10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair At 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that certain newspapers in Melbourne and Sydney have opened a fund for the benefit of Captain KingsfordSmith, stating that he withbeout of pocket to the extent of £6,000 upon his arrival in Australia after his great flight ? Will the Commonwealth Government give consideration to the making of a financial grant to the aviator?
Mr.BRUCE.–The matter is receiving consideration.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories been drawn to the fact that in connexion with the recent increase of the tariffs at Commission hotels concessionsare to be given to permanent residents? According to the Commission’s definition of “ permanent resident “ a person engaged in a business in Canberra, the headquarters of which is outside of the Territory, is to be regarded as a permanent resident, whereas a person engaged in a business the head-quarters of which is in Canberra, is not to be so considered, although he may have been residing here for some time. In one case which has been brought undermy notice, a person who has been engaged in business here since long before the transfer off the Seat of Government, is not considered a permanent resident, Will the Minister have inquiries made and inform me what the term” permanent resident “ really- means?
– I shall be glad to do so.
-According to a statement appearing in the press telegraphic despatches this morning, the Development and Migration Commission has agreed, to advance, for certain specified works, £5,000,000 out of the £34,000,000 that is being borrowed from the British Government. Will the Prime Minister, at a later date, give me the details of the Works which have been recommended ?
– I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence informme of the itinerary’ which has been arranged for the’ four supermarine planes which have recently arrived in Australia on a visit from Great Britain ? I desire to know particularly whether a visit to Tasmania, including Lauceston, has been arranged, and if not, whether steps will-be taken to amend the itinerary tomake this possible ?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter; but if the itinerary has been arranged and Launceston has not been included, I can hold out no hope that any alteration will be made.
Royal Commission Proceedings
– Is the Prime Minister aware that His Honor Mr. Justice Scholes, the royal commissioner appointed to inquire into the bribery allegations of Mr. G. Lambert, M.H.R., has, in compliance with the application of Mr. Windeyer, counsel for the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), agreed to an adjournment of the inquiry for a week? In view of the repeated requests made in this House by the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and also by the honorable member for Dalley that there should be no delay in this inquiry, will the Prime Minister ask His Honour to prooeed with his investigations at once?
– It is for Mr. Justice Scholes, the royal commissioner appointed to make this inquiry, to determine the procedure to be adopted.
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Referring to the question asked by the honorable member for Brisbane on 9th December, 1927, regarding the physical standard of senior cadets entering the Citizen Forces, and the Minister’s reply of 12th December, will the Minister supply the following further information : -
What was the percentage of senior cadets rejected as medically unfit for admission to the Citizen Forces for the year ended 31st December, 1927, in (a) the Commonwealth, and (b) the State of Queensland?
What was the percentage of rejections for admission to the Senior Cadets, on the ground of medical unfitness, for the year ended 31st December, 1927, in (a) the Commonwealth, and (6) the State of Queensland?
In view of the very high percentage of medically unfit, as shown by the figures supplied in answer to previous questions on this subject, will the Minister extend the scheme of physical training in schools, which is at present very limited in scope, particularly as it is understood that all the Education Departments of the States and allschool authorities outside the State control arc at present requesting additional help in the training of their teachers in this national work?
– The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Footpaths - Ventilation and Cost of
Parliament House - Machines
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I regret that the information is not yet available, but I am taking steps- to obtain it.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I regret that the information is not yet available, but I am taking steps to obtain it.
– On the 27 th April, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked me the following questions: -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
– On the 30th May the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me the following questions : -
I am now in a position to advise him as follows: -
– On the 31st May, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me the following questions : -
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : -
With the exception of the ditchers, loaders and steam shovels, provision is made, for shelter when the machines are not in the field. The Commission also has a large number of smaller machines, for which shelter is provided in the plant yard when they are not in the field.
Barber-Greene Ditchers (average), £1,586 each.
Parsons Model 30 Ditcher, £3,239
Wehr Road Graders, £603 each.
Barber-Greene Loaders (average), £1,156 each.
Austral-Otis Steam Roller (approximately), £1,500.
Robey Tandem Roller, £936
Diesel Rollers (average), £1,472 each.
Caterpillar Tractor (No. 30), £942
Caterpillar Tractors (2-ton) (average), £573 each.
Cletrac Tractor (K type) (average), £576 each.
asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The Investigation Branch has occasionally utilized his services as an interpreter, as he is an expert linguist. In this case the Victorian Police asked the Investigation Branch whether it knew of a reliable interpreter of the Russian and Polish languages, and were referred to Mr. Goran, and I am” informed that the State Police utilized his services in that capacity.
asked the Minister for
Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. The original intention of the Administration was to construct two roads to the gold-fields - one suitable for wheeled traffic and the other a mule track. The former, known as the Gadagadu Road, was surveyed, but its construction was not proceeded with immediately, as the Administrator considered that the road parties should concentrate for the present on the mule track, known as the Buang Road. The Buang Road was constructed for a distance of 16 miles, but as a natural surface road only. In March last the Administrator reported that he had paid a personal visit to the gold-fields and had reorganized the whole plans with the object of locating a rough tractor or caterpillar road to the Bulolo River, where machinery is first needed, and thence to Edie Creek. The Administration is confining its efforts to this latter road, and work on the Gadagadu and Buang Roads has been temporarily suspended. I have asked the Administrator to continue to give this matter his close personal attention in order that this much needed work may proceed to its completion with the utmost expedition and efficiency.
The following papers were presented : -
Munitions Supply Board - Annual Report from 1st July, 1926, to 30th June, 1927, together with the Annual Report of the Commonwealth Government Clothing Factory.
Ordered to be printed.
Federal Capital Commission - Report for the quarter ended 31st March, 1928.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
In committee (Consideration resumed from 5th June, vide page 5498) :
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 “.
.- I am addressing myself to this clause for the second time because I realize its importance. If the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) persists in his intention to include it in the bill he will sound the death knell of Commonwealth industrial arbitration. The honorable gentleman was at great pains yesterday to defend the provisions of the clause. He pointed out that in connexion with various State industrial boards and arbitration tribunals there were no penalties in respect of strikes and lockouts. But surely that does not in itself justify the Commonwealth in departing from a system which it has had .in operation since 1904. I shall be told that the Government proposes to abolish penalties for strikes and lockouts only in certain circumstances. But what are those circumstances? If a body of employees cease work their action is described as a strike. If, on the other hand, an employer deliberately closes down his industry without good and sufficient reason, he is said to have locked out his employees. Under the existing legislation the party guilty of causing either a strike or a lockout is liable to a penalty. The Attorney-General is proposing that we shall continue that practice in certain respects, but in other respects, as when there is a partial cessation of work in an industry - and this is the ground of my strenuous objection to the clause - it shall be competent for either party to approach the court for a declaration that a strike or lockout, as the case may be, exists, and upon securing such a declaration the complete closing down of an industry could be brought about.
It would be far better for the AttorneyGeneral, instead of seeking to cloak his real intention, to delete the whole clause. It is of no use to refer to sections 6 and 6a, because clause 7 practically counteracts everything that is provided in them. There can be no escape from the interpretation that we have placed upon this provision. I submit that the Attorney-General’s repeated statements during this debate clearly show that in framing this clause he was actuated by requests made to him by the employers’ associations throughout Australia.
– Many honorable members have said that, but I would inform the honorable member for Hunter that there was not a single request from the employers for the enactment of this clause.
– We have to judge the Attorney-General by’ his own words. He has repeatedly stated in this Chamber that this clause was drafted to enable the employers to have a free hand in connexion with any disputes that may arise.
– The clause has been specially designed for that purpose.
– That is so. The Attorney-General said, in effect, “ Why should not the employers be in a position to retaliate?”
– The Attorney-General referred to the strike in the engineering trade in support of his argument.
– That is so.
– He said that the clause was designed to meet such cases. .
– Yes, and he also said the clause was framed to provide against job control. It is difficult for me at any rate to associate job control with lockouts. A dispute may take place affecting a section of an industry. It may be declared a strike by the court and subsequently lead to a lockout of the whole of the industry. What has job control to do with that. The Industrial Peace Act relates to job control and, to be consistent, the Government should insert in that act a provision similar to clause 7. If it is justified in one instance it should be justified in the other. There are sectional stoppages in the mining industry, as the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said last night. They occur regularly, but they do not interfere with the supplies of coal. There is always more than sufficient coal on hand for our requirements. When a sectional stoppage takes place at one mine, the colliery proprietors, under this provision, will be able to close down the whole of their mines. It is surprising to me that legislation of this kind should be brought before this Parliament. When arbitration was first put into operation, a cry was raised throughout Australia that in the settlement of industrial disputes consideration must be given to the interests of the general public, who, it was claimed, suffered more in consequence of industrial troubles than the two parties concerned in a dispute. Legislation was subsequently passed to provide for the security of the general public as far as possible. It is well known that industrial disputes of any magnitude, dislocate our industrial machinery, and cause suffering to people who are not directly concerned in them. Legislation has, therefore, been passed to enable disputes to be settled without dislocating industry. Sound arguments were advanced for taking that step, and yet we are to-day passing legislation that will accentuate industrial turmoil. Apart from the two parties in industry, let us consider the position of tho general public. If, under this clause, we are going to bring about a general cessation of work’ or to give the employers the right to lock out their employees because a section of them - say, 200 out of 30,000 - choose to stop work, what protection is to be1 “given to the general public?
– What protection have the people to-day?
– They have a certain protection because there has not been a general strike in the coal industry since before the war.
– Because the people are paying through the nose for their coal.
– Let me remind the honorable member that although there have recently been three increases in the price of coal, the miners have not received one farthing increase in their wages. I advise* i the honorable member to institute an inquiry concerning the cost of the production of coal, the capital invested in the mines, and to the amount of watered capital. If he does that, he will ascertain that the miners are being unfairly treated. This clause makes no provision for the protection of the general public. Victoria has, for its coal supply, to depend largely upon New South Wales. In fact that State is the biggest customer of New South Wales. If the colliery proprietors, under this legislation, take the opportunity to declare a lockout, there will be a cessation of supplies. Those who will then suffer most, will be the workers in the factories who will be thrown out of work because of the lack of fuel to keep machinery in operation. This Parliament must consider the interests of the general public.
– Is not the clause designed for that purpose?
– No. This clause will have the effect of increasing disputes and, consequently, the sufferings of the general public. Of the 70 or 80 coal mines in New South Wales, let us assume that one mine ceases work. An application is made to the court, and it decides that the stoppage of work at that mine constitutes a strike. The employers thereupon declare a lockout for the whole industry. It must be remembered that the unions’ organizations have not countenanced all the sectional disputes, that have taken place; in fact, they have had no knowledge at all of some of them. Yet this Government wishes to allow the employers to close down their works with the object apparently of breaking down working conditions.
– They do that now.
– The honorable member cannot quote an instance.
– Even if that were so, this clause would not make the position any better.
– This provision will have far-reaching effect. The AttorneyGeneral has overstepped the mark.
– Does the honorable member say that the employers never lock, out their employees?
– There has never been a lockout in the country and there never will be one under the definition of lockout in the act. A man who cannot so manage his establishment as to evade responsibility under that definition, though at the same time interfering with the conditions of his employees, must be lacking in business acumen. Last week trouble arose in a colliery on the part of a section of the miners employed there, and because of the dispute, in which the owners’ were evidently in the wrong, they dismissed 50 men although the mine had been working daily and no slackness of trade had been experienced. I refer to the Caledonian Company’s mine, known as Cessnock Extended. lt cannot be said that these men have been locked out. There are two sides to this question. Under our present legislation the employers have plenty of opportunity to get rid of their men without declaring a lockout. There are in Victoria and New South Wales certain manufacturers who are constantly advocating the abolition of arbitration. Instances have been quoted in this chamber in connexion with the metal manufacturers. Then again, the chairman of the Chamber of Manufactures at Newcastle last week stated that the conditions of the workers must be broken down by degrees. The first thing that this Parliament should do is to set about reducing the cost of living, and when that has taken place the workers will have no objection to a reduction in their wages so long as the purchasing power of the money they receive increases in proportion to the reduction. The trouble up to the present has been that increases of -wages have always lagged behind increases in the cost of living. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has pointed out, the effective wage to-day as compared with the conditions of 1911 is still 5 per cent, below what it was then. Why should we put a weapon like this into the hands of the employers? When employees are locked out they are .seldom permitted to return to work under the original conditions of employment. This clause will give the employers the whip hand, and enable them to force their own conditions upon their employees. Lockouts may occur which will prostrate the industries of Australia for three or four months. But workmen must live and therefore the employers succeed in the end. The wealthy classes suffer little from the effects of lockouts. The general public is mostly affected, and surely it should be given some protection. Yet. this Parliament is deliberately setting up machinery which will have the effect of a return to the conditions that existed prior to the nineties.
– Is not the present maritime cooks’ strike more or less a lockout?
– There are few honorable members’ behind the Government who admit that. I had considerable experience in the industrial field even be fore I entered public life. I have conducted many cases in various courts and I know what the effect’ of this legislation will be. It will bring about industrial turmoil, and ultimately place the control of the workers of this country in the hands of their employers. We on this side want the wheels of industry to be kept moving. We want harmonious relations to exist between the two parties in industry. One should not have control of the other, but that is exactly what this clause provides for. If the Government wishes to abolish compulsory arbitration it should delete clause 8, which imposes penalties upon any person who is adjudged responsible for a strike. Not only may an offender be required to pay a penalty himself, but his whole organization may be held responsible, and be punished as well. If this clause becomes law we might as well have no arbitration at all. We might just as well let the two sides get together and arrange their difficulties as best they can without any interference by the court, This clause will operate only against the employees, for employers will have the,right to do what they wish with, regard to creating stoppages of work. I realize the danger with which the community is threatened, and I wish to avoid a great industrial upheaval which would benefit neither side, but from which the workers would suffer more than any other section. On so important a subject as this I expected members on both sides to participate in the debate, but although the discussion on this clause has now been proceeding for some time, only two members on the Government side have spoken. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was one of them. He spoke out of the fullness of his knowledge, realizing exactly what the effect of this clause would be, and he condemned it.
– He condemns everything that the Government has done.
– He does not. I have heard him endorse things which the Government did, but he has condemned this measure. There is a great deal of feeling outside with regard to this matter. Resolutions objecting to the bill have been carried by industrial organizations, and certain clauses have been picked out us being particularly obnoxious. That is an indication that the workers do not want to see the principle of arbitration destroyed. They recognize the wisdom of settling disputes by arbitration, instead of having stoppages of work. Resolutions of protest have been carried, and sent to the the Attorney-General. One such resolution was forwarded to him by telegram, and in his reply he said that up to the present the Opposition had not voted against any clause of the bill. That was a most misleading statement for the Attorney-General to make.
– It was accurate, at any rate.
– The AttorneyGeneral is the last man who, I thought, would resort to a trick of that kind.
– The statement was quite true.
– This party voted against the second reading of the bill, and by so doing voted against every clause in it, taken as a whole. However, we have e!nough sense to know that clauses which are not really objectionable should be allowed to go through unchallenged. As exponents of arbitration we are not going to allow ourselves to be placed in the position of voting against every clause of an arbitration bill individually.
– This particular union sent me a telegram saying that its members were .opposed to every clause of the hill. That is why I sent that reply.
– We shall not vote against those clauses which are acceptable to us, but we shall strenuously oppose every clause which we believe to be detrimental to the welfare of the community, and to the arbitration system. Clause 7 is one to which we object very strongly. lt has already been discussed for a considerable time, and it will probably be debated for some time yet. “We are not discussing it merely in order to delay the committee, but because we feel that if it is passed it will bring about, in the very near future, one of the greatest industrial upheavals ever seen in Australia. We do not propose to allow such a clause to pass unchallenged. I can assure the AttorneyGeneral that before the bill is passed we, on this side, shall voice our opposition to every objectionable clause as we reach it. Thai is a fair position to take up, and one for which the Attorney-General should give us credit. I hope that if he has occasion to send any more telegrams to the unions, he will make it quite clear that Labour representatives in this Parliament are opposed to all th° clauses in the bill which they think are not in the best interests of the country as a whole.
– I shall show the honorable member the telegram to which I replied.
– At first I thought that the reply to which I have taken exception might have been sent by some official in the honorable gentleman’s department, but it now appears that it was sent by the Attorney-General personally. I hope that such a thing will not occur again. This matter should receive the calm consideration of the Government and of the committee. I believe that if the Attorney-General were to withdraw the clause now it would produce a very good effect. If a general cessation of work took place through the employers locking out their workmen, it would rouse the people from one end of Australia to the other, and the effect would be detrimental to the Government itself. There is no reason why the Attorney-General should not, at this moment, signify his intention to withdraw the clause. Why should he follow the instructions of the employers? On the side of the workers there is also a section which is against arbitration, the members of which will be delighted if this bill is passed, because they believe in direct action on every occasion. The first time that a general lockout occurs it will make thousands of converts to their way of thinking. The workers will say that the measure is a onesided instrument forged for the purpose of helping the employers to break down industrial conditions. Once the employers are armed with these powers, there can be no doubt that they will avail themselves’ of them. The existing economic conditions are such as to induce the employers to take action in this direction. In the recent past Australia has enjoyed great prosperity as the result of wealth flowing into the country for the purchase of our wheat and wool. Now the revenue is shrinking and it is probable that, for the first time in the history of the .Commonwealth, we shall be faced with a deficit. If that happens, it will merely reflect the general economic condition of the country. It is evident, therefore, that there must be a general reckoning. The economic position is unsatisfactory, but the employers, instead of seeking to attain the highest level of efficiency by introducing up-to-date machinery, and writing down watered capital, will endeavour to tide over their- economic difficulties by depressing the workers’ standard of living. This- bill will provide them with the power to do so. It would be quite easy, by means of pin-pricking tactics, to cause a small sectional strike in some branch of an industry, and an application could then be made to the court for a declaration that a strike existed. If that application were granted, all the workers engaged in the industry could be locked out.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The clause now before the committee is one of the utmost importance, and it is a matter of great regret that the honorable member who has just sat down should, when dealing with it, have raised the party issue. Some of his remarks should not be allowed to pass unnoticed. He accused the Attorney-General of having inserted this clause in the bill at the dictation of the employers’ associations. A more unworthy accusation could not be imagined, and it has been denied over and over again. No proof in support of it has been advanced, but even if the clause had been inserted at the instigation of the employers’ associations, can we not consider it to determine whether it is in itself good or bad? I think it most regrettable that the ex-Leader of the Opposition, a man for whom I have the greatest personal respect, as we all have, should criticize the clause with the idea that it ought to be condemned because it has, allegedly, been introduced at the request of the employers’ associations. Then the honorable member had the audacity, after making that untruthful statement-
– Order !
– Seeing that his statement has been repeatedly denied by the Attorney-General, the honorable member for Hunter should have accepted the denial. Although he would not accept that denial, the honorable member subjected the Attorney-General to a curtain lecture for having replied to a union secretary in terms that were apparently warranted by the telegram which he had received. I do not think that- any one, the Attorney-General least of all, would attempt to give the impression to union secretaries that honorable members of the Opposition Avere wholly in favour of this measure. What the Attorney-General said was quite right up to a point. It is public property that the Opposition voted against the second reading of the bill. I mention that in passing, not to inflame feeling on this measure, but to deplore that such accusations and gross insinuations have been made.
To come to the clause itself. An award under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is a compulsory agreement, enforceable against two parties. If an agreement is enforceable against . two parties, each party ought to be compelled to comply with it only so long as the other party does so. It is a well-known rule in equity, and governs agreements generally, that if one party breaks an agreement, relief from that agreement may be given to the other party. But that relief is not available to either side under our arbitration law. It needs to be emphasized that this clause is reciprocal. Its benefits are not granted to one party and withheld from the other; they extend to both’ parties. The honorable member for Hunter endeavoured to make it clear that a lockout was an impossible occurrence,’ but his assumptions, were not correct, if the honorable member feels that there should be an amendment of the definition of that term - and I do not contend that an amendment is not necessary - . that is a matter that can be given separate consideration. But there is no doubt at all that such an offence as a lockout is capable of being perpetrated under the arbitration law as it exists today.
– How can it be proved to exist ?
– The circumstances of the case must be taken into consideration.’ The honorable member for Hunter intimated that a lockout will not occur because it can be avoided by the employer, who may attain his object by employing irritation tactics to precipitate a strike.
– That is what happens.
– A lockout can take place and has taken place, under the act as it now is.
– But no employer would be foolish enough to declare a lockout if he could achieve his purpose by other means.
– I quite appreciate the point of the honorable member, although I do not agree with him. I realize that in some cases that may be, and has been clone, but it is not general. That does not affect the point that I am making, that a lockout can take place under the law as it exists. A lockout consists in excluding from work men who want employment,’ 1 in order to force them to accept conditions that are not agreeable to them. If an employer, whether an individual -.or a corporation, commits an offence under the act by excluding men from work, why should the employees be compelled to observe the award that the employer has broken ? v
– Would the honorable member legalize the general strike?
-This clause does not legalize or even deal with the general strike.
– What does it mean?
– I shall make that clear as I proceed. If an employer locks out employees - and so far as one may judge from a superficial observation that has been partially done by the shipping companies in the present maritime disturbance - the employees should have an opportunity to bring the case before the Arbitration Court and make the employer prove that his action is justified. It would be a very grave injustice to large numbers of men that the law should remain as it is. If this clause were now in operation the ship-owners could be brought before the court, and, before they could continue without penalty to do what they are now doing, they would have to prove that their action was justified.
– That is not what the clause says. It provides that the employees may go before the court and have it declared that there is a lockout in existence, and then have a general strike.
– It limits the matter to the industry concerned.
– Because trouble exists in one branch of industry that does not make a general strike. If this clause were now in operation the other employees concerned would have the right to go to the court and claim that, through the marine cooks taking a course of action of which they did not approve, the ship-owners were excluding them from work, and that to them was an unjustifiable action. The matter could then be threshed out before the court. In my humble opinion it would be an excellent thing to give unionists who were not guilty of any offence, but who were penalized by either their employers or fellow employees, an opportunity to place their case before the court.
– They have been before the court already.
– The cooks have been before the court, but there are other employees who are being excluded from work who have not an opportunity to state their case.
– If they had that opportunity what would happen ? Would the action of the employers be declared a lockout?
– I do not admit that it would.
– Assume that it would. The clause provides for that contingency.
– It does not necessarily follow that it is a lockout, but if it be a lockout - I am merely expressing an hypothesis based on the superficial circumstances - does not the honorable member see that the court could give directions either to punish the offenders or to legalize a certain attitude of the employees who had committed no offence.
– The honorable member seeks to have a declaration ma.de that would paralyse industry.
– Why should employers be permitted to exclude a certain section of workers from employment, and those employees be precluded from obtaining justice? The workers are entitled to as much protection from the Arbitration Court as are the employers, and the object of this clause is to give them authority to go to the court and obtain justice. I think that it is unjustifiable that, because of the action of a small section of workers, who may be animated by a feeling of injustice, the employers are permitted to lay up the ships and deprive innocent people of employment.
– So do I.
– Then why should not those employees who are suffering an injustice be given an opportunity to go before the court and call upon the ship-owners to justify their action?
– The clause is onesided. It allows liberty of action only to the employer. The employee would be unable to take drastic action, even if the court decided that a lockout existed.
– The honorable member imagines that because I and other honorable members sit on this side of the chamber, we have not sprung from the loins of working people, and are not as interested as he in the welfare of the workers. I regard it as a piece of impertinence for them to assume that we have not as much sympathy with the workers as they have.
– What I am concerned with is the logical sequence of events on the taking of a matter before the court. The declaration of a lockout would not assist the workers to any extent.
– Does the honorable member not believe that, after the incorporation of this clause in the act, the court will act as wisely as it has done heretofore?
– It could do only one thing, declare that either a strike or a lockout existed.
– I believe that, because of his constant reiteratiton of that phase, the honorable member believes it to be correct. As I said with regard to the secondreading speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), the honorable member looks at one side only.
– That is a misrepresentation.
– The Leader of the Opposition declared in his second-reading speech that he stood for one ‘side only. I commented on it at the time. This clause gives the employees the right to go before the court and make the employers concerned justify their action, a privilege which does not now exist.
– Conceding that both sides go before the court, and a lockout is declared, what can the employees do then?
– What is the good of the workers securing a verdict that the action of the employers is a lockout ? That will not get them jobs.
– If the court declares that a lockout exists, and the men who go on strike as a consequence are not in any way offending against the provisions of the act, those men are given a freedom that they do not now possess, as they would be freed from obligations that would otherwise be imposed on them. Why should not the employees possess that advantage in their fight with the ship-owners or other employers.
– How will that settle a dispute ?
– The honorable member, with his long industrial, experience, knows very well that much ofthe advancement made by our industrial classes has occurred through fights of the character to which I have referred. Had they not possessed the weapon of the strike; had they not combined in the effort to prevent employers from crushing them, they would not have got where they are to-day. Human nature has not changed very much, in spite of all the laws that have been passed. For centuries the law has prohibited murder, but murders still occur. Our Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act has been in existence for 24 years, but we still have industrial differences with which to contend and we shall have to the end of time. The effort of the Government is to provide machinery to handle industrial disputes in such a way that their effect will be minimized andi justice done to both sides.
