10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– -I desire to make a personal explanation. With the concurrence of the Government Whip I had a permanent arrangement with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Matthews) to pair with him, so that when, owing to his physical infirmity, he is not able to attend in the chamber, his party will not be deprived of his vote. That obligation I have scrupulously honored, but last night I inadvertently omitted to take the usual precaution of seeing whether the honorable member wasin his place. Too late I realized that he was not present, and my vote was recorded. I immediately explained the matter to the Government Whip and the mistake was rectified after consultation with the Opposition Whip (Mr. Penton).
– I confirm the explanation which the honorable member for Lang has given. His vote was obviously an inadvertence, but by arrangement with the Government Whip the mistake was rectified by getting another ministerialist to pair with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
– I, too, desire to make a personal explanation. Yesterday I directed a question to the Minister for Home and Territories regarding certain charges made by the Canberra Hospital for the treatment of a servant of this House. I have since learnt that I spoke under a misapprehension. Two servants of the House were in the hospital simultaneously, and the account for £14, to which I referred yesterday, was not in respect of only thirteen days treatment. I understand, however, that one of them, who is still a patient, is being charged at the rate of £4 a week for medical attention in a public ward. The charge is excessive, and I hope that the Minister for Home and Territories will give attention to the matter.
– Is the Prime Minister yet able to announce the Government’s decision in regard to the recognition of Captain Kingsford Smith’s remarkable flight from California to Australia? Will the right honorable gentleman endeavour to obtain from that aviator the diary of his historic flight so that it may be deposited in the archives of this Parliament ?
– I have no announcement to make in regard to the first part of the honorable member’s question, but I am prepared to approach Captain Kingsford Smith with a view to his log, which will be of the greatest historic value, being obtained for the nation. The log of Sir Ross Smith’s flight was presented to the Commonwealth less than twelve months ago by Sir Keith Smith.
– In the event of Captain Kingsford Smith completing his flight to Australia will, the Prime Minister invite him to the Federal Capital?
– The Government proposes to extend an invitation to this very gallant flier and his companions to visit Canberra and be received in this building;
– In view of the outstanding service that Australians have rendered to aviation this year, will the Postmaster-General consider the issue of a special stamp to commemorate the flights of Captain Hinkler, Sir George Wilkins, and Captain Kingsford Smith?
– Consideration has already been given to this suggestion. It would be impracticable to issue three different stamps to commemorate the three flights, and I cannot see that any good purpose would be served by the issue of one.
– I understand that arrangements have been made for the destroyer Anzac to patrol below the last part of the route of the flight from Fiji to the mainland. Have the arrangements progressed sufficiently far to be effective if the last stage of the flight should commence at 2 p.m. to-day, as we are told it will?
– I have been advised that the aviators expect to leave Suva on the last stage of the flight at 2 p.m. to-day. The Anzac is at present off Port Stephen and is steaming at the rate of 20 knots an hour beneath the line of the flight. It is anticipated that at the moment when the fliers pass, the destroyer will be about 700 miles off the coast of Australia, and will be able to keep in wireless communication with Captain Kingsford-Smith throughout his trip, and render him a great deal of assistance.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories been drawn to the statement published in the Canberra Times to the effect that the master butchers in Canberra have formed a combine and have raised the prices of meat considerably? “Will the Minister make inquiries, and if he finds the facts are as stated, will be take the necessary action to. prevent residents of the Territory from being exploited by private arrangements for the fixation of prices?
-I shall have the necessary inquiries made.
policy of the nationalist party in Western Australia.
– Has the Prime Minister read the declaration of the Nationalist party inWestern Australia that all candidates coming under its banner must pledge themselves to reduce customs duties? How can the right honorable gentleman reconcile that attitude of a branch of his party with his oft-repeated declaration that he is in favour of the protection of Australian industries against the cheap labour products of other countries?
– The policy I announced is that of the Government, which will continue to give effect to it ; but the party which I have the honour to lead is supported by a number of outside organizations and every section of it is not bound by cast-iron rules to subscribe to the views of the majority. There is within the Nationalist party a measure of intellectual freedom which it is desirable that the supporters of a government should have.
– In view of the urgent need for public economy and the recent issue of an elaborate and valuable, but expensive, report by the Chief Engineer of the Commonwealth, will the Minister for Works andRailways consider the issue of the periodical schedule of works in a less expensive form, omitting such unnecessary features as photographs of war service homes, and generally economizing in the publications of his department?
– I do not admit that the quarterly report issued by my department is unduly elaborate and expensive. It contains a large amount of information which is valuable to honorable members, and the illustrations also are of great service. I cannot see that the publication could be cheapened with advantage.
– I understand that for some time the Development and Migration Commission has been inquiring into the causes of unemployment with a view to propounding some preventive measures. “Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether such a scheme has yet been formulated ?
– The Development and Migration Commission has been endeavouring to investigate the economic factors that make for unemployment with a view to suggesting means of minimizing the evil. I understand that the investigation is practically completed, and that the report will be submitted to the Government within the next few weeks.
Officers’ Training; Corps - Physical Standards
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
On the 6th June, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) asked the following questions: -
Referring to the question asked by the honorable member for Brisbane on Oth December, 1927, regarding the physical standard of senior cadets entering the Citizen Forces, and the Minister’s reply of 12th December, will the Minister supply the following further information ? : -
What was the percentage of senior cadets rejected as medically unfit for admission to the Citizen Forces for the year ending 31st December, 1927, in (a) the Commonwealth, and (b) the State of Queensland?
What was the percentage of rejections for admission to the Senior Cadets, on the grounds of medical unfitness, for the year ending 31st December, 1927, in (o) the Commonwealth, and (6) the State of Queensland.
In view of the very high percentage of medically unfit, as shown by the figures supplied in answer to previous questions on this subject, will the Minister extend the scheme of physical training in schools, which is at present very limited in scope, particularly as it is understood that all of the Education Departments of the States and all school authorities outside of State control are at present requesting additional help in the training of their teachers in this national work.
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
What were the total dismissals of male and female employees each month from and including 31st January to 31st May, 1928, by the Federal Capital Commission?
– The following figures show the numbers of male and female employees whose services were dispensed with during the months mentioned : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When does he expect to be in a position to furnish the information asked for on the 1st instant (Hansard, page 5424) regarding immigration ?
– The desired information is in course of preparation by the Development and Migration Commission, and the Commonwealth Statistician. I have been informed by the Commonwealth
Statistician that, owing to the amount of labour involved, the required figures cannot be made available until the machine tabulation for the month of April is completed, probably within two weeks’ time.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
With reference to the question asked on 31st May by the honorable member for Melbourne, will the Minister inform the House what are the total rents per annum of the area leased, differentiating between the lands acquired, and the lands presented by New South Wales?
– -The total rental per annum is as follows : - (a.) Acquired lands, £39,490 19s. l0d.
This does not, however, include conditional leases from the State of New South Wales, which are considered as lands in process of alienation.
Population -Rating - Swimming Baths
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– Separate records have not been made of the population within the areas mentioned by the honorable member.
Yesterday the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) asked me the following questions: -
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : -
On the 1st June the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) asked me the following questions : -
Will he also furnish a detailed statement showing: -
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : - 1. (a) It is not possible to give figures showing exactly how the rate of 4d. in the pound was arrived at, for the reason that, at the present stage of development of Canberra, the amount required to meet charges ordinarily covered by the imposition of general rates could not with justification be obtained from the present population. The Commission, therefore, has levied a rate of 4d. in the pound which it considers provides for a reasonable contribution from the lessees in comparison with the rates payable in- other cities.
Fire brigade . . 4,200 In addition a proportion of the Commission’s administrative expenses and also interest would be chargeable against the amount contributed by way of general rates; but for the reason explained in
The revenue expected from the rate of 2d. in the pound is approximately £1,050. The Commission considers this a fair charge - at this stage of development - upon the existing community in respect of lighting services.
Yesterday the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me the following question: -
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 am now in a position to advise him as follows: -
Asloan expenditure must be reduced to the utmost limit, sufficient funds cannot be made available to the Commission to permit of the erection of baths during next financial year.
– On the 30th May, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) referred to the question of duty on certain railway cars which were imported by the South Australian Railways.
I desire to inform the honorable member that . a request made by the Chief Storekeeper, Public Stores Department, South Australia, for the admission under Tariff Item 415a (2)- free, British Preferential Tariff; 10 per cent., General Tariff - of two all-metal Pullman sleeping cars and one all-metal Pullman dining car complete with kitchen, pantry and equipment for use on the AdelaideMelbourne express has, in conformity with previous decisions on similar applications, been refused.
– Yesterday the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) asked me whether an undertaking had been given to the British Australasian Tobacco Company that there would be no increase in the tariff during the course of the tobacco investigation, towards the cost of which the company was contributing, in conjunction with the Governments of the Commonwealth and the mainland States.
I assured them then that I had no knowledge of any such undertaking, but promised that I would have enquiries made.
I have investigated the matter closely and am now in a position to definitely confirm my statement that no undertaking of any kind has been given to the British Australasian Tobacco Company in relation to the Customs Tariff.
– On the 5th June, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) brought under notice the matter of the importation of orange juice into Australia, and I promised to ascertain the position.
I am now in a position to furnish the f ollowing information : -
Orange juice is not recorded separately in the statistical records, but is included under the heading of Fruit Juices and Fruit Syrups (non-spirituous), the importations of which for the years 1925-20 and 1926-27 were as follows : -
For duty purposes orange juice is classifi able under Tariff Item16, which reads: -
Lime juice and other fruit juices n.e.i., and fruit syrups, and liquid sub stitutes therefor. non-spirituous : -
The only action to check importations that could be taken, would be by way of an amendment of the Tariff. The course to be followed if that is desired is for a formal application to be made to that effect, and the matter could then bo referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report.
Message recommending appropriation reported, and ordered to be taken into consideration in committee forthwith.
In committee: (Consideration of Governor-General’s message).
.- I move-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1027.
This procedure is necessary because clause 58 provides for an appropriation for the remuneration of a deputypresident, which has previously been done by annual votes, but is not strictly in accordance with the ordinary view of Parliament as to the payment of judicial salaries.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 7th June, vide page 5635) :
Clause 14 - (Voluntary Arbitration).
– This clause provides that the judges of the court and the conciliation commissioners shall be available for the conduct of voluntary arbitrations in industrial matters. It was inserted in response to what was believed to be a desire for greater opportunities for the holding of voluntary conferences between employers and employees but the proposal has been received unfavourably by both sides in industry. The employees are dissatisfied with the clause because they believe that its effect will be to undermine their organizations. There was, of course, no such intention in proposing the clause. The employers, on the other hand, are dissatisfied with the clause because they consider that it may gravely prejudice them should an application for a voluntary arbitration be made, and they refuse to entertain it. They believe that that might subsequently be used against them in the court. As both sides disapprove of the clause, and as it could operate successfully only with the co-operation of both sides in industry, I propose that it be negatived.
Clause 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 -
After section 19a of the principal act the following section is inserted: - “19b……………… (4.) All plaints, summonses, orders or other documents served upon the representative respondents appointed by a representative order shall be deemed to have been served upon all the interested persons specified in that order and the representative respondents shall, in the matter in relation to which they are appointed, represent all the interested persons specified in the representative order and any award or order of the court made in the matter shall be binding upon all those interested persons:
Provided that any person objecting to being represented by the representative respondents may apply to the Court within thirty days after the publication of the order or such further time as is allowed by the Court for an order setting aside or varying the representative order and the Court may, upon such application, make an order allowing that person to appear separately or may make such other order as it thinks just.”
– This clause provides for the making of representative orders, and ought to save a great deal of expense in proceedings before the court, particularly to trade unions. It will dispense with the service of court papers upon large numbers of respondents, as is the practice at present. Honorable members will understand however that the clause does not remove the necessity for the service of a log. That must be continued, because our legislative power is limited to conciliation and. arbitration for the purpose of dealing with disputes, and a dispute must exist before it can be dealt with. But heretofore much expense has been involved by the necessity for serving the court papers in a case upon, in some instances, thousands of respondents. The suggested new procedure will save some unions hundreds of pounds in the course of a year.
Proposed sub-section 4 has a proviso to which objection has been taken by all parties interested. The procedure provided for is that an order may be made upon any representative respondents and that service upon those respondents shall be deemed to be services upon all the respondents. The principal act provides that any respondent who objects to being represented may apply for leave to appear separately. It is urged, and I think rightly, that every respondent should have a right to appear personally if he so desires. I therefore move -
That the proviso to proposed sub-section 4 be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following proviso - “ Provided that the making of a representative order shall not prevent any person from appearing separately, if he so desires, in any proceedings relating to the matter before the court.”
– This clause will no doubt answer the purpose intended by the Attorney-General. The chief object to be safeguarded is that nobody may be prejudiced in his rights, so far as can. be reasonably provided, by his not knowing anything about the matter. That is a position which might easily occur, particularly where country respondents were affected. I suggest to the AttorneyGeneral that, in order to provide an additional safeguard, and solely with the object of ensuring that nobody’s right shall be prejudiced owing to his being ignorant of the position, it would be a good plan if the application in the proceedings were served upon some of the representative organizations in the community. That would further guard against the claims of any one being prejudiced. I suggest that notices of applications should be served upon such bodies as the Employers’ Federation, the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Manufactures, the Trades and Labour Council, and the like, in each State. This provision is more likely to affect individual employers than individual employees, and if notices were given as I suggest, it would make it. less likely that any person concerned would be left in ignorance of what was occurring.
.- The object which the honorable member for Boothby desires to achieve is, I suggest, met by proposed subsection 3 which reads -
Any representative order made under this section shall be published forthwith in the Gazette.
Such organizations as the honorable member has mentioned, and other bodies associated with industry generally, will normally examine the Gazette to see what representative orders have been made. It would be difficult to name in a statute all the bodies to which such orders should be sent, because of differences in the form of the organizations which exist in the various States. The honorable member is aware, doubtless, that various trade protection societies keep merchants and the like informed of advertisements and notices in the Gazette which may affect them.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 17 (State authority to cease dealing with dispute on order by court).
– I move -
That consideration of the clause be postponed until after the consideration of clause 25.
The clause deals with substantially the same subject-matter as clause 26 and if consideration of it is postponed as I propose one discussion will be sufficient to cover both clauses.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 18 to’ 20 agreed to.
Clause 21 (Agreement to have effect of award) .
– -I move -
That consideration of the clause be postponed until after the consideration of clause 22.
The clause provides for the amendment of section 24 of the Act, which relates to the same subject-matter as proposed section 25d at the end of clause 22, and if we postpone consideration of it until we reach that proposed section, one discussion will be sufficient to cover both provisions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
After section 25 of the principal act the following sections are inserted
.-This clause contains four proposed sections. As each of these deals with a different subject it would be convenient to consider them separately* I therefore move-
That the clause be considered by proposed sections.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed section 25a: -
The court shall, ‘in making its awards, provide so far as possible, for uniformity in an industry in relation to hours of work, holidays and general conditions.
– As honorable members are aware, a single industry may involve the employment of many crafts, and each craft may be subject to a separate award. The object of the amendment is to enable the court to co-ordinate “ so far as possible,” the hours of work, holidays and general conditions of the industry. I have already mentioned the McKay implement manufacturing works to show how complicated an industry may become. I said that that factory was subject to more than thirty awards and determinations, which in many instances prescribed, different holidays, rates of pay, hours of starting and stopping work, overtime and the like. That unnecessarily complicates the conduct of an enterprise. The object of this provision is to enable the court, so far as possible, to introduce uniformity into the industry. I have circulated an amendment to the clause with the object of removing ambiguities from it. The word “ industry “ is defined in the act as including not only an industry carried on by an employer, but also an avocation carried on by an employee. The intention of this provision is to affect only industries carried on by employers. I therefore move the following amendment: -
That the words, “ in an industry in relation to hours of work, holidays and general conditions, “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words, “throughout an industry carried on by employers in relation to hours of work, holidays, and general conditions in that industry. “
.- With the object of achieving uniformity in the awards governing an industry, there can be no quarrel; but there are some considerations in relation to this provision which the Attorney-General might take into account. The wording of the provision is dangerous from my point of view, for it would make it mandatory upon the court to “ so far as possible “ bring about uniformity in an industry. I take it that the word “ shall “ is mandatory, if it is possible to introduce uniformity.
