10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– A rumour is current in Melbourne that the whereabouts of the Abrahams Brothers has beenlocated. Can the Attorney-General say whether his department has information to that effect ; and if it has, is it proposed to secure the extradition of these men to Australia?
– I have not heard anything of the rumour to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall have inquiries made into the matter.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a press report which’ states that a German scientist has made the discovery that Australia is about to be submerged by the sea, and that only sixislandsat Perth, Albany, Melbourne, Sydney,Brisbane, and Rockhampton, will escape? Has the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research advised the right honorable gentleman of that event; and, if so, does he propose that expenditure shall continue to be incurred in any other part of Australia than the places named?
– I have notreceived advice of any -such impending tragedy, and the Government does not propose to alter . the direction of expenditure that has been already approved.
Permanent Australian Representative at Geneva.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether there is any truth in the statement which is published in a Sydney morning newspaper of to-day’s date that it is intended to have at Geneva a permanent representative of Australia, and that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) is to be the first such representative?
– I have no knowledge of any; proposal of the kind; nor do. I know whether, in the event of such an appointment being contemplated, the position would be offered to the honorable member for Barton or accepted by him.
– Recently the North Australia Commission entered into a contract with a Mr. George to-supply a cargo shipping service by means of the ketch Active. For the information of the Minister for Home and Territories, I read the following letter: -
Insurance Broker and Adviser, 2nd Floor,. 74 Pitt-street, Sydney. 28th May, 1928.
Capt. W. J. Davies, 133 Bayswater-road,
Rusheutters Bay, Sydney. .
Dear Sir, -
Re “ Active” A/K.
In response to your inquiryregarding insurance on the above vessel, I regret having to inform you that I find it impossible to obtain insurance, in Sydney, either on the hull or the cargo. The main factor against the insurance is the age of the vessel, which, as you are aware, is 55 years, having been built in 1873.
– She is considered good enough for the Northern Territory!
– Evidently! The letter continues -
Should you desire me to make further inquiries, either in Melbourne or London;, I will do so; but, in my opinion, it would be futile.;
Yours . faithfully,
What action does the Minister propose to take to protect the stores of settlers in North Australia, who are compelled to freight them by that boat?
– I shall have’ inquiries made immediately into the matter
– Seeing that the Government appears to lack a guide,- -philosopher and friend to administer the Department of . Trade and Customs, will the Prime Minister give the assurance that that position will be filled before the House goes into recess, and thus allay the anxiety of a number of persons who wish to learn the identity of the proposed appointee?
– I am under the impression that the Government possesses, what the honorable member considers is ‘ so necessary. I am the. Minister for Trade and Customs, and at the present moment I do not propose to make any change.
– I have received letters from several manufacturers in my constituency asking if it is possible for the Minister for Trade and Customs to visit and inspect their works. Will the right honorable gentleman make it convenient to do so?
– If the opportunity were, to present itself, I should be delighted, to accept such invitations; but, because of the many other duties I have to perform, that may not be possible. I feel sure, however, that Senator Crawford, who is acting as Assistant Minister > for Trade and Customs, will be able to make the necessary arrangements to visit the works referred to.
– The Government, having decided to amend the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act, -a bill for that purpose is now before Parliament. Will the Prime Minister consider also the desirability of amending the Seamen’s Compensation Act, which is not in keeping with the compensation acts of any of the States ? -
– I shall look into the matter.
– In view- of the fact that the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act applies only to’ Government employees, will the Minister for Home and Territories undertake to promulgate. -an. ordinance for North and
Central Australia, covering those persons who are not Government employees?
SirNEVILLE HOWSE.- I shall give the matter careful consideration.
– In March last, I presented to the late Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) a statement forwarded to me by persons interested in the cotton industry in Queensland, asking that certain considerations should be extended to both the primary and secondary branches of the industry. Prior to his untimely death, the Minister held a conference with the interested parties. What is the position at the present time?
– I understand that shortly before his death the late Minister for Trade and Customs had a conference with persons interested in the cotton industry, and that certain matters were submitted with the request that they be given consideration. These have been referred to the Tariff Board for investigation. To-morrow I shall supply the honorable member for Moreton with the exact details.
– Some time ago, by memorandum, and later by personal representation, the Queensland Cotton Appeal Board submitted to the late Minister for Trade and Customs, in Sydney, a case for increased duties on cotton piece goods, the object being to protect the Australian manufacturer, the buyer of the locally-grown cotton. I understand that representations were also made to the Minister for the granting of an increase in the bounty on raw cotton to 2d. per lb. Can the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me whether those representations have been fully considered and a decision reached upon them?
– As I have informed the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis), just prior to his death the late Minister for Trade and Customs held a conference with representatives of the Queensland cotton industry at which certain specific requests were made to him. He promised to consider them. Subsequently the matter was referred to the Tariff Board. I have undertaken to obtain by to-morrow the exact text of the questions submitted to the board.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs received a request from the South Australian Government for the remission of duties amounting, I understand, to about £3,000 on certain railway cars which it has imported from the United States of America? If so, will he give us an assurance that, for the protection of Australian manufacturers, the South Australian Government will be treated in exactly the same manner as a private firm importing similar cars.
– Such a request has not come under my notice, but in the event of it being submitted to me I shall treat the South Australian Government in exactly the same manner as I would any other importer who made a request for the remission of duty.
– Can the Treasurer inform me whether he has received a telegram from the Taxpayers’ Association of Australia, sent on its own behalf and also on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Manufactures and the Stock . Owners’ Association of South Australia protesting against the practice inaugurated by the Federal Taxation Department in being represented before the Federal Land Valuation Appeal Board by legal counsel and contending that such a practice will make the board similar to a court of law, and introduce the expense and inconvenience associated with litigation? If the telegram has been received has he any statement to make with regard to it?
– The telegram mentioned by the honorable member reached mo last Wednesday or Thursday, and I replied immediately to the effect that it was the practice of the Department not to he represented by counsel in proceedings beforethe Income Tax
Appeal Board and the Land Valuation Appeal Board except when legal questions were involved. In the South Australian case to which reference has been made legal questions were involved, and counsel was briefed on behalf of the Department ; but that is not the practice when merely matters of fact have to be determined.
– Persons who have to travel to and from Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island and the mainland are subject to great hardship and suffering by reason of the treatment meted out to them by the shipping company which is conducting this service. Some time ago the Minister for Home and Territories promised that he would obtain information on this subject, and if necessary do something to remove’ the inconvenience which regular travellers as well as tourists have to suffer on this route. Has he yet secured that information?
– The matter is still under consideration.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs have a return prepared showing the amount of customs duty paid by each State during the past three years so that we may know how much of the loan money which the States receive from the Commonwealth is returned in the shape of import duties ?
– If it is possible to preare such a return without great expense shall see that it is done;but if the compilation of it would involve heavy expense and a great deal of labour I shall let the honorable member know what is involved.
Expiration of Licences
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Station. - Date of Expiration of Licence. 2BL (New South Wales), 21st July, 1929. 2FC (New South Wales), 16th July, 1929. 3LO (Victoria), 21st July, 1929. 3AR (Victoria), 7th August, 1929. 4QG (Queensland), 29th January, 1930. 5CL (South Australia), 13th January, 1930. 6WF (Western Australia), 21st July, 1929. 7ZL (Tasmania), 13th December, 1930.
Station. - Date of Expiration of Licence. 2BE (New South Wales), 6th November, 1929. 2GB (New South Wales), 15th May, 1931. 2HD (New South Wales), 30th November, 1929. 2KY (New South Wales), 19th May, 1930, 2MB. (New South Wales), 14th October, 1930. 2UE (New South Wales), 6th November, 1929. 2UW (New South Wales), 12th February, 1930. 3UZ (Victoria), 5th February, 1930. 3DB (Victoria), 17th October, 1931. 4GR (Queensland), 4th June, 1930.
SDN (South Australia), 30th November, 1929. 5KA (South Australia), 25th’ August, 1931.
Rating - Working and Living Conditions - Cost of Parliament House
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
-through Mr. Fenton) asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– These matters were the subject of a question asked by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) last month, to which, I regret to say, I am not yet in a position to furnish an answer. I am taking steps to expedite the supply of the particulars required.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– These questions should have been addressed to the Treasurer. The answers are as follow : - 1 and 2. The correspondence relating to the appointment of a board to enquire into the claim of Mr. G. H. Turton, who was a passenger on the s.s. Lusitania, will be made available for the perusal of the honorable member but it is not considered that the cost of printing the correspondence would be justified.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Which of the State Governments., if any, have indicated their willingness to operate their respective housing schemes in order to enable participation under the Commonwealth Housing Act?
– As I informed the House yesterday, 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 thu scheme is now dependent upon action by the respective States.
– On the 23rd May thu honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) brought under notice the question of the duty payable on an American preparation stated to be a cure for pernicious anaemia, and asked whether, in view of the fact that the duty placed the article beyond the reach of the poorer people in the community, consideration would be given to the removal of the duty.
Under tariff item 285a patent and proprietary medicines being similar to medicines and other preparations made in the Commonwealth, are dutiable at 30 per cent British preferential tariff, 35 per cent, intermediate tariff, 40 per cent, general tariff, whereas medicines not being similar to medicines and other preparations made in the Commonwealth are admissible free British preferential tariff, 5 per cent. intermediate tariff, 10 per cent, general tariff. Two preparations for the treatment of pernicious anaemia have come under the notice of the Department of Trade and Customs, one of which has been analysed and found to contain horse liver extract in combination with other ingredients. This particular line is a blood mixture, and as blood mixtures are made in Australia, inquiries were necessary to ascertain whether a similar mixture was being made in the Commonwealth. These inquiries, which have now been completed, failed to discover any similar proprietary line manufactured in the Commonwealth. It has, therefore, been decided to admit the preparation under item 285c and as it is of American origin, the duty will be 10 per cent. The necessary inquiries are now being made in regard to the second line which has come under notice, and, if it is found that no similar preparation is being made in Australia, it will be similarly treated to the one referred to above.
– On the 17th. May the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) referred to the balance of trade with New Zealand in 1926 as compared with 1928, and I promised to have a return prepared showing the variations of trade during the last two years. I now desire to furnish the following particulars relative to the trade between the two countries, as disclosed by the records of the Department of Trade and Customs during the period 1922-23 to 1926-27 :-
It will be observed that the balance in favor of Australia has declined in latter years, this unfavorable position being caused not only by diminishing exports from Australia, but by increasing imports from New Zealand. The following table shows the value of the principal imports from New Zealand: -
Although many items have been subject to variation, the chief factors in the diminution of the balance in favour of Australia have been on the one hand the decreases in the exports from Australia of wheat, tobacco, sugar, apparel, piece goods, rubber manufactures, leather and timber, and on the other hand, the increases in the imports from New Zealand of butter, potatoes and flax and hemp.
Use on Vessels in Australian Service.
– On the 3rd May the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked me a question, upon notice, with regard to the use of Australian fruits on vessels trading with Australia. I promised to give consideration to his suggestion that representations be made to the shipping companies concerned with a view to preference being given to Australian fruits. Representations have been madeby the Department of Markets to owners and agents of vessels engaged in both the overseas and interstate services with a view to their giving preference to the purchase of Australian fresh, canned and dried fruits, butter, jams, meat and other products as ships’ stores, provided Australian goods are available. The owners of the Ormonde, viz., the Orient line, state that Sir Henry Barwell, whose reported statement was referred to by the honorable member, must have been under some serious misapprehension as to the facts, as the Ormonde upon departure from Sydney had on board 2,144 2-lb. tins of Australian apricots, peaches and pears, whereas her supply of other tins of these fruits amounted to only 313. It is admitted by the line that the fresh oranges served during the voyage were of Californian origin, the reason being that no Australian oranges of the primest quality were available at the time of the year. It is maintained by the Orient line that its policy is to give preference to Australian-‘produce when such can be obtained of the quality desired, and that this preference relates not only to canned and fresh fruits, but extends to the purchase of Australian dried fruits, salted butter, jams, fresh meat, poultry, and other goods. A number of replies received from other owners of coastal and overseas vessels, including those trading’ between Australia and foreign countries, indicate that it is already the practice to give preference to Australian products when available.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 29th May, vide page 5318) :
Clause 7 -
Section seven of the principal act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - 7. - (1) Any person or organization bound by or entitled to the benefit of an award may apply to the Court for an order declaring that a lockout or strike exists in an industry or in some . section or part of an industry the employers or employees in which are subject to the award.
Where an application is made under this section the court may make an order declaring that a lockout or strike exists in the industry or in some section or part of the industry.
The court may at any time revoke a declaration made under the last preceding subsection.
– This amendment proposes first the repeal of section 7 now in the act, and, secondly, the insertion of a new section in substitution for it. The existing section provides that -
Where persons, with a view to being associated as employers and employees respectively, or representatives of such persons, have entered into an industrial agreement with respect to employment, any of such persons who, without reasonable cause or excuse, refuses or neglects to offer or accept employment upon the terms of the agreement, shall be deemed to be guilty of a lock-out or strike as the case may be.
That provision is regarded by the Government as unsatisfactory and unjustifiable. A provision that makes it an offence for an employer to refuse to offer employment, or for an employee to’ neglect to accept employment, upon the terms of an agreement is scarcely one that will commend itself to honorable members, when the real nature of the offence is considered. How is it possible to determine fairly whether an employer should be liable to the serious penalties provided for a lockout simply because it is said that he neglected, or refused, to offer employment to some one or other? On the other hand, how can an employee justly he charged with an offence for neglecting to accept employment on the terms of an agreement? Representations on this subject have been received from the Council of Trade Unions, in these words -
The council objects to this clause as creating a servile status in that workers should not be treated as criminals because they refuse to accept payment at the minimum rates.
I agree with that view, and the Government also agrees that merely neglecting to accept employment oh the terms of some industrial agreement ought not to be an offence, just as neglecting or even refusing to offer employment on the terms of an industrial agreement ought not to be an offence. So far as I am aware section 7 has never been put into operation and, as a lawyer, I see very grave difficulties in endeavouring to put it into operation. The Government, therefore, has no hesitation in acceding to the request that the section should be repealed, and I think that, if honorable members study the wording of the section, they will agree withthe proposal to repeal it. It is also proposed to enact a new provision.
– Have the trade unions accepted it?
– Then why suggest that they are being given what they want.
– I have not suggested that, even indirectly.
– The honorable gentleman suggested that the existing provision was deleted on the representation of the trade unions.
– That is so with respect to section 7 of the act. I did not suggest that the new provision had been proposed at the request of the unions. As clause 7 has already been the subject of considerable discussion, it is unnecessary for me to deal with it in detail now. The essence of the proposal is that if one side to a dispute is already breaking the law by engaging in a lockout or a strike, and the existing means of dealing with the situation - the imposition of a penalty, de-registration, or the cancellation of an award - do not remedy matters, it will be possible for the aggrieved party to apply to the court for a declaration that the other side is, in effect, breaking the law. If the court sees fit to make such a declaration, the hands of the party which has made the application to the court will be free. This provision applies to a lockout or a strike in an industry or in some section or part of an industry; it does not apply in the way which has been suggested by some honorable members in their second-reading speeches. It was suggested then that in the event of a strike existing anywhere in any industry this clause authorized one party to apply to the court for leave to engage in a general lockout in- all industries throughout the Commonwealth. That is not the effect of the clause. Indeed, it contains nothing which could justify such a conclusion. Its operation is limited to the particular industry concerned. It is specifically designed to meet one of the real difficulties which exist in industry - that of dealing with job control. Under the existing legislation, employers are almost helpless when job control is exercised. Job control, or sectional strike tactics, have been resorted to with impunity in Australia during recent years because employers cannot retaliate against such methods. Employers can be illegally attacked in detail; yet under the existing legislation they have no effective remedy. This clause provides that where one side to a dispute has acted illegally the other side shall be allowed the means of selfprotection. But in order to obtain that self-protection an application must first be made to the court. The clause also provides that the court may require notice of any application made under the section to be served on such persons as it directs, and that all concerned in the matter may be heard. When the application is made to the court, the court may make an order declaring that a lockout or a strike exists in the industry, or in some section or part of it. Thatisa discretionary power conferred on the court: circumstances will determine whether the court will make the declaration. But if the declaration is made, the result will be that the penal provisions in respect of action by the other side shall not apply during the currency of the declaration. A declaration may be revoked at any time; but during its currency it will not be an offence for the aggrieved party to protect itself by exercising the degree of reprisal allowed by the court. In considering these matters it is useless for us to ignore facts. Unfortunately, during recent years there have been frequent cases of job control. Although job control is a breach of the law, it is difficult to obtain legal evidence to secure the conviction of any particular person who indulges in the practice. There is incontrovertible evidence that some persons holding prominent positions in industry, make a policy of job control and actively advocate it.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral say what he means by job control ?
– By job control I mean a sectional strike.
– The honorable gentleman’s remark shows how little he knows about the subject.
– Job control is a well-recognized method of indulging in irritation tactics. Although it originated in America,, job control operates in Australia to-day in accordance with propaganda pamphlets which are circulated in particular industries. This practice has been defended from time to time by certain industrial leaders. I am not yet aware whether it has the support of honorable members on the other side of the chamber. The underlying principle of arbitration is that the means provided by the legislature for adjusting industrial disputes shall be utilized, and that those who are bound by, or entitled to, an award shall not also have recourse to’ direct action. It will be observed that this clause refers only to the industries the employers and employees in which are subject to an award. It therefore conforms with, the principle that arbitration excludes direct action. Rut what is to be done in instances of admitted job control? It is sometimes impossible to fix the responsibility on any particular individual. As the law stands at present, nothing can be done should the penalties provided - the imposition of a fine, deregistration, or the cancellation of an award - fail to accomplish their purpose. But this provision will enable one side to a dispute to protect itself should the other side act illegally. Where a dispute is general throughout an industry, and the whole of the employees are not working, this clause naturally will not apply. I men tioned in my second-reading speech an instance in which the award of Judge Beeby in the engineering industry was objected to because of a provision dealing with piece-work. At that time a greatdeal of literature in which job control was advertised was circulated. In Sydney three employers were attacked. Their men refused to work. The three firms immediately concerned, as well as other employers in the industry, were helpless. Nothing could be done. That action would not have been taken if it were known that the organization employing those tactics would be exposed to the risk of an application being made by the employers to the court for a declaration that a strike had taken place, which declaration would safeguard employers in locking out men in other establishments. It cannot lie in the mouths of one section which is deliberately adopting these illegal tactics to complain if the hands of the other side are free.