– To put both of them in a ring and tell them to fight it out?
– Unfortunately, that too often happens.
– The honorable member wishes to put the imprimatur of Parliament on that sort of thing.
– No. It is for the court and not the employers or employees, even if they work conjointly, to determine what shall be done. The court is an independent and impartial authority and, after bearing- all the. facts it will declare what shall be done.
– My desire is to- discover what is to happen after the court has made its declaration.
– Award’s do not always, satisfy both parties but they have to- be’ obeyed. There must be an adjudicator. The- court will decide whether, it is in- the interests of not only tha applicants to . the court, but also, the- whole country, that the declaration sought, shouldor should not. be made.
Me. Scullin -When it, is made, it enables a lockout or a strike to- be declared in the whole of the industry.
– Suppose the employees go to- the court and point out. that a. lockout has occurred., The court hears the: case, and if it thinks that a lockout within the meaning of this clause has been created, the declaration entitles the employees to go on strike throughout the industry. Why on. earth should not the men, have the right to fight the employers in. such circumstances ? Honorable members may laugh.; but let me put both sides of the case. If I were to interpret their laugh and. their promises in the way that they should be interpreted’,, they probably would not like it’. According, to them, the. employers should be able to iockout asmuch as they like, while if the employees dared’ to strike,., their action should be regarded as. an offence against the act. That is the logical deduction to be drawn from. their attitude. Apparently they want. the. shipowners to have, the right to Iqckout their, employees,, but they do not wish, the workers tor have the right, to go on strike,. . It ishard, to justify that attitude on the part of honorable members who professtobe. anxious to serve, the industrial classes of this country. Those who propose to vote against the clause sayin effect: - and there is no escape, from this - that, the court should not recognize the right of the employees to combine to fight the employers when a lockout occurs. The clause is reciprocal in its effect, giving to employees the same right as to employers when the court thinks that the circumstances justify it. On general grounds no one can say that the clause does not give justice. An award is’ a compulsory agreement, and if the- court finds that it cannot make both parties. honour the agreement - that there are circumstances: that enable one party to escape from its obligations - then I say that both parties should be released, unfortunate as that might be.
– Does the honorablemember contend that it is just, that thousands- of innocent employees should be stripped of their rights because- perhaps half-a-dozen of their number havebroken an award?
– I dealt with that, point; when referring, to the- shipping- dispute in.- reply to the honorable member for Hunter. That is the very reason why I support the clause-. If ‘the1 employeeswere locked, out through the actionof the, employers in laying up the ships, they would have an opportunity under thisclause to apply to- the. court, and the court would, probably give a declaration favorable to the employees rather than to the employers. Thus the employeeswould have a chance- to. return to- their work.
– Then might, is right-
– No. Justice is right,, and. what was- just would be determined by the, independent tribunal, whose decision the honor able member would not impugn. There is no. reason why we should not have, the highest, respect for the Arbitration Court. Whatever itspersonnel might be - and’ there is noreason why we should not have the highest respect for the court - when, an application was made, the court would determine whether or not this clause, should’ operate. Those who intend to vote against the . ‘ provision definitely say that’ they do not? believe that the employeesinsuchadispute as the present shipping trouble;. should be able to go to the court and bring the employers up to the mark. It is ridiculous Co say that a lockout cannot be proved to be an offence, and’ that . no penalties are provided against it.. Possibly the provision should be amended to prevent abuse such as has been re- ferred to by the honorable- member for Hunter.My contention is that in thepresent dispute the workers should havepower to bring the- ship-owners directly before the- court,and have the matter- settled.Thisclauseprovidesfor suchacontingency.Ifthecourthasno- wayofhandlingtheship-ownersorany other class of employers that lock out theirmen, then I say that the men should be given the natural right to fight them in combination as they did in days gone by. Unfortunate as that may be, it is the only possible alternative. By means of this clause we are trying to replace chaos by order. We are trying to establish the rule of justice instead of brute force. Where the court finds that it cannot impose a rule of law on the contending parties in an industry, there is no reason why the hands of one party in that industry should be tied and those of the other party should be free. The object of the clause is to free the hands of both parties, so that justice may be done.
.- The honorable member, who has just resumed his seat was not convincing in his argument that under this clause the workers, in the event of a lockout, would have the same opportunity as the employers, and that they could approach the court and deal with the employers. He suggests that we on this side are opposed to the interests of the workers, because we are not in favour of the clause-
– I did not say that. I stated that honorable members opposite, by their attitude, were not giving the employees the same rights as the employers.
– I am entitled to draw the natural inference from the honorable member’s remarks. He reminded me of the lines -
Perhaps it was right to dissemble your love, But why did you kick me down stairs?
The clause will not make for industrial peace. The whole object of the bill, ostensibly, is to bring about harmony in industry, but honorable members on this side, and probably a considerable number of honorable members opposite, realize that, it will have an entirely opposite effect. In no other country has legislation of such a far-reaching nature as that embodied in this bill ever been proposed. Australia is supposed to be a democratic community, and the people are practically all of one blood; but this measure will tend to cause class distinction and class hatred, such as has not been experienced ; even in polyglot. America, . where many employershave no sympathy whatever with their- employees owing to their different cast of mind. What specialrea- sons can be advanced for proposing legislation of this nature in Australia? The principle of this clause has already been tried out in connexion with the strike of marine cooks, which, in my opinion, was ill-timed and illadvised. In this case the employers, in having declared a lockout, have gone against the law just as much as have the cooks. Thousands of men who have been thrown out of work were anxious to pursue their ordinary avocations. The cooks on other vessels are prepared to work. Has the action of the employers helped the solution of the problem? No, it has brought about greater chaos than would have occurred if the dispute had been dealt with as. a purely sectional one. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has worked night and day in order to bring about a settlement of this trouble. In every strike or lockout, the employees stand to lose most, and therefore the strike should be the last resort of the workers. But employers often adopt a pinprick policy, The workers endeavour to get as much payment as possible for their services, and the. employers try to make as much profit as possible. Arbitration, therefore, is preferable to the old tooth and claw method of settling industrial disputes. Is Australia, above all’ other countries, in need of the singular legislation now proposed? In no other part of the world are strikes made leading features of the news of the day. The British newspapers publish little enough information concerning Australia, but the British public often reads that some union or other in the Commonwealth has inaugurated a strike. Although Australia is more happily situated than any other country, from the point of view of production and wealth per head of the population, paragraphs relating to strikes form such a large proportion of the Australian news published in the British press that the people of the Old Country are led to believe that Australia is always in a condition of industrial chaps. Our. ‘shipping is temporarily held, up, partly dug to the action of the employers in’ creating a lockout ; but I do not supposethat the trouble will causemuchconcernother than, to those directlyconcernedinthe industry. The present timeis about, the slackest period, that could havebeen selected for suchan industrial contest, and for that reason alone the union concerned was ill-advised in its action. That is precisely why the employers have accepted the challenge, and are tying up their ships. The owners, always anxious for the maximum amount of profit, would not have adopted this course at any other time. The Attorney-General (Mr. (Latham) said, for the information of those who favour the abolition of the Arbitration Court, that of the 159 unions registered in the court 690,000 unionists were working under its awards. The great majority of the trade unionists and the workers generally have kept industry going peacefully for years. I think the Attorney-General will agree that this is the position now. The Minister spoke of the trouble that has occurred in a certain section of the transport industry. The obnoxious provisions in this amending bill will not in any way alleviate that situation. Compared with other countries Australia does not make a bad showing. In England in 1925 industry lost 2.37 days per employee per annum as compared with .71 days lost in Australia. If it has not been considered necessary to introduce drastic legislation’ of this nature in Great Britain, why should it be necessary in Australia ? The last report issued by the Labour Bureau at Geneva, dealing with the stability of industrial conditions, shows that the days lost in industry per head of the workmen employed are fewer in Australia than in half a dozen European countries. Knowing the facts, we on this side deeply deplore the introduction of this class . legislation. It is mischievous in the extreme and will do a great deal of harm to industry because it will legalize strikes and lockouts. It is evident that the Government has joined the ranks of the extremist employers, because it has, to a certain extent at all events, scrapped the principle of arbitration. Honorable members on this side firmly believe in arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes. This is one reason why we are fighting so strongly against these provisions in the bill. Industrial disputes in Australia do not bulk largely when compared with disputes in cither countries. The last official labour report shows that although there were 360 disputes in Australia in 1926, over two-thirds occurred in the State of New South
Wales. I do not suggest that the people of New South Wales are less law-abiding than the people in the other States. The larger number of industrial disputes in that State is due to the fact that Sydney is the greatest industrial centre in the Commonwealth, and a number of the industrial leaders there are more militant than elsewhere in Australia. I frankly admit that I disagree with some of their tactics. They are not in the interests of the workers, and certainly are not calculated to achieve the desired object. The bulk of trade unionists in Australia are working peaceably under arbitration conditions. It is wrong therefore to introduce legislation which is calculated to set up class distinctions. Undoubtedly this clause will be provocative of much industrial trouble.
It has been said that the employers have not suggested this legislation. On this point I suggest that honorable members should peruse the remarks of Mr. J. Heine at the annual meeting of the New South Wales Metal Employers’ Association in Sydney recently, of which body he is president. Evidently that gentleman believes that employers should have the right to lockout employees. In a pamphlet issued by the association, Mr. Heine is reported to have delivered what is described as an illuminating address, in which he mentioned some of the disabilities from which industry suffers at the present time. He said -
Lockouts - the employers’ form of strike - are entirely abolished, whilst the employees can and do cease work at a moment’s notice whenever they feel that way.
Mr. Heine said a good deal more than that. Speaking of the employees, he remarked that the attitude of some employees to employers was that of unmitigated ruffians towards the industry from which they drew their sustenance. Mr. Heine’s remarks show clearly that he is an extremist in industrial matters.
– A bolshevik.
– That is so. Mr. Heine is a bolshevik among the employers. If there were many of his way of thinking we should have a great deal more industrial trouble in Australia than we have experienced in recent years, and bolshevism among the employees would not then be a figment of the imagination of certain members of the Nationalist Party.
The Government appears to he particularly unhappy in its treatment of employees. We have ample evidence of industrial unrest, even in the Federal Capital Territory. The labour report shows that in 1926, when the population of the Territory was under 5,000 and when all the employees here were directly under the control of the Government, there were 30,185 days lost through strikes. These figures are in excess of those for Tasmania, with a population of 214,000, greater than the figures of Western Australia, with a population of 378,000 ; of South Australia, with a population of 566,000, and greater even than those for Queensland, with a population of 882,000 for the same period.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).Order ! The honorable member is digressing from the clause under discussion.
– I feel that I am making out a very good case, Mr. Chairman, and I hope that you will permit me to continue. The clause deals with strikes or lockouts in industry, and my object in quoting the figures relating to the number of days lost through industrial disputes in the Federal Capital Territory and in the States mentioned, is to prove that the Government, in introducing these provisions, is adopting the wrong course. I have shown that in this small Territory, where the workers are under Government control, more days were lost through strikes in 1926 than in four of the States, and I think I have shown that if the clause is agreed to, we may expect more industrial disputes than ever.
It has been suggested in the debate that the United States of America is a land of industrial peace. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) told us that there are comparatively few industrial disturbances in that country. In 1925, according to official records, there were 1,035 disputes involving 428,000 men.
– Again I remind the honorable member that the strike clause of the bill is not under discussion.
– I submit, Mr. Chairman, that the provisions of the clause are directed to the regulation of lockouts and strikes.
– But” not strikes or lockouts per se.
– I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, and my point is that if the clause is agreed to it will be a fruitful source of trouble. I submit further that there is no necessity for this leap in the dark with regard to industrial legislation; no reason at all why we should take this extreme step at the invitation of the Government. Our object should be to propagate a spirit of sweet reasonableness among employers and employees, and in this way secure industrial peace. We should endeavour to persuade the employers of Australia to realize that the interests of the workers are identical with the interests of the employers. This clause will have an entirely different effect upon the industrial situation. We have been told how certain employers in the United States qf America deal with industrial problems. I remind honorable members that the mere handful of trade unionists there, numbering 3,300,000, who were for some years under the leadership of the late Mr. Samuel Gompers, and who are now under the presidency of Mr. William Green, represent but a small proportion of the workers in that country. I can speak from personal knowledge, having been a worker in the United States of America for three years, and I can assure honorable members that amongst the great bulk of industrialists there is an undercurrent of hatred towards employers. A considerable number of employees in America cannot speak the English language, and therefore are in a most unfortunate industrial position. I am satisfied from my knowledge of the United States that industrially there is more peace in Australia. Honorable members would do well to recall that America is the home of that cursed society, the Industrial Workers of the World. One of its slogans was “ Give margarine work for margarine wages.” Another was “Don’t be afraidto rob the boss when he is not looking; he robs you when you are looking.” For many years there has been a definite move in America to inculcate in the minds of the workers a feeling of class hatred. In this country we should do all we can to promote a spirit of goodwill among employers and employees. This clause will not do that. We should legislate to give the workers ready access to the Arbitration Court. The lack of ready access is one reason for much, of the industrial unrest that occurs. Prior to the amendment of the Arbitration Act of Western Australia in 1924, His Honour Judge Burnside, who was president of the court at the time, stated -
We have now about 150 cases that have been waiting for about three years and are not likely to be heard and never will be heard. Unless the system is altered this court cannot keep up with its work.
There have been similar delays in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) the other day’ stated that certain unions had to wait eighteen months before their cases came on for a hearing. We should remedy this state of affairs and give trade unionists an opportunity to get an immediate hearing for their claims. If we make this possible the industrial leaders in Australia will do their part to bring about a settlement of disputes because they know only too. well how seriously dislocation in industry affects the workers. They realize that if the workers can be kept in employment it will be better for Australia and all concerned. I trust that the Government will not persist with this measure. It is a leap in the dark and in my judgment is a most mischievous proposal which will have a baneful effect upon those organizations that are working peaceably under the awards of the Arbitration Court. Every member on this side has spoken against the clause now in discussion, because every member is certain that in operation it will not conduce to the peaceful settlement of industrial troubles.
.- Since I have not spoken previously on this clause I trust that I shall be permitted the same latitude that was allowed the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) who, in my judgment, did not give to the proposed new section the close attention which its importance warrants. He dealt with a phase of industrial legislation quite irrelevantly to the clause under discussion. I confess my amazement at his remarkable solicitude to uphold, in certain circumstances, the principle of the strike; if this process of evolution continues, the honorable member will in time be emulating Mr.
Jacob Johnson and others in the indus trial sphere. I regret that the honorable member for Barton, with his well known legal talent, did not attempt to analyse the clause and test its value from a moral as well as a legal aspect. The Government has for some time past declared its intention to maintain law and order, and in conformity with a mandate which it said was obtained from the people, passed an amending Crimes Act in which it was provided that those responsible for certain industrial disputes which were contrary to law should be punished by long terms of imprisonment, and could even be deported. How can the Government reconcile, this provision with its pre-election policy and that subsequent legislation? It is beyond my comprehension. This clause makes an offence which is illegal in other portions of the act legal in this particular instance. This is a provision to legalize lockouts and strikes whilst every other section of the statute is directed towards eliminating them. It certainly seems to be an illogical and inconsistent attitude for a Government to adopt, particularly since it invoked all the eloquence, power and ability at its command to misrepresent the position at the last election when it desired more extensive powers to grapple with industrial disputes. It now comes along in a state of despair with this provision which the Attorney-General in effect has said is necessary when there are sectional strikes which the Government and the court could not and cannot handle. In these circumstances the Minister suggests the Government will permit direct action, and thus allow the functions of government to be usurped. From a moral, ethical and legal viewpoint such- a doctrine is absolutely contrary to the declared policy of the Government and to commonsense. This and two or three other provisions are the most vital in the bill. The question naturally arises as to whether the measure will prevent or settle industrial disputes as suggested in the Attorney-General’s second-reading speech. Let us assume that in certain circumstances a lockout occurs in a specific industry. Under this provision the courtwill have power to declare that a lockout exists, and a strike in such, circumstances becomes a legal act. But the Government has power under the Crimes
Act to curb the workers if a strike occurs. Therefore, the statements repeatedly made by the honorable members on the other side of the House that this clause has been drafted to enable the workers to resist lockouts is incorrect. It has been submitted with the object of placing a weapon in the hands of employers for the specific purpose of enabling them, when a sectional strike exists, to lock out all the employees in an industry. The Attorney-General, I believe, has strongly resented that imputation from honorable members on this side; but one has only to peruse his second-reading speech wherein he said that in his opinion effective remedies are already provided against lockouts, to see that such is the case. That, however, is a phase of the question with which I shall deal later. The Minister quoted the engineers’ strike and throughout his speech in support of a doctrine of despair said that as there were certain circumstances in which governments and courts were powerless, it would be better to allow the parties to fight it out. If that is the case, it is to be a contest between the powers of resistance of both parties. The Attorney-General also said that the clause would provide an effective remedy to unionists in the case of a lockout, but honorable members on this side have repeatedly asserted that this provision has been embodied in the bill with the sole intention of giving the employers power to lock out a large number of workers when only a few men may he involved.. That assertion is obviously fully warranted. I am all the more convinced that that is the case after hearing the manner in which this question has been begged and the legal sophistry and quibbling in support of the clause indulged in by the honorable member for Barton and others who claim that it will be a weapon in the hands of the unions.
– It was not drafted for that purpose.
– No, the AttorneyGeneral clearly suggested that it was not. It is a weapon that will be used not only to injure the workers engaged in industry, but will bring about widespread industrial upheavals and seriously interfere with the progress and prosperity of the Commonwealth. Under this clause any person can. apply to the court for a declaration that a strike exists in an industry even though only two or three unionists may cease work.
– And .this provision would then commence to operate.
– Yes. This clause is *giving the court wider discretionary power to declare that a strike as a matter of technical fact exists, although may not actually be a strike in the ordinary sense. Two or three re-actionaries of the employing class who wish to see an industrial war waged tq the bitter end, can approach the court and say that a strike exists, when a declaration to that effect may be issued by the court and perhaps 20,000 or 30,000 employees will be involved with disastrous results to the workers. Under this provision the Government will sit idly by and allow a lockout to continue indefinitely. Is that the policy which the Government intends to adopt? If this clause operates in the way we believe it will, widespread industrial trouble will undoubtedly follow. It is useless to argue that this clause is intended to provide the workers with a remedy against lockouts. Under this bill the definition of “ strike “ is materially widened as “something in the nature of a strike “ becomes an offence.
– Those words have always been in section 6a and are used in this instance only to bring the provision into accord with that section.
– In clause S we have the words “ something in the nature of a strike.”
– To make it agree with sections 6 and 6a.
– I do not wish to misrepresent the position. Under the existing law it is exceedingly difficult to prove that a lockout exists; with that I think the AttorneyGeneral will agree. He knows from experience in the courts that there are few, if any, instances where a lockout has been legally established, and the wording of the principal act makes it exceedingly difficult to declare that a lockout exists in an industry. ‘ The definition of “ lockout “ is as follows : - “Lockout” includes the closing of a place or part of a place of employment, and the’ total or partial refusal of employers acting in combination to give work.
It must be proved that there is a conspiracy or agreement- between certain parties before a lockout can be established.
– The honorable member is wrong. *
– My interpretation of “ lockout “ is that they must be acting in combination.
– “ Acting in combination “ does not apply to the third heading.
– The clause clearly states “ acting in combination.”
– That does not apply in this instance. There can be a lockout by a single employer, but there cannot be a strike by a single employee.
– I would not ‘Be so presumptuous as to doubt the AttorneyGeneral’s interpretation of this clause.
– We have no guarantee that the interpretation of the AttorneyGeneral is correct.
– The honorable member for Dalley knows that the words, “ acting in combination,” cannot be construed to govern the third part of the definition. If he will read it, which he probably has not done, he will see that it does not.
– The fact remains that it is exceedingly difficult to prove the existence of a lockout. Employers can give numerous reasons for dismissing their employees, and there are scores of instances where attempts have been unsuccessfully made to establish the existence of a lockout. Therefore, this clause does not provide a means for unionists to resist anything in the nature of a lockout^ Furthermore, a basic principle has been ignored in this bill. It is one which was established by His Honour, Mr. Justice Higgins, when he said -
The employing class has the tremendous power of giving or withholding work. The power of the employer to withhold bread is a much more effective weapon than the power of the employee to refuse to labour.
That is indisputable, and this provision places a ruthless and brutal weapon in the hands of employers that will be to the detriment not only of the workers, but also of Australia generally. It legalizes direct action by employers which can be exploited to the fullest by those who want to bring disruption and the day of Facist revolution nearer. Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.S0 p.m.
- Mr. Justice Higgins, in the light of many years’ experience in arbitration jurisdiction, directed attention to the tremendous power that can be welded by the employing class in the application of the lockout, and stressed the point that it is a much greater power than that of the workers to withhold their labour. Such being the case, the Government should be very chary about introducing into the arbitration code a new principle like that which is contained in the proposed new section 7. The change is not only drastic but also has not heretofore been contemplated. It is .an attempt to legalize what is illegal. Everywhere else in the act strikes and lockouts are declared illegal; but this new section will bring them within the law in certain circumstances. The court will have the power to declare that a strike exists, and when that has been done, any action in the nature of a lockout in an industry or a section or part of an industry will not be a breach of the act or of any award or order of the court. Taking the illustration of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) himself, five or six moulders might go out on strike and thus be the means of causing a lockout in the .whole of the engineering industry. Supposing that such an event occurred among the employees of Mr. John Heine. That gentleman could go to the Arbitration Court and say “ There is a strike in my workshop, and I ask for a declaration under section 7 of the act.” No matter how the Attorney-General may try to qualify these provisions, the court will regard them as practically a direction by this Parliament to declare in such circumstances that a strike exists in an industry. The possibility of upwards of 20,000 men being locked out cannot be regarded with equanimity. What remedy does the Government propose to apply in the event of a large number of men being locked out consequent upon such an order of the court? There will be a stalemate, and we shall have industrial warfare. Will there be any authority charged with the responsibility of endeavouring to bring about a settlement, or will . it simply be a war of exhaustion, with disastrous results not only to those participating directly in it but also to the industry itself and Australia generally? The question arises, what is the function of a government or an arbitration court if it is not to settle rather than to accentuate and extend industrial troubles? That is a point to which honorable members opposite should apply their minds. Assuming, that such a declaration is made, are we to allow a strike or lockout to continue indefinitely? If that is the attitude of the Government, it is entirely in conflict with the policy upon which it claims to have been elected. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) in the policy speech which he delivered before the last election, said that it was of paramount importance that the wheels of industry should be kept revolving. That principle has been lost sight of in this proposed new section.
There is also a moral aspect of this question. Why should other unionists be held responsible for the act of three or four individuals over whom they have no control ? Wherein lies the morality, the equity or the legality of making a large number of workers responsible for the offence of a few?
– That is what is happening to-day.
– The honorable member may say so. Even if he is right, why should this Government sanction the use of a brutal and ruthless instrument to the detriment of innocent people? It is proposed that lawful sanction shall be given to what I regard as a process of direct action. The honorable member has an erudite mind and possesses high legal qualifications. Surely, therefore, he can appreciate the force of the case I am making !
Let us take another instance. The 20,000 men who are locked out may repudiate the strike. They may say it is entirely wrong; yet under this new section they will be made innocent victims of it. This power certainly can be operated in a manner different from that in which it may be intended to operate. In effect, this is a declaration of no confidence in the arbitration system. The inescapable inference is that certain circumstances may arise, to deal with which the Govern ment is powerless and arbitration courts futile; and that there is only one weapon - the mailed fist - with which success can be achieved by either the employer or the employee. This degrades the principles of parliamentary government as I have . been taught to understand them. On hundreds- of occasions, in this chamber and on the hustings, I have heard the Prime Minister and other members thundering forth doctrines relating to the supremacy of the law and of Parliament, and the necessity for maintaining the Bang’s peace, and employing sundry other mellifluous phrases that conflict entirely with this clause. I challenge the bona fides of the Government’s alleged desire to continue the system of arbitration. Principles such as underlie this clause are calculated to disintegrate and ultimately to destroy it. The Attorney-General himself has some doubt as to the efficacy of this provision because in his secondreading speech last December, he first of all said that a positive obligation to the community rests upon both sides to keep industry going. That principle has been departed from, because there is in this clause a tacit admission of the possibility of circumstances arising under which there would not be that positive obligation to keep industry going. The honorable gentleman went on to say that the Government would have to reconsider the desirability of maintaining the arbitration system, thus clearly indicating his recognition of the fact that some of the proposals contained in this measure represent so drastic and revolutionary a change that no person can know what the outcome is likely to be.
The question has been raised, how far are the projected alterations constitutional. The point, of course, can be discussed only hypothetically. There are strong doubts as to how much this amending legislation is in conformity with our constitutional powers. The fact that some time ago the Government, at a referendum of the people, sought additional powers to enable it to deal with situations of a like character, indicates that at that time at all events it was not sure how far it could go. I believe that the AttorneyGeneral, during his second-reading speech, expressed the view that certain of these amendments are of an experimental nature, and without mentioning any specific provision except that which relates to representative respondents, suggested that there might be a doubt regarding their constitutionality.