– I am quite prepared, if it will meet the point of the Leader of the Opposition, to insert, after the word “ possible,” the words, “ and so far as the court thinks proper.”
– To an extent that meets my point. Different judges may hold different views in respect to such a matter of hours of work.
– Have not the hours of work to be agreed to by three judges?
– No; only alterations of standard hours.
– Supposing that . 48 hours were being worked weekly in one section of an industry and 44 in another; some judges may consider 48 to be the standard hours and may oblige all sections of the industry to work them. It appears to me that as the provision is worded, it would be mandatory upon the court to make the hours uniform if it were possible to do so.
– There is something in what the Leader of the Opposition says.
– I agree that we should try to get as near to uniformity as possible in an industry, but there is a grave danger that a provision like this may upset existing conditions. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) referred a day or so ago to the timber industry, and said that although one section of it had had a 44-hour week for six years, a single judge had, by an interpretation, obliged the whole industry to work 48 hours weekly. I do not suggest that that case is analogous to those contemplated by this provision, but it shows how easily existing conditions in an industry may be upset. The Arbitration Court is not keen on upsetting existing arrangements, and we should not make it mandatory for it to do so.
– If the word “practicable “ were used instead of “ possible,” it might meet the case.
– I think not, for it might be “ practicable “ to oblige every branch of an industry to work 48 hours.
.- The object of this provision is not to bind the court to provide absolutely uniform conditions up to the limit of possibility, but to allow it to consider all the circumstances of the case. I am quite prepared to amend the provision as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, and with that object I ask leave to withdraw temporarily the amendment which I have moved.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I now move -
That after the word “ possible “ the words “ and so far as the court thinks proper “ be inserted.
The proposed new section will then read -
The court shall in making its awards provide so far as possible and so far as the court thinks proper for uniformity in an industry in relation to hours of work, holidays and general conditions.
.- I do not take exception so much to the amendment as to the proposed new section itself, and the administration of the act. I agree that it would be a good thing to have uniformity as regards hours, holidays and general conditions in an industry; but, unfortunately, we have not power to bring about that desirable state of affairs. One of the principal objections to the present system is the provision in the act requiring three judges to sit to determine a question of hours. All other claims brought before the court are dealt with by one judge; but, whenever a claim involves the question of hours, three judges are necessary to determine it. Why should there be this discrimination in arbitration matters? Surely if one judge is capable of determining other matters in dispute, he is capable of determining the hours to be worked in an industry. I invite honorable members to recall what happened some years ago, when Mr. Justice Higgins was President of the Arbitration Court. It was believed generally that he intended to award 48 hours in industry, so the Government of the day introduced and passed legislation providing that any claims involving the question of hours must be determined by three judges. Trouble in this, matter has occurred in connexion with the timber workers’ case. Eor many years part of that industry was working 44 hours a week and, notwithstanding that employers had accepted the decision of the judge and that the . industry had been working 44 hours for some years, one judge, by his interpretation of the award decided that the whole industry should work 48 hours.
– The judge was studying the interests of the industry.
– But where is the sense of fairness in allowing one judge to upset the decision of three in such a vital question as hours ?
– Would the honorable member prefer to see the industry go out of existence for the sake of the extra four hours ?
– That was not the issue. We have been tinkering with our industrial legislation for many years, and whenever it is apparent to . that section represented by honorable members opposite that the administration of the law is not in the interests of their side, legislative action is taken to alter it. We are now amending the Arbitration Act, and I regret that the Government has made no provision in the bill to permit one judge to deal with the question of hours, though, as I have just stated, one judge by his interpretation of an award has over-ridden the decision of three judges on this question. The principal trouble in connexion with the Arbitration Court has been caused by the delays in getting claims heard. Some industrial organizations have had to wait for eighteen months or two years before their claims have been brought before the court, the excuse offered for this state of affairs being that there are not sufficient judges to cope with the work. And yet the Government does not propose to amend the provision requiring three judges to sit to determine the hours to be worked in an industry. If this matter were left to the decision of one judge the three judges could sit separately and deal with the claims of three organizations, instead of as at present sitting together to hear one claim in which the question of hours happens to be involved.
– Is there not a greater probability of uniformity in regard to hours being reached if three judges sit as one body to determine that question?
– That is the object of the . provision.
– But what is to prevent one judge from deciding it? If he is capable of dealing with other matters, surely he should be qualified to deal also with the hours to be worked in an industry.
– But my point is that there is more probability of an agreement and uniformity if three judges sit together than if the judges determined the question of hours independently.
– The Government gave an undertaking during the last election campaign that an inquiry would be made into this matter with the object of securing uniformity. That promise was not honored. We were told that three judges would ‘ be appointed for this particular purpose, but honorable members will recall that one case which was decided in favour of 44 hours was not accepted as a test case and therefore uniformity was not brought about. The Government took no notice of that decision because it did not suit the general body of employers, and iri this amending bill the Ministry is not proceeding along the lines of equity and good conscience. The provisions have been so drafted as to benefit one side only. The debate has clearly indicated that special consideration is to be given to the side represented by honorable members supporting the Government.
– I am sorry the honorable member has said that, because he is spoiling a good argument.
– I say it because everything that has happened during the debate supports my view of the measure. We on this side have allowed several clauses to pass without debate, thus indicating that we are not against the principle of arbitration or those provisions of the bill which in our opinion are equitable. I agree that it is most desirable to secure uniformity in regard to hours, holidays and working conditions, but I object to the provision which requires three judges to sit to determine every claim, in which the question of hours is involved. We have no guarantee that if we pass this measure, the Government will appoint three judges to determine whether the hours to be worked in an industry shall be uniform throughout
Australia. Why should this issue be singled out from all others that are brought before the Arbitration Court? The question of hours should be dealt with by one judge when he is hearing other claims. Notwithstanding that we have four Arbitration Court judges, there is a long list of claims waiting to be heard, and immediately the question of hours is involved three of the judges must sit in one court to determine it. Experience has shown that this issue is involved in almost every claim that is brought before the court, and because of the provision in the act that three judges shall sit to determine the question of hours there is serious congestion in the court. This is creating a feeling of dissatisfaction amongst members of industrial organizations.
– Whether the hours are to be 48 or 44, is it not better to have uniformity, and is there not a greater probability of securing uniformity if three judges sit as one body instead of determining the question of hours independently ?
– Does not the honorable member for Hunter remember the honorable member for Barton asking what the Government would do if the suggested tribunal made an award in favour of 40 hours, and does he not recall also the reply of the Attorney-General that the Government would cancel the authority?
– I never asked such a question as that.
– The honorable member for Barton did.
– The Government led the people to believe that it would appoint three judges to deal with the question of hours on a test case; but, as I have stated, it took no action when a decision was in favour of 44 hours. Such action is calculated to destroy the faith of the people in the principle of arbitration. This measure imposes penalties on one section of the community only, and it contains no provision to expedite the work of the court. Take the position of an industry the employees in which have filed their claims in the arbitration court. There may be a number of questions at issue including the question of hours. Although their conditions in general may require urgent revision, their case may not he heard for eighteen months or two years. When it does come before the court, their circumstances may have altered considerably. The Government does not attempt under this provision to remedy that anomaly, Section 18a of the act requires that any question affecting standard hours must be considered by three judges of the court sitting together. In that case the work of the court will be considerably hampered because other urgent cases must necessarily be left in abeyance. I take strong exception to what is being attempted under proposed new section 25a. I have no objection to uniformity in relation to hours; my point is that we cannot enforce this provision until such time as greater powers are vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. Today we have State instrumentalities working side by side with Commonwealth instrumentalities, and as a result employees in industry are working under different conditions, and the manufacturers of one State have an advantage over those of another State.
– Did not one of the judges recently fix the number of buttons that a girl should sew on a garment in one day?
– I do not know. I do not see how we can bring about uniformity in working conditions without greater powers. Even when the full arbitration court gives a decision as to standard hours, it is not accepted by the Government as applying to all industries. It applies only to the industry concerned. On the last occasion on which the three judges sat as a full court, they fixed the standard hours at 44 hours a week. The Government has made no attempt to extend that standard throughout Australia. I venture to say that it would have taken some action in that direction had the court fixed a standard of 48 hours. This Government is making no attempt under this legislation ito facilitate the hearing and adjustment of the grievances of the workers of this country.
– I wish to ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. If the court were considering a claim involving the question of hours, would it be justified, after hearing the evidence, in making an award relating to hours?
– A judge has power to deal with the question of hours, subject, however, to section 18a of the act, which provides that no award increasing the standard hours of work in any industry, or reducing them to less than 48 hours a week, or less than the existing standard, whatever it may be, shall be made “ unless the question is heard “ by three judges. That is, of course, an endeavour to obtain uniformity in industry. The proposed new section 25a, with which this committee is now dealing, does not affect that subject. It provides that so. far as is possible and proper there shall be uniformity in an industry in relation to hours, but this provision is subject to section 18 a of the act, which limits the power of a single judge in relation to standard hours. But awards are regularly being made varying the hours in industry, to the extent of determining the time of beginning and leaving work, smokos, overtime, and the total hours of work a day or week. All those orders are normally made by one judge, but any question affecting the general standard hours in an industry- whether the standard shall be increased or reduced must be heard by three judges sitting together. This Parliament has, therefore, intimated that no single judge can increase or decrease the standard hours of work in an industry.
– Are there recognized standard hours in every industry?
– The court ascertains that, and, up to the present, there has been no difficulty in operating section 18a in this respect. As a rule, there is in all industries a normal standard Of hours. First of all, this Parliament has decided that any question affecting the general standard of hours shall be considered, not by one judge, but by three judges sitting together. In the same way this Parliament has decided that a single judge shall not have power to reduce the standard hours of work in any industry to less than 48 hours a week, or where the standard hours of work are less than 48 a week, he shall not reduce that standard. The object of that legislation was to remove from a single judge the power to increase or decrease the standard hours of work, and obviously there is a good deal to be said for that principle. Proposed new section 25a, with which we are now dealing, has nothing to do with that subject. It provides that uniformity in an industry shall be attained so far as possible, and it is a direction both to a single judge and to three judges sitting together. It, therefore, does not affect the subject to which the honorable member for Hunter has referred.
– Then a single judge may not fix the standard hours of Work below 48 hours a week, even if he considers that desirable?
– That is so in the sense that he cannot alter the existing standard ; but proposed new section 25a does not effect that position.
– The whole subject is interwoven.
– Whatever may be the views of honorable members respecting one judge or three judges having the power to increase or reduce the standard hours of work, they do not affect proposed new section 25 a, and I suggest that it is not desirable to ha.ve a discussion on section 18a at this stage. Whether the proposed new section 25a is adopted or not it does not affect section 18a. I rose really to reply to the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley). Nearly every award that is made involves an alteration of hours. All questions affecting hours do not have to be decided by three judges. . Mo3t questions can be, and are, effectively dealt with by a single judge. The only question that must be determined by three judges is an increase or decrease in the standard hours of work in an industry. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has referred to the 44-hour case, and he complains that the Government has not taken any steps to make the court’s decision in that ca3e effective throughout Australia. I would inform him that the Government has no power to legislate on the subject of hours or to introduce a standard of 44 hours a week or any standard number of hours in the industries of Australia.
– -When the Full Court decided that the standard hours should be 44 a week, the Government should have endeavoured, insofar as was possible - to quote the wording of this provision - to make that standard uniform throughout Australia.
– That is being done under proposed new section 25a, so far as the Commonwealth is able to do so. This provision invites the court to provide, as far a3 possible, for uniformity in an industry. The 44-hour case was chosen by the parties concerned as a test case to enable a general discussion to take place on the subject of a working week of 44 hours. It was not chosen by the Government or by the Attorney-General. Both sides approached me, and asked me to intervene to enable them to get a discussion and a decision on the question of 44 hours in that particular case. The discussion took place and a decision was given, which has proved unsatisfactory, in some degree, to one side.
.- Proposed new section 25a relates to uniformity in awards. I take it that, with that ideal, honorable members have no quarrel. ‘It is obvious, however, that there may be considerations which may make uniformity impracticable and even undesirable. The subject raised by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), while of the greatest importance, hardly concerns this provision. It involves the very debatable point whether or not it should be reserved for a full court of three judges, including the Chief Judge, to determine an increase or a decrease in the standard hours of work. I do not forget that, when that principle was first introduced in 1919 by the Hughes Government, the Labour party opposed the amendment on the ground that it contemplated a new policy designed to encumber the procedure of arbitration and involving the necessity of going from a single judge to the Full Court, with consequent delay and expense As a matter of fact, the Labour party was instrumental in securing that the amendment should not apply to cases that were, already pending before the court. Of course, speaking candidly, it is impossible to view these questions without having at the back of our minds all the time the temperamental tendencies of the different judges on the bench. It would be affectation for unions or members of this Parliament to pretend that they do not have those facts in view, although they cannot be considered legislatively. I am very much concerned about this clause from the point of view that I raised in connexion with the timber workers’ case. In that case, as I have already pointed out more than once, the judge effected a radical change in the number of working hours merely by the act of interpreting an existing award in a manner in which it had not been previously interpreted.
– He was not invited to interpret it.
– No ; but he conceived it to be his duty, as a preliminary to entering upon the consideration of a new general award. He took it upon himself to say that before he made hia new award on the general conditions of the timber working industry, it was his duty to inform his mind as to what the award under which the parties were working really meant.
– The honorable member is in error there. This was an application for a variation.
– That came later.
– No. It was on an application for a variation that this decision was given. At the same time His Honour is engaged in determining a new dispute and making a new award.
– I think that the Minister will find that he is wrong. I must speak subject to correction; but my recollection is that the application to vary the award was an application to vary Judge Lukin’s new interpretation of the award. My recollection of the facts is that the case came’ before Judge Lukin as a substantive plaint for an award in the industry generally, and the question of hours in respect of the plaint went to the Full Arbitration Court for determination. The Full Arbitration Court postponed consideration on the question of hours until February next, for reasons which I have more than once stated, with an intimation that the judge should proceed to consider the plaint generally. In- those circumstances the judge set out to inform his mind as to what the existing award really meant.
His Honour, in an elaborate judgment, stated that in his opinion it meant something different from what both parties thought it meant.
– There were diverse contentions before His Honour as to the meaning, and therefore the parties were not at one, as the honorable member has suggested.