– The honorable the Attorney-General has stated that job control means a sectional strike. Surely the honorable gentleman knows that that is not the definition of job control. A sectional strike may take place quite apart from anything in the nature of job control.
– Job control is a term which, I admit, has received no exact definition ; but this clause covers job control.
– Oan the Minister cite a case of job control to which the provisions of this clause can be applied?
– Job control, I agree, assumes various forms. The commonest is the small sectional strike. I am aware, also, that job control means the slowing down of a number of men on a particular job, and, in some cases, sabotage. All these are included in the literature dealing with job control, which is not a legally defined word. This clause is directed towards a partial strike in an industry, which is most ordinarily described in Australia as falling within the definition of job control. It deals with a strike which does not extend throughout the whole of an industry, and includes, therefore, the most ordinary form of job control as practised in Australia. Take, for instance, the present dispute in interstate shipping. The original cause was the demand for one extra marine cook on one vessel. The members of the Marine Cooks’ Union refused to carry out their duties unless the employers engaged an extra cook. This was the beginning of a general demand for an increase in the number of men employed in the galleys on interstate ships.
– How does the Minister know that?
– From the declarations made on behalf of the union from time to time in the course of the dispute. If the original demand for one extra cook had been successful, there would have been a similar demand in respect of other ships, one by one, engaged in the interstate trade. The clause provides the machinery to deal with such illegal acts. I doubt if any honorable members approve of the tactics employed by the Marine Cooks’ Union, in view of the fact that the question at issue may be referred to the Arbitration Court for settlement. No other means that I am aware of have been suggested to deal with this particular form of direct action. Accordingly, I commend the clause to the committee. I propose, however, to make a slight amendment, and accordingly I move -
That after the word “time,” proposed new section 7, sub-section 4, the words “.upon such notice to such persons, as it thinks fit,” be inserted.
Sub-section 4 of the proposed new section will then read -
The court may at any time, upon such notice to such persons as it thinks fit, revoke a declaration made under the last preceding sub-section.
I submit the amendment, because it would not be fair or just to revoke a declaration without, at the same time, giving notice to the persons affected by it. Honorable members will observe that it is left to the court to determine to whom such notice shall be given.
– Would the slowing down on the part of a body of members be considered as action in the nature of a strike?
– That depends on all the facts of the case.
.- This is one of the most important clauses of the bill. It fully justifies honorable members on this side in saying that the measure is an attack upon the principle of arbitration. I ask honorable members to dismiss all prejudice from their minds and ask themselves first if they believe in arbitration, and secondly what is its purpose. Arbitration has been adopted in Australia for the settlement of industrial disputes. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asks - What have been the results ? I refer him to the statement of the Attorney-General himself for his answer. Arbitration has been the means of settling many disputes which, in other circumstances, would have developed into very serious industrial disturbances. Because of the application of conciliation and arbitration to industrial disputes, Australia is less subject to industrial trouble than almost any other country. This condition of affairs is due to the fact that the awards made by the Arbitration Court have been observed, in the majority of cases, by organized labour. When I say that the bill represents an attack upon the system of arbitration, I am not directing my remarks to those who believe that arbitration should be discarded. Included among these are a number of members supporting the Government. None on this side subscribe to that view. I admit that certain individuals among the working classes also desire to see arbitration abolished, so that those honorable members opposite who are opposed to it, being themselves extremists, find themselves with the extremists on the other side. I compliment the Attorney-General upon the frankness of his explanation. He openly admitted that this clause had been inserted in the bill to serve the employers of Australia - to give them a free hand in certain circumstances to lock out every man employed in an industry. ‘ If honorable members opposite’ suggest that to do this is to bring about peace in industry, all I can say is that they are ignorant of the first principles of both conciliation and arbitration. The Attorney-General has. told us that the clause will enable one side to a dispute to approach the court for an order that a strike or lockout exists. All his arguments have been directed to show that it will operate in the interests of the employers. Therefore, I ask honorable members to consider it from that point of view. Under this clause, if a sectional strike occurs, in industry, the employer may approach the court for an order declaring that a strike exists. To make the clause popular, the Attorney-General frequently spoke of job control in industry, using that hackneyed term to describe many acts that really are not job control at all. For example, a section.il strike is not job control, nor can it be said that job control is a ‘sectional strike. The Attorney-General does not understand job control if he thinks it means a sectional strike. What may be described as the bad features of job control will not be .touched by this bill at all. Very few cases of job control have been attempted in Australia; in fact, I do not know of any. Real job control is when the workers set out to control their own working conditions, regulate output, and, as the honorable member for Swan said, deliberately slow down production.
– What about the stokers who hang up ships?
– I shall answer the honorable member if he asks me a sensible and relevant question. I have appealed to honorable members to put aside their prejudices, but I am afraid that I have appealed in vain to the honorable member who has just interjected. Job control has been described by the opponents and enemies of labour as an attempt to control and slow down production, and to indulge in irritating tactics. Those things will not come under this proposed new section, which covers only sectional strikes. Some sectional strikes may be quite wrong, and have no justification; but others are justified, and nobody with a sense of fairness can deny that there sometimes comes an occasion when a body of men, if they:have any manhood at all, will down tools. - When the AttorneyGeneral asks whether the members on this side of the chamber support sectional strikes, I reply that, as a party, we are in favour of arbitration and conciliation for the prevention of strikes, and for their settlement when they have occurred. When, however, strikes break out spasmodically owing to the men labouring under a strong sense of injustice, and when their case is sound, no one with any sense of fairness would condemn them for striking, though he might regret the need for it, and might endeavour to settle the trouble. Where there is justification there cannot be condemnation ; but where there has been, no justification for a strike, it will be, and has been, condemned by members on this side. One can only judge these things by one’s own conscience. The Attorney-General may be able to judge from one point of view, but not from another. Let us examine this clause according to the principles of conciliation and arbitration. The Attorney-General is head of the law department of Australia, yet he supports, in this proposed section, what is tantamount to defiance of the law. He says that if an illegal action is committed by one side to an industrial dispute, the other side should be permitted to take similar action. He proposes to extenuate a breach of the law by one side, because the law has been broken by somebody else, Surely that is a new doctrine to be enunciated by an Attorney-General, or supported by a Government which professes to believe in conciliation and arbitration. Penalties have been provided, to restrict or to prevent strikes, but the Government says that, when all these things have failed, and when one side takes an illegal action, we should permit the other side to do the same thing. The first purpose of industrial legislation is to prevent strikes, and. when they do occur to restrict their scope as much as possible. It is the desire of every one with any responsibility to keep small troubles within narrow limits, and to settle them as quickly as possible. Let me say, as the result pf some personal knowledge of men engaged in the industrial field, men who have been sneered at from the floor of this chamber by honorable members on the other side, that many of those labour leaders have grown grey in the service of industrial peace. Those men have striven to restrict the extension of strikes, not for the purpose of defeating the employers piecemeal, but because they know, as the result of long experience, who suffers most through industrial troubles. The proposed section allows the extension of industrial disputes, thereby destroying the fundamental principles of arbitration. It is” an admission by the Attorney-General that the Government has no faith in the penal clauses, and wishes to place in the hands of the employers what I described in my secondreading speech as the big stick of starvation to bring the men into submission. The section provides for the making by the employers of an application to the court for a declaration that a strike exists, should a sectional strike take place. The Attorney-General emphasized one word in the section, the word “ may.” He said that the court may make an order. Surely if the employers go to the court and ask for an order to the effect that there is a strike, and the court is satisfied as to the facts, it must make such an order.
– The court could refuse to make a declaration. It would not make a declaration that there was not a strike.
– The AttorneyGeneral says that the court could refuse to make an order. But if the court refused to make such an order after being satisfied as to the facts, that would be a strike by the judges themselves. Surely persons have a right to approach the court and expect it to give a decision on the issue raised. The court must have an opinion one way or the other, and it must make a declaration as to whether there is a strike or not. If that is not so, then this section merely begs the question. The proposed new section lays it down that if ten men go on ‘ strike the court may make an order that a strike exists in the industry, and the employers may then lock out 10,000 men. And this is done in the name of conciliation and arbitration! The Attorney-General said that industrial problems are not solved by being left alone. When he made that remark he was answering those persons who want to abolish arbitration altogether. By means of this section, however, he proposes to give the employers the right to lock out all their employees, because av section of them has gone on strike. I do not set up to he a legal man, qualified to pronounce dogmatic opinions on constitutional matters, but I say that if this section is not opposed to the letter of the Constitution, it is certainly opposed to its spirit. This Parliament has been given power under the Constitution to prevent or settle industrial disputes which extend beyond the limits of a State. That is to say, the only industrial legislation which we, as a Parliament, may pass is that designed to prevent and settle interstate disputes. Yet it is proposed in this section actually to give employers the right to go to a court which has been set up for the purpose of settling industrial disputes, and obtain from it an order extending the scope of an industrial dispute. The court will be empowered to authorize the extension of a dispute, to give its legal sanction to such an extension. The Conciliation and Arbitration Court may thus be used as an instrument for obtaining authority to extend industrial disputes in Australia.
– A sectional dispute may not extend from one State to another.
– Quite so; I am coming to that point. It is very difficult to make a sectional dispute extend to another State, because it is often essentially of an intra-state character. The court, knowing that a dispute was of an intra-state nature, would have no power under the Constitution to deal with it; yet it is now proposed to give the court power to cause a general lockout in an industry within a State, because there may be six or a dozen men involved in a dispute in a section of that industry. This is, unquestionably, opposed to the spirit of the Constitution, and, in my opinion, is a violation of the powers conferred by it. Another point must be considered. Suppose that an application is made to the court under the proposed new section, and the court declares that a sectional strike has occurred in the industry. Who is to appear before the court when the application is made to it? Will the organization that is involved be permitted to appear and argue the matter? There is no suggestion that it may do that. The organization that is affected may absolutely disapprove of the sectional strike, as it frequently does. Strikes arise from, many causes, and the difficulty is that the Government is endeavouring to enforce certain laws upon men without making provision to prevent the occurrence of industrial disputes. .Scores of things happen in industry that are not, and cannot, be covered by awards. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) argued this point last night, in a loose manner, and asked why the unions did not go to the court for this, that, and the other thing; but a union cannot go before the court and ask it to deal with a bullying foreman who outrages the feelings of the employees to such an extent that they finally “ down “ their .tools. That is typical of scores of cases in which men cease work. It may be a hot-headed action due to a strong sense of injustice, and the first thing that the union does is to set about getting the men to return to their work. That has been clone in thousands of cases throughout Australia during the operation of this law.. An application may be made to the court by an employer under these circumstances. The union concerned does not appear before the court and say .that no strike has occurred, because there is a strike, and it is opposed to it. The individuals who committed the act cannot be brought before the tribunal, and, therefore, a declaration is made that a strike exists. It may be that strong arguments can be used to show that it is not actually a strike; it may be possible to demonstrate that it is, in fact, a lockout. As explained last evening by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), it is often hard to distinguish between a lockout and a strike. An employer may alter the conditions of employment in an industry, and do certain things that are not covered by an award. The men may refuse to accept the altered conditions. This is really a lockout; but the union cannot advance that argument before the court. Subsequently, the twelve or twenty men, who are alleged to have gone on strike, have to appear before the ordinary courts of the country and answer .a charge of having committed a breach of this law; but their case is prejudiced by the declaration of the Arbitration Court judge that a strike has occurred, although the men had no chance to argue that before the Arbitration Court, I maintain that, fundamentally, the proposed new sect-ion is wrong, and illconceived. It is an outrage upon every principle of conciliation and arbitration. It violates the spirit of the Constitution, and it stultifies many of the other provisions of the bill. It is an admission by the Attorney-General of failure, before he has attempted to put this legislation into operation.
.- The speech of the Leader of the Opposition against the proposed new section, and the arguments used by him in defining his opposition to it, exactly demonstrate the attitude of his party towards arbitration. It supports arbitration while those whom it. professes to represent stand to benefit by it; but immediately an attempt is made to tighten up the law-
– To break the law!
– Not at all. As soon as an effort is made to tighten it, members on the other side oppose the action of the Government. All that the proposed newsection does is to enforce the act against those who, by the methods they have adopted in recent years - methods advocated by the leaders of Labour - cause irritating sectional strikes.
– The honorable member must surely be referring to another clause.
– I am dealing with what the Leader of the Opposition ha3 just said against the present clause.
– This provision will enable a sectional strike to be converted into a huge lockout.
– I am aware that that is the argument advanced by the other side. The Leader of the Opposition was correct in saying that this clause did not reach job control, according to his definition of it, and I agree with him. He admits that there. is such a thing as organized effort to slow down.
– I said that I was not aware of it occurring in Australia.
– The workers, in effect, take control of an industry, and carry it. on on the lines that they consider most beneficial to themselves, and not to the industry itself. That, in short, i» the definition of job control according to the Leader of the Opposition. Honorable members on the Government side say that the employers should have the right to close if they think that an industry cannot be profitably continued. We stand by the court and the law. We say that where there are sectional strikes and the irritating methods adopted by unionists make it impossible to carry on an industry profitably, the employer may be allowed to make application to the court; and if the court agrees that the methods adopted by the unionists make it impossible for that industry to be carried on profitably, it should be no longer unlawful for the employer to close the industry down. If the Leader of the Opposition says that, in certain circumstances, a strike is justified, surely he will concede to the employer the right to close down his business if it can no longer be conducted profitably. The Leader of the Opposition wants the striker to have the right to accept arbitration, if it means benefit to him, and the right to strike if it does not. In these matters we say that the court and not the individual should be the judge; but that is not the opinion of honorable members opposite.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat cannot have carefully studied the -clause or followed the debate. The act gives no legal recognition to strikes or lockouts ; but if the bill is passed in its present form a great industrial dispute originating in a strike or lockout may be legal, and specifically recognized by a declaration of the Arbitration Court itself. This provision is therefore a fundamental departure from the principles of our arbitration law, and for that reason attention should be directed to it in a most emphatic manner. The AttorneyGeneral in showing how this provision will apply referred to a dispute which occurred a couple of years ago. It was a good illustration, indicating the consequences that might follow the application of the proposed new section. He referred to the trouble that arose in connexion with the engineers in certain workshops in New South Wales on, I think, the hours question, when the employers, or those controlling several establishments, were seriously embarrassed and suffering loss. The Attorney-General said that in such a case the right to retaliate ought to be given to the employers in every industry throughout Australia, thus bringing about a crisis in an industrial disturbance that previously had been confined to a small area. The doctrine underlying this provision is that of legal retaliation against the workers. It is not to be assumed that there will be retaliation by the workers against the employers, as no one would be foolish enough to allege that such retaliation could be effective. But the fair deduction to be drawn from the argument of the AttorneyGeneral is that power is to be given to the employers to retaliate against the workers in any industry concerned. He attempted to justify his proposal on the ground that these sectional strikes are irritating and cause loss and trouble, and that such a provision is necessary in order to secure industrial peace. It is proposed to place in the hands of organized employers a weapon that can be used effectively against organized workers. The honorable gentleman does not care who suffers as a result of the use of this retaliatory weapon. In this case it will be the innocent workers and their wives and families, and the innocent members of the community who depend upon the production of these workers who will suffer.
– The honorable member objects to retaliation, but does not condemn the aggressor.
– There are two separate questions. We may hold both that the aggressor is wrong, and that there is no justification for retaliation. The Labour party was largely responsible for the introduction of arbitration in Australia, and it still adheres to the principles of arbitration. The members of that party have always used their powers of eloquence, persuasion, and influence with those concerned to prevent, or bring about the settlement of, industrial troubles. But, although we believe in arbitration, we have not been able to entirely eliminate industrial trouble; that may be beyond human capacity. No country has entirely eliminated industrial trouble. Neither the United States of America, Great Britain, nor any continental country is free from industrial troubles.
– They are much more so than we are.
– No. These countries are experiencing more industrial trouble and suffering greater losses in industry than we are to-day. The arbitration system in operation in Australia has been largely responsible for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) is one of the most conservative, irrational, shortsighted, narrow-minded, and leastinformed members, the man in this chamber who knows least about this question. He is always prating against unionism, and his sneering interjections disclose his ignorance of the subject. He cannot have studied it in the least. In the United States of America 5,000,000 working days were lost in the first three months of last year, and for more than two years there has been a big industrial upheaval in the soft coal industry in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and some of the other States, involving over 100,000 miners. At one colliery 22,000 miners have been on strike, or have been locked out, for a period of 27 months. We have not disputes like that in Australia. We are not free from industrial disputes, but we do not suffer more than other countries. Great Britain, which has no compulsory arbitration system, has had tremendous industrial upheavals, and during the last five years has had no fewer than four, which have caused more economic loss than all the strikes which have occurred in Australia during that period.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member is being drawn away by interjections. I ask him to confine his remarks to the clause.
– I am pointing out the barbarous, effect of the proposed method of settling disputes between employers and employees, and showing that the proposed new section is a departure from logical and rational principles. It recognizes the right of employers to use force and retaliation against the innocent workers in an industry, and the innocent members of the community. The engineering industry, referred to by the AttorneyGeneral, extends throughout Australia. It is established in every State. The Government proposes to give employers in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the other States the power to’ declare a general strike in such an industry, and thus punish the whole body of organized workers, although only one section, or one establishment, may be concerned in an existing dispute. The clause will give power to organized employers to wreak vengeance and retaliate on organized workers, and thus cause widespread suffering throughout . Australia.
