentioned by various honorable members in relation to this matter are believed by a police magistrate, and if the leave of a registrar or judge is applied for, a remedy is provided in section 9 of the principal act. In accordance with a request on behalf of the trade unions of Australia, I am proposing to make it unnecessary to obtain the leave of the registrar or judge. If the allegation is true, that any employee has suffered in his employment by reason of the fact that he has appeared as a witness or has given evidence in any proceedings under the Arbitration Act, and is believed by the court, a remedy is provided.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Mitigation of penalties).
– Proposed new section 6b provides that where an organization has been convicted under either sections 6 or 6a of doing something in the nature of a strike or lockout, as the case may be, the court in fixing the penalty to be imposed shall take into account any bona fide efforts which the court is satisfied have been made by members of its committee of management or by any of its officers to prevent the commission of an offence against this part of this measure. This is a proper provision. In the case of any ordinary organization or corporation, the law is that the organization is liable for the acts of person occupying position in which it is part of their functions to perform certain acts. For example, a company may employ an officer who performed a certain act which made the company liable. If other officers of the company had entertained different views or had endeavoured to prevent the performance of the act, the liability of the company would not be reduced. The liability of the corporation is absolute; a corporation is responsible for the act of its officer or other agent. In industrial matters there is sometimes a difference of opinion on certain matters, and occasionally persons in positions of responsibility do not fully realize the seriousness of the trust vested in them. But it is considered that this matter ought to be looked at as a whole, and that the strict rule of law should not apply in the case of an industrial organization. The strict rule of law under which a corporation is held responsible for anything done by its officials has been relaxed in the case of an industrial organization. Accordingly, if an officer or a member of a committee or some members of a committee of management have tried to prevent an act which has resulted in an organization being held responsible for the commission of an offence under sections 6 and 6a, this clause provides that in fixing the penalty that fact shall be taken into consideration. I submit that the provision is a fair one, and should meet the requirements of such cases.
.- This clause is supposed to mitigate the penalties imposed on organizations; but it implies that an organization is responsible for the act of those for whom it cannot be responsible. As that issue will be debated on clause 8, I suggest that we ought not to discuss it on a preceding provision. The question of making the organization responsible for the act of other persons and not for its own acts is raised by clause 8, which should not have any connexion with section 6 or 6a. If we were to disregard clause 8 and endeavour to retain the principal act as it has stood since the inception of compulsory arbitration there would be no suggestion that a union should be held responsible for other than its own act. It is implied in this provision, though not stated in specific terms, that it may he found, guilty for other than its own acts. The clause reads -
If an organization satisfies the court that its committee of management has made genuine efforts to prevent the act with which it is charged, that should be evidence that the organization is not responsible.
– That will be so if the committee of management as a whole can prove that it is not responsible.
– That provision is somewhat ambiguous. If an organization satisfies a court that members of its committee of management have in good faith made a genuine effort to prevent action being taken, and J the court admits the evidence, it should be taken as proof that the organization is not responsible.
– Supposing other members of the committee of management were plainly implicated ?
– The Minister is anticipating clause 8. There is nothing in this clause and sections 6 or 6a to that effect. We cannot have something in proposed section 6b relating to section 6a which, I suggest, is foreign to that section quite relevant to clause 8, which honorable members on this side will endeavour to delete from the bill. We do not wish to pass something with an implication relating to clause 8. If clause 8 were not in the bill, and section 6 were to operate as in the past, this, by implication, would be entirely new.
– I do not think so.
– I do. If an organization satisfies the court that its representatives acted in good faith the organization should not be responsible.
– Under sections 6 and 6a offences were created and penalties fixed. Section 8 does not in. the early part of it - I am not now referring to the proposed new sub-sections 3 and 4 - impose a penalty. It is a purely evidentiary section. Sections 6 and 6a relate to persons doing something in the nature of a lockout or a strike, and under them penalties may be imposed upon organizations as well as upon persons for certain acts. Section 8 provides that an organization which defies the law or incites the commission of certain acts in the nature of a lockout or a strike shall itself be deemed to be guilty of an offence the penalties for which are found in section 6 and 6a. Proposed section 6b makes provision for the mitigation of penalties when an organization has been found guilty. If some members of a committee of management or some of its officers have been trying /to prevent the commission of the offence, that action is to be taken into account in fixing the penalty. If the secretary of an organization has full power to perform the act he has performed, and the court finds that that act is. the commission of an offence, an organization may be found responsible for the action of its secretary. It may appear, however, that a number of the members of the committee of management, considering that the secretary was wrong, may have tried to prevent the commission of the act for which the organization had been convicted. In such a case the organization should be convicted, because the authorized officer had acted contrary to the law ; but this clause provides that in such a case where there is no doubt that some members of the committee of management tried to prevent it, that fact shall be considered in fixing the penalty.
