10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Marine Cooks’ Dispute
– In view of the serious position which has arisen in the coastal shipping industry, does the Government propose to man steamers with volunteer labourin order to maintain the mail and passenger service between Tasmania and the mainland as it did on a previous occasion?
– The present position of the coastal shipping industry must be causing throughout Australia the gravest concern. Dp to the present the Government has refrained from taking any action, because a settlement appeared likely. The Australian Council of Trade Onions had intervened in the dispute, and hoped to be able to discipline the particular union that is causing the trouble. Its efforts having proved abortive, and there appearing to be little likelihood of the union being brought to reason, the Government must seriously consider what action it should take. I remind the honorable member for Franklin that when the Government intervened on the occasion of a previous hold-up of the coastal shipping, it was to maintain communication and the carriage of mails between Tasmania and the mainland. So far as I am aware that communication has not been interrupted up to the present time ; only the cargo services have been suspended.
– According to this morning’s newspapers all shipping communication is interrupted.
– I have no official information to that effect; but if such a position has arisen, the Government will take whatever action is necessary to restore shipping communications between Tasmania and the mainland.
– I ask the Prime Minister what action the Government has taken in regard to the decision of Huddart Parker and Company to tie up the steamer Zealandia on account of the Government’s refusal to pay a subsidy to the company? The passenger and cargo service between Tasmania and the mainland is seriously interfered with, and the Tasmanians having failed to protect the Australian people, will the Prime Minister indicate the attitude of the Commonwealth Government towards the company?
– The honorable member is in error if he suggests that the Tasmanian members in this Parliament have not been very actively endeavouring to safeguard the interests of their State. Many months before the thought occurred to the honorable member that he might interest himself in this matter, continuous representations had been made to the Government by the members representing Tasmania in this House and in another place. The matter concernsnot only Tasmania but all the outlying parts of Australia; and a big principle is at stake. The Government has indicated that it recognizes its obligations to maintain communication between Tasmania and the mainland, but it cannot accept any responsibility to maintain cargo and other services to the outlying ports of the Commonwealth, when such services are made impossible by the conditions existing in the coastal shipping industry.
– The Melbourne Age of yesterday, referring to the conference in London that is dealing with the relations of the Pacific Cable Company and the wireless companies, made this comment : -
The fact that the Commonwealth is partly, at least, represented on the conference by business interests over which the Government has not complete control, has tended to produce a feeling of uneasiness;
Will the Prime Minister inform honorable members what private business man is representing Australia at that conference, and why at such an important gathering Australia’s interests are not Being watched by the High Commissioner?
– There is no justification for the statement that Australia is represented at the conference by business interests over which the Commonwealth has no control. The representatives of the Commonwealth are .Mr. Baillieu and Mr. Brown, Director of Commonwealth Postal Services. The Government has absolute control over every action of its representatives, who have no authority to commit the Commonwealth in any way without the direct sanction of the Government. The Director of Postal Services, who was attending another gathering in America and was sent to Great Britain especially to participate in the conference in regard to wireless and cable communications, is very much better qualified to watch the interests of the Commonwealth in this technical matter than any person who could be appointed from Australia House.
– A very respected servant of this House, after lying for thirteen days in a public ward at the Canberra Hospital, received an account for £14 for hospital attention. Will the Minister for Home and Territories review the hospital charges? I should like him to state also whether it is the intention of the Federal Capital Commission to place the hospital upon a community basis immediately?
– I think the honorable member is in error in regard to the amount of the account ; but I shall investigate the matter and let him have an early reply.
– I have received from the secretary of the North Australia Union a telegram stating that he and the chairman of the unemployed at Darwin, had waited on the Government Resident and the chairman of the North Australia Commission, and asked for some alleviation of the distress caused by unemployment. Both gentlemen expressed sympathy with the unemployed, but said they could afford no relief. I am informed also that certain temporary works which were undertaken to provide employment are nearing completion; consequently the number of men out of work will be greatly increased in the immediate future. Will the Minister for Home and Territories expedite the commencement of any new works that will relieve the position, and will he state when the railway construction work authorized by this Parliament will be recommenced ?
– I am glad to be able to inform the honorable member that the last report I received showed that the number of unemployed in North Australia had greatly decreased. I shall endeavour to get for the honorable member further information.
– As the tobacco growers are uninformed regarding the work of the Tobacco Experimental and Investigation Committee, will the Prime Minister arrange that Mr. Slagg, the newly appointed Federal Director of Tobacco Experiments, shall visit the various districts interested, when so requested by the local Tobacco Growers’ Association, to explain to the growers the work of the committee?
– I shall consider the honorable member’s suggestion, and shall try to ensure that, as far as is practicable, complete information i3 made available to the growers.
– Late last night, the Treasurer announced to the House* certain loan conversion proposals of the Government. As this matter is of serious concern to tho people, inasmuch as it involves an increase of Commonwealth expenditure without conferring any equivalent advantage -
– Order ! I ask the honorable member not to debate the matter.
– Will the Treasurer consider the practicability of adopting some method by which loans can be converted without further increasing the interest bill? Has the Government considered the advisability of converting loan stock into consols, which would be a better security and improve the credit of the Commonwealth ?
– The Government and the Loan Council have made every effort to float and convert loans at the lowest possible rates of interest. In regard to the honorable member’s suggestion that loan stocks should be converted into consols, I remind him that, in 1923, an effort to secure long-term loans in Australia met with little success, and, in consequence, we have had to resort to shorterterm loans, such as have been floated recently.
– I have been requested by various persons connected with the commercial life of Sydney to ask the Treasurer whether the Commonwealth Bank was given an opportunity to float the new conversion loan? Many persons in the community are of the opinion that the arrangement announced by the Treasurer last night is detrimental to the best interests of Australia.
– The honorable gentleman is evidently under a misapprehension as to the function of the Commonwealth Bank in respect to loan flotation. The Commonwealth Bank conducts the whole of the negotiations with the private banks and agencies for the flotation of these loans.
– What I should like to know is whether the Commonwealth Bank receives the 10s. per cent. commission paid in respect of the subscriptions to the loan. If not, to whom does the commission go? Is it not a fact that the liquid assets of the private banks of Australia fall very low at certain periods of the year, and that they have to approach the Commonwealth Bank for accommodation to enable them to carry on their business?
– The Commonwealth Bank conducts the whole of the negotiations for the flotation of loans, and it also receives its share of the profits in connexion with the underwriting. In reply to the second question, I am glad to say that the Commonwealth Bank is now performing the real functions of a central bank, and it accommodates the other banks whenever they need assistance in connexion with the marketing of Australia’s products.
– I understand that when Flight-Commander Wackett reached Darwin in the Widgeon, he was ordered not to continue his flight to Singapore. Accordingly, he flew overland to Broome. I have read in the press that, notwithstanding the large amount of money spent on this Australian-made machine. Flight-Commander Wackett had been, in vulgar parlance, “sold a pup,” so far as its construction was concerned. This officer is thus placed under a cloud, which I would like the Minister representing the Minister for Defence to dissipate?
– I shall consult with the Minister for Defence and let the honorable member have a reply.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral inform the House what action is being taken by the Government in regard to the Abrahams brothers? Has his department any knowledge of their present place of domicile, or is any effort being made to discover it?
– No information is available regarding the present whereabouts of the Abrahams brothers. Meanwhile, the monetary penalties imposed upon them are being collected by the Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister if the Government will give’ favourable consideration to the use of Australian granite for the’ Australian War Memorial at Canberra, instead of the sandstone facing which has been recommended?
– I am under the impression that the relative merits of these two materials were fully considered by the Public Works Committee, the views of which are embodied in its report on this project.
– The winning architectural design for the proposed Australian war memorial provided for a sandstone facing in order to keep the cost of the memorial within a specified amount, and the Public Works Committee was compelled to consider the use of a sandstone facing, although it had definite views as to the use of granite. As the memorial is intended to last for all time, will the Government give consideration to the use of Austraiian granite in lieu of sandstone?
– As the utmost permanency is desired, the Government, when dealing with the report of the Public Works Committee, will certainly consider the advantage of using granite.
– Has the report of the Tariff Board on the importation of axe handles of inferior quality been received and considered by the Government?
– I am not certain, hut I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member know the result.
Mr-. COOK. - Has an arrangement been entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the British Austr alasian Tobacco Company providing that there shall be no alterationofthe tariff on tobacco during the comprehensive investigation, that is being made into the Australian tobacco industry?
– I am not aware that any such arrangement has been entered
– A very serious allegation lies behind the question just asked by the honorable member for . Indi (Mr. Cook) . Will the Ministerfor Trade and Customs investigate the subject thoroughly? The suggestion is that the tariff is not to be interfered with for some years, which might be in the interests of the British Australasian Tobacco Company and against the interests of the Australian tobacco industry.
– I shall certainly have the matter fully investigated. I have said that I have no knowledge that such an arrangement has been entered into, and it passes my comprehension that it should be possible.
Canberra-Tumut Road-Approaches to Canberra
– Recently the Minister for Works and Railways stated that, on the estimate of a surveyor for the Main Roads Board the construction of 20 miles of road between Canberra and Tumut would cost £400,000. Is the Minister aware that the estimate of the surveyor to whom he referred was for 48, not for 20 miles? That being so, will the honorable gentleman investigate the matter again, and ascertain exactly what was the estimate for the 20 miles of road ?
– I have seen the estimate to which the honorable member refers, and I believe that I was quite correct in stating that it was for 20 miles of road only. I suggest that the honorable member should make representations to the Main Roads Board of New South Wales, as the proposed road has not yet been included in the Federal Aid Roads scheme for the State. Until that is done I have no power to take any action in the matter.
– I undertake to give the Minister proof of the surveyor’s estimate.
– Regarding the proposed road from Canberra to Albury through Tumut, is the Minister aware that awell-known contractor in the Tumut district, who is thoroughly familiar with the intervening country, has offered to form and construct for £600 a mile, a trafficable road over the unformed portion of the 48 miles ofthe road between Canberra and Tumut, a total cost of about £28,000? Also, is the (honorable gentleman aware that theshire engineer for the Tumut district has estimated that the road from Canberra to Albury can be further shortened by a distance of 24 miles, making atotal shortening of 40 miles on the most direct route, by the construction of a trafficable road at a cost of £20,000 ? That being so, will he consider the advisability of taking action in order to have the road constructed ?
– I have already said, a number of times in this House, that I have nothingto do with the construction of this road. Before I can take any action, representations must be made to the Main Roads Board of New South
Wales to have the road included in the Federal Aid Roads scheme. When that is done, I shall be in a position to consider any proposals that may be made, but until then, I am not concerned with the subject of cost.
– Three weeks ago I asked the Minister for Works and Railways, a question as to the state of the roads between Canberra and Goulburn, and the honorable gentleman promised to investigate the matter, and consult with the New South Wales authorities. Has that been done, and if so, with what result? For the information of the honorable gentleman, I may say that no result is apparent to the naked eye.
– Following on my promise, I made arrangements to meet the chairman of the Main Roads Board last Wednesday, but unfortunately I was unable to keep the appointment. I made a further arrangement to meet the chairman in Canberra yesterday, but owing to illness in his family, he was unable to attend. I received a wire from him this morning, intimating that he hoped to be in Canberra next week, when the matter will be considered. My department has the matter in hand, and is seriously considering what can be done. I hope to be able to take some action within the next week or so, as it is realized that something should be done. I assure the right honorable gentleman that the Commonwealth Government is not lacking in a sense of responsibility in regard to this matter.
– Seeing that more than £9,000,000 has so far been expended in developing the Federal Capital Territory, it is desirable that its transport facilities should be improved. Several questions have been asked recently about various road approaches to the city area. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) and the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) have brought under the notice of the Minister the advisableness of constructing a road from Tumut to Canberra ; I have referred to the necessity for making a good road to connect Jervis Bay with the Territory ; and the right honorable member for North Sydney has called attention to the need for improving the road from Goulburn to Canberra.In view of the fact that the Minister has agreed to consult, the
Main Roads Board of New South Wales respecting the road mentioned by the right honorable member for North Sydney, will he also consult with the board respecting the other roads to which I have referred ?
– The proposed TumutCanberra road has already been referred to the New South Wales Main Roads Board, which has signified that it does not intend to take any steps to bring it within the provisions of the Federal Aid Roads scheme. But it is proposed to bring within the provisions of that scheme the construction of a road from Collector to the coast. The honorable member will therefore see that steps are being taken to provide satisfactory roads to the Capital from every angle.
– Arising out of the question asked by the honorable member for Darling in reply to which the Minister for Works and Railways said that he had conferred with the Main Roads Board in regard to certain roads, including that from Capberra to Tumut, which he states was estimated to cost £400,000; in view of the fact that the shire engineer has stated that a trafficable road can be constructed for £29,000 and that the shire would undertake to construct a road for that amount, if the money were available, I ask the Minister if, when next conferring with the Main Roads Board, he will discuss the proposition on the altered basis ?
– I shall do so.
– Has any independent official report yet been submitted by the geophysical survey party now in Australia? If so, will the Government make it available to honorable members? When is it anticipated that the visiting geophysical survey party will extend its activities to North Queensland?
– No such report has yet been received, the geophysical survey party having arrived in Australia only during the last few weeks. I have as yet no information as to when the party will be able to commence operations in North Queensland. The locality of its operations will be a matter for the decision of the experts associated with the party, who will he actuated by a desire to obtain the most favorable results.
– Some time ago, the Treasurer promised to review certain anomalies associated with the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, in particular the amount paid to hospitals towards the maintenance of inmates, and the amount paid to inmates in the form of hospital allowance. Subject to correction, I believe that 10s. 6d. a week is paid to certain institutions, out of which the pensioner receives 4s., the balance being retained, presumably, by the Commonwealth Government. In view of the serious allegations that have recently been made in the New South Wales Parliament concerning the accommodation and conditions prevailing in the Lidcombe and Newington hospitals, will the Treasurer make a full statement as to the intentions of this Government in the matter? In any case, will he consider a proposal to pay the whole of the 10s. 6d. to the inmates of institutions, and allow them to make their own arrangements in regard to maintenance?
– In pursuance of my promise to the House, this matter was taken up with the State Governments, in an endeavour to ascertain how the anomalies could best be corrected. Suggestions have not been received from all the States, but as soon as they are all received, the Government will consider them, and make known its intentions.
Cost of Completed Works
– Will the Prime Minister give favorable consideration to a proposal to amend the Public Works Committee Act to enable the Committee, if it so desires, to make further inquiries into the cost of works which it has recommended, in cases where the actual cost is substantially in excess of the estimated cost? I ask this question because I was told yesterday, in reply to a question, that it was not clear whether the estimated cost of £220,000 for the construction of this building was intended to apply to the sketch plans which were submitted to the Public Works Committee when it made its inquiry into the subject. To my mind there was no . doubt whatever that that estimate did apply to the plans submitted to the Committee.
– The suggestion will be considered by the Government.
– Is the Postmaster-General able to inform me when money will be available for the construction of various new postal works in country districts? There appears to be plenty of money available for similar work in the cities of Australia.
– We are now in the last month of the financial year. It is expected that money will be available at the beginning of the new financial year for the work mentioned by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways make available to the House details of the progress being made with the construction of the South Brisbane to Kyogle railway?
– I notice evidences of damage to two of the pictures in the Mortimer Menpes collection of reproductions of the great masters, now on exhibition in the King’s Hall. In Leonardo da Vinci’s “ La Gioconda,” some of the paint on the left side of the face has been knocked off, and in Peter Paul Rubens’ “ Chapeau de Paille,” there are five distinct scars on the nose. Forty-seven years ago I advocated that valuable pictures of this description in the London National Gallery should be glazed. Will you, Mr. Speaker, take into consideration the advisableness of glazing these pictures so that further damage shall not be done to them?
– Consideration will be given to the suggestion.
– I have been informed that the chairman of the North Australia Commission has converted the
Government residence into flats and is letting them. I should like the Minister for Home and Territories to ascertain whether this is so, and if it is, who receives the revenue from these flats. As the Government Resident in North Australia is the official representative of the Commonwealth there, and as such is required to entertain distinguished visitors, why is he domiciled in a hut made of mud and laths, and not permitted to occupy the Government residence?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter.
– I have been requested by interested persons in Perth to direct the attention of the Treasurer to the fact that it is necessary for appellants against Federal land tax assessment, to lodge with their appeal an amount equal to 1 per cent. of the difference between their previous assessment and that against which they are appealing. It will be readily recognized that, in some instances, the amount so lodged is greater than the extra money of tax which would be levied if the new assessment were enforced. Seeing that taxpayers are obliged to pay their tax before the appeal can be heard, they are doubly penalized. I ask the Treasurer whether he will look into this matter to see whether the procedure cannot be simplified and liberalized?
– The conditions under which the Land Tax Appeal Board are working were fixed by this Parliament only last session. The board is only acting in accordance with the provisions of the amended legislation.
Sir George Wilkins’ Knighthood. Mr. Bert Hinkler
– Can the Prime Minister inform me whether he made a recommendation in regard to the honour recently conferred upon Sir George Wilkins, who lately performed such a remarkable aviation feat in the Arctic regions ?
– I cannot answer questions upon that subject.
– Cannot the right honorable gentleman say whether he made a recommendation on the subject?
– I cannot.
– Will the Prime Minister state the grounds for declining to say whether a recommendation was made on behalf of the Government, or in his capacity as Prime Minister? If he still declines to say whether a recommendation was made, are we to assume that as Sir George Wilkins’ name appears in the list of Australians who received honours that the recommendation was made by him?
– I am surprised that the honorable member for Dalley of all members should ask why I cannot make a public statement upon that matter. He has been premier of a State, and must know that in no circumstances does a prime minister or a premier disclose to anyone the advice he may have tendered to the sovereign or the sovereign’s representative.
– I ask the Prime Minister if, when Australian citizens are concerned, the Australian Government is consulted before such honours are conferred? I submit that the people of Australia are entitled to know the procedure followed in these matters.
– I imagined that the procedure was understood by everyone. On all questions affecting Australia His Majesty acts on the advice of his Ministers in Australia. None other than His Majesty’s Ministers in Australia make recommendations to His Majesty in regard to Australian matters.
– Then we are justifiedin assuming that a recommendation was definitely made and, that being so, I ask why the Prime Minister showed discrimination between Sir George Wilkins and Mr. Herbert Hinkler, both of whom performed great feats.
– I have already indicated that I decline to give any information, or to discuss this question in the House.
– A report has appeared in a section of the press to the effect that a part of the Australian Scottish Delegation now visiting the United Kingdom, has disappeared. I do not question the right of Scotchmen on holiday to disappear when they think fit ; but the disappearance of a section of this delegation has been associated in the press with a disagreement upon the subject of migration. While I am not concerned with the views the delegation may hold on this subject, I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether the Government held any communication whatever with it on the subject, or gave it any authority to discuss the matter officially?
– I have already answered several questions upon this subject. The delegation is entirely a private one, and the Government has not given it any instructions in regard to the attitude it should adopt towards migration or any other matter.
– In answer to questions I have previously submitted, concerning the possibility of commencing the construction of the Red Hill to Port Augusta railway, I have been informed that no money was available for work of that nature. Since then a bill has been introduced providing for the expenditure of a large sum of money on an Empire exhibition to be held in Sydney, on which a loss of £500,000 might be expected, and as it is reported in the press that that measure is not to be proceeded with, will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of spending some of the amount which was to be provided for the exhibition on a reproductive work in South Australia ?
– There is no connexion between the expenditure proposed for an exhibition and that on railway construction. Expenditure in connexion with the exhibition to which he referred would not be incurred for perhaps two years, and then would he spread over a further period of two or three years. It would be expenditure from revenue. On the other hand, the money required to construct the Red Hill to Port Augusta railway would be taken from loan funds, and, as I have previously indicated, there is no immediate prospect of loan funds being made available for this purpose.
– As a minister has not been appointed to fill the vacancy in the Cabinet caused by the death of Mr. H. E.
Pratten, I should like to know whether the salary attaching to that portfolio is being paid into the Commonwealth revenue ?
– No salary attaches to any ministerial office; but there is statutory appropriation of an amount for the payment of Commonwealth Ministers as a whole, and the amount drawn by the Government is that provided for in the statute.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– I regret that the information is not yet available, but I am taking steps to obtain it.
asked the Minister in charge of Repatriation, upon notice -
– I regret the information is not yet available.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I regret that the information is not yet available, but I am staking steps to obtain it.
asked the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Rating - Transport - Costof Sports Grounds - Swimming Baths - Civic andparliamentaryrepresentation - Housing - Heating and Ventilation of Parliament House - Footpaths.