– That is not my view. I have read the matter fairly carefully, and I understand that the parties were quite at one as to what the award meant. They were not at one as to what they wanted, because one side wanted 44 hours throughout the whole industry, and the other side wanted 48 hours. While it is true that they desired a change in the status quo, I submit that there was no argument at that stage as to what the award meant. It meant 48 hours in the country mills, and 44 hours in the city timber yards. That was the view, I suggest, that was adopted by both sides, and had never been questioned, although an effort had been made, I think, on three different occasions to have it altered. The view that Judge Lukin took was, that the order made upon the decision of the Full Court in 1922 was not consonant with the award itself, and that the award of 1922 meant practically 48 hours throughout the industry. The judge gave that interpretation, and that interpretation stands. I may say that it is causing a great deal of unrest in the timber industry. I do not wish to be a prophet of evil; but in this matter there are all the elements of very serious industrial trouble, because the organization says that this is a case where industrial unrest has been induced by differences of opinion among lawyers, that is, among the members of the court. That being so, I should like the Attorney-General now to consider the matter, because we cannot give directions to the court. I am not asking that that should be done, or that we should protest against the judge’s exercise of his discretion; but I say that where two parties are working .on a common understanding as to what an award means, and have continued along those lines for a period of years - in this case, six years - the judge, according to equity and good conscience, and without the restraint of the laws of evidence, should endeavour to bring about and maintain peace in industry. I suggest that it was a dangerous and indiscreet exercise of his power to take up this award and apply to it a meaning and interpretation which none of the parties had applied to it in the past. I cannot take the responsibility of proposing an amendment to this clause; but I now suggest for the consideration of the Attorney-General - and this is a matter that comes peculiarly within the province of this Parliament - that he might propose an amendment to this clause, so as to make it impracticable for a judge of the Arbitration Court, by interpretation, to take upon himself functions that really belong to the Full Arbitration Court, and increase the hours above the standard hours being actually worked. I submit for the careful consideration of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley), who are lawyers, that it is undesirable in the public interests that, where the parties are working together in what I have described as a common understanding of what the award means, it is undesirable that a single judge of the Arbitration Court should re-interpret that award, give a fresh interpretation to it which is not solicited, and thus increase the standard hours by the mere act of determining what in his view an original award meant, his view being different from that of the other learned judges and different from the view accepted by both parties.
– Did he call for any evidence ?
– No. It was a question of interpreting the original document.
– Did his interpretation of the award involve the standard number of hours?
– And his interpretation made the number more than the parties originally thought it meant?
– Yes. They had acted upon the interpretation, ever since 1922 that it provided for 48 hours in the bush sawmills and 44 hours in the city timber mills, where not only Australian but also imported timbers are cut. That is the determination which is now disturbed, and which is raising all this trouble. While we have a right to express our opinions, we have no right to give a direction to His Honour as to what the meaning of an existing award is or should be.
– If he would do that, it is an indication of what may be expected of him from the bench.
– It is no doubt an indication of the direction of his mind. I am not here to quarrel with the exercise of his bench discretion. I am afraid that it would be idle for me to say that perhaps, from the Labour point of view the Government made an indiscreet appointment. I do not think that matter arises in the consideration of this clause.
– Is the honorable member quite sure that, in the timber workers’ case, both sides were in agreement upon the original interpretation as to the standard number of hours?
– Up to the moment I have been quite sure. The AttorneyGeneral has suggested that I am not right in that respect. I should like the Attorney-General to re-state the history of the matter, and, when he does so, I should like him to have this clause postponed for the purpose of considering an amendment of the kind that I have mentioned.
– The honorable member will agree that the amendment suggested does not arise on this clause, but on proposed section 18a.
– Yes, but that is not under discussion.
– Exactly, and the honorable member’s suggestion cannot be dealt with under the proposed new section 25a.
– I agree that the difficulty can be overcome only by the insertion of a new clause; but I should like to know what the Attorney-General is prepared to do. The matter is one of very great importance, and if we can act as a conciliation committee with a view to preventing a disturbance from flaring up in this very large industry we should exert ourselves in that direction.
– I am - certainly prepared to consider the point that has been raised by the honorable member for Batman. It appears to me that if the law, which provides that increases or reductions in standard hours shall be made only by three judges, is to be maintained, it is undesirable that any such decision should be effected by an interpretation of an award made by one judge. Prima facie that is the view which I take ; but I do not want to speak with absolute finality upon the matter because I shall have to consider it from all its aspects before E bring any proposal before the committee. My impression at the moment, however, is that to that extent there is a good deal of weight in what the honorable member has said. At the same time it must be recognized that his statement is very different from that of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) who has objected to these matters being brought before three judges. The honorable member for Batman considers that they should come before three judges, and I am inclined to agree with him. I do not wish to diverge from the general principle to which I have alluded and to discuss a particular case. I have sent to my. office for the papers connected with this matter. I read them as recently as Wednesday night, and it seemed clear to me that the interpretation was given in the course of a decision upon an application for the variation of an award. At the moment I am not in possession of facts which enable me to say what interpretation the parties had placed upon it in the past; but from the terms of the judgment it was plain that when the matter was argued before the court on the last occasion they differed in their interpretation, because the judgment states that a special day was set apart for argument in relation to interpretation. I admit that that is also consistent with the possibility that until recently the parties agreed in a particular interpretation of the award. The point which the honorable member for Batman has raised is an important one. It affects section 18a. I should like to have the opportunity to consider the desirability of introducing a new clause to deal with this specific matter.
.- The difficulty can be overcome only by the introduction of a new clause, and I am glad that the Attorney-General is prepared to give that matter his consideration. I, however, should like to show how real is the necessity for this action. Whether wittingly or unwittingly a judge of the Arbitration Court has been responsible for creating trouble, that will probably become very serious, in an industry. Honorable members know sufficient of human nature to realize that men do not lightly give up something that they have had for six years. Mr. Justice Higgins, as president of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, granted the whole of the employees in the timberworkers’ industry a 44-hour week. That then became the standard number of hours in the industry. In 1921 three judges were appointed and were asked to deal with the question of hours. They determined to increase to 48 the number of hours to be worked in one section of the industry and to retain 44 hours in another section. The argument on that occasion was that the sawmills which produced logs in the bush had to compete against timber which was imported from overseas. For six years the sawmilling industry in the cities worked 44 hours a week because it was engaged in sawing up all kinds of timber, both imported and locally produced; and the mills in the bush, which produced timber in competion with the imported article, worked 48 hours a week. In 1922, both employers and employees made application for a variation of the award. The unions wanted a 44-hour week all round and the employers a 48-hour week to apply to the whole of the industry. There was no difference of opinion upon the fact that 44 hours obtained in one section and 48 hours in another section of the industry. The Full Arbitration Court refused to disturb the existing conditions. In 1923, a further application was made for a variation of the award, and again the Full Arbitration Court decided to maintain the position as it stood. Another application by both sides in 1926 was refused by the Full Arbitration Court. It will thus be seen that on three different occasions the court considered that 44 hours obtained in one branch of the industry. In 1927, a general case was submitted to the court for a complete variation of the award, including the question of hours. The employers asked that 4S hours should apply in all branches, and the employees asked for 44 hours. The Full Arbitration Court adjourned the question of hours until February, 1929, and asked Judge Lukin to hear the remainder of the claim. The first thing which Judge Lukin did was to interpret the award which had stood for six years. In his judgment he interpreted it to mean something entirely different from the meaning which had been accepted by both sides for six years. I am not attempting to argue that his interpretation was either right or wrong; what I am pointing out is that a very unsatisfactory position has been created. I understood the Attorney-General to say that the interpretation was given upon an application to vary the standard of hours.
– No, to vary the award.
– The question of hours was adjourned by the Full Arbitration Court to February, 1929.
– My remark was made in reply to the observation of honorable member for Batman that the judge was engaged in the making of a new award and had adopted the attitude that he ought first to interpret the old award. I do not think that he is right in that view. There was an application for the variation of the award in some particulars, and that raised the question of interpretation.
– I am fairly sure that the Attorney-General is not right in that respect. There was an application by both sides for a new award, and Judge Lukin said that the first thing he had to do was to. interpret the old award, and in doing so he interpreted the question of hours. His judgment, based upon that interpretation, was given in April of this year. He then declared that the 48-hour week applied to all branches of the industry. The union applied for a variation of the award given upon that interpretation, and he refused to grant it, although at one stage I believe that he
Said he had the power to do so. A very significant remark was made by His Honor when he gave his interpretation. He said i-1-
In performing this function of interpreting the present award in reference to its provisions as to standard hours, I am ascertaining the meaning of the Full Court’s order of 22 September, 1922, incorporated in the present existing award, according to what I think is tho intention and meaning thereof. In doing so I must consider myself restricted to the judgments pronounced by the Full Court and the terms of the order made thereon, and cannot allow myself to be influenced by any exercise of my own judgment of what I conceive to be “fair and right,” or even by what may have been accepted in the past by both or either of the parties as to its true meaning. The judgments and the order speak for themselves, and I must interpret them accordingly.
I draw particular attention to the statement that he had not to consider what was fair and right, or what both or either of the parties had accepted as its true meaning, but had merely to interpret the award. That may be strictly and legally correct. We on this side, however, wish to prevent any one judge from interpreting the question of hours to mean something different from what has been accepted, and thus upset an interpretation of the Full Court, affirmed on three occasions. We do not raise here the question of whether there shall be one or three judges; but we do say that if the law lays it down .that only three judges can deal with the question of hours, no one judge should by an interpretation upset the accepted interpretation of the award made by those three judges. This is a serious matter, end if it is not remedied trouble is likely to occur with considerable frequency. I ask the Attorney-General to consider my representations when he is framing a new clause.
Sitting suspended from 1.245 to 2.S0 p.m.
.- I am gratified to hear the AttorneyGeneral say that he intends to do something to rectify for the future the anomalous position that has recently arisen in the Arbitration Court because of an interpretation given by Judge Lukin in the timber workers’ case. The honorable member for Batman (Mr.
Brennan) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) have already given the details of this case and spoken of the consternation that his Honor’s interpretation has occasioned among the workers in the timber industry. No body of workers has been more loyal to arbitration than the members of the Timber “Workers’ Union, and it is regrettable that anything should have arisen to impair their confidence in and good feeling towards the Arbitration Court. It is also regrettable that during these proceedings harsh words have been uttered that are likely to create estrangement. That is not the spirit that ought to be fostered by us. Honorable members opposite have said repeatedly that the purpose of this bill is to tighten up the provisions of our Arbitration Act and remove any anomalies that now exist in it. We doubt the wisdom of some of the suggestions that have been made, though I regard this as a wise proposal, but the difficulty that has arisen in the timber workers’ case bids fair to create . pronounced dissatisfaction with the Arbitration Court and bring about an unsettled condition of affairs in the timber industry. This situation, should be dealt with. When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) asked for confirmation of the statement the honorable member had made that the employers were in agreement that in regard to certain branches of the timber industry a 44-hours week certainly did apply. I can assure the honorable member for Fawkner that this belief was firmly held by the employers. After the Full Court in 1923 has determined that the hours as fixed by the Full Court in 1922 should stand - those hours were 48 hours a week for bush workers and 44 hours a week for city workers - the employers in Sydney and Melbourne obtained legal advice as to whether the interpretation given in 1923 was sound in law. I am informed by an official of the Federal Council of Timber Workers that the opinion of eminent counsel, including that of Mr. Owen Dixon, K.C., was that the interpretation given by the Full Court in 1922 and confirmed by the Full Court in 1923 was in accordance with the terms of the award. Mr. C. J. Burge, who is an executive officer of the Federal Council of the Australian Timber Workers’ Union and who has appeared as an advocate for the union in certain cases, particularly the case heard in 1925 before DeputyPresident Webb, has written to me, and the following is an extract from his communication : -
The employers in Melbourne and Sydney obtained the advice of eminent counsel, and Mr. Owen Dixon, K.C., was one of them, and they interpreted it the same as we did.
I have no doubt Mr. Burge has frequently been in consultation with the advocates for the employers when adjusting minor features of the award. At any rate his communication indicates that counsel consulted by the employers concurred in the opinion that the interpretation given by the Full Court was sound. In 1925 the South Australian branch of the Timber Merchants’ Association briefed Messrs. Wright and Skipper, a legal firm in Adelaide, to secure a variation of the timber workers award, to have drivers exempted from the provisions of the award relating to hours. It is a logical deduction that these Adelaide employers and employees generally in the timber industry were convinced that city workers were entitled to a 44 hours week, as the variation, I emphasize, was only concerning the drivers employed in the industry. When the Adelaide case came before Deputy-President Webb in 1925, he dismissed the plaint, saying that the workers mentioned in it were included in the timber workers award and could not be exempted. Not being a legal man I venture my opinion with some trepidation, but I am, I think, capable of stating a common sense view of the decision given by Judge Lukin. The trouble among the timber workers has arisen out of an interpretation given by Judge Lukin of an award originally made by Mr. Justice Higgins in 1921 and further reviewed and interpreted by the Full Court in 1922. If Judge Lukin had undertaken to review and interpret the award of 1921 on an application for a variation I could have understood his action; although even in that case the wisdom and propriety of the action might have been seriously challenged, in view of the Full Court’s decision to defer ‘their determination in regard to hours until February next year, and it seems to me that Judge Lukin went out of his way to do more than was required of him. When considering the making of a new award governing wages and hours, he took the most unusual course of interpreting the award of 1921, and, it must be noted, quite unsolicited by the representatives of either employers or employees. It is difficult to see how he can reconcile his action with that of the Full Court which preferred to leave the consideration of the matter until February next. I am grateful that the Attorney-General intends, by legislation, to provide for future cases of the kind. I trust that he will carry out his expressed intention by having a new clause inserted in the bill, so that the repetition of such a proceeding will be impossible. When decisions have been given by a higher court, they should be secure against reversal by any judge who is subordinate to that tribunal. But while the amendment which the Attorney-General has promised will deal with future cases, it will not, unfortunately, remedy the position to which I have referred.
– The honorable member will recall the objection which was taken to the retrospective part of the legislation in connexion with section18a.
– Surely the AttorneyGeneral does not claim that it is not within- his province to take steps to rectify an anomaly even when this is causing distinct injustice, which may culminate in a most serious disturbance. I ask the Attorney-General to exercise the power which is conferred on him under Section 18b, which says: -
The Attorney-General on behalf of the Commonwealth may, by giving to the Registrar a notice in writing of his intention so to do, intervene in the public interest in any proceeding before the court in which the question of standard hours of work in any industry or of the basic wage is under in dispute, in relation to either of these questions.
– Does the honorable member suggest that I should intervene in the timber workers’ award?
– Yes. I ask the AttorneyGeneral seriously to consider the advisability of having the case reviewed so far as it concerns Judge Lukins’ recent interpretation respecting the hours question.
– Does the honorable member suggest that I should present my views on the matter? I have never done that, and I should not be prepared to argue on one side or the other. The effect of intervention is to allow others to come in and argue.
– All I ask is that the Attorney-General provide a way for the review of a decision which has created a most unjust position.
– We wish the matter to be dealt with on its merits.
– As the Leader of the Opposition says, we wish to have the matter dealt with impartially on its merits. We urge on the AttorneyGeneral the importance of this matter, as there is much dissatisfaction and unrest among the timber-workers.
– It appears to me that the extra words which the Attorney-General proposes to insert in section 25a are unnecessary.Would it not be sufficient to say, “ The court shall, in making its awards, provide so far as possible for uniformity in an industry “ ?
– The words which it is proposed to insert give an indication to the court that, if it thinks proper, certain things shall be done. It is a more definite indication of the intention of Parliament.
– It opens up a very wide field.
– I do not think so. The power of the court is limited by the other words in the section. The direction to the court to consider certain matters “ so far as possible” and “in so far as the court thinks proper,” are, I think, quite reconcilable.
– The court which is mentioned here is presided over by one judge.
– If the court is dealing with a reduction or a determination of standard hours, it will consist of three judges, but other matters may be dealt with by a single judge.
– The AttorneyGeneral used as an illustration the awards which had been granted, covering conditions of employment in the Sunshine Harvester Works. If the court gave an award which included say, engineers, blacksmiths, carpenters, moulders, painters, &c, much irritation would be caused.
– This section does not deal with industry awards as distinct from craft awards.
– If a judge, in giving his award, were to disturb the customs and traditions associated with craft unions, it would lead to all kinds of trouble.
