10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Six Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister if in regard to its National Insurance proposals the Government will follow the example set in connexion with the introduction of the “ Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. It will be remembered that the second reading of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was moved and the measure explained by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) last year so that suoh persons as were vitally interested in the measure, and trade unionists in particular, might discuss its contents before the debate on it was resumed in this House. I have had a number of communications from persons connected with the great friendly society movement asking if similar facilities will be extended to them, bo that they may be able to discuss the provisions of the National Insurance Bill, and place their views before honorable members before the bill comes to be debated by them.
– I am afraid that it will not be possible to introduce the National Insurance Bill before the forthcoming adjournment. The friendly societies have appointed a committee of three to discuss with the Government the questions which will be the subject of the proposed legislation. That discussion has not yet taken place, and there will not be time for Ministers to meet those representatives and have the hill ready for introduction before the House adjourns.
– I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the following cablegram, which appeared in the press within the last few days: -
AGREEMENT WITH ITALY.
Some mystification has been caused by Mr.
Bruce’s announcement that an agreement has . been reached with Italy to limit her migrants to 3,000 for the next twelve months. The Director of the Foreign Office says that no such negotiations have been proceeding, and that no such agreement has been made. Italy was still restricting her emigration to Italian colonies or the Mediterranean. At present she was nut granting 250 visas a month for Australia, and then only when the employment of the migrant was assured.
I wish the right honorable gentleman to explain how he reconciles the statement by the Director of the Foreign Office at Rome with the following statement made by himself: -
After discussion with the Italian ConsulGeneral, and correspondence with his Government, an arrangement has been come to with the utmost goodwill on the part of all concerned, and which has the co-operation of the Italian Government, limiting the number of Italian migrants to arrive in Australia during the present year to 3,000 for the whole twelve- months.
– The Consul-General for Italy in Australia is a consul de carriere, and it has been the practice for- the Commonwealth Government to discuss various matters with him instead of directly with the Italian Government. Many matters have been so settled, the Consul-General being on the spot, and informed of all the circumstances. That arrangement has proved satisfactory. The limiting of the number- of Italian migrants to Australia was arranged with the Consul-General, who is thoroughly acquainted with the subject, and the understanding arrived at will be- adhered to ; but in view of the cablegram read by the honorable member, I shall take steps to communicate directly, with the Italian Government as well as with the ConsulGeneral, in order to prevent the possibility of any misunderstanding. The cablegram itself indicates that it is the policy of the Italian Government to restrict migration from Italy. That policy was initiated in September last, and the discussions I have had with the Italian Consul-General in Australia have been to determine, how many visas may, without, inflicting hardships on any, be granted this year to enable persons coming within the class of permitted migrants to leave Italy to join relatives in Australia. After consideration, the Consul-General has indicated that the number of visas he would recommend to meet the applications of relatives already resident in Australia would be limited to 3,000 for the full year, making the monthly migration, so far as practicable, even. The persons allowed to migrate from Italy must be female relatives or fathers or sons of Italians now residing in Australia.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that some warehouses in Australia refuse to handle Australian woollen goods labelled “made in Australia,” or bearing the trade mark of the Australian manufacturer? If so, does he not think that that is job control of the most pernicious kind, and will he take immediate steps to see that foreign traders and anti-Australians are stopped from sabotaging Australian industry in this way?
– I have no knowledge of the existence of the practice to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall have inquiries made into the subject. As to his second inquiry, it is not customary for Ministers, in reply to questions, to give their individual opinions. Finally, I cannot endorse the extraordinary language used by the honorable member in his third question.
Mr. MACKAY, as Chairman, presented the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed Australian war memorial at Canberra.
Ordered to be printed.
– Has the Prime Minister any information later than that contained in this morning’s newspapers regarding the progress of Captain KingsfordSmith and his companions on the flight from Honolulu to Suva?
– I have no official information on the subject, but I have unofficial advice, which I believe to be correct, that the gallant and intrepid aviators have arrived at Suva. The last authoritative message we received was that they were four hours from Suva, and had sufficient petrol for seven hours’ flying. Subsequently we were informed that the aviators had completed the flight of 3,100 miles to Suva. That is certainly an outstanding performance in the history of aviation.
– Whilst one deprecates unnecessary hazards in connexion with flights across the ocean, one cannot but admire bravery ; and I ask the Prime Minister whether full use will be made of the navy to patrol the waters between the Australian coast and Fiji, with a view to rendering any assistance that may be required by the intrepid aviators who are risking their lives?
– The civil aviation and the navy authorities have been consulted in regard to this matter, and everything of. a practical nature that can be done to ensure the safety of the aviators on the last lap of their flight, will be done.
– Is it the intention of the Government, when Captain Kingsford Smith arrives in Australia, to extend an invitation to him to visit Canberra ?
– No decision has yet been, come to in the matter.
– I ask the Treasurer what rate of interest will be charged to residents of Canberra who wish to avail themselves of the Commonwealth Housing Scheme ?
– When that matter has been determined by the Federal Capital Commission and the Commonwealth Savings Bank, I shall let the honorable member know.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, after the receipt of Mr. Justice Pike’s report on soldier land settlement, the Government, before formulating any new proposals in regard to soldier land settlers, will afford the House an opportunity to examine the report, and express its views as to what measure of further assistance should be given by the Commonwealth to the States?
– I shall endeavour to afford such an opportunity, but cannot give a definite undertaking to do so.
Conditions of Building Contracts.
– In reply to ques tions which I asked regarding the practice of the Federal Capital Commission in insisting that contractors shall purchase their supplies from the Commission’s stores, the Minister for Home and Territories promised that a copy of the specifications would be placed upon the table of the Library. I find that a list of the prices charged by the Commission for certain goods has been laid on the table of the Library, but the papers do not include a copy of the specifications, or the contract by which the Commission is able to compel contractors to buy their supplies from the Commission’s stores. I ask the Minister to see that a copy- of the specifications is tabled in accordance with his promise.
– I shall look into the matter immediately.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the members of the delegation of Scottish Australians at present visiting the United Kingdom were officially requested not to speak publicly in encouragement of migration, and whether he has received any communication 011 this subject from the delegation since it arrived in Scotland?
– No official instructions whatever were given to- the Scottish delegation to which the honorable member refers. That delegation consists of a number of Australian citizens of Scottish extraction who are re-visiting their mother country at their own expense, and as private individuals. The extent to which they may choose to urge other Scottish people to migrate to Australia is entirely a matter within their own discretion ; no official instructions have been given to them on the subject The only official communication with* the delegation of which I have any knowledge is a letter from the Development and Migration Commission, granting an application for leaflets and propaganda matter; but asking that, if other such matter was to be used, the Commission might have an opportunity of seeing it, to make sure that any statements it might contain were authoritative. It was also suggested that in such circumstances there should be some consultation between the heads of the delegation and representatives of the Commission. No official communication has been received from the delegation since its arrival in Scotland.
– In regard to the recent pre-selection of a Nationalist candidate for the electorate of Martin, I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the following extracts from the Sydney Sunday Times of the 3rd June : -
Glaring Malpractices Condoned by Nationalist Executive.
Delegates Umoittingly Spill the Beans.
The Mystery of Two “ New Members “ who sat in Meeting Room and Disappeared in Red Taxi.
Sunday Times Exclusive Exposure Feature
Though every effort is being made to conceal the true state of affairs, the Sunday Times can now, definitely and emphatically, say that the selection of the Nationalist candidate for Martin to succeed the late Mr. H. E. Pratten, was marked by methods of the grossest malpractice and the most unseemly wire-pulling. . . .
As the Government has adopted the doubtful practice of appointing royal commissions to investigate allegations published in the press and unsupported by other testimony, will the Prime Minister recognize the propriety of appointing a royal commission to inquire into the Martin pre-selection, or at least have it investigated by any appropriate tribunal that may be functioning in the near future?
– I have not seen the article to which the honorable member has referred, nor have I any knowledge of the circumstances with which it deals, but I am certain that it is an exaggeration. In regard to the second part of the honorable member’s question, the charges made in the Sunday Times are not sufficiently important to warrant the appointment of a royal commission or an investigation by any tribunal already appoiuted. The Government would be very busy appointing royal commissions if all the allegations in regard to improper practices in connexion with the pre-selection of candidates of the honorable member’s party were to be inquired into.
– In view of the statements that have appeared in the press, and the question of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) regarding pre-selection methods, will the Minister for Home and Territories seriously consider the advisability of recommitting the Electoral Act, with a view to inserting in it a clause prohibiting the practice of preselection, particularly as preferential voting was introduced to eliminate the need for that practice?
– With his very considerable parliamentary experience, the honorable member must be aware that I cannot deal with a matter of policy when answering questions.
– Regarding the recent pre-selection ballot for a Nationalist candidate for the Martin electorate, will the Prime Minister be good enough to supply the House with the facts upon which he relied when he states that the version of the incident given in the newspaper which I have quoted, and which he has not read, was greatly exaggerated ?
– The facts upon which I relied are the known reputation and high standards of the Nationalist party.
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways inform the House how much of the Canberra-Tumut road has been constructed, and is in a passable condition at this end, and how much at the Tumut end ? Also, what connecting length is needed to complete a passable road between the two towns? If the honorable member cannot reply now, will he obtain the information, and supply the House with a definite statement as to the estimated cost of providing a passable road between Tumut and Canberra ?
– I am unable to supply the information now, but will make the necessary inquiries and let the House know the result.
Replies to Questions
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The unsatisfactory, evasive, and misleading replies furnished by the Federal Capital Commission to questions by members of this House.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- On the 30th May last the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) asked the following question of the Minister for Home and Territories (Sir Neville Howse) : -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
An uneasy feeling exists throughout Australia regarding the administration of the affairs of the Federal Capital by the Federal Capital Commission. It is felt that a good deal of money is being utterly wasted. When honorable members seek information as to what is being done by the Federal Capital Commission, they are supplied with answers that are sometimes untruthful. That is a very serious thing. I know of my personal knowledge that the answers I ave quoted, if not deliberate falsehoods, are at least falsehoods. The streets in the suburb of Forrest were not lighted for the whole of the year 1927; in fact, it was not until the 13th May of this year that any arrangement was made for lighting them. Yet I have in my possession rate notices served upon residents of that suburb charging them, for the year 1927, with a lighting rate of 2d. in the £1 on the unimproved value of their land. I do not blame the Minister. He has to rely upon the answers that he receives from the Federal Capital Commission. But I state unhesitatingly that 1 can provide a dozen sworn declarations showing that rate notices had been served before the reply that I have quoted was given to the honorable member ‘ for Bourke. I take a very serious view of that happening. The answers supplied by the Federal Capital Commission were untruthful. This Parliament is responsible to the people of Australia for the development of Canberra, and, although we created the. Federal Capital Commission, and gave it extensive powers, we cannot permit it to be above the Federal Parliament. We desire to know what is going on, and I resent strongly the action of the Federal Capital Commission in supplying to honorable members answers of that character. I am positive that, upon investigation, the Minister will find that he has been badly betrayed in this matter, and, if this is so, those to blame should be dealt with accordingly.
– They have been dealt with, as I have already told the honorable member. I have shown him the papers.
– I know that an apology has been received; but that is not sufficient. I remember that when the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) was subjected to similar treatment, the then Minister (Brigadier- General Sir Granville Ryrie) dealt drastically with the persons who supplied the misleading information. Last Thursday I told the Minister that the information that he had received was false, and I also informed him that I would bring the fact before the House on the first possible occasion. I am doing so this afternoon, and drawing public attention to the manner in which honorable members are being treated by the Federal Capital Commission when they seek information. It is a very serious position, and I trust that the commissioner concerned, even though he may be a titled person, may be properly dealt with. It must be made apparent to the Federal Capital Commission that when a question is placed upon the noticepaper the answer to it must be true, irrespective of who may be injured or benefited. Every honorable member requires the absolute truth concerning happenings in Canberra, and I have moved this motion as a protest against the way in which questions have been answered by the Federal Capital Commission.
– I told the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) to-day that I regret very much the reply that was supplied to the honorable member for Bourke. The honorable ‘ member asked the following question : -
Is it a fact that demands for lighting rates for the period ended 31st December, 1927, have now been issued by the Commission in respect of land where lighting service lias been installed only during the past few weeks ? to which I replied -
I am advised by the Federal Capital Commission that this is not so.
To-day I received from the Chief Commissioner the following statement on the subject : -
I regret to have to inform you that further inquiry into the matter has revealed the fact that the answers supplied should not have been submitted in the form in which they were tendered to you. It has now been ascertained that lighting rate notices were issued in respect of one or two subdivisions, the lighting of which was not, in fact, installed until subsequent to the 31st December, 1927, and in those cases the notices will be withdrawn. I may say that the arrangements made prior to the issue of the notices were such that it was not thought possible that such a position as has arisen could occur, and a specific query which I had made at the time that the answer was given confirmed that the instruction had been carried out, but it now transpires that the information which formed the basis for the issue of notices was inaccurate.
That is a clear aud honest statement of an error which might quite easily be made in controlling a big public undertaking such as the Federal Capital Territory. It must be remembered that these reports are made by officers of different departments. The engineer inadvertently made this report to the Chief Commissioner, aud he naturally received it in good faith. The officer has been dealt with. I think that that is a full explanation of how the error occurred.
Mr. ANSTEY (Bourke) ra.31].- I can quite understand that a mistake might be made by the engineer, but if the officer has been punished or made to bear responsibility in any way for a fault of the Commission, it is quite wrong. This is not the only instance in which incorrect replies to questions asked by honorable members have been furnished by the Commission. On numerous occasions the replies which have been supplied to the Minister by the Federal Capital Commission to questions asked by honorable members in relation to matters affecting the Federal Territory have, obviously been subterfuges; but the Government has not taken any steps to remedy that state of affairs. I could recite a number of such instances, but I shall content myself with giving merely one instance of a deliberately evasive reply. Some time ago I drew the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories to the fact that certain buildings were being erected on the site set apart for the purposes of a university. In reply I was informed that the buildings “were of temporary construction.” When I called the attention of the Minister to the fact that some of the buildings were costing more than £3,000, I was told that “temporary construction” did not mean temporary construction, but something else. Nobody seemed to know what it did mean. There was a suggestion that it meant constructions of wood. I understand that part of the alterations made at Yarralumla are constructed of wood. Are we to understand that they also are of a temporary character? The reply which the Minister has just given to the question asked by the honorable member for Ballarat is another subterfuge, and the Commission is aware of that. I say this because directly the rate notices were issued an honorable member of this
House who supports the Government, brought the matter under the notice of the Commission, and it justified its action. In these circumstances, we cannot accept the statement which the Minister has just made on behalf of the Commission, that the previous answer was inadvertently supplied by the engineerincharge. I have no doubt whatever that the Commission knows very well the nature of the reply to every question asked in Parliament before it goes out of its office. It takes good care that nothing goes out until it has been examined. The reply furnished to the honorable member for Ballarat is typical of numerous replies furnished by the Commission to questions asked by honorable members. The Commission seems to be proud of its security and apparent impregnability, and considers that it is justified in supplying any information it pleases to questions which are asked in this House.
.- The honorable member for Ballarat has acted wisely in bringing this matter under notice, even though the Minister has said that in this particular case the Commission has admitted that an error has been made, and has corrected it. That has been due, however, wholly to the zeal with which honorable members have pursued this inquiry, and have insisted upon ascertaining the facts. I do not forget, nor do I lose a suitable opportunity of pointing out, that in respect of a very serious matter, which has now passed into history, I once submitted questions to the Minister in charge of the Repatriation Department and received answers to them which were glaringly incorrect. I am sorry to say that I received very little sympathy on that occasion from the Minister then in charge of Repatriation, the present Treasurer. He might well have taken his courage iu both hands and stated deliberately, in the interests of the honour of Parliament and the safety of the privileges and rights of honorable members, that those answers were obviously and glaringly incorrect. In that case there was neither an apology nor a withdrawal. In fact, the gentlemen responsible for the mis-statements persisted in them, and they remain uncorrected to the present day. I have not been in a. position to push the matter further. There are many things about the Federal
Capital Territory respecting which one would like a little more information if he could count upon that supplied being perfectly reliable.
– Even our parliamentary standing committees cannot get reliable information.
– Possibly, in consequence of honorable members being brought into such close contact with the residents of the Territory, from some points of view the grievances of this community receive a disproportionate amount of attention from Parliament ; but, on the other hand, it must be remembered that the people here are not directly represented in this or any other Parliament. I feel sure that honorable members do not desire that anomaly to continue indefinitely. I myself shall not feel comfortable while any section of the people of Australia are being robbed of their elementary right to the franchise.
– That matter is beyond the scope of the motion.
– As another illustration of the kind of thing of which the honorable member for Ballarat has rightly complained, I call attention to the fact that a number I of questions have been asked in the House regarding the cost of various buildings in the Federal Capital Territory, notably the property known as Yarralumla, which was recently reno.vated for the residence of His Excellency the Governor-General. The replies given were apparently candid, and presumably accurate. We were informed, for instance, that the additions and alterations to Yarralumla cost £73,000 with furnishing, and £52,000 without.
– Is the place a castle or a mansion?
– It is quite a modest residence. No one could justly complain of its undue magnificence, having regard to the purpose for which it was re-designed. _ It is the more remarkable that such an astounding sum should have been sunk in a comparatively ordinary building. We were also informed that the wooden structure used as a dwelling by the aides-de-camp cost more than £5,000, and that the quarters for the female staff cost £4,300.
– The motion relates only to replies furnished by the Federal
Capital Commission to questions asked by honorable members.