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 -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
With reference tohisstatement on 28th March, 1928 (Hansard, page 4225) that the buses recently purchased at Canberra were satisfactorily fulfilling the purpose for which they were purchased, willhe state -
In view of the promise of the Minister (Hansard, page 4225) that he would discuss the matter of transport with the Commission “ to ensure that all reasonable requests are met,” what further action does he propose to take to ensure that the drivers are given some discretionary power on wet days and in emergencies ?
– 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 -
Will he supply a detailed statement setting out the total cost of each of the following: -
– 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 -
Does the Federal Capital Commission propose to commence the erection of baths in Canberra in time for next summer; if so, where and when is it intended to commence construction; if not, why not?
– I shall consult with the Federal Capital Commission and let the honorable member have the information he desires in due course.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether he will give an undertaking that before the House rises he will make a definite statement regarding the question of civic and Parliamentary representation for residents of the Federal Capital Territory; if not, why not?
– The matter to which the honorable member’s question relates involves a question of Government policy and I am, therefore, unable to give him the undertaking he desires.
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.
Yesterday the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me the following questions : -
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : - 1.65 deg. Fahr.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me the following questions : -
I am now in a position to advise him as follows: -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
With reference to his reply to the question by the honorable member for Hunter, on the 17th May, regarding war service homes, viz. : - “I have instructed the Commissioner not to disturb any occupant who is in arrears until his equity has been exhausted “ - does the Minister intend that no purchaser will be asked to pay any arrears until such equal the amount of loan repaid?
– No. If an account shows arrears equalling three monthly instalments, and the purchaser has not submitted a satisfactory explanation or made an arrangement in regard thereto, or has not been granted further lime for payment, then action is taken to enforce the contract. The purchaser, however, still has the opportunity to make further representations, and these are always sympathetically considered in the light of the facts available. The arrears must be controlled, and it is considered that where a purchaser is in a position to do so he should carry out his obligations. If a different policy were followed, grave injustice would be done to the large majority of purchasers who number 32,485, and who pay their way, not always without a struggle on their part. When a purchaser meets with adverse circumstances, full opportunity is given him to get on his feet again, but even in such cases there must either be a limitation upon the extension granted or the purchaser permitted occupation rent free. This latter the act does not allow.
Reportof First Investigation
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honerable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 24th May the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) asked me the following questions : -
What is the proposed expenditure during the year 1928-23 in connexion with -
I now desire to furnish the following replies : -
During the year 1929. 2. (a) £180,000;
In committee (Consideration resumed from 6th June, vide page 5572) :
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 proponed to be amended -
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.
Upon which Mr. Latham, had moved, by way of amendment -
That after the word “ Court “, proposed new sub-section 3, the words “ dealing with the matter “ be inserted.
.- The inclusion of this clause in the bill confirms the belief which I expressed earlier that this legislation is designed to make the instrument of arbitration unpopular to organized labour throughout this country. It places a stranglehold upon the conditions that have governed the industrial relations of employers and employees for very many years, and will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the workers to secure the redress of their industrial wrongs by peaceful means. At the outset I was somewhat diffident about arriving at the conclusion that that is the motive underlying this legislation; but the speeches which have been delivered by honorable members opposite, particularly the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), have convinced me that it is the intention of the Government to place the strong hand and the iron heel upon industrial organizations in their future relations with their employers. For very many years those organizations have had implicit faith in the power of the Federal Arbitration Court to redress their grievances; but they will now seek de-registration by the court, and in future will rely principally upon State tribunals to adjust their wages and working conditions, or resort to direct action. That is exactly what the employers want. They regard the Federal arbitration system as irksome, because it has compelled them to give conditions’ that they have been reluctant to concede. Throughout Australia in recent years organized bodies of employers have evinced a desire to be rid of compulsory arbitration and to acquire the freedom to bargain directly with their employees.
I wish to place before the committee an aspect of this particular clause that has not so far been elaborated. It has been stated that if an official in even a remote part of the Commonwealth should prevail upon the members of a branch to do anything in the nature of a strike he would immediately render the organization liable to certain penalties. I point out, however, that the clause goes even further than that. A prosecution will lie against an organization even though a strike should not take place. The words “ encourage “ and “ incite “ have had placed upon them a judicial interpretation, according to which an organization will be liable to the penalties provided by this legislation in the event of merely an incitement or an encouragement to take certain action, even though that advice has not been followed, but, on the contrary, has beendisapproved and strongly condemned by the organization itself. That is a most unreasonable attitude to adopt. I have made a study of similar legislation in New South Wales and South Australia. I find that the relevant sections in the Industrial Arbitration Act of New South Wales are sections 46, 47 and 48b. They make the following provisions : -
It shall be a defence in any proceedings for an order or direction under the last preceding section that the union by the enforcement of its rules and by other means reasonable under the circumstances endeavoured to prevent its members from taking part in or aiding or abetting or continuing to take part in, aid or abet the illegal strike. 48b. If any person -
That clearly places the onus and the responsibility upon the individual. Permit me now to quote section 102 of the South Australian act. It makes the following provision : -
When a lockout or strike takes place and a majority of the members of any association are at any time parties to the lockout or strike the association shall be deemed to have done an act in the nature of a lockout or strike according, to the nature of the case.
That section clearly provides that unless an organization has in some authoritative way been responsible for a strikeor a lockout it shall not be held liable for the misdemeanour which has been committed. Such a provision is at least eminently reasonable. At the time of the introduction of that legislation, however, it was considered to be very far-reaching, and the penalties specified in it were seriously challenged. But no person in his wildest flights of imagination then conceived the probability of legislation resembling that which we now have before us being brought forward.
There is one other point which I wish to place before the committee. Up to the present time, when a person has rendered himself liable to be brought before a court of summary jurisdiction to answer a charge of having committed an offence against the Arbitration Act, it has been necessary to secure the consent of the Industrial Registrar of the court to such a prosecution. But under this law that consent will not be necessary, and an organization will be rendered liable to prosecution for the irresponsible act of an obscure official who may not represent truly the viewpoint of the union, without the consent of the Industrial Registrar being obtained. That is a preposterous proposal. It dispenses with the recognized principle of constitutional law that proof of agency must be furnished. Surely, then, we have aright to challenge not only the wisdom but also the validity of these provisions.When power was conferred upon the Commonwealth to deal with matters of this description it was implied not only in the particular law itself but also in the Constitution that agency had to be proved. Such a provision has governed the arbitration system from its inception up to the present moment. Unless the Government recognizes that fundamental principle it will place a very unfair burden upon the great body of unionists in Australia. Trade unions will not permit themselves to be rendered liable to the penalties provided by this legislation; they will seek deregistration, and try to obtain redress for their industrial wrongs through either the State tribunals or the medium of direct action.
– That is what the Government wants.
– I agree with the honorable member for Hunter that that is what is desired. It is for that purpose that the bill was designed. This is an attempt to force organized labour out of the federal courts, and to make it possible for the employing section of the community to come to close grips with their employees in the determination of the rates of wages and conditions that shall be observed in industry throughout the Commonwealth. Industrial peace cannot be maintained in that way. On the contrary, the result will be to accentuate industrial trouble and to incite men to depart from the Commonwealth system of arbitration. The clause therefore has my strongest condemnation. It introduces a most vicious principle, and also has an unsound basis in law. No self-respecting trade unionist or industrial organization will permit himself or itself to be rendered liable under it. Consequently, industrial unrest will become more pronounced than it has been up to the present time.
.- While I firmly believe that all parties who benefit from awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should stand up to their obligations, and that the court should be in a position to enforce its decisions on both sides, I feel that paragraph b of the proposed new subsection 2 imposes upon an organization too great an obligation because of the default of a member of the committee of management of the organization itself or any of its branches. I favour the penalties that are provided in the other proposed new sub-sections. The amendment which has been moved by the Attorney-General affects the proposed new sub-section 3. Will the Minister temporarily withdraw his amendment to permit a separate test of the feeling of the committee regarding paragraph 7; of the proposed uew subsection 2? In all other respects I am prepared to support the Attorney-General.
– In order to meet the desire of the honorable member, I ask leave to withdraw, temporarily, the amendment that I have proposed.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I thank the Minister for the fair spirit displayed by him. I now move -
That paragraph (b), proposed new sub-sec tion 2, be omitted.
Last evening I gave fully my reasons for objecting to this provision, and said that it was too far reaching in its effects. The penalty provided is a fine of £100, if one of the members of the organization orders, encourages, advises or incites members to refuse to offer or accept employment. A committee of management might consist of ten members, nine of whom might have used every possible effort to avert a strike; but if one member had been ungovernable and had encouraged or incited a lockout or strike, the whole organization would be liable to the heavy penalty provided. A body of employers would be in precisely the same position as an organization of employees, because the act, so far as word? can express the intention of the legislature, applies equally to both sides. Members of Parliament ought to hold the balance of justice fairly between all sections. If conciliation is worth anything in this country, it is due to the efforts of public men who step in when feeling is strong and demand that good faith and calm consideration shall take the place of passion and prejudice. Some obscure employer might insist on doing something in the nature of a lockout, and the action of that individual might penalize the whole of the organization of which he was a member. More than half the industrialists in Australia and a majority of the employers do not work under Federal awards.
– I should say that twothirds of them are registered.
– When I last referred to the figures I noticed that about 300,000 employees were affected by Federal awards and over 500,000 were not.
– But the registered organizations have 690,000 members irrespective of whether they work under awards.
– The Federal court takes cognizance only of industries of an interstate nature. I should like to see one authority for all industries in Australia; but I should prefer State to Federal legislation. Under this provision great injustice could be done to a body of employers or employees through an individual member inciting or encouraging a lockout or strike.
– Does the honorable member imagine that in such circumstances a heavy penalty would be inflicted? The facts of every case would have to be considered.
– Then why does the bill make the organization liable to the penalty mentioned? If it could be shown that an ungovernable member of a committee of management had been guilty of one of the acts enumerated, the court would have no option but to record a conviction against the organization, although possibly a light penalty would be imposed.
– The conviction would be recorded against the individual.
– No, against the organization.
– Sections 6 and 6a deal with both individuals and organizations.
– But section 8, which this clause proposes to amend, deals with organizations. Section 6b provides for the mitigation of penalties where the court is satisfied that bona fide efforts have been made by any members of the organization to prevent the commission of an offence against the act; but the clause under consideration would allow an organization to be penalized for the wrong-doing of an individual member who could not be controlled.
– Does not the honorable member see that the same argument applies to a branch committee that acts in opposition to the wishes of the centra] body?
– In the case of an official declaration by an individual, who would in the ordinary course of events make a declaration on behalf of his organization, he would be in the same position as an agent of the organization. Honorable members are familiar with the way in which branches of organizations are formed in outlying districts. If one member, uninformed regarding legislative matters, and of a peculiar turn of mind, could not be governed by his fellow committeemen, then the action of that person might lay the whole organization open to conviction by the court.
– Who would ever dream of putting the law into operation because of the action of an obscure member of such a committee?
– Then why include this provision in the act?
– Because circumstances may render it necessary.
– I do not like it, and I hope that it will be struck out. The offence of the individual who encourages a strike or lockout is serious, yet the organization of which he is a member may be quite blameless. Despite that fact ii is liable to a conviction.
– I am unable to accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), because it would render the clause almost useless and inoperative.
– The amendment would take away the force of the weapon to be placed in the hands of the employers.
– The question is whether the committee desires the penalties for strikes and lockouts to operate. If it is desired to continue them as penalties merely on paper, then honorable members should accept the amendment of the honorable member for Wannon. Any honorable member who does not believe in the effective enforcement of the clause dealing with strikes and lockouts will achieve his object very admirably by voting for the amendment. Clause 8 is in the first two sub-clauses entirely an evidentiary provision. If the amendment were accepted, the clause would provide that an organization would be liable for, say, a strike - the honorable member for Wannon has spoken of strikes rather than lockouts - only if the committee of management formally advised the members of the organization or a branch of it to take such an action. Of course, no committee of management would do anything of the kind. It simply would not hold a meeting, but would secretly convey its wishes to the members of the organization, who would then declare a strike. Paragraph a would thus be evaded and would be useless. There is little in it of practical utility, although its omission would be impossible and it should be included in the bill in order to make the committee of management, as such, realize its responsibilities. If paragraph b were deleted, as suggested, the organization would be liable only when the body controlling the organization acted as a body. That provision could be easily avoided. The same thing applies to paragraph d, because the officers would remain in the background, and action would be taken by the committee of management. I am speaking from actual experience. What happens when a strike is on is that members of the committee of management occupy themselves in conducting the business of the union, and the officers keep discreetly in the background. That is the natural thing to do; and if this legislation provides that the organization shall be responsible only for the formal acts of the committee of management and of its officers, it will be useless.
It is easy to pick out extreme cases of penal provisions in our laws, whatever they may be. These provisions are administered by the court. I believe that all the courts have the power - I know that it is so in Victoria - to dismiss cases that are trivial without imposing any penalty. Take, for example, the legislation which exists everywhere con- cerning the obstruction of highways. Severe penalties are imposed, upon persons who obstruct highways. It is an obstruction of the highway to drop a match on the road. Some persons would argue that a penalty of £100 or £500 for obstructing a highway would be ridiculous, because it would apply to a person dropping a match on a public road. The imposition of the penalty would be ridiculous in such a case; but that has never been done, and this legislation must be considered from that point of view. Unless paragraph b is left in the clause, it will be easy to avoid liability by having all the control, conduct, ordering and advising in connexion with a strike carried out by the members of the committee of management, who are nol officers of the union. In that case the clause would be ineffective. For those reasons I am unable to accept the amendment.
– I wish to congratulate the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) for having taken some interest in this measure. He has indicated that he has made himself acquainted with some of the provisions of the bill, and that is more than can be said of some of the members behind the Government.
– They are mere cogs in the party machine.
– That is my impression, with the exception perhaps of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the honorable member for Wannon. I am prepared to support the amendment, but at the same time I wish to point out that it does not go far enough. In addition to paragraph b, paragraphs c and d should be deleted; in fact, the whole clause should be negatived. The existing provision is quite sufficient for all purposes. The Attorney-General has spoken on two or three occasions, and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) seemed to be a little annoyed because of the interjections. As a matter of fact the Attorney-General has not yet explained the position in respect of the penalties which are to be imposed upon the organization for the act of an individual member.
– I have spoken on the point on three occasions.
– The AttorneyGeneral has endeavoured to justify his attitude by quoting supposititious cases. Last night he talked about a shadow committee which Senator Sir George Pearce, the Leader of the Government in another place, had mentioned to him, probably at a Cabinet meeting. There has been no concrete evidence of such a thing happening in the history of arbitration. Surely a responsible Minister of the Crown should not make statements that have no foundation !
– Does not the honorable gentleman understand that those things to which I have referred may be done, and, in that case, this clause, if amended as is proposed, would be rendered ineffective ?
– The AttorneyGeneral has stated that these things have happened.
– That is so.
– Why not give us some evidence of that?
– It would be quite immaterial to the point that I am making, and I am not going to revive the embers of dead disputes for no practical purpose.
– That is an easy method of getting out of a difficult position. It is playing the game very low to place that kind of argument before the Committee. The clause provides for penalties to be imposed upon an organization for an action of a member of the committee of management of the organization, or of a branch of the organization. Paragraph c relates to any body of persons controlling the organization or a branch of the organization, and paragraph d to an officer of the organization or a branch of the organization. Does the Attorney-General or any other honorable member contend that an organization should be penalized simply because an officer connected with a section of that organization has acted in a manner to be construed as being in the nature of inciting to strike.
– He may merely give advice to the members of the organization.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral consider that, in that case, the organization should be considered guilty and be fined?
– Then we can say good-bye to arbitration.
– That has been the law, so far as the officers of organizations are concerned, ever since 1920.
– No penalty has been imposed under the law as it now stands in the case of a union not being cognizant of the action of its officers. What is an organization? It is a registered body with many branches, which may extend throughout Australia. Every branch would have a separate committee of management and a separate set of officers. If one of those officers does something that can be construed to be an act of incitement to strike, then the organization may, under this provision, be adjudged guilty, and liable to a heavy fine.
– Notwithstanding the fact that the executive may have condemned the action of the officer.
– In many cases the executive would have no knowledge of the actionsof its officers. What would be the use of appealing to the court? The case would be heard, not before the Arbitration Court, but probably before a police magistrate. If the law provides that an officer of the organization - it may be the secretary or the president of a branch of the organization - who has done something in the nature of inciting men to strike shall be liable to a penalty, as provided for in this clause, the magistrate must find on the evidence, and if the officer is guilty, then the organization may be fined £1,000, or £100 if the officer is expelled from the organization.
– That is the maximum penalty.
– The penalty under the law as it exists to-day is quite sufficient; if the organization infringes the law, it is liable to certain penalties. That was provided for to make arbitration compulsory as far as possible. But we are now getting beyond that stage. It has been shown clearly during this debate that the employers have been responsible for the drafting of this measure. Their representatives have been seen in the vicinity of the chamber.
– Have not the employees’ representatives been in close touch with the Opposition?
– That is not the question. I have not seen one.
– I have seen several, and they have interviewed me. I have no objection to being interviewed by representatives of either side.
– I have no doubt that men are fully justified in coming here to look after their own interests, but the fact of the employers’” representatives being here, in addition to the statements that have been made in their behalf in the different States, shows clearly that a determined effort is being made to abolish compulsory arbitration. The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures is against arbitration altogether, and desires the Government to repeal our arbitration laws. In Sydney recently a gentleman representing the Metal Trade Employers’ Association declared that arbitration should be wiped out. Then again we have statements such as that made last week by the Chairman of the Newcastle Chamber of Manufactures that the condition of the workers will have to be broken down by degrees. There is no doubt whatever that the object of this bill is indirectly to rob the workers of the conditions which they have won through the medium of industrial arbitration. The Government is afraid to take the bold step of repealing the whole act, but it is doing it piecemeal. This clause will undermine the system to a considerable extent. It is hardly believeable that the Government would have even suggested that a sectional strike should be a sufficient reason for a court to give power to an employer to declare a general lockout.
– The court may do so only if it thinks proper.
– Of course the court will think it proper to do so if such a request is made by the employers, and the evidence shows a sectional stoppage. We are jeopardizing the whole system of arbitration by introducing provisions of this description. Why should one man sitting as a judge in a court have the power to make possible a general cessation of work in an industry? If effect is ever given to that provision the workers will be finished with arbitration as a system of settling their disputes. They are not likely to consent to a provision of this kind for it is wholly in favour of the employers. There is no gainsaying that this bill has been designed to provide the employers with a powerful weapon to reduce their employees to a state of submission in the event of a sectional dispute occurring. The wording is too clear to allow any other meaning to be considered. The provisions of this clause, together with those of the clause which we were considering yesterday, will be like a whip in the hands of the employers.
Sitting suspended from 1.48 to 2.30 p.m.
– The AttorneyGeneral has given no evidence in support of his assertion that it is necessary to amend the existing act because individuals connected with industrial organizations have done certain things and the committees of management of those organizations have sheltered themselves behind those individuals. No one can cite an instance in which that has occurred. Rash statements should not be made in support of a proposal of so much importance to the future welfare of this country; solid reasons should be given before any drastic change is made in our legislation. No solid reason has been advanced to justify this proposed alteration. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) seeks to delete paragraph b. Let us also look at paragraph c, which imposes a penalty on an organization for the action of “ any body or persons controlling the organization or a branch of the organization.” If this proposal is accepted by the committee it will lead to endless trouble among the unions, and cause the greatest conceivable dissatisfaction with our arbitration system. It is a preposterous idea to think of making an organization responsible for what the official of a branch may do. I have already pointed out that the committee of management in control of a widespread union throughout the various States may be located in one State, and that it is possible for a union to have a number of sections within each State. The task of controlling the affairs of the whole organization may prevent the central committee of management within the State from having anything to do with the sections. When our arbitration law was framed that possibility was taken into consideration and the penal provisions were made applicable to the actions of the organization itself. But the proposal before us to-day is to make an organization liable for the actions of persons who may not be on the committee of management. For instance, it is very seldom that an officer of a miners’ lodge is oh the management committee of the miners’ union. An organization which does not countenance a local dispute and may have taken steps to punish the officer who has brought it about without referring the matter in dispute to the management committee, will thus be subjected to heavy penalties. If the purpose of the Government is to break down the arbitration system by imposing penalties in this way, it should be straightforward about the matter and repeal the act. Why I am so strongly opposed to this clause is that I know the effect it is likely to have on the industrial unions. It is not just to find an organization guilty of something of which it is not cognizant, or of which it disapproves, and why the Government should make this departure from the existing law and go to the extreme of making an organization liable to penalties for the act of some secretary or chairman of a local lodge, is beyond my comprehension. The membership of a local lodge which may have been incited to cease work for a few days or a few weeks may not be more than 200. The stoppage of work might have practically no effect on the output of the industry generally. There would be at least 18,000 other members of the organization fully employed. But because these 200 men may have stopped work without consulting the management committee and may have refused to obey the instructions of the central management committee, an application can be made to the Arbitration Court and on the evidence adduced the court may declare that a strike exists in the industry and impose on the whole organization a fine up to £1,000. Something, of course, may be 3aid in mitigation of the offence and the fine may be merely a nominal sum.