– But what of a sectional strike such as is in operation at present?
– It is most unfortunate. The marine cooks in ceasing work have involved others employed on coastal vessels. The Attorney-General wishes to give the ship-owners the right to hold up shipping on the Australian coast, and incommode and inconvenience people everywhere in Australia, including the shippers, importers, producers and others. Is that a rational way of dealing with the problem?
– The cooks are doing it, against the law.
– They may be taking reprehensible action; but’ will the position be cured by causing every one. else to suffer? Surely the honorable member cannot justifiably allege that because the marine cooks do what is not right the shippers, the workers, and the community generally in every part of Australia, should be made to suffer?
– Why do not the other unions bring pressure to bear upon them ?
– If the honorable member is anxious to probe the matter, let him bring to bear upon it a rational and an analytical mind. The ostensible purpose is to prevent strikes in Australia. To that end it is proposed to take what is considered the necessary power. Heavy penalties are provided. Why not operate the existing provisions? Are they ineffective to deal with a situation like that which has been caused by the marine cooks ?
– Apparently they have been.
– They have not been tried. When a measure was drafted in accordance with the mandate supposed to have been given by the people in 1925, power was taken to confer upon the court and the administration greater’ authority to prevent disastrous industrial disputes. In addition to the penalties and prohibitions then prescribed, it is now proposed to confer upon the employers the power to create a nation-wide lockout. Is that a confession that the penalties cannot be operated, and that there was merely a pretence at taking power, which can never be administered ?
– The honorable member knows that the cooks have paralyzed the industry, because other men will not work with non-unionists.
– I know nothing of the kind. The Attorney-General last night asked honorable members who siton this side to declare whether they would condone an industrial dispute in any circumstances. He took our silence as a confession that we were afraid to stand up to the problem he had propounded. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) made perfectly clear to-day the attitude of this party, and also, I believe, indicated the attitude of all reasonable men in this community. A normally-minded man, a man with red blood in his veins, will suffer up to a certain point and no farther. Neither the Arbitration Court nor any other authority can deny to such men the right to cease work.
– -Does the. honorable member concede the same right to the employer ?
– Undoubtedly. Nobody can deny to the employer the right to close down his establishment if be considers that he cannot carry on except at a loss. That action has been taken by employers in innumerable instances. Every honorable member who has had anything to do with industry - as a worker or a representative of the workers, or as an employer or a representative of the employers - knows that there have been disputes in which the employee has had ample justification for ceasing work. We have endeavoured to establish machinery to prevent those cessations taking place, and to provide a speedy settlement of disputes. It has not always been possible, however, to operate that machinery with the desired facility. The Government adopts the attitude that the workers are never in the right when a dispute occurs.
– It does nothing of the kind.
– I challenge the honorable member to mention one industrial dispute in the five years for which this Government has been in office, in regard to which it has exhibited a sympathetic attitude towards the strikers. There have been hundreds of disputes involving a cessation of work, but in not one case has the Government shown any sympathy with the workers or admitted that there was justification for their action. In every case it will be found that there has been some real grievance at the outset ; and the, process of moving the Arbitration Court has been altogether too slow. The court has not shown itself to be the ideal machinery for handling situations of that character. The cumbrous nature of the tribunal has been responsible for many of the disputes that have taken place in Australia. Only a few months ago, irritated beyond further endurance, the waterside workers in one of the ports of Australia decided to take matters into their own hands in an endeavour to force the issue that they then had before the Arbitration Court. That action may have been unwise, even deplorable; but they, nevertheless, took it. The Government then authorized the ship-owners to tie up shipping in every port in Australia, thus causing a legal lockout. The point I wish to make is that there was a genuine grievance in the first instance. The Leader of the Opposition has referred to disputes that are caused by want of tact, sometimes worse, on the part of some employers. Honorable members may remember a dispute that occurred at the Yallourn power station in the early part of last year. The men employed in one of the principal departments of that establishment were- so irritated by the atrocious actions of one of their immediate supervisors that a hold-up occurred, and the dislocation of many industries was threatened. In a week, however, the strike was settled by the removal of the supervisor to another department. In that case there was a genuine sense of injustice, although every one deplored the action that the men took to rectify their grievance. No system which human ingenuity can devise will’ remove the possibility of trouble of that nature occurring. The Attorney-General proposes to place in the bands of organized employers throughout Australia a terrible weapon; with which suffering can be brought to thousands of people, in order to punish indirectly those responsible for any industrial dispute. That action is deserving of the severest condemnation; there is no justification whatever for it. Other means must be found to prevent sectional strikes; we must not resort to retaliation on, or the coercion of, the whole community. Let us be a little more humane in our treatment of the workers, and there will be fewer sectional outbreaks. Let us regard more sympathetically their desire for an improvement in their conditions. The Australian workman does not make impossible demands. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) will not accept any case that is advanced on behalf of the workers. There has never been in this chamber since the inauguration of the Commonwealth an honorable member whose views are so chauvinistic.
– The unions always have a grievance.
– The workers always have a grievance,, because they have always suffered from injustice and oppression in some form or other. If they had to depend upon -the goodwill of persons like the honorable member, they would always be oppressed. He would uphold human slavery if it could be imported into Australia. The AttorneyGeneral ought to take notice of the point that has been raised by the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the discretion of the court to declare the existence of a strike. From a plain reading of the clause it would appear that in the majority of cases the court will have no discretion, but must make the declaration.
– If honorable members wish, I am prepared to insert the words, “may, if it thinks fit in all the circumstances of the case,” so as to make the meaning absolutely plain. There would then be no room for dispute. I consider, however, that the wording is sufficiently clear now.
– Even that amendment would not remove the objection raised by the Leader of the Opposition, and that which I also have to the clause, that machinery is to be provided to authorize a hold-up of the whole community. If the Attorney-General wishes to meet that objection he must withdraw the clause.
– I am not prepared to do that.
– The honorable gentleman, then, intends to stand by this clause, which cannot be justified in the slightest degree, and will strike a vital blow at the principle of arbitration.
.- The Attorney-General has endeavoured to convince honorable members that the provisions in section 7 of the principal act are to be repealed because of the representations of industrial organizations. When he was asked if those organizations had approved of the new proposal he was obliged to answer that .they had not. The Attorney-General has no more idea than an unborn babe of what job control means. Nothing in this bill can counteract the application of job control to industry in Australia. In its industrial sense the term means “ restriction of output.” The miners years ago used the word “ darg “ to describe it. It is also described as “ sabotage,” a word which originated, not only outside of Australia, but outside of the British Empire. Job control can only be. practised while the wheels of industry are running. It is impossible to apply job control to industry in which a sectional strike has occurred.
– It is then jobless control.
– That is so. Perhaps the Attorney-General is confusing job control with the irritation strike, a method of improving wages and working conditions which is not practised in Australia. It is said that the American workmen use it extensively. It is applied as follows :- When the workers desire to obtain better conditions in a certain industry, they decide that they will cease work for Jones, but continue working for Brown, with the idea of enabling Brown to secure Jones’ trade until Jones decides that he had better submit to the demands that are being made upon him. When that stage in the dispute is reached the workers decide to resume operations in Jones’ establishment, but to cease them in that of Brown. In some countries this is regarded as a legitimate means by which the workers may better their position, but it is not practised in Australia, for our workers have available for the improvement of their conditions the machinery of the Arbitration Court. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, it happens at times that the workers in a section of an industry in Australia are subjected to such harsh conditions that they are forced to strike even though they cannot prove a technical breach of their award. I submit that this clause appears in the bill for one purpose only. The AttorneyGeneral has told us that the liability to a fine of £1,000 will frighten the employers and prevent them from causing a lockout; but we do not believe it. It is impossible to prove that a lockout has been engineered. The workers are not so stupid as to believe that because ten or twenty of their comrades have been sacked a court would declare that a sectional lockout had been caused. We have heard a good deal about the virtues of the word “may “. I suggest that it is used purely and simply to allow the court to meet the desires of the employers. The tendency to-day throughout the world is to beat down the economic standards of the workers; and this bill has been introduced to make it easier for the employers of Australia to do that. American industrial methods are being rapidly introduced into this country, to the detriment of our workers. We heard, during the second-reading debate on this measure, of how the American employers had their “ stool pigeons “ in every industrial organization. This Government is not only making it possible for “ stool pigeons “ to operate in our organization, but is itself acting as a “ stool pigeon “ for the employers. Surely every one realizes how easy it would be for a few “ stool pigeons “ to go on strike and so cause a general lockout in an industry at any time the employers might desire it. It is easy, also, for the employers to adopt irritation tactics without committing a technical breach of an award, and so practically force their employees to cease work. Then the way is open for them to move the court to declare that a strike exist3, and they are subsequently able to declare a general lockout. By the adoption of these tactics they hope to reduce the workers to a state of semistarvation. Reference has been made to the cooks’ strike. The Attorney-General has told us that this is a sectional strike. If he means that the cooks have gone on strike because the employers would not engage an extra cook on one boat, he is correct; but if he means that they have done so because they wish to improve the conditions of their award, he is quite wrong. The workers realize that the best means they have of improving their awards is to move the Arbitration Court for the varying of them. The ship-owners have used the cooks’ strike as a means to tie up the whole of our shipping service. If this bill becomes law, they will be able to do such a thing legally. To-day it is being done illegally. It is impossible to amend this clause as the AttorneyGeneral suggests, for even if the words “ if it thinks fit “ are included, the court will only think fit to do what the employers desire. There is no way in which this bill may be made acceptable to the workers. All the vital principles of it are utterly obnoxious.
. - Several honorable members have referred to the meaning of the term “job control.” I used it to illustrate a situation to which this clause would be applicable. The sectional strike is undoubtedly one form of job control, though there are others. It is the form of job control generally adopted in Australia. Job control has frequently been considered by the Arbitration Court, and in 1923 the High Court considered it. Their Honours Mr. Justice Isaacs and Mr. Justice Rich then said -
Job control, so far as we understand that phrase to have acquired any definite meaning, connotes the control by employees, whether already engaged or not, or by some organization representing them, of some single enterprise or portion of an enterprise of an employer, which is selected as an isolated unit of industrial operations; the effective method of enforcing the control being, not a general strike in the industry or of the union, or even in the general service of the employer, but a strike of the employees engaged on that unit, or a refusal to engage on it at all.
The High Court suggested that it would be desirable to incorporate in awards an express definition of job control. Quite a number of the awards of the court expressly prohibit job control. The case to which I have referred was a seamen’s case, and when the award was made at the beginning of the following year - 1924 - provisions were incorporated prohibiting job control in express terms. In the definition section of the award I find the following; - “ Job control “ includes any attempt by members of the organization, or any of them, to enforce the industrial conditions other than those prescribed or recognized by the court, or by the Navigation Act, or any competent authority thereunder, either by refusing to offer for or accept work on any particular vessel or vessels, or by refusing or failing to carry out the work of any particular vessel or vessels, or by any methods other than those provided by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, or by the methods of ordinary negotiation.
The High Court said that the word “ job “ does not admit of final definition, because what is selected as the thing to be controlled, and called the “ job “, is naturally not susceptible of prior delimitation. It must vary with circumstances, and with the progress of industrial operations. It may be a house, a shop, or a ship, or a waterworks. In Australian terminology, the most important form of “ job control “ is the sectional strike, but it is really immaterial whether the sectional strike is called “ job control “ or not. This clause is to deal with a partial strike which cannot otherwise be dealt with. It does not matter whether a partial strike is technically job control or not. Honorable members opposite have been holding up their hands in horror at the idea of allowing a strike ever to be legal. Surely they know that, generally speaking, only interstate strikes and strikes against awards are illegal in Australia. This legislation need never have contained penalties for strikes. Most industrial legislation in Australia dispenses with any penalties for strikes or lockouts, but this Parliament, for over twenty years, has elected to adopt the method of penalizing lockouts or strikes, so far as it is constitutional to do so. Take such a system as the wages board system of Victoria, which provides no prohibition against strikes or lockouts. A determination is made that does not prevent employees from striking or employers from locking out. The effect of making the determination is that if a person employs another to do work of the nature described in the determination he must pay him the fixed rates of wages, and, in accordance with the determined conditions as to hours and otherwise. There can be a system of industrial regulation without any prohibition of strikes or lockouts, but that is not the policy which this Parliament has deliberately adopted. This Parliament need not have provided penal sections, but when it adopts them it is at liberty to say how far they shall apply. There is no constitutional or other provision which imposes on this Parliament the necessity of penalizing all strikes or lockouts, or even any particular class of strikes or lockouts, and there can be no doubt whatever as to the power of this Parliament to remove the strike or lockout penalty in such cases as it may think proper. That is what it is proposed to do in clause 7. Some industrial organizations have from time to time in their propaganda asked that all penalties on strikes shall be lifted, although, as I have indicated to honorable members, the trade union movement, as a whole, is not prepared to put forward that request. It may be that there are honorable members in this chamber - they have not expressed the view in definite terms in the House - who think that there should be no penalties on strikes. Supposing that honorable members were to put forward such a view, would it not be rather surprising for other honorable members to say that the proposal was condining crime, and making illegality legal? It is simply a change in the law, which this Parliament is at liberty to make as it thinks proper. Clause 7 provides that a declaration may, in the discretion of the court, be made, and the result will be that during the currency of the declaration a lockout or strike, as the case may be, will not be illegal in the industry concerned. I have used as an illustration the case of the sectional strike, because I concede that that is at the present time the important practical matter with which we had to deal. We must either ignore the problem, or endeavour to deal with it. No other method of dealing with it has been suggested previously. But although I have used the illustration of the sectional strike, the provision also applies to sectional lockouts. I concede that from a practical point of view that is at present unimportant. There is this essential distinction between a strike and a. lockout: A strike exists only where there is combined action in the refusal to work. It is very difficult to prove the element of combination. In the case of a lockout there is no necessity to prove any combination. There is always a definite identifiable individual whose actions alone are in question in the case of a lockout. If an employer shuts up his works, then the question is whether the closing of the works took place with the object of enforcing industrial conditions upon the employees. That, T concede, is not easily proved, but it is more easily proved in the case of oneman than is a corresponding intention on the part of a large number of employees^, together with the necessity to prove that they have combined in die action that they are taking. Employers are very frightened of the lockout penalties; but many workers are not at all frightened of tha strike penalties. It is much moreeasy to enforce the lockout penalties when the facts happen, than; it is to enforce thestrike penalties when the facts happen. The application of this clause, if adopted’ by the committee, will most probably befound in cases of sectional, strikes ; but it will apply also to cases of sectional lock- - outs.
.- I regard this as one of the most important clauses in the bilL After hearing theAttorneyGeneral on two occasions to-day,.
I am more strongly convinced than ever that the clause has been introduced with the definite purpose of permitting employers to lock out their workers. The Attorney-General has made himself very clear on that point. The honorable gentleman stated that the clause is introduced to rectify the anomaly which allowed employees to strike, but. which did not give employers similar latitude as regards the lockout. Consequently, because a section of the employees in any industry could come out on strike, the honorable gentleman wishes to justify employers in locking out the whole of the employees in an industry. I do not think that, in the history of our arbitration law, there has been a declaration by any government, State or Federal, as significant as that made by the Attorney-General in connexion with this measure. Why does not this Government come right out into the open and say that it is prepared to repeal arbitration altogether? Why do only half the business? Surely it was always understood that arbitration is a matter of equity and good conscience. It was never claimed that it could prevent every industrial trouble that might arise. That would be impossible. Parliament has provided for penalties in respect of any breach of the arbitration law. The Attorney-General now proposes to take from the workers the only protection they have. Employers in the metal trades industry, and in other industries, have recently shown a strong disposition to abolish arbitration legislation. They want the workers to be at their mercy, particularly at a time when there is so much unemployment. The Government was not prepared to go so far as those employers desired, because it realized that the abolition of arbitration legislation would not meet with the approval of the people generally. It therefore compromised by going half way. The Attorney-General has emphasized the word “may;” but if it were shown to the court that a strike had taken place in any portion of an industry, a declaration by the court that a strike existed would enable the employers to lockout all their employees. The Attorney-General stated that the organizations which are . registered under the Commonwealth law are those which are not confined to one State, and that industries confined to one State will not be affected by this legislation. Let us consider what would happen if in three or four wool sheds in one State 50 or 100 men did something in the nature of a strike. As the pastoral industry is carried on in all the States the pastoralists under this legislation would make an application to the court on the ground that something in the nature of a strike had occurred. Thereupon the court could make an order declaring that a strike existed in the industry, in which case the employers would be free to engage in a lockout of their employees throughout Australia. As the stomach cannot stand against the purse, in the event of trouble in the pastoral industry, the employers would- doubtless take advantage of the men’s condition. Again, coal is a commodity which is used in all the States. Should there be a stoppage of work in a coal mine, involving, say, 200 men, the employers, by applying to the court and obtaining a declaration that a strike existed, could dislocate the coal-mining industry throughout the Commonwealth by engaging in a lockout. The general community would suffer because of the introduction by the Government of legislation making possible a general- cessation of work throughout Australia. Should this legislation be placed on the statute-book, employers will be able to achieve their desire to lower the standard of wages and conditions of employment now enjoyed by the miners. This Parliament should legislate to protect the interest of the community as a whole; it should have regard to the fact that there are others in the community than the parties to a dispute. The passing of this measure will impose hardships on the general community. Previous Governments, realizing that big industrial upheavals cause suffering to the general community, have made efforts to bring about a reconciliation of the parties; but the present Government, instead of endeavouring to settle disputes, proposes to extend their scope, and consequently to increase the suffering inseparable from industrial troubles. The Attorney-General says that legislation of this kind is needed in order to deal effectively with job control. The generally accepted meaning of job control is that it is an effort to restrict output. Job control is entirely different from a strike. I can conceive of no other reason for the Attorney-General’s reference to job control than that he desires to hide the real intention of the Government in introducing this legislation. Much of the trouble that occurs in industry is practically unavoidable. Many so-called strikes are really lockouts; but so long as the present definition of “ lockout “ remains it will be practically impossible to prove the existence of a lockout. Only a foolish employer would, with the existing law in operation, close his works, because by altering the conditions of employment he could achieve his end without incurring the risk of being found guilty of a breach_of the law. Should the men refuse to “accept the altered conditions, they, not he, would be held guilty of having broken the law. The employer could then appeal to the court for an order declaring that a strike existed, which, if granted, would enable the whole of the employees in the industry to be thrown out of employment. We may well ask how this country is to be developed if from time to time there is to be a general cessation of work at the behest of the employers. The AttorneyGeneral did not attempt to deal with that matter. He merely said that, under the existing legislation,’ employers have no redress in the event of a partial strike taking place. To remedy that difficulty he proposes to make it possible for a small strike in one section of an industry to dislocate the whole industry. That is a new line of reasoning in industrial matters. If industrial peace is our goal, we must legislate in such a way that the causes of trouble will be avoided or, at least, minimized. In his secondreading speech the Attorney-General referred to a pamphlet issued by the Australian Labour party dealing with the right to strike. Under this legislation no person or organization could engage in a strike or lockout without becoming liable to certain penalties. For the breach of any law penalties should be proivided; but the Attorney-General desires to free the employers from such penalties. He is willing that they shall take the law into their own hands and bring about a general cessation of work. Should this measure become law, and a partial strike in an industry lead to a general lockout, the death-knell of arbitration in this country would be sounded. The workers of Australia would not tolerate such a state of affairs. They would either seek redress through State tribunals or refuse to approach any arbitration court. Does any honorable member opposite desire that- we should revert to the conditions which existed in industry 25 or 30 years ago? There were then more general strikes in Australia than have occurred since arbitration legislation has been in operation. Arbitration has reduced the number of strikes. Less time is now lost in industry in Australia than in any other civilized country. In Great Britain the average worker lost three days more through strikes last year than did his fellow-worker in Australia. Statistics from other countries are to the same effect. That no penalties have been imposed in respect of lockouts is due to the one-sided nature of our arbitration legislation. In dealing with industrial legislation we should remember that it is more difficult to control large bodies of men than it is to deal with a few trained men. Should a small section of men in a portion of an industry go on strike in opposition to the wishes of their fellow employees in that industry it would be possible under this legislation for a general lockout to be authorized. Surely in these days we should not legislate in that way. So far, no good reason for the introduction of this legislation has been given. The Attorney-General has practically agreed with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that there is a doubt whether this legislation will apply to a dispute within a State.