– My object in mentioning these matters is to direct attention to the fact that according to press reports and information at my disposal, every effort that has been made to substantiate these figures has proved abortive. So far, the efforts of the Public Accounts Committee and every other authority to probe to the bottom of the matter have failed. It is for that reason that I venture to draw attention to it. I read in the press that when this matter was inquired into by the Public Accounts Committee, Sir John Butters disposed of it by saying “Ask Sir John Harrison,” and Sir John Harrison, another member of the Federal Capital Commission, further illuminated the situation by saying “Ask Sir John Butters.” There the matter stands. When the attention of these gentlemen was directed to answers to questions read in this chamber as to the cost of that work, they were incredulous, though they should have been in a position to know the facts. Sir John Harrison said the work could not have cost the amount stated, notwithstanding that we have it on record in the form of an answer furnished by the Commission to a question in this House that it did. Surely this is a matter for inquiry by the Minister. He should ask Sir John Harrison, a responsible member of the Federal Capital Commission, on what grounds he declared that information given by the Minister on behalf of the Commission to members of this House could not possibly be correct. But Sir John Harrison went into figures, and was able to show in detail that a particular building which, according to the reply given to the Minister had cost £5,000, could not have cost more than £3,000. At one time it was suggested that the accounts branch of the Federal Capital. Commission had furnished the information, and at another it was stated that it might have come from the architects’ branch. It seems to me that the finances of the Commonwealth are not so buoyant, the taxation so negligible, and unemployment so inconsiderable that we can afford to throw away thousands of pounds in this reckless manner on buildings in the Federal Capital Territory or anywhere else. I invite the Minister to look into this matter, and to furnish authentic and accurate information as to the cost of the reconstruction work at Yarralumla House. I am not complaining that the work was done; I think it is only right that it should have been undertaken. And I have no complaint, because I have no knowledge, as to the manner, from the workmen’s point of view, in which it was done; but I make the very definite complaint that this House seems unable to get reliable information as to the cost. It is not a matter that touches the high status of the Governor-General. It does not concern him in any way; it is merely a question of the cost of buildings. Nobody would cavil at expenditure on suitable buildings for the use of the Governor-General; but the members of this House are entitled to know the cost, how the money has been spent, and, if it has been wasted or misused, to fix the responsibility upon the right shoulders. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has rendered a useful service Wy directing attention to carelessness or inaccuracy in respect of answers furnished to Ministers for the information of honorable members. Great as is my respect for the Public Service - I have frequently borne testimony to it - I have more than once felt that certain public servants are somewhat careless in regard to the answers supplied to Ministers, and I warn Ministers that they must accept responsibility for such answers. This responsibility does not rest solely upon the departmental, heads. When Ministers realize fully their own responsibility they may be able to awaken in certain leading public servants,, a high sense of their responsibility to see that information furnished is accurate in every detail.
.- The greatest privilege enjoyed by a private member is that of asking questions concerning matters of public moment, and nothing bears more directly on the honour of Ministers than the duty of seeing that the answers given are truthful. Certainly I cannot complain that any member of the present Ministry has endeavoured to mislead me, and I have reason to be grateful to the present Minister for Home and Territories (Sir Neville Howse) for his courtesy in these matters. But Ministers realize, I am sure, that honorable members feel resentful if the answers given to questions indicate that an attempt is being made to dodge the issue. Questions which I have asked have been answered in this way, and, personally, I thank the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) for having brought this matter before the House. Also I thank the Minister for having made an inquiry, and caused an apology to be tendered. But an apology cannot be offered as an excuse for carelessness on the part of the head of a department. The responsible public servant who furnishes his Minister with unreliable information should not be permitted to escape with an apology. Only a few days ago I asked what was the population of Canberra on the 31st December, in the years from 1912 to 1927 inclusive. I was not seeking information as to the population of any other part of the Territory. What I was particularly anxious to get :’ was the population of this absurd Capital City area of 25 square miles, divided up, as it is, into 22 distinct suburbs, because I was told that I had been wrongly informed that it was 7,300, when I stated if at that figure in a letter which I wrote to the Age newspaper. The answer which I received was to the effect that in December, 1927, the population was 5,736, including Jervis Bay. I did not ask for figures relating to Jervis Bay. If I had wished to know the population of the entire Territory I would have asked for it in that form. I believe that the Federal Capital Commission purposely supplied the information in that manner in order to swell the total to over 5,000, so as to bring it into agreement with an answer given by the Minister. I realize that the blame does not rest upon the Minister. He honestly endeavoured to get the information for me. lt has some bearing on the argument that the people living in the Territory should have representation. It must be remembered that a large number of these men and women were compelled to come here. Many of them have approached the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) and myself and other members on both sides of the chamber, particularly the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott), because he is resident in Canberra. The Government should insist upon the Commission exercising its power in the right direction. The money which it has authority to expend is not its own money, nor our money, but that of the people of Australia, who to-day have no voice in the expenditure. The expenditure up to the present on this fair capital of ours can be characterized as nothing less than infamous. No less than £9,000,000 or £10,000,000 has been spent, and what can we show for it? I have asked questions, and the replies furnished by the Commission, as the Minister has admitted, have not contained the proper information, and, therefore, I shall be obliged to follow up certain questions with others in order to ascertain what is the population of Canberra, apart from Jervis Bay. The Commission, however, should not be too old to learn. Recently, one of the commissioners was under examination by the Public Accounts Committee, and, in my opinion - I will not say that it is the opinion of the members of the committee - he tried to evade questions in the most culpable manner. I have never heard the like in a witness box or elsewhere.
– Has the honorable member beenattending the meetings of the Public Accounts Committee?
– I attended one of the meetings out of curiosity, and I really wondered how a man holding such a high position, and with such a high title, could behave in the manner he did. If a Minister, or any other honorable member considers that I am exaggerating, I invite him, if that Commissioner again appears before the Public Accounts Committee, to be present at the meeting, and to judge for himself whether what I have said is correct.
. - I am not at all satisfied with the reply furnished to the Minister. It is, to say the least, untruthful. It is useless in this matter, for the Federal Capital Commissioners to attempt to throw the blame upon some subordinate. Three weeks ago the commissioners were communicated with about this charge, and they insisted that it should be paid. As a matter of fact it has been paid by some of the residents of Canberra, and yet we have been furnished with a reply regarding it which is absolutely contrary to fact. I trust that the Minister will make an immediate investigation into this matter. I ask him whether the Commission was not, three weeks ago, in possession of the information asked for by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) on the 30th May. The Commission knew that it was acting in contravention of a notice published in the Gazette. It knew that it was doing an illegal action, and yet it subsequently supplied false information to this House. Now another misleading reply has been furnished by it. If I judge the character of the Minister aright, he will summon Sir John Butters, the Chief Commissioner, before him quick and lively, and ask whether the Commission was not aware of the facts three weeks ago, and whether there was warrant for furnishing a lying report to Parliament,, and subsequently throwing the blame for it upon a subordinate. The Minister has said that the engineer at fault has been dealt with. I sincerely hope that he has not, because I do not blame him at all, particularly when I remember that the Commission was aware of the fact some weeks ago.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Is it intended to make public the report in connexion with the Bundaberg tragedy when available; if not, why not?
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has he received any official advice from the British Government or from any other source as to the attitude of the Canadian Government towards the Anglo-Egyptian treaty?
– Yes. The Commonwealth Government was informed of the attitude of the Canadian Government towards the proposed treaty between Great Britain and Egypt, when this treaty was under discussion in accordance with the procedure that is now followed in such matters.
– On the 26th April the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis) asked the following question : -
Having regard to the interest of the primary producers in cheap freights, will he inform the
House whether any of the States are still charging light dues on shipping, notwithstanding that the whole cost of lighting the Australian coast is borne by the Commonwealth; if so, what States, and what dues are they charging?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The position is that the coastal (ocean) lights only were taken over by the Commonwealth. Port lights are still being maintained by the respective States, and certain charges - called by various names - are still being levied by all States, and revenue from which is in some States applied partially to the upkeep of local lights. The following is a list of the charges levied in the respective States: -
Veto South Wales -
Harbour and Light Bates. - Fourpence per ton net register, payable every six months.
Tonnage Dues. - Sixpence per ton net register, payable every six months.
Port Bates. - Sixpence per ton.net covering 30 days. Alternatively, at vessel’s option,1s. 6d. per ton on cargo, and 1s.6d. per passenger, landed or shipped; minimum, £10.
South Australia -
Port Dues. - Threepence per ton in and out, plus 40 per cent. But vessels discharging part pay11/2d. per ton, plus 40 per cent. Maximum,6d. per ton within six months.
Western Australia -
Tonnage Dues. - One penny ton gross, for three months.
Tonnage Bates. - Interstate and New Zealand ships.1d. per ton gross; maximum, £37 10s. Oversea ships, lid. per ton gross; maximum, £50.
Harbour and River Light Dues. - One penny per ton gross, in and out.
– On the 31st May, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) asked me the following questions : -
I am now in a position to advise as follows : -
Leases - Expenditure. Sir NEVILLE HOWSE. - On the 31st May, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me the following question : -
What are the areas leased and unleased in the Federal Capital Territory, and the rentals of such areas other than city allotments, differentiating between the lands acquired and the lands presented to the Commonwealth by New South Wales?
The information asked for is as follows : - ‘
Land Acquired. - Area leased, 180,291 acres; area unleased, 31,866 acres. Rental varies from lid. per acre to 15s. per acre per annum.
Land presented to Commonwealth by New South Wales. - Area leased, 93,135 acres; area unleased, 180,809 acres. Rental varies from one-sixth of a penny per acre to 2s. 101/4d. per acre per annum.
These figures do not include certain areas which were let under conditional purchase lease by the State of New South Wales prior to the handing over of the Territory.
On the 31st May the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) asked me the following questions : -
By what amount has the estimate for expenditure upon development work in the Federal Capital Territory for the current financial year been reduced?
Will the Minister give particulars of the works in which the main reductions have been made ?
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : -
The amount of the reduction was generally distributed over the Commission’s whole programme. The principal works items affected were -
Additions to hotels and boarding houses.
Residences for lower-paid officers.,.
Civic buildings - including fire station, police station and court house, abattoirs, swimming baths.
District recreation halls.
General engineering works.
The reduction involved retarding certain works and the postponement of others until next financial year. ft
– On the 4th May the honorable member for Hunter, and on the 10th May the honorable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, brought under my notice a press report in which it was stated that ‘ a number of CzechoSlovakians had arrived in Australia in consequence of representations by an officer connected with the office of the High Commissioner in London. Special inquiries have been made, and it has been ascertained that the -men referred to, numbering 129, arrived in Australia on the 26th April, 1928, each in possession of £40, the required amount. of landing money. They stated that they came to Australia in consequence of an article which appeared in the Czechoslovak newspaper, Sovensky-Lud. It is understood that, shortly after their arrival in Sydney, a group of these Czecho-Slovakians interviewed Mr. Garden, who referred them to their Consul-General. The Consul-General has done everything possible to help the men and arranged lodgings for them. The men admit that no representative of Australia House had any part in the matter whatsoever.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Public Service Act - Appointments -
Home and Territories Department - R. G. A. Kappler.
Trade and Customs Department -
A. S. Stumbles, J. V.. Bray, J. H. Thompson, A. Badman, G. F. Clinch, N. Buxton, N. J. Butcher, G. A. Kieth, W. S. H. Nye, A. Brand, J. Smith, E. W. Williams, A. G. Home, L. B. Purry, K. A. Graham, and E. T. Harper.
Quarantine Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 41.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 30th May, vide page 5348) :
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 employers or employees in which are subject to the award. (3.) 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. (4.) The court may at any time revoke a declaration made under the last preceding sub-section.”
Upon which Mr. Latham had moved by way of amendment -
That after the word “ may “, sub-section 3. the following words be inserted - “ if it thinks fit in all the circumstances of the case “.
.- It is incomprehensible that by this clause the Government should seek to make legal a system which, from the inception of industrial legislation, it has always been considered desirable to provide against. To the amazement of the people of Australia, the Government is now endeavouring to give legal sanction to strikes and lockouts. One naturally asks if there is any sincerity in the professions of honorable members opposite when they say that they are opposed to strikes and lockouts, as under this provision they are to be made legal. The clause has not been drafted with the intention of disciplining those actually involved in a dispute, as under it the Government intends to involve persons who are not in any way concerned. Apparently it is the intention of the Government to involve workmen whose only desire is to peacefully carry on their work, and who have no wish to be thrown into the vortex of an industrial dispute. Surely this is a most retrogressive step. I have endeavoured to understand the purpose of this clause. When speaking on, I think, an earlier clause, the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) expressed the opinion that this provision would perhaps be a means of making other organizations, not directly concerned in a dispute, discipline those that were 1 responsible, and thus prevent the possibility of its extension. Does the Government expect one section of unionists to police another section? I could understand the logic of such a proposal if it were possible for one section to discipline another section; but to-day there are numerous separate organizations of employees grouped according to the trades and callings they are following. It is impossible, for instance, for unionists engaged in the timber industry to exercise any authority over those engaged in the engineering industry, but under this clause if a sectional strike occurs in the timber industry, unionists engaged in other industries are likely to be involved. I understand that at the Sunshine Harvester Works, controlled by the H. V. McKay company, eighteen different unions are represented.
– Working under different awards.
– Yes, and controlled by different organizations. If a minor dispute arose amongst the 25 to 30 moulders in the Sunshine Harvester Works, owing to the bullying tactics of a foreman, and the men decided to cease work, their employers could apply to the court for a declaration that a general strike existed in the industry, and for immunity from the provisions of awards governing that industry. In such a case not only those engaged in the moulders’ section, but also the members of the other seventeen organiza tions represented in that establishment, would be involved in the dispute. The declaration” would cover not only the Sunshine Harvester Works, but also such establishments as Robinson’s, at Spotswood, and Shearer’s, in South Australia. It is not an exaggeration to say that a sectional strike in which perhaps 25 to 30 moulders were involved, might be the means of causing a cessation of the manufacture of agricultural implements throughout the Commonwealth. I cannot see that the good sense of the Government or its advisers is manifested in this class of legislation, which may be the means of creating serious disputes. This provision, I believe, has been introduced to give effect in an indirect way to a suggestion which is not creditable to those who are responsible for it.
– That is not so.
– I am merely expressing my own opinions. During last week the Employers’ Federation in Perth passed certain resolutions congratulating the Government upon the provisions of this measure, and also emphasized their agreement with the proposed amendments which were being discussed by this- Parliament. This very body, only eighteen months ago, received a visit from the chairman of the Employers’ Federation of New South Wales, the Honorable W. A. Brooks, who inveighed against the system of compulsory arbitration, and spoke of its harmful effects on industry in Australia. He was heartily applauded by the Employers’ Federation for the statements he made, and the same body in Western Australia is now applauding the Government for having brought in the present measure. This merely confirms my belief that clause 7 of the bill has been inserted with the idea of creating such an industrial situation as will furnish an excuse for suspending the provisions of tlie Conciliation and Arbitration Act, so that employers may vary, to their own advantage, the wages and conditions fixed by the court, lt would be absurd to pour kerosene on a fire for the purpose of quenching it, but) this measure seems to be an attempt to do something of the kind. I have sought honestly and fairly for the real reason for this provision, but 1 confess that unless it has been designed to destroy the effectiveness of arbitration, I’ cannot understand its purpose at all. It would absolutely nullify the provisions of the Commonwealth arbitration law, and it would have the effect of legalizing strikes and lockouts - the very things which this Government has so often said it wishes to prevent. I desire to place before the Attorney-General two aspects of this matter which, I think, involve the validity of the legislation which it is proposed to pass. I say that it is contrary to the spirit of paragraph xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution , which states that the Parliament shall have power to legislate for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to -
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
The wording of that section is very definite. This power is given to us for the prevention, and settlement of industrial disputes. The proposed legislation which we are now considering cannot, by any stretch .pf imagination, be construed as providing for the settlement or. prevention of disputes. As a matter of fact, it actually provides for the extension of such disputes as may occur. Its effect will be to prevent one section of the workers from securing redress for their, grievances without involving many other workers in a dislocation of industry. It is important to. note that whilst the declaration may relate to a section of the industry, the immunity resulting from such, declaration, extends to the whole industry. It is important, more. over-, to “note that, once the immunity attaches, any or all of the acts within the statutory or- common, law definition of. a strike, or lockout may be. committed, and whatever the consequence to the community or any section of it may be, no legal redress will be available. The spirit of the Commonwealth Constitution is overridden by this section, and I shall be very much surprised if the High Court will be prepared to accept it as complying with the letter and spirit of the Constitution. I desire to refer to another phase of the legal aspect of the matter, that relating to the intrusion of the Commonwealth upon the domestic affairs of the States.
As I have said, part xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution empowers the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws for the peace, order and ,good government of the people of the Commonwealth in respect of conciliation and arbitration for the settlement and prevention of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. This section, I contend, must be constructed in relation to the other parts of the Constitu-tion, and particularly in relation to the doctrine laid down by the High Court that any invasion by the Commonwealth of the domestic rights of the States appertaining to trade and commerce is forbidden except in so far as such invasion is authorized by some powers conferred in express terms, or by necessary implication. Section 7 of this bill is an invasion of the domestic rights of the States appertaining to trade and commerce. This measure proposes to exempt employers in South Australia from liability to prosecution for a lockout in an industry, simply because a sectional strike has occurred in that industry in Victoria. The question is to what extent does the power vested in the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate for the settlement qf industrial disputes authorize such, legislation as this. Can any member of this committee say that it is necessary to extend the scope of a strike or lockout to. other States and other industries for the purpose of securing obedience to the awards of the Arbitration, Court? Such a suggestion is ridiculous., I desire to place on record the opinion of an able and distinguished, industrial adviser, Mr-. John Daley, of the firm, of- Denny and Paley qf Adelaide… Mr. Daley is a barrister and solicitor v;h,o stands high- in lfega.1; circles in South Australia. He says -
The notion, that the States with a policy of constitutional action intended that a Commonwealth court should have the right to enable employers or employees to. adopt a policy, of direct action is so extraordinary that I can hardly conceive it. It is so ironical that it could not be expected in any charter of government. The States would never haveagreed to such a dispensing, power being conferred upon a Federal legislature far less upon, an individual, or individuals; And yet-, if clause 7 is intra vires of the powers of theCommonwealth Parliament, such a resultfollows. In my opinion the words of placitum, xxxv., so far, from making such an. extraordinary provision, do not even suggest it..