– It may be treated as a merely technical offence.
– That is for the court to decide; but there is something which is even worse than the fine. If the court imposes a penalty of only £1 the employers will be in a position to lock out every one in the industry, and what, then, happens to the general public? If, because a couple of hundred men in the coal-mining industry decline to work, the supply of coal to the public is cut off, the result will be disastrous to the Commonwealth. Surely our Arbitration Act should enable us to prevent contending parties from inflicting hardship on the general community. Yet to-day we are so framing our legislation that, in certain circumstances, the utmost injury will be inflicted on the general community. This clause provides a, penalty up to £1,000 if an officer of a union is responsible for bringing about a cessation of work, although his action may not be endorsed by his organization. There can be only one result from such a law. It means good-bye to arbitration. The existing section which makes theorganization liable for what is done by its committee, of management is quite sufficient, and, as it is impossible to prove the existence of a lockout, it applies only to organizations of employees. But this bill goes further. If a judge inflicts a fine and declares the existence of a strike, this will enable employers to lock out every one in the industry if they are so inclined. A further penalty may be imposed upon the union if it is found that a section of an organization has stopped work on the advice of an officer. Although the organization may itself take step’s to expel that officer, and disavow the stoppage of work, a fine may be imposed upon it up to a maximum of £100. The maximum penalty is £1,000. but it is reduced to £100 if the union removes from office and expels the persons concerned in bringing about the stoppage of work. But that is not all. The provision goes further. Proposed new sub-section 4 provides -
Where the court has been satisfied that an organization found guilty of an offence to which this section applies has, as specified in the last preceding sub-section, removed from any office or position and (where they were members of the organization) expelled the persons by reason of whose acts the organization has been found guilty and has imposed a penalty in accordance with that sub-section and, within twelve months of the conviction any of those persons are appointed to any office in the organization or any branch thereof or admitted to membership of the committee of management or of the organization the organization shall be guilty of an offence. Penalty: One thousand pounds.
The honorable member for Dalley spoke last night upon this sub-section, and as the penalty it seeks to impose is exceedingly harsh, I desire to say a few words in connexion with it. I have already instanced the case in which 200 men in a miner’s lodge have done something in contravention of the act, and the organization, all of whose members number 20,000, has taken steps to expel the officers of the lodge involved. It cannot merely fine them. To-day many unions impose penalties on their members. Some miners’ lodges impose fines on wheelers for ceasing work. Under this bill an organization is compelled to expel those of its members who contravene the provisions of section S, and if it does so the penalty on the organization itself may be mitigated; but if the members of the union so expelled are re-admitted to membership within twelve months, the fine is increased to £1,000”. I do not think any trade union in Australia is likely to submit to such treatment. Whatever fault may be found with a member of a union, even if he has to be dealt with in the manner prescribed by this bill, his fellow unionists and comrades will not see him deprived of a livelihood.
– Would that mean that they would be in agreement with what he had done?
– Even if they are not in agreement with what he has done they will not prevent him from earning a livelihood. Surely we ought not to go so far as to provide that the men who are to be punished under this provision must not remain members of their organizations. If we do, we shall be depriving them of their means of livelihood. Preference to unionists is provided for in our legislation, and obtains in most industries, even in some where there is no award. Where men are paid by results, employers prefer to give the work available to unionists. Seeing that the organizations of Australia extend throughout the Commonwealth, where could a man who is put out of an organization secure employment in his calling? A man who has worked all his life as a coal miner does not feel inclined to take on any other occupation, but because of this legislation, unless he does so, he will be debarred from earning a livelihood. The very fact that a man has been prevented from being a member of a particular organization, will debar him from securing employment, because, not being a member of the union, he will not be permitted to work alongside members of a union. _
– But it must be remembered that he has deliberately broken the law knowing the penalty he would have to pay for breaking it.
– My claim is that a big organization cannot be held responsible for what an individual member of it does. Yet whatever step it takes to punish the member, it is still liable to a penalty of £1,000 for what he has done, unless he is expelled from the union and remains out of it for at least twelve months, in which case the fine is reduced to £100. I want to know what is to become of that man during that twelve months. He will certainly be deprived of his livelihood.
– When a man commits a crime and is committed to gaol he is fed.
– Yes, I was just about to say that this bill inflicts a dual penalty. As I understand British jurisprudence, there is only one penalty for a crime. Yet this bill seeks to impose a dual penalty. It is not fair to deprive a man of his livelihood because of some small offence, and to make the organization also responsible for his act. When a man is expelled from his union he becomes a non-unionist, and cannot get employment.
– Why not? Surely his fellow unionists would not object to his employment in those circumstances?
– I remind the honorable member that many of the awards provide for preference to unionists.
– Only in a very few industries.
– It applies in very many. Preference to unionists and the last comer to be the first to go are two old-established principles in the mining industry. Arbitration has done so much good that we want it continued in the interests of everybody, but provisions of this kind, which will penalize only one side, are converting a court of equity and good conscience into a criminal court. It was never intended that an offender against an industrial law should be placed in the same category as offenders against the criminal code, yet these clauses will place a stigma upon the men to whom we must look for our future production. Both the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) who understands unionism and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) have supported honorable members on this side of the Chamber in their opposition to the clause, because of its certain detriment to the welfare of the country. In the circumstances, the Attorney-General would be well advised to withdraw the clause. I do not believe that he wishes to abolish the Arbitration Court, but that must be the effect of the legislation of which he is the sponsor. We cannot shut, our eyes to the fact that throughout Australia the employers are moving to change the conditions of industry?
– Do they not suggest an increase in output?
– In the coalmining industry the hewers are paid by results. They work hard for long hours, to produce as much as possible, so that they may earn the maximum amount. Yet, despite their output half the mines are closed, and others are working only intermittently.
– That is only half the story. The coal cannot be sold because the ships are not running.
– That has been the state of the industry for the last two years, and the honorable member cannot attribute it to the present trouble on the coastal ships. Although the AttorneyGeneral has had experience in the Arbitration Court, he has no knowledge of the practical working of the trade unions. We on this side of the chamber know that this clause can only cause trouble, and who, but the supporters of it, will be to blame if a. big industrial upheaval should result? The employers have asked the Government to repeal the arbitration legislation. . The Government has refused that request, but is saying in effect to the employers “Use these pinpricks to provoke a sectional stoppage of work, and then appeal to the court for a lockout.”
– The Government has to do what its bosses tell it. What is the use of appealing to it to withdraw the clause ?
– There may be something in that. If, as a result of these pin pricks a sectional stoppage occurs, the employers can manoeuvre a general lockout.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Hunter deprecated rash statements. I suggest to him that he might refrain from charging honorable members on this side of the chamber with being merely the the mouthpieces of the Employers’ Federation and of receiving their instructions from influential bodies outside this Parliament. The honorable member is fairminded, and I do not think he believes for a moment that his statements are correct. I beg of honorable members of the Opposition to give to honorable members on this side the same credit for honesty of purpose as they are taking to themselves. I personally have not been approached by any employer in regard to this bill, but, like other honorable members, have received sheaves of correspondence and suggestions from both unions and employers’ organizations. I have given consideration to all suggestions, and am now expressing what I honestly and conscientiously believe to be right in the interests of the great mass of the people. That, I am confident, is the attitude of all honorable members supporting the Government. The members of the Opposition would do well to abandon the idea that they have a monopoly of all the virtues.
In regard to the amendment, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) at an early stage in the consideration of this bill indicated that if he could emasculate it so as to make it useless he would have great pleasure in doing so.
– I deny that. If the honorable member takes credit for honesty, he had better make truthful statements.
– I repeat that the honorable member said that if he could emasculate the bill so as to make it useless -he would do so, because he was opposed to the arbitration system. As the honorable member now admits that he did make that statement I would point out that would be the effect, if not the intention, of his amendment. It would render this portion of the bill nugatory. The Attorney-General has explained why this paragraph has been inserted, and the deletion of it would be an invitation to the unions to adopt this particular method to subvert the other provisions of the bill and render themselves immune from penalties.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton.) and others have contended that if one unionist contumaciously and truculently insisted upon taking a certain course, against the advice of his fellowunionists, the court would impose upon the union a penalty of up to £100, even though it repudiated the individual offender and his actions. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) rightly interjected while the honorable member for Wannon was speaking that it was inconceivable that any court would penalize a whole union because of the contumacious and truculent attitude of one individual, or even two or three of its members. If it could be shown that the responsible persons in a union had resisted the actions of some rebellious individual or section, the court would assuredly take that into consideration.
– Of course it would, but the court would be bound to record judgment.
– Having regard to the circumstances, the court would realize that the ito ion was only technically at fault, and would impose a merely nominal penalty.
– Even if the penalty were only nominal, why should the union be a convict body?
– The honorable member’s argument being proved fallacious, he now makes a puerile interjection. It cannot be suggested that the imposition of a nominal fine for a merely technical offence of this character would place any stigma upon a union. The fact should not be lost sight of that these are maximum penalties. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) spoke of the necessity to guard the public interest.
Surely it is conceded that honorable members on this side are equally interested in the public welfare. In my electorate I am more concerned with the interests of the general public than with the interests of the employers and employees, and I am prepared to do any reasonable thing that the honorable member can suggest in their interests. I am confident that the judiciary of this country may be trusted to take a sane view, and preserve the interests of the contending parties, the employers, the employees, and of the general public. The court would be careful not to declare a strike in any industry if that strike would inflict hardship on the community. There must be some system of arbitration, and some one must be trusted, arid it was with pleasure that 1 have heard honorable members opposite expressing confidence in the administration of our law courts.
If the problematical person who has received so much sympathy from honorable members opposite is aware that he is subject to the provisions of this measure if he incites people to strike or to refuse work, he will know that he is acting unlawfully, and is surely entitled to receive what is his due. I beg honorable members not to expend all their sympathy on such an unworthy individual. Although the imposition of a penalty may bc a hardship to him, it is not comparable with the misery and poverty that he may inflict upon thousands of people by plunging them into unemployment. That being so, I submit that the penalty provided is both reasonable and a deterrent.
.- The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) appears to think that no matter what laws this Parliament may pass the judges will use their own discretion, and extend a leniency to offenders almost beyond the limits of the law. If that is so, what is the necessity for this clause? Why not leave these matters entirely to the discretion of the judge?
– Parliament must provide some guide.
– We can quite understand that these are maximum penalties, and that judges may impose the minimum penalties. But the honorable member for Warringah cannot conceive that some employee, actuated by a desire to assist his fellows, and entirely innocent of the fact that he is breaking the law, might do something which would render him liable to this penalty. As the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) stated, to put themselves on the right side of the law and avoid the imposition of the maximum penalty, unions would have to expel any members offending the law. That would place the employer in a quandary, as he is bound, by the awards of the court, to give preference to unionists, and he would have either to ostracize such men, or employ them and break the law. Just think of the penalty that such men would have to bear. It would not only be a fine of £100 or £1,000, but indefinite unemployment.
– Should he not receive some punishment?
– Possibly; but that provided is altogether disproportionate, and fit only for criminals. In earlier years nien were deported to Tasmania for minor offences; but even their punishment is not comparable with the causing of a man to be faced with the prospect of unemployment for the remainder of his life. No greater hardship can be placed upon a man than that of depriving him of employment for an indefinite period.
– I realize that, and that is why I deplore industrial unrest.
– Yet thi3 Government is introducing legislation that will extend industrial unrest. When this legislation becomes law the big federations of labour, such as the Australian Workers Union, the Miners Federation, the Waterside Workers Federation, and the Seamen’s Union, will cut adrift from the operations of the Arbitration Court, and so render this legislation futile. Those unions will be strong enough to fight the employer when the necessity arises, without the assistance of arbitration, but the small unions will be in a deplorable position. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) said that he would do anything he could to improve the bill. I hope that he will stick to his guns and press his amendment, even though it is inadequate, and that the Government will co-operate and do something tangible to bring about industrial peace in Australia.
.- The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) waxed indignant when the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) asserted that representatives of the Employers’ Federation have been constantly in attendance during the debate on this bill, and that they have been frequently interviewed by honorable members opposite. During this debate T have seen the Attorney-General collaborate with members of the Employers’ Federation and with a representative of the Australian Chamber of Commerce. This is undoubtedly one of the best bosses’ clauses that has ever been propounded, and I can easily visualize the friends of the Attorney-General endeavouring to persuade him to refuse to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers).
– Don’t be too ridiculous.
– I am not being ridiculous; I am stating a common-sense deduction, based on my observation. If that sort of thing is done openly while Parliament is sitting, we can imagine what will be done when those employers’ representatives are able to interview Ministers in their private offices. The only defence for this clause that has been advanced by honorable members opposite is that its penalties will not be imposed by the court. Why are the penalties included in the bill if honorable members are so confident that the court will not impose them? That sort of talk may be all very well when delivered to a partisan crowd from the public platform, but it carries no weight in this chamber. If the honorable member for Fawkner were pleading in a criminal case he would not be able to put forward an argument like that, and get away with it. The Attorney-General has said on more than one occasion during this debate that penalties must be imposed because, when strikes take place, the union officials responsible run away and leave somebody else in their place. Knowing something of the calibre of the men who have conducted the industrial fights in this country in the past, I can say without any hesitation that they are not the type of men to desert their posts. I hurl the insult back in the honorable gentleman’s face. These men are not curs; they do not run away in the middle of a fight, and the honorable gentleman cannot give one specific instance during the last fifteen years when anything of the kind has occurred. The only time union leaders were ever ahsent during industrial trouble was when they had been sent to gaol under the penal clauses of the Arbitration Act. The Attorney-General referred to information which he had obtained from Senator Pearce, a one-time leader of labour organizations. It is well known that the most bitter opponent of any movement, and the most treacherous enemy it can have, is the traitor who has deserted the cause. I have no doubt that Senator Pearce, having deserted the Labour movement, will now try to malign the organization of which he was once a member, and which lifted him from obscurity into place and power. Actually, he should be the last to furnish the Attorney-General with information which might be used to the detriment of the workers. If Senator Pearce had remained true to his party, and was to-day an industrial leader, the Attorney-General would be quite prepared to make him a victim of this legislation. It is only when apostate “ rats “ of this kind suit the purpose of the Attorney-General, that they are made use of, and allowed to supply information with which to strengthen his argument. Those sections in the present act which impose pains and penalties have been adequate in the past. In spite of what some honorable members may say, the Arbitration Act has done much to preserve industrial peace. Now, however, if my advice is asked, I shall tell industrial organizations to have nothing to do with a system of arbitration which is being used to break down their standard of living, and to impose on them penalties which cannot be used against the employers. Several times I have asked the Attorney-General to substantiate the statement he made during his secondreading speech to the effect that a lockout is easier to prove than a strike. Only a very small percentage of the employers of this country are registered under the Arbitration Act. This clause would affect very few of the employers, but even if they were all affected, I still say that they will be able to lock out their employees whenever they like without danger of prosecution. This clause has been inserted by a class-conscious Attorney-General, a member of a classconscious government, and it has been designed with the idea of breaking up the workers’ organizations. Both the AttorneyGeneral, and the honorable member for Warringah, spoke of the possibility of a man being expelled from his union. Let me tell them that it will require a greater bribe than a promise of immunity from a fine of £1,000 to induce unions to expel from their ranks officers in whom they have confidence. Such things might be done in the employers’ associations by men who consider money more than they do individuals, but they could not be done in a workers’ organization. But assuming that a man had done something in disobedience to the direction of his colleagues, I do not think that even then they would expel him from the organization, and deprive him of his means of livelihood. It is incorrect to say that a man who has been expelled has the same chance of obtaining work as the non-unionist at the present time. The non-unionist can join a union at any time he likes, but the man who has been expelled has not that right. Personally, I have no time for the non-unionist who, while refusing to assist the cause, is prepared to accept the benefits which others have won for him. It is evident that others feel the same way about it, because the doctor or the lawyer who does not join his union gets a very rough time. The doctor who does not belong to the British Medical Association has all kinds of obstacles placed in his way, first to prevent him from getting a practice, and then to hinder him in his work if he does get one. Clause 8 is, to my mind, the most dangerous clause in the bill. The Attorney-General said that this clause was necessary because of the pains and penalties imposed under section 6 and 6a. Without it, he said, it would be impossible to obtain convictions. He is like an enthusiastic policeman after a strike, out to obtain a conviction at any price. If he cannot get a guilty man, he will “ frame up “ an innocent one.
– Does the honorable member say that it is the practice among the police in this country to “ frame up “ innocent men ?
Mr.LAZZARINI.- No; I do not say that. I said an enthusiastic, and I should have added, unscrupulous policeman. I do not say that policemen, as a body, do things like that. Moreover, I used the words “ after a strike.” Clause 8 is more severe than any provision in an ordinary criminal code, under which an accused person is given the benefit of the doubt until he is proved guilty, and all kinds of safeguards are provided for the protection of his rights; but under this clause, even when the innocence of an organization is patent to everybody, the penalty may still be imposed. It seems to me that the Attorney-General’s defence of this clause is merely an effort to bolster up a weak case. He could not give one concrete example in support of his assertion that it is easier to prove the existence of a lockout than a strike. He has endeavoured on several occasions to support this provision by telling fairy tales; but I now challenge him to give a specific instance in which the existence of a lockout has been established. Even if he could quote two or three, or even half a dozen, that would not be sufficient to justify these drastic penal provisions. Can the member give an instance in which a committee of management has disowned responsibility for a strike, and placed the onus upon some one else? If he cannot, he should withdraw the assertion which he has made on several occasions. The clause, in its present form, is wholly obnoxious to me, but it would be slightly less objectionable if the amendment of the honorable member for Wannon, which I intend to support, were adopted.
.- A stranger visiting the chamber to-day would have some difficulty in realizing that we, as a deliberative assembly, were discussing the best methods of achieving industrial peace. Although I have been absent from the chamber for some days I have carefully read, so far as I have been able, the speeches that have been delivered, and, in doing so, have been struck with the absence of any note of conciliation.
– If the honorable member had been here, he might have heard, it.
– A note of conciliation has been absent from the discussion on this subject. This bill has been framed with the object of securing industrial peace.
– Industrial unrest.
– I believe it has been framed with the object of achieving industrial peace; but the attitude of the Opposition has made it very difficult to discuss its provisions in a conciliatory way. Before the debate commenced, I knew that organized Labour had issued a manifesto in which the proposed amendments to the bill were described. I asked the secretary of the Trades Hall Council to send me a copy of the manifesto, which he promptly did, and I was very disappointed to find in the forefront of the manifesto the statement that “ The bill had been deliberately designed with the object of smashing trades unionism.” Expressions of that kind are to be deplored by every reasonable and fairminded man. I have already expressed the belief that the bill has been honestly framed with the intention of promoting industrial peace.
– Has the honorable member read it through?
– Yes, very carefully, and I have considered every clause. I have also studied the manifesto issued by organized Labour, and its objection to the various amendments, which seem to be very ill-founded. I approach a discussion of this subject perfectly unbiased. I am not committed to any amendment in this “bill, or to support any portion of our present Arbitration Act. I have been sent here by my constituents to consider measures of this kind absolutely on their merits.
– So are honorable members on this side.
– Honorable members opposite are not as free as are honorable members on this side of the chamber to consider this bill on its merits. The manifesto to which I have referred was issued by a representative body, including the executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, representatives of the Parliamentary Labour party, Federal and State, as well as the executives of various industrial bodies. I do not think that my honorable friends opposite will dispute the fact that the manifesto, which they have doubtless all read, contains the considered opinions of organized labour in Australia on this amending bill.
– On what does the honorable member base that assertion ?
– On the statement at the beginning of the manifesto, which claims to express the views of organized labour in Australia.
– The honorable member should discuss clause 8, which is now before the committee, and should not deliver a second-reading speech.