– Would this clause have been inserted if clause 8 were not embodied in the bill?
– Yes. It must be remembered in dealing with an organization of this class that an organization is no more real than a company, but is equally so. The liability of an organization as a corporation depends upon the acts of the persons who are in a position to act with real or apparent authority on its behalf. Outsiders are entitled to judge a corporation by the apparent authority which it confers upon its agents in accordance with a well-known principle of law. Had clause 8 not been in the bill it would still have been possible to take proceedings against an organization for an offence under earlier provisions. “When a prosecutor contends that an organization has been guilty of an offence, it is necessary to ascertain the facts, and who committed the acts complained of. .Some individual would have to be discovered upon whom to fasten responsibility, and if he were proved guilty, the question would arise as to the nature of his authority. I point out to honorable members that the latter part of section 8, which appears in italics in the memorandum, was only inserted in 1920. Section 6a also was only inserted in that year. I assure honorable members that their acceptance of this clause will not in any way compromise them in relation to clause 8, for it would be quite a proper provision irrespective of what is contained in clause 8. I therefore ask the committee to equip the court with power, when an organization is convicted of an offence committed by its officers or committee of management, to take into account the endeavour of other officers or members to prevent the committal of the offence.
.- This is an extraordinary clause, and the Attorney-General has not justified it. A Gilbertian situation may arise under it. We are asked to agree, in the first place, that an organization may be found guilty and be liable to a certain penalty because one or more of its officers have committed an act which may be held to be in the nature of a strike. Then we are asked to provide that because some other officer or officers have disapproved of the action and made a bona fide attempt to prevent it, the court may consider their action in mitigation of the penalty. Could anything be more absurd or more unworkable ? This clause must be considered in conjunction with clause 8, under which an organization may be involved in a penalty for an act which does not even involve a cessation of work. Even if only one of its officers advises members to cease work, it will become liable to heavy penalties. An organization which has been found guilty of an offence, of which 10,000 of its members disapprove, may be penalized. On the other hand, if the great majority of the members of an organization favour a strike, and it can be shown that even one member was against it and made a bona fide attempt to prevent it, the court may, on that account, reduce the penalty. The provision is absurd, unworkable, and ridiculous; but it is typical of the whole bill. The AttorneyGeneral must realize that the whole scheme of this bill is irrational and Gilbertian. If it can be shown that even one member of a committee of management has endeavoured to prevent a strike occurring the court may inflict a lighter fine than otherwise; but if an organization has amongst its members even one irresponsible officer or uncontrollable member in a remote branch and he commits an act which constitutes an offence, the organization may be held responsible. We cannot consider this clause separately from clause 8. I am quite convinced that though he attempted to justify this provision, the Attorney-General realized its absurdity. Who could logically argue that the mere fact of an irresponsible person committing an act in the nature of an offence is sufficient to involve the whole organization? It would be just as ridiculous to argue that the fact of one member attempting to prevent a dispute is sufficient reason for absolving a whole organization. We are living in a time of supposed freedom and liberty. But organizations are, after all, only aggregates of human beings. It cannot be expected that they will ever have complete control of every member or be able to discipline every officer. That would be a state of perfection. It should not be expected either that organizations should be relieved of their responsibility simply because one officer has attempted to prevent a breach of the law.
– The matter should be left for a judge to determine.
– There is no power in any judge, magistrate, or authority to extend leniency to an organization if an offence has been proved.
– He could impose a nominal fine.
– If the honorable member believes that a nominal fine would be sufficient in such instances it is unnecessary to provide for a maximum penalty of £1,000, and the AttorneyGeneral should amend the clause and provide for only a nominal fine. I maintain that a nominal fine, or no fine at all, would properly be applicable in the circumstances. The Attorney-General has justified the action of the Government in holding an organization liable for the acts of its members. Possibly an organization might be embroiled through the action of a small section of recalcitrants refusing to accept arbitration as a policy, men of the type of those whose actions are exaggerated by honorable members opposite when they are criticizing unionism. Through their activities the organization is rendered liable to a heavy penalty. The Attorney-General has urged that this clause provides for the mitigation of that penalty; that if the organization can prove that it used bona fide efforts to prevent the commission of the offence the court may exercise its discretion and reduce the amount of the penalty. But the organization cannot secure the dismissal of the plaint! The whole proposal is harsh and is unjustifiable, and the statement of the Attorney-General in explanation of the clause is the strongest case that could be made out against it.