If there were words in tlie Constitution clearly and unmistakeably enabling the Federal legislature to equip its tribunal with the powers suggested, the contention of the Federal Attorney-General would be intelligible. To suggest that the terms of placitum xxxv. have that effect is a suggestion which can only be made because something of the sort has to be suggested. To suggest that such a power exists because it is necessary to enable the court to settle effectively the disputes committed to it is to beg the question. It is not ti reason for assuming more than the words of the power leave to be inferred. Before we can say what is necessary to the exercise of a limited power so that the exercise of it may be plenary within its ambit, it is necessary to ascertain the ambit. .You cannot prove its existence by saying that it would be extremely convenient to have certain results, and that, therefore, the authority to achieve is necessarily inherent in the power to be construed. Such considerations may be thought to give reason for a political movement for the enlargement of the powers of the Commonwealth but they afford no reason for departing from the ordinary rules. One should not really be obliged to point out that a power to set aside a law cannot be implied as a necessary incident of a power founded on obedience to law. In my opinion clause 7 is unquestionably ultra vires of the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. “When we realize that all the States have industrial legislation imposing penalties on those who commit the misdemeanour of striking or locking-out, how can we assume that the Commonwealth has power to override State laws aud permit them to be broken, particularly by individuals who are not directly concerned in the disputes in respect of which action is taken in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court? We shall thus have the spectacle of men breaking a State law by trying to obey a Commonwealth law. It seems to me that a provision of this description does not possess the validity which the Government claims for it, and that it would be well for the AttorneyGeneral to make certain of his ground, so that the committee may not be placed in the invidious position of agreeing to a clause which is ultimately found to be in distinct contravention of section 51 of the Constitution Act. I trust that the honorable gentleman will guide us in making our law effective and in preventing ite validity from being questioned. Apart from the legal aspect of the question, morally this clause is not in accordance with the will of the great majority of the people of Australia. By forcing upon the. workers a position in which they may lie thrown out of employment to suit the private purposes of their employers - we do this by giving the employers, in certain circumstances, immunity from observing arbitration awards and conditions of employment - we are doing our best to destroy the very foundation upon which has been built the confidence that the majority of the workers of Australia have in our present system or arbitration. If, on the other hand, because a certain section happens to have a grievance which is peculiar to that section alone, workers may be freed from observing the provisions of compulsory arbitration, we shall bring upon ourselves industrial trouble the extent of which is beyond comprehension. Honorable members opposite will then realize the evil of this clause. The present position serves to prove the truth of the assertion of honorable members of the Opposition that it is they alone in this Parliament who desire to conserve the system of arbitration in its most effective form, and to bring about the settlement of industrial disputes so that there may be no stoppage of the wheels of industry. It is the practice of honorable members on the Ministerial side to point to the delinquencies of workers, and to the way in which, according to them, the workers are seeking to destroy the constitutional method of settling disputes, but in this clause we find them prepared to give legal sanction to the use of the weapons known as the lockout and the strike. In their wildest dreams the greatest extremists to be found in organizations of workers, never imagined that they would get legal sanction or endorsement for the policy of direct action. By proposing this clause, the Government has arrayed itself with extremists and reactionaries. It has from time to time endeavoured to impress on the people that it stands for the sacred institution of constitutional government, and that it seeks to preserve law and order in the community ; yet it has . included in this bill a provision, the effect of which will be to destroy the harmony, peace, and good government that should . exist in every community. From time to time Ministers have deprecated resort to direct action; and have raised their hands in horror at. any .appearance of direct action; they have told the public of the serious inroads that the adoption of such a policy may have on the prosperity and welfare of a community. Yet in this clause they give endorsement to that policy.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to enjoy for a few minutes, the attention of the Attorney-General while I address myself “to this clause. I had the misfortune of being one of those who spoke on the second reading in the early hours of the morning. The circumstances were not inspiring, and the audience, although attentive, was very small, consisting of Mr. Speaker, the Clerks of the House, and the Hansard reporters. I do not know that I have a very stirring message on the subject, but I should like the Attorney-General to understand my point of view in regard to this clause, and the bill generally. I believe the clause stands for a vicious principle. It is one of a number of provisions which are inherently vicious. The Attorney-General presented himself to the House, on the second reading, as a man desirous of giving to the people of Australia, and especially the trade unionists of Australia, a working arbitration measure, and as one who was making an honest endeavour to achieve peace in industry. If that was the object of the honorable gentleman - it is not for me to search his mind and endeavour to discover any ulterior object - from many points of view he appears to have gone about it in a curious way, and, if one can judge by one’s experience among trade unionists and supporters of the Labour movement, has not succeeded in his quest. There are some clauses in the bill which I regard as being merely sinister; there are others which provide useful machinery for giving effect to the principles of arbitration in which Labour believes; there are others of doubtful utility; but there are some clauses, notably this, and clause 8, that are extremely dangerous and, as I have already said, vicious. I am not opposing this clause, nor did I oppose the second-reading of the bill, for the purpose of making a stunt as a member of the Opposition. The Labour movement has too much at stake to play with the subject of arbitration merely for the sake of opposing the Government. If Labour, as a party, did not originate arbitration, it has certainly lent whole-hearted support to it. But it may fairly claim that either inside or outside Parliament it did originate the movement for compulsory arbitration, and it certainly believes in it, and is very anxious to make a success of all legislation by which compulsory arbitration may be improved, and if possible perfected. It, therefore, views with* dismay the effect that the passing of a clause like this is likely to have, not only in bringing the arbitration system into disfavour, but perhaps destroying it. It is likely to produce an unholy alliance of those people known as “ the Reds,” who, on the outskirts of Labour, give to it sometimes doubtful and discriminating support, and those gentlemen who represent the reactionary movement in politics. Either by design or through lack of knowledge, the Government is acting as the agent of both these sections in destroying an instrument for industrial peace in which the Labour party as a whole most ardently believes. This clause proposes deliberately and unashamedly to convert a small local disturbance into a very large one; to remove the restrictions which circumstances impose on a local dispute, and to facilitate its spread as widely as possible. Every conciliator engaged in the administration of the arbitration law has realized the wisdom of quenching the fires of industrial unrest at their inception - localizing and restricting them to narrow limits, and dealing with the individuals originally responsible. Under this clause, immediately a local disturbance occurs a person may apply to the court for an order which will have the effect of robbing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of people of their protection and rights under the arbitration law. Does that appeal to honorable members opposite as either safe or desirable? We cannot promote a law-abiding spirit by unleashing the forces of lawlessness; we cannot produce order by broadcasting disorder; but that is what may be the natural outcome of the adoption of this clause. The proposal has another most objectionable aspect ; it will make a large number of quite innocent people liable to punishment for the acts of the few guilty - assuming for the purposes of this argument that in special circumstances some persons may be guilty. I am prepared to assume that in some local disturbances the industrialists may be entirely wrong; even so, what good accrues to the community by penalizing thousands or ten of thousands of persons who are working peacefully, under the protection of the industrial laws and enjoying the benefits of awards? This clause is an invitation to the court to hark back to the policy of catch-as-catch-can in industry. It will cause turmoil and inveterate bitterness on the part of those who feel that they have done no wrong and are, therefore, being unjustly punished. The clause rests on the assumption that if industrial trouble is caused by a few persons who are entitled’ to the benefits of an award, they should be disciplined and controlled by the major body of which they are presumably members. No system of arbitration can in the last resort prevent acts of lawlessness by individual unionists, or a harsh employer from unjustifiably dismissing an employee, or a group of harsh employers from pretending that they are closing their works for legitimate reasons when really they are combining in what is essentially a lockout. I confess myself unable to find a preventive of such individual acts; I would go a long way with this or any other Government which could suggest what’ appealed to me as a likely cure for industrial unrest. I remember saying, in reference to another proposal, that I would accept from any government which could offer it an enlarged and free Australian Constitution and would not question the source whence it came. Similarly I am prepared to accept the means of ensuring peace in industry from any government that can devise it. But the peace must be real; it must not be a passive condition* a temporary inarticulateness of labour through the application of the mailed fist. Such a policy is bound to fail. We in Australia are beyond the stage when the workers can be forcibly dragooned. This bill is a move iii the wrong direction; we have already moved too far along the lines of force, and too little along the road of conciliation. Instead of retracing our steps, we are by this legislation accentuating and perpetuating the original mistake.
– The bill is intended to do that.
– The honorable member makes a serious charge, but unfortunately the bill lends colour to it. One hears on every side the opinion that this Government desires to destroy the trade union movement, and to use the Arbitration Court for the purpose of reducing wages, and that this bill is designed to disintegrate the arbitration policy.
– That feeling is well founded.
– The men who have arrived at these conclusions have not judged lightly or on little evidence. Those to whom the Prime Minister appealed recently to participate in an industrial conference know the value of peace in industry, and the harrowing consequences of unrest. They think deeply on these problems, and the results which flow from certain causes. When they hear shallow and thoughtless accusations directed against them, as, for instance, that they are the irresponsible instruments of some malevolent outside body, a strong feeling of resentment is generated in them. They are not men of that type. The Attorney-General must already have learned the trade unions’ opinion of this bill. I have met many representative unionists, addressed them at meetings and conferred with them, and I know that whilst they heartily support the general principle of arbitration, they resent some clauses in this bill which they are convinced will be unworkable and may prove destructive of the whole policy of arbitration. I ask the Attorney-General to consider whether he is justified in using this most dangerous machinery. Even if job control and sectional strikes are at times indefensible, when did it become right in law to allow the injured person to punish au incendiary by burning down his house and also the houses of all his relatives and associates, however innocent they might be? The lawlessness which pervades this bill will be destructive of the whole edifice of arbitration. How do sectional strikes arise? The recent treatment of the timber workers industry by an Arbitration Court judge shows the curious way in which sectional trouble may develop.
Under a judgment delivered by Mr. Justice Higgins, the timber workers enjoyed what is known as the 44-hour week. On an appeal to the court their award was modified and the 44-hour week became applicable only to city timber yards and suburban mills, while the 48-hour week was restored to bush mill-workers. That remained the position for a considerable time. In September of 1922, the full bench of the Arbitration Court endorsed the previous judgment. On the 13th May, 1926, an attempt was made to alter the award, but the hours were retained. Last year both the employers and the employees went to the Arbitration Court with a request for an alteration of hours, the employers for the purpose of reinstating the 48-hour week throughout the industry, and the employees for the purpose of obtaining a 44-hour week throughout the industry. In February of this year, the present full bench of the Arbitration Court considered the application and postponed it until February of next year, for two principal reasons. One reason was that the court was unable to obtain satisfactory evidence as to the ability of the industry to pay, and the other was that it desired to hold the matter in abeyance pending the consideration of the effect that the suggested alteration in the tariff would have upon the industry. But the matter was held in abeyance on the understanding that the award as then in operation should continue as to hours. Mr. Justice Lukin, possibly exercising powers which he possesses, thought fit to re-read and place a new interpretation upon the award.
– Upon an application for interpretation, I presume.
– But the matter arose in previous proceedings.
– It arose from the fact that the union had gone to the court in the ordinary course for a general award, and that on that application the matter of hours went to the Full Court and was returned to the arbitration judge with an intimation that he was to consider his award on the general question, but that the matter of hours was to remain in abeyance until February next. It was on that point that the learned judge, unsolicited, considered a new interpretation of the existing award, with the result that he decided that the award to which a certain interpretation had been given six years previously, and which had continued in existence ever since and had brought about peace in the industry, was wrong.
– Not that the award was wrong, but that the interpretation acted upon was wrong.
– Yes, more correctly that the order made upon the award was wrong. The alteration has caused a panic in the industry, employers and employees alike being amazed to find that, by virtue of a new interpretation upon an existing award, the 44-hour week which operated in the city mills for the last six years has been taken away from the employees. There were no proceedings before the court directed to that end. The interpretation was not in dispute. But the learned judge gave that gratuitous interpretation, which takes effect immediately. And then the union said, “Well, if you are going to give that interpretation to the award we shall ask you to interpret it in that way and then to vary it in order to reinstate the status quo upon which we have been working harmoniously for six years.” The learned judge had the power to do that, because 44 hours is the standard week, and an application to vary did not necessitate an increase of hours - in which case it would have been necessary to invoke the aid of the Full Court. His Honour declined to do that. He said “You may go to the High Court for an interpretation of the award to see whether I am right as a matter of law, or I will state a case.” But the union very properly said that that was a mere abstract question of law, that there had already been too much interpretation, and that they wanted the existing condition under which they had been working for six years to continue until it was properly altered, upon evidence, by a competent tribunal. That was a perfectly reasonable attitude. But the learned judge declined their request, intimating that he intended -to alter the existing conditions under which they had been working, ‘ and that he was going, -whether intended or not, to cause industrial unrest. And he has done so. The timber employees now harbour a spirit of resentment, and probably sectional industrial trouble will result. It is in cases of this description that an application may be made to the court under the provisions of this bill, and an Order made depriving workers throughout Australia of the benefits which they had previously enjoyed under the act. I do not contend that it is for the AttorneyGeneral or Parliament to direct the court in this matter. But it is for Parliament to consider matters of policy, and where legislation leads, and it is, I suggest, the duty of the judges of the Arbitration Court to inform their minds as to what public opinion is upon important public matters like this. I suggest, further, that it is not the prerogative of any judge of the Arbitration Court to indulge himself too much in exploring legal labyrinths when, in fact, he finds that there is in existence a condition of peace in industry, and that men are working satisfactorily under employers who are themselves satisfied. I ask the AttorneyGeneral to consider very seriously, in the light of the debate that has occurred on this measure, in the light of public opinion which has found at least partial expression in the press and elsewhere, and in the light of the undoubted views of the sober-minded trade unionists of Australia, whether this obnoxious and dangerous clause cannot be withdrawn from the instalment of reform which is necessary in connexion with the arbitration policy of this Government.
[5-2”). - The discussion on this clause has largely revolved round the subject of strike and lockout penalties, the proposed new section providing that such penalties should not be imposed in the cases to which it refers. Industrial regulation by means of arbitration is only one possible system ; there need be no arbitration at all. The determination of industrial conditions might be left to individual agreements between employers and employees, or, on the other hand, they might be determined by collective agreements made between representative organizations on both sides. There might be a system of industrial boards, such as Wages Boards, there might be shop committees, Whitley councils or the like; or there might be other forms of industrial tribunals. The Commonwealth Parliament, by reason of the limitations of its Constitution, is limited to the utilization of the methods of arbitration and conciliation in dealing with industrial disputes. But whether the method of dealing with industrial disputes be by arbitration or by any one of the other methods in vogue in different parts of the world, it is not a necessary incident of any of those methods that there should be penalties upon strikes and lockouts. The policy which has been adopted by the Commonwealth Parliament ever since 1904 in imposing penalties upon strikes and lockouts is not necessarily a part of arbitration or of any other method of dealing with industrial affairs. As honorable members are doubtless aware, systems are established in several of the States of the Commonwealth to deal with industrial problems which. do not provide legislative penalties for strikes and lockouts. There is quite a considerable body of opinion which favours the entire repeal of sections 6 and 6a of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Clause 7 of this bill might be described as a partial repeal of those sections. It provides that, in certain cases, no “ penalties shall be imposable for 1 strikes and lockouts. When honorable members suggest that the removal of penalties in respect of strikes and lockouts is inconsistent with the principle of arbitration, I submit that they are going too far. This is certainly an alteration of the policy of the present act, which has set penalties on strikes and lockouts to the maximum of the legislative power of the Commonwealth. Since 1904 we have provided, under section 6 of the act, a penalty on interstate strikes ; and since 1920 we have, under section 6a, imposed a penalty upon strikes against awards, to use’ a paraphrase to express the meaning of the section. Section 44 of the act also provides penalties for breaches of awards and orders of the court, and it has become a common practice for the court to include in its awards and certain of its orders, such as those for the variation of awards, clauses which prohibit strikes and lockouts.
– You cannot have compulsory arbitration without that.
– That interjection shows that the honorable member has not appreciated my point. Directly under section 6 and section 6a, and indirectly under section 44, penalties upon strikes and lockouts have been provided. But there is no necessity for these under either an arbitration system or any other system for the compulsory regulation of industrial conditions. It is entirely a question of policy for the determination of Parliament as to whether penalties shall or shall not be imposed upon strikes or lockouts. I shall illustrate my point by referring to the Victorian wages-board system with which honorable members are fairly familiar. The same system is in force to a certain extent in other States, and we all understand it. A wages board makes a determination, which, for this purpose, may be regarded as being the same in substance as an award. The only real difference, though it is an important one, is that a determination is a common rule and an award is not a common rule. An award binds only the parties to the proceedings. That circumstance may be ignored for the moment. What is the effect of a wages board determination? First of all, it is compulsory. All employers in the industry are bound by it, whether they have had any hand in the framing of it or not. But our arbitration system allows every employer an opportunity of appearing before the court and of taking some part in the framing of the award. The wages board system does not provide such an opportunity. Then a wages board determination lays down a common rule which is binding upon all employers. The meaning of that is that if an employer engages men for the doing of work to which the determination applies, he must observe the wages and conditions fixed in the determination. But there is nothing in the law of Victoria to .prevent an employer from locking his men out, or to prevent employees from striking. If an employer does not like the conditions of an award, and thinks it better to close down his works than to obey it, he is at liberty to do so. If, on the other hand, the men prefer to strike rather than to work under the wages board determination, there is nothing illegal in their doing so. I am speaking, of course, purely of industrial law.
– Does that apply in New South Wales?
– I think there still stands upon the statute-book of New South Wales a provision which makes it necessary to take a poll before a strike may be declared; but it is a dead letter, as such provisions generally are, because there is the same difficulty in enforcing strike penalties after a ballot, as before itI wish. to make it quite clear to honorable members that penalties upon strikes and lockouts are not necessarily inconsistent with any system of industrial legislation. If the strike and lockout penalties were removed from this act, the position would be that an employer bound by an award would have to obey the award insofar as he gave employment; but he would not be bound to abstain from locking out his men in order to induce them to agree to some variation of the award. That is prohibited in the act as it stands at present. If the strike penalties were removed, there would be nothing to prevent employees from deliberately striking in order to bring about an alteration in the award. The act as it is seeks to legislate against such a procedure. I hope I have now made it quite clear that the non-existence of penalties for strikes and lockouts is not necessarily inconsistent with arbitration or any other system of industrial legislation. Systems exist all over . the world without penal provisions upon strikes and lockouts, and they also exist in several of the Australian States. But this Parliament has adopted the policy of including in its legislation penal provisions with respect to strikes and lockouts. I pointed out the other day that organized labour apparently had not been in a position since last September, and was not even now able to send me a communication stating whether it desired these penalties to be removed or retained.
In alleviating strike and lockout penalties to some extent, which this clause seeks to do, there is no interference with the principle of arbitration. The alteration which the clause seeks to make may offend those who think that there should be penalties in every case of a strike or a lockout, to at least the extent of our legislative power. Honorable members who hold that view, and want the greatest universality in strike and lockout penalties will, of course, vote against the clause on that ground.