– As the debate on the motion for the second reading concluded earlier than I anticipated, I was precluded from speaking on that motion. Almost every honorable member opposite who has spoken has said that the object of the measure is to crush trade unionism. They have also said that we are bound hand and foot, and are compelled to express certain views.
– The opinion of the honorable member is not any more reliable than ours.
– Surely the manifesto claims to express the views of organized labour. Has there been any expressions from honorable members opposite which differs from those expressed in the manifesto ?
-. - We are in agreement with the views expressed in it.
– Honorable members opposite are not free to differ. This is a difficult provision, and I find it hard to make up my mind in regard to it. I have listened carefully to see whether there has been any argument sufficiently strong, in my opinion, to justify the deletion of paragraph b of proposed subsection 2, in connexion with which the honorable member for Wannon has moved an amendment. My mind is open, and if, in my opinion, a proposal submitted by any honorable member opposite is a good one, 1 shall vote for it. My desire is to do everything possible to secure industrial peace. I believe that is the wish of every honorable member ; but why should we fly at one another’s throats in our endeavour to arrive at the best method of obtaining industrial peace. I have to consider paragraph b of proposed sub-section 2 in the light of what I consider the underlying fundamental principles of the bill. The object of legislation of this kind, as I understand it, is to outlaw the application of force for the settlement of disputes.
– Not lockouts.
– Yes, to outlaw industrial war. Whenever power is concentrated in the hands of an individual, or associations of individuals, there is a tendency to use that power tyranically In the past there has been a tendency on the part of organized capital and organized labour to use this immense power tyrannically, and to the detriment of the community in general. Legislation of this character is framed to provide a means of settling disputes between these two great forces by conciliation, and if conciliation is impossible, by arbitration.
– Then by the big stick
– The big stick is absolutely essential in all restrictive legislation. When the State issues a command it must be obeyed, and it is necessary, in order to ensure obedience to that command, to introduce what the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) terms the big stick. These are obvious and fundamental truths. We propose to say to those organizations which are prone to use their power tyrannically, “ We shall not allow you to resort to force in your own interests. In the interests of the community we have established a means for settling disputes whenever they arise between you.” Various aspects of the question are dealt with in this bill. The particular clause under discussion imposes certain legislative restrictions - reasonable restrictions, we contend - upon the tyrannical use of power by both of those two great forces. We say to both organized labour and organized capital that if they are guilty of a breach of these provisions they must be punished.
– I rise to order. Will other honorable members have extended to them in the discussion of this clause privileges as great as those of which the honorable member for Fawkner is being allowed to avail himself?
– The honorable member for Darling has not stated what, in my opinion, is a point of order. The honorable member for Fawkner is only answering arguments that have been used in relationto this clause by honorable members of the Opposition.
– I am endeavouring to discuss paragraph b of the proposed new sub-section 2 in the light of what I conceive to be the fundamental principles that underlie the whole of the bill. The principal objection of some of my honorable friends opposite appears to be that the punishment does not fit, but on the contrary it is too severe for the crime.
– That matter does not come under clause 8.
– Paragraph 6, as I understand it, renders organizations liable for the actions of a member of the committee of management of the whole organization, or even of a branch. Honorable members opposite argue that that is unfair. If the proposed new subsection is passed, and the organization is made so liable, what will be the effect? In the first place, it will make an organization more careful in selecting men who, by their actions, can render it liable to the penalties provided by the bill; and in the second place it will have the tendency to make the organization itself exceedingly careful in regard to the attitude it adopts towards the actions of any of its officials.
Honorable members opposite have sneered at the proposal to leave it to the court to say what punishment shall be inflicted. It is absolutely necessary that a court which hears and determines whether a breach of the law has been committed shall decide, on the facts of the particular case, what is a fitting penalty. It is utterly unthinkable that if some obscure official in a remote branch of a great organization should be guilty of any of the offences specified in the bill, and that organization should discountenance it immediately and deal with the delinquent -
– It can be fined £100.
– It may be fined £100, in the same way that a man who is found guilty of manslaughter may be imprisoned for as long as twelve years or only until the rising of the court. The severity or otherwise of the penalty depends upon the facts of the particular case.
– The honorable member is descending from the sublime to the ridiculous.
– I am not.That is the principle which underlies this par ticular class of legislation. There may be cases which justify the imposition of a substantial fine upon an organization; and provision for such cases must therefore be made. The court may be trusted not to behave in an idiotic fashion. I am quite sure that not an honorable member opposite believes that if an organization should act in a reasonable manner the court would think of imposing anything but the most nominal penalty. .
– Even supposing the fine was £1 instead of £100, what difference would there be?
– Does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggest that a great organization would be so sensitive as to resent the imposition of the nominal fine of £1 for the most trivial technical offence, and say that an indelible blot had been placed upon its fair escutcheon?
– It is a question of ethics.
– I have never been a member of a trade union, but I have read fairly extensively the history of the movement, and I cannot think that a trade union would resent theimposition of a nominal fine for an offence which did not involve the slightest moral turpitude.
– Is it morally right or wrong that a fine should be imposed, no matter how. small it might be, for a technical breach of which the union was not guilty ?
– My friend must see that even on the facts of the particular case we are discussing there is no. suggestion of moral guilt on the part of the organization.
– But a conviction is recorded.
– Technically there is an offence against the statute. No one knows better than the honorable member for Dalley that what I am saying is true. No moral offence is suggested. The imposition of a merely nominal fine is conclusive proof that, in the opinion of the court, the offence was purely a technical one, but that a fine must be imposed in order to comply with the strict letter of the law.
– The union must be made to appear in the light of a criminal.
– I do not think that many honorable members will share the view that this will place the brand of crime upon an organization.
– It will.
– I do not propose to pursue that matter any further. All this pother about the sensitiveness of trade unions appears to me to be merely a storm in a tea cup.
– Would the honorable member care to have a conviction recorded against him for the act of some person over whom he had no control, and for whom he was not responsible, and a fine imposed upon him, even though the amount was only1s.?
– The Leader of the Opposition is begging the question ; he is assuming that an organization has no responsibility. By this very legislation, organizations are being made responsible for the actions of their officers.
– That is where the legislation is wrong.
– The point of view of the Government is that, in order that unions may be controlled to that extent, they must be held responsible for the actions of even their humblest officers. It is simply a phase of the question of principal and agent.
– Oh, no!
– To my mind, it is. I may be entirely wrong ; but in my judgment it is well that the court should be given such a power to exercise if and when it is found to be necessary.
– The principal act goes far enough in that respect.
– From my point of view, this makes more complete the control of the court over organizations of both capital and labour. I repeat that I am not committed to any view.
– The honorable member has made a delightfully impartial and open-minded speech!
– I have made a speech which to my mind is reasonable and consistent with the views that I have held for a very long time. I am not tied, either directly or by implication, to any view. I believe my honorable friends opposite will admit that I listen respectfully to what they have to say. I am frequently influenced bythe arguments which they adduce. As we proceed with this measure I shall continue to listen with an open mind, committed to no view; and by my vote I shall give effect to every view that commends itself to my judgment.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat is highly respected on all sides because of his great legal knowledge; but one might reasonably have expected that he would deal with the clause in detail, seeing that he practically made a second-reading speech. He might have shown, for instance, how the existence of lockouts could be established, but he did not deal with that point. He said that if unions were punished for the actions of individual members they would be more careful in the selection of their officials. What would be wrong in carrying that argument to its logical conclusion, and saying that if women were punished, for the sins of their husbands it would make them more careful about the husband they chose! He emphasized his contention that honorable members opposite were free to use their own judgment on all matters discussed in this chamber. Surely he must have had little experience of the dictatorial attitude adopted by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) during the brief period in which he has been a member of this chamber. When the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) endeavoured to exercise his own judgment on the bill, the honorable member for Warringah administered verbal chastisement as a reminder of what might happen to him in his electorate. One noticed that when the right honorable member for North Sydney had an opportunity to hit back, his stature of 5 feet 4 inches shrunk to about 4 feet 5 inches, as a result of the chastisement. I am anticipating that a somewhat similar experience will befall the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who appeared to resent criticism from the honorable member for Warringah, who undoubtedly controls the purse strings of the Nationalist party. Yet the honorable member for Fawkner tells us that honorable members opposite are free to express their own opinions.
– The honorable member for Warringah does not control the purse strings of his party, but he has a watching brief here for those who do controlthem.
– That is quite evident. We are told that the Government desires to lift industrial arbitration from the depths into which it has sunk, to a plane that will benefit not only the industrial sections but also commerce in general. But when one analyses the speeches made on the bill, and particularly the remarks of the Attorney-General, one is forced to consider whether the real object of the measure is not to bring about the total destruction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I contend that that is the logical conclusion to be drawn from the debate. When the honorable member for Wannon asked the Attorney-General what would happen to the organizations that were not registered under the act, he said that they would be left to the jurisdiction of the State tribunals, and that this bill would not apply to them in any way. I suggest to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) that if the penal clauses are passed the labour organizations will not remain under the Commonwealth act. Obviously they will immediately register under State acts.
– Would it not be much easier for them to refrain from committing the offences mentioned?
– I intend to deal with that matter. If the bill is passed, the Arbitration Court judges will probably have to beg for work, because the unions will immediately withdraw their registration under the Commonwealth act. The penal clauses seek to create offences where there are none. The unions could be made liable to penalties because of the action of many persons, and it is fair to ask for a definition of “ an officer.” Webster defines an officer as one charged with a duty, an agent, or a minister. Last evening the Attorney-General tried to convince the committee that a shop steward, representing probably 2,000 men, would not be an officer of a union. I do not know by what process of reasoning he arrived at that conclusion.
– I said that a shop steward might or might not be an officer. It would depend on the facts of the particular case and the rules of the organization.
– That is a legal quibble. The fact that a man was empowered to represent, say, 2,0u0 men, would make him an officer.
– He might represent 20,000 men.
– Yes, the number is immaterial. If he would not be charged with a duty who would be? There can be no doubt that he would be an officer. Let us assume that an officer of a branch of an industrial union did something contrary to the statute, and that the executive of the organization immediately repudiated the act of that individual, and went to the limit of its power by expelling him from the organization. That body would not be relieved of its liability under the act. It would still be liable to the reduced penalty of £100, instead of the full penalty of £1,000. The psychology of the masses is such that the agents of disruption, whether from Russia or any other part of the world, can work their way into an organization and obtain representative jobs in some obscure part of an industry. Those individuals, when the opportunity offers, can smash a union by a process of irritation strikes. They have no money to pay fines that may be imposed under the act.
– Does not this very clause give the unions power to deal with such worms as those?
– Surely the honorable member has not read the clause; otherwise he would know that it does not give them that power. But even if it did, the fact that an organization had dealt with such an individual would not relieve it of its liability.
– It would in such a case be guilty of merely a technical offence.
– The court would have no alternative but to record a conviction, whether the penalty imposed was ls. or £100. The court would have no discretionary power to say that the unions were in no way responsible for the. action of the individual, and should not be fined. There should be some via media. Surely honorable members opposite do not desire to make an offence where none has been committed. That is the position that would be brought about by this clause.
– That should appeal to the honorable member for Fawkner.
– He certainly understands legal interpretations ; but I venture to suggest that in his heart he realizes the injustice of the clause.
– Does the honorable member suggest that I would vote for it if I felt it to be unjust?
– Will the honorable member say whether he thinks that the innocent should be punished for the acts of the guilty?
– Certainly not; but I have explained my view of the clause.
– The honorable member knows that the law should not only be just and impartial, but it should also appear so to the public. Where is the appearance of justice when a person known to be innocent is convicted of an offence? The clause will not bear analysis. It is claimed that judges of the Arbitration Court would not take advantage of this provision; but I say again that they would have no option in the matter. They might not be called upon to administer the penal provisions. Perhaps the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), who is a justice of the peace, and is not particularly in love with trade unions, would be called upon to adjudicate. If an attempt to incite or encourage a strike could be proved, a conviction would have to be recorded. That is the position, and it is grossly unfair. Any legislation framed on those lines must have for its objective - as has been stated by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) - the driving of organized labour out of the Commonwealth courts into the State courts, wherein, at least, fairness and justice do exist.
.- I have listened with respect and interest to the speech of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) ; but I must frankly confess that I am amazed at the line of reasoning which he has applied to this bill. I am forced into the position of having to comment upon the fact that, although he has had a long association with this Parliament, he did not take the opportunity of contributing to the secondreading debate.
– I explained why.
– Certain opportunities were available to the honorable member to speak. To-day he has alluded to the fact that this committee lacks those deliberative qualities which should characterize it He has taken the Oppo sition to task because of the arguments that it has directed against the bill. With due respect to the honorable member in his strictures upon members of the Labour party, let me say that his attitude savours to a degree of selfrighteousness.
– I hope not.
– Honorable members on this side are justified in referring to this bill as a class measure. To suggest that we have been dragooned into an attitude of opposition to it is absolutely misleading. . When the bill was first introduced, and we had the opportunity of analysing it, we did not wait for. direction. Before there was any attempt at consultation, we went out and opposed it, solely because of the drastic nature of the proposed amendments. I, myself, have addressed scores of meetings, not of Labour unions only, but of professional and non-manual workers, who, so far as New South Wales is concerned, are united in their opposition to the bill. It has to be remembered that one result of the Opposition’s criticism has been the drafting of certain amendments to the bill to mitigate its drastic nature. Therefore, we are justified in claiming that the force of our argument and attack has been already demonstrated in the change of front of the Government.
– That is as it should be.
– Two clauses of the bill are to be amended as a result of the attack of the Opposition. Are we not justified in treating this bill as a class measure? During the last few days there have been present within the precincts of this building the representatives of the Employers’ Associations of Australia. On the other hand, the representatives of the unions have refrained from being represented here, no doubt because they realize the hopelessness of protesting against the bill. They have sought to amend our arbitration laws on a number of occasions, but, unfortunately, an examination of the bill conclusively shows that a very small proportion of their suggestions have been adopted.
– The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) publicly invited them to confer with him.
– They interviewed the Attorney-General, but practically every suggestion that they made was turned down.
– The majority of the requests made by the representatives of labour were rejected. I admit, in fairness, that one or two suggestions have been incorporated in this measure; but whether they are in the form that the unions desired will be disclosed when the clauses concerned are under discussion. In my opinion, the form in which they appear in the bill is defective. It is very evident that the great majority of the provisions are in accord with the expressed wishes of the organized employers of Australia. This is borne out by the utterances that they have made through the press and in communications which have been distributed among honorable members, and, therefore, I say that the criticism that we have directed at the bill has been more than justified. The statement of the honorable member for Fawkner that this committee should be a deliberative assembly is a reflection on members on that side, because, during the debate, not more than a dozen of them have contributed to it. They have shown an attitude of complete indifference to the appeals that have been made from this side of the chamber. The deliberative character of this assembly has disappeared. Important measures are introduced, but, so far as honorable members behind the Government are concerned, although they number 51, not more than twelve express any opinions about them. We on this side are, therefore, justified in expressing our contempt of the attitude of the supporters of the Government to measures of this description. They take without question what the Government submits to them. They do not attempt to exchange opinions with us. They are thus fast destroying the utility of Parliament. If this institution is not to be a deliberative assembly, it might just as well go out of existence. There are certain phases of the proposed amendments that have not received the attention that they deserve. The honorable member for Fawkner and other honorable members have ignored the fact that an entirely novel principle of law is to be applied in the management of trade unions. This clause provides for a dual punishment, a penalty that would not be tolerated under any other jurisdiction of law. An individual may be fined up to £50 for doing something in the nature of a strike, and the organization concerned, to escape a heavy fine, must expel him from its membership. In other words, the organization is liable to a fine of £100, andthe recalcitrant individual is liable to a fine of £50 and expulsion from the organization. This bill is of a coercive and penal character, the element of conciliation being entirely absent from it. Arbitration based on coercion must fail. The test of the effectiveness of the bill is whether it has secured the general acceptance of those who are to be governed by it. If it is carried in its present form, it will be resisted by organized unionism. It may be resisted in several ways. It may he resisted by the organizations withdrawing from the Arbitration Court, and placing their operations under State jurisdiction. It may be resisted by the organizations allowing themselves to be deregistered and functioning outside the pale of the Arbitration Court. Honorable members behind the Government who are fathering the coercive provisions of this bill are helping to destroy the existing system of arbitration. That fact is inescapable. The existence of the arbitration system at present depends upon its acceptance by the parties concerned to the extent that they voluntarily register under the arbitration law and operate under it. This bill must break down that system, because it will bring a number of national anomalies in its train. If the unions are forced to the State jurisdiction, we shall not have that economic uniformity which the Federal Arbitration Court has to a large extent brought about, by placing the States upon an equal basis.
– Does the honorable member think it is possible to maintain compulsory arbitration without coercion?
– The Federal Arbitration Court has been more successful in its operations than the civil courts. We have hundreds of thousands of men governed by industrial awards, and there has been very little trouble, considering the extent of organized labour. Admitting that there are penalties under the law as it exists to-day, the fact remains that this bill involves a new principle. It provides for a dual punishment.
– In what way?
– As I have said an individual may be fined for doing something in the nature of a strike, and he may subsequently be expelled from the organization.
– That is part of the punishment inflicted by the law.
– Clause 6 provides a maximum penalty of £50 for any individual who does something in the nature of a lockout or strike. Clause 8 provides a penalty of £100 for the organization, and also requires the expulsion of the individual concerned. There is a dual punishment. It may seem well to say that this provision has to bear the interpretation of the court ; but I submit that there is another aspect to it. which is entirely novel, and has not yet been referred to. The organization, under this clause, is invited to expel an officer who has ordered, encouraged, advised, or incited its members to refuse to offer or accept employment. The definition of offences, sofar as strikes are concerned,is being considerably widened. The organization is invited to expel the individual concerned, and, in effect, this clause constitutes a trade union a court. It gives the union power to try its members.
– The unions have no option. They must expel the individual concerned.
– If the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) will look at proposed new section 70a, he will see that the organization must give a member who has infringed the law a fair and reasonable opportunity of being heard.
– Assuming that a member of the committee of management has committed an offence, for which he may be charged, the union is legally authorized to expel him. I admit that he has an appeal from the union to the court, but nevertheless a trade union is constituted, for the time being, a court of justice, and has power to inflict penalties upon individuals. That is something new and extraordinary.
– If an organization, after hearing the charge against an in dividual, considered that it was not justified in expelling him, would it still be liable to a penalty of £1,000 ?
– If the court agreed with its decision it would not be liable. The court would decide the point on the evidence submitted to it.
– That only shows the quicksands intowhich our arbitration system is slipping. With the multiplicity of penalties and the confusion of principles which we are introducing, the workers will never know Avhere they are.
– If a union decided that it was not justified in expelling a member, it must take the responsibility for its decision.
– Let us take the converse case. If a union desired to make a scapegoat of an individual, would it be fair to allow it to do so? Such an action would be altogether out of harmony with the principles which should animate the administration of justice. From the legal standpoint this provision is entirely indefensible. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) had something to say about the sanctions of law. I ask him whether a provision like this exists in any other jurisdiction. If a board of directors of a company decided upon a certain course of action and one member subsequently repudiated the decision, would the board be held liable for his action ? - No one would suggest that for a moment. But the Government is asking us to agree to the application of that principle to trade unionism. The same legal principles that govern the administration of company law should govern the administration of arbitration law.
– Not necessarily.
– I believe in one law for all sections of the community. Trade unions should not be marked out for special penalties, nor made subject to extraordinary principles of law. The principle upon which this democracy should be governed is one law for all classes. That has been the principle of British justice for many years, and it is entitled to respect.
– I agree with the honorable member. It is a fundamental principle. Apparently we agree upon principles, but disagree upon the application of them.
– This provision is unjust and inequitable, for it imposes peculiar penalties upon one class of the community.
– The honorable member is perfectly entitled to his opinion.
– My opinion is also the opinion which 600,000 trade unionists in Australia have articulated through their organizations.
– How can you articulate the opinion of 600,000 people?
– How does the honorable member articulate the opinion of his constituents?
– They have elected me r.o do so.
– And the elected representatives of the trade unions of Australia have condemned this bill as coercive and inequitable. I challenge the honorable member for Warringah, who seems to have taken upon himself the role of Mrs. Caudle, of curtainlecture fame, to name one trade union which has declared to him that it is favorable to this bill. The honorable member is not a member of a trade union, and is not entitled to speak with authority on behalf of trade unions. Prom where did he obtain his knowledge of industrialism ? The only union with which lae is officially connected, so far as I know, is the consultative union of the Nationalist party, to which the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) referred in such an interesting way some weeks ago.