– The honorable gentleman is experimenting with gelignite.
– That is a very apt metaphor. The clause under discussion has all the elements of gelignite, and, undoubtedly, will be welcomed as an excellent proposal by the reactionary employers and the uncompromising militants, who have no faith in either Parliament or parliamentary systems. It certainly will not have the goodwill of other persons in the community.
It has been said that this particular amendment of the law gives to the ‘court discretionary power to decide whether a declaration shall or shall not be issued. The fact that it is included in the arbitration statute, however, will influence strongly the future policy of the court. That tribunal must, of necessity, be guided largely by this provision in the line of action it adopts towards future disputes. It, therefore, has the semblance of a mandatory provision.
A clause of this description shows the extent to which party bias can be imported into a subject. I recollect that when the Attorney-General introduced this measure last December he said that it was based upon justice and fairness. If this particular amendment, and the Attorney-General’s arguments in relation to the situations to deal with which it is likely to be invoked, are interpreted in that way, I emphatically protest against such’ an interpretation. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) has argued that this is not a party matter. The discussion -throughout has shown conclusively that from the commencement it has been so regarded. The protests against the bill have not been political in their- origin ; they have emanated from unions of bank clerks, public servants, and others. From one end of Australia to the other there have been protests against the bill, largely because it contains provisions such as that which is now under discussion.
The honorable member for Barton also quoted certain rules of equity in their application to agreements, but did not mention that the rule of law has to be maintained, and that the decisions of the court have to be obeyed by the parties. It is proposed that the rule of law shall be abandoned, and that, in the final analysis, the court must confess its inability to grapple with the situation, while the Government will stand idly by and say, “ Let them fight it out to the bitter end.” That appears to be the spirit which characterizes the measure. It is in conflict with the declared pre-election policy of the Government, it is out of harmony and out of keeping with the theory of responsible government as we have been taught to understand it; and it is based upon class prejudice, because it must inevitably operate against the organized workers of Australia.
.- I base my opposition to the bill mainly on the effect this clause is likely to have. I should like to know from the AttorneyGeneral what views were expressed in this clause by the representatives of the industrial movement when he was seeking to get their opinion on this bill.
– In January last the representatives of the trade unions informed me- that they would forward to me their opinions in regard to the bill after a perusal of it, but they have not done so.
– They gave the honorable member their opinion of the bill when they declined to take part in thepeace conference.
– As a matter of fact I am satisfied that the Labour movement is unanimously opposed to this clause. According to honorable members on the Government side, it has been inserted in the bill for the purpose of protecting employees, rather than employers, but to my mind it has been skilfully drafted so that it may be used at opportune times for political purposes. Its effect will be to crush the industrial organizations of Australia.
– Organized labour in’ Australia will never be crushed.
– At any rate that is the intention of the clause, and it will certainly have the effect of weakening the structure of organized labour that it has taken so many years to build up. A provision which enables application to be. made to the Arbitration Court for a declaration that a strike or a lockout’ exists in any particular section of an industry will not foster the spirit of conciliation or arbitration, but, on the contrary, is likely to increase antagonism among the parties to a dispute. Instead of confining trouble to a limited area it will have the effect of spreading it. Although honorable members opposite claim that strikes are common, they are not so ready to admit the existence of lockouts. It is an easy matter to prove that a strike exists, but it is extremely difficult to prove the existence of a lockout. The men who are in control of our industries can please themselves as to the extent to which they will use their plants - they may work them full time, half time or part time, they are not restricted in that respect ; but when workers decline to continue working under conditions which they consider unfavorable their action is immediately regarded as a strike. In my opinion employees should not be forced to accept conditions of work which they regard as unsuitable to them. Professional men or tradesmen seeking employment are free to accept or reject the offer of employment, they are not restricted in that respect; but men who have accepted employment and after an experience of that employment have decided that the conditions under which they are working are not favorable may not cease their work. To my mind no restriction should be placed upon men in that respect. They should be free to cease work when the conditions of that work are unfavorable. According to the Attorney-General job control is practically a sectional strike. I differ from the honorable member. Job control is very rarely, if ever, exercised by the industrialists of Australia, whereas sectional strikes are frequent and they are encouraged by this clause. Small disputes are responsible for a great deal’ of industrial disturbance. To my mind, it would be better for us to direct our efforts to providing industrial machinery with a view tq minimizing or restricting these sectional strikes, than to insert in the bill a provision which will have the effect of increasing the dislocation of industry. But while honorable members supporting -the Government, talk -about job control as exercised by’ Australian workers, they, make no reference ‘to that form of job control which is exercised by employers. The directors of a f factory may decide at a moment’s notice to close down, and throw vast numbers of men out of work, but to my mind, if it is regarded as improper for a body of workmen to cease work under certain conditions it should be regarded as equally improper for employers to cease operations under conditions unsatisfactory to them. According to the Attorney-General, this clause, if one side commits an offence, will ‘afford freedom of action to the other side. The object is not a worthy one, and should not be encouraged when we are attempting to bring about the better working of an arbitration system. No honorable member opposite has proposed that employers should be prevented from closing down their establishments if they consider that the return on their capital outlay is not sufficiently remunerative, but if that is a legitimate reason for closing down an establishment, why should workers be prevented from ceasing their work if they consider that their earnings are not sufficiently remunerative? The workers are not allowed to take into consideration the question of profit. A factory may be closed down if it is unable to make a profit because of overseas competition, but if the workers in that factory, knowing the need for providing enough to meet their household accounts, declare that they are not getting a sufficient profit from their labours to justify them in continuing in their employment, and cease work, their action immediately becomes a strike. The position is not fair. The workers’ views are far too readily overlooked. I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will consider the representations made by honorable members of the Opposition, and withdraw this obnoxious clause, the effect of which will be, if the court declares that there is a strike in a particular industry, to throw out of work thousands of men anxious to continue in their employment and quite satisfied with the conditions under which they are working. These conditions may not be so irksome as those under which the particular section of the industry that has seen fit to “strike have been working. It is an extraordinary proposal to throw out’ of action a vast army of industrial workers satisfied with their conditions because a small handful of men have what they regard as a legitimate reason for ceasing work, A little while ago a small body of painters and dockers employed at Mort’s Dock, Sydney, approached the Arbitration Court for the redress of certain grievances and for improved- conditions of labour. The judge made known his proposed award and intimated that he would be prepared to consider any suggestion forwarded to him by the union or the employers’ representatives. Certain statistical information was forwarded to him by the employers, and without affording the union an opportunity to challenge the figures supplied, he materially altered his proposed award. The men had to undergo a severe wage cut, and they refused to work under the altered conditions. Only a handful of men were affected, but the management of Mort’s Dock decided to throw out of work the remainder of its employees, numbering over 1,500 workers. That is the sort of thing that will be countenanced and encouraged by this clause. The provision will not have the effect we should aim at, that of bringing about peace in industrial matters, and I hope, therefore, that the Attorney-General will accede to the wishes of honorable members of the Opposition by allowing this obnoxious clause to be deleted from the bill.
– Honorable members on the Government side of the committee who have spoken during the debate on this clause have shown themselves to be past masters in the art of camouflage. They have taken every care to hide from us the fact that the sting is in the tail of the clause. Poisonous insects often carry a sting in their tails. This clause certainly does so. I have had an extensive experience of industrial matters, and I know that the industrialists of this country have learned some bitter lessons through the ruthlessness of the employing class. They have learned, for instance, that it is practically impossible to prove the existence of a lockout. But on the other hand it is comparatively easy to prove the existence of a strike. I doubt whether an Australian court has ever made a declaration^ that a lockout exists in an industry. This bill has been designed to serve the interests of the employers, who will be found only too ready to play once again the good old Nationalist game. This measure might well be compared with adoubleheaded penny. We are asked to agree to a “ heads I win, tails you lose “ proposition. Even if, through some mischance, the employers did act in such a way that the court declared that a lockout had been caused, they could easily remedy their mistake and the court could then, under the provisions of proposed new sub-section 4, revoke the order which it had made. It is monstrous for the Government to insert a provision of this kind in the bill, for it will undoubtedly make it possible for the employers, in the event of a sectional strike occurring in a small department of an industry, to throw out of employment many thousands of men. It would also make it possible for a small and perhaps insignificant craft union to paralyse a whole industry. The proposal is inequitable in every respect. [ assert, without hesitation, that this measure has been drafted to serve the ends of the employing class. We have been told by Government supporters that the Government desires to protect the interests of all classes of the community. One might therefore imagine that governments are model employers. But that is not so. This Government, for instance, is one of the most tyrannous that Australia has ever had. That statement is founded on fact; it is not a mere assertion. Recently the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) was asked whether the Government would give preference to Australians in national works, but a totally unsatisfactory reply was given. In spite of the unparalleled distress that exists throughout Australia to-day in consequence of the prevalence of unemployment, Australian nationals are unable to secure employment, while foreigners seem to find it easy to do so-. This is the case even on Government works. It is well known that in consequence of the failure of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to manage the finances of the country in a business-like way, our programme, of public works has had to be curtailed. But on a certain undertaking under the control of the Minister for Works and Railways, we find that 77 Mediterraneans and 11 Russians, but only 69 Britishers are employed. In other words, 88 foreigners but only 69 Britishers are working on the job.
– There are 200 men employed on the job to which the honorable member refers, and all of them are unionists.
– I am aware that they are unionists.
– But they have no vote.
– Whether they have a vote or not, I know that some of them paid up £10 for their, union tickets. It is quite possible for men of that type to buy their jobs from the foremen employed by the Government.
– The honorable member should give proof of a statement like that.
– I know that about Christmas time I saw hundreds of Australians humping their swags across the barren inland wastes because they could not obtain work, while foreigners were kept in employment on government undertakings. The Australian people will not stand that kind of thing. The Government should be ashamed of itself for giving preference to aliens in this manner.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).I must ask the honorable member to confine his attention to the clause before the chair. The remarks that he is making at present have nothing whatever to do with it.
– I am pointing out that the Government itself is acting in such a manner that it may precipitate a strike. I have seen strikes caused by the very methods which the Government is at present employing in respect of several of its constructional works. I know very well that the Minister for Works and Railways recently allowed foreigners to exploit other foreigners in order to secure a cheap job. He let a contract for the construction of several miles of earthworks, and the contractors expended from £400 to £500 in purchasing supplies for the contract. But they had only started work a day or two when they were peremptorily ordered by the Resident Commissioner, acting upon the instructions of the Government, no doubt, to cease their operations. It is shameful that they were not reimbursed in any way for the expenditure which they had incurred. The repudiation of contracts in this manner is certainly a menace to industry. The Government cannot deny the truth of the statement which I have just made. How can it expect industry to be carried on peacefully when it repudiates its contracts? If, in such circumstances, the employees ceased work or the contractors dismissed their men, the court might be asked to declare that a strike or a lockout existed, and a whole industry might be brought to a standstill. When the construction of the work to which I have referred a few minutes ago was in full swing, 56 per cent, of foreigners were employed upon it, notwithstanding that thousands of Australians in our capital cities and elsewhere were submerged below the breadline. In Melbourne there can be seen on almost any day, crowds of shivering men standing round soup kitchens waiting for a bite to eat in order to keep body and soul together. It is disgraceful that Australians are allowed to starve while aliens are given employment. The Minister for Works and Railways, as well as other members of the Government, preach one doctrine when it suits them to gain the goodwill of the employers, and another when they desire to conciliate the workers. But that policy will not preserve the King’s peace - to use the phrase of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore). Recently certain persons adopted very questionable methods for the purpose of disrupting a certain trade union, and the Government entered later into an agreement with the break-away section. Subsequently a definite announcement was made on behalf of the Government that wages would be reduced by 35 per cent, in some instances. The adoption of such methods by this Government is not likely to cause the workers to think well of it. Those are the methods that will be applied by the employers generally if this clause is passed. I make my protest against the clause on conscientious grounds. I claim to be Australian-born, and, as such, wish Australians to obtain preference of employment in their own native land, more particularly when, under this provision, it is likely that hundreds of thousands of men, women and children will submerge below the breadline. Is it any wonder that there is objection to this legislation? It is allied with the immigration scheme.
– The honorable member may not discuss immigration at any length.
– The object of the Government is to persuade hundreds of thousands of foreigners to come to this country, and with the assistance of this legislation, to bring about a return of the good old days when women and children were working twelve hours a day for 30s. a week. The Minister knows that all these things are possible under the bill.
– They have nothing to do with clause 7.
– They have very much to do with it. One or two men belonging to a section of a small union may be responsible for a dispute, and under this bill the employer, through the agency of the Arbitration Court, may declare a lockout in the whole of the industry concerned. It will then be possible for an employer to use foreign migrants in his establishments. By this means the Government hopes to smash trade unionism. That is essentially the object of the bill. Realizing the true significance of this legislation, I say all honour to those who have the courage to oppose it and to try to prevent it from becoming law.
.- 1 have listened carefully to the debate, and it must be obvious to every one that the argument is all on one side. Many honorable members on this side have spent practically the whole of their lives in industrial organizations, and their desire is not to prevent industrial disorder, but to secure industrial peace. One after the other, leaders of the industrialists have risen in their places in this chamber and pointed out that this clause instead of promoting peace will bring about industrial disturbances. Their warnings have had little effect upon . the AttorneyGeneral or his colleagues. The Government seems to be determined to give effect to the secret promises that it made to the organizations of employers prior to the last elections. We know full well that throughout Australia there are certain persons continually stating that the wages of the workers must be reduced and their conditions broken down. The Go vernment, under the pretence of securing industrial peace, has introduced this legislation with the sincere hope that the employers will take advantage of it by declaring lockouts, in defiance of industrial awards. The Attorney-General may deny the accuracy of that statement, but as I read the clause, should any employer be dissatisfied with any award, he has only to persuade a few men in one section of his establishment to engage in an industrial dispute and he can then, through the court, declare a lockout. In that case the determinations of wages boards and the awards of the Arbitration Court go by the board. The employer can then engage free labour at any wages and under any conditions that he may stipulate. An instance of this was brought under my notice last week. Three young girls were brought out as experts from England by the proprietors of a certain mill in Victoria. The agreement entered into by these girls provided that they should be paid 48s. a week ; actually they are receiving only 30s. a week. If the rest of the operators in that mill, resenting the unfair treatment meted out to these girls, went out on strike, their employers could, through the agency of the Arbitration Court, declare a general lockout of the whole of the industry throughout Australia. The clause is absurd. For 35 years I have been associated with the Labour party, fighting for the settlement of disputes by conciliation, by bringing the two parties in industry together and allowing them to discuss the matters at issue. If this clause aimed at conciliation, it would meet with my enthusiastic support.
– There are several such provisions in the bill.
– If those provisions can be pointed out to me, I shall have much pleasure in supporting them.
– I shall point them out to the honorable member later.
– The bill is not designed to bring the two parties in industry together with a view to settling disputes. What will happen when a lockout is declared under this provision? Apparently the employer will engage nonunionists, and work them under conditions contrary to those laid down under the awards of the Arbitration Court. If this provision were in operation to-day, what effect would it have upon the marine cooks’ dispute? In what way could it influence that dispute? We do not want these sectional strikes, but we know it is impossible to prevent them. I have been connected with the Tramway Union, and I know that on occasions a few men, who are perfectly satisfied with their award, will refuse to work simply because they have had a quarrel with their foreman?
– The Adelaide tramway men held a meeting on Saturday night under somewhat similar circumstances.
– Because thes’e men go on strike the whole of the members of the union may be penalized.
– Not necessarily. The court may not agree to declare a sectional dispute to be a strike.
– In that case there is no necessity for this clause. Mr. Scullin. - The only defence that the Government has made is that the clause may not be used.
– Let me give another instance. A section of the members of the Australian Workers Union employed at the Yallourn Electricity Works, went out on strike, and the dispute threatened to be serious. The union officials journeyed to Yallourn and told the strikers that they should have consulted the union before taking action. The officials refused to allow strike pay, and within a week or two the dispute was settled. Had this clause been in operation, the employers could have approached the court to declare the dispute to be a strike, and a lockout could have been declared, throwing some thousands of men out of employment. I recognize that many employers wish to do what is right, but there are always a few employers in every industry who resent any new award that increases wages and reduces hours of work. These unscrupulous employers will be able, under this clause, to foment a sectional dispute, and ultimately to declare a lockout of the whole of the industry, thus enabling them for the next two or three years to carry on with non-union labour, working long hours at low wages. The Government when inserting this provision in the bill could have had no other objective in mind. I feel very strongly on this subject, because I do not wish to prolong industrial disputes. I desire the wheels of industry to run smoothly, if possible. It has taken us 25 years to build up the trade union movement. Its officials are keenly desirous of promoting industrial peace; yet the Government has now introduced legislation to undo in a few moments the work of many years. During the last 25 years we have had practically no industrial conflicts. We have had a few sectional strikes, and they have been principally confined to the waterside workers and the seamen. In all other industries strikes have been few and of short duration. The great body of unionists in Australia to-day is honestly obeying the awards of the Arbitration Court. Yet this Government is placing the control of these men in the hands of unscrupulous employers, and they will use this legislation, if possible, to enrich themselves at the expense of their competitors. If, under this clause, a judge of the Arbitration Court may not grant an order to declare a sectional dispute to be a strike, then I ask for what purpose has it been inserted in the bill? In what way could it be applied to prevent strikes? It is impossible to compel men to work if they do not choose to do so.
– The clause is meant to extend strikes.
– Apparently, that is its object. There are others, besides the workers who go on strike. There are certain sections of the community that adopt tactics that may easily be likened to strikes. A man produces a commodity, and if he does not obtain for it the price that he asks, he refuses to sell it. In other words, he goes on strike. I do not blame him/but he is in the same category as the man who offers his labour for sale, and refuses to work unless he receives his price. Surely a worker has the right to say whether he will work one day or two days, and to demand a fair wage for his services. He has his rights, but in this measure he is being legislated against; yet there are other organizations in the community, the wealthy trading combines, which are making enormous profits, and do not hesitate to go on strike at any time when they feel they have a chance of extracting still greater profits from the consuming public. They are growing wealthy by such means, but no legislation has been directed against them. I know of instances in which the stock of trading companies has been watered to such an extent, that although they started with 20,000 shares, issue after issue was made until the number was brought up to 130,000. When such companies go before the Arbitration Court they * claim that they should make 6 per cent, profit . on the whole issue of 130,000 shares, although probably not more than 20,000 have been paid for. I strongly protest against the passage of this clause. If the Attorney-General, because of his lack of industrial experience, insists that it shall be passed, it will be a sorry day for the industrial peace of the country. I ask him to listen to those whose lives have been devoted to promoting industrial peace. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) pointed out what might happen in the coal mining industry in the event of a small section of men going on strike. He knows what he is talking about, and he has told the committee that even a small sectional dispute might, and could, be made the excuse for tying up the whole industry. If the Attorney-General will not listen to those who have had practical experience in these matters, it indicates that he has come here determined to carry out the commands of those who at the last election found the money to put the Gvernment in power. They poured our their money freely to put the present Government into power, and they did it, I have no doubt, with the object of reducing the workers’ standard of living. Those who are supporting the Government have repeatedly declared that Australia can make no progress until wages and living conditions are reduced. This bill has been introduced to enable that to be done. If the Minister persists in retaining the clauses to which we have objected, I cannot help thinking that those who are really controlling the Ministry do not wish Australia to progress, politically or industrially. They care nothing for the welfare of the men and women of Australia; nothing for the physique or mental development of our people, but think only in terms of profits and dividends. They are the power behind the Government, and it is their determination to reduce the standard of living in this country to that which obtains in the older countries of the world. They fear that the advanced legislation which has been passed by progressive Australian Governments, will prove a menace to the privileged classes in the older communities. I can assure the Attorney-General that, even with the help of this measure, he will not be able to crush out ‘trade unionism in Australia. The movement has grown because of the way in which it has been crucified in the past. The more the privileged classes sought to suppress it, the stronger it became, and although this bill will cause much suffering and industrial disorder, it will not achieve the purpose which its supporters have in view. If the Minister persists in his intention to break the trade unions, and give unscrupulous employers the power to reduce the basic wage and depress the standard of living, he will meet with unwavering hostility from this party, and when we succeed in seizing the reins of Government this measure will be one of the first we shall repeal.
.- The clause now under consideration is, perhaps, the most comprehensive and most important in the bill. One or two members on the Government side justified their support of the measure, while expressing their disagreement with certain clauses, by saying that the objectionable clauses could be amended in committee. Last night we heard the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) tear this clause to pieces. He is a man who, like many honorable members on this side of the chamber, has spent his life in directing industrial organizations, and he pointed out the utter futility of drafting legislation of this kind in the hope that it would lead to industrial peace. I wish to remind him, however, that since this Government has been in power, no private member has had a million to one chance of amending any particular clause in committee. We have heard so much in relation to this clause that I should think that the Minister ought, by this time, to be convinced that he is on the wrong track in seeking to bring about industrial peace by such legislation. This clause is the most provocative thing that I have ever seen embodied in any piece of proposed industrial legislation. It is altogether too one-sided. It will, enable the employers to punish the whole community if even a small section of their workmen happen to go on strike over some purely local dispute. It is altogether wrong that such power should be placed in the hands either ‘ of the employers or the workers. Mention has been made of a dispute that is now in progress. A paper published in the interests of certain sections of the employers, and sent to members of this House, in referring to that dispute welcomed this proposed legislation because, although it did not say so directly, it believed the measure would operate in the interest of the employers. I pointed out during the second-reading debate that this legislation has taken too legal a turn altogether. The parties are not allowed to settle a dispute between themselves even if they are willing, without obtaining the aid of the legal fraternity. Instead of seeking to facilitate the holding of round-table conferences, and the setttling of disputes by conciliation, the whole process of industrial bargaining is being so tied up that the parties are compelled to apply to the court before any matter can be determined. After all that has been said, the Minister should recognize that our objection to this clause is dictated by something more than the ordinary opposition of a party with political purposes to serve. “We speak as men who have seen arbitration at work from its inception, and have had to deal with the sort of cases proposed to be covered by this measure. The one thing which tends, more than anything else, to kill the spirit of conciliation is the knowledge that coercive power has been placed in the hands of one side, and that such power will be used in the event of an agreement not being arrived at. What right has any group of employers, because of a purely local dispute, to close up the whole coal or metalliferous mining industry of the country. How will that tend to bring about peace, or to draw the parties together so that they may settle their differences amicably? The fact that this clause gives the employers power to extend a dispute clearly shows the intention of the Government in bringing in this measure. It is a most remarkable thing that, while the bill is supposed to be framed with a .view ‘t’o settling disputes, this very clause legalizes the extension of industrial trouble. The whole thing is so ridiculous that it will not bear examination. If it is the intention of the Government to support the system of arbitration, which for many years we have endeavoured te perfect, it would be better to withdraw this legislation, and concentrate its efforts in an attempt to expedite the procedure of the courts. Many of the stoppages referred to during this debate have been caused by the long delays that occur in the hearing of industrial cases. Some employees have to wait for as long as two years before their cases are heard, and during that time industrial conditions might change entirely. Many such men have been compelled to take matters into their own hands in an endeavour to enforce their demands, or prevent the exploitation of workers by their employers. The Government might well inaugurate additional arbitration boards to hear disputes. Never during my career have I seen a clause drafted in such a form as this one. Never in my wildest dreams did it occur to me that any Government would encourage the extension of industrial unrest. The clause is diametrically opposed to the principle of arbitration. It is merely a law to break a law. I have no wish to digress as other honorable members have done, and generalize about industrial matters ; but I feel compelled to confess that there is a suspicion abroad that this measure in introduced with the intention of lowering the standard of living in Australia. I trust that, even at this eleventh hour, the Attorney-General will see the wisdom of withdrawing at least the objectionable clause with which we are dealing,’ which, if it is carried, will increase industrial unrest in Australia.