But on the other hand a number of honorable members have said that the provisions in the clause may have tlie effect of extending rather than limiting any troubles that occur. Clause 7 proposes the removal of the penalties only in certain cases, and substantially as a method of selfdefence. We surely must look at the facts of the industrial situation. Are we not all aware that it is easy in certain industries to strike with impunity? Such strikes occur again and again. By impunity, I mean with legal impunity, so far as the imposition of penalties is concerned. Some honorable members have stated that penalties have never been imposed. That is inaccurate. Had they used the word “ seldom “ instead of “ never,” their statement would have been quite true. All honorable members are aware that strikes occur from day to day. Sometimes they last a long time, and cause severe suffering in cases in which it is impracticable to enforce the provisions of section 6 and section 6a, apart from any consideration of the merits of the case. It is impracticable on account of the impossibility of getting evidence. Honorable members know that in connexion with such strikes and lockouts - it is immaterial whether they are described as strikes or lockouts - a cessation of work exists. There is an industrial dispute, -but the penalty cannot be applied. Clause 7 provides that in such cases it should be open to the side which may be the victim of the illegal attack to make application to the court in order to obtain a means of defending itself. If this clause is accepted by the committee I venture to predict that it will be one of the most effective methods of preventing industrial trouble that this Parliament has yet adopted. Up to the present there has been absolute immunity from penalty for creating industrial trouble in certain industries, because of the impossibility of enforcing the existing penal provisions of the act. In view of this fact, I suggest that we are getting away from realities if we hold up our hands in horror at what is called a legalization of the strike and lockout. The existence of this provision will make theparties appreciate their responsibilities more effectively than any other change that could be made in our arbitration legislation. I commend the clause to the committee form that point of view. It is not, and it is not intended to be, an automatic provision. We might have left the matter in the same condition as it is left in several of the States, that is, without restriction. But we are proposing the safeguard of an application of the court. The court will consider the circumstances of every case, and the propriety of freeing from the liability to penalty the side in a dispute which is placed in the situation which the clause has in contemplation. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has raised the question of the validity of this provision. He has referred to paragraph xxxv., of section 51 of the Constitution, which reads -
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State, and has suggested that as the clause will to some extent, in certain circumstances, legalize strikes and lockouts, it will be invalid, because the object of the Constitution is to clothe the Parliament with power to prevent strikes and lockouts. That is the view suggested rather than argumentatively put in the communication which the honorable member read to the committee. I point out that the Constitution does not dictate the policy of this Parliament; does not create offences; and does not impose penalties upon any acts in relation to industrial matters. It does confer power upon the Parliament to legislate in such a manner as it deems proper for the prevention and settling of certain industrial disputes by arbitration and conciliation. Parliament has exercised that power by passing the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, in which are included provisions penalizing strikes and lockouts. The validity of these provisions was challenged in the High Court, and they have been declared valid. When honorable members express doubt as to whether it is competent to remove the penalties on strikes and lockouts, it may not be out of place to remind them that it was only after a considerable controversy that the High Court held that the provision penalizing strikes and lockouts was valid. Without entering upon a legal argument on the matter, honorable members will see that if there were a general power to legislate as to industrial disputes, there would, perhaps, be little doubt as to the validity of legislation against strikes and lockouts. It may be a different matter when the power is limited to legislation for conciliation and arbitration in relation to the prevention and settlement of a limited class of industrial disputes. But, as I have stated, it has been held that the provisions penalizing strikes and lockouts are valid; that is to say that sections 6 and 6a are valid legislation. What does clause 7 do? So far as sections 6 and 6 a are concerned it says that they are not to apply incertain cases. It says also, with an implicit reference to section 44, which imposes penalties upon organizations or persons for breaches of an award or order of the court, that when a declaration has been made . under proposed new section 7 a strike or lockout shall not be a breach of the award or order of the court. Perhaps I may be permitted to put the matter in what I think is expressive though not. strictly legal language, by saying that clause 7 proposes a partial repeal of sections 6 and 6a.
Now as to the validity of clause 7. Suppose it had been proposed to repeal sections 6 and 6a altogether. Would any one suggest for a moment that action to that end would be invalid? Surely not. Suppose then it. is proposed to limit the application of sections 6 and 6a to. 10 per cent., 20 per cent., or 90 per cent, of their legal force, exactly the same principle must apply. Clause 7 does not provide that a strike or lockout shall be legal. In the course of a strike or lockout certain illegal acts may be and are committed. Clause 7 does not affect that position. All it says is that strikes and lockouts shall not be, in the circumstances indicated, a breach of the act, or of an order or award of the court.
– Does the Minister say that in this bill we can legislate against sectional strikes which are not interstate in character?
– The point raised by the honorable member has been dealt with in connexion with section 6a, the provisions of which are not limited to strikes interstate in character, and the High Court has already expressed its opinion on it. Honorable members are aware that the awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court vary in their application and incidence, not only between State and State, but also in their terms, and that no question has been raised as to the power of the court to deal with an industry as it finds it.
I do not think that there is any difficulty arising from that point. However, I am discussing the particular issue raised by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and I suggest that there can be no reason for doubt or hesitation in the minds of honorable members as to the valadity of this clause on the ground, stated by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, that in some way it is inconsistent with the Constitution. I have already said that although the Constitution makes no provision for legislation dealing with strikes and lockouts, it gives Parliament power to legislate on conciliation and arbitration directed to a certain end. This Parliament need not have legislated against strikes and lockouts unless it had chosen to do so. Having decided to legislate in this manner, Parliament is its own judge of its policy within the limits of its constitutional power. The provision that particular sections of the act shall not apply in certain cases cannot, in my view, be regarded as invalid. The second point taken by the honorable member for Hindmarsh . was that the proposed new section would be an interference with the domestic affairs of the States in relation to trade and commerce. A careful reading of- the clause, will show that this is not the case. It provides that in a particular circumstance certain action shall not be a breach of Commonwealth legislation or an award or . order of the court. Therefore, no question can arise that the clause is in any respect an interference with State powers.
With regard to the point raised by the honorable member for Batman in relation to the timber-workers’ case, I can only say that I am not aware of the particularcircumstances mentioned by him ; but I do.. know that objection has been taken toan interpretation given by Judge Lukin of a long-standing award. I am not prepared to discuss that matter in detail, because it is inadvisable that Parliament should be, in any sense, a court of appeal from the Arbitration Court or, indeed, any court. As a Parliament we have complete liberty to discuss legislation and policy; but I suggest, with all respect to the honorable member for Batman, that we should be introducing a dangerous precedent if we entered upon the discussion of particular decisions in the courts in the light of what the honorable member termed the prevailing public opinion. I am in a position to supply him, if he desires it, with a full transcript of His Honour’s decision. If the honorable member will read it he will see that His Honour has given abundant opportunity to any of the parties concerned, who thinks that the decision is wrong, to have it set right.
– This matter is not before the court. Surely Parliament is entitled to discuss matters of public policy.
– There is a distinction between discussing matters of public policy and discussing a particular judgment. The principles laid down in a judgment may, of course, be open for discussion by Parliament.
– The Attorney-General is wrong when he says that the parties were given the fullest opportunity to put the matter right. They asked the judge to state a question for the Full Court, the only tribunal which could put the matter right, and he refused. He is prepared only to send them to the High Court on the question of law, and they want a decision on the merits of the case.
– I have not had an opportunity within the last day or two to read what has happened, or to refresh my memory since the honorable member spoke; but certainly an opportunity was given to the parties to go to the High Court on the point whether a single judge had power to do what His Honor was doing.
– That is so.
– That point, I understand, was one of the matters at issue; but I am not prepared to enter into a discussion of the merits of the decision. Itwould be improper for me, as AttorneyGeneral, to do that.
.- The proposed new section is entirely foreign to the spirit of conciliation and arbitration. I doubt if one member supporting the Government has followed the calling of a mechanic, unless it be the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) who dealt in tombstones. The Attorney-General took the earliest opportunity available to him to reply to the points raised by the honorable members for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and Batman (Mr. Brennan) with the object, no doubt, of preventing any wrong impression being created by the publication of their criticisms in Hansard without his reply. I am satisfied that the proposed new sections have been included in the bill at the instance of those connected with the engineering trades, and at the behest of . proprietors of metropolitan newspapers. I doubt even if the AttorneyGeneral himself believes in their validity.
– That is a serious statement.
– It is, but I am prepared to take full responsibility for it. This proposed new section will not make for industrial peace. I ask honorable members to consider the position of many of the big engineering establishments or mines that employ thousands of men in 30 or 40 different departments. Under the new provision contained in this bill, if half a dozen men engaged in one particular branch of a big industrial establishment considered that they had a grievance and decided to strike, the employers could penalize the whole of the employees by closing down the works. The AttorneyGeneral when replying to the speeches of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) referred to the common rule and to the Victorian Wages Board, and these, I submit, have nothing at all to do with the clause under discussion. His whole speech was evasive, and contained no reference to this obnoxious provision. We cannot make men work if they do not choose to work. All the arbitration and conciliation laws in the world will not make men work. It is well known the world over that liberal laws make a community law-abiding, but obnoxious laws create law breakers. This provision, if given effect, must cause innumerable industrial disturbances. If a large firm is experiencing a period of trade depression, it need only victimize a few of its workers to bring about a sectional strike, and thus enable it, through the agency of the Arbitration Court, to close the whole of its works until a revival of trade takes place. That is very likely to happen in the coal industry. Large manufacturing industries will, under this clause, have a splendid opportunity of closing down the whole of their works when trade is slack. Over -40 years ago the principle of our arbitration and conciliation system was that the two parties in industry should appoint an independent person to settle disputes between them. To-day we have four judges of the Arbitration Court- whose views are well known. The most recently appointed judge was at one time the chairman of the Employers’ Federation. Since most of his life has been spent in opposing the workers, how can he be expected to give an unbiased decision? The great mass of the people are strenuously opposed to the inclusion of this provision in our arbitration laws, and it is difficult to understand the action of honorable members on that side in stupidly assisting the Government to give effect to such a drastic and obnoxious clause. I am speaking on behalf of the workers of this country, who are fully aware that the motive behind the bill is to smash trade unionism. Honorable members behind the Government do not seem to realize that. It is very evident that the employers in industry have had a lot to do with the drafting of the bill. The Government would have been wise to consult the two parties in industry before attempting to amend our arbitration laws; The Attorney-General in his innocence has allowed himself to be swayed by the Employers’ Federation. I do not think that in “his heart he really means- to inflict hardships upon the workers, but surely a graduate of our universities should have a broader conception of the general needs of the community. By deleting this, clause he has a splendid opportunity of benefiting the workers generally, and of making his mark throughout the world as the sponsor of arbitration legislation based on justice and equity. Had it not been for the demands of the large en- gineering establishments of Australia, I am sure that this clause would never have been framed. It is useless, to expect much sympathy with the workers from honorable members supporting the Government, because they know little of our industrial problems. Few of them have the mental capacity and ability that would enable them to legislate for the good of this country. We on this side of the chamber know the conditions of the workers. We have worked among them, and we are better qualified than honorable members on that side to arrive at solutions of industrial problems. This clause, if given effect, will lead to the establishment of secret societies such as were formed by the workers in 1832 under the conspiracy laws of that time. I urge the Government, in the interests of Australia as a whole, to delete this provision from the bill.
– Notwithstanding the promises made by honorable members opposite during the second-reading debate, the discussion in committee has, as I anticipated, been confined to honorable members on this side, who have expressed their views, whilst those supporting the Government have allowed the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) to speak on their behalf. We expect honorable members opposite to express their opinions on the various clauses. I was astonished to hear the Attorney-General suggest that this provision would be conducive to industrial peace. The most effective reply to the Attorney-General’s explanation of this clause was that of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes).
– Is the honorable member referring to the right honorable gentleman’s metaphor regarding a fire?
– Yes. He said it is proposed to fan a small fire into a great one, in order that we may extinguish the small one. The right honorable gentle^ man, who understands the industrial situation perhaps as well as any one in this chamber, showed very clearly the harmful effect of this provision, and said that if it were embodied in the act it would be the cause of nation-wide trouble. I am not going to say whether the Attorney-General’s interpretation of this clause is right or wrong, but I have received an opinion in which I find the following : -
Section 7 is to be repealed. New section 7 provides that the Arbitration Court may make an order declaring that a strike exists in an industry covered by an award. If a lockout is declared to exist a strike shall not be unlawful. A declaration by the court under this section would be binding on the courts before whom charges under sections G and 6a would be tried. The defendant would be debarred from contending that the conditions existing in the industry did not constitute a strike.
– Is that a lawyer’s opinion ?
– It is an opinion that has been supplied to me.
– I do not doubt that, but I should like to know if it is the opinion of a member of the legal profession.
– The Minister knows that there is often a difference of opinion even between judges.
– Whose opinion has the honorable member quoted?
– Mr. Blackburn’s.
– I do not think he has gone into the matter very thoroughly.
– I do not contend that Mr. Blackburn is right; but he expresses an opinion which differs from that of the Attorney-General. Even if this provision were contested before the High Court it is possible that the judges
Would express different opinions upon it. The opinion continues -
We are advised that this section is beyond the powers of the Parliament to enact, as it is an invasion of the powers of the States, to enact legislation for the prevention of strikes and lockouts. But admitting for the time being that this section is within the Commonwealth’s legislative powers, we submit that it is contrary to the whole spirit and objects of the act. If enacted it will place a weapon in the hands of unscrupulous employers to coerce their employees by threats of lockouts in any industry where a few irresponsibles have ceased work owing to some grievance, real or imagined, outside the province of an award governing the industry. The objects of the act are to prevent lockouts and strikes in relation to industrial disputes, and to facilitate and encourage the organization of representative bodies of employers and employees.
I should like to see more provision made for conciliation, as I know the beneficial effects of conciliatory methods. In the earlier days of arbitration, I have known of many instances in which the representatives of the unions and the employers, who sometimes had legal assistance, have drawn up agreements at a very slight cost, which have been signed by the parties and submitted to the court for ratification. That practice should be encouraged. There has been a dispute in the job printing trade in Western ‘Australia. A section of those engaged in that industry wished to meet the employers, but they refused to meet the men. I do nor know whether that dispute, which has been in existence for some time, has been settled; but from the information which I shall submit it will be seen that the employees’ request was reasonable, and that they were anxious to prevent the trouble from extending.
The branch, in its claim made, demands which the employers claimed to be extravagant. The conference was sought and the parties met. But the conference “ spirit “ was not displayed. The employers frankly intimated that they were prepared to give nothing, and have since reiterated that ‘as “ to confer “ means to give something, further conferences would be futile….. Having failed to get a second conference, where around tlie table both sides could state its case, thresh out points of difference, and justify or fail in the attempt to justify its position, the branch created a dispute by giving notice, that, failing the granting of a conference, members would refuse to keep dockets and work overtime.
That shows the action to be taken in order to get the court to convene a compulsory conference. What, does it mean? If a dispute which concerned only 500 persons engaged in the job printing trade in Perth were in existence, and this measure were in operation, the employers could approach the court, which could declare that a general strike existed and the whole printing trade in Australia, in which perhaps 15,000 persons are employed, might be involved. Such a dispute in Perth might result in the cessation of the publication of the daily press of Australia, and a complete stoppage in the job printing trade. I warn honorable members opposite of the danger associated with this clause.
– How many lockouts have there been in Australia?
– I am speaking now of the job printing trade. Even if there have not been many in the printing industry, they will be likely under this measure. I do not think there has been a strike in the printing trade in Victoria during the last 50 years.
– Then why anticipate a lockout?
– I am showing that under this clause the employers can approach the court, which can declare that a strike or a lockout exists and an industry in all parts of Australia may be threatened.
– In passing legislation should we not always assume that the judge who interprets the law will be sane ?
– “We may assume that he will sometimes be sane.
– Have we not the right to assume that he will always be sane?
– I am tempted to give expression to thoughts which might bring me into conflict with the Chair; but I can safely say that it is designed in this bill to serve the purposes of those who want to get back to the old method of individual bargaining in place of the present system of collective bargaining. In an interview published in the Age a few days ago, the head of the great Sunshine Harvester Works said -
It is about time we got back to old methods of dealing with things in industry.
Those who want to get back to those old methods are anxious to cut down wages, and lower the standard of living, and the object of this clause is to carry out their behest. There are, of course, many employers who are not anxious that trouble should arise in industry.- They take a broad view of things ; they are not selfish, and they would not sanction such action as would be permissable under this clause. It would not be to their benefit to do so. But there are others who will rejoice if this clause is passed, because it will provide an opportunity for them to carry out some of their fell designs. One effect of the passing of this clause will be to make the Arbitration Court a court for the manufacturing of industrial trouble instead of a court where employer and employee may obtain a peaceful settlement of the disputes that crop up from time to time. Honorable members of the Opposi tion have shown how easy it is for a few men in industry to cause trouble. I have given an illustration of the trouble that arose in the printing trade in Perth, and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has mentioned the trouble that occurred at the Sunshine Harvester Works. By giving the Arbitration Court power to declare that it is perfectly legal to lockout employees throughout Australia because of some sectional trouble, we shall be doing something that is contrary to the spirit of the Arbitration Act. We all know what little thing3 give rise to trouble. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell), speaking the other night, said, “ I know of some men who have spoken to their employees in a way that if I were an employee of theirs I would have not only struck work but also struck them.” The honorable member was one of very few on the ministerial side who have spoken in support of the clause, although by their silence one is led to believe that other honorable members on the ministerial side also support the clause. I have been working in shops where we have been able to settle disputes by conferences with employers; but there are times when employers or overseers have said things that no man with the spirit of a louse would stand. There are some men who do not know how to treat women employees. On one occasion a number of women employees appealed to their organization against the foreman under, whom they were working. They said, “He has been insulting to us ; we will not stand it.” And because that organization was sufficiently strong to enforce -its wishes that foreman had to go. I could give many illustrations of how trouble arises in the same way. Very often the foreman in charge of a factory may get on splendidly with the men and with the women under his control, and the work proceeds smoothly without the slightest trouble arising. But he may be succeeded by another foreman, and almost from the very first day there is trouble. What are called strikes are frequently provoked by the employer or foreman.
– Does the honorable member say that seriously?