– Nearly all our arbitration measures have been introduced to Parliament by lawyers.
– The Queensland arbitration bill was not introduced by a lawyer.
– Even were we to admit the accuracy of the interjection of the honorable member for Warringah, it would prove nothing, for the legal members of a Cabinet usually consult the wishes of their colleagues before introducing legislation. That was certainly the practice of the late Hon. B. R. Wise and others who have been deeply interested in industrial arbitration. The interjection of the honorable member was quite irrelevant. In my opinion, this clause cannot be justified from any standpoint. To me it savours of Jedburgh justice. The alleged criminal is hanged first and tried afterwards.
– I am sorry that the Government will not accept my amendment. I am as anxious as anybody to do all that I can to ensure that the awards of the court shall be observed by both parties, and I support the other provisions of this bill with the object of achieving that desirable end, except paragraph 6 of proposed sub-section 2. Most honorable members who have spoken on the clause have dealt with it in general terms. The honorable member for Fawkner, for instance, made an excellent speech except on this paragraph. As for the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), he bounced into this Parliament a short while ago, and immediately adopted the role of lecturer, not only to the Opposition, but to his own colleagues. I looked on with some admiration as he walked into this chamber, on the arm of his sponsor, the right honorable member for North Sydney, to take the oath ; and I listened with some amazement a short while afterwards when he took the right honorable member to task for daring to express views which differed from those of some other honorable members on this side of the chamber. The honorable member for Fawkner, from a wide experience and broad outlook on life, adopts quite a different attitude in this chamber from that of the honorable member for Warringah, who might well take him as a model. The honorable member for Warringah has been too long attached to the party machine to be accepted as a desirable lecturer on politics. He had better drop the role.
– I shall express my views in my own way, irrespective of the views of the honorable member for Wannon.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).I ask the honorable member for Wannon not to pursue that subject any further.
– I urge honorable members to accept my amendment, otherwise they will make it possible for a penalty to be imposed upon an organization because one officer or member of its committee of management does something which is in the nature of a strike or lockout, even though the organization, by an overwhelming majority disapproves of his action and is unable to thwart his efforts to cause trouble. I shall not stand for a provision of that description. We talk a good deal about conciliation in this country, and we should make our legislation as conciliatory as possible. But paragraph b of proposed sub-section 2 will have a directly opposite effect. A court should not be able to impose even a nominal penalty upon an organization in circumstances such as I have related. Under this sub-clause the court is bound to record a conviction although the union may have succeeded in preventing a strike.
– The courts have power to dismiss trivial cases without recording convictions.
– Something might be said for this legislation if it were carried to the step of getting at the actual culprit, but as the provision now stands the Attorney-General will admit that an organization cannot be punished if it determines secretly to bring about a strike or do something in the nature of a strike and has its intentions carried into effect by a member who is not on its committee of management, or on a committee of management of a branch, or is not an officer. It is very difficult to reach the real culprit. I sympathize with the Attorney-General in his endeavour to draft legislation that will do so, but I cannot support his present proposal to hold culpable an organization which has done all in its power to prevent a strike. It may be due to my limited vision, but I feel that it is not in the best interests of industry to pass this provision, and that it will not achieve the purpose the Attorney-General has set out to achieve. I regret that the Government cannot see its way to withdraw from a bill which aims at conciliation and arbitration such an obnoxious clause as this.
– Honorable members, and particularly those who sit in Opposition, have frequently been charged with reflecting on the judiciary. But, to my mind, this clause is a reflection on the integrity of the judiciary inasmuch as it takes away the discretionary power given Uy the existing act. According to the
Attorney-General, the courts have power in common law to dismiss cases of a trivial nature, but .under this bill it will be impossible for them to treat anything as a trivial offence if it is once established that an individual has incited a strike.
– The powers of the judiciary are to be found in the statutes that lay down the procedure to be observed in the various courts that handle these matters. They are not contained in this bill.
– I take it that no procedure is laid down in this particular bill.
– No. The ordinary forms of summons and procedure that apply in the courts of the States are adopted.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral suggest that a union may be tried under the common law without reference to the penal provisions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Act?
– No. The Commonwealth act provides the substantive law. The acts of the States provide the pro.ceduary law.
– But no regulations can be framed inconsistent with this act. Under the principal act the judiciary had discretionary power. After hearing and weighing the evidence the court could dismiss a case, but under this billthat discretionary power is taken away from it, and to that extent I say the measure is a reflection on the judiciary. It implies that those who hear cases which come under section 8 cannot be trusted to say that a conviction is not justified on the. evidence adduced. Under this provision once an offence by one party is disclosed a- conviction must be recorded against another party, and that is by no means a fair way of administering justice. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has pointed out that an irresponsible individual may worm his way into a union and create trouble. There is also the possibility of trouble being created by paid agents of the other side. There have been instances of this. Some honorable members are not unmindful of the possibility that paid agents have stirred up trouble among seamen. An organization may take strong exception to a man who has secured a position as one of its officers, and has created trouble in order to carry out the task for which he has been paid ; yet it is dragged into the court through his treachery, and a conviction is registered against it, no matter how drastically it may have treated him, even to the extent of expelling him in accordancewith the requirements of this provision. There is another vindictive provision in this sub-section. There are many young men who set out in this world fired with ambition to revolutionize everything. They are, possibly, a little in advance of their fellows. The methods they propose may be ahead of those adopted in the past. By giving expression to their advanced ideas they may cause trouble in their unions. If they do so they may be expelled under the requirements of this provision and may thus be denied the right to work for twelve months. The unions will be compelled to outlaw them, although they may be sympathetic with the ideas they advance, and they may not re-admit them as members for at least twelve months. I have never heard of such drastic provisions in any other legislation. The Government is carrying its vendetta against the unions to an extreme. Surely individuals have rights. Surely men should have the right to say whether their unions should accept or reject the terms offered by employers, when the the employer is given the right to say whether he will give or withhold those terms. In both cases the action is the same. On the one hand the employer is buying labour power and on the other hand the men are selling it, and I should think that those who are selling should have as much right to say when they will do so as the employer has to say that he will refrain from buying until the market is more favorable. The individual who to-day is likely to come into conflict with this clause, because of his advanced opinions, may in five years be regarded as superior to the politicians of the present day. He may be lauded on all sides for the sentiments to which he gives expression. To-day, however, he may be fined £50, and be deprived of the right to earn a living. It is all very well for honorable members to say that the loss of a union ticket need not necessarily deprive a man of the opportunity to get work elsewhere. It is the very basis of our arbitration system that men must join unions before they can approach the Arbitration Court. If, therefore, the law compels men to join unions and go to the expense of submitting cases to the Arbitration Court, surely the unions are entitled to ask that nonunionists should contribute towards the cost of securing awards, or be deprived of the advantage of working under the terms fixed by those awards. By depriving a man of his membership of a union, he is doubly penalized. But the union, even if it has thrown the offender out of its ranks to starve for twelve months, is not free from a conviction. I trust that the amendment will receive the serious consideration of the committee. The object of the honorable member for Wannon is not to convict those who are not entitled to be convicted. The honorable member wants to follow the matter to its logical conclusion, and make the penalty fall, not on the innocent, but on those who are directly responsible for inciting a strike, and for the sake of industrial peace I hope- the committee will take heed of the matured thought to which he has given utterance.
Question - That the paragraph proposed to be omitted (Mr. Rodgers’ amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, after the word “ Court”, proposed new sub-section 3, the words “ dealing with the matter “ be inserted.
Prima facie, the court is the Arbitration Court ; butas some matters may come before other courts, it is necessary to make it clear that the reference is to the particular court which deals with the specific matter referredto.
.- The division just taken reveals clearly that the Government parties are determined to have their pound of flesh. Without listening to the arguments of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who had moved an amendment designed to make the bill more conciliatory, ministerialists trooped into the chamber and as one man voted against the amendment.
– They are a lot of party hacks.
– Their action certainly justified the statement of the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) that ministerial supporters are expected to be mere party hacks, and are flogged into submission. If the whip is not used in this chamber it is applied elsewhere, where it can be made more effective. The clause now before the committee is one of the most punitive in the bill, and is clearly designed to make the Arbitration Act inoperative and to discredit the whole system of arbitration in the eyes of the general public. Although strikes are made illegal, a whole industry may be closed up by the employers because of some small local ebullition of feeling.
The workers’ organizations are to be punished for the irresponsible act of some individual, who, with or without justification, calls his fellow-workers out on strike. Another clause provides for the auditing of union funds. These various provisions taken together are a clear proof that the intention is to cripple the unions. Not satisfied with the pound of flesh, the reactionaries want the whole body of unionism, and so provision is made for confiscation of the union funds in certain circumstances. If these proposals do not achieve the desired end, there is still the weapon of the secret ballot. This bill, instead of getting us back to “ the good old days,” which honorable members opposite hold in such esteem, will create industrial turmoil more serious than anything that has occurred in the past. The unions have grown in strength and prestige; they are now an integral part of industry, and although some may still hold the doctrine that employment is the child of capital instead of capital being the child of labour, the workers’ organizations are able to assert their right to full consideration. The existing Arbitration Act gives sufficient control over the unions in regard to strikes. In the shearing industry, Australian Workers Union “ reps.” are responsible for the observance of union principles in the various sheds. Shearers may be engaged on a station many miles from the central administration, or even the nearest branch of the union, and unable to communicate with head-quarters, and the duty of guiding them devolves upon the “ rep.” He might decide that the shed shall be held up until such time as the grievances of the men are adjusted. If the pastoralists stubbornly resisted the claims of the men a cessation of operations might be called, and in all probability a genera] strike would follow. The representative of the union, who really should not be defined as “ an officer of the organization or a branch of the organization,” would be held culpable for the strike, and his union would be mulcted in the penalties that are provided. Undoubtedly, the Government is pursuing a policy of vindictiveness against trade unionism. For some time I was connected with one of the most militant unions in Adelaide, and during that period many of our industrial troubles were caused, not by the parent organization, but by individual men or groups of men. I recall that, because of the unrest that prevailed, the South Australian Government caused an inquiry to be made into the conduct of a man who was known as “ Ganger “ Thompson. That man made conditions so difficult for the navvies under his control that they took matters into their own hands, marched to the union office, stated their trouble, and went on strike. The union supported them. The inquiry revealed that “ Ganger “ Thompson made himself offensive to the men on every occasion. 1 was told authoritatively that one of his pet schemes was to kick over the drinking water provided for the men, and prevent the boy from obtaining more. He was the arbiter as to whether the men should drink or not. His many pinpricking tactics caused a rebellion against his control. If similar trouble occurred while a clause such as this was operating, the union would be subjected to the imposition of a very heavy penalty. Take as another example the printing trade. Each printing office has its own chapel, and an officer who is known as the father of the chapel. Supposing that the father of a chapel decided that the members of his chapel should act in defiance of the decision of their employer and stop work. It is probable that the union would stand behind that action and declare a strike. It would then be brought before the Arbitration Court and mulcted in heavy penalties. Proposed sub-section 3, which is particularly vindictive, reads -
Where the court is satisfied that, after the commission of an offence to which this section applies, the organization or branch has bona fide removed from any office or position held by them and, where they are members of the organization,has expelled from the organization the persons by reason of whose acts the organization has been found guilty of the offence, the maximum penalty which may be imposed on the organization in respect of that offence shall be One hundred pounds.
That provision will never be observed, as no union would expel from its ranks any member who was endeavouring to assist his comrades. It will be inoperative, and is merely inserted to harass trade unions. Proposed sub-section 4 is the worst of the lot. It reads -
Where the court has been satisfied that an organization found guilty of an offence to which this section applies has, as specified in the last preceding sub-section, removed from any office or position and (where they were members of the organization) expelled the persons by reason of whose acts the organization has been found guilty and has imposed a penalty in accordance with that sub-section and, within twelve months of the conviction any of those persons are appointed to any office in the organization or any branch thereof or admitted to membership of a committee of management or of the organization the organization shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: One thousand pounds.
That is a brutally vindictive provision, and it is impossible to conceive that honorable members opposite, in proposing it, are animated by any desire to assist the workers of Australia. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) claims that they should be given credit for being as honest in their endeavours to assist arbitration as honorable members on this side. I wonder what they would say if this party were in power and proposed a similarly vindictive clause to deal with employers. .
– This clause applies to the employers.
– Can the honorable member cite an instance in which it will apply to employers? If the AttorneyGeneral and his supporters are honest they will admit that the whole of this clause is specifically designed to apply to industrial organizations.
– That is not correct.
– It is very easy to make a bald denial; but let the honorable member instance a case in which the provision could apply to an employer. Let the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), who is a member of the Pastoralists’ Association, and an employer of labour, and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook), who is concerned with an industry which employs labour, cite an instance in which it will apply to their organizations.
– Whenever an organization of employers violates the law the clause will apply to them.
– It is difficult to define “ an organization of employers.” At one time I was employed by a very important industry which, during the time I was with it, operated under the aegis of the original proprietors. Later the business went to the son, and afterwards it was formed into a limited liability company.
If my information be correct, the capital of that company consisted of 60,000 £1 shares. The “ boss cocky “ held all the shares, with the exception of one held by his wife, one by each of his two sons, and one by each of his three daughters. Again, I had occasion to examine the share register of the Adelaide newspapers, and I discovered that the Advertiser and the Chronicle were owned by Sir John Langdon Bonython, while the Observer and the Register were owned by the three Thomases and Sir “William Sowden, although I believe that the latter individual has since dropped out. Those are instances of “ organizations of employers.” How could this clause apply to them? I have demonstrated how it may apply to unions, and I invite the honorable member for Riverina to demonstrate how it will apply to his fellow pastoralists, when they are bamboozling shearers.
– Every organization that is registered with the court is liable to the penalties provided by this clause.
– How can the individual employer be got at ? He will simply claim that the conditions are not as stated, and his statement will be accepted. I recollect how difficult it was to make people believe that the pastoralists fed their employees on rusty bacon and weevily flour, and made their shearers sleep in bug-ridden sheds. It was left to a former member for Grey (Mr. Poynton), to supply detailed information in the subject. He used to shear for 10s. a hundred, I think it was, and, in the off season, constructed the road up to his boss’s house for 8s. a week. That has been placed on record in Hansard by Alexander Poynton, who knew what he was talking about. Although I singled out the honorable member for Riverina, I do not want him to think that only the members of the Pastoralists’ Union did things like that. If I told about the factory in which I worked away back in the 80’s, and the accommodation that was provided for the workers, I should probably not be believed, but those conditions existed. It is true that we have altered all that through the efforts of trade unionism, but irritating and irksome things still crop up, and when the employers refuse to put them right the men have to use the only weapon at their disposal, and refuse to carry on. If they do that, they can be fined under the penal clauses of this bill.
– And so can the employers if they lock out their men.
– When, in the history of Australia, has it even been proved that a lockout had occurred?
– I understood from what honorable members on that side were saying that there have been many lockouts.
– We knew them to be lockouts ; but the employers always denied that they were, and if the matter had been brought before an Arbitration Court judge, or before any other court, it would have been found impossible to prove that the action of the employers constituted a lockout. If this matter is so easy of demonstration, let honorable members on the other side get up and prove that the penal provisions of this clause can be applied to the masters of industry in the same way as the workers. It says in the clause - . . . removed from any office or position, and (where they were members of the organization ) expelled the persons by reason of whose acts the organization has been found guilty and has imposed a penalty…..
Can any one imagine an employers’ organization expelling a member? Would they give him back his share money, or take him off the board of directors ? Does not the language of this sub-section show that it is intended to apply only to organizations of employees? It is useless to go into the matter any further, because honorable members opposite can only blankly deny what we say, but cannot prove their contentions. .It has been demonstrated that no union will expel a member from its ranks. I was myself a member of a militant union in South Australia. I belonged to the United Labourers Union in that State, and we had a strike up in the fruit-growing area at Renmark. The employers were getting college students and school children during their holidays to take the place of the ordinary workers, and were underpaying them. We, as a union, fought against that. They got some of the fruit picked, and sent it down to the Adelaide fruit sheds. The fruit was declared’ “ black,” and union members were ordered’ not to handle it. It was reported that two unionists did handle the fruit. I wasat a meeting of the union when their case- was considered, and so enraged were some of the members that a motion was submitted that these two men be expelled. The United Labourers Union is a union which is the last resort of those who cannot obtain employment in other trades. Its members comprise all sorts and conditions of men, including cultured persons who, for one reason or another, have been compelled to join the ranks of ordinary labourers. I recognized that, if the men were expelled from this union, they would have very little hope of securing any work at all. I told the union members that, if they maintained the attitude that they would not work with non-unionists, they were proposing to sentence these men to death. They would be taking away from the men their right to live. Those who might be expelled under this clause would be in the same position. I suggested to the members of the United Labourers’ Union that the men be fined, and eventually a fine of £10 was imposed on each of them. That was the course adopted by one of the most militant unions in South Australia, but this clause makes no provision for extending such leniency. It says that the offender must be expelled. Supposing Tom “Walsh, who was so useful to the Government during the last election, was expelled from the Seamen’s Union, and had no other means of earning his living than as an able seaman before the mast. He would be deprived of the opportunity of working as a seaman, and other unions would be very loath to take into their ranks a man who had been expelled from another industrial organization. His expulsion would be tantamount to branding the scarlet letter on his breast. This provision is a direct attack on trade unionism. The Attorney-General said that the penalty provided is the maximum; but even if it was only £1, it is not right, after a case has been dealt with and the law vindicated, to say that a man must be excluded from membership of his organization for a period of twelve months.
– It is an unchristian act.
– Christianity does not enter into the matter, apparently. If it did we should have had a different sort of bill. This clause, if passed, will certainly not work in the direction of bring ing about industrial peace. To use a vulgarism, it is an attempt to “ put the boot in,” and a big boot at that. If the Government is sincere in saying that it desires a workable Arbitration Act, I suggest that it delete this clause altogether, leaving the act as it was before. It is not necessary to amend the Arbitration Act. All that is necessary is to meet the trade unionists in a better spirit, and show a willingness to consider their point of view. Above all, it is necessary to concede to them a little more of the fruits of industry than they are getting now. Unless that is done, industrial peace will not be secured, no matter what amendments are made to the Arbitration Act. This bill is obviously an attempt to make arbitration unworkable and it will have the effect of making the system stink in the nostrils of all trade unionists. I am certain that it will have the effect the Government desire. I am sorry that I am forced to that conclusion, but, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, I intend to adhere to the opinion I have enunciated.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause also consequentially amended.
.- I stated earlier in the debate that I intended to support the clause in its present form ; but in view of the objection of some honorable members opposite that organizations may be penalized for the unauthorized actions of individual members, I ask the Attorney-General if he will agree to the insertion of a clause providing that where an organization has been rendered liable through the action of an individual member, and can show that it has taken reasonable steps to repudiate such action, the court shall have power to dismiss the action against the organization.
– Has not the organization done all that is possible by expelling the member responsible from the organization.
– That is a different matter from that which I am discussing. There are persons who make a point of joining organizations with the sole purpose of causing trouble. If an organization can show that it has taken reasonable steps to repudiate the action of such individuals, the court should have power to dismiss an action against it.
– If the offence is of a trivial nature any court already has the power which the honorable member for Fawkner desires to be given.
– Who is to determine whether an offence is of a trivial nature?
– The magistrate before whom the case is brought; but the honorable member for Fawkner does not suggest that the provision should be limited to offences of a trivial nature.
– If the offence is not of a trivial nature, there should be a conviction and a penalty. One has not only to consider the organization but also the enforcement of the law for the prevention of strikes and lockouts. When a person has been placed in a positionof responsibility by an organization-
– Apart from this statute, it is a remote responsibility.
– The officers or members of a committee of an organization are the only persons authorized to act in an executive capacity on its behalf. It is therefore the duty of organizations which, by registering under the act, have chosen arbitration as a means of settling their disputes, not to appoint to positions of responsibility men likely to incite others to take part in a strike. The members of a committee of an organization ought to know that that is their obligation, and that the organization, too, is responsible for such a breach of the act. If the offence is of a trivial nature, it may be dismissed by the magistrate before whom it is brought, in accordance with the ordinary procedure provided for in all the States.
– But the imposition of a penalty is mandatory under sections 6 and 6a.
– Not more so than under any other sections creating offences. Whenever it is proved to the satisfaction of the magistrate that the offence charged is a trivial one, the case may be dismissed.
– Who is charged with the responsibility of policing this measure ?