– I again emphasize my opposition to this clause, which, as I have stated previously, is a provocative one. It is not framed within the powers of the Constitution. It purports to prevent industrial trouble, but, instead, it will generate and extend it. Practically every honorable member on this side of the committee has been employed in industry and has a comprehensive knowledge of its ramifications. He knows the psychology of the worker and realizes that there will always be differences between employer and employee, from which sectional strikes will arise. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act was introduced in the endeavour to prevent industrial strikes and lockouts, and, after long years of experience, it has been brought up to a very workable standard. Now the Government proposes to alter the act and to insert a clause which cannot do other than increase industrial turmoil. It would be useless for an employee to go to the court, declare that a strike existed in an industry, and ask that the award be abrogated. What would be the advantage of that action to him? The mere declaration by the court that a lockout existed in an industry would not correct the trouble or alleviate the sufferings of the employees concerned. On the other hand, an employer could go to the court, assert that a certain section of his employees refuse to conform to the conditions attaching to his industry, and ask the court to declare a lockout either for the whole industry or a section of it. That clause helps the employer, but not the employee. The existing marine cooks’ strike affords an excellent illustration. I have not the slightest doubt that had the ship-owners met the marine cooks at a round-table or other similar conference, and heard the reasons actuating their demand for additional assistance, the trouble would have been over ere this. The ship-owners would then have had some concrete knowledge as to the reason for the unrest. This clause simply invites unscrupulous employers to take advantage of its provisions. It will enable the shipping company to approach the court, declare that the Ulimaroa is held up through the action of the men, and ask that permission be granted to them to hold up all the other steamers in order to bent the mcn into submLesion. Honorable members on this side realize that there are many employers who wish to do the right thing. This clause will be of no advantage to them. Instead of employing methods of conciliation the Government intends to allow employers to use the “ big stick.” This is merely an effort to make the act unworkable, bring the system of arbitration into disrepute, and so,f break it down. I may be asked what I suggest should be done. I suggest that the whole clause be deleted, and in its stead a new clause inserted. The Government will be unable to say that the Opposition has failed to offer a constructive suggestion calculated to assist in making arbitration what it should be. It will at least be on record that a suggestion along the lines urged by honorable members on this side was made. I urge that the present clause be deleted, because it is provocative and will not do what the Government and its supporters claim for it. A number of honorable members, even on the Government side, including the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), have declared that the clause will prove futile. The present dispute in the shipping industry, as well as past industrial troubles, have demonstrated the fact that industrial peace cannot be brought about by handing to the employers a big stick with which to beat the workers. My suggestion is that the Government should substitute for the present proposal a clause such as the following: -
When a lockout or strike occurs in an. industry, or in some section or part of an industry, employers or employees in which are subject to an award, the court may require representatives of the employers or employees in such industry, or part of the industry, to appear before the court immediately to decide the matter in dispute.
– Provision for that is already made in the act.
– The conciliatory sections in another portion of the act are nullified by the present clause. If a provision such as I now suggest is already in the act there can be no objection to its amplification.
– Sections 16 and 16a fully provide for what the honorable member wants.
– But the conference contemplated by section 16a has to be appointed before a dispute occurs. Sections 16 and 16a deal particularly with cases in which employees desire an alteration of the conditions of an award.
– That is not so.
– Section 16a has not been put into operation as often as it might have been.
– It is being given effect constantly - almost daily.
– Then it must be in small disputes that do not seriously disturb the public mind. I wonder if the Marine Cooks’ Union was summoned to a compulsory conference.
– It was.
– Then the AttorneyGeneral is desirous of giving the employers an opportunity to do something that the court cannot do. The Government wishes to legalize the strike. I thought that a clause such as I have suggested would possibly meet what is required in this portion of the bill. The Attorney-General has made several references to job control, and a provision such as I have outlined would enable a dispute to be dealt with at the moment it occurred. The judge could hale the representatives of both sides before the court, and a settlement could be arrived at immediately just as well as weeks later, when the dispute might have extended to hundreds, of persons who should not have been affected by it. Honorable members on this side of the chamber believe in arbitration. We know that strikes are irksome to the workers ; but I will not admit that they have never won anything by means of strikes. The conditions that the workers enjoy to-day were brought about by their determination to remedy industrial evils by resorting to the strike, and convincing the public that improved conditions were desirable. The workers have succeeded with industrial arbitration to such an extent as to inspire the hope that it is now possible to meet their requirements by means of round-table conferences rather than strikes. The present clause will inflame the minds of the trade unionists. If it were put into operation it would cause more industrial trouble than has been occasioned by any other legislation. The clause should be redrafted to meet the needs of the case. The bill should aim at conciliation and arbitration instead of fostering and legalizing lockouts and strikes.
– I do not know whether the Attorney-General has been impressed by all that he has heard in opposition to the clause, but the arguments advanced against it deserve his serious attention. If honorable members opposite were permitted to express their opinions frankly I believe that they would be found in agreement with the Opposition. Those who represent country constituencies are constantly warning the people of the serious consequences of industrial unrest; but this clause, to say nothing of the rest of the bill, might cause great distress in country districts. Although we were told at the last election, that, if the Government were returned to power, industrial trouble would come to an end, we find after two and a half years that the industrial position is much the same as it was then. The Government wishes it to be understood that this clause is proposed in pursuance of the mandate received from the people. As the representative of a country constituency, and realizing that the primary producer is dependant on adequate transport of his commodities to overseas markets, I am greatly concerned about the present industrial unrest. Therefore, honorable members opposite, and particularly those ‘ representing country electorates, cannot escape from their responsibility for the industrial disputes that this clause is likely to occasion, to the detriment of the man on the land. The Attorney-General did not accept the challenge issued last night by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey).
– I replied twice to what that honorable member said, in so far as he dealt with the clause at all.
– So far as I know, the Minister did not take up the challenge when invited to show how the clause would bring about the settlement of industrial disputes.
– If this clause had been in the act, it is most likely that the present dispute would not have occurred.
– If the Minister can show me that this provision will not have the effect of extending the trouble in’ the event of a sectional strike, I shall vote for it.
– It will prevent such a strike happening.
– The Minister cannot substantiate his statement. Last evening the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) likened sectional industrial troubles to an outbreak of fire in the corner of a paddock, and said that the clause provided a remedy like setting fire to the whole paddock to prevent the conflagration from extending over the countryside.
– The- existence of this provision in the act will prevent sectional strikes from taking place, because people will realize their responsibility more fully than has been the case in the past.
– If the Attorney-General has no better answer than that to the challenge made by the honorable member for Bourke last night, all I can say is that he has not improved the case for the bill. As the sponsor for this clause, he may be compared to a certain character mentioned in the Scriptures. If my recollection serves me aright, I think that in the Book of Judges there is reference to an incident in which Samson played an important part. It is said that he secured 300 foxes, and having tied their tails together by a cord to which a firebrand was attached, released them in the corn-fields of the Philistines, which he utterly destroyed. Then not satisfied with this exceptional exploit, he directed the foxes into the olive groves and destroyed these also. In regard to these proposals of the Government, the Minister is the Samson of the Book of Judges. Not satisfied with providing for an attack upon a section of an industry that may be involved in trouble, he introduces provisions that will enable the employers to take action to throw the whole of an industry idle. The Ministry and all its supporters declared their anxiety during the last election to put an end to industrial troubles ; but up to the present, nothing has been done. Why are Ministerial supporters now silent in regard to the challenge of the honorable member for Bourke and other honorable members on this side, that the only effect .of the bill will be to cause an extension of industrial disputes? This is a serious matter. It affects the whole of the Commonwealth. The honorable the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) displayed considerable activity during the last election in country districts. He came into my division and had something to say about those small sections which, to use his own words, were in the habit of throwing spanners and sand in the industrial machinery of the Commonwealth, with the object of retarding its development, and stated definitely that if returned to power the Ministry would lose no time in dealing with these people. Now, two and a half years later, the Government brings down this bill, which, so far from promoting peace in industry, will accentuate industrial trouble. The right hon:orable member for North Sydney, who has had a long association with industrialism in Australia, and knows more about the movement than any other honorable member opposite, stated emphatically last night that these provisions will operate just as we on this side of the House say they will. No honorable member supporting the Government can deny the logic of our reasoning, and I repeat that the outlook is very serious indeed. I wish to make my position clear. As a representative of a country division at least as important as any country division represented by any honorable member supporting the Government, I shall give my earnest support to any proposal that is calculated to bring about industrial peace. I am anxious to do this in the interests of the men engaged in our primary industries.
– All honorable members on this “side have the interests of the primary producers at heart.
– That is so. I regard this clause and the other provisions to which we take strong exception, from the point of view of the man on the land. Apparently no honorable member on the Government benches is prepared to rise in his place and refute the charges made by the honorable member for Bourke and others on this side last night, who showed that these provisions will not ensure industrial peace. I repeat that the adoption of this clause will lead to an extension of industrial trouble, and as one who wishes well of our primary producers I object to it. I am particularly anxious that the wheels of industry should be allowed to run smoothly.
– Perhaps then the honorable member will assist the honorable member for Gwydir?
– The duty of the honorable member for Gwydir is to accept the challenge issued last night by the honorable member for Bourke, and to show that this clause will not have the effect of extending industrial trouble.
– The PostmasterGeneral has the same responsibility in the matter.
– That is so. What has the Postmaster-General to say about it? Does he take the view that the clause will not have the serious consequences that we predict? Does he think that he can afford to sit comfortably smiling at charges made by honorable members on this side? Either there is something in them, or there is not. Instead of merely interjecting, the PostmasterGeneral should state his views, and, if he can do so, show where we are wrong. The Minister, as a representative of the so-called Country party, has an important portfolio. I remind him that at the recent Legislative Council election in Victoria the Country party, represented in this House by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) secured one of its seats because the electors objected to the manner in which Country party interests had been allowed to drift by the PostmasterGeneral and his colleagues in that party.
– That is not so.
– Though the Postmaster-General may be a busy man, there is a definite responsibility resting upon him to answer our statements. In view of the general policy of the alleged Country party, it is no wonder that seats in country districts are being lost by it. The farming community is getting tired of the futile promises made by this Government, which,instead of bringing down a bill to ensure industrial peace, has introduced a measure that will do a great deal of mischief, and cause more trouble than ever.
– The honorable member is wasting a great deal of time about it.
– The honorable member for Bass also has a responsibility in this matter. I remind him that Tasmania is interested, and that the bill will do a great disservice to that State, which is as much concerned as any other State in the maintenance of industrial peace. Honorable members opposite should not forget that many of the greatest industrial disturbances that have occurred in Australia started in a small way - in a section of an industry. Therefore, we should not take legislative action that will make possible an extension of any industrial trouble. Again. I remind the honorable member for Bass of the probable effect of this bill upon Tasmania.
– Much will depend upon the organizers of industrial unions.
– Under this clause, if a sectional dispute occurs the employers may approach the court for a declaration, and then take such action as will throw the whole of an industry idle. I say to our primary producers, the people whose welfare honorable members opposite are supposed to safeguard, that all members of the Labour party stand four-square to the principle of conciliation and arbitration in order to ensure peace in industry. Personally, I should welcome more conciliation and more round-table conferences to attain this end. It will be useless for honorable members opposite to tell the primary producers or any other section of the community that their only means of salvation is to return this Government to power, because they have been told that tale so often it will have little effect. This measure, and particularly this clause, will be the means of extending industrial trouble and defeating the aims of conciliation and arbitration. Honorable members opposite are in the same category as the communists, as they also are opposed to arbitration. Instead of condemning these wily gentlemen, as they profess to do, they should in future extend the hand of friendship, as any one who supports this clause is in exactly the same position as those militants who have openly denounced arbitration. I have endeavoured to make my position quite clear, and, in conclusion, repeat that this clause, instead of assisting in keeping the wheels of industry going, will be the means of causing general industrial unrest throughout the Commonwealth, and bringing unemployment and distress upon innocent members of the community.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That after the word “ time,” sub-section 4, the words “ upon such notice to such personsas it thinks fit” be inserted.
The object of the amendment is to provide that the notice of revocation of the declaration shall be given to those affected, which is obviously a necessary addition to the clause.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the clause as amended be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Section eight of the principal act is amended - “(b) by omitting sub-section (2) and inserting in its stead the following sub-sections : -
-For the purposes of this section an organization shall be deemed to have ordered, encouraged, advised or incited its members to refuse to offer or accept employment if -
the committee of management of the organization or of a branch of the organization ;
a member of the committee of management of the organization or of the committee of management of a branch of the organization; has ordered, encouraged, advised, or incited members of the organization to refuse to offer or accept employment.
Where the court is satisfied that . . . the organization or branch has bona fide removed from any office or position held by them and, where they are members of the organization, has expelled . . . the persons by reason of whose acts the organization has been found guilty of the offence, the maximum penalty which may be imposed on the organization . . . shall be One hundred pounds.”
Section proposed to be amended -
- (1) . . .
For the purposes of this section an organization shall be deemed to have ordered, encouraged, advised or incited its members to refuse to offer or accept employment, if -
the committee of management of the organization has ordered, encouraged, advised or incited members of the organization to refuse to offer or accept employment; or
an officer or officers of the committee of management has or have ordered, encouraged, advised or incited members of the organization to refuse to offer or accept employment, unless the court before which the proceedings are brought is satisfied that the committee of management was not cognizant of the matter.
– I move -
That after the word “ court,” proposed new sub-section 3, the words “dealing with the matter “ be inserted.
Section 8 of the principal act at first consisted of what is now its first sub-section, but in 1920 it was amended by the addition of the second sub-section, and it is now proposed to amend it further. The section does not in itself impose a penalty or create an offence, but is auxiliary to sections 6 and 6a, under which offences are created and penalties imposed on organizations as well as up,on individuals. Sections 6 and 6a provide that organizations may be fined if found guilty of doing something in the nature of a lockout or strike. Honorable members will see that the words “ doing something in the nature of “ are not used in the present subsection 1 of section 8. That section is, therefore, proposed to be amended to make its wording agree with that of sections 6 and 6a. An organization is a corporation, and can act only through the natural persons, the human beings, who compose it or act on its behalf. To make sections 6 and 6a effective in the case of corporations, it is necessary to define the natural persons by reason of whose acts the organization shall become responsible. In 1920 an attempt was made to do this; but the endeavour was not very successful. Honorable members who opposed clause 7 did so largely because in the cases to which it applied it removed the penalties for lockouts and strikes; they should, therefore, if they wish to be logical, assist in amending clause 8, in order to make penalties practically enforceable in the case of organizations. If clause 7 was objectionable because under it persons could avoid penalties in certain cases, clause 8 should be supported because it increases the effectiveness of sections 6 and 6a. Honorable members opposite are finding it difficult to get a clear line of procedure. The second amendment is necessary because sub-section 2 of section S is ineffective for reasons which I shall shortly give the committee.
Sections 6 and 6a provide that an organization doing something in the nature of a lockout or a strike shall be guilty of an offence. Section 8, subsection 1, of the act provides that -
Any organization of employers or employees which, for the purpose of enforcing compliance with the demands of any employers or employees, orders, encourages, advises or incites its members to refuse to offer or accept employment, shall be deemed to be guilty of a lockout or strike, as the case may be.
The effect of that section is that an organization which orders, encourages, advises, or incites a refusal to offer or accept employment shall be deemed to be guilty under the provisions of sections 6 and 6a of the act. When does an organization order, encourage, advise or incite? Only when some persons, on its behalf, do any of those things. The second sub-section is directed to the identification of the persons for whose acts an organization shall be held responsible, otherwise the placing of the liability upon an organization would be merely a pretence. Some such provision must be included, or there would be no real liability upon an organization. A corporation can act only through individuals.
– Up to that point I am in agreement with the honorable gentleman.
– The whole question, then, is: Who are the persons for whose acts an organization may fairly be held responsible? The existing provision is to the effect that an organization shall be deemed to have ordered, encouraged, advised or incited, if it’s committee of management has done any of those things. The phrase “ committee of management” used in paragraph a of sub-section 2 means the committee of management as a whole, acting formally. It may be doubted whether the required conditions would be fulfilled if there were a division of opinion upon the committee of management. Could it be said that the committee of management had ordered something if fewer than the total number of its members did so? At the least, a formal act on the part of a committee of management would be required. We all know that committees of management do not by formal act definitely and clearly break the law. They would be very illadvised if they were to pass formal resolutions which would bring their organizations within the provisions of sections 6 and 6a. We all know that they do not do so. Therefore, for all practical purposes, sub-section 2, paragraph o, is a dead letter. Paragraph b provides that an organization shall be deemed to have ordered, encouraged, advised or incited if an officer or officers of the committee of management has or have so ordered, encouraged, advised or incited. There is, however, a proviso which reads, “unless the court before which the proceedings are brought is satisfied that the committee of management was not cognizant of the matter.” It is difficult, if not impossible, to state the meaning of that proviso. When can it be said that a committee of management is not cognizant of a matter? If of a committee of ten members, nine are aware of any matter, can it be said that the committee is cognizant of it? If five are aware of it and five are not, is the committee of management cognizant of the matter? No one can say. Even if the whole ten have a knowledge of it in their private capacity, but it has not been brought up formally before the committee, is the committee then cognizant of it? It is impossible to determine with any degree of satisfaction the meaning of those words. Therefore, certain changes are proposed. It is submitted that in the four cases set out in the new sub-section it is proper to hold an organization liable for the .acts of persons associated iri one way or another with its activities. One important change proposed will emphasize the liability of a branch of an organization as well as the organization itself. There are in Australia two forms of unions registered under the Arbitration Act. Some unions are federations, others are merely amalgamations. In the case of a federated union, in the strict sense of the term, the reality of the union is to be found in its branches and the membership of those branches. There is no body of members of a federated union registered in the Arbitration Court distinct from the members of the separate branches. The federated union only comes into existence perhaps once a year, or at even longer periods, when meetings are held of representatives of the branches. The ordinary day-to-day work of the union is done in the branches and not in anything that can be described as the organization itself. As an example, I may mention the Seamen’s Union. The whole of its work is done in the branches, the meeting of the council being held every one or two years. It, therefore, is necessary, if . wo are to deal with the realities of the case, to make provision in respect of branches as well as of the organizations themselves. Accordingly, honorable members will find that the words “ or of a branch “ have been inserted. It is proposed that in the first place an organization shall be liable for the acts of its committee of management, or of a branch.
– Is the honorable gentleman trying to stir up a discussion on this clause?
– I hope that when I have completed my contribution to the debate the honorable member for Dalley will understand this clause better than he did the last. Under paragraph b it is proposed that an organization shall be liable for the acts of a member of the committee of management of the organization itself or of the committee of management of a branch of the organization. The members of the committee of management naturally, are active in the affairs of an industrial organization; and the members as a whole must be held responsible for the acts of those whom they place in positions of responsibility and control. Under paragraph d it is proposed that an organization shall be liable for the acts of any of its officers. That is a perfectly proper provision, and I doubt whether any honorable member will object to it. Acts which involve the danger of legal liability to a union, however, are in practice often done not by officers, but by members of the committee of management; and, therefore, organizations have so far been able to evade liability; A well-known device for evading liability is for the official committee to retire into comparative obscurity while trouble is on, and for an unofficial committee to take charge of affairs. Paragraph c is designed to deal with that position, if it should arise in. the future. If it should not, no harm will be done to anybody. The new subsections 3 and 4 are designed to enlarge the control of an organization over its officers, and to make both officers and members of committees, in addition to the organizations themselves, realize their responsibilities. The only object of registering organizations of either employers or employees in the Arbitration Court must be to promote industrial peace. If an organization should find that any of the persons mentioned in paragraphs a, b, c, and d have been guilty of acts which render it liable to a penalty, it will be within its power to disown responsibility for those acts if it has not authorized them and disapproves of them. Under other provisions in the bill, power is given to organizations to expel individuals w,hp have acted without their authority. In such a case the maximum penalty to which the organization will be liable is £100. Some honorable members appear to me to fail to appreciate the meaning of these provisions. Supposing an officer of a union should expose it to liability for an unauthorized act, ought it not to be able to expel him? Surely it should have that power! If it has, it ought to exercise it.
– That is purely a domestic matter.
– It is not purely a domestic matter. The entire community is interested in the preservation of industrial peace, and powerful industrial organizations are important elements in the community; so this is not merely a domestic matter. I point out once more that the penalties provided in every clause of this- bill are maximum penalties, which must be considered in relation to maximum offences. An organization found guilty of a technical offence would be fined a nominal amount if any penalty at all were imposed. An organization which was fined in respect of an offence by an officer who was subsequently dismissed would have the fine reduced ; but if it re-instated him the next day or within twelve months the original fine could be imposed. It has been suggested that shop stewards and representatives of organizations on the premises of an employer should also be made liable under this provision, but the Government has not agreed to those representations for the reason that in most cases such officers are appointed not by the union, but by the persons engaged in a particular establishment. It is considered that the persons already specified in the clause are the only persons who should be included. The several amendments to insert after the word “ court “ wherever it appears the words “ dealing with the matter “ have been moved for the reason that “ court “ is defined as meaning “ the court of conciliation and arbitration,” whereas these offences will be dealt with by other courts.
.- In his lengthy explanation of this clause - and it required a good deal of explanation - the Attorney-General has endeavoured to put the Opposition in a false position. He said that we would find it difficult to reconcile our opposition to clause 7 with opposition to clause 8. I find no difficulty in doing so, for the fundamental evil of both clauses is that they seek to penalize innocent people. Under the provisions of clause 7 if a section of workers in an industry go on strike an opportunity is given to employers to lockout the whole of the employees in the industry, including many entirely guiltless of doing anything in the nature of a strike. A similar position will arise if the provisions of clause 8 become effective. Consequently we are consistent in opposing both clauses. The object of clause 8 is to repeal subsection 2 of section 8 of the act, which provides that -
An organization shall be deemed to have ordered, encouraged,’ advised or incited its members to refuse to offer or accept employment, if -
the committee of management of the organization has ordered, encouraged, advised or incited members of the organization to refuse to offer or accept employment; or
an officer or officers of the committee of management has or have ordered, encouraged, advised or incited members of the. organization to refuse to offer or accept employment, unless the court before which the proceedings are brought is satisfied that the committee of management was not cognizant of the matter.
I draw attention particularly to the proviso “ unless the court before which the proceedings are brought is satisfied that the committee of management was not cognizant of the matter.” That is an ordinary principle of justice. But the Government is proposing to abrogate it, for the proposed new sub-section, while re-enacting a good deal of what I have read, omits that important proviso. In justification of this omission the AttorneyGeneral asked how a court could ascertain whether a committee of management was or was not cognizant of the acts of one of its officers? He said that though nine members of a committee of management of ten might be fully aware of what was going on, the tenth might be ignorant, and that therefore it could not be held that the whole committee was cognizant; so the union could not be held responsible. The illustration is absurd, and is its own answer. It was put before us to bolster up a case which could not be established upon solid ground. The whole question would, of course, be one of evidence. The court would have to be satisfied that the committee of management was cognizant of the act of its officers before it could find the union guilty, and it would not say that a committee was ignorant simply because one member of it had no knowledge of the act complained of. The proviso is a common precaution to insure justice, and it should not be removed. It is quite clear that the Government does not desire that trade unions shall be subject to the ordinary principles of justice. It desires that conditions shall apply to them which do not apply to any other body of people. I ask the Attorney-General to say whether such a provision applies to any other charge in criminal form in the whole range of legal procedure in this country? He knows very well that it does not, so why should he seek to enforce it against trade unions? It was stated during the debate on clause 7 that the Labour party desired one law to be enforced against employees and another against the employers; but that is a totally inaccurate statement of our case. We desire the laws of the country to be applied without’ fear or favour to all sections of the community. We certainly contend that our trade unions shall be subject to what we understand to be the principles which underlie British justice.
– These provisions will apply, to organizations of employers and employees alike.
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) knows very well that whereas practically the whole of the employees of this country are members of organizations registered under the court, only a small proportion of the employers are members of registered organizations. This provision will apply to registered organizations only. Consequently, it will apply to most of the employees but to very few of the employers. We are, therefore, justified in saying that it is specially designed to penalize the employees. We do not object to a union being made liable for the actions of its responsible officers. That is already provided in the act. But we contend that this clause has been drafted with the deliberate object of making an organization liable for the acts of irresponsible members of irresponsible com mittees. Unauthorized persons may commit acts which, if this clause becomes law, may involve the union in serious consequences. That is altogether unfair. Would any honorable member opposite like to see such a provision applied to the capitalistic organizations of this country? It must surely be unthinkable to every reasonable person that an organization shall be held responsible for the acts of an individual who has no authority to act for it, and whose actions are subsequently repudiated. It was graphically pointed out during the debate on clause 7 by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) and other honorable members, that our federated trade unions had small committees throughout the Commonwealth doing the routine work of the organization, but having no authority to act on behalf of the union. In the great majority of the cases the authority of the union is vested solely in a central body. But in spite of this it frequently happens that disputes occur before the head office of the union is even consulted. Is it reasonable in such cases to hold the union responsible? Surely honorable members opposite must realize in their inner consciousness that it is totally unfair to make an organization liable to a fine of £1,000 because an irresponsible member of an obscure committee takes upon himself executive authority to which he has no right whatever. Apart altogether from the provisions of this clause, the man who does that would be liable to a penalty of £50. Does any honorable member opposite believe that in such circumstances a union should also be held responsible?
– I do.
– And so do I.
– Those are the only honorable members opposite from whom I would expect such a reply.
– Honorable members on this side of the committee are not subject to cross-examination in this manner.
– It is just as well for them that they are not.
– That is not the method of conducting a parliamentary debate.
– The Attorney-General seems to forget that during the speech he just delivered he asked any number of questions “of the Opposition. But when he was given good replies he claimed the protection of the Chair.
– The AttorneyGeneral twitted honorable members of the Opposition with not having an opinion because we did not answer questions he put to us, but when we tried to get in an interjection while he was speaking he did his best to smother it. I am pleased that I have succeeded in drawing an answer from at least some honorable members opposite. What is the proof that this clause is aimed at the irresponsible act of an individual? I agree with the Attorney-General that the unions ought to be held liable for the acts of people who are placed in a position of responsibility and control ; but the law already provides for that contingency; but more than that is provided for in this clause. What the clause seeks to do is to hold the union responsible for the acts of individuals who are not in a position of responsibility and control. It is specially designed for that purpose. The contention of the Attorney-General is that because it is difficult to get evidence against these individuals it is necessary to punish the union. It is a new principle to set up that the innocent must be punished when it is difficult to get at the guilty. I ask honorable members supporting the Government not to sit back and accept complacently everything that the Attorney-General says as to the meaning of this clause. If they will examine the clause closely they will see that it is definitely designed to penalize a union for the irresponsible acts of individuals. First of all the Attorney-General declares that power should be given to an organization to get rid of an officer who gets it into trouble without authority; but already the unions have that power. It is not conferred upon them by this clause.