– I do. I have given illustrations of how trouble is caused by the use of insulting language to the weaker sex, and by the way in which some managers and foremen act. Independent boards have proved to the hilt that more trouble has been occasioned and more waste brought about in industry by the . employers or managers than by the workers. From the speeches of honorable members opposite one would think that all employers had wings budding out of them, and were developing into angels; but the truth is that some employers do not deserve to be classed as men ; some are not fit to be placed in charge of others. The blame for trouble is always placed on the workers, but very often it can be attributed to the irritating and bullying tactics adopted by the employers and foremen. The trade unions and the members of the Labour party in this House speak with a united voice on behalf of hundreds of thousands of men and women in Australia in condemnation of this clause which, instead of bringing about peace and harmony in industry, will lead to endless trouble. It is so laden with potential trouble that one would be justified in doing all he could to block #it; but I have no desire to come in conflict with the Chair by discussing anything irrelevant. If the Government is sincerely desirous of .bringing about peace aud harmony in industry it will abandon a provision which, instead of producing peace and harmony, will sow seeds of trouble.
Silling suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Under clause 7 of this bill it is possible, where a small sectional strike occurs in an industry, for all the workers in that industry to be involved, not only within the boundaries of one State, but throughout the whole Commonwealth. In the coal industry, for instance, a few of the coalminers might have trouble with one of their managers. It might be a purely local matter, and one which could be adjusted only on the spot, yet because the men ceased working the court could declare that a strike existed, and the whole coal mining industry of the Commonwealth would become involved. As the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said, instead of this clause operating in - the direction of putting out a small fire, it may start an Australian-wide industrial conflagration. I do not know whether the discussion has gone far enough for the Attorney-General to modify his opinions, but if he will pay attention to the advice, and even the pleadings, of men in this chamber, though they may be opposed to him in politics, he will seriously consider the withdrawal or amendment of this clause. He must recognize to what an extent trade unionism is opposed to this bill, or at any rate to certain provisions in it. Certain other provisions, I presume, will go through on the voices, because they will tend to a peaceful settlement of the dispute. Instead of employers and employees flying at one another’s throats, and becoming involved in disputes almost every day, we wish to set up some machinery whereby they may be brought together, and have their difficulties adjusted. I should like to hear the Attorney-General announce that he will either modify, this clause or delete it altogether. As a matter of fact, I think it ought to be deleted. He may profess to know what the trade unionists are thinking, but he ought to agree that those who immediately represent them should know their feelings on this matter. Amongst the trade unionists and the middle classes of the community there is a genuine desire for industrial peace; but there is a feeling that this measure, if it becomes law, will do nothing to promote industrial peace in Australia. Let us do something, then, which will promote peace rather than create further trouble.
– While I give the Attorney-General credit for seeking to bring about that industrial peace which is so much desired by the people of Australia, I do not think that will be achieved by this measure. The principle of arbitration has been in operation here for twenty years, and we have been able to claim that arbitration ha? had the effect of lessening the number of strikes. The great bulk of the trade ‘unions are registered under State’ ‘or Commonwealth acts, and carry on their work peacefully. There are, however, one or two key trades, such as the cooks or engineers on board ships, which are able to tie up the whole industry. Take, for example, the marine cooks’ dispute, which originated over one man. The ships cannot sail without cooks, because without them neither the passengers nor crews could be fed. These men have taken it upon themselves to say that the staff of cooks provided is not large enough. The strike took place on one ship, and how, I ask, can a strike be settled by extending’ it, as may be done under this section, to all the ships on the coast? Yet that is what has taken place over this dispute. Because the men on one ship declined to go to sea until their request was complied with, the employers said that they would tie up every ship that came into port and pay off the men. That is not settling a dispute, but extending it. Yet clause 7 of the bill proposes to legalize such actions. Human nature must be considered in these matters; one cannot deal with it as with a machine, which can be turned off or on. These men have minds of their own ; they think for themselves. In the building trade, also, this clause, if it became law, might work towards industrial turmoil rather than industrial peace. The building trade employs boilermakers, who erect the steel fabric of a building, and also concretors, plasterers, painters, plumbers, carpenters, and all kinds of skilled and unskilled labour. Suppose, for instance, the plumbers had a dispute on one building. All the builders in a city such as Sydney are federated, and if the plumbers became involved in a dispute and went on strike, this provision would enable the employers to go to the court and ask for a declaration that a strike existed. It would only be necessary to prove the fact that a strike existed among the plumbers.
– Does the honorable member think that such a thing would happen ?
– It has happened. It is not a matter of thinking whether it might.
– The honorable member is not serious.
– I am. If a strike took place amongst any section of men employed on a building, even though none of the other trades were in any way concerned, all the workers could be thrown out of employment if the court made a declaration that a strike existed.
– That is not the meaning of the proposed new section.
– That is what would happen, and that is what we are afraid of.
– The court has discretionary powers.
– It is evident that under clause 7 the employers, as a federation, would be empowered to approach the court for a declaration that a strike existed in some branch of the building trade. If the fact were proved, the judge would have to say that a strike existed, and once such a declaration was made, the employers could stop work amongst the carpenters, bricklayers, masons, and those engaged in all the other allied trades, even though they were not interested in the dispute at all. At the present time, that sort of thing is called a lockout under the principal act. The Government now proposes to relieve the employers from the penalty imposed on the offence of locking out, and seeks to confer on the employers power to throw out of employment, not only those working on the particular building where a dispute occurs, but on every building throughout the city. “We, as a party, do not want to extend strikes. The AttorneyGeneral said that, at the present time, when sectional strikes occur, the employers are not. powerful enough to deal with them, and that they should have some weapon with which to fight the employees. This clause provides the machinery to fight job control and sectional strikes. If the bill is designed to cause strikes, and create big industrial upheavals, it will certainly achieve its purpose. I think that this bill is badly drafted, and in spite of what the Attorney-General has said, it will do a great deal of harm if it becomes law.
What I described as a possibility in the building trade might also happen in the boot-making trade. One section of the workers, say the boot clickers, those who cut out the uppers, might go on strike, and the employers would be empowered to turn out the workers engaged in all the other branches of the industry. Surely that is not the intention of the Government! Arbitration has been successful in keeping the wheels of industry turning up till now. Although we are all in favour of the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes, it should be recognized that it is quite impossible to frame any law which would entirely prevent strikes. Such a thing is against all human nature. If we have a law which makes striking a criminal offence, we take away the liberty of a man to sell his labour to the best advantage.
– There has been such a law for some years. “We have it in the principal act as it stands.
– The law has been there, but it has been a dead letter; it cannot be put into operation. Practically all the unions in Australia are federated, and their slogan is that what injures one injures all. If any Government started putting the unionists in gaol because they broke the law against strikes, no one knows where it would end. There are not enough goals in the country co hold them, and the law would simply he brought into contempt. We must consider the wishes of the men who belong to industrial organizations. The Attorney-General said that those who are registered under the original act cannot withdraw; they will be automatically transferred, so that they will come under the new provisions, and I am sure that they will resent being made subject to the penalties imposed in this and other clauses of the bill. There is nothing to be gained by this provision; it gives the employers power to lockout thousands of men when actually only a few- are concerned in a dispute. I feel strongly on this matter, and I shall certainly vote against the clause’.
– I do not think there is any doubt that this measure strikes a blow at the principle of conciliation and arbitration. I am certain that it has been formulated with the idea of making industrial conditions so oppressive and so unworkable that arbitration will be condemned by the general community, while the trades unionists themselves will have nothing to do with it. Coercive and repressive laws, such as the Wade Act in New South Wales, the Irvine Act in Victoria, and the Homburg Act in South Australia, have never fulfilled the purposes for which they were designed. This clause belongs to that class of legislation, and it is obvious that it would be operated by only the employer. It is inconceivable that any worker would approach the court for a declaration that a lockout existed, because the employers have always been too cute to permit the existence of a lockout to be proved. This provision will play into the hands of those employers who, for their own purposes, want to close down their works and get rid of their employees for a time ; they will take advantage of a small dispute to ask the court for a declaration that a strike exists. Honorable members who have worked in a big composite industry in which many different trades are employed can easily understand how this provision could be abused. The factory in which I was employed as a japanner had at least a dozen sections. In the japanning shop there were only ten hands, but our work brought us into contact with all. the other branches. Incidentally, I may mention that my then employer is attacking the AttorneyGeneral for having fallen down on his job ; he has made it clear that the manufacturer’s in South Australia want to scrap the arbitration system, and get back to the “ good old days.” I know only too well what the “ good old days “ were like in his establishment. When I first entered it, I worked 56 hours a week, and the belts and dies were unprotected; almost every week some kiddy was sent to the hospital minus some of his fingers. The japanning shop was not ventilated, and when the stove was open the pigments emitted an acrid vapour comparable with phosgene gas. Let us suppose that the ten of us in the shop, being refused better ventilation, left work. There would be no strike. We would be merely taking the only course open to us to resent improper conditions, but if this clause were in operation the employer would applyto the court and probably get a declaration that a strike existed in his japanning shop. He could then close up the whole factory if it suited him so to do; indeed the whole industry might be brought to a standstill because ten of us in the japanning shop had refused to be suffocated by the fumes from the heated pigments. Of course, I realize that this provision is inserted in the bill to help the employers to regain command over their industry. I can mention another instance of a small sectional dispute that might be utilized by the employer to stop the wheels of a whole industry. Last
Christmas the stewards in the dining car on the east-west railway. left their work as a protest against the overloading of the trains, which necessitated three relays of diners for each meal and the dining-room and kitchen staff being kept on duty until nearly midnight. Although only the diningroom staff left the train the railway commissioner could, under this clause, have appealed to the court, and have brought the whole service to a standstill. Disputes like this are not peculiar to industries; they occur even in the army. The marine cooks’ strike now in progress arose out of the refusal of Huddart Parker and Company to accede to the request of the cooks on the Ulimaroa for further assistance. They declined to go to sea unless that assistance was given, and, in my opinion, they are the best judges of their own working conditions. With this law in operation Huddart Parker and Company could not only get a declaration of the existence of a strike, but the suspension of the award would enable them to employ “ scabs “ at cut rates. What honorable member will say that the cooks, on the Ulimaroa were not justified in asking for extra assistance?
– -Should they decide that matter themselves or approach the court ?
– The original dispute was too small to warrant the waste of the union’s time and money in approaching the court. The company should have realized that, but what was originally a small dispute has developed into a big one, involving the stoppage of a considerable proportion of the coastal shipping. The trade unionists will go to any length to assert their rights, and I hope that that, spirit will never die. The workers cannot be thrust back into the conditions that prevailed 45 years ago.
– Who wants to thrust them back ?
– Many employers have openly declared that desire. Mr. John Brown frankly made a statement to that effect about a month ago, and Sir Henry Barwell made what he described as the uneconomic conditions of industry an election issue. Economic considerations are raised by this bill; the court is to consider the economic effect of any decision it may make, and wages must be reduced if an industry cannot afford to pay them. This is the thin edge of the wedge - it is an attempt to get back again to “ the good old days.” Sir Henry Barwell made no bones about it. He said that we had to get hack to the “ good old days “ of freedom of contract, of individual bargaining, and of the law of supply and demand. We who have industrial experience regard those days as black days, intimately associated with the old sweating evils. Yet that man, who has been elevated to the responsible position of Agent-General for South Australia, whose views are supported by Mr. John Brown, and by Chambers of Commerce, urged that we should scrap our system of conciliation and arbitration. I have been on wages boards, and know what the system of conciliation is like. I know what it was for any worker to get up before his boss and describe the unfavorable conditions that existed in his factory. He was merely looking for the sack.
– Evidently the honorable member does not agree with his colleague, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), who said the very opposite.
– I did nothing of the kind. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) and I are in perfect agreement on the subject.
– I did not hear what the honorable member for Maribyrnong said, but I do not think .that if he has had experience of industrial matters he could have said anything that differs materially from what I am now saying. Possibly there is a little more freedom in the pastoral industry, in which the honorable member for Riverina is interested. No doubt, given due provocation, one of his drovers would tell him to go to hell if he thought that was the proper place to which he should be consigned, but factory operatives have less liberty of action. Due to their dependence on the industry in -which they are engaged for a livelihood, they cannot afford to be impudent. I do not approve of indiscriminate impudence, but sometimes what is> described as “ impudence “ is justified. Knowing well, as we do, the old industrial conditions, there is no desire on the part of any honorable member on this side to go back to the old days.
– No one wants to.
– I am pleased to have the assurance of the honorable member, but I am afraid that he has not read the signs of the times. During the last year Australia has experienced a bad season, and industry has suffered a slump, therefore we are told that, to rid ourselves of the unemployment evil, we must get back to the “good old days,” produce more, and accept payment by results. Those who broadcast that cry want to give the boss an opportunity to squeeze the last ounce out of his men for the least that he can possibly pay them. I am quite satisfied that we must maintain our arbitration courts, and ensure that our workers receive at least a living wage, that .they have some time at their disposal for recreation, and have the opportunity to rear their families in accordance with the standard of a civilized community. Yet the Government incorporates such a clause as this in the bill with a view to forcing upon employees conditions that are quite out of keeping with the times. If it was the desire of the Government to promote industrial peace, why was not this clause amended to provide that, in the event of an industrial dispute occurring in any section of an industry, an appeal could be made to the Arbitration Court in an endeavour to have it settled. Instead, as was illustrated by the honor. able member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) the Government, because a man may have a small fire in his paddock, wants to set fire to the whole property, burning barns and everything else. Why did the Government not place a bucket of water handy so that the fire might be extinguished as soon as it made its appearance? Had the Government been sincere in its endeavour to promote industrial peace it would never have introduced such an antagonistic measure as this, particularly at this juncture. It would have endeavoured to ameliorate existing evils, to lubricate the parts that were chafing, and make them more easy. We are not going to scrap arbitration, although that is the desire of honorable members opposite.
– I am glad to have the interjection of the unelected member for Kennedy.
– At any rate I did not buy my seat.
– I do not think that any one would have sold the honorable member a seat. Undoubtedly this Government desires- to scrap arbitration, as I shall prove. Last week the Government introduced the Australian British Empire Exhibition Bill, which, I notice, has been relegated to the fifth item on the business paper. Clause 27 of that bill reads -
Where any award made under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904- 1920 or any agreement certified and filed under that act applies to employment in, or in connexion with, the exhibition, its application shall be subject to such exceptions and limitations as are prescribed.
That is a deliberate attempt on the part of the Government to scrap the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. No one can say how such a clause would apply if put into operation. Undoubtedly the employers, who have available to them the best legal knowledge in the land, would endeavour to make the circumstances fit the case. The whole endeavour is to break down the principle of conciliation and arbitration.
– Our conciliation and arbitration legislation was originally introduced by a Nationalist Government.
– It is very easy for the honorable member to -prate about that sort of thing. I have lived through the time when there was no conciliation and arbitration act, no wages boards, no tribunals to govern industries; when men working in bake-houses had to tie the bottoms of their trousers to prevent cockroaches creeping up them. If I had the opportunity I could relate incidents in connexion with our old industrial conditions which would, no doubt, astound the honorable member. But perhaps he would not believe me. Where did the Scaffolding Act, the Factory Act, and the Workers’ Compensation Act come from? Anything gained by the working man has come from his own personal efforts. Nothing was given to him voluntarily. Now, when he is able to meet his boss face to face, when he is as familiar with the conditions of industry as his employer, and can go into the courts and argue his case ably before a judge, this Nationalist Government comes along and endeavours to take from him the advantages that he has gained. If it were not that those in industry will suffer from the operations of this measure, I should tell the Government to go on with its dastardly work, because I know what the result would be. But I and my colleagues cannot do that. We must voice our strong protests against the bill. We at least do not want the worker to go back to barbarism. We are not controlled by bank balances or actuated by a desire to subordinate ourselves to the representatives of the capitalistic system. This measure is a disgrace to the Government that introduced it, and it will be an everlasting stigma on the Parliament that passes it.
– The object the Attorney-General has in view is clear, and, as I understand it, entirely good. The state of affairs with which this clause is intended to deal has caused Australia considerable loss and trouble. Sectional strikes are literally a curse to employer and employee, and particularly to the country. If there could be an impartial and general plebiscite of all those employed in the maritime industry, I do not think that 10 per cent, of the votes recorded would be in favour of the action of the marine cooks.
As every one knows a few hotheads, a few misguided persons, are able to throw industrial organization into confusion. But while I think the object of the Attorney-General is entirely good, the remedy he seeks to apply does not seem to me likely to be effective. We are not dealing with hypothetical cases but with a position with which we have been for a long time quite familiar. As a matter of fact, industrial disputes in this country during the last generation, have been confined almost entirely to a handful of industries. There are, in this country, industries employing tens of thousands of people that have not had a strike for the last 25 years ; but there are others which seem unable to carry on for 25 minutes without a strike. In the coal mining industry, which is prolific of strikes, and in which sectional disputes are continually occurring, a handful of boys could bring about a cessation of work to-morrow. They have thrown mines idle before now, and they could do it again. Supposing they did so, what could any tribunal, any human power, do to set the mine working again ?
– We are considering the cure. This is the cure-all clause.
– I am dealing with the position as it is. In the event of the wheelers refusing to work through a petty dispute, in which two or three boys are involved, the mine has to cease operations, and there is nothing for the coal-miners to do but to go home. It is sufficient for a section of the workers to cease work to throw the whole industry into idleness, for in this industry each section is a cog in the machine, and if any section refuses to work the wheels will not go round. The miners themselves may not want to be idle ; they may desire to work, for they are employed mostly on piece-work, but the wheelers or any other small section can prevent them from continuing their operations. If that should occur to-morrow, and the provisions of clause 7 were- in force, what would happen? The employers could approach the court for a declaration that a strike existed, and after obtaining it, they could lockout the whole of their employees.
– The court “ may “ do so.
– If the court does not do anything, this section will be of no avail. If the court may do something, let us assume that it will do it. Let us suppose that it does the unheard-of thing of exercising the power it possesses to declare a lockout. That will not re-start the mine. As a matter of fact, there would already be the equivalent of a lockout in the mine, because a mine cannot work unless the wheelers work. What we want to find is some method of getting the mine to work again. So far as I can see, there is only one way in which that could be achieved, in the circumstances I have stated, and that is by the employment of non-union wheelers. But if non-union wheelers were introduced, the miners would not work; so that after the court had made its order we should be in exactly the same position that we were in before. It would be monstrous if it were possible for the court to make an order covering the whole of the mines in the north or the south because in one mine the wheelers had ceased work. But, even assuming that the order of the court had that effect, how would that help the situation?