– The honorable member is leading me far afield. Under this measure inspectors are to be appointed, and the act ought to be policed in much the same way . as the shops and factories acts in the States. If the committee adopts the proposals of the Government it is hoped to make arrangements whereby the services of State officers, so far as they are available, may be utilized for the purpose.
– Is it intended to exclude union officials?
– There is no such provision in the bill. In addition to the power of a magistrate to dismiss a charge which the evidence shows to be trivial, proposed new section 6b, which has been passed by the committee, provides -
Where an organization has been found guilty of any offence against section 6 or section 6a of this act, the court before which it has been found guilty shall, in fixing the penalty to be imposed in respect of the offence, take into account any bona fide efforts which the organization satisfies the court have been made by members of its committee of management, or by any of its officers, to prevent the commission of an offence against this part of this act.
If an endeavour were made to give effect, to the suggestion of the honorable member for Fawkner, it would be difficult to find satisfactory language in which to express it, owing to the difficulty of determining the act or attitude of the organization itself as distinct from the act or attitude of members of the committee of management, or of other officers. Provision has already been made for taking into account the actions of members of a committee of management and officers, and it would be difficult to provide for them as distinct from something that may be described as the actions of the organization itself. I suggest that provision has already been made to meet the case, and that it is unnecessary to make ‘ any further provision.
– Would it not simply mean giving the court power, instead of weighing the facts advanced in mitigation of the penalty, to go further, and to say that they warrant the dismissal of the case?
– That can be done now in trivial cases, and I submit that it ought not to be done in any others. One has to consider the effect of a strike upon the community as a whole. If an organization, registered under this act, which has been framed for the preservation of industrial peace, places a person in a position of responsibility and be incites a strike, the organization, prima facie, has been guilty of a breach of the act, and it is proper that the organization should bear the responsibility in such a way as the court may determine, subject, of course, to the provisions of 6a. In a trivial case, the magistrate could decide not to record a conviction.
.- The last stage of the discussion on this clause has demonstrated more than anything else the vindictiveness of this measure. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) delivered a speech this afternoon in which he defended practically every line in the bill.
– I did not. I said that I had an open mind.
– That was the impression I gained. The honorable member for Fawkner opposed the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), which, although it did not remove the fundamental objections to this clause, at least removed one difficulty. As the discussion has proceeded, the honorable member has had an opportunity to look into the clause a little more closely, and with his legal training is able to understand the effect of this legislation much more readily than a majority of the honorable members opposite, who are blindly supporting the Government. The honorable member has now submitted a reasonable request, and, as it is opposed by the Minister, it is clear that the Government is displaying a vindictive attitude towards unionism. The honorable member asks that where the court is satisfied that the organization has done everything in its power to prevent a strike, by restraining the members or officers of a committee of management, the court should have the power to dismiss the case. Now, if one member of the committee of a branch commits a breach of the law by advising men to strike, a conviction can be recorded against the union, even although the union endeavours to prevent the strike were successful. The Attorney-General says that’ the proposal of the honorable member for Fawkner is unreasonable.
– The provision which he wishes to make is already in existence. c7
– I challenge the Minister to name the clause in which it is provided.
– I have already done so in replying to the honorable member for Fawkner. I spoke of the dismissal of charges of a trivial nature.
– In what portion of the bill is this provision to be found?
– Section 6b provides that circumstances may be taken into consideration for the mitigation of penalties.
– The honorable member for Fawkner did not deal with trivial offences, nor am I doing so.
– The offence may not be trivial.
– It may be a serious offence. A body of men might be advised to engage in a strike which would hold up the whole of the transport of this country. No court would hold that that was a trivial offence under the terms of this legislation. Yet even though the union persuaded the men to disregard the advice of a member of the committee of management, and removed him from office immediately, there is no provision to prevent its conviction.
– Why should there not be a conviction ?
– That interjection indicates the frame of mind in which the Attorney-General is viewing this matter; the employers want to put the knife into the industrial unions of Australia. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) does not say, “Why should there not be a conviction ?” in the circumstances that I have outlined; and his views are shared by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). No man who is not blinded by prejudice can say that there should be a conviction in such circumstances. Nothing is gained by quoting the provisions of the new section 6b. It merely gives the court power to mitigate the penalty. The honorable member for Fawkner will bear me out when I say that that power to mitigate penalties upon a consideration of the whole of the circumstances is inherent iu every court in this land, even if the AttorneyGeneral will not admit that such is the case. The new section 6b merely pretends to confer additional power upon the court.
– That is not so.
– It is so. Why is it provider] that the court will take into consideration bona-fide efforts by an organization to prevent the commission of an offence in fixing the penalty that shall be imposed ?
– Because, in the case of a corporation, if an employee, acting within either a real or an apparent authority does an act which imposes liability on the corporation, it is quite immaterial that the directors, the shareholders, or any other persons connected with the corporation in an official capacity, do not wish him to do it, and endeavour to prevent its being done. There is a very real meaning in the new section 6b.
– So far as I am aware, there is not a court in either this or any other civilized country that would not take into consideration the bona fide efforts of an organization to present a dispute when it was considering the penalty that should be imposed. To say that there is, is to say that we have courts, not of justice, but of vengeance. The AttorneyGeneral knows that full well. The new sub-section 6b does not cover the question ; it merely says that the court may consider the circumstances of the case in mitigation of the penalty. “What we want, and what the honorable member for Fawkner asks for, is that no conviction shall be recorded where there is no guilt.
– I have done that to meet the objections of the Opposition. But I still think that where the facts prove that only a technical offence has been committed, there should be no objection to a nominal fine.
– We are now given to understand that the honorable member for Fawkner made his suggestion, not because he believed in it, but because he wanted to meet the objections that had been raised by honorable members who sit on this side. Those objections are well founded ; they are based on the fundamental principles of justice. We are either right or wrong in our contention. If we are right, the honorable member for Fawkner should be desirous of meeting us on the merits of the case, and not merely because we have asked for any particular thing. Where there is no guilt there should be no conviction; and when, in addition, it is shown that an organization has made bona fide efforts to prevent the commission of an offence by a man who for the time being happens to be a member of its committee of management, and has subsequently removed that man from office, it would be merely an act of vengeance against the workers of this country to convict it, no matter what the penalty might be.
– The ordinary law in relation to corporations in Australia is that they are liable for the acts of persons whom they place in a position where they can act on their behalf. The liability of a corporation is determined by the nature of the act done, whether it be with the goodwill or the ill will of the directors, the shareholders, the secretary, the manager, or any other official.
– It must be done as a corporation, not as the act of an irresponsible member.
– I shall take a simple case from civil law for the purpose of illustration. Supposing a driver in the employe of a commerical trading company, after having been told to exercise every care, runs over a pedestrian, and the court finds that he has been negligent, the company has to pay damages, irrespective of what might have been done to prevent the accident, by any other person connected with it. Let us consider, now, the rather rare case of a corporation being held criminally liable. One of the commonest cases in the courts is that of a corporation which is in charge of a house which is licensed for the sale of alcoholic beverages. A barman sells liquor out of trading hours, and thus commits an offence which entails a very heavy penalty. The intentions of the directors, the managers, or other persons employed, may be the best in the world; yet the corporation is liable, according to the nature of the act which has been committed by the person for whose acts it is responsible in law. Prima facie, that is the general rule which applies to any corporation, including a trade union. This bill, instead of adopting that principle ki regard to trade unions, and allowing the penalty to be measured by the ordinary method of measuring penalties - the amount of damage which has been done-directs in the new section 6b that bona fide effort? by members of the committee of management or officers of an organization to prevent the commission of an offence shall be taken into account by the court when it is fixing the penalty that shall be imposed. I therefore put it to the committee that that new section does not contain mere empty words, but, on the contrary, is definitely in favour of an industrial organization. I further urge that its provisions, in conjunction with the general discretion of the court, provide amply for the cases to which reference has been made.
There is another point to which I direct attention. If a wrongful act by way of strike or lockout is committed by a person who occupies an official position, as an officer or a member of the committee of management of an organization, prima facie, the rule is that there ought to be a conviction against the organization, because that person has done the one act which he should know that he ought not to do. The amount of the penalty depends entirely upon the circumstances of the case.
.- The point raised by the honorable member for Fawkner might have had a much more interesting sequel had his mood carried him beyond the mere desire to placate the Opposition. He stated that he approached the consideration of this clause with an open and an impartial mind. Then he took sides, and, quite impartially, belaboured the trade-union movement and the Opposition.
– I did not belabour the trade-union movement.
– The honorable member discussed the responsibilities of trade unions, and pre-judged their members in the same way that the AttorneyGeneral has pre-judged them, by taking it for granted that they will commit offences against the act. He did not give his suggestion of a -qualification of the clause his personal blessing, but merely advanced it so that we on this side might feel more assured of a fair deal being given.
– I made the suggestion in a spirit of conciliation, and to meet the views of the Opposition.
– If the honorable member cannot sincerely advocate the suggestions that he makes, we on this side invite him not to make them. What is the use of throwing out suggestions of such a character merely with a view to placating a hostile Opposition ?
– Then it is not a fair thing to try to meet the views of the Opposition in a conciliatory spirit?
– The honorable member will not succeed in meeting our wishes if he talks with his tongue in his cheek.
– The honorable member should withdraw that remark.
– I do not mind.
– The honorable member for Darling is most ungenerous.
– I willingly withdraw any statement to which exception is taken. The honorable member for Fawkner is standing behind the Government. He claimed to have approached this question with an open mind and a desire to deal impartially with it; but, in my opinion, his speech was tinged with bias and prejudice from its beginning to its end. He capped his previous efforts, however, by -throwing out a suggestion merely in order to pacify those who are continually launching objections against this clause and the bill generally.
But he has made his offence even worse by his interjection that to his mind no great principle is involved. This and quite a number of other clauses in the bill both prejudice and pre-judge the trade unionists of this country, because they presuppose the guilt of those men. Dependence is to be placed solely upon the weight of the “ big stick.” The AttorneyGeneral has said that this is the ordinary usage of law.
– I have pointed out the manner in which the ordinary usage is being alleviated and made milder by this bill.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m. .
.- I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) slightly revise his attitude towards the penalties under this clause, at least with respect to paragraph b of’ proposed new sub-section 2. I am sure that the Opposition is wrong in believing that the employers desire this provision in order to pursue the unions to their extinction. Not one honest employer of labour in Australia would desire that a union that has done all it possibly can to call off a strike should be pursued to the point of having a conviction recorded against it. Nor do I believe that any body of employers would do that. I hope that the Government will yet decide to remove from this bill what may possibly be a stigma upon employers, as well as upon unions. I have made my protest, and I have voted in accordance with the view I have expressed. The honorable member for Fawkner realizes that it does not seem right that a court should register a conviction against an organization that has done all in its power to prevent a strike. I again urge the Government to amend the clause in order to remedy this defect, even if it means the recommital of the bill with a view to the amendment of new section 6b.
.- I am rather surprised that the AttorneyGeneral has remained adamant despite the pleadings from honorable members on both sides. Surely, in a matter of conciliation and arbitration, their strong appeal will not have been made in vain. In common with many other honorable members, I am convinced that, instead of the clause leading to the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes, it will mean disruption in industry. Some of the unions will be ruthlessly pursued - not prosecuted, but persecuted. But Australians, and especially unionists, will not accept treatment of that kind lying down. I was a member of the board of management of the Printers’ Union in Victoria for a number of years. The members of that board are elected from different printing offices; I represented the Government Printing Office. The members of the union elected the president, vice-presidents, treasurer and secretary, but the board of management was elected by the various printing establishments, including those of the great daily newspapers. The board might make an almost unanimous recommendation to the general meeting, but one member of the board might oppose the views of his 29 fellow members, and advise the members of the union generally not to accept the terms offered by the employers but to strike. The acceptance of that advice would, under this clause, result in the union being haled before the court and fined. Even if the case were dismissed, the union would be called upon to incur a certain amount of expense in connexion with it. If a number of recalcitrant members were found in such a union, it tion, and instead of the individuals remight be continually embroiled in litigasponsible for the trouble being punished the union would be penalized. This is one of the most unfair’ proposals ever submitted to this Parliament. It can only cause opposition from the unionists, and together with other clauses in the bill it will lead to considerable industrial disturbance. It will irritate unionists who up to the present time have remained loyal to the awards of the court. Why employ a steam hammer to crack a small nut? The great bulk of the unionists honorably abide by the awards of the court, and are working peacefully under them. Why should such a harsh proposal be brought forward at this period in the history of arbitration ? Penalties such as are provided under this clause would make .the unionists determine not to take the risk of having considerable losses inflicted on them, and they would withdraw their registration under the act. That would mean a return to conditions that nobody in Australia desires again to see. We would be back in the old maritime strike days. If such a calamity did overtake this country, the Government would be responsible for it. It would have to bear the sole blame for not only the industrial disorder that would be inevitable, but also the scrapping of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and all the great reforms that have been brought about under it. If I pleaded for a month I do not suppose that the Attorney-General would relent. If he will not listen to reason I. can come to no other conclusion than that the Government is under the control of a power outside this Parliament, and is simply doing its bidding.
– I had hoped that the Government would act in accordance with the invitation which the Attorney-General extended to the House in his second-reading speech to assist in making the measure a thoroughly workable one, but it seems determined not to accept desirable amendments. The trade unionists of Australia are law-abiding citizens, and, if industrial peace is a thing to be desired, the best way to preserve it is to have the unionists properly organized. If, by passing a bill of this kind, we cause the unions to repudiate arbitration, there must be general discontent and industrial chaos. My experience as a member of a union nearly all my life, and as president of a labour council, is that union officials and committees of management are always anxious to prevent strikes, because they know that more is to be gained by the peaceful settlement of disputes by means of arbitration than by direct action. If they once formed the idea that the Government desired to disorganize the unions, the result would be disastrous. If provisions such as are contained in this clause are to be incorporated in the act, I personally would advise the unions to withdraw from the Arbitration Court altogether.
– They will do that all right.
– The AttorneyGeneral tells us that they cannot withdraw, and that the unions already registered would automatically come under the amended act.
– They could change the names of their unions.
– According to the AttorneyGeneral they could not withdraw. The men appointed to official positions in labour organizations are selected because the unionists generally have confidence in them. This clause, by penalizing a committee of management of the organization or a member of that committee, is striking a blow at the whole organization. If a member of an organization or a committee of that organization considers that the system under which the members are working is unjust, and he expresses that opinion to them, he may be liable to a penalty. But does any honorable member believe that if that penalty is enforced he will suffer to any great extent? It is obvious that the organization would stand by its officer.
– The organization would have to stand by the officer in any event, because there is in the bill a clause to compel the union to pay all fines inflicted upon its officers.
– To the credit of the unions let it be known that they stand by the men whom they elect to responsible positions in their organizations. The object of the Government is evidently to force the men to obey their employers. It must be clear to honorable members that in connexion with any dispute, the organization would instruct a nonmember or an honorary member of the organization to take the necessary action, and in that case this provision would become inoperative, and render utterly futile the Government’s attempt to coerce the trade union movement. This measure, if given effect, must fail, because a means can always be found to evade oppressive and inequitable laws. If a member of the committee of management of an organization is fined and expelled for doing something in the nature of a strike, the organization will make a levy to pay the fine and to support that member during the period of his expulsion. That cannot be prevented. In a hundred ways, the penalties under this legislation may be evaded, yet the Government has introduced this clause with a view to tightening up the control of unions. Once the Government creates in the minds of the workers of this country a feeling that it is deliberately setting out to penalize them, they will consolidate their organizations, and indicate in no uncertain way their opinion of the Government at the next elections. The AttorneyGeneral, when introducing this measure, said that he hoped it would receive the support of all honorable members, and that be was prepared to listen to suggestions for improvements in it. During my second-reading speech, I suggested . that in order to promote confidence in our arbitration system, the Government should appoint a layman to represent the employers, and another to represent the employees, to sit with the judge of the Arbitration Court. Under this legislation the Arbitration Court will be a court of law, and not a court of conciliation at all. Even under our present system, the workers are put to considerable expense, and have to wait months and even years to have their claims heard, and when they do, the respective advocates of the employers and employees deliver lengthy addresses, wasting more time and adding to the cost of the proceedings. It would be far better to appoint practical men with a knowledge of industrial conditions to sit with the judge of the court, and thus bring commonsense to bear in settling industrial disputes. We, on this side, represent the workers, and in their interests we shall figbt this bill, not only here, but also on the platforms of the country. We shall appeal to the people to say whether they consider this Government has a mandate to smash the trade union movement. The workers have only their labour to sell, and they have a perfect right to protection, and to elect whom they like to their committees of management in order to conduct the affairs of the organization. The Government, under this legislation, is striking not at the individual members, but at the whole organization, and it is only natural that the organization will feel resentment. The Government is ill advised in including additional penalties in our arbitration laws, particularly when the existing penalties are not operative. Under the circumstances, I am compelled to vote against this clause.
.- The amendment moved by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) put a searching acid test upon the Ministerial party to show how far it is actuated in this matter by either conscious or unconscious bias against organized labour. I find myself quite unable to believe that the honorable members who have expressly declined to accept in detail the amendment, which is important in principle, are not actuated either by conscious or unconscious bias, or by what some people call class consciousness. I am amazed at the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), who brings to bear upon this subject an acute and trained mind, asking us eloquently to believe that he has given a dispassionate judgment on this clause. I cannot believe that, when voting on the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wannon, he was not influenced by his surroundings or by the party which he supports.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wannon, because it has already been dealt with by the committee.
– Had the honorable member for Fawkner, as an eminent lawyer, been honoured with a commission to judge this clause impartially, outside of politics, is there a member of this committee who believes that his judgmentwould not have been strongly against it? I cannot believe that there is one; I certainly am not one. I ask the honorable member whether this clause is fair as between the two parties contemplated by the Arbitration Act, the employers on the one side, and the employees on the other - the great body of organized labour, consisting of nearly 1,000,000 workers as against a negligible body of organized employers who are nominally a’nd technically supposed to be covered by this clause. We all know that for all practical purposes the clause applies to one class. Does the honorable member for Fawkner seriously say that he regards this clause as being fair. Let me refer, to illustrate my point, to the section which is supplanted by this clause. It 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 -
What was the object to be compassed by that section ? Surely it was to punish the guilty and give immunity to the innocent. Was not that the certain intention of the draftsman who originated that provision which Parliament eventually made law. What is the object of paragraph 6 of proposed new sub-section 2? It is to punish the innocent. I defy honorable members to prove otherwise, and I should like to nail them down to that point.
This drastic clause has been introduced for the express purpose of making the innocent guilty. Does the honorable member for Fawkner stand for that? Has he brought an open mind to bear upon this question ? Is he so dispassionate as he would have us believe, and has he made an honest inquiry? If he has, all I can say is that 1 know of no ground upon which he can justify his judgment. Should the innocent be held responsible, be made guilty by statute and subjected to heavy penalties in the name of industrial peace, order and good government?
– This proposal cuts right across long-accepted principles of British jurisprudence.
– Undoubtedly, it does. There are circumstances in which one man, or many men, may be held liable for the acts of another; but the first condition in such a case is that the principal shall be in a position to control the acts of the other person. What is the position here? An organization may, for the sake of argument, have the great majority of its members and its central body in Melbourne, and a branch with a committee of management in Townsville. If one member of that far-distant committee does an act which may be considered to encourage a strike - an act which it is utterly impossible for the organization to prevent - the organization is held responsible. In what way could an organization control such a member? If this clause is agreed to, neither drastic rules nor expulsion can discipline him, or prevent him from making the organization liable. Does not our conciliation and arbitration act encourage the formation of organizations with branches throughout the Commonwealth, in order that peace may be maintained in industry? Undoubtedly it does. Yet the organization is to be held responsible for the act of a member which it cannot prevent or anticipate.
The honorable member for Fawkner discussed this aspect of the clause this evening. I did so last evening, but I return to it to-night because of its importance. The honorable member knows how these organizations act. They are bound by their rules and regulations, and motions have to be moved, seconded, and carried by a majority of those qualified to vote before an organization can act legally. In that case, can it be said that an irresponsible individual is the agent of the organization? It may be said that a branch of it, and, in certain circum stances, even the committee of management of a branch, might fairly be regarded as its agent ; but how possibly can one person in a minority, who acts against the wishes and advice of his organization, be recognized as its agent and infect it with criminal liability? The AttorneyGeneral struggled hard this evening to avoid the logical conclusion of a searching examination into the effects of this clause. He asked, “Is it not a fact that an agent may infect a principal with liability if he does wrong? That is quite true. That is a civil matter. For instance, if a driver in my employment, under my direction and doing my work, knocked down a pedestrian in the street, and injured him, there is a liability to pay compensation, and the law says that the principal and agent must be held responsible equally. The law says that a man is presumed to know the law, and the mere fact that he had no criminal intention in committing a certain act does not absolve him from the liability as for a criminal offence under statutory or common law. But it is different when we come to the criminal responsibility of an innocent principal for the act of an agent. That principle is summed up in Halsbury^ The Laws of England, volume 9, page 235, in these words -
The condition of mind of n servant or agent is not imputed to the master or principal so as to make him criminally liable. A master is not criminally liable merely because his servant or agent commits a negligent or malicious or fraudulent act.