– I agree that that is a matter which must be carefully watched.
– If a judge says that all those engaged in working on the metal side of an industry, or on the woodworking side, ought to be placed in one union, it is likely to lead to dissatisfaction amongst the men. In an industry such as the McKay Harvester Works, some men are engaged in work which is more unpleasant, or more unhealthy, than -that being done by others, and this may be a quite sufficient reason for their having a shorter working week. We must guard against the possibility of the judges doing anything which might have the effect of driving the employees into one great union. If the workers feel that they cannot carry out the award of the court, and still keep intact the customs and practices established by long usage, they may be forced to join with others in one great union. I do not wish to see anything done which will take from the workers their right to maintain the customs and traditions which they have enjoyed in the past.
.- Will the Attorney-General give an assurance that an opportunity will be provided for immediately reviewing the case of the timber workers to which I have referred and which was commented upon by the honorable, member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin)?
– I understand from the Attorney-General that it could be dealt with under a new clause which will be moved later.
– But that clause will deal only with future cases; I want some assurance that this particular case will be provided for. I ask the AttorneyGeneral., in the public interest, to provide some method of dealing with this matter at once.
. - It would appear that I am being asked to introduce legislation dealing not only with what may happen in the future, but with the judgment in a particular case which has already been disposed of. It is proposed that this legislation shall declare that the judge who determined the matter had no jurisdiction to do so. I am not prepared to introduce legislation of that character. It would be a very dangerous practice indeed to interfere retrospectively with private rights. Legislation of that kind was objected to very strongly by the Opposition in 1920, when section 18a was under consideration. At that time the Opposition was very definite on the point that accrued rights should not be disturbed. What were regarded as accrued rights on that occasion happened to be on the side of the employees. Now it happens, and in the same industry, that the accrued rights are on the side of the employers. Speaking generally, the rule is that we must legislate for the future, and not for the past. It is open to either party concerned to apply for a variation of the award, and an amendment has already been made in section 18, which enables a judge to refer such a matter to the full court of the Arbitration Court. Up to the present it has been possible only for a judge to get another judge of the court to sit with him in hearing a dispute, but with the amendment which has now been passed it will be possible to apply for a variation of an award, and to have the matter heard by a full court of three judges.
– There may be considerable delays in the hearing.
– Delays are incidental to all forms of judicial procedure. I am not sufficiently informed of the merits of the specific case mentioned by the honorable member to undertake to introduce legislation to deal with it.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral reserve his decision so that if f urther information is furnished to him he may take action at a later stage ?
– Any amendment would require to be in the form of a new clause, which would not be dealt with until all the other portions of the bill had been considered.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Latham) agreed to-
That the words .” in an industry in relation to hours of work, holidays and general conditions,” proposed new section 25a, he omitted and the ‘ following words inserted in lieu thereof : “ throughout an industry carried on by employers in relation to hours of work, holidays and general conditions in that industry.”
Proposed section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed section 25b -
Copies of every award and of every variation of an award shall be sent to each Registry as soon as possible after the making thereof and glial) be open for inspection upon payment of the prescribed fee.
– This proposed new section is inserted at the request of all parties interested in the arbitration system and will facilitate the obtaining of information in regard to both awards and variations.
– “Will the copies of the awards and variations which are to be open for inspection at each registry be certified ?
– No. If it be necessary to prove an award in the court it will be easy to obtain the certificate of the Deputy Registrar on a particular copy for submission to the court.
– Why should not al] the copies be certified ?
– A certified copy means a particular document that is certified as correct. In the issuing of these copies such a certificate could only he given in print and would not be finally authoritative in the court. As a rule the awards are printed under the direction of the court, and I am not aware of any difficulty having arisen owing to lack of certification.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed section 25c -
In determining any industrial dispute under this act in which the rates of pay, or conditions of employment, applying to apprentices in any industry are in question, the court shall take into consideration any scheme of apprenticeship provided by or under any State law.
– This proposed section is inserted at the request of the Victorian Minister for Labour (Mr. Lemmon). In that State an apprenticeship act was recently passed and honorable members will agree that the Arbitration Court should pay the greatest respect to any carefully-considered scheme of apprenticeship under a State law.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed section 25d -
The court shall, before making any award or certifying any agreement, and in proceedings for the variation or cancellation of an award or agreement, take into consideration, the probable economic effect of the agreement or award in relation to the community in general and the probable economic effect thereof upon the industry or industries concerned.
– This proposal has been already the subject of a considerable amount of discussion. I spoke upon it fully in my reply to the debate on the second reading and I ask the committee to adopt it for the reasons I then stated. Without further debating the subject I move the following amendment of which I have given notice : -
That the following proviso be added: - “ Provided that this section shall not affect the practice of the court in fixing the basic wage.”
.- As the amendment applies only to the basic wage, I am extremely doubtful that even .with that limitation the proposed section will be acceptable to trade unionists. The matter of “working hours also must be considered. Hours are dealt with by three judges, and. I assume that before they make an award they will have to investigate the economic condition of the industry. Although a fairly full investigation preceded the last award in regard to hours, this proposed section apparently gives a definite instruction to the courtto investigate the economic conditions of the industry in regard to which any award is to be given. Such inquiries will occupy a great deal of time. The timber workers have a case before the court at the present time, and this proposed section is an instruction to Judge Lukin to take into consideration the probable economic effect of any award which may be made. It is true that he is expressly forbidden to interfere with what has been the practice in fixing the basic wage; but there are other factors of importance to the workers. The basic wage may be £4 12s. 6d., but ever since Mr. Justice Higgins presided in the Arbitration Court it has been the custom to fix over and above the basic wage a certain margin for skill. That margin may be 2s., 3s., or 3s. 6d. The engineering industry covers several grades of work, highly skilled, skilled, and unskilled. If the judge does not, of his own volition, investigate the economic position of an industry before he makes an award, the employers’ representatives will certainly ask him to do so. In connexion with plaints by the Australian Workers Union, the pastoralists, on several occasions, asserted that the industry was not strong enough to support the claim which the union had made, but the union was able to convince the court, without a detailed investigation, that the position of the industry was sound enough to support the award asked for. Because of the past usage of the industrial courts we have been able to maintain the basic wage. We have had to put up a fight on many occasions, but it has always been recognized by the judges, both of the State and of the Federal courts, that the basic wageshould not be interfered with merely because an industry is in a bad economic condition. The gold-mining industry of Western Australia is in such a bad condition that it cannot pay the basic wage, but that is no justification for its claim that the employees in that industry should accept less than the basic wage in order to keep the industry in existence. Our claim is that that procedure is economically unsound. The Government has wisely decided in connexion with our wine, dried fruits, canned fruits, sugar, cotton, and many other primary industries, that if they are not in a sound economic condition, the employees are not to be compelled to subsidize them by accepting a lower wage. The nation comes to their assistance, and they are subsidized by the granting of bounties. The basic wage is maintained, and probably those conducting the industries have available a margin by which they can
Ifr. Blakeley. reward skill. This clause, even with the amendment of the Attorney-General, will break down conditions which have been long established in Australia. I am extremely doubtful whether any judge of the Federal Arbitration Court is the best investigator of the industrial or economic conditions of an industry. As an illustration of the difficulties that will be experienced, I cite the position of the Australian Gas Employees’ Union. There are many gas companies throughout Australia, the majority of which have employed modern methods of company management, and have watered their capital. The Australian Gaslight Company of Sydney has watered its capital so frequently that the consumers of gas in Sydney are paying a very high percentage on capital which i3 merely a book entry. It is probable that, by the exploitation of our great coal wealth electricity may become so cheap in Sydney and its suburbs that the earning capacity of the Australian Gaslight Company will decline very considerably. The operation of this clause would make it fairly easy for that company to prove that, on its nominal capital, it would be impossible to continue to pay dividends of 6, 7, or 8 per cent., and still maintain the basic wage awarded by the court. Is the judge, when making his economic investigation, to take into consideration the watering of stock that has occurred?Is he to make a minute investigation of the history of the company and its disposition of capital, or is he to be compelled to accept only the latest balancesheets of the company? This Parliament has been called upon to assist the boot, motor tire, gelatine, glucose, rice, and other industries. An investigation of the conditions prevailing in many of our industries has revealed that, whereas the co-efficient of labour, so far as it concerns industrial wastage, may be taken as five, the corresponding co-efficient of inefficient management is 30. I and many other honorable members visited a number of factories in Australia, and I have never yet visited one which, in my opinion, was efficiently managed. In almost every instance obsolete methods were in operation; and one saw men carrying loads on their backs, o.r wheeling material in trucks or wheelbarrows, when up-to-date automatic carriers should have been employed.
– Yet the honorable member votes for the protection of such industries.
– -I do. Notwithstanding all the faults of management in those industries, I prefer to have them existing in this country, believing that ultimately those concerned will become sufficiently educated to institute efficient working conditions.
– They will never do that while given a very generous protection.
– We shall have to force them to adopt effective methods.
– Perhaps the best way to force them to do so is to introduce a little more competition.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. Probably the incapable management that I have observed is responsible for the low profits which give many concerns an excuse to appear before the Arbitration Court and claim that the economic conditions of their industries do not permit them to pay the prescribed basic wage. That throws the responsibility upon the judge to determine whether the industry is efficiently conducted or otherwise. It would be * futile to ask Judge Lukin, Judge Dethridge, or any other of the judges of the Federal Arbitration Court to determine whether those industries were paying too much. I admit frankly that my knowledge of industrial economics is due only to my practical experience in industry. I also admit frankly that if it came to the solution of technical problems in an industry I should be quite at sea. The judges of the Federal Arbitration Court are not sufficiently scientifically trained to investigate the industrial conditions of industry. I have dealt with two factors governing the economics of industry, the watering of stock, associated with the financial history of a company, and the prevalence of inefficient management, both of which should be considered by the Arbitration Court. A third factor is the effect of the fiscal policy of the country upon industry. While we are constantly dealing with fiscal matters, and must necessarily acquire some knowledge thereon, very few of us would be competent to investigate an industry if we were without the assistance of experts.
– How does the honorable member suggest that the efficiency of an industry is to be ascertained?
– It can be done only by the employment of experts.
– Exactly, and the judges of the Arbitration Court hear the evidence of experts, and determine applications accordingly.
– The judge has first of all to make an investigation of the economic conditions of an industry, and he immediately relegates his authority to somebody else.
– Oh, no ! The judge investigates the conditions of an industry by hearing evidence.
– I do not agree that by calling and hearing evidence he can arrive at a proper decision.
– That procedure applies to all industrial as well as other economic matters. Industry is only one branch of economy.
– Even, if for the time being, we accept the statement of the Attorney-General, does not the honorable gentleman realize that it will take more than four judges to investigate the economic condition of industry? Does he not realize that the scheme is unworkable.
– I think that it is workable.
– Then the AttorneyGeneral will need to appoint more judges.
– I agree that there is at present grave congestion existing in the Arbitration Court, but I believe that some of the provisions of this bill will relieve that congestion. That is why no appointments are being made before the bill becomes law. I hope that it will not be necessary to make any further appointments.
– To determine the matter of hours a general survey of industry was made, that necessarily was circumscribed. Proposed section 25d provides that whenever a claim comes before the court there must be a complete investigation of the economic conditions of the industry concerned.
– What is the honorable member’s remedy for that?
– My remedy is to negative the proposed section. The economic condition of the industry should not be taken into consideration when fixing an award prescribing the conditions for those employed in the industry.
– Does not the honorable member concede that the economic effect of a determination must be taken into account?
– I shall give the honorable member an illustration. The case of the timber workers is now before the court. It has been found that the present costs of felling, carting, sawing, and breaking up timber are too high, and that has an adverse economic effect upon the community generally. No matter how true that may be, the employees in the industry should not be penalized because the industry is not in a flourishing economic condition. It is entirely unfair and inequitable to expect a small section of society to carry the responsibility for the inefficiency or lack of protection of an industry. It must be realized that many causes may affect the prosperity of a particular industry. But if this clause means anything, it means that the wages of the workers in a languishing industry may be reduced to such a point that the industry may show a profit upon its operations. If we desire to set up the principle that industries must pay, we should make the whole community responsible. Even with the amendment foreshadowed by the AttorneyGeneral this provision would be dangerous, for although the basic wage might be protected, there would be no protection for the margin of skill, or for many other conditions such as smoke-ohs annual holidays, bonuses, and so on, which are involved in claims submitted to the Arbitration Court. No matter how the Attorney-General may tinker with the proposed section to meet the views of the Opposition, it will remain objectionable. I hope that it will be rejected.
– This proposed section is “of some importance. When I first read it in the bill I thought that perhaps we were at last coming to our economic senses, for in my opinion it seeks to establish a principle which is obviously economically sound. The proposed section reads -
The court shall, before making any award or certifying any agreement, and in proceedings for the variation or cancellation of an award or agreement, take into consideration the probable economic effect of the agreement or award in relation to the community in general and the probable economic effect thereof upon the industry or industries concerned.
It is sad enough that it should be thought necessary to insert such a provision in the bill, but it is infinitely sadder that there should be thought necessity to qualify it, as the Attorney-General now proposes to do. I cannot congratulate the Government upon its second thought on the subject. The amendment which has been foreshadowed consists of the addition of the following proviso : -
Provided that this section shall not affect the practice of the court in fixing the basic wage.
For the proposed section as it stood I had some admiration; but I totally disagree with the suggested variation of it. I incline to the belief that it would be better to drop it altogether than to amend it as proposed. My first reason for saying that is that the basic wage was fixed originally not by Parliament, but by the Arbitration Court. If this amendment is agreed to, Parliament will, so. far as I know for the first time, confirm the principle upon which it is ascertained. In other words it will unnecessarily and at a singularly ill-advised moment, enter a province which up to the present has been left entirely to the Arbitration Court.
Apropos of this subject, I should like to read the following remarks which I made when speaking during the general tariff debate on the 5th March, 1926 -
The tariff has constantly increased during the last 25 years, until now it is three times as high as it was originally. What are the reasons for the great increase? I think that the famous dictum of Mr. Justice Higgins, in giving judgment in the Arbitration Court in the Broken Hill Proprietary case, has a great deal to do with it. I do not propose to criticize adversely a judgment of tho Arbitration Court. I wish merely to point out the effect of Mr. Justice Higgins’ judgment. He not only laid down the doctrine that industry ought to pay a living wage, but he added to that declaration of new law the corollary that an industry which could not comply with the obligation to pay a living wage ought npt to exist. In my opinion, that is- not a sound economic view, and I entirely disagree with it.
– Does the. honorable member advocate sweating?
– I have listened patiently to a number of speeches by the honorable member for Werriwa during this debate, and have not interrupted him, and I ask him to accord me. the same treatment. I shall deal with his interjection later. The extract which I am reading proceeds -
I have always held that it is preferable that a man should have half a loaf rather than no bread. If a full loaf is available, of course, it is preferable, but if it is not, surely it is better for a man to have half a loaf than to go hungry. The pronouncement by Mr. Justice Higgins has had much to do with advancing our customs duties. Because certain industries cannot comply with the obligation to pay the wages stipulated by the Arbitration Court, they have been forced out of existence.