.- I agree with both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) in their opposition to this clause. I believe that it appears in the wrong place, :and that it should have been taken before we dealt with clause 5. Provision is already made in section 6a of the principal’ act for the imposition of a penalty -of £1,000. It has been urged that, if an organization can prove that it has endeavoured to bring about a settlement of a dispute, that may be taken into consideration and the penalty mitigated. But this clause will operate unfairly. One has to remember that there are only about 27 employers’ organizations registered in the Arbitration Court, while there are about 149 employees’ organizations, so that the whole thing is one-sided. This clause will apply only to 27 employers’ organizations, leaving all those not registered with the court beyond its jurisdiction.
– Under the bill every single employer is liable to a fine of £1,000 if found guilty of certain offences.
– But it is inequitable that an employees’ organization, perhaps with a membership of 20,000, should be subjected to such a fine by the action of 200 or fewer of its members. It is also unjust that, instead of the whole, of an employers’ association being within the jurisdiction of the clause, only individual employers are to be punished.
– A thousand individual employers could be punished, if found guilty.
– I consider that the working of the clause will be inequitable. Provision is also made in clause 5 that any section of an organization that participates in anything in the nature of a strike shall be liable to £1,000, irrespective of the number of men concerned.
– I cannot discuss clause 8 now, but the honorable member knows that actually, that is not so.
– The AttorneyGeneral thinks that this clause merely provides for the mitigation of a sentence, but it does more than that.
– Is it not a modification of the two previous clauses?
– I can understand what is in the Attorney-General’s mind; but the clause will not apply in the way that he believes, and its application will be inequitable.
– Would the honorable member rather have the provision for the mitigation of penalties withdrawn?
– I do not suggest that, but I think that the clause will not apply as the honorable gentleman thinks it will, nor do I think that it will be equitable in its application.
– This clause does not impose a liability upon any person or organization in any circumstances, nor does it increase any liability otherwise imposed on a person or organization. It comes into operation only after a conviction has been registered under some other clause. It operates in relation to clauses 6 and 6a. Only under those clauses can penalties for these offences be imposed. The clause then operates only by way of providing for a mitigation of a penalty.
I ask the committee to agree to the clause.
– I suggest that consideration of this clause be postponed. If it means what the Attorney-General says it does, the committee will no doubt accept it later.
– It only operates in mitigation of a penalty imposed by virtue of another provision.
– In determining the guilt of an organization, the judge who tries a case will undoubtedly be guided by the words of this clause. Notwithstanding that it might be shown that the whole of the members of. the. committee of management of a union acted in good faith to prevent a strike, the judge could find the union guilty. This clause is to be taken into consideration only in regard to the mitigation of a penalty. That is anticipating the provisions of clause 8. Section 6 sets out what shall be done if a union or a person is found guilty. In this clause we are notifying the court of the intention of Parliament.
– Only after a certain event.
– The honorable member suggests that the judge will read section 6b only after he has found an organization guilty under section 6. But a judge when trying a case under section 6 would not ignore the rest of the legislation.
– The guilt would already have been determined.
– I am speaking of a stage before guilt has been established. At that stage the judge may read what Parliament has passed to guide him in imposing penalties.
– I am agreeable to withdraw the clause if it is objectionable.
– It would be better to withdraw the bill.
– I am not prepared to do that.
– The AttorneyGeneral shows a wonderful willingness to withdraw this clause and throw upon the Opposition the responsibility of its withdrawal.
– Because it appears not to be wanted.
– I merely asked the Attorney-General to agree to the postponement of this clause in order that we could make sure whether the interpretation he set upon it is correct. He should not endeavour to throw upon the Opposition the responsibility of rejecting a clause the object of which is to mitigate penalties. The clause should be postponed and, if necessary, redrafted in order to make it clear that it provides for the mitigation of a penalty without there being any implication of guilt in regard to a union when it is not guilty. The AttorneyGeneral is willing to withdraw this clause ; but will he or the Prime Minister show the same willingness when we come to clause 8 ? Will they say that it is not wanted, and can therefore be withdrawn? The clause with which we are now dealing clearly provides for the mitigation of penalties; but there is also the implication of a union’s guilt. That will influence the judge when trying the union under section 6. Rather than make the position clear, the Attorney-General suggests the withdrawal of the clause. No honorable member can accuse the Opposition of having been unreasonable today; but we will fight for the repeal of clauses 7 and 8 and others. In this clause there may be the intention to do the fair thing ; but it is couched in language which may allow an unfair thing to be done.
– The Attorney-General could not do the fair thing towards the unions.