– Not at all.
– The AttorneyGeneral said that this measure will apply only to disputes which extend beyond the boundary of a particular State. That is practically an admission that it will not apply to disputes within a State.
– Section 6a applies to strikes within a State.
– The general application of this provision is to disputes which are interstate in character.
– Except in so far as section 6a applies.
– The result is as I have just stated. If a strike occurs in a State, an order by the court declaring that a strike exists may lead to a general cessation of. work in industry throughout Australia. If, for example, trouble occurs in the iron and steel industry the employees may be locked out, and we know that whenever industrial trouble occurs an effort is made to alter for the worse the conditions under which the men are working. I hope that, because of this legislation we shall not have a repetition of what happened before the establishment of the Arbitration Court, when application was made to the Commonwealth Government for the assistance of the military forces to ensure order. I fear, however, that this bill will again make that state of affairs possible. If we pass the clause as it stands arbitration will go by the board. The act. will not be worth the paper upon which it is printed. Reference has been made to the number of strikes occurring in Australia. Some honorable members have mentioned especially the frequent disputes in the coal-mining industry. There have been fewer stoppages in that industry in Australia than in any other country where coal is produced. The men engaged in it are paid by results, so if there were more disputes last year in that industry than in any other, it surely cannot be urged that job control was exercised by the men to bring about a stoppage of work. Does the AttorneyGeneral suggest that in the event of any trouble occurring in that industry in future the machinery of this clause should be put into motion, for the purpose of closing down coal mines in Victoria, Queensland, or New South Wales, with the consequent cutting off of supplies to the general public? This will bc possible if we pass the clause as it stands. The arbitration judges must apply the law. The language of this clause is perfectly clear. It means that strikes or lockouts, which at present are illegal, are to be legalized, and possibly we shall get back to the conditions that obtained 25 years ago before the passing of the original act. Unfortunately, industrial disputes cannot be prevented entirely. The employees are not always responsible for their occurrence. In many instances they are forced to take direct action by the attitude of their employers. There is a general belief that the boom period experienced after the war has come to an end, so that legislative action must now be taken to reduce the conditions obtaining in Australia industry. The employers since the war have had matters all their own way. Company stock has been watered; capital has been unduly inflated, and shares have been given away during this period of prosperity. Now that the pinch is being felt the employing section of the community is unable to earn profits sufficient to pay dividends on watered stock, and is giving its attention to a reduction in the conditions enjoyed by the workers. This bill provides the means whereby the employers may achieve their purpose. It will enable them to force the acceptance of their own conditions on their employees. It would be far better if the Government and Parliament took a wider view of the economic position and made a careful investigation of the manner in which invested capital had been controlled, and ascertained if the profits which it has been earning have been fair and reasonable. The scope of such an inquiry should relate, also, to the amount of watered stock which industry has to carry and the efficiency of methods and management. All these matters should be put on a proper footing, so that both sides may be treated fairly. Legislation such as this will give one side complete freedom under the law to do as it likes in regard to fictitious capitalization of industry and treatment of employees in order to earn sufficient profits to pay dividends. I am strongly opposed to the clause, because I know what will happen if it is passed. No one will contend that there has not been a considerable improvement in working conditions and the general standard of living in Australia since the establishment of the Arbitration Court. There was a time when shop assistants and clerical employees hardly dared to call their souls their own. Their conditions, and the conditions of all other employees, have been vastly improved within the last 25 years. It is monstrous, therefore, to introduce legislation to break down such conditions. I can only conclude that those who are responsible for the bill do not thoroughly understand what will happen. I gather from the remarks of the Attorney-General that he was actuated by representations made to him by the employers.
– They did not ask for this bill, at all events. It is my own proposal.
– I know they did not ask for this bill. They asked for more than it provides ; but the AttorneyGeneral has gone fully half the way to meet their wishes, and in the end they will get what they are after. We all have seen many statements in the public press of the requests made by the employers. Some urged that the Arbitration Act should be repealed, because then they would have a free hand in dealing witu their employees. The Minister, in the preparation of this clause, did not give consideration to every aspect of industrial unrest. He paid particular attention to the so-called job-control methods of employees in certain industries, and instanced the hold-up of shipping, the stoppage of work in coal mines and in various manufacturing establishments. To remedy this state of affairs he has inserted in the bill the clause now under discussion. He ignored entirely the rights pf the other side in industry, and gave little heed to the welfare of the public, which should have been his first consideration. There has been much talk about the necessity to add to our population. The Government has been instrumental in bringing large numbers of people to Australia at a time when many thousands of our own people have been unemployed. The introduction of migrants has rendered the unemployment problem still more acute. The amendment to the clause proposed by the Minister will make very little difference.
– I think it makes it perfectly clear that action will be in the discretion of the court.
– The court could not be expected to take cognizance of a partial strike in industry; but under this clause the employers may approach the court and ask for a declaration which, if made, will permit them to declare a lockout in the industry concerned, irrespective of what may have been done by a majority of the employees to prevent a sectional strike from occurring. We should take this possibility into consideration. Parliament should not agree to any proposal to make strikes or lockouts legal. On the contrary, it should, if possible, strengthen the hands of the Arbitration Court. It is true that certain sections of the people are not always ready to observe the law; but to meet such cases we have provided penalties for non-observance, and set up a competent tribunal to order the penalties. We should not so interfere with the law as to allow one side in industry a completely free hand. What would be said of a law that provided that if one man were found guilty of an attempt to kill another, the injured party should be authorized to kill his opponent? That actually is what will happen under this clause. If a sectional strike occurs, the employers will have the right to approach the court for a declaration, and then to lockout all the employees.
– One side is doing that now.
– That is not so. The workers have to depend upon employment for their daily bread. No working man can afford to be idle for any lengthy period.
– The marine cooks do not appear to be very anxious to get back to work.
– I know very little of the merits of the dispute mentioned by the honorable member. I have admitted that it is not always possible to prevent industrial troubles. I agree that if any man acts in contravention of the law he should be subject to certain penalties for his wrong-doing.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- One cannot but admire the dexterity with which the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) is handling the bill. He is endeavouring to give effect to the wishes of the employers in Australian industries, and at the same, time to prove to the people that the bill is an impartial instrument designed to bring about peace in industry. Up to the present he has displayed marked ability, only tripping here and there, and blundering now and again in his statement of the case. When he fails in logic he ascends to the higher atmosphere of the High Court of Australia where only he and his colleagues in the legal profession may go. We laymen may look at them and read what they say, but we cannot understand. On two previous occasions to-day the AttorneyGeneral disappeared into High Court realms where no lay member may go. He made a fairly long speech in introducing the bill. In the course of his remarks he stated that the object of the measure was to bring about industrial peace in Australia. He went on to say that no one believed that this desirable state of affairs could be achieved by legislation only, and that we must rely upon the will of the employers and employees to work together in harmony to keep the wheels of industry going. Throughout his speech the Attorney-General stressed the necessity for industrial peace in Australia, and that there may be peace in industry, and the wheels of industry be kept going, he has incorporated these provisions in the bill. The act which is amended by this measure contains sections of a punitive character, designed to prevent strikes. The fines that have been referred to on many occasions are heavy, and, in the present act, range from £10 to £1,000. In the bill there are nine new sections which provide for penalties from £20 to £100. One of the clauses of the act is also enlarged, and, with the exception of two of the proposed new sections, all are directed towards penalizing the worker for participating in strikes. I grant that the bill does pretend to deal impartially with both employers and employees; but the section which we are now considering puts the acid test on the sincerity of those sponsoring the hill. This section would make legal that which is specifically declared to be illegal in the other sections contained in the ‘bill. It would place a weapon in the hands of the employers which could, and I have no doubt would, be used harshly and vindictively. The Attorney-General, in his second-reading speech, dealt with the matter of lockouts in the following terms : -
The result is that some unions operate deliberately upon the policy of the double chance. They rely on arbitration when it suits them to do so, and they strike when arbitration does not suit them, knowing that they are reasonably safe in so doing.
That is one of the many more or less wild statements which characterized the honorable gentleman’s speech. It embodies also the line or argument which has been followed by almost every honorable member on the Government side. Many wild statements have been made in regard to sectional strikes and so-called job control, but in the whole course of the debate only one specific case was mentioned. I do not propose to enter into the merits or demerits of the engineers’ dispute further than to say that I know something about it, and I am quite satisfied that the employees were, to some extent, justified. The alleged job control was exercised in only three establishments, and assuming that the merits of the case lay with the employers, that would not justify such extreme legislation as is now proposed. The Attorney-General would find it very difficult to quote half a dozen instances of sectional strikes or job control.
– And even if he could, it would not justify this section.
– Even if he could quote a large number of sectional strikes, it would not justify making one portion of thebill, do that which nine-tenths of the bill is ostensibly designed to prevent. A pamphlet has been issued by the Metal Trades Employers’ Asspciation, of O’Connellstreet, Sydney. It was in the workshops of these metal trades employers that the engineers’ dispute took place. If the statement made by Mr. John Heine, junior, who is president of that organization, may be taken as representative of the opinion of other members, it is evident that the Metal Trades Association is opposed to compulsory arbitration, and would prefer to go back to the system of conciliation. Mr. Heine made the following comment: -
The compulsory arbitration system has not prevented strikes, but it certainly has prevented lockouts. The courts were quick to notice that, in the case of strikes, the employers have always worked within the Constitution and abided by the law, and have not attempted to retaliate by a general closing down of the workshops.
Later, he says practically the same thing as the Attorney-General said in his second-reading speech when referring to the engineers’ dispute. In the metalliferous industry of Australia, copper, silver, lead, and gold mines have been closed down, though we suspect that in some cases, judging by the profits made in ‘ the past, the mines could have been kept working. The law of the country, however, permits the employers to close the mines. In Broken Hill three mines were closed recently, and there is no law in existence which can compel any of the mines there to continue working. In any one of the mines which are still working some petty dispute might occur. It might be in a small mine, or among a section of the workers in a large one; but if, on the application of some person or organization, the court makes a declaration that a strike exists - and it is not difficult to prove that the men are not working - all the mines in Broken Hill could be closed down, and all the miners thrown out of employment. If the section were so designed as to be fair in its operation something might be said for it; but it does not cut both ways. Contrary to the statement of the Attorney-General, it is not an easier matter to prove a lockout than a strike. Employers these days do not lockout; there is no necessity for them to do so. A large manufacturing concern may declare that it wishes to re-organize its business, and in order to do so, proposes to close down for a period. This was done in the case of the Ford works when they started to produce the new model, and it has been done by the same company on previous occasions. All the employers have to do is to post a notice on Friday or Saturday that the works will be closing down indefinitely, and there is no law to prevent their closing. It is merely a matter of finding an excuse, and it would be extremely difficult for the union concerned to convince the court that the employers were not justified in taking such a step. It is not necessary for an employer, who wishes to bring about an alteration in working conditions, to say that he proposes to lock his men out. He need only close down his works, and then intimate to the employees that they may apply for work under altered conditions. I am satisfied that the allusion in the report of the Metal Trades Employers Association to strikes and lockouts has some relation to this secton as presented by the Attorney-General. I am sure that the influence of the employers - the vindictive intolerance of many, and the narrowness of others - has had its effect in the framing of this bill. I am not going to accept the idea that the bill is the spontaneous production of the AttorneyGeneral or of the drafting officers. Its main principles originated with the employers’ associations, including such organizations as the Metal Trades Employers Association, which, as we have seen, has propounded views which are narrow, vindictive, and short-sighted.
– That statement to which the honorable member has made reference opposes the provisions of this bill, and was issued after the bill was presented to the House. As a matter of fact, it asks Parliament to throw the bill out.
– Perhaps ; but it is significant that the point of view of that organization is just as narrow as that of the framers of this measure. This body thinks that its members will be far better off untrammeled by the provisions of a Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The bill proposes to give certain things to the employers which they never had before, and it imposes on the workers restrictions to which they were never previously subjected. It was left to the AttorneyGeneral and the Bruce-Page Government to bring down this piece of proposed legislation, which, I am quite sure, will kill arbitration in this country if ever the court attempts to apply it. No law can be administered unless it has the approval of the people. There are, in Australia, close upon 900,000 trade unionists. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) pertinently remarked that, if the Attorney-General was enamoured of the secret ballot, he challenged him to submit this proposal to a secret ballot of the trade unionists of this country. I am sure that they would not accept the principles of this bill, and if that is the case the measure is of no value. The Attorney-General has stressed his desire for industrial peace; but I point out that that object cannot be attained by provisions such as those contained in the present and following clauses. If the Government desires industrial harmony, it cannot obtain it by handing a big stick to the employers to enable them to take vindictive action against the workers.
– Why did not the unions meet the employers in a friendly way, when invited to co-operate in a movement to bring about industrial peace ? .j
– The honorable member refers, I assume, to the Prime Minister’s invitation to the trade unions. The Australian Council of Trade Unions is truly representative of the workers of Australia.
– Including the Australian Workers’ Union?
– No. There are exceptions, and one is seen in the case of the marine cooks’ strike. From the time the Australian Council of Trade Unions began negotiating in that matter, the position has become infinitely brighter than it was before. Apart from the marine cooks, there are other unionists who will not affiliate with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and that, of course, is to be expected. Even in the ranks of the Government supporters we find, from time to time, men like the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who refuses tobe dragged at the heels of the Prime Minister and his Government. Even in the- best regulated political parties, break-aways occur; but, generally speaking, the Government is truly representative of the wealthy classes and the employers of this country. Similarly the Australian Council of Trade Unions is truly representative of the great majority of the trade unions of Australia, and it will, no doubt, be compelled to take action if the punitive provisions of the bill are brought into operation. Visualize the engineering industry of Australia, and the result that the harsh arid vindictive provisions of this bill would have upon it. The outcome of any attempt to administer such laws would simply be a general strike. Take the Australian Workers’ Union, which is not affiliated with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, but which, of course, is working under an award of the Federal Arbitration Court. If action were taken against that organization or any of- its members, a general upheaval would occur in the pastoral industry throughout Australia.
– Although the dispute might be confined to one shearing shed.
– That is so. That might be described as drawing a fairly long bow, but it would be possible for it to occur. If a strike took place in a. shed in which 20 of 30 men were employed, it would be competent for a neighbouring pastoralist to approach the court and ask for a declaration that a strike existed in the -industry. If it could be proved that a strike had occurred - and it would be an easy matter to do that - the court would thereupon declare that a strike existed in a section of the industry. That would enable the whole of the employers in that industry throughout the State to lockout their employees, and so the trouble could extend throughout the Commonwealth.
– Only by permission of the court.
– The whole procedure would be easy under the bill. The court, upon evidence being submitted to it, would declare that a strike existed in the industry, or in some section or part of it. No matter how infinitesimal that section or part might be, the existence of a strike could be declared, and thus the employers would be enabled lawfully to create a lockout in the industry. Only one case has been cited in support of the proposed new section, and that is the job control strike among the engineers in Sydney. Does that case justify the enactment of a provision with such farreaching consequences to the workers of this country as that contained in this clause? The proposal is consistent with the rest of the bill, in that it aims at imposing hardships and penalties upon the employees. It would inflict conditions on the workers that are not imposed by any other legislative enactment in Australia. The Government seeks to hand a weapon to the employers; but it will prove useless, because no government could administer a measure of this character. If the Ministry attempted to enforce it, the gaols would soon be full, and there would be such an outcry against the measure that the government would be compelled to repeal it or let it remain in abeyance. V arious State governments have set out in the past with high hopes of being able to enforce coercive legislation, but their efforts have met with failure. It was found that the Wade Coercion Act, and the Irvine Coercion Act could not be administered, and I do not think that the present Government will be foolish enough to attempt to administer this proposed law.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Latham) proposed -
That, after the word “ may “, sub-section 3, tlie following words be inserted - “ if it thinks fit in all the circumstances of the case “.