To illustrate my argument I instanced the mining industry, which is to-day in a distressed condition throughout Australia. Many mines have been forced to cease operations. Unfortunately, the ill-effects of the policy of which I complain have not been limited to the mining industry. The principle propounded by Mr. Justice Higgins, whether sound or otherwise, has been pushed to the point at which it has caused many industries to close down. Many others, which remain in operation, are being kept alive only by tariff protection or bounties. How many industries have we in Australia that could stand for six months if our customs duties and bounties were removed? It is high time that we began to consider the economic effect which our arbitration policy is having upon industry. Notwithstanding the conditions to which I have referred, applications are continually being made to the court for higher wages and shorter hours, and the cost of living is being increased to the consumers and to workers not under awards. Many workers are out of employment, and many are either voluntarily or involuntarily working short time. It ia generally admitted that we have more unemployment in Australia at present than is usual for this time of the year. We appear to be getting farther and farther from world conditions, while other countries are struggling to. get back to normal. In addition, the financial stringency is affecting the Government, as certain, honorable members on this side, of the chamber last year prophesied that it would, Their prognostications in that, respect are being realized with alarming rapidity, although we have had a series of good seasons, I have, no desire to. paint a mournful picture, but it is wise, that we should not ignore adverse conditions, or bury our heads, in the sand. It is extraordinarythat in circumstances like these we should even think of providing that the Arbitration Court should, not take into, account the probable economic effect of its awards upon industry, at least in relation to the basic wage. I submit- that Parliament should do. nothing to prevent the court from varying or reducing the. existing wage, if that is essential upon economic grounds. Industries have been forced out of existence in Australia by continual increases in wages, and the future of others is, for the same reason, being imperilled.
The basic wage is the amount considered’ by the court to be necessary to maintain a man with a wife and three suppositious children in reasonable comfort; but it is well known that a great many employees throughout Australia have neither wives nor children. In this connexion I wish to quote from The Next Step, a book written by Mr. A. B. Piddington, K.C. Honorable members opposite will, I think, admit that in some respects, at all events, Mr. Piddington is not antagonistic to them. In a report which he submitted in 1920 to the Prime Minister of the day - the right honorable member for North Sydney - Mr. Piddington said-
Every employee must be paid the same amount of wages; otherwise married men with children will be at a disadvantage.
There is a difficulty with regard to that point which we all recognize. Mr. Piddington continued -
There is indeed no conceivable reason, either on economic or humane grounds, why an employer’s obligation to each individual employee should vary with the number of that employee’s children.
The reply to that is obvious. If the” obligation is not to vary with the children, there is no more . reason why we should lay down the principle that the basic wage should be paid on the assumption that a family consists of five, than that we should lay it down that it should be the amount necessary to maintain a bachelor. If the number of children is to be taken into account, why should three be fixed as a fair basis ? On page 33 of The Next Step, Mr. Piddington says -
The sufficiency of the country’s production to pay a supposed wage varies primarily with the number of workers in the country. The present basic-wage system distributes the total wage-share of production on the supposition that each worker has a wife and three children. I have shown that this amounts to postulating the existence of 2,100,000 workers’ children, whom we know to be nonexistent. ‘ But the existence of children requires the existence of a given proportion of adult male workers to produce wealth for them, the ratio being in Australia ten male workers for every nine children. If, then, we “invent” 2,100,000 children, we must invent also about 2,330,000 adult male workers to produce the necessary wealth for them. Thus the present basic-wage system distributes the wages-share of production as if our total popu- lation was 12,000,000, instead of nearly 5,500,000.
He then sets out in a table the following obviously absurd position: -
and concludes -
Such fallacious inventions court disaster.
At the Attorney-General has said, Dr. Jethro Brown has laid it down that “the conception is ethical rather than economic.” I venture to suggest to the committee that as we are now up against economic facts it is just as well that we should recognize and consider them. The Attorney-General said, also -
An industry that cannot, under proper conditions, pay a decent living wage, cannot justify its existence.
– I also went on to say that if such an industry were necessary to the community it was the duty of the community toalter the conditions so that the industry could pay a better wage.
– That is so. I do not wish to misrepresent the Minister. “When he interjected, I was about to ask, following on his statement which I have just quoted, will he say that such a wage for an unmarried man must be on the basis of a family of five persons, and will he say that it will be better for industry to cease rather than allow the employees engaged in it to accept a reduction in wages, even if temporarily and voluntarily? As a matter of fact, many employees in a number of industries have been prepared, as I personally know, to accept a reduction in wages temporarily when it has been made clear to them that the industry could not carry on under existing conditions. In certain instances they have joined with employers in an application to the court for a reduced award, preferring lower wages temporarily to the prospect of unemployment through failure of the industry. Suppose than an industry does go out of existence. Is this a good time for an undertaking which possibly cannot afford and might not for a few years be able to afford to pay existing wages, to cease and throw perhaps 1,000 persons out of work? “What other avenue of employment is available to men who may suffer through the failure of their industry?
Professor Jethro Brown and others have said that these principles are ethical rather than economic. I am not quarrelling with these principles from the point of view of ethics, but I submit in all seriousness that industry is governed by economic factors, and that if it ignores them, unquestionably it must suffer. According to a principle which the AttorneyGeneral has laid down in his secondreading speech, the court is to retain the basic wage, but is not necessarily obliged to have regard to other factors. Apparently the economic standard as regards the ability of industry to pay wages is not to be considered, but the attention of the court can be applied to hours or conditions of labour, piecework, bonus-work, travelling time, and other allowances additional to normal wages. These are only subsidiary details of the same problem, of which wages is the chief factor,and I say therefore that since wages and hours are inextricably associated, it is difficult to consider them apart. I think that I can claim that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) is, perhaps unintentionally, a supporter of my view. In his address to the newspaper proprietors in conference in Canberra last week he said -
One ‘ of the mistakes that Australia had made had been that the ideals of the founders of the arbitration system had not been realized. No regard had been given to whether the system could withstand economic circumstances.
That is very definite.
It was possible, while maintaining the fundamental principles, to get back to a position where it would be recognized that whatever further was wanted from the arbitration system would depend on those who benefited by it, and how far a wages fund for improved conditions was created by increased productivity. Hours and conditions of work wore economic questions which could be dealt with only as production and wealth were increased.
Can any honorable member point, to any particular industry in which wages as a factor are separate and distinct from hours and conditions of work? I suggest, therefore, that the Prime Minister recognizes the economic factor in industry, and apparently realizes that the position has become, or is becoming, uneconomic. For my part, I have always held that it is preferable for three men, in times of stress, to work for two-thirds of the wages received by them in normal circumstances of prosperity, than that one should be out of employment. It is strange that such an obvious view should require to be emphasized, or that any one should see anything unusual in it.
– “Would it not be better for employees in such circumstances to earn a living wage in some other avocation?
– What other avocation is available to them? The honorable member must recognize surely that at the present time a considerable number of people are out of employment because certain industries have become unprofitable, and other avenues of employment are not being opened up. If there are such new industries in some of the eastern States, his view may be justified; but I am not aware of there being any in my own State, though it is said that there is a considerable amount of employment waiting for men who are willing to go out into the country districts. I do not think there is any question about that, but there does not appear to be an inclination ..on the part, even of many of the unemployed, to leave the cities for the country.
The Attorney-General mentioned that the court has laid down three propositions in regard to the basic wage. He says (a) that it should be sufficient to supply the normal needs of the average employee, regarded as a human being living in a civilized community; (b) that it varies with the cost of living; and (c) that it should, “as a practical universal rule, be paid by all employers whether prosperous or not.”
– What about chopping down profits?
– Profits have been “ chopped down “ as the honorable member puts it, for a considerable time.
– The statistics do not indicate a cut in profits.
– Profits have been cut to such an extent that, but for increased tariff protection and the payment of bounties, many industries would have gone out of existence. Without these artificial aids we should now be experiencing an unexampled amount of unemployment in Australia.
– Why not allow the Arbitration Court to determine what is a fair profit for the employer?
– Very early in its history the Arbitration Court laid it down that the standard which must be adhered to was the level of comfort of the employee, considered as a man with a wife and three children. The economic factor, as the Prime Minister has said, was entirely disregarded. Adherence to the principle laid down was perfectly safe so long as there was plenty of money in industry to pay the wages, and so long as Parliament waa prepared to grant tariff increases and bounties to industry. The Attorney-General says that some honorable members appear to doubt that the basic wage is in principle economically sound. Of course, it is not sound. No one with a knowledge of political economy can suggest that it is. It may be very desirable, and ethically a good thing, to aim at the maintenance of the basic wage; but no one can suggest for a moment that it is economically sound. We have only to consider what must happen if, in times of financial stress, wages are pushed up to a point beyond the ability of employers to pay them and maintain their industry. Unemployment then is inevitable. It should be obvious to all that if an industry is called upon to pay too much it must eventually break down.
Personally, I am not opposed to the principle of compulsory arbitration. I approach the discussion of this subject from a point of view entirely different from that of some other honorable members. I have supported compulsory arbitration ever since my entry into Parliament, although at that time there was a considerable outcry by the Single Purpose League, among other bodies, for the abolition of the system, and I take a certain amount of pride in the fact that at the referendum about two years ago the percentage of votes in favour of both propositions submitted to the people was greater in my division than in any other division in South Australia. I am not against paying good wages, or even higher wages, provided that they are earned; but that involves the question of production and results. If a man, by piece-work or some similar method, obtains better results, I should not object to him receiving a commensurate wage. There are strong indications that the arbitration system is breaking down because of the weight of the employees’ demands, which, long ago, made the industrial position economically unsound, particularly with regard to competition with outside countries. This has now affected the internal position of Australia -to such an extent that the loss of production and lack of employment have become greatly accentuated. I urge the committee, if it wishes to continue the arbitration system, which, after all, is embedded in the structure of Australian industry and the abolition of which would cause great dislocation in industry, not to support the proposed amendment. If honorable members do not wish this system to crash, but, on the other hand, wish it to live; if they desire to avoid increased loss of production, loss of employment, and an increased cost of living, I urge them to consider this provision well before tying the hands of the Arbitration Court in such a way as to make it powerless to prevent economic disaster. I am not making an attack on the basic wage ; but I have not hidden the fact that I think that the method under which it has been calculated has always been wrong. The basic wage has hitherto been determined by the Arbitration Court, and, if necessary, the court should be able to vary it. This is a singularly ill-advised moment for this committee and this Parliament to step in and interfere in a matter which has always been the prerogative of the court itself. The distinctions and exceptions which have been suggested by the Attorney-General will, if accepted, mean so much of a ratification by Parliament of the general principles under which the Arbitration Court has hitherto made its awards, that it . would be far better to withdraw the whole provision. As it was originally drafted I thought that it would at least enable us to return to some degree of financial sanity.
– I regard this as the most important provision of the bill, because it alters entirely the procedure of the Arbitration Court. To-day the court has to be guided by equity and conscience, as to the merits of the case with which it is dealing, but under this provision the court, when determining an award or agreement, is compelled to take into consideration the economic condition of the industry concerned. The Attorney-General has suggested a proviso to ensure that the proposed new section shall not affect the procedure of the court in fixing the basic wage. The honorable member for Boothby is entirely opposed to that proviso.
– He gave the whole show away.
– He verified what has been in the minds of honorable members on this side since the. introduction of the bill. We contend that it has been deliberately drafted for the purpose of handing over holus bolus the control of the workers of this country to the employers. The Attorney-General has. proposed an amendment to take the sting out of this provision, but the honorable member for Boothby is opposing it on the ground that there should, be no interference with the court by compelling it, when fixing wages and conditions, to take into consideration the economic position of the industry concerned. He went further and stated that there should be no basic wage; that the court should fix the wage on the merits of the case. What would be the result of that? It would mean that the employers in industry could go to the court and produce evidence of an unsound economic position, in the light of which the court could not fix even a living wage. The honorable member for Booth by is agreeable to that. He said that half a loaf is better than none, and that, if it were necessary, two-thirds of the ruling wage should be paid to the workers.
– That is scarcely a fair statement.
– I said that it would be better for three men to each get two-thirds of any given wage, than for one of them to be entirely unemployed.
– What would be the position of the industrial workers if the law were as he proposes? Would not his proposition break down working conditions? Would it not mean asking a man to work for less than the wage on which he could reasonably support his family? What chance would a man with a large family have if he were receiving two-thirds of the basic wage, the cost of living remaining unchanged? It would be absolutely impossible for him to live. The amendment proposed by the Attorney-General will certainly take some of the sting out of proposed new section 25d, but at the same time I am entirely opposed to this provision. It should not be inserted in the bill at all unless we get right down to bedrock when considering the economic position. The honorable member for Boothby has admitted that the profits of industry have never been taken into consideration by the court when fixing wages. I made a similar statement the other day, but the Attorney-General contradicted me. Now the honorable member for Boothby has confirmed my statement.
– So far as I know, that is so.
– Let us get down to bedrock if the court, when making its award, is to take into consideration the economic effect upon the community. There are two parties to arbitration, the employers and the employees, and the system should apply equitably to both. First of all an investigation should be made to ascertain the amount of capital invested in industry and the amount of watered capital. During the war few companies failed to prosper, and since then, instead of paying dividends of from 12 per cent, to 20 per cent, their capital has been continually watered; in some cases, to the extent of 100 per cent. Take the Colonial Sugar Coy. and the extent to which the value of its shares has increased during the last ten or twelve years. Even though the capital has been watered time after time, the industry is still paying large dividends.
– There can be no satisfactory reduction of wages in Australia unless there is an all-round reduction, and only then will the cost of living come down.
– The honorable member for Boothby referred to the miners; but if their wages were reduced that would not provide work for other men, because the present production of coal is more than sufficient for our requirements. Take the position of the Caledonian Company. For years it has been paying big dividends, and particularly was that so during the war. Now it is dismissing men and closing the mines. The same thing applies to other mining companies. We cannot take action against these companies because we have not the power to do that, and besides, by penalizing the companies, we should penalize persons who have, after years of toil, invested their small savings in these companies, probably purchasing shares at greatly enhanced values.
– Surely the court may ask whether the capital of a particular company has been watered?
– That has not hitherto been done. Even if we passed legislation to compel a company to disclose its financial position, and ascertained that half its capital is watered, we could hold no one responsible. We have never attempted to legislate to prevent the watering of capital. This Parliament has not full powers to legislate in regard to companies and corporations, and for that reason I supported the recent referendum. This provision is absolutely . unfair, in that it proposes a complete departure from recognized practice. Even if the amendment foreshadowed by the Attorney-General is carried, will it protect the skilled worker ? The court when fixing the basic wage has always allowed a margin for skill. If the economic effect of an award on the industry, affected is to be taken into consideration, and if the court is to determine the basic wage, what protection will there be for skilled workmen? What inducement will be offered to parents to have their sons taught trades, if they find that no more will be paid for skilled labour than for unskilled work? To-day the court is expected to deal with any matter that comes before it, from the point of view of equity and good conscience; but it is proposed under this clause that it shall take into consideration “ the probable economic effect of an agreement or award in relation to the community in general, and the probable economic effect thereof upon the industry or industries concerned.” We know that the industries are usually quite able to look after their own interests; but we must see that the scales are held fairly between all parties, and particularly must we safeguard the interests of the general community. Companies concerned in various commercial undertakings can inflate their capital at any time, and on the general community falls the burden of providing their profits.
– Does the honorable member say that the court should not take into consideration the probable economic effects of an award on the community and on the industry?
– I do not dispute that; but I maintain that under this bill the employers’ interests will predominate.
– The honorable member cannot say that. It is a reflection on the court.
– But I do say it. The court would take the economic position into consideration, and it could declare that in view of the amount of capital invested in an industry and the returns being received, that industry was not in a position to pay a certain wage. Then the court might reduce the wage of the skilled worker down to the level of the basic wage. My contention is that Parliament has never made provision for dealing with the economic position of an industry from its inception.
– That is a different matter. The watering of stock must be considered in arriving at the true economic position of an industry.
– That is my point. We must ascertain the genuine capital of a company in considering its ability to pay decent wages to its employees. It is necessary to consider the welfare of the public; but we should not pass legislation that imposes additional burdens on the industrialists.
– That would not be the effect of this clause.