– I have merely asked that the clause be postponed in order that we may satisfy ourselves that the AttorneyGeneral’s explanation is correct. While I am not prepared to take the responsibility of voting against a clause which mitigates penalties, I should fail in my duty if I did not show its defects. I have not been dogmatic; I have merely pointed out that, in my opinion, it is capable of a different interpretation from that placed upon it by the AttorneyGeneral.
– It says “ When they are found guilty.”
– Before a judge finds them guilty, he will doubtless read proposed new section 6b. He may read into that provision that a union may be found guilty even though its committee of management has done its utmost to prevent a strike. The Attorney-General says that that is not intended.
– That is the law that is being passed.
– The AttorneyGeneral assures us that it is not. I gather that in the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral the clause does not imply what I suggest.
– That is so.
– I think the implication is there. The Government should see that there is no cause for doubt regarding the meaning of the clause. There should be no implication of guilt in circumstances in which no court should find a union guilty. I again ask the AttorneyGeneral to agree to the postponement of this clause.
– There is no need to postpone the clauses. It does not depend upon clause 8, but it is related to sections 6 and 6a. It is, of course, possible that an organization may be found guilty by reason of the acts of the authorized officer, though other officers and some members of the committee of management may have endeavoured to prevent the commission of an offence. I remind honorable members that the clause specifically refers to members of an organization and members of a committee of management. Where the committee of management as a whole is involved, it is specially referred to as the committee of management.
– But the clause should be read as a whole.
– I do not wish to differ too emphatically from the honorable member for Yarra, but I suggest that the wording of the provision is perfectly clear. The court will take into account any efforts which have been made by members df an organization or by members of a committee of management.
– If the secretary of an organization advocated a strike, the organization might be fined up to £1,000; but if the president of an organization deprecated such action, the penalty might be mitigated?’
– That is so. If there is to be any responsibility upon an organization at all, there must be provision in the law that the organization shall be liable in such a case. But this clause operates only and solely in mitigation of penalties. It contains no implication which might fix guilt upon an organization which otherwise would not be fixed upon it.
Clause agreed to.
– I desire, for- the information of honorable members to make a brief statement as, to whether a member is at liberty to quote from private letters or memoranda unless he is prepared to lay such documents upon the table of the House. For the guidance of honorable members I direct attention to the following passage in May’s Parliamentary Practice, to be found at page 321, which was recognized by the ruling of the Speaker in this House on’ August 28th, 1913, volume 70, page 647:-
Another rule, or principle of debate, may be here added. A Minister of the Crown is not at liberty to read or quote from a despatch or other State paper not before the House unless he be prepared to lay it upon the table. This restraint ‘ is similar to that rule of evidence in courts of law, which prevents counsel from citing documents which have not been produced in evidence. The principle is so reasonable that it has not been contested; and when the objection has been made in time, it has been generally acquiesced in. It has also been admitted that a document which has been cited ought to be laid upon the table of the House if it can be done without injury to the public interests.’ The same rule, however, cannot be held to apply to private letters or memoranda.
May also cites the Attorney-General, on the 18th May, 1865, replying to a question whether private documents from which he had made a statement could be laid on the table, and stating that the rule applied to public documents only. Our own Standing Order 317 provides -
A document relating ‘to public affairs quoted from by a Minister of the Crown, unless stated to be of a confidential nature or such as should more properly be obtained by Address, may be called for and made a public document.
Adelaide Post Office : Thefts from Mail Bag.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) to a circumstance that is creating resentment and feelings of serious protest from postal officials in Adelaide. A sum of approximately £200 was missed recently from one of the mail bags that passed through the General Post Office, Adelaide. Although there are associated with the department two detectives, an officer of the Criminal Investigation Department was, I understand, detailed to make investigations, but up to the present he has not been successful. All the officers in the mail-room feel thatthey are resting under, suspicion, and are anxious to clear themselves. I mention this matter because the detective has put a number of officers through what is popularly known as the “ third degree,” questioning them for several hours. They strongly resent the manner of their examination, and feel that they are entitled to some protection from the department against this indignity. No objection whatever is raised to a thorough and most searching inquiry, but the methods of the Criminal Investigation Department detective are ‘seriously questioned. I ask the Postmaster-General to make immediate investigations so as to clear honest and straightforward officers from the unjust imputation which is resting upon them.
– I have no knowledge whatever of the case to which the honorable member referred, but I shall have inquiries made. I am sure he will agree that investigations must be made in connexion with matters of this kind. We are handling 3,000,000 articles every day, and we are making investigations every day, but this is the firsttime that a complaint has been made that investigations have been conducted in a manner that is improper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 May 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280529_reps_10_118/>.