We have to look at this subject, not from the stand-point of the Labour party, the Nationalist party, the employers or the employees, but from that of the people. To one party a strike is sometimes a godsend, while a lockout may be anathema. In certain circumstances a lockout might put the Labour party into power. I can conceive of it so inflaming the public mind that the people would vote solidly for’ the Labour party. A strike might work the other way round. But whatever a strike or a lockout may mean to a particular political party, it means ruination to the State at large. What we want to see to-day is not strikes or lockouts, but the wheels of industry running smoothly and continuously. This clause will not bring about that state of affairs.
The marine cooks are on strike at present. I do not know what proportion of the persons employed in the maritime industry the cooks represent, but I should say about 2 per cent. They have ceased work. Would anybody who knows the waterfront dare to tell me that the seamen favour this strike? The majority of them do not. But that does not send the cooks back to work, and no order of the court can make the ships more idle than they are to-day. The shipping industry is at an absolute stand-still, in other words a sectional strike has brought about a general stoppage; but this has not settled the strike. What could the court do about it under this clause? It might, of course, declare that the employment of non-union cooks would not be a breach of the award. But the seamen, the stewards, the engineers, and other sections in the shipping industry would not work with non-union cooks, so the ships could not go to sea.
We have had relative peace in industry ever since the introduction of industrial arbitration. To realize that that is so we have only to contrast the present state of affairs with the conditions which existed prior to the introduction of arbitration. That, however, would hardly be a fair comparison, for the world has made considerable progress since then, and men would not dream of acceptingthe conditions now with which they were content in days gone by. Arbitration has brought relative peaceinto the sphere of industry because the men have believed in it and havebeen content to accept the arbitrament of the law. The law says, “ As long as you carry out your work you are entitled tosuch and such conditions and such and such wages, and, in effect, you will get preference to unionists.” Let us suppose that in an industry in which there are ten sections, nine sections decide by an overwhelming majority that they are prepared to work, but the tenth will not work. In order to coerce the one-tenth of stupid hotheads, or, if you like to put it that way, the tools of cunning and designing men, the provisions of this, clause are brought forward, and the men. engaged in the industry are told, “If this section stops work, we will get an order of the court and throw you all out of work, and your award will be declared null and void.”
– But that could not be so.
– It would be so.
– The clause does not say so.
– I shall show that it must be so. I am talking at present, not of theory, but of practice. Let us take another example. If, for instance, the wharf labourers refused to work, it would be perfectly competent for the court to so order that non-union wharf labour might be employed. That, however, would make it impossible for any union wharf labourers to accept employment. There is no law to prevent them from doing so, but there is the basic fact that ever since trade’ unionism has been the dominant factor in modern industry, trade unionists will not work with non-unionists. That is the law, the creed, the religion of trade unionism. And if non-union wharf labourers were employed the seamen, stewards, and cooks would not take the ships to sea. And there is no other way, except the capitulations of the section causing the strike, by which peace could be restored. To force the law-abiding sections in- an industry to be idle in order to compel the striking sections to work, is unjust to- the men who were observing their award and will not settle the dispute .but make things worse. The proposal in .the bill is not compatible with the principles of arbitration ; it is incompatible with trades unionism, for trade unionism has always been recognized as a part of our system of arbitration. It has always been recognized that strikes have been brought about by the camaraderie existing between trade unionists. “We cannot overlook the undeniable fact that unionists will stand by one another in the economic world, and will not work with non-unionists unless they are compelled to do so.
While I should be very glad to do anything to put an end to sectional strikes, which I consider to be a deadly menace to trade unionism as well as to industry, and also, incidentally, a deadly menace to my honorable friends opposite, I cannot see how this clause could have such an effect. It would not affect the position except to make a big fire out of a little one, and to increase the bitterness that exists between the classes.
Let us look at the case of the plumber a poor hapless worm who is trodden upon by employer and employee alike, and against whom the whole community has a grudge. He strikes, and immediately the carpenter, the plasterer, the bricklayer, and the painter employed on the same building are ‘ involved in the dispute. They are all penalized because the plumber goes on strike, although they may all be willing to work. If the provisions of clause 7 were in operation, it would be possible to bring about a general cessation of work in the building trade. Perhaps the plumber is not a typical case ; but if a strike occurred in a section of an industry which was so intimately related to the other parts of it that it might cause a general cessation of work, how could the provisions of clause 7 affect the position ? So far as I can see, the only effect they could have would be to paralyze the industry. But this is the object of a sectional strike. When such strikes are conducted by seamen, not necessarily under the aegis of the union, hut very often in spite of it, their object is the dislocation of the industry. We have had many proofs of this, and we have seen how the refusal to work by a few men has tied up all shipping. Not a ship > could go to sea, simply because half a dozen men would not work. The employers in such circumstances take the only course open to them, they tie up , their fleet. The law could do no more. The industry is paralysed, the ships are laid up ; but this does not now send the cooks back to work. If it is not possible now7 to obtain marine cooks, how will it be possible to do so when clause 7 is put into operation?
– Does the right honorable member suggest that we should leave the industry at the mercy of the cooks ?
– No ; but I ask the honorable member for Swan how can this problem be solved.
– How would the right honorable member himself solve it?
– It cannot be solved. The position may be likened to that of a mau who has been eviscerated. Nothing can be done. All we can say is that “ it. is a very bad job.” It is proposed to deal with the evil of war by outlawing it. Will that prevent war? How will this clause prevent sectional strikes?
The psychological aspect of this question must not be overlooked. At the back of every great movement there is the individual. The attitude of Labour towards capital is unfriendly; it views everything it does with suspicion. Is the introduction of this proposed new section calculated to allay that feeling? It will be impossible to apply it evenly to both parties. It is intended to be a remedy for sectional strikes. But how will it operate ? If employees disobey the law, the award under which they are working may be nullified, and other sections in the industry may be thrown idle. But how will, that help? How is it proposed to deal with men if they refuse to return to work on the terms laid down by the court?
After all, we ought not to criticize the Attorney-General for we have no remedy to . suggest. I have none. There is no way of settling these strikes by law. There is no way by which sectional troubles in industry can be prevented or settled except by bringing about a better state of feeling between the parties. Are we likely to achieve this object by passing this clause? The object of course is clear. It is intended to prevent these sectional strikes, which can he brought about by a handful of men, throwing a whole industry idle, and possibly dislocating tha industrial organization of the entire community. Clause 7 undoubtedly is well meant. It is intended as a remedy for a deep-seated and dangerous disease, hut in my opinion it will be ineffective, and, in the last resort, will do more harm than good.
.- Clause 7 is a remarkable provision. It is supposed to be the Attorney-General’s cure for all the ills from which industry has suffered for generations. Immediately any discussion takes place on it, we are told by honorable members supporting the Government that the- power of the court is to be discretionary. If that be so, what industrial evils will it cure?
– It may be applied, though diiscretion al’y
– Of course it may be applied at the discretion of the court. If it is not to be employed it might as well be in the dustbin. As the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has said, if we pass every clause in the bill and place additional power in the hands of the Government, how will it. be possible to deal with a situation such as that which exists to-day? “Would this measure cure the present trouble on the waterfront? Neither the AttorneyGeneral, nor any of his colleagues, can say that it would. Let us see what the Attorney-General himself has said about this bill. He stated not long ago that a union pretends to uphold the award of the court ; but sections of the union make guerrilla warfare upon the employer and that is a conspiracy to defeat the award by fraud.
– What speech of mine is the honorable member quoting? Was it delivered in this House or somewhere else? The words seem entirely strange to me. I do not think I have ever used any such words.
– The Attorney-General in his speech on this measure said definitely that a union pretended to uphold the award, but that certain sections made guerilla warfare upon it with the consent of the organization itself, which pretended to comply with the award.
In another part of his speech* the Minister said that the arbitration laws of this country are honestly and rigidly observed by the majority of industrial organizations, and by the majority of trade unionists. I endorse that statement. For about 40 years I have -been identified with various trade union organizations in _ this country. For many years I was associated with the Seamen’s Union. I have been to sea myself, and long before we had arbitration laws I was involved in strikes. I was for a time an officer in the Seamen’s Union in one of our capital cities, and was also connected with the waterside workers’ organization. For many years, as an officer of the Tramway Employ?’ Union I have been connected with i%>transport workers’ organizations in the Commonwealth. I enrolled the first members of the Tramway Employees Union. That organization has since spread from one end of Australia to the other. Always I have been hostile to any proposals- to strike, not because I am opposed to direct action, but because I believe that the strike weapon is an obsolete instrument for the betterment if industrial conditions, and because more effective means are available to trade unionists to achieve their objective. All the officers connected with the Tramway Employees’ Union are opposed to direct action, and generally the great bulk of the rank and file wish to obey the law as far as possible. Nevertheless it is absolutely impossible to prevent sectional struggles and strikes.
I have seen tramway men jump out on strike in Kalgoorlie, Adelaide, Ballarat, Melbourne and other places. There have been times when the whole transport system of a city has been tied up by a sudden decision of a number of men to strike without even the officers of the organization concerned knowing what has happened.
This tendency to direct action is inherent in every human organization. It is to be seen even in the regular army of a country. It was noted in tlie British, French, German, Russian and other armies in the Great War. Not one army went through the Avar absolutely free from sporadic outbreaks of rebellion, although the officers were not dependent upon men for their votes as is the case in industrial organizations; but were subject to instruction from the higher commands. Similarly it is impossible to prevent absolutely, sectional strikes in industry. They occur like the stampeding of mobs of cattle. In the heat of passion men jump out, and the deed is done! Action is instantaneous. Groups of men smarting under real or fancied grievances, decide suddenly to do something about their troubles, in order to remedy them. This proposed new section will penalize not the small militant section of any organization, but three-fourths of the members of all industrial organizations in Australia - the majority of trade unionists who, according to the AttorneyGeneral himself and his colleagues and supporters, wish to obey the law and observe it rigidly within the bounds of human possibility.
These sectional differences are not confined solely to industrial organizations. In February last the Prime Minister attended a luncheon of the Constitutional Club in Sydney. As the honored guest, he occupied a seat at the head of the table and descanted upon liberty and law. He delivered a sermon upon the need in this country to secure men of vision, understanding and sympathy - he, of course, being himself such a man, and the Attorney-General another. But as the right honorable gentleman proceeded wish his discourse, there was evidence of discord amongst the gentlemen who were assembled in the interests of peace, order and good government. They became disorderly. According to the press reports there was a stamping of feet and banging of tables, and finally the chairman of the gathering, Mr. Rowe, had to do something.
Why were these gentlemen - these upholders of the Constitution - so disorderly in the presence of the Prime Minister - a man of vision and understanding? The newspaper reports stated that it was because the gentlemen at the head of the table had all the peaches and cream while those at the bottom had less attractive fare - probably tea and buns. And so with the social system. The men at the bottom of society object to the men at the top having all the peaches and cream. That is one reason why we have this industrial unrest and these sectional strikes. In the present state of affairs it is absolutely impossible for even the most discreet organizers of labour to avoid sectional troubles. No organization, however moderate its leaders, can do what this bill will require of it - demand the complete observance of the law by the whole of its members.
I come now to the other part of the Attorney-General’s statement - that certain men while pretending to uphold an award of the court incite others to indulge in guerrilla warfare on the employers. He asserted that leaders of a section of unions in this country pretend to uphold an award, but incite their members to violate it, and escape their own responsibility by pretending that it is not the act of the union concerned. This, he says, is a conspiracy to defeat the award by fraud. Let us assume that it is. What is conspiracy? It is a crime. What is fraud? It is a crime.
What has this Government ever done to defeat and to expose conspiracy and fraud? As a matter of . fact it has done nothing. It owes its political existence to the fostering of the conspiracy and fraud which it pretends to denounce. This Government has existed for five years. It won the last election on the basis of defeating “ fraud and conspiracy.” At that time it said, “ Give us renewed power, and we will give industrial security.” Nearly three years have passed, and at last this bill has been introduced. The Government hopes that the industrial conflagration which it alleges exists at the present time will be at least prolonged until the next elections, so that it can denounce this evil, which for three years it has left untouched, and which at the last election it denounced and promised to cure.
What is the excuse of the AttorneyGeneral? He has said, “We have no means of being able to discover the fraud ; we have no means of uncloaking the conspiracy.” This hopeless and miserable Government can do nothing. Does it not think that if it really wished, it could uncover the conspiracy and fraud. It has behind it all the instrumentalities of power. Has it not got its whisperers and listeners? Could it not tap the telephones? Could it not get its agents to unravel this alleged conspiracy? If tlie Government is anxious to disclose fraud and to punish those responsible for it, where are its agents? Where are its instrumentalities of government? Where are its police and detective forces ? Why has not the Government used all the means at its disposal to check conspiracy and fraud? Why does it pretend that it wants additional powers for this purpose?
The Government goes further. It seeks to do with the labour organizations in this country what it has not done with any other organization. How can the individual members of any particular union take upon themselves the functions of the law? The AttorneyGeneral speaks, of course, of the loyalty of the unionists. A few go out on strike and the rest in loyalty adhere to them. That, of course, is a thing to be denounced, but it is a different matter when it comes to men dying upon the battlefield. Men can go forth out of loyalty and die for their country, but when the workers of this country adhere out of loyalty to their fellowmen, they are to be despised and denounced. If a section of an organization - it may be a section of relatively few men - violates the law, the responsibility for maintaining law and order is to be thrown upon the organization. For what reason? If 12, 20 or 40 men violate the law, should not the Government as the defender of the law, take the necessary action ? Why ask me, as an officer of a trades union, to do that which I have no power to do? If I attempted to act, nine-tenths of my members would discard me as an unworthy leader. They want men to lead them., and not to desert them in a crisis. They want leaders who will stick to them whether their actions are right or wrong. Their leader is their representative voice and exponent. It has been truly said by some one that a man wants a friend, not when he is right, but when he is wrong. It would be cowardly for a labour leader to desert his men in their hour of darkness, and to leave them open to the attacks of their enemies. It is the duty of the Government to maintain the peace, order and good government of this country, and if it knows of a means of doing that it should use it.
– Is not that what the honorable member is complaining about?
– I am denouncing the absurd practice of imposing upon the labour organizations of this country the duty of maintaining peace, order and good government among any section of its members, particularly when the responsibility for law and order is upon the Government. I do not care if this clause is passed. It is so absurd that it cannot do harm. The Government may seek to break and shatter to pieces the Labour movement and organizations, but it cannot dam the stream of unionism for all time; it; must flow afresh.
I rose principally to point out the absurdity of this clause. If it is carried - even if the entire bill is carried as it stands without the crossing of a “ t “ or the dotting of an “ i “ - I defy the Government to give effect to it when sectional strikes take place in any part of the country. There are many things that are unpleasant in the world, and there are many phenomena difficult to account for. They are part of our civilization. They are not due to a few agitators. They have been accumulating through long centuries. They originated in ancient civilizations, wherever there was a subject class. This class has constantly rebelled against the system of tyranny under which it worked, and these disturbances have become greater in the process of time. Men ‘ talk to-day of there being more strikes than previously. Let me remind them that 40 years ago there were many disastrous strikes, such as the great maritime strike and also the strike of the southern coal miners when the Bulli mine collapsed. That occurred long before arbitration, and before the agitator stalked abroad. Long before the unions organized there were agitators who took their lives in their hands and all the risks involved in endeavouring to better the conditions of the working class. The men who talk of the frequency of strikes to-day have no knowledge of the conditions which existed 30 or 40 years ago. Since then a great transformation has taken place among the working class. Its .fighting spirit has become stronger because of the organization of labour. Out of the punishments, imprisonments and black-lists of years ago the labour organization has grown.
The bill is a mockery and a sham, and could not be more absurd. I wish to see it carried into law without any alteration, so that it may be held up to ridicule, and as a lasting monument of the inefficiency of its sponsors. The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General prate about the encouragement of goodwill among employers and employees, and the discouragement of class hatred and warfare. Let me read to honorable members what appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of 11th May, 1926, regarding the coal strike! -
In England, as in Australia, organized labour is led by men ignorant or careless of the economic laws upon which the wefare of industry depends. They are ignorant and irresponsible loaders of sectional interests - unscrupulous rogues who make dupes of their simple-minded followers. They induce their organizations to the weapon of the strike. They seek the substitution of force for law. They aim at producing a position under which organized government will become impossible.
That argument deals with the union leaders, both of Australia and England. What an excellent sample of goodwill! The Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral have referred to the men who mislead and misguide the masses. They have spoken of the union leaders and of the men who promote disturbances against the wishes of the working class. They profess to speak as representatives of Labour, and of the people who gave us our position in this Parliament. . We, on this side, have been elected because the working people believe us to be their exponents, and I venture to say that we are just as honest, human, and upright, as the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral, or any of those honorable members who sit behind them. They speak of us individually as being excellent fellows. The Prime Minister, when the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) resigned his position as Leader of the Labour party in this chamber, complimented him, across this chamber, upon his work. Yet, when speaking in Ballarat, the Prime Minister said of that same gentleman that he was ignorant and despicable. That language, which was published throughout Australia, was used by the same right honor-, able gentleman who now talks about promoting goodwill between capital and labour. The introduction of this bill is only a pretence to maintain law and order. I advise the Government to go ahead with it, because it will do the Labour movement no harm.
.- I am in somewhat of a quandary. Havinglistened with great attention to theright honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who certainly should be an able exponent of all matters pertaining to arbitration, I feel it extremely difficult to follow him, because, after pointing out all the difficulties and dangers of this clause, he was unable to. give us any advice as to how we could best accomplish the object sought to be attained by it. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) gave me the impression that he had no time for arbitration. If we are to have arbitration, surely to. goodness our laws giving effect to it should be enforced. It is not right that one section of the community should be able to break the law when it suits them,, and to defy the government of this, country. Sooner than that we should strike this law from our statute-book.
– Then we should have toscrap many acts of legislation, because all our laws are constantly being broken..
– To-day certain members of a trade union are openly defying the law.
– Who are they?
– There are many of them?
– Name them.
– We have been dealing to a great extent with the trouble that is existing to-day in connexion with the maritime strike.