.- I have never felt prouder than I am in rising to enter my strong protest against the proposed new section, which represents an attempt to kill the principle of conciliation and arbitration. If it is agreed to, nobody will have confidence in the measure, because it will create industrial unrest and, in my opinion, bring about the formation of secret societies. My reason for referring to such societies is that I recall the history of the country in which I was born. In 1832, the Conspiracy Law was passed in England and. under it, if more than one or two persons were seen speaking together in a street, hall or any other public place, they were deemed guilty of an offence against that law, and were liable to punishment. The present proposal is quite as objectionable as was that law, I invite the AttorneyGeneral to consider the nature of industrial organizations. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) told us that this was one of the most dangerous clauses ever put into a bill. Honorable members have seen men toiling in engineering establishments, and have no doubt been interested in the various manufacturing processes carried on there. In a large engineering establishment such as Mort’s dockyard in Sydney, no fewer than 30 different trades and callings, including those of the boilermakers, riveters, fitters, turners, plumbers, moulders, joiners, patternmakers, and many others are represented. If a dispute should arise amongst the moulders, owing, say, to the quality of the sand used for moulding purposes, and they refused to carry on their work, their employers, under this clause, would have the power to approach the court arid obtain a declaration that a strike existed in the industry. It is outrageous that we should be expected to pass such a provision, particularly when the number involved in the original dispute may be very small. If the employers in that industry endeavoured to obtain non-union labour to carry out a section of its work, trouble would undoubtedly arise, because unionists would not handle articles produced by non-union labour. If a section of the workers engaged on a big building contract had a dispute with the contractor, a general strike could be declared and the whole operations would be held up and general hardship would prevail. It is only reasonable to suppose that, if a dispute arose between a section of the workers engaged in an industry and their employers on the matter of, say, piece-work, the workmen engaged in other sections would loyally support their fellow unionists. Who is going to assist them if the unionists do not ? I do not think that this clause would have been included in the bill had it not been for the industrial disturbance which occurred, some time ago in the engineering trade, and which has been described in a pamphlet issued by those engaged in the metal trades industry and circulated amongst honorable members.* If this measure is passed in its present form secret associations will be established, and the workers will break away from the Arbitration Court. I was engaged at a trade for many years, and know the difficulties with which the workers have to contend. It is always the desire of some employers to deprive the men of their privileges, and to take advantage of every available opportunity to increase their profits. This measure will enable employers to derive some benefit during periods of trade depression. At present the ship-owners are not worrying because their ships are laid up, as at this time of the year business is somewhat slack, owing to diminishing tourist traffic and bad weather. The shipping companies realize this, and are taking the opportunity to force a section of their employees to accept their terms. I know the difficulties with which workers have to contend, and am endeavouring to put their case before the Minister, who does not appreciate the position. It was because a section of the community realized the unfortunate position of the workers that the Labour party was first established. The members of that party in this chamber, as well as honorable members opposite, were elected to this Parliament to build and not to destroy; but who will say that this is not a destructive measure? Its only effect will be to disrupt industry iw>- Australia. We should bend all our energies in the direction of improving, not of destroying, our social system. Many hig commercial men are opposed to this measure. I cannot give their names, because I have not obtained their permission to do so ; and I have no intention of’ asking for that permission. Honorable members may have noticed a statement issued the other day by Chief Judge Dethridge to the effect that he does not propose to include in any future award a clause making it mandatory on the employers to give preference to unionists. Who authorized him to make such a statement? He is as much a servant of the Crown as I am a servant of the people. The only difference between us is that he was appointed to his position with a life tenure by a partisan administration, while I periodically render an account of my stewardship to the people, and receive their endorsement of my actions. The only means whereby we can uphold a proper system of arbitration is to make provision for the granting of preference to unionists. Honorable members are probably unacquainted with the deep-seated loyalty towards one another that is observed by the proprietors of industrial concerns. When tenders are about to be called for any big public work they1 communicate with one another, and refrain from doing anything that might be prejudical to each other’s chances of securing the contract. When I was in business I adopted that practice. But whenever the employees endeavour to bring about uniformity in regard to their wages, and to improve the standard of comfort which they enjoy, attempts are made to frustrate their efforts. I defy honorable members opposite to say that this bill would have been introduced if any other government had been in power. This Government is approaching its end, and is making a desperate attempt to draw the. attention of the electors from its failure to administer the affairs of the nation in a statesmanlike way. The meanest intelligence is capable of working out schemes for bringing about destruction ; but a well-developed intellect is required for anything of a constructive nature. If the Government wishes to live up to Australian ideals it must have an intellectual re-adjustment. It has no knowledge or experience of the psychology of those who will be punished under this proposed law. If it had, it would not persistently attempt to foist it upon the people. I am compelled to oppose the measure because that course is expected of me by those who have elected me to this Parliament. They can see that it will not advance the welfare of the people of Australia. When the Labour party was in power from 1910 to 1913 it passed legislation which astonished the whole world. Investigators came to Australia from many countries to study the effect of the laws which were then passed, with the object of ushering in an era of social reform. There can be no doubt that the passage of the original Conciliation and Arbitration Act was a step in the right direction, and if the administrations that held office since that date had had in their ranks men of brains and honesty of purpose, they would have improved it in the direction of extending its scope so as to include all those who have to work hard to obtain the necessaries of life. Unfortunately, for Australia, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) is a politician rather than a statesman, and in bringing forward this measure he has his eye on the next election. In his heart he has no desire to injure any person ; but his vanity is so great that he cannot resist any opportunity to obtain material for use in the next election campaign. I am aware,’pf course, that vanity is a disease which is common among men; but it ought to be checked when it causes injury to others, and puts back the clock of progress. I have offered to make a donation to a fund to be utilized in having the bill burnt publicly in every city in Australia.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- A great deal has been said about this clause in the abstract; I should like to apply to a concrete case the power that it proposes to take. The case I have in mind is the strike which, unfortunately, is in existence at the present time in the ranks of the marine cooks. I do not think that any one will claim that that strike is justifiable. Had this clause been in operation when the dispute first occurred, the unions associated with the mercantile marine would have intervened immediately, and effected a settlement before it developed; and failing action from those bodies, the Australian Council of Trade Unions would have taken a hand weeks ago. This practical application brings out most forcibly the excellent qualities of the clause. Another illustration of the efficacy of the power contained in the clause is to be found in what is happening at the present time. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley) has stated that the Australian Council of Trade Unions has the matter well in hand, and that because of its activities the strike is about to be settled. I give an absolute denial to that statement. Owing to the spread of the strike a general hold-up has occurred in the shipping industry, with the result that misery, wretchedness and suffering have been brought upon thousands of workers not connected with the maritime industry. If this provision had been in operation, I submit that there would have been no sectional strike ; but even if one had occurred it would have been settled at a very early stage. I have listened carefully to the speeches which have been delivered on the penalties provided in the bill and I am led to ask whether honorable members opposite are really in favour of compulsory arbitration. We know that they are in favour of conciliation and arbitration, but they appear to be making a special plea at present on behalf of the industrial lawbreaker. They seem to desire that he shall be immune from punishment or penalty of any kind. I cannot conceive of any stronger indictment of compulsory arbitration than that contained in the series of speeches which we have had from honorable members opposite. Apparently they , are opposed to penalties of every kind. They seem to forget that if we are to have a system of compulsory arbitration we must provide penalties to be imposed upon those who do not observe the law. Such penalties as we have hadunder consideration have been in operation for the last 24 years. From time to time they have been amended and increased. We are not laying down a new system but simply tightening up the existing provisions to ensure that those who accept the principle of compulsory arbitration shall, in the national interests, observe the awards and determinations that are made. If the Government accepted the suggestions of the Opposition in respect of this measure they would really strike a death blow at compulsory arbitration in Australia.
.- I listened with some interest and a good deal of amazement to the speech of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), which, by the way, should have been delivered on the clause which was under consideration last evening. The honorable gentleman made several incorrect statements. He said that honorable members on this side of the committee were against the imposition of penalties. No honorable member of the Opposition has said that. We have merely pointed out that it is ridiculous to provide for the imposition of a penalty of £50 upon an individual worker, for he could never pay it. We have also requested that the penalties provided in respect of employers and employees should be on a parity. Charles Lamb wrote a rather famous essay upon a Chinaman who burnt a house down every time he desired to roast a pig. It appears to me that the Attorney-General is doing the same kind of thing in relation to our arbitration system. To effect what he conceives to be some slight improvements, he is taking the risk of wrecking the whole system. Are the Australian people more lawless and degenerate than the people of other countries that their organizations should be liable to penalties of £1,000? According to blatant imperialists on the other side of the committee, we are the descendants of a great race, but it is proposed that our organizations shall be treated worse than, similar organizations are treated in Russia.
Sitting suspended from 6.12 to 8 p.m.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 4th November, 1927, vide page 1007).
Clause 2 (Persons entitled to enrolment and to vote).
.- I consider that this clause requires some explanation by the Minister before it is allowed to go through. In my opinion, it will act harshly upon a large number of workers, particularly those of the nomadic type. Previously the law provided that an elector had to reside in an electorate for only one month in order to qualify for a vote. Now it is proposed to eliminate two suh-sections of section 39 of the principal act with a view to inserting in their stead the following proviso : -
Provided that an elector whose real place of living is not in the division in respect of which he is enrolled shall not be entitled to vote as an elector of that division unless his real place of living was at some time within three months immediately preceding polling day within that division. In this proviso the words “ real place of living “ include the place of living to which a person temporarily living elsewhere has a fixed intention of returning for the purpose of continuing to live thereat.
We need to consider this very carefully, as its result may he to disfranchise people who should he entitled to vote. I am very douhtful about the effect of the amendment. Apparently, a person must in future reside three months in an electorate before being entitled to have his name placed on the roll. It is well known that workers engaged in our seasonal agricultural and pastoral industries are compelled to move from place to place during the year in order to earn their livelihood. I believe that this amendment will have the effect of depriving those men of the right to vote, unless they remain in an electorate for at least three months.
– Will they not be entitled to vote as absentees ‘?
– I think not. Under this amendment all persons attaining the age of 21 should be given every opportunity to record their votes and to select their representatives to Parliament. Why should this special legislation be introduced, when it penalizes a large proportion of our nomadic workers?
– Will the honorable member point out where it is provided that those people shall lose their right to vote as absentees or by post ?
– I should like the Minister to give an assurance that they are not to lose that right.
– That right is not disturbed in any way by the amending bill.
– It seems to me that these men cannot even vote as absentees unless they qualify by a residence of three months in one locality. I shall be glad to have the Minister’s explanation on the point. If this legislation is rushed through after immature consideration we shall probably be imposing a great handicap on many of our citizens. I have no objection to the clause if it can be shown that it will not affect the existing rights of voters by imposing a further limitation upon them. There must be some motive for introducing this amendment, and the only motive that I can suggest is a desire to take away from railway construction and other such workers their right to vote if they are not resident in one area for three months. As it stands the clause is very difficult to interpret, and I should like the Minister to explain it, so that we may judge whether it is justified or otherwise.
. - This clause liberalises rather than restricts the electoral law. It extends the period during which names may be kept on the roll from one to three months. At present electors may be struck off the roll after one month’s absence from a constituency. This clause provides that their names may remain on the roll for a period of three months. It provides that the words - “ real place of living “ include the place of living to which a person temporarily living elsewhere has a fixed intention of returning for the purpose of continuing to live thereat.
During the second-reading debate the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) illustrated the position of shearers, who may be absent from their “ real place of living “ for as long as eight months in the year. Such men have a permanent place of abode to which it is their fixed intention to return at the end of the season, and they have a perfect right to have their names retained on the roll during their temporary absence from home. I reiterate, therefore, that the provision liberalises rather than restricts the electoral law.
.- Ever since 1912 the one month residential qualification has been law in Australia. If an elector was absent from his division or subdivision for one month, his name, after the necessary verification was made, would be struck off the roll. Also, if a person came to live in a new division or sub-division he was entitled, after a residential qualification of one month, to have his name placed on the roll. Apparently that term of residence is now to he extended to three months, and it will particularly affect our nomadic workers in both country and metropolitan areas. Our electoral authorities have stated that the names on electoral rolls alter to as great an extent as 80 per cent, during a period of three years.
– Very often those alterations may he merely due to changes of address in the same subdivision.
Mr.FENTON. - It is well known that people, by moving to a new address across the street, may change from one subdivision to another. Unfortunately, men engaged on huge construction works, such as the Hume reservoir, or the building of a railway line, who frequently have to move from district to district, will never be able to qualify under this new provision for a three months’ term of residence. Previously the term of qualification was only one month.
– That, is the present law, and has not been altered.
– Then why is it necessary to introduce a provision for a three months’ qualification? This is what paragraph 25 of the report from the Joint Select Committee on the Commonwealth Electoral Law and Procedure states -
Two other suggestions have been made to thecommitteeasasolutionof this problem. The first is that names should not be removed from the roll until the elector has been away from his division for three months instead of one month, as at present. The second suggestion is that the system in vogue in Western Australia should be adopted by the Commonwealth, namely; that an elector who will be temporarily away from his home should notify the Divisional Returning Officer that he will be temporarily absent in pursuance of his occupation, but that he intends to return and requests the Divisional Returning Officer to protect his enrolment during such absence. The committee has given careful consideration to both these suggestions. In regard to the first, it considers that the enactment of this proposal would involve the alteration of the qualifying period of residence prior to enrolment to three months instead of one month, otherwise if an elector were allowed to leave the division, and his name were left on for three months, confusion might arise and duplication or impersonation would be rendered easy. The committee recommends that section 41 of the act be amended to provide that three months shall be the qualifying period of residence prior to enrolment instead of one month.
Has that been accepted by the Government ?
Mr.FENTON. - That removes a great deal of the objection. I thought that the Government accepted the full recommendation of the committee. The paragraph continues -
And that the period for the removal of names from the roll be increased from one month to three months.
Now the Government seeks to increase the residential qualification from one to three months. I should like to know whether a person who is moving from one district to another is entitled to have his name placed on the roll for his new division after a residence there of only one month? Is that understood?
.- I am not satisfied with the Minister’s explanation.
Let us suppose that an elector who is temporarily away from home, becomes enrolled in the division in which, for a time, he is living. It seems to me that under this clause in the event of an election he would not be entitled to vote in that division unless his real place of living was at some time within three months immediately preceding polling day within that division.
– This is to prevent electors from being rushed into an electorate just before polling day.
– I knew there was something behind this proviso which the Minister has so lightly skipped over. Now the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) has shown that its object is to disfranchise certain electors.
– They will not be disfranchised.
– It is evident that there is a catch in the proviso. We must, therefore, be careful how we deal with it. It provides that an elector whose real place of living is not in the division in respect of which he is enrolled, shall not be entitled to vote as an elector of that division unless his real place of living was at some time within three months immediately preceding polling day within that division. There may be employed at, say, the Hume reservoir, 1,000 men whose real homes are in other parts of the Commonwealth. Should they become enrolled in the Hume division, they could not vote in that division unless their real place of living was in that division at some time within three months immediately preceding the date of the election.
– That is the position.
– It does not mean that.
– The Minister gives one meaning to the proviso, and an honorable member seated behind him gives another. Yet the language is clear. These electors must have had their real homes in that division within three months before the date of the election to enable them to vote in that division. A man working in the country whose wife and family live in Sydney - which, therefore, is his “real place of living” - would be deprived of his vote.
– He would not.
–He would be deprived of his vote for the constituency in which he was working. The object is to prevent workers who move from place to place in the course of their employment from voting in the division in which they are working.
– The object is to prevent corruption.
– There has been no corruption in the past. At an earlier stage the Minister said that an elector had the right to vote in a new division after a month’s residence therein. His remarks were supported by interjection by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley). Now he admits that that is not so.
– I have not.
– Another Government supporter says that the term is three months. The Minister should make clear the true meaning of the proviso. I am not prepared to agree to any proviso which will deprive any man of his vote. In connexion with a large undertaking, some hundreds of men may be absent from their homes for a period of six or seven months. My interpretation of this proviso is that, if their real homes - that is, the place where their wives and families reside - were not in the division in which they were working within three months of the election, they would be deprived of their votes.
– There is no necessity for them to enrol in the new division.
– After one month’s residence therein they are entitled under the law as it stands to enrol as electors of that division. If that is not the position, what is the purpose of the amendment? The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) a few moments ago let the cat out of the bag when he said that the purpose of the provision is to prevent workers from being rushed into a division for a few weeks to enable them to vote as electors of that division.
– The purpose is to prevent men from being sent specially to a division so that they could vote in that division at an election.
– That is not the purpose.
– There seems to he a great difference of opinion among honorable members on the other side as to the purpose of this proviso. The Prime Minister, speaking in Melbourne recently, said that his party , did not hold caucus meetings. I suggest that the bill be postponed in order to allow honorable members supporting the Government to meet in caucus and arrive at a decision as to what the bill really means. I contend that a departure is being made from the existing legislation.
– That is so.
– Clause 2 proposes to amend section 39 of the principal act by omitting sub-section 2 thereof as well as the two provisos to sub-section 3 and inserting a new proviso. Those provisions have been in operation for about sixteen years, and have given satisfaction. The only persons who will he affected by this legislation are those workers who, in the course of their employment, move from place to place. Why should they he deprived of their votes? They should not be denied rights enjoyed by others. The Minister should make clear the meaning of this proviso. I do not want to be a party to the disfranchisement of large numbers of electors. I believe in making the franchise as free and liberal as possible. In my opinion every adult, wherever he may he situated, should be entitled to vote. I cannot see that the principal act permitted any injustice to be done.