But as the Attorney-General pointed out, there are exceptions in the application of even that principle. In his endeavour to justify this clause the honorable gentleman instanced the case of a barman in a hotel who, without the knowledge of his employer, but as his agent, sold liquor after hours for the profit of his principal, and so rendered him liable. I am quite prepared to accept that as the law. Where the agent does an act in the house of his principal, and for his profit, the law, in the public interest, declares that the principal is liable, for, in such circumstances, the act of the agent can be controlled. It is substantially the act of the principal. The same may be said in respect of a milk carter who, for the profit of his principal, sells adulterated milk or milk not up to the required standard of purity. But would any reasonable person liken such cases to the case I have quoted of an irresponsible member of an obscure committee of management of a small branch of a union, particularly when it can be shown that the organization had absolutely no control over the individual. I submit that paragraph b of proposed sub-section 2 is absolutely unjustifiable. It is not the only objectionable feature of the clause, but is on a par with many other provisions of the bill which are designed to inflame the minds of the workers of this country against our system of industrial arbitration.
– Is the honorable member speaking with conscious or unconscious bias?
– I am speaking without bias. There is no reason whatever why I should open my mouth to discuss this subject except that I hold very strong views upon it. I, and other honorable members on this side of the committee, have made a case against this clause which has not been answered. It is significant that the arguments advanced in favour of it by honorable members opposite have been along the academic lines adopted by the AttorneyGeneral.Why is it that no honorable member opposite who knows anything about industrialism in this country from practical experience, has attempted to justify the clause? There are persons in this building to-night who are following this debate with great interest. They are not particularly set upon seeing this bill passed. That is not the be all and end all of their mission to Canberra. Their hope lies in the total destruction of our system of industrial arbitration. That should be clearly understood. I do not suggest that the AttorneyGeneral desires to destroy the system. This is only another case of an instrument in the hands of wily operators outside succumbing to the forces brought to bear upon it. The object of these forces is to destroy our policy of conciliation and arbitration. To be convinced of that one has only to read in various sections of the press of Australia which support the Government or are supported by it, the resolutions of various bodies, whose interests are their interests, and their contemptuous references to this futile attempt to fix wages and conditions for the workers. There is more than that in it. We have reached a time in history when, if one reads the signs of the times, and knows the facts, one must be aware of the existence of an organized movement on the part of the employers in Australia to reduce wages, and prevent awards being made in future, up to the standard of the past. I take the responsibility of publicly declaring that this is an organized movement that organized labour has to face at the present time. It would be better and manlier for my honorable friends opposite to attempt to achieve their end by a frontal attack instead of in this covert manner. They are passing an arbitration bill which will drive labour out of the Arbitration Court so that they may wave the flag of law and order, and declare “ The workers have left the Arbitration Court; they have taken to direct action; they have joined the forces of anarchy; or they have become the instruments of the reds.” That is the clamour we shall hear when this law which labour has built up, and by which it has stood, has been destroyed by the agencies behind the Government. I entertain no doubt as to the intention of the Government, and those who support them.
Question - That the clause as amended be agreed to - put. The committee divided -
Ayes . . . . . . 36
Noes….. . . 20
Majority . . . . 16
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 (Injuring employee or employer on account of industrial action).
– Section 9 of the act provides that an employer shall not dismiss an employee or injure him in any way in his employment by reason of the fact that he is an officer, or a member of an organization, or has appeared as a witness in proceedings under the act, or by reason of other similar causes. There is also a provision in subsection 3 that no proceedings for an offence under this section may be instituted without the leave of the Chief Judge or Registrar. An employer cannot be prosecuted for dismissing an employee on the ground that he is a member of a union, nor can an employee be prosecuted for ceasing work in the service of an employer on the ground that the employer belongs to a particular organization, unless leave is obtained from the chief judge or registrar. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has asked that sub-section 3 be repealed because there is sometimes difficulty in obtaining authority to institute proceedings and because in any event an application for the required authority means that the informant must disclose the whole of his case, and must verify it by statutory declarations of the proposed witnesses, all of which information is placed on record, and is therefore available for perusal by the defendant. The Government is prepared to accept the suggestion, and I ask the committee to adopt this clause, the purpose of which is to omit sub-section 3 of section 9 of the principal act.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 -
After section 9 of the principal act the following section is inserted: -
The Court before making the order shall give the organization . . . an opportunity of being heard.”
– This clause proposes to insert a new section providing that an organization may, by order of the court, be made liable for the payment of penalties imposed upon officers or members of committees of management of registered organizations provided that before the court makes any order of this nature, an opportunity shall be given to the organization or the trustees or secretary of it, to be heard. The amount which may be ordered to be paid out of the funds of an organization, must not exceed £50 if the offence is doing anything in the nature of a lockout or continuing a lockout, or £10 if the offence is doing anything in the nature of a strike or continuing a strike. The new section will apply only to the strike and lockout penalties, and only in the cast of the imposition of those penalties on officers or members of the committee of management of an organization, and to the extent mentioned. The new section provides that the court may, if it thinks proper, after hearing the representatives of the organization, order that the penalty imposed on the individual shall, to the extent I have stated, be paid by the organization. This provision, like other provisions already dealt with, is directed towards enforcing the simple principle that an organization, having registered under the act, shall not by or through its officers or members of its committee of management, take part in a strike or lockout.
.- This clause, although perhaps not quite so vicious as clause 8 is, nevertheless obnoxious. One wonders at the vengeful manner in which the Government is pursuing the unions. The bill has evidently been deliberately drafted to strike a blow at trade unions and with less anxiety to get at the guilty people, than to make the unions guilty in every case.
– That is unworthy of the honorable member.
– It is a fact. Rather is the bill unworthy of the honorable member who voted for it; rather is it true that those who voted for clause 8 are unworthy to represent free men in a free country. There is not a scintilla of justice in these clauses. Both embody vicious principles. I can imagine no circumstances in which, if an officer of a union or a member of a committee of management were found guilty of an offence committed in a responsible capacity for and with the approval of the union, the organization would not pay his fine; but this clause is designed to meet circumstances in which the union will not voluntarily pay the fine of the individual officer. That could happen only when the officer or individual member of a committee was acting in defiance of his union.
– He may be creating trouble and disrupting the union.
– There may be a man on the committee of management of a branch hundreds of miles from the head office, who, by virtue of his official position, has taken upon himself authority to advise or encourage men to go on strike. The organization may repudiate his action, and may even have him removed from the committee. Yet, if he is proceeded against under this law, the court may order the union to pay his fine up to £10. That could be done in respect of the members of the committee of management of every branch of a wide-spread organization. The object of the conciliation and arbitration legislation is to encourage the formation of organizations and their registration under the act. Unless there be organizations duly registered, there can be no arbitration. The Government has directed public attention to what is called the recalcitrant unions that are holding up the transport services of Australia. The body which is most held up to public opprobrium is the Seamen’s Union; yet it is immune from all the penalties under this bill.
– Then what is the honorable member grumbling about?
– It is immune because it is not registered under the Arbitration Act. This law aims at the organizations that are registered. The Attorney-General suggested, and other honorable members have stated outright, that we who are opposing the bill desire that labour organizations shall be permitted to register under the act, break the law, and escape the penalties. That is not true. We say that bodies of employers or workers who register under the law, and yet commit breaches of it, should be subject to the penalties which the law provides. But we say also that an innocent union should not be penalized for the offence of an individual acting irresponsibly and without authority. It is necessary to refer back to clause8 to show how the vicious principle contained in it is being extended. Can honorable members justify the fining of a union for the action of a member of a committee of management of a branch - an action taken without the authority of the union, and even in defiance of instructions? The union’s advice may have been heeded and peace maintained in the industry, but although it has defeated the object of the individual member who strove to create a strike, it is still liable to be fined under clause 8. Having gone that far, do honorable members think it fair that the union should then be called upon to pay the fine of the individual who caused the trouble in defiance of its instruction?
– Is he not an official of the union?
– There may be twenty members on the committee of management of a distant branch of a union, and one of them may advise the men to go on strike. The other nineteen may advise against that course, and their advice may prevail ; the individual who tried to cause the trouble may even be removed from the committee because of his action, but even in those circumstances the union may be fined and also compelled to pay the fine imposed on the individual.
– It is unthinkable that in those circumstances the union would be ordered to pay the fine.
– Can the honorable member imagine any circumstances in which an organization would refuse to pay the fine of an individual member or officer who had been punished for carrying out the instructions of his union ?
– I can, and I have learned of such instances.
– I shall be glad to hear from the Attorney-General of any such case. If the organization is not willing to pay the fine of the individual member, why should it be compelled to do so? It has already paid the fine imposed upon it for the action of the individual, and surely the court should not then be empowered to say that the union should pay the fine of the individual also, although it was proved that his action was contrary to its decision and instruction.
– The court has discretionary power.
– We have heard that repeated over and over again.
– The honorable member will hear it again.
– It is true.
– The only defence which honorable members opposite can offer for this vicious proposal is that the court can be relied upon not to carry out the statute ; or, if it does carry it out to impose only a nominal penalty. When the viciousness of this proposal is pointed out, the supporters of it say, “But the court may not do anything as bad as we have told it to do.” The Government is legislating in a biased way to penalize innocent people, and then they gloss over their vindictiveness by saying, “ Oh, but the court may impose only a nominal penalty.”
– That is the honorable member’s interpretation.
– It is the plain meaning of the bill, and the Attorney-General stated definitely this afternoon that if a member of a committee commits an offence against this law, the union should be punished, regardless of whether or not he acted with its authority. . The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) endeavoured to modify that vicious principle, but it was upheld by the supporters of the Government, and it is being emphasized in this clause. I ask honorable members to consider what can happen under clauses 7, 8, and 10. A committee of management of 24 members may meet to discuss a suggestion that a section of the workers in an industry should strike. Eighteen members of the committee may vote against a strike; six may vote for it. But the minority kick over the traces and refuse to abide by the decision of the eighteen. The views of the majority prevail, and peace in the industry is restored, but not before the advice of the minority has caused 50 men in one section to down tools. Each of those six men may be fined, and the union may be compelled to pay each of the fines up to £10. And the union itself may be fined up to £1,000 unless it expels the offenders, although it may already have removed them from the committee. After all that has happened, the employers may get from the court a declaration of the existence of a strike, and bring about a lockout throughout the industry. - There is nothing much left to do for that union but to boil its members in oil. As the old play has it, “ The villian still pursues them.” The villian, in the shape of this legislation, still pursues the unions from clause to clause, rendering them liable to penalties for offences of which they are not guilty, and penalising them at every stage, right along the line.
– This is melodrama, pure and simple.
– It is not. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) who sits with his tongue in his cheek and sneers, will later realize that it is tragedy.
– It is serio-comic.
– The honorable member could not be taken seriously in any deliberative assembly, so I ignore him.
– Is it hurting over there?
– It is, otherwise there would not be so much squealing. Honorable members opposite, who complacently support this drastic legislation, must realize that they will probably succeed in driving the organized unions out of the Arbitration Court. They may be successful in carrying this measure, and bringing about the abolition of arbitration in Australia. . But there is one thing that honorable members opposite cannot do: they cannot destroy the force of organized labour in this country. Organized labour will be compelled to carry on its fight to attain better conditions by the use of methods which will not be as good for the community as those which it has previously adopted. It should be realized that 95 percent. of organized labour in Australia has been carrying on under our arbitration law for 24 years without ever having stopped the wheels of industry ; without ever having gone on strike, or disobeyed an award of the court - although many times those- awards were distasteful to it. The Government is now driving those unionists into such a position that they will be forced to recognize that this class of legislation is unfair, and, if it is enforced, they will seize the earliest opportunity to break away from it. That is the responsibility that honorable members opposite have to face, and for which this Government will be remembered as the years roll on. I remind honorable members opposite that other governments which passed coercive legislation have gone out of existence, and that their coercive laws have also ceased to exist.
– Name one.
– The Irvine Government of Victoria, and the Wade Government of New South Wales. I am not like the Attorney-General, who makes a statement and is unable to support it with facts. Honorable members opposite can trace the history of the industrial struggle as far back as they like and they will find that always the Governments responsible for the introduction of coercive legislation have fallen from power, and their coercive legislation has vanished with them.
– The cream of labour is asking for this legislation.
– I challenge the honorable member to influence his Government to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and apply his first test of a secret ballot of the organized unions of Australia to any clause in this bill.
– The right honorable member for North Sydney took up the challenge of the honorable member and smashed it to smithereens last night.
– If I could understand the honorable member I should endeavour to reply to his interjection. I remind the Government that it will not weaken the trade union movement by this blow. Rather will it strengthen it.
– It will strengthen the legitimate unions.
– It will strengthen the unions which are resenting the introduction of this legislation. The AttorneyGeneral cannot deny that there is a body of men at the head of our great trade union movement, the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which is doing more to try to bring, about peace on the waterfront than all the honorable members opposite have ever done in their lives. The honorable gentleman knows the names of those men ; he has received them in deputation and conferred with them. That organization is protesting against this legislation. It is the people who are termed the “ reds “ who are gloating tonight over the fact that this legislation is being passed.
– Does not the honorable member also call them “ reds “ ?
– I do. They are as delighted with this measure as the “ reds “ amongst the employers. There is joy to-night in the camps of the extremists who sit behind honorable members opposite, and in those of the extremists among the trade unionists who are known as “ reds.” They do not want arbitration, or legal methods of settling disputes. They do not want the political labour platform. Their members never make a speech without condemning the political Labour party. They are delighted that the Government is doing this thing; that it will make arbitration objectionable by the passage of legislation of this description. The Government if it enforces this legislation will drive the genuine workers of Australia, representing about 95 per cent, of the unionists, and who are at present working peacefully under the arbitration law, out of the court and compel them to resort to the only weapon left to them, the weapon of direct action.
– I invite the attention of the committee to the precise wording of this clause, about which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has spoken in such extravagant terms. He has spoken as if it were a perfectly automatic thing that a union should have to pay every fine in a case where an officer or a member of its committee of management had been fined under the provisions of this clause. But the clause provides not that the union shall pay, but that the court may order that the fine be paid by it up to a certain amount. It also expressly provides that the court, before making the order, shall give the organization, or the trustees, or the secretary thereof an opportunity to be heard. In other words, the application of this section, like all the others with which the committee has hitherto dealt, depends upon the circumstances of the case. Any legislation which imposes penalties might be treated in the same way as honorable members opposite have been treating this legislation. In respect of any law in Australia which imposes a penalty, it is possible to mention a case which, on a technical view, comes within the bare terms of its provision, and ‘ from that to build up the sort of edifice which the Leader of the Opposition has presented to this chamber this evening, and which has been presented by other honorable members opposite in the case of every clause with which the chamber has dealt, where provision is made for the imposition of a penalty. That class of criticism is quite unreal. The proper way to look at any clause which imposes a penalty is to consider the nature of the act. Ought there to be a penalty for it ? Consider the most extreme form of the penalized act, and then consider whether the maximum penalty is out of proportion to such an act. All penalties are adjusted and applied according to the circumstances of the case, and it is no use asking this committee to act upon the view that magistrates and judges who are dealing daily with legislation, including that which provides penal clauses, are going to lose all their common sense whenever a case affecting this act comes before them. The ordinary principles will be applied, and not extravagant and almost insane ideas.
The Leader of the Opposition claimed that there was no necessity for this, clause, because if an officer did anything to incite a strike, with the support of his union, the union would, of course, voluntarily pay the fine. He challenged the committee to say whether that was not obviously the case. Honorable members on both sides have agreed upon what is obviously the truth, that very few prosecutions have been undertaken under these penal sections in the past. The last 2nd the bestknown example was the prosecution of Mr. Walsh, of the Seamen’s Union. He was fined £100. There was no question at all as to his having acted with the authority of the union. But did the union come forward and pay the line? Not at all! All honorable members remember how long it took to collect that fine. I believe that is the only case in which a penalty has been imposed upon an officer of a union for doing something in the nature of a strike, and in that case the union did not come forward and pay the fine.
It was stated by the Leader of the Opposition that this legislation is directed against the 95 per cent, of trade unionists who have been members of registered trade unions under the principal act, and who have obeyed the law ever since the institution of our arbitration system. This provision will not injure or affect in any way any member of those unions. Those who obey the law are not hurt by it. The honorable member also claimed that those who are working for industrial peace, such as the Australian Council of Trade Unions, are opposed to this bill, and that those who welcome it are the “ Reds.” The difficulty is that these people are so mixed together that it is extremely difficult to distinguish their different shades of colour. I have heard honorable members opposite suggest that one union official in Sydney, Mr. Jock Garden, is a “ Red.” It appears to be generally agreed that he is one of the “ Reds,” or that he is at least fairly pink. Yet Mr. Jock Garden is a member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions! That illustrates the difficulties that arise in connexion with these matters, and the impossibility of making statements as absolute as those made by the Leader of the Opposition this evening. This legislation will never injure any union which is endeavouring to obey the arbitration law of the Commonwealth. It is reasonable in principle, and there is no reason to suppose that it will not be applied as reasonably as are all the other laws which are administered by the courts of the country. I move -
That after the word “ Court,” proposed subsection 2, the words “ dealing with the matter “ be inserted.
.- The Attorney-General has endeavoured to prove that this clause is necessary.
When legislation is proposed in this or any other Parliament sound reasons should be advanced for its introduction. No adequate reason has so far been offered for this clause. It has apparently been framed merely because of the offence committed by Mr. Tom Walsh.
– The honorable member will recall that he “was convicted.
– Yes, he was convicted, and his fine was ultimately paid.
– Yes, ultimately.
– I ask honorable members is the Commonwealth Parliament to be moved every time the AttorneyGeneral, or the people who are feeding him with trash, wish to make provision for dealing with some isolated case? What is this Parliament coming to? All through this bill there appears to be a reaching out for means of dealing with the individual and with isolated cases. More than half of the clauses are not directed towards general offences at all, but towards occasional offences which might possibly occur. As far as one can judge from the statements of the Attorney-General, this clause has been drafted entirely on account of one man.
– From my statements?
– The only reason which the Attorney-General gave in support of the clause was that a union official had refused to pay his fine.
– The honorable member misunderstood my reference. I quoted the case merely as an example.
– I think that when legislation of this character is brought down it should be based on sounder reasons than those given by the AttorneyGeneral. He himself said that very few cases of the kind which this clause is directed against have actually occurred.
– Supposing there had not been any such cases, it would still be essential that this remedy should be provided.
– The number of cases has been so small, and the issues so paltry, as not to justify this clause, and it makes one wonder whether there is not something else behind it. With that assumption of delightful impartiality remarked upon by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), this clause professes to provide for penalties against both employers and employees.
– There is a difference in the fine, however.
– For the edification of honorable members who are blindly following the Attorney-General, and who make interjections apparently without understanding the bill, I shall state just what this clause does provide. Among other things, it enacts that an organization may be called upon to pay out of its own funds a penalty, not exceeding £50, imposed upon a person doing anything in the nature of a lockout, or of continuing a lockout, and a fine not exceeding £10 imposed on any one doing anything in the nature of a strike, or continuing a strike. The arguments of the Attorney-General have been directed entirely against the employees, and he knows quite well that the employers will not come under the provisions of this clause. As a matter of fact, it is hardly likely that they will be affected by any of the penal clauses in the bill.
– It is not intended that they should.
– As the honorable member has said, it is obviously not intended that the employers should be affected. The penal clauses of the bill are intended to be directed exclusively against the workers.
– If the honorable member says that often enough he will begin to believe it.
– He is merely reiterating the statements in the manifesto.
– I am pleased to have an interjection from my impartial and open-minded friend from Fawkner, who, with his tongue in his cheek, asked for some reason for not crossing the chamber and voting -with the Labour party. Up to date the honorable member has not uttered a single syllable which could be construed as tending towards the promotion of industrial peace. He described the bill as an honest attempt to bring about industrial peace, but he knows quite well that from one end of Australia to another meetings of unionists and public meetings have been held protesting against the passage of this measure. Not since the conscription issue was before the people has any other question ever so completely moved the working people of this country.