– Has the Cooks’ Union that power?
– It has not.
– The. AttorneyGeneral was most unfortunate in his reference to the present trouble between the cooks and the ship-owners. He contends that the act of striking was not that of responsible officers of the union, but was that of branch committees. As a matter of fact the trouble has been caused not as the result of the action of a branch or committee, but because of something that has been done by the responsible officer of the union.
– If the honorable member will give me legal evidence of that I shall be glad to have it.
– The AttorneyGeneral will not be able to get evidence against an obscure branch of the Cooks’ Union, if he cannot obtain evidence against the secretary or. committee of management itself. He has talked about officers of unions starting trouble and then keeping in the background, but I challenge him to give a single instance of that. It is useless to talk about supposititious cases. It is far better to keep to concrete facts. Can the Attorney-General mention one disturbance in the 24 years since the Conciliation and Arbitration, Act has been in force in which responsible officers of a union have committed acts and have then run away? There have been cases in which trouble has been occasioned by the acts of irresponsible people, but instead of running away from the trouble the responsible officers have jumped in immediately and settled it as quickly as possible. We have now before us a clause which provides that if a union is so incensed at the action of an irresponsible officer that it goes to the length of removing him from office and expelling him from the union - it can go no further to prove its bona fides - it may be fined up to £100. And this vindictive Government calls that bringing about peace in industry! It will go down to history as the first Federal Government that has taken such action against the industrialists of Australia. It claims that the clause now under consideration will affect only those organizations that are causing trouble. As a matter of fact, it has roused the ire of the law-abiding, intelligent members of the industrial unions of Australia. No one knows better than does the AttorneyGeneral that the men who are at the head of Australian unionism to-day are law-abiding, intelligent persons, who are prepared to listen to reasonable arguments. It is they who are most hurt by this clause, and this absolutely unfair and vindictive legislation.
– One would think we were dealing with criminals.
– One would think that we were dealing with the very worst type of individuals in the community. This legislation is directed against bodies of men who have so. recognized the law of this country that they have registered their organizations under the Arbitration Court, whereas it does not touch bodies of men who do not believe in arbitration, who are against anything in the nature of legislation for the prevention and settlement of disputes, who believe in and rely on direct action, and who refuse to register under the law of this country. ‘ They are protected by this precious Government that talks of law and order, whereas bodies of men who register under the Arbitration Court may be penalized for acts of individual members of a branch committee over which no control can be exercised. Even when a union goes sofar as to prove its bona fides by removing from office the irresponsible man who has caused trouble, and expelling him from the organization, it can still be compelled to pay a fine up to £100. A provision that seeks to do this is contrary to the very fundamentals of justice. A principal cannot be held responsible for the act of an agent in an offence of a criminal character, unless it can be proved that the agent is acting for the principal in whatever he has done. The AttorneyGeneral knows that all these principles of justice are swept aside by this clause.
– No; they are merely being applied.
– They are not being applied; they are being swept aside. This clause makes the union liable for something for which it is not responsible.
– Where is that done?
– It is to be found in the provision which says that “ an organization shall be deemed to have ordered, encouraged, advised or incited its members to refuse to offer or accept employment if a committee of management of a branch of the organization “ has done these things.
– That is quite right.
– It is not right.
– Are not the members of the committee of management of a branch of an organization responsible officers ?
– They may or may not be. The committee of management of an organization is the only body responsible to the organization, and the organization should be held responsible only for what is done by its committee of management. That was provided for in the first arbitration law of the Commonwealth, and it has met all requirements for 24 years. But this clause goes further. It provides that any step taken by a member of a branch committee in defiance of the decision of the organization itself, is a matter for. which the organization can be held responsible, and even if the union’ goes to the length of removing this man from the branch committee
– It is still liable to a savage penalty.
– Yes; a savage penalty. Is there any other law in this country so deliberately aimed at a body of individuals? The provision is fundamentally unsound, and little argument is needed to expose its savagery.
– And its brutality.
– It is brutal, and it only needs to be read for the bias and prejudice behind the drafting of it to be seen. If it was merely a question of tightening up the law to make sure that an organization would be held responsible for the actions of its responsible committee of management, my arguments would not apply, but when the law is to be amended to provide that a union is to be held responsible for the action of an individual member of a committee of management or an individual member of a committee of a branch, however obscure, acting in accordance with the will of a minority and in defiance of the will of the majority, how in the name of fortune can it be justified? I confess I do not know. This clause is indefensible and unjust, inasmuch as it is an attempt to find the innocent guilty for the actions of others.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has drawn from his verbal armory every epithet or condemnatory phrase he could bring to mind. His first objection to the clause is that an organization is to bc made responsible for the action of an individual, and he claims that this has not been done previously. The section which the honorable member read as having been passed in 1920 provided for it. The honorable member will find in that provision that any officer of a committee of management is held responsible.
– I said so.
– No one objects to that.
– The honorable member always misrepresents what I say and then proceeds to build a speech on the n i isirepresenttation.
– The honorable member having had his attention drawn to the fact that an individual is held responsible under the present law, says that he has been misrepresented, and that he meant the individual or officer or person in control.
– That is quite right.
– I am glad to have that confirmation. The clause before the committee aims at persons in control arid not at an individual who has no authority. It aims at persons who act as agents for an organization. The Leader of the Opposition has given us a lecture on agency which I am sure we all enjoyed, but every person he mentioned as likely to be punished under this provision must be regarded as an authorized agent of an organization. It is worth while spending a moment or two in glancing at what is actually provided. In paragraph a the clause refers first of all to “ the committee of management of the organization.” They are the first persons who are selected as being liable to a penalty for the acts complained of. Can the Leader of the Opposition say that the members of the committee of management of an organization are not responsible persons in that organization? Can he truthfully say that any one outside the organization is not entitled to believe that its committee of management are not persons to whom the powers of the union are delegated?
– I said that they were.
– I am taking the matter step by step. I do not propose to pass over anything, lest some one may say that I have misunderstood it or misrepresented it. A chorus of approval from the Opposition has met my statement that the first portion of paragraph a is aimed at persons who may be well regarded as agents of the organization. The second class of persons aimed at in paragraph a are “ the committee of management of a branch of the organization.”
– Go back and read the paragraph properly.
– The words in the paragraph are “ committee of management of a branch of the organization.”
– I, myself, shall read the paragraph if the honorable member for Barton does not read it properly.
– Does any one suggest that a committee of management-
– I object to the honorable member for Barton misrepresenting and distorting paragraph a.
– Is the honorable member raising a point of order?
– Yes. My point of order is that the honorable ‘member for Barton is distorting paragraph a by not reading it properly.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member has not raised a point of order.
– I take it that the Leader of the Opposition, and also his supporters, agree that the committee of management consists of persons who may be regarded as agents of the organization, and that the committee of management of a branch of the organization is in the same category.
– If the honorable member for Barton does not read paragraph b properly, I shall read it for him.
– Will the honorable member for Barton kindly be seated. Does the honorable member for Bourke intend to obey the ruling of the Chair?
– I have always obeyed the ruling of the Chair.
– I am sure that the honorable member for Bourke will be able to make an excellent speech after I have finished my remarks. I wish to point out that under paragraph a the committee of management of a branch of an organization as well as of a section of a branch of an organization may be regarded as agents for the organization. The Leader of the Opposition has raised a point respecting paragraph b; but if a person is a member of the committee of management of an organization can anybody rightly say that so long as he is permitted to remain in that responsible position he may not be regarded as an agent of the organization? If a member is not a fit and proper person to be on the committee of the organization, it is the duty of the organization to remove him from that position as soon as possible.
– Would the honorable member say that an individual member of the committee is an agent of the organization if he is acting only on behalf of a minority of the committee?
– Until, the organization takes some action to show that that person has no longer its approval, he must be regarded as an agent of the organization, otherwise, it must be clear that he would have been removed from the committee of management.
– He cannot be removed from office until he has committed an offence.
– An organization tha;- permits one of its members to remain on the committee of management when it disapproves of what he is doing, ought to accept responsibility for that member’s actions. Every member of the committee of management is in part an agent of the organization, and if a member is breaking the law the organization must take the responsibility.
– Does the honorable member say that as a matter of law such a person is an agent of the organization, when he represents only a minority of the committee of management of a branch of the organization. That is an absurd contention.
– Would the legal profession accept responsibility for an action of one of its individual members?
– The honorable member for Bourke has been requested by the Chair on several occasions to desist from unseemly interruptions. Unless he is prepared to obey the ruling of the Chair, I shall have to take other steps to enforce it.
– Any person who is permitted to remain a member of the com mittee of management must to that extent be regarded as an agent of the organization. If the organization is not satisfied with that person he should be removed from his position of trust. That also applies to a member of the committee of management of a branch of the organization. All these persons are holding positions of responsibility so far as the organization is concerned, and the clause under consideration provides that the organization must be held responsible for the actions of its agents. Paragraph c of proposed new sub-section 2, provides that any body of persons controlling an organization or a branch of the organization must be regarded as an agent of the organization. The Leader of the Opposition would have us believe that a body of persons - no matter under what name it is known - who have been chosen for the purpose of controlling the organization, ought not to be regarded as agents of the organization; but it is absurd to contend that the members of that body should not be held responsible for what they do so long as they hold their positions in the organization.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not make any such statement. The honorable member has deliberately on four occasions to-day raised bogeys, and put in the mouth of the Leader of the Opposition statements that he did not make. We may stand a little, but not too much of that sort of thing.
– No one is less desirous than E am of misrepresenting the views of any honorable members in this chamber.
– J would inform the honorable member for Darling that it is unparliamentary to attribute misrepresentation to an honorable member.
– I shall be very glad to find that the Leader of the Opposition is in agreement with me.
– I quite agree that the body controlling the organization, but not individual members, is an agent of the organization.
– A member of the committee of management, so long as he remains in that position is, in part, an agent of the organization, and the organization must be held responsible for the actions of its agents, individually and collectively. At all events, legislation to be effective, cannot permit an organization to escape penalties when the law is broken by one of the members of the committee of management of that organization. Paragraph d of proposed new sub-section 2 provides that an officer of the organization or of a branch of the organization must be regarded as an agent of the organization, and may be liable to the penalties prescribed under this legislation. That is the law as it stands to-day. These four paragraphs relate only to persons who are holding responsible positions. The organization should certainly be held responsible for the actions of those persons, whether they act individually or collectively, and that is provided^ for under clause 8. I can well understand the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition, because he said in his second-reading speech that he looked at this subject from one side only.
– I did not say that. The honorable member’s statement is another misrepresentation.
– I refer the Leader of the Opposition to his own speech. This provision aims equally at employers’ associations and employees’ associations. I put that fact to the Leader of tin Opposition when he was speaking, and he could not deny it. It would be very awkward for any honorable member to attempt to deny it.
– This clause only pretends to aim at employers’ associations.
– It does not. There is a large number of employers’ associations in Australia.
– Only a few of them are registered.
– The Commonwealth Shipowners’ Association and the Graziers’ Association are examples.
– There are altogether 29 registered employers’ organizations, and 10,000 employers who are not registered.
– If there were only two organizations of employers instead of 29 it would make no difference whatever under this provision. We must legislate for all registered organizations, whether employers’ or employees’ organizations. To suggest for one moment that the employers’ organizations should be without the ambit of this provision, and only employees’ organizations included, is to me a new theory of legislation. Under this provision, a committee of management of an employers’ organization as well as of an employees’ organization will be held responsible for any infringement of the law, and a member of the committee of management of an employers’ organization or of an employees’ organization will be held similarly responsible. We are legislating not only for employees, but also for employers. We are making a law equally applicable to both, and therefore one wonders what has happened to the Leader of the Opposition when we hear him trying to excuse himself by saying that there are only a few employers’ associations and a great number of employees’ associations.
– The provision cannot operate equitably, because the number of registered employers’ associations is few compared with that of registered employees’ associations.
– If the honorable member is attempting to protect “the employers, let him say so boldly and not operate under cover. But if the honorable member wishes to be perfectly fair, let him state clearly that this provision would be as applicable to the employers’ organizations, and to the members of committees of management of employers’ organizations, as to the organizations of employees.
– It is not.
– The honorable member says it is not; but that is not an accurate statement. The clause will apply to both. The honorable member must see that the penalties would not be applied by the Government; it is the court which would apply them. Whenever a case came up, it would be dealt with by an impartial tribunal.
– Oh, would it!
– Is there an honorable member on either side of the chamber who believes that the men who sit on the bench of our Arbitration Court are not impartial, or are not honest and upright men?
– Some of them are there as the result of political appointments.
– One is an expresident of an employers’ federation.
– If honorable members are objecting to certain persons on the Bench, let them have the courage to say who those men are.
– We have done so.
An Honorable Member. - You. were away at Geneva.
– We have made our official protest on the floor of this House. You are only a baby in this House in point of membership. We do not lack the courage to say what we mean.
– I am pleased to be informed of Avhat happened during my absence. Everything, of course, would have been right if I had not been away. These cases will be dealt with by the Arbitration Court, which is manned by judges of the highest repute, whose probity cannot be doubted, and whose imparitality is, in my opinion, beyond, question. It is only fair to assume that the judges will do what is right and just regarding the cases which come before them; but, if any honorablemember objects to any person on the Arbitration Court Bench, that is an objection to an individual judge, and not to this measure.
– The judges administer the law, and how can we rely on them to give impartial decisions-
– Order! I call the attention of honorable members to the fact that reflections on members of the judiciary are entirely out of order.
– But the honorable member invited such reflections.
– The penalties would be applicable equally to the employers’ organizations, and to those of the employees, and to the members of the committees of management of both employers’ organizations and employees’ organizations. It is quite unfair for any honorable member to pretend that this clause is aimed at one kind of organization only. I hope that it will be carried by an even larger majority than was the previous one.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat seems to be the only member on that side of the chamber, apart from the Attorney-General, who has anything to say about this bill. On clause 7, so far as I can remember, only two members spoke, of whom the honorable member for Barton was one. He seems to be a kind of agent, or offsider, for the Attorney-General, who has put over some fairly hot things during this debate, and seems to be not at all careful as to the words he puts into other people’s mouths. When the rough stuff is to be put over, he leaves it to be done by the honorable member for Barton. May I recommend to the Minister that when a more responsible job is to bc filled, the honorable member for Barton, as one who is quite unashamed and unrepentant in his wilful distortion
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is not in order in using such a phrase. He must withdraw it.
– I withdraw it, asI have no desire to offend against the Standing Orders. The honorable member for Barton, notwithstanding that he was told that he was indulging in misrepresentations, continued to do so.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.That is also out of order.
– I accepted honorable members’ denials.
– Yes, but what is the use of accepting denials, and then repeating the same things again? There is a certain standard to be maintained, even when the committee is engaged on legislation designed to break down trade unionism. Possibly it is only wasting time to put the honorable member on the right track. He tries to bolster up a weak case with absurd statements and arguments based on the same lack of knowledge as has been displayed by the Attorney-General. His information, apparently, has been supplied by the employers’ friends.
– My information came from the unions.
– I doubt that. The honorable member has the effrontery to ask men who are well versed in industrial law, and industrial usage, to accept his statement that this clause will apply to the employers and employees alike. On the face of it the statement is absurd, and I am quite certain that the honorable member knows it to be absurd. It would be impossible to apply such a provision as this to the employers of Australia. I shall go further, and say that hardly one of the penal clauses of this bill are capable of application to the employers, nor is it the intention of the Government that they should be. Take, for instance, that relating to a committee of management being responsible. How would it be possible to hold the committee of management of the Employers’ Federation of New South Wales - assuming there is such a committee - responsible for ordering, encouraging, or advising its members to refuse to offer employment? The honorable member knows quite well that it would be impossible to prove that the committee of management had done anything of the kind. In any case, the employers do not proceed in that way now. When they want to close their works, there is no need for them to order or incite any one not to offer employment to trade unionists. They merely adopt the course, usually on a Friday afternoon, which is pay day, of posting a notice at the entrance to the works stating that, for the purpose of reorganization, the establishment will be closed indefinitely. How is it possible, under this clause, to proceed against the owner of a mill or factory for doing such a thing as that? He might not be a member of any organization. Yet the honorable member talks about applying the penalties impartially to both employers and employees. The honorable member might tell such a thing as that to a kindergarten class, but it is of no use saying it to grown men who have had some experience of these matters. The employers will not be bound by this clause, and both the honorable member and the Government know it. If, by any chance, it would be binding on the employers, it would not have been included in the bill. As a matter of fact, the employers never have been brought before any court for a breach of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– Any union could have taken proceedings against the employers if it wanted to.
– That statement is just as absurd as some of the others the honorable gentleman has made during the discussion of this bill. It is absurd to say that the unions have the power to bring recalcitrant employers to the court. The AttorneyGeneral is endeavouring to bolster up a bad case by such piffle as this, and he makes his offence all the worse, because he knows that the employees cannot do what he says.
– But they have done it from time to time.
– They do not do it, and they cannot do it.
– But they do. There is no use in denying’ facts.
– The honorable member for Barton either read the bill in a very slovenly .way, and did not know what the clause provides for, or he was adopting the tricky tactics of a Monday court lawyer when he stated that the Arbitration Court was impartial, and that the men who composed it would administer even-handed justice. How will the judges of the Federal Arbitration Court be concerned with this clause ?
– They are the persons who will decide whether the penalties shall apply or not.
– The honorable member knows that these cases will not be tried by the Federal Arbitration Court at all. I have had practical experience of the penal clauses of the present act. Such matters are not tried by the Federal Arbitration Court judges, and if the honorable member does not know that, it is time he was told it. Even the AttorneyGeneral did not attempt to put over anything so rough as that.
– Let the honorable member read the first line of sub-section 3, which contains the words “ where the court is satisfied.”
– An amendment has been proposed which specifically qualifies “ court “ by ading the words, “ dealing with the matter.” The cases will not be tried before the Arbitration Court, and the honorable member should know it.
– Sometimes the Arbitration Court deals with such matters.
– The Arbitration Court does not take these cases at all. They are taken by magistrates, stipendiary and others, who know nothing about arbitration, and who, on the evidence adduced, come to their decisions. Frequently those decisions afford practical evidence of the incapacity of those individuals to try such cases. The honorable member for Barton claims that this bill applies impartially to employers and employees alike. There are 149 unions registered in the Federal Arbitration Court, with a membership of 690,000, as against only 27 employers’ organizations.
– Representing how many employers ?
– That information is not available; but I am confident that their number is not comparable with that of the trade unionists. The responsibility is on the units of’ the trade unions and of the employers, and in that regard alone it is lopsided. Take the average employer. His environment, education, and general upbringing fit him for business, and provide him with the wherewithal to employ tricky lawyers to evade what is intended by the spirit of the Arbitration Act.
– That is not general.
– I admit that there are quite a number of employers who would not stoop to unscrupulous practices. An employee, actuated with a desire to better the conditions of his fellow workers, may do something that is illegal, without knowing that it is illegal. Perhaps that man was appointed by his fellow, members to represent them in a section of a unit or organization which may be equivalent to what the clause terms a committee of management of the organization or of a branch of the organization. His action would render his parent union liable to this severe penalty of £1,000. The Attorney-General, notwithstanding the fact that his attention has been drawn to the clumsy verbiage of the bill, has failed to supply a satisfactory explanation of what will happen in such a case. An industrial union may have a number of branches and numerous sections, and each section functions in the same way as a branch. I have in mind the Australian “Workers Union, which has sections operating in exactly the same manner, but in a ‘lesser degree, .as ‘the branches themselves. “Within the “railway workers’ branch of that union there is a cement manufactur ing employees’ section, operating on the Mudgee line, which has its meetings, its committee of management, and carries on the business of the union in that locality. Is that section a committee of management under the provisions of clause 8? Undoubtedly it must be classed as a committee of management within a branch, not a branch executive. The wording of the clause indicates a complete ignorance, on the part of those who drafted it, of the terms used in the various industrial organizations.
– Is the honorable member not citing a unique case?
– No. There are other similar industrial organizations in Australia. The Australian Workers Union has many sectional committees, including a miners’ organization which has a management committee at almost every colliery. There is also the engineers’ organization.
– The coal-miners’ organization deals with only one commodity.
– The coal-miners’ organization deals not only with coal mining but with metalliferous mining, and even in the metalliferous mining section there is a surface and an underground section, each operating quite independently of the other, and both quite separately from the parent organization.
– Obviously, the cement organization committee would be the most competent to deal with matters affecting the cement industry.
– That is so. The management of the branch organization may have representation from that section, but the actual operation of carrying on the section is in the hands of those who know the job best.
– And they should be responsible.
– In my estimation they are responsible. But this bill will make a parent organization responsible for anything that may be done by a more or Jess obscure section, representing a comparatively small number of men operating as a committee of management. One obscure member of an obscure sectional committee of management -may render a parent organization liable to a fine of £1;000.
– And union members in South Australia and Western Australia would have to contribute to that fine.
– The whole of the organization is responsible for what may be the irresponsible action of some obscure member.
– -What does the honorable member contend should be the rule - that the obligation should apply only when the full committee of management acts?
– I contend that the Attorney-General has gone mad in attempting to follow the dictates of the irresponsibles who stand behind him in this matter. It is possible to leave so many loopholes in legislation of this nature that, the whole thing becomes an absurdity. The bill that is now before the committee reflects no credit on the capacity or the intelligence of the Attorney-General. No man with the slightest knowledge of industrial conditions in Australia would think for one moment of putting such a monstrosity before a body of intelligent men. The Port Kembla section of the Australian Workers’ Union, has its own management committee carrying on the job. The parent organization - not the New South Wales organization, but the Australian body - will be made responsible for everything done by that committee of managament. Not only is this clause stupid, it is unworkable, and when an attempt is made to bring it into operation it will be strangled at its birth by the excrescences that surround it. In their eagerness to cope with hypothetical circumstances that may arise, the Attorney-General and his Government have over-stepped the limits of decency, arid now it is impossible to do anything with the clause. Section 8 of the original act, which is being amended by this clause, is very clear and satisfactory. It brings to book only those responsible for industrial turmoil, the penalty being up to £1,000, according to the gravity of the occasion. I have in mind the case of Senator Barnes and myself which happened a few years ago, when we -were president and general-secretary, respectively, of the Australian Workers’ Union. We found fault with the figures of a judge of the Arbitration Court. Before taking the extreme step of calling our. members out on strike, we interviewed the judge, and the result was an excellent illustration of the so-called high intelligence and capacity of such individuals. The judge fixed 30s. per 100 for shearing, and when asked how he arrived at that figure, he explained his basis of reasoning. We had painfully to demonstrate to him that his arithmetic was wrong. The judge then backed down, and added another 5s., but even then he was something like 3s. lOd. out. We had the advice of the best accountants in Sydney and Melbourne to prove that his reasoning was incorrect; but, stubborn as a mule, he refused to back down.
– Order! I cannot allow the honorable, member to apply such terms to a learned judge.
– Stubborn as an Arbitration Court judge, he refused to back down. Because ‘of that extreme provocation, we were compelled to call our members out and were each fined £100 for our alleged misdemeanour. That was done under section 8 of-the original act. I am not debating the merits or demerits of the personal equation in that incident; I am merely endeavouring to show that the original section satisfactorily coped with the position. I am very doubtful if anything better can be achieved by the new clause. Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
.- A good deal has been said by honorable members of the Opposition about penalties. We have heard the case advanced on behalf of employers on the one hand and members of the unions on the other, but little, if anything, has been said on behalf of the great mass of the public which belongs neither to the employing class nor to the unions, but which, in the main, most feels the effects of strikes. If it were not for the strikes that have occurred in Australia, we should not be concerned to-day about amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It was deemed necessary, in the original measure, ‘to provide penalties, and it was open to the Labour party when in power to alter them. It seems to me to be Only right that some penalty should be provided seeing that the act gives the” unions certain rights that they would not otherwise possess. The unions should have power to discipline ‘ their own members with regard to action likely to precipitate a strike. No substantial argument has been advanced by honorable members opposite to show that penalties should not be inflicted. The main contention of the Leader of the Opposition is that innocent persons might be mulcted in fines as the result of actions by subordinate members of a union. In circumstances such as those we now have under review, the same sort of discipline could be enforced on the members of a union as is applied to them in other ways for other actions. I am with the Government with regard to the penalty clauses. If honorable members of the Opposition think that individual employers are not made liable to the penalties said to be provided for them, I am quite prepared to assist them to insert a clause that will ensure that private employers who are not members of an organization will not be missed ; but I have the assurance of the Attorney-General that they are covered by the penalty clauses.
– In sections 6 and 6a they are provided for. It is unnecessary to refer to individuals in section 8.