– Sometimes when electors return to their homes from the places in which they have resided temporarily they find that their names have been struck off the rolls. This will minimize that trouble.
– That is not the reason for the proviso. So far as honorable members supporting the Government are concerned, it is not true that in the multitude of counsellors there is safety. The honorable member for Bass said just now that the purpose of this provision is to prevent new-comers in a district from voting as electors of that division. I am not aware that under the existing act such a thing has happened. There have been no complaints regarding the conduct of Federal elections. Why should we make it difficult for those persons in the community whose duties require them to travel from place to place to record their votes? In the course of a year hundreds of electors work in as many as three States. We should not deprive them of the franchise. If the proviso will not permit an injustice being done to any elector we on this side will not oppose it. I shall welcome a full explanation by the Minister.
– I repeat that this proviso does not curtail the privileges now enjoyed by electors. On the contrary, it extends them. The honorable member’ for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) said that under this provision men from other districts employed temporarily at the Hume Reservoir could not vote as electors of the division in which that work was being carried on unless they had been resident there for three months. That is not so. If they applied for enrolment for that division they could be so enrolled after one. month’s residence. If a man desired to remain on the roll for the division in which his family still resided, he would not apply for enrolment in another division. His name would remain on the roll for the same division as that in which his wife and family were living, and under this clause it could not be removed from the roll until he had been absent for three months. Should an elector in the Darling electorate he temporarily transferred to the Yarra electorate, he could, after one month’s residence therein, apply for enrolment as an elector of the Yarra division. The divisional returning officer for that division would thereupon inform the divisional returning officer, for the Darling division that the elector’s name had been added to the roll for the Yarra division. The name would then automatically be removed from the Darling roll.
– That is the existing law.
– It will remain unaltered. After the expiry of one month from the date of receiving advice of the transfer of the elector, the returning officer for the Darling electorate would call upon the elector to show cause why his name should not be removed from the roll for that division. Instead of placing hindrances in the way of the workers, as the honorable member for Hunter suggested, additional privileges will be granted to them. If a Queensland elector removes temporarily to Western Australia, but does not desire to be enrolled there, and accordingly makes no application for enrolment, his name cannot be added to the roll there.
– But what is the position should he enroll for the new division when his real place of living is not in that division?
– He has the option of voting for the district in which is situated his real place of living. His name cannot be removed from the roll for that division and placed on the roll for another division within three months unless he so applies. At every election, every person whose name is not shown on the roll for the division in respect pf which he claims to vote is asked a number of questions by the presiding officer. One of those, questions is -
Is your real place of living within the Division of … . ?
If the elector answers that question in the negative, the following question is then put to him -
Are you temporarily living elsewhere than within the Division of … . ? with a fixed intention of returning to your place of living in that division for the purpose of continuing to live therein.
Should he again answer in the negative, he is asked a third question -
Didyou at any time since securing the enrolment for the Division of …. in respect of which you claim to vote and before . . . become entitled to be enrolled in respect of another Division?
It is thought that these questions are somewhat confusing, and it is now proposed that the following shall be substituted for them: -
If the elector’s answer is in the negative, he will be asked -
Was your real place of living, at any time within the last three months, within the Division of … .
If the elector answers those questions in the negative, and is denied the right to vote, . he is protected by section 91a.
– If an elector’s home is in Sydney, and he is enrolled for one of the metropolitan divisions, is it not a fact that he will be struck off the roll if he is away from that division for three months and that if he claims to vote in respect of the division in which he is temporarily employed and cannot showthat his “real place of living” for the three months preceding polling daywas in that division, he will be disfranchised altogether ?
– I think the honorable member misunderstands the bill. If a man enrolled in Sydney went away shearing for six or seven months, he would regard Sydney as his permanent place of abode, and consequently would not apply for enrolment in some other division.
– But if he does apply for enrolment elsewhere what will happen?
– If he does,he expresses a desire to be enrolled elsewhere, and if he satisfies the divisional returning officer that he is entitled to enrolment in a new division the divisional returning officer for the division for which he was enrolled previously is advised, and his name is automatically removed from the roll for that division. In such a case the questions to which I have alluded are not put to the elector. They are put only to an elector whose name has been removed from the roll for the division which is his permanent place of abode and in respect of which he claims to vote. If he returns within three months, and at an election claims the right to vote, he is asked by the returning officer if his permanent place of abode for the preceding three months was in the division. If he answers in the affirmative, he receives a ballot-paper and may exercise the franchise. This bill does not in any way affect the general body of electors. Their rights are protected under the residence qualification in the main act.
– Then this clause relates only to the electors whose names may have been removed from the roll?
– That is so. If an elector leaves his division temporarily, and does not desire enrolment elsewhere, no action to remove his name from the roll is taken by the divisional returning officer for his division for three months. If upon his return he finds that his name has been removed from the roll, he may claim the right to vote if he can satisfy the returning officer that for the preceding three months his real place of living was within the division.
– If a man goes from one division to another, and after residence there for one month, makes application for enrolment, is he entitled to be enrolled and to vote as an ordinary elector for that division without being called upon to answer the questions quoted by the Minister?
.- The explanation of the Minister appears to me to put the matter right. I take it that if a person entitled to be enrolled resides for one month in a division, ha may make application for enrolment under section 41 of the act, which is not disturbed by the bill. This clause amends section 39 by extending the time before the name of any elector who has left a division is removed from the roll. Under the act a person is not entitled to vote for the division for which he is enrolled if he leaves it and becomes entitled to enrolment for another, division 2.1 days before the issue of a writ for an election. That is to say, if a man is absent from his division for one month and is resident for one month in another division, he is entitled to enrolment in the latter. This clause provides that a period of three months must elapse before the divisional returning officer may remove from the roll the name of an elector who has left the division temporarily; and if the elector’s name has been removed he may claim the right to vote if he can satisfy the returning officer that his permanent place of abode for the preceding three months was in that division, and that, though absent from it, he had a full intention to return to it.
– I am not satisfied with the reasoning of my leader in this matter.
Mr.Fenton. - Nor am I.
– I think the intention is clear.
Mr.Fenton. - I am not satisfied.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).Order !
Mr.Fenton. - Be quiet.
The- CHAIRMAN.- The honorable member for Maribyrnong must withdraw that remark.
– What remark must I withdraw, Mr. Chairman?
– The honorable member is fully aware of the remark to which I allude. He said to the Chair, when he was called to order, “ Be quiet.” The Chair now calls upon him to withdraw it.
– Very well, Mr. Chairman.
– I am not satisfied with the clause. Its purpose is to amend section 39 of the principal act by omitting sub-section 2 and two provisos to subsection 3, and inserting the following : -
Provided that an elector whose real place of living is not in the division, in respect of which he is enrolled, shall not be entitled to vote as an elector of that division, unless his real place of living was at some time within three months immediately preceding polling day within that division. . . .
It is all very well for the Minister to say that this clause does not in any way interfere with the rights of a certain class of voters.
– Your leader is satisfied.
– I do not care whether my leader is satisfied or not. If the honorable member has been tamed by his leaders, I have not. I have witnessed an exhibition of the honorable member being tamed, and coming to heel in a dog-like manner.
– The honorable member’s leader has some brains.
– That is so, and I only wish that certain followers of the leaders on the Government side also had some. The Minister says that these questions will not be put to the electors who are enrolled, as the elector’s claim that he is enrolled in a certain division will be sufficient for the returning officer. Will the Minister inform us just which electors will be asked these questions? -The presumption is that those already enrolled will not be asked whether their real place of living was at some time within three months immediately preceding polling day in the division in which they claim to vote. I suggest that these questions will be asked only of nomadic workers. The names of many men have been taken off rolls while they have been away working in other districts. A man who is working at Oodnadatta, and enrolled in Adelaide, would have no redress if he was refused the right to vote at Oodnadatta. The election would be over before he could make representations to the proper quarters. Under this provision many workers would be politically sabotaged.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member says it is not so; but let us see just how the clause would work. Let us take the case of a man enrolled in one division, but who has been living in another for some months. ‘ He will be asked if he has resided for the specified time in the division in which he is applying to vote; yet the Minister says that a properlyenrolled elector will not be asked this question.
– He certainly will not.
– Then who will be?
– The man who is not on the roll, but who claims to vote.
– But the clause has nothing to do with that. It applies to persons ‘who are properly enrolled. It states - -
Provided that an elector whose real place of living is not in the division in respect of which he is enrolled, shall not be entitled to vote as an elector , in that division unless his real place of living was at some time within three months immediately preceding polling day within that division.
The proviso makes no provision for the man who is not enrolled, but who claims to vote. It says quite plainly “ in respect of which he is enrolled “. I claim that it is too indefinite. . There is a nigger in the wood pile, and this clause will operate against workers in construction camps. They will be the only workers who cannot claim to vote without fear of being questioned. It is the duty of the Minister to make this provision perfectly clear.
.- If I had the slightest idea that this clause would rob any people of the right to vote unless they had a residential qualification longer than that prescribed in the present act, I should oppose it; but it does not affect the right to vote. The mistake made by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat is that he imagines that this amendment has something to do with the right of persons to vote. It has not. It merely determines where a person who has a right to vote shall vote. ‘
– Will the honorable member interpret the clause?
– If the honorable member will have the patience which is so characteristic of him I shall do so. This clause does not interfere with the right to vote. The Leader of the Opposition made that quite clear. It deals with the question as to whether a person who has a right to vote shall vote in the division for which he is enrolled, or in the division in which he is temporarily living.
– And for which he is enrolled?
– And for which he has the choice of being enrolled. I can quite understand the difficulty of honorable members not acquainted with legal phraseology in understanding the adjectival phrase in this sentence of the proposed new section. I am not saying that in an offensive way. It is a difficult clause to understand, but as a matter of fact it is perfectly clear-
– That is the Prime Minister’s phrase.
– It is perfectly clear when you understand it. Let us imagine a supposititious case in which an elector is enrolled for the division of Barton, and has moved to the division of Hume. He has been in the division of Hume for, say, two months. If he chooses, he may still vote in the division in respect of which he is enrolled, and his right to vote is not affected by the section.
– But he could get on to the roll in Hume within a month.
– If he wishes to become enrolled for the division of Hume he may apply to do so.
– But within what time?
– After one month’s residence. All this clause does is to declare that the elector’s real place of living shall determine the place in which he is to vote unless he enrolls for another division in which he is temporarily residing.
– But suppose, in the case cited, the elector does not enroll for the Hume division?
– If he does not enroll for Hume it is assumed that he is still enrolled for Barton.
– When would he be entitled to vote in Hume ?
– He could vote for Hume when he got his name placed on the roll for that division. If it is quite clear that his real place of living has become Hume, and not Barton, he can vote for Hume.
– How can that be determined?
– By the interpretation of his own intent. If he has temporarily removed to Hume, but has the intention of returning to Barton, which is his real place of living, he will have the right to vote in the Barton election.
– But not in Hume?
– If the elector has a fixed intention of returning to Barton he has the right to vote in that division; but if, as a matter of fact, Hume, and not Barton, is his place of living, he can vote in the Hume electorate.
– Suppose his real place of living is Barton, where both he and his wife are enrolled. He goes to work for a time in the division of Hume, and lives there for two months. He is enrolled there, one month’s residence being sufficient to enable this to be done. After his enrolment, what position is he in, when his real place of living must be for three months the electorate in which he enrols? His real place of living is still in Barton.
– That is what I am endeavouring to explain.
– That is what will confuse the electors.
– As I pointed out before, this clause does not affect the elector’s right to vote, but deals only with the place in which he must vote. In the case cited by the honorable member for Hunter, if the husband has no fixed intention of returning to his wife and family, and has enrolled in some other electorate, he will, of course, be entitled to vote in the electorate in which he is enrolled, because immediately he is enrolled in the new electorate his name will be removed from the roll in the other electorate.
– But that is not his real place of abode.
– The honorable member has overlooked the fact that sometimes husbands leave their wives and children behind. If a man determined to make his real place of abode in some other place, he would be entitled to enrol in that place, and vote there, but not in his previous place of residence.
– “Who decides what his fixed intention is?
– He determines that himself. It is clearly left to the elector himself, and he has perfect freedom of choice.
– Then the clause would not prevent a nomadic worker from getting on to the roll in some new division to which he had moved.
– No. The words of the clause are -
In this proviso the words “ real place of living” include the place of living to which a person temporarily living elsewhere has a fixed intention of returning for the purpose of continuing to live thereat.
If the elector has been living in Barton and goes to Hume, but has a fixed intention of returning to Barton, that is where he will vote. This only determines the division in which the elector’s vote shall be recorded. It affords increased elasticity under the act that we shall all be glad to have.
.- The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) has rightly said that the legal phraseology of the clause is rather confusing. The cross-firing that has occurred in the chamber suggests that honorable members ave in a mental fog over the meaning of the clause, and one wonders how the electors generally can be expected to understand its purport. The honorable member said that the proposed new proviso to sub-section 3 of section 39 will not affect an elector’s right to vote, but deals only with the place where he will vote. The sub-section provides that all persons whose names are on the roll for any electoral division shall, subject to the act, be entitled to vote, and the proposed new proviso is as follows: -
Provided that an elector whose real place nf living is not in the division in respect of which he is enrolled shall not be entitled to vote as an elector of that division unless his real place of living was at some time within three months immediately preceding polling day within that division. In this proviso the words “ real place of living “ include the place of living to which a person temporarly living elsewhere has a fixed intention of returning for the purpose of continuing to live thereat.
Let us face the position squarely. If the clause means anything it is that if 200 or 300 nomadic workers go into a district for three or six months, they cannot enroll and vote there, but must exercise their franchise as absent voters for the division in which they permanently reside. When the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) was speaking, the interjections from the other side of the chamber clearly indicated that that was in the minds of a large number of honorable members opposite.
Despite what the Minister and the honorable member for Barton have said, I am satisfied that the proviso means exactly what its wording imports. We know, from our experience of elections, that it is hard to get an elector interested in political matters unless he can vote in the locality where he works. Nomadic workers spend perhaps from three to six months in one place, and naturally they cannot take their families with them. The Minister stated that certain questions would be put to certain electors. He said that one set of questions would be submitted to one class of electors, and another set of questions would be put to another class. I wish to know which two classes the Minister has in mind.
– I read the old questions, and I also read the new ones that are to be substituted for them.
– When I inquired whether those questions would be put to the ordinary elector, the Minister replied in the negative. How can the sub-section apply only to an elector whose name has been struck off the roll when it says, “ all persons whose names are on the roll for any electoral division shall, subject to this act, be entitled to vote,” &c. ?
– Under the proviso three months must elapse before the name of an elector may be removed from the roll for a division from which he has temporarily removed.
– That is what the honorable member for Barton said. The Minister stated that he could elect to remain away for six months, and I have no quarrel with that. Now the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) says that if an elector has left a division for three months -he cannot remain on the roll.
– I say that the name of an elector who has left a division for three months, may be removed from the roll for that division, and he cannot vote for it unless he declares that it is his real place of living, and that he intends to return to that division as a permanent resident.
– The honorable member for Barton suggests that an elector’s name can be taken off or put on a roll only at his own request, but that is not so. The names of thousands of electors throughout the Commonwealth are taken off the roll without those electors being consulted. Letter-carriers receive a bonus from the Electoral Department for every alteration of the roll for which they are responsible. The Minister told us that, unless an elector made application to be enrolled for the division in which he temporarily resided, his name would remain on the roll for his old division: hut that is not the case. His name would be taken off that roll.
– He would receive a notification before that was done.
– I know of numbers of cases in which names have been taken off the roll and no notification of the fact has been received by the electors concerned. A case of the kind occurred in connexion with a member of my own family. The names of nomadic workers, who do not leave their next address at the electoral office, are struck off the roll. I am not blaming anybody for that; but it is impossible to ascertain what is in the mind of an elector.
– If he does not exercise his right to be enrolled, it is his own fault.
– I admit that; but I object to the clause being based on the supposition that names are not struck off the rolls except as the result of the elector’s own action, because I know that thousands of names throughout the Commonwealth have been removed from rolls without the electors concerned being aware of it. I am convinced that the clause is designed deliberately to enable the names of nomadic workers to be struck off the rolls.
– How would this clause produce that result?
– It would prevent them from voting in the electorate in which they were residing at the time of an election.
– Only if they had enrolled somewhere else.
– The proposed new proviso would force the elector to vote in the electorate where he permanently resided. The electoral law provides that all persons not under 21 years of age who have lived in the country for six months continuously, and are natural born or naturalized subjects shall be entitled to enrolment, but according to the present clause a person may be a natural born or naturalized subject and may have been resident in the country for six months and yet not he entitled to vote. The clause would curtail the rights of the individual. The Government is not warranted in interfering with the present law, which has worked satisfactorily and is well understood by the electors. They have always understood that a month’s residence in any division entitles them to vote in that division. No doubt occasional cases will arise in which the law will be evaded; but I am satisfied that the commission that inquired into impersonation and double voting was of the opinion that the federal electoral machinery operated cleanly. The. discussion on this clause shows that the proposed new proviso would tend to fog the electors and make them uncertain as to their position under the law.
.- The clause provides for a very necessary amendment of the act, and its meaning appears to me to be fairly clear. Under the Constitution, the Parliament consists of two houses, which are elected on adult suffrage. In the case of the Senate, each State is polled as one electorate, and for the purpose of voting for the House of Representatives the States are divided into divisions. A commission is appointed to adjust the boundaries of these divisions, so that they will contain reasonable quotas of electors. The persons who vote in those divisions must be bona fide electors. This clause is necessary in order to keep the rolls reasonably clean, and is not framed to deprive any adult citizen of the right to vote. An elector who fails to be enrolled within a month after his transfer from one subdivision to another cannot vote unless he can prove that he has been living within the electorate for three months prior to an election. What right has a working man or any other citizen in Victoria to go into the Riverina and vote instead of recording his vote in the electorate in which he actually resides? We have to consider the possibility of electors endeavouring to subvert the constitutional intention. If a person transfers to another electorate and intends to reside there this provision enables him to record his vote for that division, but if he transfers to another district for a sinister purpose he will under this clause be prevented from so doing. Why should I as an elector of Western Australia record my vote for a division in New South Wales? The clause provides that if an elector has been living in the division in which he wishes to vote for three months he shall be regarded as a bona fide elector.