– I think that it would. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) agrees with me that the court has never taken that aspect into consideration. In neither the Federal nor the State sphere has legislative attention been given to the matter of watered stock.
– Take the capital invested in coal mines.
– Yes. Looking through the register, one notices that some companies have watered their stock to the extent of one-third, although they made exceedingly good profits for a long time. Those who suffer most as the result of this watering of capital are the workers in the industry, and. there are no means of ascertaining whether the action taken is justified. It is often said that coal is too dear. That complaint frequently comes from Victoria, which purchases a good deal of coal from NewSouth Wales. The high cost is supposed to be due to the increased wages that the miners have received; but although the price of coal has gone up on two or three occasions recently, the miners have received no increase in their wages. If the economic position is to be considered here, surely, is scope for such an inquiry.
– We should ascertain the economic facts.
– That is so. I am glad that the honorable member agrees with. me. The working man should at least have a decent return for his labour. The honorable member for Boothby spoke of the basic wage having been fixed at an amount calculated to keep a man, his wife and three children in decent comfort, and he argued that single men were receiving that wage. Taking every factor into consideration, we find that since the war period a man with a family is in a much worse position now than when the basic wage was fixed. It is remarkable that parents with three children can live on the basic wage. If they resided in the Federal Capital Territory, most of their income would be absorbed in house rent. The judges of the Arbitration Court, with the powers that have been conferred upon them, have no doubt acted in what they consider to be the best interests of the general community. They have dealt with the matters that have arisen for their consideration from the point of view of equity and good conscience; but under this bill it is proposed to make the Arbitration Act resemble the criminal code. We should leave the judges of the Arbitration Court to give even-handed justice to the contending parties in industry for the purpose of preventing strikes and lockouts. But peace in industry cannot be obtained by proposals such as those found in this measure. If our efforts are directed towards dealing with one section only - the industrialists - allowing them to be left entirely to the mercy of the employers, we shall depart from the principles of equity and good conscience, because this measure will be based on criminal law, and we shall see workmen cast into prison for trivial acts connected with their daily employment. When industrial arbitration was introduced it was not expected to prove a panacea for all industrial troubles; but it has minimized them. ^ To-day less working time is lost in Australia than in any other part of the world. In Great Britain, where compulsory arbitration does not operate, three working days are lost for every one day lost in Australia.
– In proportion to the population ?
– Yes, and in proportion to the number of workmen. Why should we pass provisions that will have the effect, probably, of inducing the industrial organizations to repudiate arbitration? Requests are received from the employers in almost every State that the act should be repealed. This bill is calculated to achieve that object, because the organizations will not register under the act as proposed to be amended. As soon as they have a taste of its provisions they will withdraw from the court. We should try to fashion the measure so that it will be acceptable to both parties. An act that favours one section will enable extremists to cause grave industrial trouble. The workers will be stirred to indignation, and will revert to the strike and the lockout. Direct action can never bring permanent good to the workers, because, after they have been on strike for two or three months, hunger forces them to give way. For that reason I have always heartily supported arbitration.
– The workers have not shown respect for the present act.
– The great majority have. I have pointed out that arbitration has minimized industrial trouble, and I have shown that fewer working days have been lost in Australia than elsewhere. That is an indication that the community has gained considerably by having had legislation to deal with these matters. In very many industries there has not been a single dispute. The coal industry is different from all others.
– This legislation will not make any difference to that industry.
– Not at present; but it is quite possible that it may be extended. Can we justify the practice of providing one set of conditions for the coal-miners, under the provisions of the Industrial Peace Act, and altogether different conditions for every other industrial worker in the Commonwealth? I do not think that we can. We must be consistent ; and if the principle under discussion is embodied in our arbitration law something of the kind will inevitably follow in the case of the Industrial Peace Act. This clause is quite unnecessary. The section as it stands meets the situation. Under it the judges are allowed to come to a decision upon the merits of any dispute that may be brought before them. I have heard it argued during the last couple of days that the judges can be trusted to deal with every case on its merits, and that they will not do what we claim can be done under this bill.
Yet in the face of that argument it is proposed to alter a section which leaves unfettered the discretion of those judges and to direct that they shall act in a certain way! Some honorable members may say that this provision will remain inoperative. I do not believe that for a moment, nor does any other honorable member. Immediately this law is proclaimed, it must begin, to operate.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I followed with interest the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). Every honorable member, no matter what his political views may be, recognizes his sincerity and earnestness. But I do not share the pessimistic opinion that he has expressed in regard to this clause. For a long time the State of Queensland has by certain people in the southern States been designated a “ red “ State. At all events, it has had a Labour Government since 1915. In the year 1925 the Labour Government which then held office passed an Industrial Arbitration Act Amendment Act, which is to bc found in the 13th volume of the Statutes of Queensland. I quote from page 11300, section 7a, which reads as follows : -
The administrative functions of the Board of Trade and Arbitration shall be -
To investigate and report on the existence of sweating or unfair competition in an industry ;
To report upon the productivity of industries, the number of employees in any industry, and the effect or probable effect of the regulation of the conditions of any industry upon such productivity.
That is an exact paraphrase of the provision to which the honorable member for Hunter has taken so strong an exception, and it is the result of Labour consideration and administration over a period of ten years.
– Who were the members of the board ?
- Mr. Justice Webb, who was trained in the Queensland Grown Law Office, and subsequently became a justice of the Arbitration Court; Mr. Dunstan, the general secretary of the
Australian Workers Union; and Mr. Gillies, who, while Premier of Queensland, appointed himself a member of the board, were the members when this act was passed.
– That was a very good move. The object of the board’s inquiry into those matters was to assist Parliament to decide what legislation should be passed. The Commonwealth also should take some steps to have the whole economic position investigated.
– It is all very well for honorable members to say that we must not lower the standard of living or the rates of wages of the workers. There is not a member of this committee who desires that that shall be done. Throughout this debate it has been the practice of honorable members opposite - carried away, perhaps, by too much partisan zeal - to claim that they, and they alone, are interested in the working mau. No claim could be more ridiculous or absurd. Possibly every honorable member who sits on this side has either relatives or friends among the working class. Some of us have sprung from the loins of workingclass people, and we recognize that in a generation or two our children or our children’s children may go back to the working-class ranks. It does not follow that because honorable members opposite are members of the Labour party they represent more truly than we do the views of the working men of this country, or are actuated to any greater extent by humanitarian instincts. We are as vitally concerned as they in the well-being of the working men and women of Australia. That is as much our concern as theirs, and we are prepared to accept the responsibility, and to act upon it.
For many years I was solicitor to the Charters Towers Mine Owners’ Association. It was then my duty to deal with industrial arbitration matters under the old Industrial Peace Act of 1912 and Wages Board Act of 1908. Both of those measures were introduced by Liberal governments in the State of Queensland, and were the first acts of their kind to be put in operation in that State. When an application, was made for an award to regulate the conditions in the mining industry, I, as solicitor to the Mine Owners’ Association, was directed to file an answer to the claim of. the workers, I said that
I would file an answer upon one ground only, and after some little delay, the association accepted my proposal. At that time solicitors were permitted to appear in the court. I was asked whether I claimed that the wages which were being paid in the industry were sufficient. I said that I did - not contend for one moment that the men were being paid a wage which compensated them for either the work they were doing or the risks they were taking. I was then asked what was the reason for my appearance in the court, and what was the nature of my defence. I said, “I am here to submit to the court the balance-sheets of the companies whom I represent, and to show what profits are or are not being made in the industry. I wish then to ask whether it is better that the men should accept such wages as the industry can afford to pay or be awarded a nominally higher wage, which actually they will not receive because there are not sufficient funds with which to pay it.” The court took the view that the industry could stand a very substantial advance in wages. J had many friends among the miners. I was sorry that that decision had been arrived at, and told them so. I said, “ I venture the opinion that in five years’ time the mines in the Charters Towers, Ravenswood, Cape River, and Kangaroo Hills districts will have closed down.” I was wrong. There were about 70 mines working when I uttered that prophecy; at the end of five years there were still two. left.
– It is well known that in gold.mining the ore is less valuable at the lower depths.
– The Charters Towers mines still contain many hundreds of thousands of tons of gold-bearing ore.
– -Of course; but it is low grade ore which it does not pay to treat.
– One of the prominent factors in the stoppage of those mines were the conditions which were then imposed upon the industry. The wages certainly were not adequate. I would not work in the industry for what the men received. But the question was, whether it was not better for them to accept those wages until they could obtain other work that would provide them with better conditions. Of what use nominally, is it to have a wage of £1,000 a year and actually be out of employment ? Ability to pay is a factor which must be considered. Say what we may, do what we will, the fact is plain that from industry must come all wages.
– And all profits.
– I agree with the honorable member. I go even further and say that labour is entitled to a full share of - the profits that accrue from industry. That opinion is commonly held by honorable members who sit oh this side of the committee. From industry must come both wages and profits; and the latter ought to be shared in reasonable proportions by those persons who provide the capital and the brains and take all the risks, and the men who provide the labour.
It is customary for honorable members opposite to claim that it is their efforts which have led to the tremendous improvement that has been effected in our social conditions. That is not the case. Our existing conditions have been brought about by a process of social evolution. Many of the advantages that we and our children enjoy have resulted from the application of science to industry, and not from any legislative enactment. As science and industry develop we progress by gradual stages to better and still better things. I trust that we shall never cease striving to improve the conditions of those who are near the breadline so that they may get further away from it. That cannot be achieved purely by legislative enactment; it must come as a result of the productivity of industry. If we disregard economic facts, and cause industries to be shut down, our last condition will be worse than our first, and we shall bring upon our people a disaster unparalleled in our history. We must look economic facts in the face, and act accordingly.
.- While the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) was speaking the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) interjected that this matter does not affect coal mines. If that is so, it is remarkable that the representative of the Coal Owners’ Association has displayed a lively interest in the measure ever since it was first introduced. He lias missed hardly any of the debate, and no doubt has been in collaboration with members of the Government during its passage through committee. The coal mining industry will be affected by this bill, because the measure will give the owners what they want. The Industrial Peace Act will be scrapped and the coal-mining industry will be governed by the Arbitration Act. The representatives of the coal mineowners and the owners themselves have frequently declared that wages must be pressed down; and that employers associations generally want this particular provision in the bill is amply demonstrated by the circular issued by the Metal Trade Employers Federation. Frequent reference has been made to this circular during the course of this debate. Although the Attorney-General proposes to add the proviso that there must be no interference with the basic wage, he makes no provision for maintaining the margin of skill, and the demand of the controllers of industry to-day is not so much to reduce the basic wage as it is to take away the margin for skill and press the skilled man down to the basic wage. The speech delivered by Mr. J ohn Heine, President of the Metal Trade Employers Federation, was so pleasing to the federation, that it has gone to the expense of having it printed and circulated. Speaking of the conditions of industry Mr. Heine said -
The result is that there is a great deal of unemployment in the metal trades - unemployment for which the manufacturers refuse to take any particle of blame. The employers have told both the arbitration judges and the unions that there can be no expansion in the metal trades industry while it is shackled to old-fashioned ideas and the fetish that all machinery and metal parts must be “ made “ by a skilled mechanic in opposition to tho “ manufacturing “ methods adopted by Australia’s competitors beyond the seas.
That statement bears out my assertion that a demand is being made that the Arbitration Court shall not treat many branches of the metal trade as skilled labour. The passing of the bill now bofore us will not only have the effect of depressing the basic wage; it will also bring the skilled labourer closer and closer to the basic wage, by depriving him of the margin now allowed to him. Honorable members opposite have had a great deal to say about economic soundness. But we want a better definition than we hara had from them of what they mean. One would think after hearing the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes), that economics are an exact science which can lay down definite standards. As a matter of fact economic conditions are defined according to conflicting schools of thought. What I may think is economic soundness, the honorable member for Boothby may regard as economic lunacy. Coal-mining is an industry that the honorable member would claim is likely to go out of existence because of the economic unsoundness of the wages now being paid to coal-miners. The coalmining industry of Australia cannot be brought into a position which will enable it to compete with the product of other countries by reducing the wages of the miners. How could we reduce the wages of our miners to enable them to compete with Dutch convicts, who are hewing coal in Borneo at Id. a day, or with coalminers in other countries who hew it for ls. a day? How could we even reduce the wages of our miners to enable our coal to compete with South African coal which is subsidized by the South African government at the rate of 8s. 6d. a ton? If we were to try to bring about economic equality in wage conditions we should need to reduce the wages of our coal-miners to the extent I have indicated; but even then we should not succeed in enabling our coal to compete with the output of other countries. According to the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis) it is better for our miners to have half a loaf instead of the whole loaf. When the honorable member was talking of the economic unsoundness of the mining industry to-day he did not remind us of what the mine-owners have done in the past. He did not tell us how they kept the miners on a bare pittance and made enormous profits on millions of pounds of fictitious capital.
– Mining has never paid.
– I have previously given figures showing the enorous profits that have been made by mining companies. They are in Hansard.
I am sorry that I have not them with me to-day. But I can call to mind dozens of mining companies that have made enormous profits. There was one company which had a capital of a few thousand pounds in 1908. Between that year and 1920 it was reconstructed four times, until to-day it has a capital of £2,000,000, although not a single penny of additional capital has been taken in since 1908. That company still wants its miners to work at a living wage to earn profits on a capital of £2,000,000, which has been earned by the industry itself. Honorable members who talk about economic soundness should base their arguments on concrete facts. There is not an industry in Australia to-day that is economically sound from a capital point of view. Every company is over-capitalized. Six million people are expected to carry industries with huge capitals, stock being superimposed on stock until each concern is economically unsound. Take the position of the coal-mining industry once more to show how economically unsound it is through over-capitalization and not because of the wages paid to the workers. If the miners worked for nothing our coal could not be sold in the markets of the world to enable a profit to be made on the huge amounts of capital on which dividends have to be paid. The reduction in cost that would be brought about if the miners worked for nothing would not exceed more than 3s. or 4s. a ton, whereas to enable our coal to compete with the coal produced by the cheap labour in other countries to which I have already referred, the cost of production would have to be lowered by 10s. or 12s. a ton. “Women and children still work in the coal mines of Japan. Do the honorable members for Boothby and Kennedy want our women and children to work in our coal mines? Do they want the conditions that apply in Borneo to apply in Australia? Yet if they want our industries to attain that economic soundness to which they have referred, those conditions would need to apply in our coal-mining industry, and in many other industries. If economics were an exact science, they would teach us that if the human being is to be enabled to support himself and propagate, the huge profits now made by capital must come down. It is absurd for the honorable member for Kennedy to talk about half a loaf being better than the whole loaf in a country like this, which ought to be providing comfortable means of living for tens of millions instead of 6,000,000 people. That its population is not greater than it is to-day is due to the stupid “ economic soundness “ the honorable member would have continue. We are told that if the basic wage does not come down, industries in this country must go out of existence. The same cry that industries would go out of existence was raised when Wilberforce tried to have slavery abolished. The indignation was great when the demand was made in Great Britain, that little children should no longer be harnessed like donkeys to wagons in coal mines, or strapped to machinery in factories and flogged by brutal bosses to keep them awake, or douched with water if through exhaustion they fell asleep. The cry was raised that it would be economically unsound to take the women and children out of the coal mines and factories of Great Britain. When the people of India were dying like flies from famine and a humanitarian member of the House of Commons asked the British Government to send corn to its starving subjects, the Prime Minister of that day said that it would be against the laws of political economy to do so, and that the Government must not interfere with the rights of the merchants trading with India. Those are the presentday economics of the honorable members for Boothby and Kennedy. Is it a state of affairs they would like to see in Australia? If we are to deal with this matter on those lines, on the ground of sound economics, I say “ Devil take them. We do not want them in Australia.” I support the full judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins, when he said that if an industry could not pay a progressive and living wage, it could not justify its existence. What are we considering in this matter? Is this a national Parliament, concerned with the well-being of the people as a whole, or are we like benighted savages worrying ourselves about things which really do not matter ? The one thing that really matters in Australia is the welfare of our people. Are we going to make the man a slave to the machine? Are we going to build up- national wealth by the labour of half -fed workers? If that is the result of the economics preached by honorable members opposite, it is worse than paganism, because’ under paganism the slaves were at least fed properly. This clause reverses the whole process of arbitration in Australia, and is directly contrary to what people have come to expect of the arbitration system.