– Who are the honorable members who, according to the honorable member, have openly advocated breaking the law?
– The honorable member who has just resumed bis seat said that-
– Who are they?
– The honorable member for Bourke for one.
– Did he advocate breaking the law?
– The honorable member should give the names.
– The action of the maritime cooks has been responsible for holding up the whole of our’ interstate trade, and causing widespread unemployment and general depression.
– How does the honorable member propose to deal with them?
– Are we to assume that one section of the community has the right to openly defy a law and hold up industry whilst another section must obey it? Is it right’ that a small section should act in this way and that no effort should be made to bring them to heel? It is interesting to note the following, which appeared in the Melbourne Argus : -
The following official statement was issued by the president (Mr. W. J. Buggan), and the secretary (Mr. C. Crofts), of tlie Australasian Council : - Consideration was given to statements ni aclu in a section of the press to the effect that the committee would discipline the Marine Cooks Union, even to the extent of sanctioning free labour being employed by the steam-ship owners to take the place of the members of the Marine Cooks Union. These statements were indignantly refuted by the combined committees, and it was resolved that the pi-ess be requested to give an emphatic denial to any such suggestion.
Instead of an attempt being made by responsible union leaders to bring pressure upon these men to obey the law and return to work, they decline to do anything of the kind.
– That is. not the correct interpretation to place upon that paragraph. While these men were engaged in negotiations mischievous reports were circulated which destroyed their efforts. Men of that type have done more to settle industrial disputes than the honorable member is likely to do in a hundred years.
– The Leader of the Opposition seems to derive some satisfaction from the fact that a certain section of trade unionists are to do these things.
– I am satisfied that those men are trying to obtain peace in an industry whilst the honorable member is slandering them.
-(Mr. Duncan Hughes). - Interjections must cease. The honorable member for Swan must be allowed to proceed without interruption.
– It would appear from the statement that I have just quoted that the representatives of the union have not attempted to discipline the men, who, in defying the law, are holding up industry.
– They were endeavouring to conduct peace negotiations; but their efforts were frustrated.
– Have any honorable members opposite openly denounced the maritime cooks for the action they have taken ?
– I have done more to avoid industrial trouble than the honorable member who has only tried to stir up strife. That is what he lives on.
– We have a law ou the statute-book which one section is obeying, whilst another section is openly flouting it. If one side will not obey the law the other side should be free to act as it wishes.
– The ship-owners are free; but what is the result?
– Are they free? It is very doubtful. If they are, why should honorable members object to this clause? I believe in upholding the law, and in every section obeying a statute which has been framed for the protection of the community. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) seemed. to think that we should have an arbitration law under which the employers would be shackled and the employees allowed to do as they pleasedHe did not suggest any remedy. Surely this is a policy of despair!
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– When this measure is in operation the employers will be- able to deal, with these men. Personally, I do not favour a compulsory arbitration system under which a judge is able to fix the conditions of industry throughout Australia. I believe in the Canadian arbitration system, under which there is no compulsion; but whilst we have a compulsory arbitration system, both parties to a dispute should obey the law. The right honorable member for ‘North Sydney pointed out that if free labour were employed on ships they would not be manned by the members of the maritime unions. The cooks are attempting to coerce the law a.nd hold industry to ransom, careless of the injury to other workers and to the employers, and neither the unions nor honorable members opposite dare to denounce them. I believe in loyalty; but loyalty such as that which was displayed when the engineers in the coal-mining industry went on strike, was carried too far. The only way in which ho overcome the difficulty is to give both parties a free hand.
– Would that settle a dispute?
– It would give the Other side an opportunity to fight the organization that is responsible. Honorable members opposite seem to think that the employees should have a free hand and that the employers should be manacled.
– We think that every effort should be made to prevent a dispute from extending.
– The only way to overcome sectional disputes is to pass this clause and to give the employers the right to protect their interests.
– The honorable member believes in a general strike.
– No; but the Leader of the Opposition does not wish to give the employers privileges which are now enjoyed only by the employees.
– We do not wish a strike to extend.
– I intend to support the clause, because I believe it will give employers an opportunity to overcome many of the difficulties, with which they are confronted owing to the fact that while they have been obeying the law others have been defying it. This provision will force the unions to bring pressure on those officials who are eternally creating strife in industry.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has given this clause an interpretation different from that of the Attorney-General who, when, endeavouring to explain it, denied the possibility of certain things happening which, honorable members on this side said would happen under it. The honorable member for Swan seems to be somewhat perturbed concerning the strike of maritime cooks, and has taken the right honorable member for North Sydney to task for not suggesting ;a remedy; but although he has been ;asked .to explain how the strike could be settled if this provision were in opera tion, he has not done so. The ships on the Australian coast are not running to-day.
– Who started the dispute ?
– It cannot be denied that the marine cooks were responsible for the initial dispute; but the ship-owners are carrying on the fight. In the first instance only one ship was involved, but all the ships on the Australian coast are now held up. It is a lockout, and not a strike.
– The cooks were willing to work on other ships.
– Of course they were ; but they have now been locked out.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Are the ships running ?
– They would be running if the cooks would man them.
– They were willing to man all but one ship, and the honorable member for Franklin knows that that is correct. The owners are locking out the men, and a general lockout is in operation although this provision is not in force. The honorable member said that under a clause of this kind the employers would be able to fight the employees. That is what we have been contending. It is merely a big stick to discipline men who really have no desire to go on strike, and most of whom are anxious to keep industry going.
– Whose fault is it that there is no work available for certain men?
– In this instance it is partly the fault of the system, and to a large extent the part of the employers, who are always anxious to bring about trade depression so that they can reduce the economic standard of employees throughout the world. I regard this clause as the most dangerous in the bill from the stand-point of the unionists. It has been inserted for one purpose only, and that is to create machinery by which’ the Arbitration Court can be used to throw men out of employment on a wholesale scale, and allow the employer to fight the employee. The Attorney-General had a great deal to say this afternoon about State legislation. He referred to a New South Wales statute, which required the taking of a secret ballot before a strike. That idea was conceived by a State AttorneyGeneral who was at one time a Labour man, but on the only occasion on which the provision for the taking of a secret ballot was applied the vote was so unanimously in favour of a strike that the State Government has never attempted to put it in operation again. The AttorneyGeneral also said that in the past, if an employer did not like an award, he could cease operations. But he can do so under the present bill.
– Then what is wrong with this clause?
– The clause is wrong because it hits at the employee only. Honorable members have repeatedly asked the Attorney-General to show how it can be used to prevent an employer locking out his employees.
– But if he can do so now, wherein lies the danger of passing this clause?
– Because under it an interstate dispute can he made out of a sectional dispute within a State, and because an employer can go to the court and get it to declare that a sectional dispute is in existence.
– But why do the employers need to go to the court to get permission to do something which they can now do without going to the court ?
– When the employer gets from the court a declaration that there is a strike in his industry, he can close down and, if he opens his doors again, employ men at any rates of wages he chooses to pay without running the risk of any penalty. But, at present, if a man locks out his men and then re-opens his doors, he is obliged to pay the wages fixed by the Arbitration Court. The Attorney-General said, also, that under this clause the men can go to the Arbitration Court and get a decision that a lockout exists, and that in this way a legal strike may be created. There is not much consolation in that for the men. It means starvation for them whether the weapon is wielded by the employer or whether they themselves are stupid enough to make use of it. And it all comes back to what I said in the beginning of my remarks - that this clause is one-sided; it can be used as a discip linary measure against employees but not against employers. The AttorneyGeneral, and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) are in agreement that it is sometimes hard to prove the existence of a strike, and often impracticable to enforce the penalties provided for in section 6a, and, so that there may be no misunderstanding, the proposed new section 7 will provide machinery by which a strike can be manufactured. Last week I pointed out that a “ sectional strike “ and “ job control “ are quite different matters. In an industrial sense “ job control “ means control of output or control of industry, and, sometimes, going slow on the job. But the AttorneyGeneral has given us the benefit of the High Court decision that sectional strikes are what is known, as job control in Australia. My reply is that the justices ois the High Court may reverse that decision. We have had High Court decisions, particularly in respect of industrial matters, reversed even by the same bench of justices. Justices of the High Court know very little about industrial conditions. Their environment and their education have kept them quite apart from the hurlyburly of industrialism. They are mere babes in the wood when they come to interpret industrial conditions. For instance, the honorable member for South Sydney has told us how judges, on the evidence of employers, that they were only making a bare crust out of their retail trade, were inclined not to grant increased wages, but that when the retailers’ books were produced in court it was found that the employers had sworn to what was not true. It may not have been actual perjury. The employers may have been allowing for a profit of 50 per cent, where 20 per cent, might have been considered sufficient, but the fact remains that whereas previously the court was not prepared to give the employees an increase, it granted a substantial increase upon the production of the employers’ books. I remember another case, perhaps more serious, in.which a court was prepared to accept the evidence given by the employers. The case was being heard at Wollongong, and the judges were being called upon to interpret the law in relation to conditions in the coal-mining industry. They knew nothing about them, and were quite prepared to believe the sworn evidence of the mine-owners that there was no gas in the mines. But while the case was proceeding the court building was shaken from foundation to ceiling, and when they went out to ascertain the cause, it was found to be due to an explosion of gas in one of the mines close by, which entombed 100 men. But for that catastrophe the judges would probably have given their verdict on the evidence given by the employers that there was no gas in the mines. I say, therefore, that no regard need be paid to the opinion of the High Court as to the meaning of job control, because the justices of the court having no first-hand information on the point, must come to a decision according to the evidence which is from time to time placed before them.
I am thankful to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), supported as he was by interjections by the honorable members for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) and Wakefield (Mr. Foster) for his admission that this clause has been put in the bill to place in the hands of the employers a weapon whereby they can get a decision from the court which will enable them to bring about wholesale unemployment and stoppage of work, an abrogation of the functions of the Arbitration Court, and a wearing down of the economic standard of the workers by the big stick of starvation. I believe that the penal clauses in this hill, and this clause in particular, are framed with that object in view. The Government is seeking to help the employers of Australia to beat down the standard of wages, and to revert to the conditions which existed in 1914, or even to conditions worse than those, such as existed before we had any arbitration in Australia at all.
.- I feel something like the old Roman gladiators who, saluting Caesar, said, “ W e who are about to die salute thee, Caesar.” For Caesar, I substitute the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) who, though he has had a very large experience of the law, has but a very limited experience of trade unionism. While his intentions may be good from his own point of view, I am sure that he must recognize that every honorable member on this side of the House is opposed to the measure, and that there are amongst us battle-scarred veterans in the ranks of unionism. The only honorable member on the other side of the chamber who has had great experience of unionism, both as a member and as a leader, has endorsed the opinions which have been voiced on this side. I, myself, may not have a directly personal experience of unionism, but I do know something of the labour conditions which existed in Melbourne in former years. Any one who cares to go into the splendid library in this House, and study the records of Labour’s battles, even during the span of my life, will know something of what the workers have had to endure. I look upon trade unionism as one of the greatest factors for progress and the uplift of humanity that exists in the present stage of our civilization. It is a movement even greater than the friendly society movement, the aim of which is to protect members from the extortionate charges of the medical profession. In passing, I should like to know whether this clause would apply to the medical men who, in cowardlly fashion, struck for higher fees when the members of the friendly societies were fighting at the Front for the liberty of Australia and of the British race. Probably it would not; but if it is passed, and there follow the ill effects which have been prophesied, upon honorable members of the other side the blame must lie. Let me refer, if I may, to the action of Sir William Irvine, now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court’ of Victoria, who as Premier of Victoria, brought in an industrial bill more drastic* than any measure ever passed under the name of an Irish coercion act. In the longest speech which I ever made, one lasting for five hours, I compared that bill with the Irish coercion act, and gave the British Parliament credit for not having made its act more severe. It was introduced on the very day that the remains of the unfortunate Burke and Cavendish were buried; yet its penal clauses were a mere bagatelle compared with those in the act for which Sir William Irvine was responsible. The Victorian act provided that any one who dared to assist the wives and children of strikers would be visitedwith imprisonment, and if ten men met on a street corner, they could be gaoled.I told Sir William Irvine on the floor of the State House that, law or no law, I would break that provision, because, while I have never recommended a strike, yet when a strike is once declared, I shall help the women and children - and the men, too - as much as I can. The weapon of the strike has done much to lift the human race upward towards the goal of civilization. What was the fate of SirWilliam Irvine’s act? It was repealed by the Legislative Council of Victoria, the most conservative second chamber in any legislature in Australia. That chamber came to a unanimous decision to repeal it, but before that was done Mr. Prendergast - now Chief Secretary for Victoria - marked Sir William Irvine for all time with the name of “Iceberg” Irvine. He embedded in the Victorian Hansard the bill as it was introduced by Sir William Irvine. This was a measure for which Sir William Irvine claimed political credit, yet as soon as he removed to the sphere of Federal politics, it was thrown out with contempt.
– It was recalled.
– It was unanimously repealed by both Houses. I remember when there were no arbitration acts or wages boards. I know that in the great warehouses of Flinders-street, and in Sydney also, they used to pay their employees a miserable pittance; girls were supposed to be able to live and clothe themselves on 2s. 6d. a week.
– That was 50 years ago.
– No, it was not. I can give the honorable member a copy of the report of the late Mr. Harrison Ord, which bears out my statement, dated 1st June, 1889. What I have here is copied from that report, and if any honorable member can show that I have incorrectly quoted a single line he may name any hospital he likes for a life governorship. The great warehouses, from Sargood and Sons to Beith, Schiess and Co., paid their girls 2s. 6d. a week. They were so generous that they paid them 2s. 6d. a week on Saturday morning, and then made them pay it back on Monday morning under the pretence that they were teaching them a trade. I shall read the words of Mr. Harrison Ord, then Chief Inspector of Factories for Victoria, and no one can say that these are the words of a Labour man -
- (Mr. Duncan-Hughes). - Does the honorable member propose to connect these remarks with this clause, which deals with the power of the court to declare the existence of a strike or lockout?
– A lockout would have been declared if the girls in these factories had refused to accept the 2s. 6d. per week. Mr. Harrison Ord reported -
The kind employer will then say that instead of insisting on the money down, he allows her to return to him on Monday the 2s. (id. he pays her on Saturday. He explains it is out of consideration for the poverty of the poor girls’ parents he allows her to pay hispremium in this way. It is doubted if the above statement would be credited but for the fact that the system has become somewhat public through prosecutions for the very offence described above. If one thing is more offensive than another, it seems tobe the practice of such deeds as the above under cover of “ kindness “ to the poverty of a poor girl’s parents or the poor girl herself. Others charge a premium monthly.
The principal credit for the reform that followed the publication of that report may be justly given to my old friend, Sir Alexander Peacock. If the Government seriously desires to establish industrial peace, why does it not adopt the Denmark law? An industrial dispute in Denmark is referred to a court presided over by a pacificator, who is sworn to make peace between citizen and citizen. I suggest to the Attorney-General that those who preside in our Arbitration Courts should take a similar oath. Before the pacificator no lawyer is permitted to appear; but if either party is not contented with his decision the case may be carried to a higher court where the parties may be represented by lawyers, who, however, are restricted to the evidence already given in the lower court ; no fresh evidence may be adduced. Consequently, all cases are settled with expedition and satisfaction to those concerned. Although I am willing to credit the Attorney-General with good intentions, I am confident that this bill will not realize his hopes of it. He would be well advised to postpone this objectionable clause so that it may be further considered. The law can become a great power of oppression. In the past the laws invariably favoured the man with the heaviest purse. I do not suggest venality on the part of the judges of to-day; but the man with the most money is able to employ the brightest intellects at the bar, and thus has an advantage which is denied the poor man. In the judicial firmament the record of the late Chief Justice Higginbotham shines out like a star on a summer’s night. Thanks to him, the words master and man have almost disappeared from our statutes; the words, employer and employee, which he substituted, are now in general use, and are in themselves a monument to his greatness and sympathy. In Australia are many employers whose workers never have to resort to the strike. Ford. the greatest industrialist of America, was told that he could never cope with the unions ; but he did so, and I am certain that if he were controlling a shipping service he would not allow the wages of an extra assistant cook to cause the hold-up of a whole industry. Although I have realized at times the need for strong measures I have never advocated a strike. This bill will create a great deal of trouble, and I -wish that it could be submitted to a referendum of the people, or, alternatively, to a vote by an equal number of representatives of employers and employees. Although I have studied unionism a great deal I do not profess to understand it as thoroughly as do union secretaries and others who have been in the industrial movement all their lives. I have the friendship and loving regard of many union secretaries ; I know them as friends and comrades who would not lie to me. I have never met one who desired a strike; dozens of them have, within my knowledge, done their best to prevent strikes. If they were consulted more freely industrial troubles would be fewer. The problem of industrial unrest is one which has baffled all of us; even the keen brain and wide knowledge of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) have been unable to devise a solution of it. It is the most difficult problem that we have to face to-day. The only words of hope that I can give are that I do not believe that we shall go backward. I have studied the conditions of humanity as they exist to-day, and as they were when I was born, 74 years ago. I have confidence in my fellowmen, and in that
Divine Presence that controls and ministers to us. I believe that humanity will continue to advance and that tradeunionism, with its great thought and help for humanity, will assist us to achieve that standard of civilization which we all hope to attain.
.- Many eloquent speeches have been made from this side of the House as to the grave dangers threatened by this clause, but no utterance has more eloquently pictured the coercive powers- behind this provision than that made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) tonight. His speech was characterized by a condour influenced by his strong antipathy towards compulsory arbitration. The honorable member was prepared to go a good deal farther in expressing his thoughts upon present-day employers and their observation of awards than many of his more discreet colleagues. We have his testimony that this legislation is introduced with the desire to assist the employer to make use of the economic advantages at his disposal to fight the employee and bring him down upon his bended knees. We have no desire that the community should witness an industrial struggle of that description. Instead, it is our desire to relieve the community of the unfortunate suffering and distressing circumstances that would, of necessity, be associated with such a struggle. The words of the honorable member for Swan were confirmed to some extent by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), in his reply this afternoon to the earlier speeches of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and myself. The honorable gentleman contended that the employers surely were entitled to exorcise the right of selfdefence. The honorable gentleman urged that in the circumstances covered by the clause, the employers should be relieved of the restraints imposed upon them by the existing laws, necessitating an adherence to the awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and that they should be permitted to exercise coercive powers at their disposal against their employees when it suits them to do so. The employers must not be permitted to evade their obligations. We have no desire to return to tha system of industrial barbarism ‘vh:rh existed in the “good old days.” I have here a copy of the minutes of evidence taken in a case that was heard before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court as recently as August of last year. This document illustrates clearly the unscrupulous nature of the dealings of many employers engaged in our clothing trade industry, and proves that they are prepared to evade their responsibilities and the awards of the court.