– I contend that if penalties are provided for the employee, the employer should be under similar penalties.
– So he is, absolutely.
– I accept the assurance of the Minister. I happen to be an employer of labour. I have not been particularly active in availing myself of the provisions of the act, except that, as a member of a Chamber of Manufactures, the firm with which I am connected is joined with others in any Arbitration Court proceedings, and the case is fought by the parties being represented in court, mostly by members of the legal fraternity. If I expect my employees to abide by the awards of the court, they have a right to expect me to do likewise. But I am not sure that the wording of the clause will achieve the desired object. Paragraph d of the proposed new sub-section 2 refers to “ an officer of the organization or of a branch of the organization.” We have been told that a shop steward is not an official of the organization. I should like an assurance from the Attorney-General that such a person who acts in the manner contemplated by this clause cannot escape from his responsibility. In the past some of these persons have been hard to locate, and it has been difficult to sheet home to them the responsibility for causing strikes. I believe that it has been impossible in most instances to impose the penalties. Paragraph d provides that if an officer of the organization or of a branch of the organization has ordered, encouraged, advised or incited members of the organization to refuse to offer or accept employment, a penalty of £1,000 may be imposed. I suggest to the Attorney-General that we should add the words “ or has refrained within a reasonable time from ordering any of its members on strike to resume work.” That would make the clause more definite than it now is.
– If a shop steward is an officer of an organization as a whole, the clause as submitted to the committee includes him under paragraph d, as an officer; but if, on the other hand, a shop steward is appointed by the members of an organization employed at a particular factory or construction works, or the like, it is, I suggest, hardly fair to hold the whole organization responsible for his actions.
– Where does the honorable gentleman get that definition of an officer?
– I am not giving a definition of anything.
– How can the Minister discriminate between shop stewards appointed in an establishment and those appointed by the executive of the organization?
– The clause provides for officers of the organization, and a shop steward appointed merely by members of the 1 organization who are employed by a particular employer is not an officer of the organization. For that reason the Government has not included a shop steward within the class of persons for whose acts the organization shall be liable. If the honorable member thinks that the liability should be extended he is at liberty to submit such a proposal.
– Why try to twist my suggestion in that way?
– I do not understand the suggestion of the honorable member.
– How does the Minister arrive at the definition?
– I have given no definition.
– He has defined “ an officer of the organization.”
– Not at all. I do not 3ee what bearing the honorable member’s observation has on the clause under review. By addressing the committee he will be able to make any suggestion that he thinks proper. I have stated the reasons why the suggestion that the organization should be liable for the act of a shop steward has not been adopted by the Government, and why it is thought that it would be unfair to the organization to adopt it. If a shop steward i3 appointed by the organization and is an officer of the organization, he is included. If he is not such an officer, he is not included, and 1 do not think he ought to be.
– Will the clause be effective without it?
– I think it will. It would depend, of course, on the circumstances of each case. As to the other point mentioned by the honorable member for Bass, the suggestion was that there should be a liability upon the organization, if any persons mentioned under paragraphs a, b, c, or d of the proposed new sub-section had refrained from ordering any members of the organization on strike to resume work. It appears to me that it would be very difficult indeed to administer such a provision. It would be hard to determine whether each of the individuals mentioned in the four classes had or had not ordered the members of the organization on strike to resume work. I can hardly see how a particular member of a committee of management could in practice order all the members of the organization to resume their employment. How could he reach them? He could not interview all of them personally or speak to them individually, and it would be unreasonable to suppose that every individual member of the committee of management would issue an order in general terms. For these reasons the Government does not consider it desirable to adopt the suggestion made.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) in reply to the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), set out to discriminate between one class of officer and another, and gave what seemed to be a definition, in his own mind, of what constituted an officer of an organization. Subsequently he repudiated the suggestion that he had given a definition. Neither the bill nor the principal act supplies a definition of such a person. The Attorney-General says that if a person were selected by his fellow workers in an establishment to act as a steward, he would not be an officer under this clause; but, if appointed by the executive of the organization, “he would be such an officer. Where does the Attorney-General get that definition?
– From his lack of experience in industrial matters.
– That seems to be an adequate explanation of the AttorneyGeneral’s statement on the point. Throughout Australia there are thousands of trade unionists occupying minor positions in their unions, such as shop stewards and union representatives in different industrial establishments. I presume they have been appointed in accordance with the rules of their organization, and I suppose they may be regarded as officers of such organizations, although not necessarily executive officials.
– They should come under these provisions.
– Presumably they do, notwithstanding the labored explanation of the Attorney-General as to what constitutes an officer of an organization. In some establishments certain unions have agents acting for them - men authorized to issue membership tickets and enrol members. I should say that in the aggregate the Australian Workers Union has thousands of such persons acting for it throughout Australia. For the purposes of the Arbitration Act they are defined as officers of that organization, being appointed under its rules, and in accordance with its constitution. Persons occupying analogous positions are to be found in many other unions, and I take it that they will be all regarded as officers of such organizations within the meaning of this clause. The Attorney-General’s attempt, arbitrarily, to exclude particular classes of minor officers because they have been selected by their shop mates and not appointed by some accepted authority, is ridiculously inadequate.
– Does the honorable member think they are included in this clause ?
– I think that this clause will apply to them. That is why I say that it is unjust to hold an entire organization responsible for the act of a minor, and, possibly, an irresponsible official. I invite honorable members to consider how this clause will operate. If one of these officers advises the members of his union not to accept employment in an area where an industrial disturbance has occurred, and where, possibly, a strike is in progress, his action will be construed as an incitement to do something in the nature of a strike, and the organization will be liable to a penalty of £1,000; but if the executive of the organization disavows the action of the official concerned, and suspends him from membership, it will escape with a penalty of £100.
– The sum mentioned by the honorable member is the maximum fine. He speaks of it as if it were the fixed penalty.
– What does the AttorneyGeneral think would be the penalty in such circumstances?
– Probably a nominal fine.
– I presume by that the Minister means a fine of, say, £50. The fact is, the Attorney-General has provided a clause under which a very severe penalty may be imposed upon an organization. As I have stated, if an organization disavows the action of its representative, and if it suspends the official concerned from office, or expels him from membership, the reduced penalty is applicable.
– Should not an organization discipline such individual members?
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) is counselling a perfection which has never yet been attained in any organization in any country.
There is, however, another point to which I invite the attention of the Attorney-General. I have shown that if an organization, to safeguard itself from the imposition of the higher penalty of £1,000, disavows the action of the officer concerned, it may escape with a maximum penalty of £100. It is further provided, however, that if the officer or member is re-admitted to membership within a period of twelve months from the time of his expulsion, the organization will be guilty of an offence and liable to a penalty of £1,000. This means that in industries where the preference clause is applied, the member expelled will be debarred from earning his livelihood. It may so happen that his only qualification is that of a boiler-maker, or moulder, or a tradesman in some other craft. Therefore, if employment in his calling is exclusively provided for unionists under an award of the court, he will be denied employment. Thus he may be fined £50 under section 6a, and then be excluded from employment under this clause. Himay be reduced to a state of destitution, and the members of his family made to suffer under this drastic clause. No relief can be offered to him.
– Would he be better ofl without this provision?
– Does the interjection mean that the honorable member for Bass condones the punitive nature of this provision ? Does the AttorneyGeneral propose to prevent an industrial organization from offering relief to such a man if he has seen the error of his ways ?
– We put some people into gaol for wrong-doing. °
– Then is it proposed under this new section to throw into gaol a man who may advise his fellow-workers not to accept employment ? Is it proposed to exclude him in the circumstances I have named from the means of employment, and possibly force his family into starvation ?
– He would be in the same position as a non-unionist is to-day.
– I take it, then, that this is the intention behind the provision.
– The expelled official could then become an employer.
– Is the honorable member for Bass serious?
– I am.
– A man who honestly advises some of his fellowunionists against accepting employment while a strike is in progress should not be punished and penalized in this drastic manner. This is the vengeance which this Government has threatened to wreak upon those who offend against the provisions of this new law.
– Not vengeance?
– Of course it is.
– More distress is caused by strikes than is likely to be caused by this clause.
– Does the honorable member justify this pursuit of a man to the extent of excluding him from employment? I have stated the possibilities of this provision because I am convinced that they have not been fully considered by the Attorney-General, nor indeed by honorable members who are supporting the Government in this matter. That part of the section which is being repealed by clause 8 was, in all conscience, drastic enough against officers of organizations who countenanced a strike or a breach of the provisions of the Arbitration Act in regard to industrial disputes; but apparently the Attorney-General is not satisfied with the original section and, therefore, has introduced these drag-net provisions under which, a series of punishments may be inflicted upon individual members of an organization to the extent even of deprivation of employment, thereby denying sustenance for the members of their families. The Attorney-General has no adequate answer to the point which I have raised.
– It pleases the honorable member to say so.
– At all events, he is silent. Although he has spoken twice on the clause, he has not dealt with this aspect of its provisions.
– Because it has not before been raised.
– Then I ask the Minister to consider it, because of its probable effect upon a member of an organization where preference to unionists is provided under an award of the Arbitration Court. I am not asserting that every award of the court provides for the exclusive employment of unionists nor that a great many of them provide for preference to’ unionists generally, but I know that some do, so that an offending member of an organization coming under this clause might suffer the extreme penalty I have mentioned. There’ is no justification for the clause. The Attorney-General has set out to pass a drastic law bristling with as many penalties as possible, and designed to make it difficult, in the extreme, to carry on industrial unionism in Australia.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley), speaking to the clause this afternoon, asserted that it applied with equal severity to employer and employee; that, in fact, it contained all the elements of equality of treatment, the employers’ organizations being subject to the same penalties, limitations and inhibitions as are imposed on trade unionists. I do not know whether the honorable member imagined that he was addressing an assembly of school children. On the face of it this clause, so far as it provides for penalties, is intended to apply to the members and officials of an industrial organization. The inclusion of employers’ organizations and the references to employers are only so much camouflage. In the great majority of industrial disputes employers act, not as members or officers of an employers’ federation, but upon their individual responsibility. Therefore the clause cannot apply to them.
– Under section 6a employers committing a breach of the act are liable to a penalty of £1,000.
– That is true; but section 6a applies to the individual unionist as well as to organizations.
– No; to organizations, only.
– The AttorneyGeneral is endeavouring to side-step the issue by his interjection. Section 6a applies to individuals doing something in the nature of a strike or lockout.
– And to organizations.
– This clause applies to individuals doing something in the nature of a strike, and also places upon the organization the responsibility of expelling the individual and so inflicting a further punishment, which is worse than the fine. He has to pay a double penalty. The attitude of the Government is one of vindictiveness towards the organized workers of this country. The bill is drafted with a view to taking away the powers of unionism, to enhance the power of organized employers, and to give them the right, as well as the authority to retaliate - that is the phrase used by the Attorney-General in this connexion.
– I do not think I used that phrase.
– When clause 7 was under consideration he said we must give power to the employers to retaliate in, connexion with sectional strikes.
– That is not so.
– The Minister must have forgotten what he did say’.
– “Act in self-defence “ were the words I used.
– I do not wish to put words into the mouth of the AttorneyGeneral; but I am strongly under the impression that he used the word “retaliate.” .
– I think the honorable member is making a mistake.
– Although the principle in the new clause does not differ from the one we have just passed, there is imported into it the additional and unfair feature I have mentioned.
– It appears to me that many of the statements made in connexion with this and previous clauses are gross exaggerations of what is likely to happen when this measure becomes operative. It has been said by nearly every honorable member opposite, and more particularly by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore), that the Government is adopting a vindictive attitude towards the trade unionists of this country. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) said that it would be the means of breaking down trades union organizations; but I venture to say the trades union organizations have no such fear. Moreover, the Government has no intention of doing what the honorable member for Dalley suggests. I do not think the great body of unionists in Australia are in the least concerned about this measure. Men compelled to join unions in order to obtain, as the honorable member for Dalley said, bread and butter for their wives and families, are riot at all concerned with the effect which this measure will have upon them. The operations of trade unions are conducted by a small minority of unionists consisting mainly of office bearers, and if honorable members opposite compared the attendances at union meetings with the number of unionists in the industry concerned they would find that the affairs of unionism are controlled by a very few men. Notwithstanding that, the great body of unionists are bound by the actions and decisions of these officials.
– As is the case in connexion with friendly societies.
– At the moment 1 am not discussing friendly societies ; but I may have a few observations to make in that connexion if time permits. It has been proved beyond doubt by the AttorneyGeneral and by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley), in an excellent speech, that the only persons who can be affected by the penal clauses are the responsible members of unions. Considering the important position which unionism occupies in our social life today, and realizing that every man who wishes to earn his living must join a union, surely it is reasonable to provide that the interests of the 690,000 unionists involved shall be conserved, and the money they contribute in the form of levies shall be spent in the interests of the unions. It has been said that an unimportant official in a small branch may take some action which would bring him under the penal clauses of this bill, but if the measure will have the effect of compelling responsible union authorities to carefully select its officials, and to conduct the affairs of unionism in such a way that they will not be guilty of an offence, it will render a distinct service to unionism and make a considerable contribution towards industrial peace and the maintenance of stable relations between capital and labour. It has been suggested that there is a discrimination in this clause between employees and employers, but it is clear that it provides for penalties in both cases. I say most emphatically that if it did not I would oppose it. There are honorable members on this side of the chamber who are workers, and, like myself, sons of workers, who would adopt a similar attitude if it provided for penalties to be imposed only upon the workers. Honorable members are surely aware that there ore many employers conducting small and struggling businesses who are making less out of the industry in which they are engaged than the men whom they employ. It is quite possible that a small employer who is a member of an association of employers might also take precipitate action that would bring him under this provision. If must be remembered that the penalties provided in the bill are maximum penalties. It very rarely happens that a maximum penalty is imposed, and if it is it is because it is deserved. The honorable member for Dalley referred to the position in which an unimportant union official in a distant part of a State might place his organization if he contravened the provisions of this measure ; but surely the court would take all the facts into consideration, and would not in such cases impose a maximum penalty; it might not impose a penalty at all. I should also like to refer to the position of a person expelled from his organization for an offence under this clause. The honorable member for Dalley said that where an award provided for preference to unionists, the man would be prevented from obtaining employment in the industry with which he had been associated, perhaps all his life, and would thus be deprived of the wherewithal to maintain his wife and family. Surely honorable members opposite realize that such a man would be in exactly the same position as some nonunionists who, in many instances, are deprived of the right to earn a living. There are many men to-day who, because of union rules, are prevented from joining an industrial organization and are in the unfortunate position of persons mentioned by the honorable member. In any case union officials know what is likely to happen if they act contrary to the law. I do not think this clause is likely to operate in many instances; but it will act as a deterrent, which is equally valuable from the view-point of the people as a whole. It will not detrimentally affect legitimate unionism, neither will it interfere with the great body of unionists who wish to obey the law. It will, however, have the effect of keeping certain unionists within proper limitations, and enable unionism in Australia to be conducted on a businesslike
.- Many years ago when Lord Carrington was Governor of New South Wales, the Wharf Labourers’ Union, as the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) will remember, had a banner which we asked His Excellency to bless. In doing so he said, “ My grandfather used to work.” I am pleased to know that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) does not go so far back as that gentleman in his relationship to hard work, but that he has at least the honour of being, as he told us, the son of a man who used to work. I can only say that the honorable member is very fortunate in being able to say that his association with “ sweat “ goes even that far back.
When speaking last night, I referred to an utterance of the Attorney-General, which he immediately contradicted, to the effect that he had said that some union officials carried on guerrilla warfare, which he said was a conspiracy to commit a fraud. At the time I had not the means to refute his statement, nor did I trouble to seek them ; but this evening he has denied afresh that he used the word “retaliate,” and has said that even if the members of organizations disobeyed the law, it was not the intention of the Government to permit a policy of retaliation to be pursued. The word “retaliation” is abhorrent to him; he has told thehonorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) so. I cannot vouch for the veracity of Hansard, and might be prepared to accept the word of the honorable gentleman, even though it differed from that record of our debates: nevertheless, this is the way in which it has reported him -
Job control or sectional strike tactics have been resorted to with impunity in Australia during recent years because employers cannot retaliate against such methods. Employers can be illegally attacked in detail; yet under the existing legislation they have no effective remedy. This clause provides that where one side to a dispute has acted illegally, the other side shall be allowed the means of selfprotection.
I shall not pursue that matter further.
The Attorney-General has said that the existing law imposes so severe a monetary penalty upon organizations that it has not been found possible to collect it. Therefore, in a spirit of generosity, the Government proposes to make the penalty one that can be collected, and claims that that is an improvement upon the existing provision !
– It has a keen eye upon the revenue.
– Quite so. The honorable gentleman has gone further. He has said that a union is a corporation, and that a corporation would not be responsible for anything if it were not responsible for the acts of its officers. That has not been denied, and no honorable member wishes to deny it; yet the honorable gentleman takes such a serious view of the matter that, having left it, he returns to it, wraps himself around it, drops it, gathers it up again, and tries to make it appear that that is the sole question at issue. He claims that it is quite right and proper to make an organization responsible for the acts of each of its members.
– When did I say “ each of its members?”
– Have I again to make” a diligent search through Hansard? This principle of making an organization responsible for the conduct of its individual members is so right and proper that it is not applied to any organization other than that of employees!
– The bill does not do that.
– The honorable gentleman is not sure what it does. Not content with making the organization responsible, the Government also proposes to sheet home responsibility to the committee of management of that organization. It goes still further and says that the committee of management of a branch of an organization shall also be responsible.
Let us consider what that means. The Attorney-General has denied that individual members will be affected. Of what does a committee of management consist? It is composed of delegates representative of the various branches of an industry, or of shop stewards from the different establishments. Those 20 or 24 men constitute the governing body of a particular industry in a particular State. A question arises which is likely to cause a strike. The committee of management decides to urge the members of the organization not to strike, but to adopt other means to secure the redress of their grievance. I have seen that happen in the city of Melbourne. They convene a meeting, which is attended by possibly 2,000 men. One member of the committee of management,, after a careful survey of the position, decides to act contrary to the decision of the committee in its corporate capacity. He may be either a good or a bad man; his motives may be high or low. He may believe that the decision of the committee, if acted upon, would be injurious to the organization. On the other hand, his object may be to climb into office over the heads of his fellows. Whether his motives be good or bad, the fact remains that he declines to be bound by the recommendation of the body corporate. He appeals to the men through their passions, their emotions, their pockets; he uses every means he can think of that will aid his cause. He tells them that if they will only stand together and refuse to’ accept the conditions that have been obtained for them by the executive they will secure better conditions. Because that man is a member of the committee of management, the entire organization from one end of Australia to the other is to be penalized. The AttorneyGeneral on this, as on other occasions, has said that the bill provides for the maximum penalty, which may or may not be applied. We can only assume that if the law is violated, the penalty will be applied. If it is not to be, why is it there?
The honorable gentleman asserts that he is anxious to assist industrial organizations, and has no desire to destroy them. If the Government wishes to strengthen those organizations it must apply the law not to the committee of management, by whom it is upheld, but to the individual member who violates it. If such were the case, an individual member would think twice before he endeavoured to advance his own interests. But what does the bill propose? It says to these organizations, “You must administer the law.” No other Government in this country calls upon an organization to fulfil the functions of government and to apply the criminal code to its individual members.
This Government, however, says to these organizations - “ You must expel these men from your ranks; you must deprive them of employment, and make it impossible for them to obtain sustenance.” . Thus it is made impossible for the officers -of any organization to carry on. 1 should like to place the AttorneyGeneral in the position of president or secretary of an organization, and give him the task of trying to induce a gathering of 2,000 or 3,000 men to accept an agreement against the advice of another member of the organization who appeals to their fighting instincts; and I would let him bear the odium and punishment that follow the act of that other person whose only object is to deprive him of the office which he holds. That is the position in which he proposes to place,’ not merely every union, but every responsible official of those unions ; and that is what the Government thinks will be conducive to peace, order, and good government !
It is argued that the bill does not distinguish between employers and employees; but places them on the same level. I dissent from that view. The Attorney-General says that the employers are dealt with* in clause 6. I maintain that there is a clear distinction, because labour enters the court in its corporate capacity, while the employers enter it as individuals. The word “ employer “ does not appear in the clause under discussion. Fully 90 per cent, of the employers can violate every provision of this clause without fear of incurring punishment, unless they chance to be enrolled in an organization that is registered under this particular law. They can evade the obligations which it imposes by the simple process of refraining from enrolling in a registered organization. The principal act also distinguishes clearly between employers and employees. It defines “ industry,” “ judge,” “ registrar,” “ special magistrate,” and “chief judge.” This bill, however, does not define anything. What, for example, is a “ committee of management,” and what constitutes an “ officer “ of an organization?
– If the honorable member was familiar with the provisions of the principal act he would know that those phrases are to be found in it.
– I am as familiar with the principal act as the AttorneyGeneral is with the organizations with which this bill deals.
– That does not appear to be the case. I do not say that there is a distinction; but Schedule B of the principal act lays it down that the rules of an organization must provide for the election of a committee of management; in other words, those rules themselves define what is a committee of management, and who are officers. Those provisions have been in the act for many years.
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) has raised the question of shop stewards and has urged that they be brought within the provisions of this law. What is a shop steward? He is appointed by the men who are working in a particular establishment. They may number hundreds, or even thousands. He holds an office, and, therefore, is an officer. According to the Attorney-General, however, if that steward is elected by the workers in any shop or factory, he is not an officer within the meaning of the provision. The purpose of this Government, so it alleges, is to take the control of organizations out of the hands of the dominant officials and to place it in the hands of their members. Supposing a shop steward should be appointed, not by 2,000 men in an establishment, but by the secretary and the president of the organization, would he then be an officer? A shop steward appointed by that autocracy of officials said by Ministers to be in control of unions is an officer, but apparently one who is appointed by 2,000 unionists in a branch or by the men working in a particular establishment is not an officer. We can rest assured, however, that this drag net provision can if necessary be applied to shop stewards as well as to any one else. Among tramway employees the shop steward or delegate is appointed by the men in a particular depot, and the mere fact that he is so elected makes him a member of the joint committee of management of the Tramway Union, and the union is responsible for what he does. The liability to prosecution is thus carried right down from the committee of management to individual members of an organization, who can speak on behalf of it in the capacity of shop steward or delegate. I do not regard it as unfair or improper, as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) does, to force men into unions. Does the honorable member contend that some men should garner the harvest where others have sown? Is it fair that a few men should make contributions from the proceeds of their daily toil to improve the conditions under which they work and secure better remuneration for the men engaged in the industry in which they are employed, better food for themselves, their wives and their families, better housing accommodation and better education for their children, while others who have contributed nothing sit within the temple, dine at the table and gather up the proceeds of the efforts of those who have contributed? It is a fundamental principle of unionism, based on equity and justice, that those who seek to participate in the reward should also participate in the cost of the temple which shelters them. It is evidently part of the iniquitous policy of the present Government to upset that principle- of unionism. This clause will create more trouble than anything else could possibly do, and will bring about a condition of affairs that it should be the Government’s duty to avoid.
.- Honorable members are quite aware of my attitude towards a central compulsory arbitration system. I can readily understand the Government being desirous of making it more difficult to bring about a strike by imposing heavier penalties and by attempting to make what has hitherto been a one-sided law apply to both sides in the industrial field. But seeing that less than half the workers of Australia are operating under Federal’ awards, I should like to know the position of those who are operating under State awards in the event of a strike or a lockout occur ring among industries not under the control of the Federal Arbitration Court.
– They are substantially controlled by State laws.
– That being the case, this Parliament is helpless in the matter of industrial disputes that are not subject to Federal legislation. I was quite in earnest when I told the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that I would support him if he would move the addition to a new clause to wipe out all the penalties provided in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– If the penalties are wiped out the whole statute is gone.
-.- That was my object. Honorable members opposite want employees to get all the benefits conferred by this class of legislation without having to meet any of the obligations imposed by it. That is their main reason for opposing the penalties the Government seeks to impose. But I confess that I find great difficulty in seeing the fairness of the penal provision contained in paragraph b of the proposed new sub-section 2 of section 8. Under the act as it stands, so far as it is able to operate, organizations of employers or employees are subject to certain penalties. I admit with honorable members of the Opposition that the penalties sought to be imposed on employers will very seldom be collected, for the simple reason that we do not very often find employers offending. Our experience so far has been the other way. I have had personal knowledge of many bona fide efforts on the part of industrial leaders to prevent industrial disputes from becoming nation-wide strikes; but it seems to me that paragraph b of the proposed new sub-section 2 of section 8 seeks to impose on an organization of employers or employees a penalty because some cranky or ungovernable member of the organization gets out of hand and does something out of line with the great body of his committee. The proposed new sub-section is -
For the purposes of this section an organization shall be deemed to have ordered, encouraged, advised, or incited its members to refuse to offer or accept employment if -
It seems to me unfair to visit a penalty on an organization because one member of its committee of management does something in contravention of the wishes of the rest of the committee, who may be anxious for the maintenance of peace and good order.
– That is why the new section 6b has been inserted.
– But that section does not vitiate the effect of section 8 (2) 6, which, in my opinion, proposes to impose too drastic a penalty on an organization. In these matters we must be fair.