– That is on account of the misinterpretation of the provisions of the bill.
– The honorable member for Barton had better not talk about misinterpretation, because he himself, when speaking yesterday, obviously did not understand the clause he was discussing. The honorable member is a lawyer, and a kind of off-sider to the Attorney-General. He and the honorable member for Warringah, who knows no better, are the only members on the Government side who had much to say about this bill, until the honorable member for Fawkner dropped his other activities for the time being, and came along to give us the benefit of his legal knowledge, his impartiality, and his open- mindedness.
– The honorable member does not seem to be very gratefulfor it.
– We refuse to be bull-dozed either by the honorable member for Warringah or the honorable member for Fawkner. The honorable member for Barton, that bright star of the legal firmament, thought that the penalties under this and other clauses would be imposed by the Arbitration Court judges. He should understand his brief before he starts to interject about misinterpreting the bill.
– The honorable member misunderstood me.
– Why, they are still laughing in Sydney over it.
– Notwithstanding repeated assertions to the effect that the cream of the Labour movement is behind the Government in this matter, the trade Unionists as a body are opposed to the measure. I have attended several meetings in New South Wales, and I know something of the temper of the industrial movement. I was brought up in it, and I ought to know something about it. The honorable member for Barton is not justified in his sneer that the labour organizations do not understand this bill, and have been misled by our misrepresentation. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, the members of the Australian Council of Trade Unions are responsible men, carrying on a very responsible work, and all of them have a knowledge of industrial legislation. No matter what may be said by members on the Government side in their endeavours to bolster up this iniquity, they cannot induce those labour leaders to believe that this bill is not directed against themselves and their organizations. We have been fighting the bill for many long hours, and we shall continue to fight it right up to the time that it is passed.
– Honorable members on that side have got to fight it.
– The honorable member says that we must fight the bill. Is he aware that the first step taken by the Federal Parliamentary Labour party was to acquaint the Australian Council of Trade Unions of the provisions of the bill, and to inform them of our recommendations regarding it? Does he not know that the initiative was taken by the Parliamentary Labour party, and that we broadcast our opinions regarding the measure ?
– The honorable member’s party had to do so.
– Now the honorable member is becoming ridiculous. His remark about being compelled to adopt a certain attitude might very well apply to the honorable member himself, and to his friends sitting on that side of the chamber, because, apparently, they have been dogged by representatives of the coal and shipping interests, and of the chambers of commerce, ever since this bill has been before Parliament.
– I, for one, have not.
– Who are these persons who have been lobbying, and have been in constant consultation with the Attorney-General and other members of the Government?
– Is this what the honorable member calls fighting the bill?
– The honorable member wasted half his time this afternoon; am I not entitled to digress a little?
– But the honorable member is wasting all the time. I ask him not to play the schoolmaster by lecturing the committee.
– I invite my friend who has interjected to get up, and, in his impartial manner, make another silly suggestion such as the one he made when discussing the last clause. This clause applies only to trade unionists, and was never intended to apply to employers.
– That is not so.
– I submit that it is. The whole bill has been introduced at the instigation of the employers of this country, and the trade unionists of Australia will not tolerateit. Industrial peace cannot be secured by the enactment of a measure such as this. Trade unionists will not consent to remain under the Arbitration Act.
– Not for the benefits they get under it?
– If the principles laid down in the bill are to be complied with, they cannot remain under it. Under this clause, if a strike occurs, although a majority of the committee of management, consisting of, say, 24 members, are opposed to it, the union will be liable, if the maximum penalties are imposed, for the payment of approximately £2,400. Honorable members opposite may say that I am drawing a long bow. I am not.
– Tell us what can be done under the bill.
– I am showing what can be done under the bill. If this legislature has to be moved to pass legislation of this drastic kind to meet the case of Tom Walsh, which was mentioned by the Attorney-General, surely I am justified in quoting the maximum penalties for which provision is made. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis), who is persistently interjecting, has not yet addressed himself to this measure. Why does he not say something? Is he afraid to do so? Is he prevented from speaking, or has he nothing to say? The honorable member, like a good many of his friends on the Government side who have not spoken, has, perhaps, shown a certain amount of wisdom in remaining silent, because many who have spoken from that side of the chamber have disclosed their entire ignorance of the subject.
– I take strong exception to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), concerning the attitude of honorable members on this side of the chamber in relation to this bill. Honorable members opposite who have spoken have, with few exceptions, imputed sinister motives to those on this side of the chamber, and have entirely misrepre sented our position. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley) disclosed a weakness that is very prevalent amongst his colleagues, when he said that the Ministerial party were under the domination of the coal trust, shipping magnates, and chambers of commerce. So far as I am aware, I have never met a representative of any of those organizations, neither have I heard that they are within the precincts of this building. In any case they have as much right to visit the building as officials of labour unions or other citizens of Australia. The attacks made upon the Government, and particularly upon the Attorney-General, do not reflect credit upon the Leader of the Opposition, or those associated with him. Surely we can discuss this bill dispassionately, and credit with honesty those who differ from us! Is it necessary that the Opposition should condemn in abusive terms and apply opprobrious epithets to those whom, when they meet in a social way, they call jolly good fellows, merely because they hold political viewswhich differ from their own? Some of their outrageous statements may appeal to the unintelligent section of the community, but they are unworthy of members of this legislature.
The Leader of the Opposition made several contradictory statements during his speech. On one occasion he told us that the bill was. designed to abolish, and would have the effect of abolishing arbitration, by driving organizations out of the court. If that were so, it would be a very serious matter. I need scarcely say that it is an absolute misrepresentation of the position. As a member of the Nationalist party, I claim to have at least as much of the milk of human kindness and sympathy in my composition, and as genuine a desire to further the interests of the workers, as any so-called representative of labour, and I am sure the same can be said of other honorable members on this side of the chamber. A few moments after the Leader of the Opposition had said the bill is designed to abolish, and will have the effect of abolishing arbitration by driving organizations out of the courts, he said that instead of the bill driving the organizations out of the courts, it will not weaken the organizations, but will strengthen them. These statements being in direct contradiction of each other cannot both be true. Which then are we to accept as his real conception of the clauses and of tho bill itself? The Leader of the Opposition was very careful not to mention the second paragraph which the AttorneyGeneral pointed out had a direct bearing upon the proceedings of the court and which reads -
Tho court, before making the order, shall give thu organization or the trustees or secretary thereof an opportunity of being heard.
That was carefully ignored. Honorable members are of course aware that the penalties provided are to be imposed only in the event of non-observance of the law. So long as an organization obeys the law it has nothing to fear. I venture to say that when the members of the labour organizations thoroughly understand the position, and when the cobwebs of misrepresentation have been swept away from their eyes they will realize that for the honest and genuine unionist this is the best industrial measure that has ever been passed by the Federal Parliament.
– If, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) says, 95 per cent, of unionists never strike, it is obvious that they will not be affected by this bill, and there is no necessity for them to be concerned about its provisions.
– It is not necessary for a unionist to strike to render him liable to punishment under this measure.
– I do not know what that has to do with the point I am endeavouring to make.
– The honorable member said that if 95 per cent, of the unionists never strike they will not be affected by the bill. I say they will be.
– I maintain that they will have no cause for alarm. This clause applies only in the case of an officer or a member of a committee of management of an organization ; it provides that where a penalty is imposed on such a person the court, in addition to making any other order, may direct the organization, or the trustees thereof, to pay out of the funds any amount of the penalty not exceeding £50, if the offence is doing anything in the nature of a lockout or continuing in a lockout, and £10 if the offence is doing anything in the nature of a strike, or continuing any strike. The court can make an order only within those limitations; as a matter of fact, it may not make an order at all. As pointed out by the Attorney-General, the court, before making an order, is required to give the organization or the trustees or secretary an opportunity to be heard in defence. Strikes and lockouts are defined in the principal act, and tho object of this measure is to put both parties - employers and employees - on an equal footing, by providing that lockouts and strikes shall be equally punishable.
– How does the honorable member suggest that it can be proved that a lockout exists?
– That is not for me to decide. Can the honorable member say why a. similar penalty should not be imposed in each case?
– It is impossible to prove the existence of a lockout.
– It may be hard to prove the existence of a lockout or strike, but it has to be proved that a strike or a lockout is in operation before a penalty can be imposed. These penalties are to be imposed on organizations, and it is therefore necessary to penalize individuals. Is there any reason to assume that organizations of employees are any poorer than organizations of employers? I should like the Attorney-General to say whether he is prepared to accept an amendment to make the amount £50 in each case? The debate has shown that honorable members of the Opposition do not desire that the penalty shall apply equally to both sides. I have stood for the arbitration system ever since I began my political career, but I cannot blink the ‘ fact that honorable members of the Opposition wish it to operate against only one party. The kernel of this bill is to be found in the attempt to make compulsory arbitration effective as against both sides; and, so far as I can see, that is the reason for the objection which is taken to it by honorable members opposite. If the penalty was made uniform, no substantial injustice would be done to either side, because the law will operate against organizations, not individuals.
– It would not be in line with the distinctions that are drawn in regard to the penalties by the new sections 6 and 6a if in this clause we were to make the amount uniform in the case of both a lockout and a strike. The difference between the two is that a lockout is caused by relatively few persons, while, generally speaking, a strike is brought about by a relatively larger number of persons. That is one reason in support of the distinction which is drawn in regard to the amount of penalty for which an organization may be liable. There is, too, the further consideration, that while some organizations of employees are very wealthy, there are others upon whom the exaction of a fine of £50 would inflict hardship. It is very unlikely that such differences exist in the case of organizations of employers. Having regard to such variations in the case of organizations of employees, it has been considered proper to draw the distinction for which the clause provides.
– This clause really extends the penal provisions of the bill, but that fact is camouflaged with the object of deceiving the people. It refers to strikes and lockouts.We all know from practical experience that a strike consists in the refusal of the workers to sell their labour power with the object of either retaining the conditions which at the time they enjoy, or of effecting an improvement upon these conditions. A lockout, on the other hand, results from the refusal of the employers to purchase the labour power of individuals, and is an attempt to starve them into submission with a view to forcing down the conditions under which they are employed. It is an easy matter to furnish proof of a strike. One or two men have only to come out into the open and declare themselves in opposition to the continuation of the work in which they and their fellows are engaged, or something of that sort. A lockout is in an entirely different category. By watering their shares, and by overcapitalization, the employers can readily prove to the court that the industry in which they are engaged cannot afford to pay what is asked, and thus dispose of any suggestion of a lockout. The vicious practice of the lockout has been applied in that way times out of number. There need be only the suggestion of a strike to enable the penal clauses of the act to be invoked; but a lockout must be definitely proved. The onus is placed upon the workers to prove what it is almost impossible to prove. Any man of ordinary intelligence could not fail to follow the arguments which were adduced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson), however, accused the Leader of the Opposition of having twisted on his own argument, by first of all claiming that the bill would prove most injurious to the trade union movement, and then affirming that the unions would not be injured by it because they would withdraw from the jurisdiction of the court. To my mind, the Leader of the Opposition made out a very clear case. His point was that ultimately no injury would be caused to the trade union movement, but that the system of arbitration, for which he and his party had fought desperately during the last 25 years, would be broken down, because, when thesepenal clauses were invoked, the unions would withdraw from the jurisdiction of the court, and it would be left without anything to do. Under the preceding clause, if an individual offends, the union must be fined. Now insult is to be added to injury by requiring the union to pay the fine of the guilty individual. The whole procedure is Gilbertian; every principle of justice is being violated. It is easy to prove that a strike has been incited or advised, but it is very difficult to prove a lockout. I say advisedly that the bill has been framed to allow the employers to do as they like, and to leave the industrialists no means of defence.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat objects to the necessary tightening of the provisions of the act. He is about the last man in the world who could be expected to advocate that, because he was up to his neck in a big strike in the Northern Territory a few years ago. His remedy was to deport the whole of the administration. He settled that dispute promptly by putting the Government Resident, a judge, and two other high officials on a vessel and sending them to Western Australia. I can speak freely on the federal arbitration system, because I do not believe in it; but, knowing that
I cannot get rid of it, I desire to do something to make arbitration more effective. Our present system will die a natural death if honorable members opposite continue the attitude they are adopting to-night. It is one of the costliest and, up to date, one of the most unsuccessful ventures in the direction of promoting industrial peace and the welfare of the country that has ever been attempted in any part of Australia. When honorable members opposite object to penalties, they are not fighting in the interests of the great majority of the members of trade unions, who obey the law, but for the rebels who are responsible for the failure of arbitration. In my opinion, this is the last opportunity for compulsory arbitration to justify itself. At the present time the system is almost a wreck. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) last night gave a brilliant exhibition of oratory, but was pleading a bad cause. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) then delivered one of the most powerful indictments of the leaders of Labour that has been heard in this debate. He effectually disposed of the arguments of the honorable member for Batman who, with other honorable members opposite, remained as quiet as mice almost up to the adjournment last night. He reminded them that the unions had gone to the Arbitration Court because of the benefits they could derive from it ; but he pointed out that those benefits involved obligations on the part of the unions, if the system was to be successful. We have had no more telling exposition of the purpose of the bill than that given by the right honorable gentleman, who declared that conciliation and arbitration should be continued in the interests of not only the unionists, but also the country as a whole. Has the Arbitration Court proved an unmixed blessing to the unionists? Has it been of such benefit to them, and to the country in. particular, as it ought to have been? Let me quote a few words, not from a biased source, but from the Commonwealth Statistician. In Bulletin No. 17 of 1926, issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Statistics, the Commonwealth Statistician says -
The average nominal adult wage in Australia was 51s. 3d. a week in 1911, while in 1926 it was 99s. 4d. a week.
– I would remind the honorable member that the committee is now considering clause 10.
– We are discussing penalties, and I am showing that if arbitration is to continue, and if the community is to benefit at all, there must be suitable penalties for any infringements of the law. Hitherto the unions of Australia have benefited little by arbitration. Everybody knows that, in the past, the Arbitration Court has been a farce, because the judges have not been able to enforce penalties under our Arbitration laws. In 1911 the average nominal adult wage in Australia was 51s. 3d. a week, and in 1926, 99s. 4d. a week. Is that the benefit that was expected to accrue to the workers? No. In regard to this increase of wages, the Commonwealth Statistician says -
This looks like a substantial improvement for the workers of the country, but is it so? ….. The improvement in purchasing power has been only 4.5 per cent.
Those figures are official, and cannot be disputed.
– Surely the honorable member does not attribute that to the Arbitration Court?
– To what does the honorable member attribute it? Let me tell him something that will not be agreeable to his political soul. It is due to arbitration and to our outrageously high tariff. Does the honorable member wish to know more than that? That is the truth, and no one knows it better than the honorable member. Honorable members opposite are doing their best to wreck arbitration and the industrial life of the community, although they profess to have the interests of the workers at heart. Since 1911, our present system of arbitration has brought about nearly double wages, yet the improvement in the purchasing power of the effective wage has been only 4.5 per cent. Honorable members opposite say that there have been no serious industrial disturbances in Australia. It is arrant nonsense to say that. Honorable members opposite have compared the number of strikes that have taken place in Australia and America, but they forget that Australia has a population of 6,000,000 while that of America is 110,000,000. They have compared the number of strikes that have taken place in Australia and the Motherland, but they forget that we are living in a land flowing with milk and honey, whereas there are a million people in England who do not know whence their next meal is coming. Let us be honest about the industrial position of Australia. The Commonwealth Statistician has said that a lot of money has been lost to the community because of useless strikes. I agree with him. The community has suffered tremendous losses because of strikes. Take, for example, the maritime cooks’ strike. Not one honorable member opposite has dared to express an opinion about it, but I am prepared to tell the truth to the whole world. Could there be a worse advertisement for Australia than that strike? Could there be a worse advertisement for us in the O.d Country, whose money-market we so often make use of, than the debate which has taken place in this Parliament during the. last three weeks. It cannot be denied that since 1911 wages in the Commonwealth have nearly doubled, yet the improvement in the purchasing power has been only 4.5 per cent. We must remember that production has to pay for strikes and inefficiency; but is it in a position to do so-? Australia has between 8,000 and 9,000 fewer farmers and 40,000 fewer farm labourers to-day than, she had a few years ago. We have not only to pay for the strikes that occur, but also to meet the interest upon a greatly increased national debt. Our national ledger shows £164,000,000 on the wrong side, and the States of the Commonwealth have increased their indebtedness during the last few years by £3,75,000,000. We cannot go on indefinitely borrowing and losing. The time will come when we must face the position.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I point out to. the honorable member that the subject before the -Chair is “ penalties payable out of organization funds.”’
– Unless we can find? a means to prevent strikes we shall never b& able to pay our way; and unless we provide penalties, for those who go on strike we shall never be- able to prevent strikes. We are to-day giving Australia the worst advertisement that a country could have. Big business. men have come to Australia from Great Britain prepared to spend millions of pounds in establishing industries here, but they have gone away saying, “ No investments in Australia because of her industrial conditions.”
– We have the best country in the world.
– That is so; but we have the worst industrial legislation in the world. We should set our house in order ; then we could expect to make some progress.
.- The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) might become a success as a member of a circus troupe, but he is a rank failure as a debater. He showed a deplorable ignorance of the elementary principles which underlie our conciliation and arbitration laws. In a sound arbitration act penalties could be dispensed with. The Government is noi justified in attempting to make criminals out of honest men whose only desire is to assist their fellows. I am sorry to say that the utterances of honorable members opposite are just what we might expect from gentlemen who keep the company that they do. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has won some fame as a member of the legal profession ; but he should remember that his constituency contains many industrialists who have a right to expect him to do something to better their conditions. Many of them voted for him because they believed that he would act. fairly by them. I regret to say that he shows no inclination to do. so. Some honorable members opposite %re seeking to impose penalties upon men whose boots they are not fit to clean. Men like myself who were associated with, the framing of the first arbitration legislation enacted in Aus. tralia never anticipated the imposition of penalties such as are proposed in this bill. The weapon of the strike can never be taken from the worker. Men cannot be forced to, follow occupations which they regard as detrimental to their health. They will not work in coal mines that are badly ventilated. I remember taking part, in a deputation that waited on. the proprietors- of a coal mine whose workings the miners dared not enter because they were so> badly ventilated.
The reply of that proprietor - that he did not care if his mine was shut down for twelve months, because the coal would still be there, although in the meantime the workers might starve- was one of those things that gave men the courage to devote their time and their scanty means to devising some method by which strikes could be prevented and disputes between employers and employees peacefully settled. To-day, however, we find men doing their utmost to enforce penalties on the unions with the idea of making the organizations suffer. We know that the members of unions would rather go to gaol than pay fines imposed on them for breaches of the industrial law, and in that attitude they have my blessing. I am proud that I belong to the same race. Have we forgotten the British labourers who were sent to prison when they sought to have their wages increased from 7s. to 8s. a week? They were transported in some cases, merely because they fought for the cause of their fellows. Those who are supporting this bill want to humiliate the workers; they want to see them crawling on their stomachs to ask favours of the employers. But the workers will not be humiliated. Do we not often find them courageous enough to get up at their gatherings and protest even against the determination of a court that has sought to lower the standards of wages that they have been endeavouring to keep up in Australia? It is evidently the purpose of the present Government to use every means at its disposal to knock the spirit out of such men as these. Each day our proceedings are opened with the Lord’s Prayer. But the actions of some honorable members in this chamber do not coincide with the words they utter when they repeat that prayer. The Attorney-General no doubt regards himself as a christian, but the spirit of Christianity is not apparent in the bill he has introduced. The measure imposes a fine of £50 on a member of a union who does any one of certain things. Does the Attorney-General believe for one moment that the organization would allow that member to pay it? Loyalty to fellow mas is nowhere displayed more strongly than it is among unionists. Take, for example,the noble deeds dona by miners to save their fellows. That is the spirit whichruns throughout union ism. The penalties in this hill have been devised te punish men like Walsh and Johnson, who have caused some trouble. As I have said on previous occasions, I would subscribe from my pocket towards a fund for the public burning of the bill, . but, unfortunately, influential organizations of employers are wedded to it, and honorable members opposite are dependent upon them for support at the next election. I must content myself with expressing my total opposition to these unjust inroads upon the system of arbitration.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the clause as amended be agreed toput. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause as amended agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 13 agreed to.
House adjournedat 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 June 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280607_reps_10_119/>.