– This provision has nothing to do with enrolment
– I understand the clause to mean that an elector who has been living in the electorate in which he wishes to record his vote for only one day will be allowed to vote, but if he does not intend to reside there permanently and has removed to it for some sinister purpose he will be prevented from doing so. An elector should be entitled to vote only in the electorate in which he actually resides. I do not think the provision is capable of any other interpretation. If it is I will oppose it.
.- I suggest that this clause should be postponed. The Electoral Act should be clear and simple, so that any one can understand it. Up to the present we have had various interpretations of this provision from honorable members on both ‘sides of the chamber, and if legislators cannot understand the legislation they are framing, God help those who have to be governed by it. I have endeavoured to understand this clause, the language of which is clumsy and needs to be simplified. I have tried to translate ‘it to my own satisfaction, and the way I read it is that it does not affect enrolment as some honorable members have said. An elector is entitled to enrolment after one month’s residence in an electorate; that is an automatic right with which this bill does not interfere. But when an elector wishes to vote this provision commences to operate. Putting it in a simpler form the provision, I think, is intended to mean that an elector whose permanent residence is not in the division for which he wishes to be enrolled, cannot vote as an elector of that division. He would vote in the division in which he was previously enrolled, unless his permanent place of residence had been changed at some time immediately preceding polling day. ‘ He has to be enrolled in that division for three months, and it has to be his real place of living.
– The honorable member is leaving out the words “ at some time.”
– It may mean within a week. If he has a fixed intention of remaining he can vote; but if not he must vote in the division in which he was previously enrolled. Who is to decide his fixed intention? Is it to he governed by his own state of mind or an interpretation of this law ? If it means his state of mind the clause does not mean anything.
– He must state the facts.
– There is no legal interpretation of “ fixed intention.”
– Yes there is.
– The electoral officer asks the elector if he intends to remain in the division or if it is his fixed intention to stay there. If the elector says that he intends to remain, that is the end of it, and the clause is simplified. If, however, the returning officer can say that it is the elector’s real intention to return to another division, where his wife and family are living, that is an interference with the elector’s choice.
– What right has any one to ask that question ? If the man has been resident for a month in a division he is duly enrolled.
– I am not arguing against the interpretation of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley), but endeavouring to elucidate the clause. If the elector has the right to decide his real place of living - where he has a fixed intention of remaining - some of the interpretations placed upon this clause by honorable members opposite are entirely wrong. In all the circumstances the consideration of this clause should be postponed, so that it might he couched in simpler language. I feel sure that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley), and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) could draft a clause which could be more readily understood.
– It seems to me that there is undue alarm on the part of some honorable members concerning the meaning of this clause, which does not alter the provision in the existing act except to ensure that a limited number of electors who are deprived of the franchise under the present act shall have a better opportunity of retaining their names on the “roll. There are only three ways in which an elector’s name may be removed from the roll. One is in the case of death; the registrar of deaths notifies the electoral department of the decease of an elector and every effort is made to trace the name- and remove it from the roll. Another case is when it is reported to the divisional returning officer that an elector has left the electorate for which he is enrolled and that his name is not entitled to remain on the roll. In cases of this kind representatives of the postal department report to the divisional returning officer who makes a special effort to trace the elector and sends a notice ro him. In many cases nomadic electors, referred to by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), do not leave their new addresses, and consequently these notices do not reach them. These persons have no intention of permanently leaving the electorate, but as they do not receive the notices, their names are removed from the roll without their knowledge, after the expiration of one month. The third way in which an elector’s name is removed from the roll is in the case of a transfer. The honorable member for Werriwa said thousands of names were removed from the roll - one in the case of his own household - but I am sure that every member of the committee which inquired into our electoral system is satisfied that an honest effort is made not to remove any name from the roll unless the divisional returning officer has exhausted every means at his disposal to ascertain whether the elector has left the district. Under this clause the name of such an elector will not be removed from the roll until after the expiration of three months instead of one month, as at present. The honorable member for Werriwa is afraid that under this provision a nomadic elector will be deprived of his vote, but this provision is to prevent that. , If an elector changes his permanent residence and notifies the authorities to that effect, he obtains a transfer to another electorate. The present act provides against malpractice.
This clause does not interfere with that aspect of the question ; it merely preserves and extends the right of those whose names may, under the law as it stands, he removed from the roll by the divisional returning officer after an absence of one month, by extending the period from ons to three months.
– Is this provision based on a recommendation of the select committee.
– Yes. The committee conducted an exhaustive inquiry into the card system of the electoral department, which is wonderfully efficient, in fact, more efficient than we expected. A number of charges such as those mentioned by the honorable member for Werriwa were made. Witnesses came before the committee and gave evidence in the best of faith to the effect that their names had been removed from the roll without their knowledge; but in practically every case we found that they were wrong. A clergyman, who temporarily removed to Moss Vale from Epping, said that he had not given the department any authority to remove his name from the roll. We found, however, that after he had been absent for three months, he was told that he would be liable if his name were not transferred, and he sent in an application for transfer, and had forgotten all about it. We also had the case of a young woman named Mary Malone, who resided in and was on the roll for one of the Sydney divisions. Her father, an ex-police sergeant from. Queensland, stated she had gone to Brisbane for twelve months. On her return she applied for and was enrolled for another electorate without her name being removed from the original roll. When we inspected her index card we found that on receipt of her second application the chief electoral officer had looked up her original card and notified the divisional returning officer in the original electorate who removed her name from the roll.
Mr.Fenton. - How does the honorable member interpret the words. “ real place of living?”
– I think it is obvious what real place of living means. An excellent example of the need for such a provision was furnished by the malpractices which were exposed at the last State elections.
– To what malpractices does the honorable member refer?
– To give one example, a number of men were sent up to the Goulburn electorate on road construction work, and kept there for the length of time necessary to enable them to become enrolled for that electorate. On polling day they voted in Sydney as absent voters for the Goulburn electorate in sufficient numbers to turn the scale in favour of the candidate who was returned at the head of the poll. Such a thing could not happen under the Federal law, because, by the application of the card index system, their names would be automatically removed from one roll before being placed upon another. Such a contingency is provided for under the existing Commonwealth act, and it has not been altered in any way by the bill. The proposal is really to prevent” the removal from a roll of the names of those who are absent only temporarily from their usual place of residence. .
.- Those electors who read this debate will probably be surprised at our inability to understand what should be a simple amendment of the law. A majority of the members of the committee appear to be perfectly satisfied as to what is the intention of the clause; hut I must confess that, like the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), and other honorable members who comprise the minority, I find it difficult to gather its meaning from either the wording or the explanation of the Minister (Mr. Marr). I agree also with the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) that the language used in such measures should be clearer and more definite; and that it is not sufficient for it to be within the understanding of legal gentlemen. We have been told that the wording of this clause is perfectly clear, although it may be difficult for those who are not accustomed to legal phraseology to understand it. That, in itself, condemns the phraseology. If I had not heard the explanation of the Minister, I should have ihought that the clause provided that the name of an elector would not be removed from a roll while he was temporarily absent from his usual place of residence, unless he expressed a wish that it should be so removed, and that he would be eligible for enrolment for the new electorate when he had resided in it for a period of one month. It is reasonable to assume that a large percentage of the electors will experience precisely the same difficulty that we have encountered. If the Minister has rightly expressed the intention, then the wording is unsatisfactory. These provisions are in the main framed by the electoral officers, upon the advice of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. I am inclined to fear that this may be misunderstood even by the Minister himself. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) has stated why the names of electors are sometimes removed from rolls, and has spoken in commendatory terms of both the act itself and those who are responsible for its administration. I should protest as strongly as any member of the committee if an elector was disfranchised. I agree that the name of an elector should not be removed from a roll for at least three months after he has changed his usual place of residence, and certainly not until he has applied for enrolment in another electorate. I am well aware that names are removed upon the advice of the postal officials that letters are no longer being forwarded to an elector at a given address, and that therefore it is assumed that he has changed his place of residence. I do not regard that as a correct procedure to adopt. I am acquainted with numerous cases in which the names of electors have been removed from rolls although they have been absent only temporarily from their usual place of residence. The electoral law lays upon an elector the obligation to notify a change of place of residence. His name should not be expunged from one roll until it has been placed upon another; and three months is a very reasonable period to stipulate. I am of the opinion that an elector should not be enrolled for an electoral division other than that in which his wife and family reside, and to which it is his fixed intention to return. I contest the suggestion of the honorable member for Hunter that such a man would be disfranchised. It is necessary to prevent the the stuffing of rolls that has been practised in some electorates. The absence of an elector from his usual place of residence for a period of one month is not sufficient justification for removing his name from that roll. It would be more desirable to make the period three months. I know of electors whose names have been removed from the roll although they have not been absent at all from their place of residence. I admit that that is accidental; but I still contend that it. should not occur with such frequency. In ‘any event, the name of an elector should not be removed from a roll unless the electoral officials are satisfied that he has permanently changed his place of residence. I am aware, of course, that the law makes provision for those whose names have been wrongly removed from the roll: that such an elector can obtain a vote by signing a declaration that he has not changed his place of residence. Great care should be exercised in the revision of the rolls.
Mr. WEST (East Sydney [9.42]. - I do not think there is very much to be said for this clause. It seems to me that under it, if an elector should desire to have his name removed from one roll to another, that could not be done until he had resided in the new electorate for a period of three months. There is really no need for the clause, and no harm would be done if it were deleted from the bill. We have one ‘of the finest electoral laws that has ever been framed in any country. The royal commission which investigated the matter a couple of years ago rather exceeded its responsibility when it recommended an amendment of the Commonwealth law to deal with a situation that could arise only under a State law. The object, of course, was to have only the one roll for both the Commonwealth and the States, and I am. in accord with such a principle. The one roll should be employed wherever there is adult suffrage. We should confine our attention to our own electoral law without attempting to deal with the provisions of the State law. The clause should be postponed for further consideration by the draftsmen.
.- I have endeavoured to follow this discussion, but so far neither the Minister nor any honorable member has been given an uninterrupted opportunity to explain the clause. I wish to know what would happen’ in the event of an elector in, say, the Barton division, which is his permanent place of abode, removing to the Hume division, and after one month securing enrolment there ? I take it that he would be struck off the roll for Barton.
– That is so.
– But in the event of an election occurring in the Hume division at that stage, I take it that he would not have the right to vote because his real place of living had not been there within the preceding three months.
– He would be, able to vote there. The proviso uses the words “ within three months.”
– Where his real place of living is?
– A man may go into Hume from Barton, and be enrolled there after one month, whether it is his permanent place of abode or not.
– He must be living there to be entitled to enrolment.
– But he may not have been living there for three months.
– Surely his real place of living is where he lives !
– My point is that he cannot vote in the Hume division if his real place of living is elsewhere. If that is so, it is stupid to allow him to be enrolled there. The wording of the clause is absurd. If the man is enrolled for Hume, although he has not been living there for three months, who is to question his right to vote?
– The returning officer.
– He will be allowed to vote unless some one questions him. It appears to me that honorable members do not understand the meaning of the provision. The explanation which- the Minister gave has been disagreed with by six other authorities. To use a collo quialism, the proviso is “ as clear as mud.” I also suggest that the clause should be postponed in order that further consideration may be given to the verbiage of it.
– If the electors in general ever hear that honorable members have so many doubts about the meaning of this clause, they will be afraid to go to vote. We all agreed with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) up to a certain point. He quoted the case of an elector who transferred from Barton to Hume, but argued that unless he had been in the new electorate for three months, he would not be entitled to vote in it. But that is not the case. By the mere fact of transferring his name, an elector indicates that he intends the new division to be his real place of living. If he . intended to move somewhere else within a fortnight or a month, he would not have his name transferred.
– When he transfers his name to a different division, he indicates that he intends that to be his real place of living.
– Surely there can be no doubt about that. I point out that the proviso contains the following words : -
In this proviso the words “real place of living “ include the place of living to which a.person temporarily living elsewhere has a fixed intention of returning for the purpose of continuing to live there.
The object is to enable a man who temporarily goes to a different division to have his name retained on the roll for the division which he leaves. The honorable member for Perth has overlooked the word “include.” That gives an elector the option of having his name retained on the roll for his old constituency, or of having it transferred to his new constituency. The intention of the clause could undoubtedly be expressed in much simpler language. Involved legal phraseology should not be used when the intention can be stated in simple language.
– I ask that the clause be postponed.
Clauses 3 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
After section 91a of the principal act the following section is inserted: - “91b. (1) Subject to sub-section 2 of this section, the following persons are authorized witnesses within the meaning of this act: -
All Commonwealth divisional returning officers….. all permanent way inspectors and roadmasters employed in the railway service of the Commonwealth. . . . all station owners, station managers, and station overseers.
.- I move -
That after the words “ overseers “, last occurring, proposed new section 91b, sub-section (1) paragraph (a), the following words be inserted:- - “ Engineers and gangers engaged upon rail and road construction, and mail contractors.”
Although the provision for authorized witnesses is liberal, it fails to cater for certain conditions which. I shall enumerate. No shires or municipalities operate in the Western Lands Division of New South Wales, the whole of the road construction of that vast area being done by the Public Works Department of New South Wales. Therefore, there are no municipal or shire engineers to witness an application for a postal vote, and the clause makes no provision for road engineers, as apart from municipal or shire engineers. I have in mind a specific case which came under my notice on a piece of road construction taking place between Broken Hill and Wilcannia, on which five men were employed. The men wished to record postal votes, but no authorized witnesses arrived by mail car, and, as I was prohibited from helping the men, I could he of no assistance. Eventually, after a great -deal of difficulty, it was arranged, that one of them should go to Wilcannia, but the votes were lodged too late. I also know of an instance in connexion with the construction of the CondobolinBroken Hill railway where there wereno authorized witnesses. I hope that the Minister will accept my amendment.
. - I am prepared to accept the amendment moved by the honorable member if he will alter the wording to read -
That afterthe words “ railway service of the Commonwealth,” sub-section (1) paragraph (a), the following words be inserted: - “.all engineers engaged upon railway or road construction ; all mail contractors.”
– Very well.
Amendment amended accordingly, and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 -
Section ninety-two of the principal act is amended -
by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section : - “ (2) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section in any case in which a postal ballot-paper, if posted or delivered . . would not reach the divisional returning officer for the division in respect of which the elector claims to vote, before the close of the poll, the envelope in which the ballot-paper is enclosed may be addressed to . . . . . any other divisional returning officer, who shall deal with it in the prescribed manner.”
.- I move -
That after the word “ officer,” last occur ring, proposed new sub-section (2), the words “ or presiding officer “ be inserted.
The evidence taken by the Joint Select Committee on Commonwealth Electoral Law and Procedure disclosed that frequently postal ballot-papers were not received in sufficient time to ensure their being returned to the returning officer of the division in time to be counted. This clause is framed to permit a postal ballot-paper being returned to any other divisional returning officer, and my reason for moving the amendment is that I consider it would be sufficient if the ballot-paper were returned to any ‘presiding officer, not necessarily the divisional returning officer. This would often ensure the registration of votes which would otherwise not be recorded. A man who is qualified to act as a presiding officer, and to deal with absent votes, is qualified to deal also with postal votes. Indeed, his responsibility in respect of absent votes is greater than that which would devolve upon him in connexion withpostal votes.
– Does the honorable member mean the presiding officer at any polling booth?
– Yes. He would simply ‘have to receive the envelopes containing the postal votes and forward them to the divisional returning officer concerned. My object in moving this amendment is to ensure that no person who is entitled to vote shall, through no fault of his own, be deprived of his vote. Under the existing law large numbers of formal postal votes are disallowed at every election because they do not reach the divisional returning officer within the time specified in the act. I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to accept the amendment?
– I am afraid that I cannot accept it.
.- I should like to see the provisions relating to postal voting wiped out. Postal voting opens the door more widely to corrupt practices than is possible in connexion with any other form of voting. Postal voting is not by any means secret. There would be no check on the presiding officers, and no certainty that the votes would be forwarded to the divisional returning officers.
– The check would be the same as it is now in. respect of absent votes.
– I have seen too much of postal voting to support the amendment. I know that many postal votes never reach the divisional returning officers. If the amendment is agreed to, very rigid regulations will have to be framed to ensure that all postal votes will be forwarded to the divisional returning officers. The presiding ofiicers are not all angels; at times they might “ forget “ to forward the papers. We should not leave any loophole by which electors could be deprived of their votes. The existing legislation provides that electors must record their votes at the polling booth before 8 p.m. on the day of polling. It would be difficult to ensure that that provision would be observed in connexion with postal votes. I think it is better to leave things as they are than to accept the amendment.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning). Now that voting is compulsory, we should make it easy for electors to record their votes. It is strange to see honorable members opposite, who have protested strongly that other provisions in this bill may have the effect of disfranchising electors, now objecting to facilities being provided for electors to record their votes. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) suggested that the ballot-papers might not reach the divisional returning officers, but Icannot understand his reason for having such fears or see that any wrong would be done by agreeing to the amendment.
– It is not a question of wrong, but of convenience.
– People far removed from polling booths, aswell as those who because of sickness or domestic ties, find it difficult to attend a polling booth, should be given every facility to record their votes’. I hope that the committee will accept the amendment.