– What about the Queensland act?
– Let the honorable member forget about Queensland; we are discussing Australia now. Even honorable members opposite will admit that the arbitration system was introduced as a protest against the revolting conditions which had existed in industry. The industrial organizations throughout the country accepted arbitration, and registered under the court, because they knew that no matter how searching or objectionable might be the inquiries made into their mode of living, there was at least the certainty that if it were established that £4 10s. a week was necessary to enable a man to live in decency, that amount would be given to him. That principle was observed in the judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins, and in the awards of the wages boards, and has been regarded as sacred up to the present time. If the workers had not believed that their rights in this direction were secure, they would never have accepted the arbitration system at all. The principle will be destroyed, however, if sub-section 25d becomes law. If this provision becomes Jaw, arbitration can be made an instrument to re-introduce into this country the same terrible conditions which it was designed to remedy. It is absurd to say that these provisions will not, or cannot, affect the basic wage. In New South Wales the basic wage has been fixed at a figure which will provide a bare living for a man and his wife; in some of the other States it is designed to provide a living for a man, his wife, and two children. In order to provide for the children in a home, the system of child endowment was introduced in New South Wales.
– May not other matters than the basic wage come up for consideration under this provision? An application might be made for a reduction of the working week to 36 hours. Such a reduction of hours might mean the destruction of an industry. Is that not a fact which might be taken into consideration without in any way interfering with the basic wage ?
-.- If it is only proposed to deal with hours under this provision, why not say so? The honorable member for Barton must remember that under this clause the court may deal with wages as well as working hours. In any case, there is very little chance that the court, as at present constituted, would entertain any application to reduce the working week to 36 hours.
– But surely the honorable member would not object to such a matter being considered by the court?
– A judge dealing with wages would not be empowered to deal with hours. When any alteration in the length of the working week is under consideration, the matter must be dealt with by three judges. Under this clause the court may, in considering the basic wage, take as its guide the wage fixed in New South Wales, which, as I have said, has been based on the needs of a man and his wife only. If the basic wage in another State has been fixed on the needs of four people as against two in New South Wales, it stands to reason that it will probably be higher than that in New South Wales. Therefore, this clause can, and does, make provision for the basic wage in other States than New South Wales being reduced. The proviso says -
Providing this section shall not affect the practice of the court in fixing the basic wage.
In all seriousness I ask honorable members opposite, who prate so much about the need for immigration, do they propose to support a piece of legislation which may have the effect of putting a premium on race suicide ? If the basic wage fixed makes no provision in the Australian home for the Australian baby, it is placing a premium on race suicide, and making it an economic necessity for the working man. That is not a desirable thing. Perhaps honorable members opposite may consider it sound economics, but I do not. I am voicing the opinion of 99 per cent, of the industrial workers of this country, whether they belong to what is called the “ reds, “ or to any other section, when I say that arbitration, if this clause becomes law, will be merely a sham, a delusion, and a snare, and the workers will have nothing to do with it. I recognize what arbitration has done for the workers in the past, but I believe that they will be better off without any arbitration at all than the sort we shall have if this provision becomes law. In saying that the country will be better off without arbitration, I believe I am also expressing the opinion of many honorable members opposite. For instance, Mr. Archdale Parkhill, in a pamphlet which he issued in 1922, said that the fundamental difference between the Nationalist and Country parties was that the Country party stood for the abolition of all law as between the workers and the employers. I believe that this clause has been designed in order to bring about what the members of the Country paTty want, and I hope that it will be defeated.
.- The honorable member who has just sat down regards this clause as a delusion and a snare.
– I said that the arbitration system would be a delusion and a snare if this clause were passed.
– He said, further, that the Country party was opposed to all law as between the worker and the employers.
– It was Mr. Parkhill who said that.
– If we are opposed to all law, what, I ask, is being advocated by honorable members opposite but the abolition of law? It is a delusion and a snare that we should be discussing arbitration at all. If this Parliament were sitting in Melbourne or -Sydney, where influences could be brought to bear, the Government would be compelled to take some action.
– The honorable member means, I presume, in regard to the shipping strike?
– Yes, I mean the shipping strike. While industry is being held up we spend our time discussing the clauses of this bill, and to what purpose? Are we to accept the principle that any section, no matter how small, may defy the laws of the country? It is time we’ took stock of the position in which we find ourselves, and considered whether it would not be worth while to repeal arbitration altogether. Honorable members opposite apparently do not desire to enforce the law.
– This bill would not affect those engaged in the present dispute; they are outside its scope, unfortunately.
– All we care to understand is that industry is being held up, and, as far as I can see, neither the Government, nor the Opposition, is taking any action about it. I regret that the Attorney-General has proposed an amendment which practically exempts the basic wage from the court’s investigation of the economic effects of any award it proposes to make. There was some hope that an unrestricted investigation of that kind would improve the conditions of industry. As the honorable member for Boothby pointed out, in certain industries some wages might be better than none. I have always believed in good wages. While chairman of Public Works Committees, I always urged that the Commonwealth should set an example by erecting the finest buildings; but I wanted value for the money spent. So in industry we must have value for the wages paid. Is an industry to be called upon to pay wages which it cannot afford, and thus be forced to close down and create further unemployment? For the present uneconomic condition of Australia high wages and arbitration courtawards are not alone responsible; the financial and economic policy of successive Governments has been a factor. Through these several causes the cost of production in many industries which would have employed large numbers of people has been increased to such an extent that they have been obliged to close down, and the consequences have been felt by the whole community. My intimate acquaintance with the mining industry showed me the great value that accrued to the whole community from one working mine. It is usually accepted that one miner supports about five other persons throughout the community. Accordingly, when a great enterprise like the Mount Morgan Mine, in Queensland, is forced to close down through excessive cost of production, and 2,000 miners are rendered idle, about 10,000 other people in the community are directly affected. If that mine were in the United States of America, where wages are even higher than in Australia, it would be still working. The arbitration laws are linked up with the tariff, and the Navigation Act. I do not desire to make the conditions of the worker worse than they are. Working people comprise the majority of my constituents, and who but they return me to Parliament ? But I believe in economic liberty. Arbitration, particularly under the Commonwealth Act, has proved a failure. Amongst the wharf labourers, the seamen, and the coal-miners, there has been nothing but turmoil since the act commenced to operate. Unless the court takes into consideration the probable economic effects of its awards upon the community it will continue to create unemployment. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) referred to the watering of the capital of mining companies. I believe that Parliament should take drastic action to prevent companies from trying to pay dividends upon watered stock
– Why not take that action under this bill?
– It could be done only through the company law. Unfortunately, this Parliament has evaded many of its responsibilities, and neglected many things to which it could have attended with greater advantage to the community than has come from its intrusion into spheres that more properly belong to the States. There was some hope that arbitration might prove effective if the judges were told to consider not only the two parties in a sheltered industry, who might find it mutually profitable to collaborate in getting wages increased, but also the general community. Extravagant conditions are all right for those engaged in industries that can pass on the increased cost; but they are not all right for the public that has to pay. Compare the driver of a baker’s cart with the miner; which works the harder, and which gets the higher wage? I have said on previous occasions that high wages alone will not kill any industry ; they are detrimental only when associated with a false economic policy. I read in the Argus of yesterday this report of a discussion on industrial arbitration before the
International Labour Conference at Geneva -
Mr. Walker read a prepared statement, which really was a resume of Labour legislation in Australia. It painted a rosy picture of the conditions there.
Mr. Sandford, replying, said that the outstanding result of arbitration had been to increase the cost of living and to make wages increases mere illusions, thus rendering it difficult to work in competition with other countries. The courts created classconsciousness, which soon led to envy and suspicion, and engendered an atmosphere inimical to the interests of the workers.
Scathingly criticizing Mr. Walker’s beautiful picture, Mr. Sandford said that from a distance Mr. Walker regarded all Australia as fields of green. He forgot to mention the huge brown patches of unemployment, strikes, and losses from Government enterprises. If Mr. Walker was able to frame the picture in a border of amity, full employment, and attractive balance-sheets, it might be possible to argue that the tree of compulsory arbitration had borne good fruit. Mr. Sandford quoted the Tariff Board’s declaration, that industrial unions should realize the critical position Australia was drifting into, and the necessity for the prevention of the wages gap becoming wider. Otherwise the board could see nothing but economic disaster ahead. He warned his hearers that it was only the prosperity of the sheep industry and of wheat production which rendered possible the extremely venturesome legislative experiments of Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition said in a recent speech that the effective wage today is 5 per cent, less than it was in 1922. I do not agree with Mr. Sandford in placing the whole of the blame for the present position of Australia upon the Arbitration Court; the Navigation Act with the abnormal tariff also is responsible. It gives to a select few conditions that cannot be given to all workers. If we could extend the same advantages to all sections of the community - not only the members of trade unions, but also the people battling in the back-blocks - I would not object.
– Would everybody take his turn at sea?
– At a meeting in my electorate a man asked me if I thought that £8 a month was a fair wage to be paid to a British, seaman. I replied that that was not his concern or mine; that the British seamen and owners should be allowed to settle their business relations without the interference of a few bolsheviks- in Australia. Then I asked him which of two men was the more important to the community, the man who worked on the land or the man employed on a coastal ship. He replied, “ The man on the land.” I then said, “ What wages do you pay to the man employed on your farm.” There was a roar of laughter, and the interjector sneaked out of the meeting. The chairman’s explanation was that that individual was paying only 35s. a week to his labourers. I have been told that the wages of the firemen employed by one shipping company average £33 a month. Is it fair that men on a ship should get £7, £8, and £9 a week, and men on a farm only 35s. ? Unfortunately, the Arbitration Act, the Navigation Act, and the customs tariff give to some sections engaged in sheltered industries extravagant conditions such as cannot be given to others. Only the high prices we have received for our wheat and wool, in .conjunction with the lavish expenditure of borrowed money, have enabled us to carry on. If we had less arbitration and more conciliation by direct negotiation between employer and employee, the effective wages in Australia to-day would be higher than they are. Men should be paid as much as they can earn.
– Does this bill provide for more conciliation?
– I do not believe that we can have conciliation and arbitration together. There are too many appeals - from the conciliation board to the State Court and from the State Court to the Federal court. As I said in a previous speech, I greatly admire the simplicity of the Canadian scheme. Since 1904 we have introduced amendment after amendment, and this bill, which itself is a huge measure, is to be superimposed on an already voluminous statute. We are getting deeper and deeper into the bog. There was a small gleam of hope that economic conditions would be considered when making awards, but that is destroyed by the amendment of the AttorneyGeneral. I hope that the honorable gentleman will see his way to withdraw his amendment. The proposed section was of some value, but it will be valueless if this amendment is passed.
It seems an absolute travesty that this Parliament should deliberate day after day in an endeavour to promote industrial peace when industry throughout Australia is held up by a small section of malcontents. My State is suffering severely through the shipping hold-up. At present no boats are running between Eastern and Western Australia, and there is nothing to indicate that, even if this measure is passed, we shall have any greater security in the future.
– Can the honorable member suggest any remedy.
– Yes, the repeal of the act.
– The seamen do not come under the operations of the act, so how would that help?
– Everybody knows what would happen if non-union cooks were employed. Would the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) urge the seamen to return to work if the ship-owners decided to run their ships with the assistance of non-union cooks? Let us have something simple, not all this confusing verbiage, which will never bring industrial peace. I desire strongly to see industrial peace in Australia, but I cannot visualize any prospect of securing it by the passing of this measure.
– I did not know whether the Government is prepared to accept my advice, but I strongly urge it to delete this proposed section and the amendment of the AttorneyGeneral from the bill. I should like to find somebody who can give a satisfactory definition of the word “economic.” I have studied various dictionaries in the Parliamentary Library, and can find no definition that enlightens me as to its application in the proposed section. I fail to see how the judges will have the remotest chance of defining the term when they are called upon to do so. It has a remarkably broad meaning. It refers to the economics of the individual, “ of or pertaining to the management of a household, or of a private estate or income.” Then there is its application to “ the management of the affairs of the government or community with reference to its source of income, its expenditure, the development of its natural resources, &c.” Again, it is defined as “ the science that investigates the conditions and laws affecting the production, distribution, and consumption of wealth, or the material means of satisfying human desires.” I am confident that, when the first case comes before the court under the amended act the judges will be so overwhelmed with the magnitude of the problem that it will be years before they can arrive at any determination. The judges will merely shelve the problem and leave it unsolved. The court could not do better than adhere to the finding of Mr. Justice Higgins, whose determinations are regarded with great respect throughout the world. When he went to Great Britain he was entertained by the Bar, at the Inner Temple, where he made some profound observations which greatly impressed me. Economic problems have the attention of the leaders of thought in all countries, but still the true meaning of the word “ economics “ as it applies to the subject with which we are dealing remains obscure. I shall give an illustration of my experience in industrial economics. Had I invested a sovereign in the Nobel Explosives Company Limited when I left England in 1874 I should, up to the year 1924, have drawn £7,500 in dividends on that investment. Sir Alfred Mond, a financial magnate in Great Britain, consolidated the activities of the great chemical and explosive industries in Great Britain, which now have a huge capital. If the concern existed ii Australia and the judges of the Arbitration Court were asked to determine the probable economic effect of an award on that industry, on what basis of capitalization would they proceed to examine affairs? Some years ago the capital of that concern was £1,500,000. To-day it is something like £28,000,000. Let me bring the matter nearer home. The wealthy Colonial Sugar Refining Company was founded by the Faithful family with a small original capital. How would the judges view its position to-day? Again, the prosperous firm of Anthony Hordern Limited had its beginning in a small draper’s shop kept by Anthony Hordern, senior. I suppose that when the Horderns passed that huge business over to its present proprietary ownership they were satisfied to regard the capital of the concern at about £1,000,000 or £2,000,000. To-day Sir Mark Sheldon is at the head of the new proprietary concern, which has a capital of £7,000,000, and I shall show how Sir Mark regards its economic capacity to pay wages. Recently one of the firm’s employees, who had served the business faithfully for 45 years, asked to be relieved of his duties, and intimated that, when any old employee left the firm in similar conditions, it had been the custom of Sir Samuel Hordern to provide him with a small pension. Sir Mark , Sheldon manifested considerable surprise at the request, and said “ This is not Horderns now; it is another business.” Parliament should not bring ridicule upon itself by passing a provision of this kind. How could any judge be expected to state the true meaning of it? That is a riddle which no man or body of men can solve. The trouble is that while judges are trying to find an answer to it the workers will be suffering in every way. Abusive speeches such as those delivered by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) do not help one to consider a subject like this dispassionately. It appears to me that honorable members opposite are totally unfitted, because of their environment, to examine questions from the point of view of the working classes, for many of them began life in comfortable homes. Others have benefited by the developments that have occurred in recent years in Australian industries. Some of them, for instance, are interested in the wool industry, and know that whereas a few years ago a sheep yielded a fleece of only about 4 lb., the average weight of a fleece to-day is about 8 lb. Not long ago wool brought only 7d. or 8d. per lb., but to-day it brings about four times that figure. Some honorable members opposite are wheatgrowers, and they know that while yean ago wheat sold for as little as ls. 9d. a bushel it brings more than 5s. a bushel today. There has been no comparable change in the circumstances of the workers. As a matter of fact, conditions for them have become more severe. If a worker of 50 years of age is unfortunate enough to lose his job in these days he finds it practically impossible to get another. That is a consideration the Arbitration Court could well take into account. Another indication of our changing economic conditions is that big building contractors nowadays sub-let practically all their work, and directly employ very few men. Plumbing, painting, carpentering, and other building operations are sub-let to small men. To state these facts is to show the absurdity of expecting the Arbitration Act to take all into account. When I was a young man I was advised to read for the law. I could have been engaged in one of the principal law chambers in Phillipstreet. But it would be impossible for any man, however well educated he might be, to understand the meaning of this provision. The whole proposal is stupid, ridiculous, and absurd. Economic considerations are far too comprehensive to be taken into account by a court charged with the simple duty of fixing wages and working conditions. For example, how could an Arbitration Court judge estimate the effect of stock watering? He might know very well that many of our big business undertakings were to-day seriously over-capitalized ; and that it was the height of absurdity for commercial men to pay £2,000 a foot for land; but he could not take such considerations into account in fixing wages. When the employers finds that they have made a mistake in the conduct of their business, their first move is to attempt to reduce the standard of living of their employees. This matter should not be left at the discretion of the court. The clause should be eliminated. Parliament itself should be the authority to determine the economic conditions of industry. I can well imagine what will happen if the Arbitration Court makes awards that are unacceptable to the big firms of employers in Sydney, and how the resultant litigation will profit the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) and such legal firms as Norton Smith and Company, Minter Simpson and Company, and others, whose clients appear so often to take a delight in beating their employees to their knees. I shall oppose these provisions to the utmost of my power. They are designed to destroy the standard set up by Mr. Justice Higgins when he was President of the Arbitration Court. His awards were models of equity, and were endorsed by all sections of the community, who realize that employees have every right to the best that industry can give thom. Tt is impossible to get from the
Oxford dictionary, from Webster, or other authorities, a thoroughly satisfactory definition of the word “ economic.” In the absence of an accepted definition the judges of the Arbitration Court will be unable satisfactorily to interpret the provision, and leading members of the legal profession, such as Mr. Lamb, Mr. Shand, and Mr. Windeyer will find in it a fruitful source of revenue.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The clause under discussion is of transcendent importance. If it is agreed to, it will have a widespread effect upon industry in Australia, because it will affect directly the living conditions of the people. No subject that can engage our attention is more important than the standard of living. To put this matter in its true perspective, I quote the following passage from the opening remarks of the Attorney-General when moving the second reading of the bill in December last. He said -
The industrial problem cannot be, and never has been, considered in Australia on a purely economic basis. It has been considered rather on the basis of modern, ethical, and social ideas connected with the distribution of wealth in accordance with the principles of social justice and human progress.