– Several of them have recently closed up because their businesses did not pay.
– It is far more honorable for them to close than to endeavour to escape the payment of award rates to the girls that they employ. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) wishes to return to the times when no restraint was placed upon employers. These employers are not content with trying to break the law; they have endeavoured in some instances to bribe union, officials in order to keep their mouths shut.
– I do not believe it.
– It is here in sworn evidence, and during the course of this debate I hope to quote many extracts from this document. This is evidence given upon oath, and any witness making false statements is liable to the penalty of the law. Yet no such action has been taken, which indicates that the evidence is the truth. It ill becomes the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) to hold a brief for people who are prepared to evade their responsibilities. I am surprised to think that the honorable member is prepared to exert his influence to champion employers who are not prepared to honour the awards of our Arbitration Court. I remind the honorable member, and all honorable members opposite, that the worker is compelled by the law of the land to place his trust in our system of arbitration.
– The workers do not honour the awards of the court.
– Ninety-eight per cent, of the workers of Australia are loyally abiding by the provisions of our Arbitration Court awards.
– The honorable member is no authority upon anything resembling commonsense, therefore I do not seek any opinion from him in this matter. The honorable member knows very well my views concerning him, and there is no need for me to amplify my previous expressions of opinion about Mm. He is without peer as an extremist tory, and a retrogressive reactionary.
– (Mr. Duncan Hughes). - Order! I ask the honorable member, to confine his remarks to clause 7 of the bill. His present references to the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) are rather provocative.
– They are not more than the honorable member deserves. The Government is upholding the principle that might is right. During the war the counsels of justice and morality were scattered to the four winds of heaven, and might was enthroned as the only law to be observed. The Government is now seeking to establish that law in industry. It is endeavouring to place in the hands of the employers an instrument which will enable them to exercise all the old forms of tyranny, intimidation and persecution which the trade union movement had. to fight in the years gone by. I know something of the methods of other days, for I was persecuted because of my trade union principles. Endeavours were made to force me to accept lower wages than those fixed in the award governing the industry in which I was engaged. I was employed for eight months by Messrs. Hawke Brothers,” of Kapunda, in the division of Wakefield. One would imagine that long before eight months had elapsed the employers could ‘ have ascertained my capacity as a workman, but the means which they adopted of dispensing with my services was to offer me further f employment at a weekly wage 3s. less than that fixed in the wages board award. They knew very well that my principles would not allow me to accept this wage. At Kapunda, in the days of which I speak, we had to hold our meetings in secret for fear of intimidation and persecution by the employers. I thought those days had gone for good, but the Government is endeavouring to bring similar conditions into existence to-day. 1 feel sure that every fair-minded person in the community will resist this reactionary procedure. The Government has proclaimed from the house-tops that it desires peace in industry. It even went to the extent of issuing invitations to an industrial peace conference. But at that very time it was preparing for industrial war. As an evidence that the supporters of the Government intend to adopt coercive measures in the near future to try to destroy the trade union movement, I quote the following recent statement of the Honorable George Swinburne, a former candidate for the Senate, who recently secured election to the Legislative Council of Victoria : -
The problem of restoring industrial stability must be tackled, and it may have to be tackled with a big stick.
That statement was made at Armadale, in Victoria. It shows the spirit which animates a section of the employing class, which desires to oppress and suppress the workers, with the object of making bigger profits and paying larger dividends. In my opinion, if this clause is agreed to, it will become an imp of mischief in industry. It will provide the employers with a legal method of evading the orders and determinations of the court and may nullify the efforts of a quarter of a century and the expenditure of thousands of pounds to establish reasonable conditions for the workers. It will also provide the employers with an easy means of legally closing down their works when market conditions are not as favorable as they might be, or when they desire to re-organize their plant at the expense of their employees.
– They will do this when the binns are full.
– The Government may rest assured that we shall do our utmost to resist this effort to -assist the privileged class which it represents. It* is well known that within recent times certain captains of industry in Australia have been guilty of going to the extent of even paying men to join trade unions for the special purpose of fomenting trouble so that they may close up when the market is unfavorable and large stocks are on hand, or reorganization of plant becomes necessary. Such tactics are vile and despicable. The Government deserves the condemnation of every rightthinking person for adopting this means of attempting to discredit industrial arbitration. I urge honorable members opposite not to agree to this proposal, for it is extremely dangerous and will make it possible for the employing class to fatten on the sweat and toil of the masses. Instead of bringing lasting peace into industry it will bring war. I shall, no doubt, have many other opportunities to refer to the most anomalous situation that will be created by this legislation. I felt, however, that I could not allow this opportunity to pass without emphasizing, as strongly as Possible, my indignation concerning this measure! which will do so much to promote indus trial unrest and cause dislocation in industry, instead of ushering in an era of industrial peace and general prosperity, and ensuring the welfare and contentment of every citizen of the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
Shipping Dispute : Position in Tasmania - Adelaide General Post Office: Theft of Mail Bags - On. Prospecting in Papua - Coal Industry : Introduction of German Capital - Importation of Orange Juice.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister information concerning probable developments with regard to the present shipping dispute that is of the greatest importance to the State which I assist to represent in this chamber. I learned to-day, from a most reliable source, that the leaders of maritime unions have ordered seamen to ‘ give notice to ship-owners that they intend to come out on strike very shortly. As honorable members are aware, Tasmania depends entirely upon existing shippingservices for its communication with, the mainland. If further trouble develops, as has been suggested, the position will be most serious. The fruit season is now at its height. If there is any dislocation of shipping none of this produce can be sent away. I impress upon the Government the seriousness of the situation to Tasmania, and I ask the Prime Minister if it will be possible for the Government to do anything to assist the State, if the leaders of the maritime unions take the action indicated?
.- Last Tuesday, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, I directed the attention of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson). to a report that a detective of the Criminal Investigation Department in Adelaide had applied “ third degree “ methods in his examination of certain officers employed in the mail room at the General Post Office, with regard to the disappearance of a mail-bag containing £220 from the mail room in the General Post Office. My remarks were reported in the Adelaide press, and the following appeared in the Adelaide Register of the 31st May : -
Police officials on Wednesday indignantly denied the suggestion contained in Mr. Makin’s question in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, that police officers had used “ third degree “ methods when interrogating mail-room officers in Adelaide concerning the disappearance of a mail bag containing £220 in notes and silver. It was stated that the officers engaged on the case had spoken to all employees in the branch, and that typewritten notes of the questions asked employees had been taken down, and would be made available to Mr. Makin, M.H.R., through the department. These would show whether any “ third degree “ methods had been used. The money disappeared on the 26th April, when being despatched from Adelaide to Hilton. So far no arrests have been made, and no trace of the money has been found.
I have no quarrel with the detective concerning the examination which he made between the 26th April and the 5th May, and at which all questions and answers were duly noted, although on one occasion I believe he interrogated one man from 2 o’clock in the afternoon until 8 o’clock without allowing any interval for tea or rest, and with only a glass of water in front of the official concerned. I offer no objection to that inquiry, which I will not say was beyond what may be fair and reasonable. But this detective from the Criminal Investigation Department made further investigations on the 21st and the 22nd May, and I ask now to be furnished with the evidence obtained by him from the postal officials, whom he examined on those dates, and the manner in which the questions were submitted. I am informed that he interrogated two officers on the 21st May, and one on the 22nd May. I ‘ am further informed that the language used by the detective on those occasions was most abusive and intimidating. He went even to the point of threatening to arrest a man. If the circumstances justified the detective in threatening an officer, the man concerned should have been arrested and placed upon his trial. I deprecate most strongly the manner in which Detective McMahon questioned some of our most trusted officials in the Postal Department in Adelaide, and I ask the PostmasterGeneral to allow me to peruse the evidence taken on the dates mentioned.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), in the absence of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, a very important matter. It is in connexion with oil prospecting in Papua. The Government is expending a considerable sum of money there, as are also private companies. The signs of oil are very promising at the moment, and if any quantity of oil is discovered it will have to be brought by sea carriage to the mainland, and more especially to Darwin to fill the great tanks there. The last naval survey of those waters was made in about 1840, and as the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) knows, navigation there is practically by dead reckoning. The average depth of water is between 2 and 10 fathoms and there are practically no charts available. Recently the captain of one of the vessels trading on the Papuan coast refused to go inshore to land machinery until the vessel was lightened. I ask the Prime Minister to arrange for a naval sloop to survey those waters in order to make navigation reasonably safe.
.- It is well known that I have been requesting for some time a decision from the Government regarding the introduction of German capital into Australia, and it3 indemnification against any default that may take place respecting German reparations under the Dawes and Versailles treaties. I understand that this concession has been granted by Great Britain, South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand. I should like the Government to expedite its decision in this matter, because of “the perilous position of the coal industry. Without some assistance it is not likely to improve very much, because of the increasing consumption of oil fuel and brown coal. The introduction of German capital into Australia to develop our coalfields for the eventual production of oil and other by-products of coal in commercial quantities, would greatly benefit Australia, as a whole. I hope that the Government will come to a speedy decision. I have reason to believe that capital to the amount of £2,000,000 is available to Australia for the development of our coal-fields if permission is granted for its introduction, and I see no reason to refuse that permission.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has referred to the Adelaide missing mail bag. I informed him last Tuesday that I was calling for a report from the Superintendent of Mails in that city. He has furnished a report to the Deputy Postmaster-General there, and that report is now on its way to Melbourne. Until I receive it, I cannot give the honorable member any further particulars.
.- I have listened to the discussion that has taken place with some surprise, because, although there are five representatives of the delightful island of Tasmania in this chamber, only one has spoken in defence of her rights, and for him I have the greatest admiration. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook.) alone is the advocate of keeping the sea-ways open. How delightful it would be for him if we employed Chinese and blackfellows in our merchant marine. He has asked us to defend Tasmania from the iniquitous Australian seamen.
Is the honorable member for Franklin to be the only spokesman for that little State which is staggering beneath the burden imposed by the Navigation Act and the Seamen’s Union? Has not Major-General Gellibrand some voice in this discusion? Why is not MajorGeneral Atkinson here to speak for the people of Tasmania? Where is Colonel Bell? Let us not forget that gentleman, whose gallant feats during the war are so well known to us. Why is Corporal Jackson, of Bass, so silent?
– I ask the honorable member to refer to honorable members by their constituencies.
– Why are Corporal Jackson for Bass, Major-General Gellibrand for Denison, Major-General Atkinson for Wilmot, and Colonel Bell for Darwin so silent when the pressing needs of their State are under discussion? Is there only one spokesman for Tasmania? Are we to hear no other voices in support of the honorable member for Franklin, who is so anxious to impress upon us the difficulties of Tasmania repecting the carriage of its fruit? Where is Colonel Bell?-
– I ask the honorable member to address honorable members by their constituencies. He well knows the practice of this House.
– God forbid that I should forget their military titles. I ask Corporal Jackson to say something, because he fought in the Great War. The needs of Tasmania are pressing, and should be explained to us. If the representatives of Tasmania will not speak I, at least, will join with the honorable member for Franklin in his efforts to put the seamen of Australia in their proper place.
– I wish to say a few words respecting the subject raised by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). The exploitation of coal under the by-products system employed in the manufacture of coke is a project that certainly appeals to me. I do not speak in the interests of any particular company or individuals. If we enter into a trade agreement, similar to that which Great Britain has with Germany, whereby, to enable the capital- of German nationals to be expended in Australia, the provisions of the Dawes and Versailles treaties are to be abrogated if the German Government defaults in respect of its reparations, it is only reasonable to expect a great development of our coalfields to take place. I do not wish at this juncture to go into detail concerning the position of the coal industry; but something in the nature proposed must be done or the industry will practically go out of existence. A customer at any city or country store will see shelves stocked with goods branded “Made in Germany”. If we are willing to allow goods manufactured by German workmen to compete with the products of Australian artisans, surely there can be no objection to allowing German capital to come to Australia to assist an industry which is threatened with extinction if something of this description is not undertaken. If the Government gave an undertaking in the direction proposed it could not lose anything. No request has been made for tariff or any other form of protection for this industry. Those concerned only ask the opportunity to introduce capital to develop our deposits for the purpose of manufacturing oil and other by-products of coal, and that the capital so employed shall not be confiscated by the Australian Government in consequence of a default on the part of the German Government in making reparations. We were informed in a recent cablegram that Germany is likely to produce 100,000 tons of gasolene from coal this year, and if that is so, we ought to be able to produce it here. Such a scheme would enable our surplus coal, for which there is now practically no export trade, to be utilized, and if the industry is developed employment will be provided for thousands of men.
.- Before the Prime Minister replies to the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), I should. like to know if the right honorable gentleman really understood what the honorable member for Franklin was asking for. So far as I can gather he was speaking about some secret understanding between the seamen not to work the ships.
– I am not responsible for what the honorable member thinks.
– And I am not responsible for the opinions, or even the debts, of the honorable member for Franklin. The seamen have been locked out, and no one knows that better than the honorable member for Franklin. They are not refusing to man the ships. I ask the Prime Minister, when replying to the honorable member for Franklin, to realize that in spirit the honorable member lives in the days of which Marcus Clarke wrote in For the Term, of His Natural Life. He still believes that men should bc working for 2d. a day, and, as the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) mentioned, thinks that a few blackfellows or Chinamen should man the ships. The work would then, he thinks, be done more cheaply, and he would be satisfied. I remind the Prime Minister that the seamen have not refused to work; they are willing to man the ships. The statement of the honorable member for Franklin is a libel upon the seamen.
– There is no lockout.
– Whatever dispute there may be amongst the maritime cooks, the seamen are not refusing to man the ships, and the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin will not make the position any easier. I do not wonder that the generals, colonels, and corporals who represent other constituencies in Tasmania have not supported the honorable member for Franklin. I know by their countenances that they are heartily ashamed of. the honorable member, and the aspersions he has cast upon the seamen of this country. I hope the Prime Minister will not take any notice of his remarks.
.- The members representing Tasmanian constituencies are not afraid to express their opinions when they consider there is any necessity to do so. If other honorable members would adopt the methods that we endeavour to adopt, the House would not have to listen to idiotic nonsense such as we have heard from the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey).
– Order! I ask the honorable member not to refer to the remarks of another honorable member in that way, as such words are not permissible.
– I just wish to say that as a result of shipping strikes Tamania* has been penalized more than any other portion of Australia, and that if the honorable member for Bourke or any other member of the Opposition would use as many words against the actions of the strikers as they do iii support of them the Tasmanian people would not be isolated on so many occasions.
– I have received the following letter from the Secretary of the Murray Citrus Growers’ Co-operative Association (Australia) Limited, Adelaide:-
During the recent visit to Queensland, the manager of the “ Big Orange Mills “ Company of this city reported that he had found that large quantities of orange juice were being imported from California.
If this importation is continued it will mean a serious menace to the citrus industry of the Commonwealth. This particular industry has, in recent years, developed considerably, and by reason of the slump in the dried-fruit section more attention is being given to citrus development. _
In these circumstances, the controlling bodies in the various States arc being faced with an over-production problem, and in your own State in particular, the sale of orange-juice drinks has materially assisted in the stabilization of the industry.
The company above referred to has demonstrated that pure orange juice can be held for a lengthy period under refrigeration, and samples. of this product have been forwarded to the Lords of the Admiralty for use in the Navy, as against the Californian article.
If the juice could not be manufactured here no objection could be taken to the’ importation, but as the manufacture of the article has gone beyond the experimental stage, and as the sale of these drinks is of vital importance to the citrus-growers of the Commonwealth, my executive asks that the Australian industry be protected by ‘the imposition of a duty sufficiently heavy to prohibit the introduction of the Californian article.
Accompanying that letter is the following:
Would be glad if you would confer with other members, and anything you can do to assist us .will be appreciated. Eighty barrels of this juice ‘have come into Queensland.
The citrus fruit-growing industry is an important one in which hundreds of returned soldiers are engaged. These men are confronted with many difficulties as are those associated with the dried-fruit industry and grape-growing, and have also had to contend with frosts and hail. It is time that something was done for the industry which in South Australia has been jeopardised as a result of heavy importations of orange juice from California. This is not the first occasion I have brought under the notice of the Government the fact that Californian citrus fruits and products ‘ are competing with Australian fruit. Some time ago I directed attention to the fact that Californian oranges were on the tables at the hotels in Canberra during the ceremonies associated with the opening of Parliament. I trust the Government will seriously consider the necessity of assisting these returned soldier citrus fruit-growers.
– I have not received any intimation that action such as that mentioned by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) is contemplated by the seamen employed on the ships trading between the mainland and Tasmania, and I sincerely trust that there is no truth in the honorable member’s suggestion. The position which has developed in Australia in connexion with our coastal shipping during the last few weeks is extremely serious. I had hoped day by day that a settlement was in sight. Unfortunately, that hope has not been realized, but so serious a position has developed that, unless some settlement is come to, it is imperative that action be taken. I assure the honorable member that, if communications between Tasmania and the mainland are disrupted, the Government will very seriously consider what action should be taken so that those communications may be preserved. I shall discuss with the Minister for Defence the question asked by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) and see whether any action can be taken. The matter raised by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) and the honorable member for Werriwa (=Mr-. Lazzarini) has been receiving consideration for some time past, and the Government is in a position to take action and give its decision at the present moment. Unfortunately, however, the question does not merely depend upon the position which exists under the Treaty of Versailles, and the right of Australia under that treaty to seize German property should there be any default in respect of German reparations. It is also bound up with the question of the holding of mineral areas by foreigners, and of foreign capital being introduced into Australia. However, the Government proposes to deal with the latter question by means of a measure which will be introduced as soon as the bill now before the House has been dealt with.
– Will that be before the House rises?
– I hope so; it will be if we can get through the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill in a reasonable time. I shall look into the matter which the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) has brought under my notice, to see what the present position is, and whether any action is warranted.
Question resolved in the affirmative,
House adjourned at 11.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 June 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280605_reps_10_119/>.