– We all think so.
– I give the honorable member credit for his thought, but I want to say what I think about it. This provision may operate to-day in the case of a body of employees. To-morrow we may hear of a hot-headed employer locking out his employees contrary to the wishes of his organization.
– Then let him be treated as the member of the committee of management of a union would be treated.
– Both parties are treated alike under section 6b, but section 8 (2) b proposes to impose the penalty on the organization to which the hot-headed employer belongs.
– Only if he is an officer or a member of« its committee of management.
– That is so; nevertheless, I regard it as unfair to penalize an organization because of the act of some ungovernable member of it, which is quite contrary to the- wishes of the great majority of the members of the committee of management.
– Yet the honorable member will vote for the provision.
– The honorable member does not know how I shall vote.
– I am under the impression that the honorable member has already voted twice with the Government on this bill.
– I made it clear that I should vote for the bill up to the second-reading stage, and then vote for each clause on its merits. I am advised to pay no regard to what the honorable member says, but of course I recognize that in his capacity as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, he is expected to say something. In a bill which has been brought in to improve relations between employers and employees, this provision is altogether too drastic, and I hope that the Attorney-General will see his way to amend it by imposing the penalty only in a case where the offence is committed by a majority of the members of a committee of management of the organization or of a branch of the organization. In Australia, in every sphere of life, we are governed by majority decisions, and if ‘the controlling body of an organization is able to muster sufficient votes to carry a motion against the holding df a strike, I think its bona fides are entitled to be taken into account, and that the organization should not be penalized because one member of the committee of management takes the bit between his teeth and acts contrary to the decisions of the majority, who may be anxious to maintain industrial peace.
.- This clause and the debate upon it have inspired me to refresh my knowledge of history, and a character whose name is immediately suggested to me is Draco.
– Where is he mentioned?
– He lived and prospered 700 years before the Christian era, and to the present day his name survives in the phrase “Draconian law.” The late Mr.. Draco invented a code of law in which death was the penalty meted out for every offence. If one were found guilty of the theft of a cabbage or an apple, he incurred the death penalty just as he did if he robbed a temple or committed some sacrilegious act of that kind. It would take me some time to bring my historical references right up to date.
– That is, to progress from the time of Draco to the time of Latham !
– That is so; but Draco instituted one reform which placed the mark of gentility upon him. He provided that his laws should be recorded in blood. That, surely, was an indication of a cultivated mind. The people of Athens were so overjoyed at Draco’s improved mode of administering the law that, in an outburst of affection, they accidentally smothered him. That concludes my history of the late Mr. Draco in so far as it is relevant to this bill and the Attorney-General. For stealing an apple or a cabbage the Attorney-General has substituted the act of encouraging a strike, and for the death penalty he has substituted a fine of £1,000. I must admit that when one compares the offences and the penalties of the time of Draco with those provided in this bill, one must appreciate the fact that the Attorney-General has not yet qualified to be smothered as an evidence of our affection for, and gratitude to him.
The object of this clause is to discipline organizations of employers and employees. A pretence has been made by honorable members opposite that the clause is intended to apply alike to organizations of employers and employees ; but the Attorney-General, in his immediate capacity as such, and not in his relative capacity as Draco, has been intelligent enough not to attempt to make us believe anything of the kind. He has candidly admitted that the clause is intended to apply mainly to organizations of employees. I would not insult the intelligence of honorable members of this august chamber by arguing at length to the contrary, for it is perfectly clear that the provision is intended to apply mainly if not solely, to the workers, and not to the employers. It is true that technically it applies to organizations of employers, of which, by the way, there are very few. But for all practical purposes it would not apply even to those few, and it was a rather poor kind of special pleading by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) and the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) to argue to the contrary. Neither this clause in particular nor the bill in general is intended to apply to individual employers or organizations of employers. It is intended to apply to individual workers and organizations of workers. Clause 6 sets out the penalty to which persons and organizations are alike liable for striking, and clause 6a, the penalty to which persons and organizations are liable for disregarding an award of the court. In both clauses there is a prohibition upon persons and organizations doing anything in the nature of a lockout or strike. But clause 8 provides something entirely different. Its object is to discipline organizations. It amends subsection 1 of section 8 of the act by inserting the words “doing something in the nature of “ a lockout, so that it will read - (1.) Any organization of employers or employees which, for the purpose of enforcing compliance with the demands of any employers or employees, orders, encourages, advises or incites its members to refuse to offer or accept employment, shall be deemed to be guilty of doing something in the nature of a lockout or strike, as the case may be.
My first comment upon that is that organizations may render themselves liable to a fine of £1,000 though they have in fact done none of the objectionable acts referred to. I point out to honorable members that an organization, like a company or a corporation, has a definite method of acting. The AttorneyGeneral said, in my opinion very weakly and unconvincingly, that a corporation must act through individuals. That is perfectly true. It has, under its registered rules, a definite and prescribed way of operating, and by acting in that way it assumes responsibility for what it does. But responsibility does not attach to it expressly any more than to a company, as the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) rightly pointed out by interjection, when he said that shareholders cannot infect a corporation with liability through something that they may do as individuals, although the corporation may render individuals liable for something that it may do as a corporation. That is a sound principle.
– And it is the principle of this bill.
– That principle is absolutely violated in detail by this bill. That is my complaint. It is proper that individuals should have to surrender certain of their personal privileges, rights and liberties to the superior rights of their organization. The Labour party stands for making an organization responsible in certain circumstances for the acts of its officers, and it believes that individual members of organizations should at times surrender their rights in the interests of the greater good for the greater number. We have no complaints to make against a system . of law under which individuals may be called upon to give up, as it were. some part of themselves to support the interests of their comrades, and the general well-being of society as a whole. That is democracy. But under this clause the Government seeks to make an organization responsible for something which it has not ‘done, and has not sanctioned or countenanced in any way whatever. It may, in fact, be entirely ignorant of the act for which it is being held guilty. A former Government, and not a Labour Government, extended the provision which I read a few moments ago, and made it much more drastic. I refer to the Nationalist Government led by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). At that time his Government was making and administering the industrial laws of the country - not according to the desires of the industrialists - and it saw fit to cause to be added the following provision : - (2.) For the purposes of this section an organization shall be deemed to have ordered, encouraged, advised or incited its members to refuse to offer or accept employment, if -
Those words were inserted in the act at a time when Nationalism was militant. It was, in fact, fighting the Labour party and industrialism on every flank. But even under those conditions the following significant words were included -
Unless the court before which the proceedings are brought is satisfied that the committee of management was not cognizant of the matter.
Although the Government of the day intended to make the act as drastic as possible, it considered it a matter of elementary justice to insert those words. I am glad to know that the right, honorable gentleman who was responsible for their insertion does not stand for the intolerable injustice which will be inflicted upon the trade unionists of this country if the act is amended in accordance with the proposal now before us. The qualification to which I have just referred is being eliminated in the present bill, for the proposed new subsection reads -
For the purposes of this section an organization shall be deemed to have ordered, encouraged, advised, or incited its members to refuse to offer or accept employment if -
the committee of management of the organization or of a branch of the organization has ordered, encouraged, advised or incited the members of the organization to refuse to offeror accept employment.
There may be a colourable argument in favour of such a provision up to that point, but it is open to severe criticism because, as I have already said, an organization acts according to its rules in a defined and prescribed way not necessarily by the decision of any committee (branch or central). And only by acting in that way does an organization become liable. I leave paragraph a as being less blameworthy than the other paragraphs. Paragraph b deals with a member of the committee of management of the organization, or of the committee of management of a branch of the organization. What is the thing that he may not do? It is to order, encourage, advise or incite members of the organization to refuse to offer or accept employment. An individual member may do something to encourage the other members of the organization to refuse to accept employment. What is the merest trifle may be done by an irresponsible member to involve the whole organization in a penalty of £1,000. It may be a simple act of encouragement. Believing that an intolerable injustice is being done to a section of workers in a particular industry, the individual may say to some of the workers who have “ jumped out “ - to use the picturesque expression of the honorable member for Bourke - “I am bound to say that I do not blame you.” Because of that irresponsible statement made in the most casual way, the whole of the organization, not the committee of management of which this person is a member, becomes liable for this penalty.
Under the laws of this country as at present existing, it is perfectly true’ that in matters of civil wrong a man may be mulcted in damages for an act of his agent, over whom he had no control for the time being. As between two innocent persons, the person doing and the person suffering an injury, it is right that the person should be -responsible for his agent if damage or wrong has been done. On the criminal side it is a settled principle of law that if a man offends by committing breaches of law or regulations - statutory offences for example - it is no defence, to say that the defendant is ignorant of the law. His act is sufficient in law in many cases to infect him with responsibility. The law goes that far, and in going so far it goes a long way; but, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has truly said, there is no branch of British law which has a provision so vicious and indefensible as the proposal introduced by the Government for the manifest purpose of coercing a single section of the community, the organized workers of this country. For that the Government stands everlastingly condemned.
The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) would have the people of this country believe that he is doing something acceptable to the trade union movement of this country. He says that under another clause the management of unions will be placed in the hands of the members; his aim, he alleges, being to protect the unionist and to foster legitimate trade unionism. Let me remind him that he is dealing under this clause with legitimate trade unionism. He is dealing with the bone, brain and sinew of organized labour. He is dealing with men who have given an earnest of their desire for peace in industry by voluntarily banding themselves into organizations and coming within the ambit of our conciliation and arbitration system, when they might have remained outside and shaken the mailed fist at the employers as the employers have been wont to do to them. The Attorney-General is dealing under this clause with unionists as if they were thieves and criminals of the worst type. He is invoking a new system of criminal law to deal with them. He is introducing into our arbitration laws vicious theories of responsibility that have never before found a home in the statute or common law of this country. The AttorneyGeneral has said that men may be punished and organizations penalized rightly in that way for incitement to strike ; but there is more than that in this provision, and he has perpetuated a master stroke of irony. Proposed new sub-section 3 read’s -
Where the court is satisfied that, after the commission of an offence to which this section applies, the organization or branch has bona fide removed from any office or position held by them and, where they are members of the organization, has expelled from the organization the persons by reason of whose acts the organization has been found guilty of the offence, the maximum penalty which may be imposed on the organization in respect of that offence shall bc One hundred pounds.
That is intended to be clemency. I suggest that it is a kind of clemency that organized labour will spit back in the face of those who offer it to them.
It is a minor consideration to the trade union movement, this difference between these two fines, one a maximum of £1,000, and the other a maximum of £100. The important thing is that the principle is vile. “Why should the organizations be further punished to the extent of £100 when they have dissociated themselves in every way front irresponsible persons who have committed the alleged offence - incitement to industrial disorder. There will surely be a reaction, and the Government must take the responsibility for it. Take the individual who, as I said a moment ago, encourages men to refuse to offer or accept employment, and thereby infects the organization with liability for infringing the law. Is there to be no forgiveness for him? He is a member of a trade union, and perhaps up to the time of committing this artificial offence has lived honorably, and has worked diligently in his trade and in his organization. Can he never expiate his crime? Must he become a pariah, at any rate, a non-unionist, perhaps to be called a scab later on ? Is he to be always classed as a public danger, which, I suggest, he may in fact become? Is he to be banned from the ranks of unionism, and to be ineligible to take advantage of arbitration merely because in a moment of excitement he gave expression to his opinion? Can we blame him if he becomes an anarchist or a direct actionist, or anything else that occurs to him as a ready means of placing a weapon in his hand to avenge himself upon society under whose ban he lives? Under another law, if he is not Australian-born, he may be deported, and that, of course, may be the intention of the Government. If he is not deported, it is only to be expected that he will become the centre and pivot of industrial unrest for the remainder of his days.
That is the kind of thing contemplated under the bill. I suggest that if the Government pursues this policy, at least we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that we have been relieved from the responsibility of the industrial unrest that is to follow. I have seen honorable members behind the Government chortling at the injection of these poison drops into our system of arbitration. I have witnessed the attitude of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook). I have heard the subdued congratulations of other honorable members on that side who see in this legislation the end and dissolution of arbitration, who see their star rising in the new era of catch-as-catch-can and tooth and claw methods. I warn them that they are reckoning without their host. They will be dealing, not with unorganized labour as in the past, but with men organized and educated, and who desire again to organize; but who have lived to see their organization poisoned and their comrades imprisoned for artificial offences created unjustly and for political purposes by this Government. The last state of those who are fostering this legislation will be worse than the first, and of that I warn the AttorneyGeneral and his supporters. If this law is to be operative, if it is not to be a dead letter, the effect will certainly be to place organized labour beyond the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court.
This clause, like other clauses of the bill, is designed not only to punish the guilty, but also to rope in the innocent, as the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) has rightly pointed out. It means war on industrialism, with weapons of a kind that we have become familiarized with in the military history of the Empire, the kind of militarism which seeks to subdue people and to institute law and order by shooting up the innocent as well as the- guilty. Under this system it is proposed industrially to shoot up the innocent, as well as the guilty. That policy can never succeed in this country. It is a policy which, if applied internationally, would shock the League of Nations and the Hague Convention. It cannot be applied to the industrialists of Australia. I appealed to the Attorney-General, when another clause was under discussion. I said to him, honestly and candidly, that if he, as the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, would bring in a bill for conciliation and arbitration calculated in truth and in fact to bring peace in industry, satisfactory to the workers, and fair to the community, I should take it from his hand, or any hand that offered it. Conversely, I say. to him that if he comes to me with a loaded weapon behind his back, with a club in his hand, and seeks to coerce the unionists of this country by making criminals of honest men, I shall range myself with these trade unionists, if I have the honour to be their spokesman, on the platforms, and I shall uphold the best principles, as well as I can, of British law applicable to this country and to every other British dominion. I admit that the trade unionists, like others, must submit to the laws of the country; but their right to protest against inequitable, and at the best, futile legislation will happily remain.
– In the debate on this bill one point has been made very clear. Arbitration has done great things for the workers of this country. They have won by arbitration what they could never have gained by strikes. Arbitration is the rule of law, and law without sanctions is powerless. The penalties for breaches of the law is the price to be paid for its maintenance. The law which has done so much for the workers must be respected and obeyed. Labour is, in this country, in a far better position than in any other, and has obtained the benefits it enjoys without having to strike for them. When the workers have struck in this country they have, I think, gained little by it.
The outstanding feature of industrial turmoil is the appalling lack of discipline in the unions. This factor may be used in argument both in favour of and against the clause. Times out of number I have known the committee of management of a union to be defied by its members. I have seen committees of management not worth their salt, weak committees, whose members had not the courage to say outright what they thought should be done. They might express their views in quiet or secret places, but when before the great body of their members, their courage oozed out at their fingers’ ends. They came to a meeting to advise a prudent and profitable course ; they ended by shouting with the most extreme section. Everybody knows that such things happen. There must be placed upon the committee of management, upon the organization, and upon every person in a union some measure of responsibility. When I was connected with the unions I fought my hardest indeed to win the last concession from the employers, but having got it, I considered that I was bound, and the organization with me, by the letter and the spirit of the bond. There was no necessity to make an agreement, but having done so, we were bound by it. But a certain section in the unions look at the matter very differently. Awards of the court and agreements deliberately entered into mean nothing to such men. Every officer of a union has to fight against the spirit of insubordination, of revolt, against law.
But take the proposed section, and contrast it with the section as it stands. It proposes to place upon the shoulders of the committee of management of a branch of an organization the same responsibility as upon the committee of management of the organization itself. This I regard as absolutely necessary. Let me quote a concrete case which occurred in the Waterside Workers Union, an organization with which I am quite familiar. An award had been made which included provisions for dealing with the handling of cargo at Flat Top. It was a good award, which gave relatively good conditions to 10,000 men; but it did not suit the workers at Mackay, and they refused to obey it. They were ordered by the central committee of management to give effect to the award. They declined to do so. It would be most unfair to make the committee of management of an organization liable for such disobedience when it had done everything in its power to get its misguided members to obey the law, in the interests of the organization which had fought and won for them what they never could have gained by their own puny efforts. It would be unfair to place on the central organization a responsibility which probably belonged to the local body.
I believe with the Attorney-General that it is ‘ proper to fasten responsibility on the committee of management of a branch equally with the main committee of management of an organization, but when the committee of management of an organization has done everything within its power to see that the! law is obeyed, and has not been guilty of any offence, it should not be held responsible when the law is broken. When such a committee has used all its influence, as is very frequently the case, to prevent trouble, it would be very hard that it should be deemed guilty of an offence, and be liable to penalties. T do not think that that would be just. This clause should make perfectly clear what is meant. We cannot say that more than one committee of management is to blame unless the facts support such a charge. Assuming the facts to be as in the case cited, and the court were satisfied that there had been a refusal to work by members of the Mackay branch, it should impose penalties on them, but surely not on the central committee of management also. I do not think that that is intended. The Attorney-General must see that such a proceeding would be unjust. Persons who had done everything in their power to prevent a breach of the law could not be treated in the same way as others who had committed an offence. I ask the Attorney-General to reconsider the clause, and to redraft it, if necessary, to prevent the possibility of injustice.
– It was drafted deliberately to do injustice.
– I do not think so. It is a drag-net clause. The Attorney-
General wants to put responsibility on the shoulders of those who break the law. That, I am sure, is his intention. I now tell him, as did the honorable member for Bourke, what the practice of unions is, and how they carry on their business.
Paragraph c of proposed new subsection 2 speaks of “ any body of persons controlling an organization or branch of an organization….. “ I really do not know what that means. It may mean this: Assume that there is a meeting of a union, with the president in the chair, and the secretary and other officers of the committee of management present. They urge a certain course of action which is lawful, and, we will suppose, necessary to give effect to an award, or to prevent a breach of it. There is at every union meeting which I have ever attended - other honorable members may have been more fortunate - a body of men whom we now call “reds.” Sometimes they are few in number, at others they are sufficiently numerous to take control of the meeting. It may be a purely chance majority which carries a resolution precipitating or inciting to a strike, or advising members to commit a breach of an award. Do the words, “body of persons controlling an organization “ refer to such a chance majority. Let me inform the Attorney-General that it is not possible to deal with such a body of persons. At a meeting of, say, 100 members, there may be present 30 or 40 persons who have attended for the express purpose of creating trouble. They influence the weaker brethren, and thus obtain a majority. It is not possible to penalize them, because they cannot be distinguished from the others. If the officers advise the members not to be led away by such men, are the officers still to be held responsible for the action taken by the meeting? I do not think that they ought to be. I do not know what takes place in the Australian Workers’ Union, but in such unions as the Waterside Workers’ and the Seamen’s Union, there is always present at meetings a body of men determined to make trouble. Sometimes they are in the minority, sometimes in the majority. Is the organization to be held responsible for the action of such men?
– Under this clause, yes.
– Each case must be determined by the court after hearing the evidence. The officers of the union should not be punished if it can be shown that they did everything in their power to prevent the law from being broken, but were outvoted by a majority at the meeting.
Parargaph d of proposed subsection 2 deals with the responsibility of an officer of an organization or a branch of it. Sometimes it happens that one member of a committee of management advocates a certain course of conduct involving a breach of the law. There may be a majority against him, he may be outvoted and over-ruled, but in spite of this the committee of management and the whole organization may, under the clause, be penalized because of the action or words of this one man. I do not think the Attorney-General means any such thing. It is very difficult to sheet home responsibility for such conduct. The man who did what was wrong is never there to answer for it. It is always somebody else. The Attorney-General, like anybody else, becomes a little tired of these evasions. The responsibility must rest somewhere. He wants to sheet it home; so do I, but I am pointing out, with other honorable members, that the responsibility should rest on the right shoulders. If an organization does everything within its power to maintain the law and to uphold an award, it should not be penalized because one of the members of its committee of management or a member of the committee of a branch thinks and acts differently.
There is only one other point that I want to make. From whom are these penalties to be collected? Take the case of the waterside workers’ organization. It is composed of a number of branches, some of which are very large. The Sydney branch has 5,000 members, and I presume that the Melbourne branch has from 3,000 to 4,000. The central organization does not control the funds of these branches. Its own funds are limited. I assume I am correct in saying that the Sydney branch would have a very much greater income than the central organization. Let us suppose that the central organization is opposed to the action of the Sydney branch, which has. decided to act in a certain manner; who is to “ pay the piper.” Is the penalty to be provided from the funds of the Sydney branch or those of the central organization ? No direction is given to the court. It has to get* the money where it can, and it will assuredly look to the central organization. In this case the central organization would be able to make any number of affidavits that it possessed no money worth speaking of, and if that is what the Attorney-General has in mind, he is quite right when he tells honorable members opposite that the clause is not as formidable as it looks.
With the object of the clause I am entirely . in agreement. I also agree with the amendment of the law, placing the responsibility upon the committee of management of a branch. But I do not agree with making the organization responsible for the action of a member of a committee of management, whether of a branch or of the central organization. I say nothing at all about the penalties. In my experience very little in the way of penalties has been collected by the court. Probably it has not paid for the postage stamps used by the court. These penalties, therefore, are not to be regarded too seriously. They certainly are provided for, however, and it is the duty of honorable members, especially those who have influence with unions, to impress them with the necessity of maintaining discipline and standing up for the law which has done so much for them. The unionists of this country owe more to the law than to any other agency that has worked for their good. As they cannot have law unless they respect and obey it, the present attitude of unions to those of their members whose chief effort is to promote strife is most unfortunate. It is the union alone that can deal with the men who foment disputes. This clause will bring home to industrial organizations the fact that they have responsibilities, and that they must fight the malcontents with the same weapons that they use. If they do, the result will be entirely satisfactory. These men are in a hopeless minority, , and if they are fought and brought up with a round turn great good will be done.
I suggest to the Attorney-General that, in order to prevent misunderstanding and the alienation of support upon which he must rely it is imperative for the good of the country that he shall amend this clause so that it will apply, not to a member of the committee of management, but to the committee itself. He should make clear what is meant by the words “ any body of persons controlling the organization or a branch of the organization.” Who are they? The control of unions, under the law, is vested in committees of management, and, as that is so, who can these people be? They must be persons who take the control out of the hands of the lawful authorities; therefore, they must be rebels - persons beyond the law. How are they going to be made amenable to the law? I think that’ the honorable gentleman will see that the provision is too vague. It would be far better to leave the responsibility where it belongs - upon the committee of management, whether of a branch or of the organization generally, and upon any officer of the organization or branch of the organization.
– As honorable members, have recognized, this clause embodies a very important principle, and it was to be anticipated that it would arouse differences of opinion. The principle upon which the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act is founded is that arbitration is a substitute for direct action, and that resort to arbitration ought to exclude resort to direct action. That principle has existed ever since 1904, and it has persisted throughout the various amendments of the principal act. It would have been possible, as I have already submitted to the House, to have a system of industrial regulation by arbitration or other means that did not exclude direct action, as, for example, the wages board system of Victoria, where determinations are made binding on employers, but where there are no penalties for strikes or lockouts. From the beginning the Commonwealth Parliament has definitely adopted the prin- ciple that, if a union by its own action becomes registered in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court - and it need not do so unless it desires - it must accept not a part, but the whole of the system. It must accept -not merely such benefits as may accrue from favorable awards of the court, but also the accompanying provision, that a union shall not take part in strikes.
– The Minister has said that a good many times.
– It is a very important principle, from which many of the provisions of the bill flow. This clause, in particular, flows from the general principle that, if a union chooses to become registered under the act, it ought not to strike. It deals only with the offence of doing something in the nature of a strike or lockout, and not with offences in the way of breaches of awards or other provisions of the act. It simply deals with this principle, which is fundamental to the act: that a union cannot have both the arbitration weapon and the strike weapon.
– That is not the point at issue.
– That is the general principle on which this clause depends, and it follows that a person holding any official position at all in a union, or controlling the business of a union in any degree, must be held responsible for knowing that the one thing that the union has undertaken not to do when it registers itself under the act, is to strike. The section, as proposed to be amended by this clause, is founded upon the principle that any person holding an official position of any character in a union, either as an officer in the full sense, or as a member of a committee of a federal organization, or a branch of an organization, should at least know that the one thing that the union has undertaken not to do is to strike. Of course, the Parliament might have deleted from the act the anti-strike provisions; but that has not been done, and it is not regarded as desirable by either side in industry that it should be done. So long as this provision remains, the fundamental thing is that every officer should know that he should do nothing towards encouraging or inciting a strike. The clause merely gives effect to that principle.
– It does nothing of the kind.
– It deals with the acts of certain persons which make an organization liable.
– Those certain persons are not the organization.
– They are mentioned in paragraphs a, b, c and d.
– Sheer, damnable distortion !
The . CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member for Bourke is out of order.
– I know that my remark is out of order; but it was necessary in order to draw attention to the Minister’s statement.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it. The Minister says that an organization is a corporation under the law, and he further states that the law must be obeyed. Then he contradicts -that contention. He is now dealing with something that is not an organization.
– Order ! The honorable member must restrain himself.
– I shall leave the chamber before I become too disgusted and say something that would be properly out of order.
– What I appear to have failed to convey to honorable members opposite is that an organization need not have registered under the act unless it liked. But, when it does register, the one thing it does know is that it has chosen arbitration instead of the strike.
– That is obvious.