.- I hope that the committee will not entertain the proposal embodied in the amendment. To-day the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) spoke in high terms of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Other honorable members have referred to the high standard of efficiency and integrity of the divisional returning officers. I pay tribute to those with whom I have come in contact. The Commonwealth electoral system is almost perfect, notwithstanding that at times inconvenience is caused to electors. Insofar as the conduct of elections is concerned, I do not think that the Commonwealth electoral laws or its electoral officers could be bettered. That is my opinion after a fairly long experience of electoral matters, both before and since I became a member of this Parliament. All the divisional returning ofiicers that I know are responsible men who have a job to do and do it well. If I had the same confidence in all of the presiding officers I should he disposed to support the amendment.
– Why is the honorable member suspicious of certain presiding officers ?
– Because in some cases they are irresponsible persons.
– They are selected by the divisional returning officers.
– I know they are; hut that does not invest them all with a sense of the responsibility of their position.
– All they will have to do if the amendment is carried will be to receive envelopes containing the ballotpapers, and forward them to the divisional returning officer.
– That is so. Whenever possible the divisional returning officers appoint as presiding officers members of the Commonwealth or the State public services. Usually the men selected are officers employed in the Post and Telegraph Department, school teachers, and so on. But there are many remote districts where public servants are not available, and where the divisional returning officer has to appoint station managers, storekeepers, and other persons not easily get-atable, and, therefore, not responsible in the sense that they have no job to lose. There are station managers and station managers. One station manager of my acquaintance was in the employ of Sir Sidney Kidman at a time when he owned nearly one-half of the Darling electoral division. He may have been a good servant to Sir Sydney, but I should not like that gentleman to handle the votes of any electors in the Darling division.
– What station is that ?
– He was managing one of Sir Sidney Kidman’s stations of about 200,000 acres.
– I presume the honorable member knows that party organizers sometimes collect these votes.
– I am aware of that, and I commend that portion of the act which provides penalties for any interference by organizers or canvassers. I should welcome the amendment of the honorable member for Macquarie if I had the same confidence in presiding officers as I have in divisional returning officers. In my opinion, it would be dangerous to allow some storekeepers, hotelkeepers, bookmakers’ clerks, shop assistants, station managers or jackeroos, who may be appointed as presiding officers, to handle postal votes. The divisional returning officer for the Kalgoorlie division, right in the heart of the
State of Western Australia, has no hope of getting public servants to act as presiding ofiicers at all polling places, and therefore must depend upon station managers, jackeroos, or boundary riders to preside at a number of subdivisional polling booths. To allow some of the people who act as presiding officers to receive postal votes would, in my opinion, be dangerous. After all, what does the honorable member seek in this amendment? He seeks an extension of time for the receipt of postal votes.
– Why not allow a still further extension of two or three days?
– My object is to give to postal voters the same privileges that other electors enjoy, but no more.
– An applicant for a postal vote should be cognisant of the provisions of the act dealing with this class of vote, and, therefore, should lodge his application in time to allow of the ballot-paper being returned to the divisional returning officer by the day of polling.
– Only sick electors need use the postal vote; others may vote as absentee electors.
– As a matter of fact, the amendment does not affect sick people.
– A voter may meet with an accident and break his leg two or three days prior to polling. Why should he be denied the franchise?
– A voter may die, too. It is not possible, by legislation, to provide for all contingencies. I hope, therefore, that the committee will reject the amendment.
.- I urge the Minister (Mr. Marr) to reconsider his decision. His attitude suggests a lack of confidence in the divisional returning officers who appoint the presiding officers. ‘
– In many cases their choice is restricted.
– I agree with the honorable member, and I submit it is to the credit of the divisional returning ofiicers that they always select men with first class qualifications who can be absolutely relied upon. The committee has already agreed, on the motion of the honorable member, to add to the long list of persons entitled to act as authorized witnesses, “ all engineers engaged upon road construction “ and “ all mail contractors.” I suggest that the witnessing of an application for a postal vote is more important than the receiving of a ballot-paper and forwarding it to the divisional returning officer. If we can trust our presiding officers to go through all the formalities of recording and counting votes on polling day, surely we can trust them to receive postal votes and transmit them to the divisional returning officers. I have known of many cases in which, owing to the difficulty of obtaining witnesses, postal votes, have reached the divisional returning officer too late to be included in the count. Those honorable members who are opposed to the amendment, are unnecessarily suspicious. I am confident that we can trust the presiding officers to do their duty.
Dr. MALONEY (Melbourne [10.39].- In the matter of postal voting I can claim an experience which no other honorable member has had. I was defeated at one election, helped by presiding officers who were personal friends of my opponent, the late Sir Malcolm McEachern. Three ballot-boxes which assured me a majority disappeared during the night of polling, with the result that when the poll was announced these boxes put me in a minority. Out of the number of presiding officers and others appointed by the then Lord Mayor of Melbourne, five were corrupt. This was offered in evidence before the High Court of Australia, which annulled the election. When the case was about to come before the court, five men went to South Africa with their passages paid. Another instance occurred when Senator Findley was standing for Melbourne, and I was acting as his secretary. One councillor was stationed at a booth taking the photograph of every man who looked like a worker. I complained to the man in charge of the booth, but he was a great friend of the opponent of Senator Findley. I said that we would have to take the. law into bur own hands, so I went round the booths and kicked to pieces no less than three cameras. I asked the men who had the cameras to put in a claim for them. They declined, and no claim was ever made. I placed the broken cameras in the hands of the police, saying that they constituted circumstantial evidence. I hope that the committee will not accept this widening of the act. I agree with the honorable member for Ballarat, when he says that, if he had the power, he would do away with all voting by post.
– That would be all very well for electorates like Melbourne and Ballarat. It is a different thing in the country.
– I have had to vote in country electorates, and not only in Melbourne. I lived in Gippsland as a selector at a time when the honorable member was probably a baby in arms. I have taken a whole day to walk 11 miles to record my vote.
– Then the honorable member should have some sympathy withothers.
– I have; but I do not wish to see any corruption or fraud such as has been experienced in the past. In the block in the city of Melbourne, bounded by Spring, Elizabeth, Victoria and Bourke-streets, more postal votes were sent in during the election of which I speak than for the whole of Western Australia, with its great spaces, the whole of South Australia, or the whole of Tasmania, for two of its elections. That was given in evidence before the commission which was held at that time. I do not blame Sir Malcolm McEachern for what occurred, but I do blame those two infernal secretaries he had. One of them ultimately robbed an insurance company, and ran away with £20,000 of the company’s funds. That, was my experience of postal voting, and of presiding officers in the city of Melbourne. Most of them were friends of the then Lord Mayor, and they all occupied very high positions; but when there was a threat that they might be brought up to give evidence in the witness box, they felt very small indeed. I hope that the committee will not pass this amendment. I recognize, of course, that conditions are very different now from what they were during the time of which I have been speaking. During the many years which have elapsed since then, I have never found anything irregular in the actions of any officers of the Electoral Department, and I have watched them very closely. I have never known one of them to do the disgraceful and degrading things that were done then.
– I represent an area in which postal voting should bc of more use than in any other; but, strange to say, there were fewer such votes cast in my electorate during the last election than in any other place. It is difficult to say how the provision can be amended so as to make it easier for my electors to record their votes. I do not think that anything we can do can help them. There are men and women in the far outback spaces of my electorate - on the South Australian border - who have never voted either at a State or Federal election.
– Do they know when an election is being held ?
– Some of them may not even know that. During the last election it took nine weeks in some cases after the making of an application for the voting paper to arrive. The act makes provision for returning the postal votes to the nearest divisional returning officer, and in the case of some of my constituents the nearest returning officer would be in Mr. Blakeley’s electorate of Darling, New South Wales, or at Adelaide through Farina. In many places in the back country there is only a fortnightly mail; so that it would take a fortnight to get the application paper. Then the elector has to hunt round to get it witnessed and send it to the divisional returning officer at Dalby. The ballot-paper is then posted back right through Adelaide to Farina, as far as the mail is carried, after’ which people have to go 40 or 60 miles for it. Thus, the election would probably be over before the ballot-papers could be received and returned to the returning officer.
– The difficulty might be mitigated if those absentees outside a State were given the right to vote in a polling booth.
– But there is no such thing as a polling-booth in the out-back places except at points 100 miles apart. There may be only the manager of a station, his wife, and one or two men, the rest being blacks. There are not enough people in a 50-mile radius to furnish the requisite number of ten or twelve for a polling-booth. In the nearer places where there are weekly mails, this provision might possibly be of some assistance, but everything depends upon being able to reach an authorized witness in the first place. A station manager is now authorized to act in this capacity; but it is still necessary to get a voting paper from the nearest post office, which often means a delay of a fortnight. Then, it is necessary to find an authorized witness to witness the postal vote and to send the papers back. If the applicant misses the mail, which is quite easy to do, when it is necessary to go 20, or perhaps 40, miles to post a letter, the delay is so great that the election might be over before the voting paper reaches the returning officer. In the more ‘closely settled farming areas this provision might be of some help. I do not think that there would be any abuses in such areas, but in the city this would simply open wide the door for abuses. When the postal-voting system was first introduced, and every second man was made a justice of the peace for the purpose of collecting votes, the system was undoubtedly abused. The difficulty seems to be that those who should be really helped by such a provision as this, will not derive much benefit from it. It will benefit only sick people. After all, the clause widens the section, because if an elector lives 5 miles away from a polling booth, he will be allowed to record a postal vote. But I cannot see much justification for that. If he lives 5 miles from a booth, no doubt he has a buggy or motor car, and it is as easy for ,him to travel 10 miles as 5 miles, especially as he will have to go that distance to find a witness first to his application, and a second time to his ballot-paper.
– All the men working on stations do not own motor cars.
– It is easier for them to vote as absentees than to record postal votes. . We know what happens at shearing sheds on election day in the back country. Every shed is visited by a representative of the Australian Workers’ Union, and the employees know that if no motor cars belonging to the shearers are available, other cars will be there to provide means of recording their votes. Every care is taken to see that workmen in the back country are enabled to exercise the franchise.
– What about the poor farmers ?
– I have a fairly large number of farmers in my electorate, and nobody knows more about their conditions and is more anxious than I am to give them every opportunity to vote; but I cannot see that if we allowed them to send a postal vote to the nearest presiding officer it would benefit them at all. If I could benefit them and at the same time prevent abuse in the thickly populated centres I would do it; but if we accept the amendment it will open the door to abuse such as was experienced in days gone by, and at the same time do little good for those who should be helped. I remember numbers of men in my own State being made justices of the peace merely for the purpose of collecting postal votes until the system became a farce. Paragraph e of section 92 states -
The’ authorized witness shall then and there place the ballot-paper in the envelope addressed to the divisional returning officer, fasten the envelope, and hand it to the. voter who shall forthwith post or deliver it, or cause it to be posted or delivered, to the divisional returning officer.
If the voter is going to “ cause it to be delivered,” it may mean paid canvassers travelling round with a motor car and taking delivery of it.
– There are some roads over which nobody could travel.
– In that case then they cannot travel to deliver their papers ; but if they had travelled to deliver their voting papers they could vote while at the booth delivering them, which is silly.
– Some polling booths are located much further back than post offices.
– Much could be said in support of the objection to postal votes being addressed to other than divisional returning officers. But it would be a great convenience if they could be sent to the assistant returning officers. In my electorate, for instance, applications for postal votes might have been sent to Windorah or Thargomindah instead of to Dalby. It would be possible to have some hold upon the assistant returning officers, because in all cases they are government officers; but it would be impossible to exercise the same control over presiding officers. The honorable member for Darwin said that the votes could be posted.
– No, they are delivered.
– I said in the first instance that if it was possible to deliver them the electors could vote as absentees. Then the honorable member said, “You can post it.” Imagine addressing a postal vote to the presiding officer at a certain polling booth, when the officer probably lived miles away from that booth, which would probably be located at the ‘nearest school? The mailman would look for the school; but he would not know who the presiding officer was. If a letter were addressed to a presiding officer at a certain polling booth, one could not be sure that it would be delivered, and the ballot-paper might be floating round for days from hand to hand.
– Some polling booths simply consist of a few boards ; there may not even be a hut.
– In some cases, if there is a hut, it may have been deserted for 40 years and used only on the day of election as a polling booth. The returning officer rides to the booth on polling day ; but if a letter is addressed to him at that polling centre, how can he be found? I cannot see how the provision can be extended in the way proposed and abuses prevented at the same time.
– I have a good deal of sympathy with the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), if it can be applied. Similar difficulties to those mentioned by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) are experienced in the outlying parts of Western Australia. Very few of the employees on certain outback stations are able to record their vote at all, because they live too far from a polling booth. They are not visited at election time by the representatives of the Australian Workers’ Union whom the honorable member for Maranoa says are thickly distributed over his electorate. Usually station owners do not provide their men with facilities to vote ; in fact, the station owners themselves do not always record their votes, owing to the distance to be travelled. An elector wishing to record a postal vote outback, from Wyndham, for instance, has to utilize a six-weekly mail service in obtaining an application form for a postal vote from the divisional returning officer at Kalgoorlie. He has then to wait six weeks for its return, and when he has ultimately got his postal ballot-paper, and has recorded his vote, another six weeks elapses before it is received by the divisional returning officer. In cases of this kind an elector would be fortunate if he completed the transaction in four months. In these circumstances the position is very difficult, and any proposal submitted to prevent electors in the outback portions of the Commonwealth from being disfranchised will have my warmest support. I can see the possibility of some presiding officers being partisans, as they cannot always be selected with great care, but if in outback districts it were possible to utilize the services of official postmasters, whom every one can trust, the position would be simplified. I am not able to make any suggestions in this regard, but if the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) can impress upon the Minister (Mr. Marr) the necessity of going into that phase of the question and he can submit a proposal in keeping with my suggestions I shall be prepared to support it. On the other hand I would sooner see those who complain of the absence of adequate voting without postal votes than that postal votes should be allowed to pass through the hands of partisans.
– As a representative of a very large constituency, extensive areas of which are but sparsely populated, I have no hesitation in supporting the amendment of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning). I believe that every effort should be made to . provide for facilities for every qualified elector to vote, particularly those in the remote parts of Australia who suffer in consequence of infrequent mail services. As mentioned by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green), they have to apply to the divisional returning officers for an application form for’ a postal vote, and if there is any difficulty in obtaining the signature of the necessary authorizing witness, and they are unfortunate enough to miss the mail, a very long period elapses before the application is received. When the postal ballot-paper is ultimately forwarded to the elector he has to again see an authorized witness and then record his vote, and, as the honorable member for Macquarie has urged, it should then be permissible to address it to the nearest presiding officer, otherwise it will reach the divisional returning officer too late to be of any use. Electors in the out-back portions of the Commonwealth should be given every opportunity to record their votes, and I shall do all I can to assist them. An absent, voter records his vote at the polling-booth, and it is then sent to the divisional returning officer, and there does not appear to be any valid reason why a postal vote should not be handed in on election day in the same way. I do not know why some electors are given every facility to vote as absent voters whilst similar facilities are not provided for those who wish to record a postal vote.
– The provision for postal voting waa first embodied in the Electoral Act, then repealed, and later re-inserted. The postal-voting system must be surrounded by all possible restrictions, as votes recorded in this way can easily be manipulated. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter), and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green), have directed attention to the inconvenience experienced by electors in the outback portions of Australia ; but it must be remembered that whatever system is in operation there are always some who are deprived of the opportunity to record their votes. That disability will always exist unless the period in which they are allowed to vote is extended.
– That would he serious.
– It might he. There is always a doubt as to whether all postal votes reach their proper destination.
– But what about absent votes ?
– They are counted and sent to the divisional returning officer.
– A postal vote could be placed in an envelope just as an absent vote is dealt with.
– An absent vote is recorded under the control of the officer conducting the poll; but postal votes, particularly those recorded by sick persons, have to pass through a number of hands. We have heard of quite a number of cases where electors have handed their- postal votes to persons who have not despatched them to the divisional returning officer. There are, of course, many who would honestly handle postal votes ; but I trust that the Minister will not be ininfluenced by the speeches of some honorable members opposite, and that the amendment of the honorable member for Macquarie will be rejected.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) what appears to be an anomaly under the Commonwealth Superannuation Act, which is causing considerable hardship to certain persons. If a public servant should die while he is single his next of kin are not entitled to a refund of the amount he has contributed to the superannuation fund; hut should he retire at any time, or be dismissed for any cause, even for a misdemeanour, a refund is made. I know of the case of a single man, a member of the Commonwealth Public Service, who was, if not the sole, at least the substantial support of aged parents. During his lifetime he contributed at the rate of about £2 10s. a fortnight for eight units of pension, obviously with the intention that, should death overtake him, his dependants would not be. left unprovided for; but on his death no refund was allowable. The anomaly lies in the fact that should a single woman in the service die, the amount which she has contributed is returned to her next of kin. I ask the Treasurer to give this matter his sympathetic consideration.
.- I also desire to bring before the notice of the Treasurer a very serious anomaly that operates against four or five officers of the Navigation Department whose services were retained by the State of Victoria at the inauguration of federation, but who later were taken over by the Commonwealth Department. They could not take advantage of the Victorian Superannuation Act, and because they were over 30 years of age at the time that they came under our Superannuation Fund they are obliged to contribute to that fund at the rate of £2 a week when their contributions should amount to not more . than 8s. a week. If the Treasurer has in mind the rectification of anomalies that have manifested themselves in the administration of the act, I ask him to give consideration to the case of these officials.
– The contributions under the Commonwealth Superannuation Act are on an actuarial basis, and for that reason the fund is in a solvent state. Honorable members are aware that the various States have had superannuation funds, some of which have crashed with serious results to the contributors, because they have not kept strictly to the line of actuarial righteousness. The federal fund is at present on a safe basis, and it seems to me that if further benefits are to be provided the question of additional contributions will have to be considered. If the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) will supply me with a statement of his case in writing I give him my assurance that his representations will be considered if it should be proposed at any time to introduce amending legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 May 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280530_reps_10_118/>.