– It, therefore, follows that anybody holding any position in relation to that organization must also know that.
– That is where the Minister is wrong.
– What, in the minds of honorable members opposite, is the organization? Does it consist of its members and officers?
– But not a minority of them.
– Are not the officers and members of committees the men who should know that the one thing that the organization has undertaken not to do is to strike? The one obligation resting upon the officers of a union is not to do anything in the mature of a strike. That is its fundamental obligation under the law.
– How does the organization do its work? Does it do it through members of a sub-branch or through a governing body appointed by the majority of its members.
– I am coming* to that point. The only question is, “Who are the individuals whose relation to the unions is sufficiently close to make it fair and proper to hold them liable, not generally and in all respects, but in theone matter of inciting a strike?” Those individuals are set out in the four paragraphs of the proposed new subsection 2. Now I come to the point mentioned by the honorable member for Batman, and it is a matter that I have never sought to evade. Paragraph a refers to “ the committee of management of the organization or of a branch of the organization.” Surely such a committee may be fairly expected to know the elementary principle that having chosen arbitration the organization cannot have both arbitration and the strike. Paragraph b mentions “ a member of the committee of management of the organization or of the committee of management of a branch of the organization.” If the committee knows it, surely its members may be fairly held to know the obligations undertaken in having chosen arbitration as against the strike. To draw a distinction between a committee of management as a whole and each individual member is to go into the realms cf unreality. This clause deals with real things and real persons. I put it vo honorable members that if a member of a committee of management of a union, which has registered under the act, but which need not have done so, goes out of his way to incite a strike, then he, as a member of that committee, has committed a breach of his obligations, and a breach for which the organization may with perfect fairness be held liable.
We must deal with realities in connexion with this subject. I have been told by many honorable members opposite that I know nothing about it. I do not pretend to have the direct acquaintance with industrial affairs that some honorable members opposite have, and I have often said that; but I have had as much experience of the working of this act, and of the evasions of it, as has any person in, the Commonwealth. I know exactly how a coach-and-four has-been driven through the existing provisions, and I know how impossible it has been to saddle the committee of management of an organization with the responsibility for individual action taken. Every member of the committee of management may be in it up to the neck, but, if you please, the committee of management has never met, and, therefore, it has done nothing! This clause is directed to making the organizations registered under the act responsible for at least informing and impressing upon the members of the organization whom they place upon the committees of management the simple fact that the one thing they are not to do is to foment strikes. That is not an unreasonable thing to ask of these organizations.
– If nine out of ten members of the committee of management take that view, the clause will penalize the union for the action of the tenth member.
– I shall reply to that argument, and in doing so will deal with the point raised by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore). It is difficult to approach the matter as a question of degree. Take the case mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, who referred to a committee of manag-3- ment consisting of ten men. The principle upon which the bill is founded is that every one of those men has been placed in a position of responsibility and ought to know at least that he must not foment a strike; that if he does so, he is guilty not only of a breach of the law, but of the obligation resting upon him towards his own organization. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has suggested that it is not fair to hold an organization liable for the act of one out of ten members of its committee of management, who foments a strike.
– Surely if nine members of an organization disapprove of the action of one in advising anything in the nature of a strike, the organization itself should not be penalized.
– That is the point I am coming to. The Leader of the Opposition has said that it is unfair to hold the organization liable for the act of one member of its committee of management. But where is the line to be drawn? Is it to be drawn where one, two, three, four, five, six or more members of the committee of management foment a strike? That is the practical point of view from which this matter must be considered. The act as it stands requires a committee of management to approve formally of a strike or incite its members to strike before the organization is liable for acts of the members of the committee. As honorable members know, that never happens. No organization is foolish enough to act formally in ordering, advising or inciting its members to strike. What it does is merely to abstain from any formal action, and so it escapes the imposition of any penalties.
– I have known an organization to issue a manifesto advising its members to strike.
– I am familiar with the case mentioned by the honorable member.
– That was only one of a number of such cases.
– I think that I appeared in that case against the honorable member. The point I am seeking to make is that it is impossible to draw the line as regards the responsibility of an organization for the act of an individual member of its committee of management because, as I have shown, no organization will formally approve of a strike. Therefore, the present provision in the act fixing responsibility on an organization is almost useless.
It has also been said that it is not fair to impose penalties on organizations for the act of an individual member.
-The remedy against an individual member of an organization is provided under proposed new section 6.
– Every corporation in the world and every trading company is liable for the acts of every One of its employees and officers. In this case, the liability upon an organization is in respect of acts done by members of its committee of management, and in determining this liability I put it to honorable members that the clause contains a perfectly fair principle. In fixing the penalty to be imposed all the circumstances, should be taken into account. This is why proposed new section 6b has been inserted. It provides in express terms that in fixing the penalty, any bona fide efforts made by the committee of management or by any of its officers to prevent the commission of an offence shalbe taken into account.
– Should not such bona fide efforts be regarded as proof of their innocence ?
– Every corporation must be held responsible for the acts of persons whom it has placed in positions of authority. That is the only principle which can, with reason, be applied in determining the question of liability. If an organization has appointed individuals as its committee of management, it places those- individuals in positions of responsibility.
– If a committee of management makes an official declaration or pronouncement against the action of one of its members, why should the organization be penalized?
– The provision is absolutely indefensible.
– Unless these provisions are inserted, and especially paragraph b of proposed new section 2, the act” will remain in effect a dead letter, because a committee of management has enough sense not to act formally if it apprehends that it may be charged with a breach of the law. Therefore, paragraph b has been inserted with a reasonable safeguard in proposed new section 6b, and clause 8, I submit, contains a perfectly reasonable provision.
– Section 6a merely determines the penalty.
– And proposed new section 6b takes into account, in fixing the penalty, any bona fide efforts that may have been made by persons in a responsible position to prevent the commission of an offence.
I desire now to deal with one or two other points which have been raised in the discussion of this clause.
– Can the Minister say how this legislation will affect strikes in industries operating under State awards?
– This measure can only affect interstate strikes or strikes against the awards of the Federal Court. All other matters are beyond the sphere of Federal legislation.
– It will not apply to those not registered under the act.
– No. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) propounded a series of conundrums as to who is an officer of an organization. I remind honorable members that the provisions relating to officers in this bill have been in the act for a long time.
– What are they?
– I refer the honorable member to section 8 (2b), where there is a provision dealing with officers, and to Schedule B of the act, which sets out that the rules must provide for committees of management and officers. The rules of the unions have to be approved by the registrar before they are registered. In that way we discover who are officers of an organization and who are not.
– It is a matter of fact to be ascertained in each case.
– That is so. The rules of an organization substantially determine who are its officers. The honorable member for Dalley also took the point that if an organization, in order to escape the maximum penalty for an unauthorized act by one of its members, expelled the member concerned, it was prevented from readmitting him to membership within a period of twelve months. He founded his ad misericordiam appeal on the assumption that the member expelled from a union would be prevented from obtaining employment at his trade or calling.
He supposes that the awards of the court provide if not generally, at least largely, for preference to unionists, although I do not suggest that this affects the principle of the clause. I have made inquiries and find that only two, I think, awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court provide for preference to unionists; but a person expelled from a union, as mentioned by the honorable member for Dalley, is in exactly the same position as a non-unionist. I know personally of men who have found the greatest difficulty in earn 1112 a living when turned out of a union under an act which does not provide, as this does in a later provision, for a right of appeal against an order of expulsion. I am not going to disclose the names of such persons, because that would only expose thom to further persecution. There are men who, because they have displeased some of the authorities in the union of which they were members, have been precluded from following the avocations they had adopted in early manhood. The tears of the honorable member for Dalley were only crocodile tears.
The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) paid me the compliment of comparing me with an historical personage, one Draco, of Greece, who attained unenviable notoriety by reason of the severity of his legislation. I feel that I am not at all entitled to the compliment he paid me in coupling me with such a distinguished person, because these penalties which excited the honorable member and caused him to use such vigorous and eloquent language have been in operation for a number of years, and the honorable member has never objected to them before. They are not penalties that I have proposed, but have existed since 1904, and the honorable member for Batman, who has been a member of the Commonwealth Parliament longer than I have, has not, so far as I am aware, hitherto taken advantage of the opportunities available to him to reduce or modify the alleged draconian character of this legislation. In dealing with these subjects we have to make up our minds whether we are to endeavour to make our laws enforceable or leave them on the statute-book in an unenforceable state.
I come now to proposed new section 8 (2) c, with which I have been particularly challenged to deal, and which reads -
For the purposes of# this section an organization shall be deemed to have ordered, encouraged, advised or incited its members to refuse to offer or accept employment if -
That is intended to deal with the replacement of the committee of management by what one might call a “ shadow committee,” well known in connexion with strikes. The best illustration of a shadow committee was given to me by Senator Sir George Pearce, who has had long experience in industrial affairs. He happened to mention to me a long and continued strike with which he was personally associated as a trade unionist in Western Australia. The most drastic action was taken to stop the activities of the committee of the union in conducting the strike. The committee of the union did not do anything, but there was another unofficial committee, the members of which were opposite numbers of every member of the official committee, and the unofficial committee actually carried on. Everything was handled from that point of view. If I were appealed to for the purpose of advising how the existing provisions could really be evaded I could easily advise the union how to act. This clause has been drafted, not as the result of mere theorising, but as the result of actual experience, and if it comes into operation the device which I have mentioned would be more difficult.
– A rat will do anything.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).Order !
– He is a dirty rat.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong is out of order.
– I am not.
– The honorable member must withdraw, and apologize to the Chair.
– You are getting too particular.
– The honorable member must apologize to the Chair.
– I rise to order. I desire to know, sir, under what Standing Order you claim that the language of the honorable member for Maribyrnong is out of order.
– The Chair did not rule that the remark of the honorable member for Maribyrnong was out of order. The Chair called the honorable member to order for making an interjection, after he had previously been called to order on several occasions. The honorable member refused to obey the direction of the Chair, whereupon he was called upon to apologize for, his action. The honorable member for Maribyrnong must apologize.
– I want to say-
– There is nothing to say.
– I insist upon saying something.
– The honorable member must obey the Chair.
– Surely you are not going to act as a sort of Czar. I shall make an explanation. I demand that as a right.
– There is no need for an explanation.
– The privileges which honorable members enjoy cannot be taken away by .the Chairman. I shall insist upon exercising those privileges.
– The Chair has no desire to interfere with the privileges of honorable members.
– I will raise a question of privilege as soon as Mr. Speaker resumes the chair.
– The honorable member has been called upon to apologize.
– For what?
– For disobeying the direction of the Chair.
– When I made the interjection, no one was speaking, and, therefore, I was not interrupting an honorable member. The Attorney-General had resumed his seat.
– I name the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) for continued defiance of the Chair.
– I think the honorable member for Maribyrnong is under a misapprehension in this matter.
– I think the AttorneyGeneral is also under a misapprehension’ concerning this matter as well as others.
Mr. Latham. - The honorable member need not include me. The honorable member has been called to order, not for a remark he made, and which I quite understood was not directed to me.; but for persistently interjecting in the face of a direction from the Chair to cease doing so.
– I was not referring to the Attorney-General.
– I appeal to the honorable member to obey the direction of the Chair, and to apologize for continuing to interject after being requested to cease. I am sure honorable members wish that business shall be conducted in a proper way, but that can only be done by obeying the Chair.
– The debate on this bill has been extraordinarily quiet, and this incident was quite unworthy of notice.
– I am not suggesting that the contrary is the case. The Chair, however, must be the judge in these matters. In the interests of the Parliament as a whole, I appeal to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) to apologize for having continued to interject after he had been asked to refrain from doing so, even though he may not have heard the call to order when it was first made.
– If the Chairman is offended at what I said, I express my regret; but I intend to bring the matter before Mr. Speaker with a view to ascertaining what are my privileges.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).Do I understand that the honorable member has apologized?
– I used plain language which you heard. You now want to rub it in.
– Am I to understand that the honorable member has expressed his regret?
– You know what I said.
– The honorable member is now aggravating the offence.
– It is you who are guilty of aggravation. I used plain language. I am not going to grovel on my belly for . any person. You are losing your “nut.”
– If ‘the honorable member is not careful I shall be obliged to name him for offensive language to the Chair.
– I do not know of anything further that the honorable member can do.
– I simply asked the honorable member if he had expressed his regret.
– He did so, in no uncertain terms, when he withdrew what he had said; but he also stated that he intended to appeal to Mr. Speaker for a ruling in regard to his privileges. He withdrew any accusation that he had made against you, sir, and I think it is only fair that the matter should not proceed any further.
– I did not understand the honorable member to apologize, and I merely asked him if he had done so.
– It is true that under our standing orders interjections are disorderly; but it is one of the privileges of honorable members to interject, and it is availed of by both sides. While I was making my speech I had to wait for some considerable time for interjections to cease. I have interjected similarly myself. The honorable member for Maribyrnong was peremptorily called to order when he had interjected only once. I take it that your original call to order, Mr. Chairman, was in consequence not of the interjection as such, but of its terms; but when you gave your ruling you said you did not intend your remarks to apply to what the honorable member had said - because such a position would not be tenable. If interjections are to be regarded as disorderly, and if an honorable member is to be called to order in a peremptory tone, as I was last night, for one interjection, then all interjections must be forbidden by the Chair.
– The honorable member interjected not once, but several times, before I called him to order last night.
– That is not so. The honorable member is not in the chair now. and cannot claim the protection which it affords. He adopted a peremptory attitude last night while he occupied the chair. Sometimes there are too many interjections. I am convinced, however, that on this occasion the Chair first took offence at the nature of the interjection, and subsequently realized that such a ruling would not stand.
– The honorable member has no right to say that.
– If that is not so, then the honorable member for Maribyrnong was called to order in a very peremptory manner when he had made only one interjection. That is going too far.
– I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition was in the chamber at the time.
– I was.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong interjected with great rapidity on several occasions. The Chair called him to order in the first place, not because it considered that the epithet employed should not be used in the chamber, but on the broad ground that interjections are disorderly. It was prepared to take no notice of what was actually said, and certainly did not desire to call attention to it. However, the honorable member for Maribyrnong persisted. The Chair again called him to order, and upon his refusal to obey its direction demanded an apology.
– He has apologized.
– I understand that the honorable member has expressed regret, and so far as the Chair is concerned the incident is now closed. In reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), I may say that while under the Standing Orders interjections are at all times disorderly, it is the recognized practice of this committee that they shall be permitted so long as they do not transgress the rules of orderly debate. The average speaker welcomes them.
Mr. Scullin. - It is just as well to clear this matter up now that it has been raised. A peremptory call from the Chair at the first time of interjecting provokes further interjections.
– May I suggest that in this instance it was not the first interjection.
– My impression was that the very first time the honorable member interjected he was peremptorily called to order, and that that provoked him to repeat the interjection. I occupied a similar position last night; I was provoked into repeating an interjection by a peremptory call to order. If an honorable member is to be jumped upon for one interjection, let the principle apply all round.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) sought to analyse in considerable detail the provisions of this particular clause, but his arguments failed to carry conviction, and he certainly did not succeed in disposing of the very pertinent and trenchant arguments advanced from this side concerning the unjust nature of those provisions. It is indefensible to lay down the principle that a big body of men shall be penalized because of the irresponsible action of a single indi vidual, even though that individual may in some remote way be charged with the responsibilities of an official. My connexion with industrial unionism has shown me that there are some men clothed with responsibility who seek to serve their own ends rather than those of the organizations. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) has told us of individuals who have been known to appeal to the great mass of men in an organization in defiance of resolutions adopted by the executive bodies of which they have been members. It is carrying the principle of penalizing the unions to a point which is a little beyond the realm of what is reasonable to place on the whole of a union the responsibility for what may be described as an act of treachery on the part of an individual member of the committee of management. It is bordering on the tyrannical to do so. I could understand responsibility being placed on the individual members of a management committee if that committee determined on a course of action that was likely to lead to a misdemeanour or a breach of the law; but it savours of oppression to make the whole of the organization responsible if individuals have acted contrary to the actual spirit and determination of the organization itself. It introduces into our industrial code quite a new principle.
There is no provision in any existing industrial law of Australia so drastic as the new sub-section it is proposed to add to section 8 of our act. Even men like Mr. Wade, a former Attorney-General of New South Wales, Mr. Homburg, former Attorney-General of South Australia, and Sir William Irvine, of Victoria, who were noted for the drastic provisions they introduced to impose heavy penalties for breaches of the industrial law never attempted to invoke the aid of the law in the direction now proposed. The provision we are discussing aims a serious blow at the basis of British jurisprudence, in as much as it seeks to make the innocent responsible for the act of the guilty. It is & new principle we ought not to countenance, and it will place many organizations in an exceedingly invidious position. Quite recently the Sydney branch of the Seamen’s Union determined to take a certain course of action on the advice of one of its officials. But the Melbourne and Port Adelaide branches of the union were emphatic in their denunciation and repudiation of the suggestion made in Sydney. The Port Adelaide branch advised the full observance of the law, and compliance with the rules of the organization. The course of action proposed, and almost precipitated by the New South Wales branch, had no support in Victoria or South Australia ; yet under this provision of the bill if it had been the law the branches of the Seamen’s Union in those States, and which are federated, would have been held responsible. They would have been penalized for a step taken by some one whose actions and utterances they had no power to curtail. That is an unreasonable proposition, which is certainly not in accord with the spirit of justice. It is quite clear to me that the object of the Government is to make the Commonwealth industrial legislation so unpopular that the industrial organizations will feel that for their own protection they ought to withdraw their registration from the Federal Arbitration Court. When I was speaking on clause 7, I said that the principle that was guiding the Ministry in submitting that particular clause was the destruction of the Commonwealth arbitration system by making it unpopular among the unions. As I understand that the Attorney-General is anxious that progress be now reported, 1 shall continue my remarks to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to announce the terms of a new Commonwealth loan to provide for the conversion and redemption of the war loan falling due on the 15th September next. Holders of these maturing securities are invited to convert into the new loan. At the same time cash subscriptions are sought to enable the Government to pay off persons unable to convert. The nominal rate of interest on the new loan is 5J per cent., as compared with 5 per cent, on the maturing loan. The issue price is £98 10s. for each £100, and subscribers have the option of investing for either seven or fourteen years. To those who select the seven year investment the discount in the issue price brings the average annual return to £5 10s. 3d. per cent., whilst for the fourteen year term the average annual yield is £5 8s. Id. per cent. Therefore those who convert their holdings will secure better terms than they have been receiving.
The terms of conversions and of cash subscriptions are alike. Where a £100 bond is converted the Commonwealth will pay the owner of the bond a bonus of 30s. on the 15th September, as well as the usual half-yearly interest payment due on that date. In the case of a new cash subscription, a £100 bond will cost £98 10s.
The maturing loan represents portion of the war loan of £44,000,000 raised in October, 1918, and converted in 1923. The amount falling due on 15th September totals £21,000,000, but as £1,000,000 is being paid off out of the National Debt Sinking Fund, the amount which the Treasury desires to secure now by conversions and cash subscriptions combined is £20,000,000.
New cash subscribed to the loan is to be used only for the redemption of Commonwealth securities. None of it is intended for the purpose of public works. Cash subscriptions may be paid in full when the application is lodged or by instalments as set out in the prospectus. In all cases, money put into the loan will earn interest at the rate of 5i per cent, from the date of its lodgment.
A.s in the case of all Commonwealth loans issued since 1924, interest will be subject to Commonwealth taxation, but will be free from State income tax. Interest will be paid half-yearly on 15th’ March and 15th September.
In the past it has almost invariably been the practice of the Commonwealth to extend the closing date of its loans; but on this occasion the loan will be definitely closed not later than the 14th September. The Treasury reserves the right to close the loan before that date if the £20,000,000 is received earlier.
Applications for the new loan will be received by all banks, money order post offices, and members of recognized stock exchanges. Supplies of the prospectus and forms of application are now being distributed and should be in the hands of the banks and post offices throughout Australia within a few days. Any person desiring to lodge a subscription before the forms are available to him may send the application at once to a branch of the Commonwealth Bank. The £20,000,000 has been underwritten by the Australian banks, which, of course, have been consulted in regard to the terms.
It has been decided on this occasion to float the conversion loan more than three mouths before the maturing date of the old loan. This long period was deliberately arranged in order that there should be time to secure a substantial stun in new cash subscriptions. It was thought desirable, also, to issue the loan before the big distribution of war loan interest, totalling nearly £5,000,000, on the 15th June.
A considerable portion of the money now invested in the maturing loan may be regarded as being permanently available for investment, as it .has already been once converted. In view of this fact we hope to secure a good response to tho invitation to convert.
.- It would probably have been much better had the Treasurer asked leave earlier in the day to make a statement on this subject. He might also have asked for the printing of the papers in connexion with it. We should then have been given a proper opportunity to discuss the subject. I gathered from the statement of the Treasurer that a new condition was being made in respect of this loan. It appears that the underwriters - that is the banks that have acted in the capacity of underwriters for Commonwealth loans since 1924, but have not fulfilled all the obligations “of underwriters, are undertaking on this occasion to take up any unsubscribed portion of the loan, on the definite closing date. If that is so, it is a new provision. It is probably for that reason that the Treasurer has stated that the closing date of this loan will not be extended. I should like the Treasurer to inform me if it is a fact that the banks will be prepared to take up any unsubscribed portion of this loan upon the closing date.
– That is so.
– As underwriters they would be ‘obliged to do so.
– The banks have been regarded as underwriters hitherto, but they have never really acted as such.
– They took up over £10,000,000 of the conversion loan in December last.
– But only after the closing date had been extended sufficiently to enable them to subscribe the money without inconvenience.
– They were prepared to take up the unsubscribed balance on the date upon which the loan was first announced to close.
– The date was extended.
– It was a concession.
– Yes ; but it is not intended to make that concession in this instance. The Treasurer will remember that when the first arrangement was made with the banks to underwrite an Australian loan he consulted with the State Treasurers, and I think that the Prime Minister was present at the conference. The banks were approached to ascertain how far they would undertake to underwrite the loan of £10,300,000 which was at that time projected. I think that they were offered a commission of 20s. per cent, if they would undertake fully the obligations which would normally rest upon underwriters, but they declined to do so. They undertook, however, to use their organizations in order to give an impetus to it. For that they charged a commission of 10s. per cent., and I take it that that rate is still operative. In this case the banks are to underwrite the whole of the loan, and to accept the full obligation in respect of it?
– That is so.
– Any portion of the loan that is unsubscribed must be provided by the banks. We are treating them generously by allowing them the normal commission upon the whole of the amount subscribed to this conversion loan, particularly when it is known that a large percentage of the loan will be converted. It seems to me that the Treasurer ought to give more consideration to the method of handling loans in Australia. That obligation rests partly upon him, but more particularly upon the Loan Council. I am quite convinced that we have not yet established a fully developed scheme for managing the loans issued in Australia, and the Loan Council should pay more attention to the provision of adequate machinery for the underwriting of loans and the handling of subscriptions.
.- The flotation of our loans is a very important matter. I take a different view from that of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore). I commend the Government for having made a definite arrangement with the private banks to underwrite this,, loan. Too long it has been the custom when floating a loan to leave bond-holders in previous loans in doubt and uncertainty as to its success. The fact that the banks, the chief custodians of the finance of Aus: tralia, have come to a definite arrangement to underwrite the loan, not only ensures its success, but also liberates for industry in general funds that would otherwise be withheld for some time. It is satisfactory indeed that ar rangements have been made with the private banks to underwrite the whole of this loan in Australia. It is a tribute to those institutions that during this period of depression they have been able to relieve us of uncertainty as to the successful conversion of this important loan.
.- Honorable members, at . this late hour, have little time to consider this important measure, and we should be given some opportunity to deal with the whole question of the conversion of loans. We have established a bad habit of making no provision for the conversion of loans, and whether we like it or not, we must eventually conduct all our conversionbusiness through the Commonwealth Bank. We should not need to depend upon private banks for the conversion of our loans. No doubt when the private banks have exhausted their liquid assets in meeting their obligations under this conversion, they will call upon the Commonwealth Bank to make good the shortage. I am glad that, on this occasion, the Government has decided not to place this business overseas.
– I do not think that it is necessary for me to deal with the various points that have been raised respecting this loan other than to dispel a certain confusion that appears to be in the minds of honorable members respecting the underwriting of it. The loan is to be underwritten, with an obligation on the part of the underwriters - the banks - to take up such amount as may not be applied for by the public. Some honorable members are under the impression that the conditions of this loan are somewhat different from those of previous loans. This impression has gained ground because of the Treasurer’s definite statement that there will be no extension of time for conversions and new subscriptions after the 14th of September. Previous loans have been extended, but that was done not to relieve the banks of their obligations, but to try to get public money subscribed iri order to prevent any undue strain upon the banks’ finances, which might react upon the whole of the finances of the country. There is in this instance no alteration in the conditions applying to previous loans. With reference to the conversion loan of £67,000,000 which has been referred to by honorable members, the banks accepted the obligation of meeting £60,000,000 of that total, and they were under an . obligation to make up that amount of money if it was not subscribed to the loan. In this case, they- have undertaken to underwrite the whole amount of the issue. Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 June 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280606_reps_10_119/>.