– The Attorney-General does riot say that it is wrong.
– No; but apparently the Minister now desires to depart from it. He went on to say -
Claims now made are for an increase in wages, reduction of hours, and alterations of conditions of employment which may or may not be desirable, but which, as a general rule, cannot be claimed on ordinary humanitarian grounds, as was the case in the past. Thus the causes which produced the extensive system of regulation of industry have now, owing to the application of legislative remedies, almost disappeared.
This means that circumstances which were regarded formerly as the governing factor in determining working conditions in industry have become so well established that there is not now the same need for legislative restraint upon industry. Apparently the Attorney-General is prepared to allow the court’s functions to include decisions concerning the conditions governing industry, and to permit the court to say whether it is possible for a certain industry in the circumstances in which it finds itself to pay a stated rate of wage aud concede conditions of employment which may he regarded as fair and reasonable. I should not like the conditions in some industries that are within my knowledge to be governed by the employer’s ideas of what should constitute an economic basis. Perhaps I may be permitted to speak particularly of the conditions in the engineering trade, for the reason that I served my time in that industry, and was also employed in it for some years. I know that certain engineering firms would be unable to pay even the basic wage to engineers if the amount which had to be paid were determined by the economic effect of that wage on industry generally with existing plant, methods and management.
– I do not think that that is intended altogether by this clause.
– But I am endeavouring to show what are the possibilities of this proposed new section. Perhaps some honorable members may hold that my statement of the position is somewhat exaggerated, but there is certainly this possibility.
– The clause refers to the possible economic disturbance that may be caused in other industries generally by the observance of that principle.
– I cannot follow the honorable member for Lang. I take it that the clause means that the court will determine what wages can be paid in an industry in the circumstances in which that industry stands at that moment. It is generally admitted that we are enjoying a fair standard of living in Australia, and I submit that if inefficiency in management is disclosed the employees ought not to be made to suffer, but there is certainly this possibility.
– The honorable member for Werriwa has raised the objection that improvements in industrial machinery will mean the displacement of skilled labour.
– That is not the case. No honorable member on this side puts that contention forward. We all believe in industrial efficiency. We go further, and say that its primary purpose should be to lighten the burden on the individual human factor; that is to say, improved machinery should be utilized in the first place to relieve persons engaged in industry from the most objectionable and irksome forms of labour.
– This clause does not prevent that from being done. All that it says is that it must be done with due regard to the probable economic effect on industry generally.
– If the law required all employers to bring their plant and equipment up to the highest point of efficiency, and if the returns were equitably distributed between employees and employers, I should say it would be a step in the right direction. But, as we all know, a wage standard set down as the minimum to be paid in industry invariably proves to be the maximum. Very few instances have come within my knowledge of employers recognizing their obligations towards employees in this respect.
– The honorable member is in error. In many industries the wages paid are above the award rates.
– In certain circumstances, yes. As an employee of an individual whom I deeply respected and who fully deserved the best consideration from his employees, I was paid more than the basic or minimum rate of wage. But that is not the general rule in industrial establishments.
– It is the exception that proves the rule.
– That is so. The honorable members for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes) and Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis) spoke of the conditions in the mining industry, and endeavoured to prove that the application of improved wage conditions had practically destroyed that industry. It is generally acknowledged that in the working of mines, whether gold, silver, lead or copper, and this applies also to the gold-mines of Kalgoorlie, the management, in order to obtain quick returns, work only the very best ore available, leaving the lower grade ores untouched.
– That was not the rule until recently.
– My knowledge of the mining industry extends over many years.
I know that what I have said was the practice in Broken Hill. I referred to Kalgoorlie because I know that the same course has been followed there.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Proclamation under Crimes Act - State of Industrial Unrest.
– (By leave) - The situation which has been developing for the last few weeks in connexion with the coastal shipping services of Australia has caused the Government an increasing measure of anxiety, and I am sure has occasioned much concern to every member of this House, as well as to the people of Australia generally. Although the dispute has brought about a serious dislocation of trade the Government has been very reluctant to take any action because from day to day a settlement has appeared to be possible. The Government now feels that the position cannot be allowed to continue any longer. The efforts which have been made to bring about a settlement seem unhappily to have been abortive. The machinery of the Commonwealth Arbitration and Conciliation Court has been invoked. Almost as soon as the dispute arose there was a conference between the ship-owners and the Marine Cooks’ Union, the union concerned. That conference was presided over by the Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. Stewart. Unhappily, no result came from it. There has also been a hearing in the court itself. At that hearing the Marine Cooks’ Union declined to give any undertaking that it would observe any award of the court, and as a result, the award which its members enjoyed was cancelled by the court. The matter has been taken up by the other unions of Australia. They have brought pressure to bear upon the Marine Cooks’ Union with a view to bringing about a settlement. Those efforts also have failed. Only yesterday there appeared in the press a report of a statement by Mr. Duggan, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, in the following terms -
The president of the A.C.T.U. (Mr. W. J. Duggan) said to-day that the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes was not one of the functions of the A.C.T.U. It was recognized that all disputes of an interstate character should be handled by a central authority in conjunction with the unions concerned. The marine cooks, however, had refused to recognize that principle, and, however lamentable and deplorable the fact might be, there were no means of compelling them to submit their dispute to the A.C.T.U. if they remained adamant in their refusal.
I am afraid that one must take that statement as indicating that the Australian Council of Trade Unions has found its efforts to bring about a settlement quite unavailing. We have, consequently, to consider what action must be taken to ensure that the shipping services around the coast of Australia shall be restored.
As a result of the unfortunate shipping holdup which has taken place, there has been a progressive dislocation of the economic and commercial life of the community, and untold suffering has been inflicted upon thousands of citizens of the Commonwealth who are in no way concerned with the present dispute. While the Government does not desire to express any opinion at all upon the merits of this trouble, it considers that it has an obligation to the whole of the people of Australia to fulfil; that it should not be possible for any section of the com munity to prevent one of the great vital transport services from functioning, with disastrous results to so many innocent people. The Government consequently feels that, to try to ensure that this service shall be restored at the earliest possible moment, it must utilize all the powers that the Parliament has entrusted to it. Accordingly, it proposes to exercise the powers which have been entrusted to it under section 30j of the Crimes Act, and a proclamation will be immediately gazetted declaring, in the terms of that section that, “ there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance, prejudicing or threatening trade or commerce with other countries or among the States.” After that proclamation has been made, the Government will take every step within its power under the Crimes Act, or any other act of this Parliament, to prevent any person from interfering in any way with the re-establishment of these services.
I have to-day communicated with the Premier of each State in the following terms : -
My Government has been watching with grave concern the serious development of the industrial dispute between the Marine Cooks’ Union and the Australian ship-owners. This has now resulted in a practical paralysis of the shipping transport trade of the Commonwealth. Legal and constitutional means for the settlement of the dispute exist; but those who have caused the trouble refuse to accept these, and have also repudiated all attempts at settlement made by the representatives of other trade unions. This disastrous attitude ie causing serious loss and injury to the whole community, and is throwing thousands of people out of work. The Commonwealth Government feels that this state of things must be brought to an end. i have communicated with the ship-owners calling upon them to resume the running of their ships. The Government has issued a proclamation under section 30j of the Commonwealth Crimes Act that “there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance prejudicing or threatening trade or commerce with other countries or among the States.” My Government intends to use all the power it possesses under the law to insure that no person shall be permitted to interfere with the resumption of this allimportant transport service. i would invite the co-operation of your Government to that end, feeling sure that you will recognize that it is our joint duty to terminate as early as possible the present disastrous condition of things.
I have also communicated with the chairman of the Commonwealth Steamship Owners’ Association in the following terms : -
My Government views with profound anxiety the paralysis of the coastal shipping trade of Australia, due to the dispute between the Marine Cooks’ Union and the shipping companies. The present position is that coastal shipping communication has practically ceased, negotiations for settlement have proved abortive, and the intervention of the other trade unions has failed. i do not propose to canvass the merits or demerits of the dispute; it is sufficient to say that legal aud constitutional means for the peaceful settlement of it exist; but those who have caused the trouble refuse to accept them and have repudiated all attempts at settlement. The main concern of my Government, apart from the enforcement of Commonwealth law, is that an end should be made of the hold-up which is dislocating the industries of the country, and causing, and must continue increasingly to cause, loss and unemployment to thousands of people who have nothing whatever to do with the dispute. We have come to the conclusion that definite steps must now be taken in the interests of the whole community to end the present situation. My Government proposes, under the powers given it by Parliament, to issue a proclamation undo!- section 30.j of the Crimes Act 1912-1928, that “There exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance prejudicing or threatening trade or commerce with other countries or among the States.” The issue of this ‘proclamation will enable the Commonwealth Government to take drastic proceedings against all persons who interfere with the carrying on of this essential transport service, and the Government will take all possible steps to secure the enforcement of Commonwealth law and the punishment of offenders. The Government now asks yOU to take whatever steps are necessary to resume the running of your ships. i have already communicated with the various State Governments, inviting them to co-operate with us by rendering all assistance within their power to protect the community from any further injury and loss. i would suggest that your representatives in the various States should inform the State Governments of any action you propose to take to ensure the resumption of this essential transport service, feeling confident that every State’ Government will give full protection under its laws.
The Government feels very deeply that there is an obligation upon all governments in Australia to-day to take steps to protect the interests of the community as a whole.
In taking this action, and in inviting the co-operation of all the States,
We are in no sense intervening in any industrial dispute. We are making no comment upon the cause of the present trouble. Our action is directed solely to the discharge of a solemn obligation. It is our duty to see that the interests of the people as a whole shall be preserved against an attack from any section or any group of individuals. I am certain thai the action of the Government will be endorsed by the people of this country. I appeal to all sections of this House to recognize that there is something that transcends all party feeling, and that is the preservation of the interests of the people who have entrusted us with the guidance of their destinies in this Parliament. In the step we have taken I am confident that we shall have the support of the State Governments, and I appeal for the support of every member of this House.
- (by leave). - The first intimation that I received of the Prime Minister’s intention to ask leave to make a statement respecting the coastal shipping dispute, was at one minute before 8 o’clock to-night. A regard for the ordinary courtesies of Parliament should have demanded the giving of a little more notice to the Leader of the Opposition, because this side of the House, in common with honorable members opposite, share the anxiety expressed by the Prime Minister in regard to anything calculated to hold up the transport or the trade of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister came to the House to-night with a considered statement, and prepared telegrams, and having submitted them, called upon the representatives of both sides to express their views. At least an opportunity might have been given the Opposition to put a considered statement of its views before the chamber.
I have no word to say against the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister, in so far as they refer to the desirability of bringing about peace in industry, and ensuring the continuance of the transport services of this country. I share with every other honorable member the desire that that shall be done. T do not wish to traverse the merits of the case any more than does the Prime Minister. I am not prepared to champion the action of the marine cooks in their original attitude, nor am I prepared to excuse the attitude of the ship-owners who have developed this dispute into a lockout, and extended the trouble. However one may condemn the precipitate action of the small body of men engaged as cooks on the boats, if there is a desire for peace in industry, why did the ship-owners, when those men were defeated, and offered to return to work on the old conditions, impose new conditions.
– They did not.
– They did. When these men admitted defeat, and wrote to the ship-owners offering to return to work, the ship-owners, knowing that the marine cooks were defeated, and that there was a considerable public opinion against them, seized the opportunity to upset the roster system which had been in operation for ten years. The cooks offered to go back on the old conditions, and submit the roster system to arbitration. If that offer had been accepted, we should not have had the position which exists to-day. I am not standing behind the cooks in their original attitude, because I believe that, the dispute did riot warrant the holding up of the essential services of the country. I go further, and say that their attitude in refusing to’ accept the invitation of the properly accredited representatives of the trade-union movement, does not meet with my approval, or that of any honorable member on this side of the House. That, at least, is a clear and definite statement of our attitude.
So far as the step taken by the Government is concerned, I absolutely oppose the declaration that any action by employers in refusing employment to employees, or any action by employees in refusing to work should be regarded as a criminal act. That meets with my opposition. A lockout or strike is not a criminal act. It may be reprehensible; it may cause a lot of trouble; but unless there is an overt act of a criminal character by individuals, the mere act of refusing to accept or to offer employment is not criminal.
On a matter of principle such as this, one has to take a definite stand. The Opposition as a party is not opposed to the Crimes Act as a whole, but is opposed to the particular section that has now been put into operation. The Prime Minister, in a speech in Melbourne recently, took up a statement made by me in this House, in which I said that I considered that the Crimes Act should be removed from the statute-book. He knew, however, that I referred only to the particular provisions relating to industrial disputes. Should we not, he said, deal with certain acts of a criminal nature, which he named, under the Crimes Act? I have never denied that, we should. The act embodies certain sections that every honorable member supports, because they deal with criminal acts ; but we on this side objected when the bill was before Parliament, and object now, to classing refusals to work or to offer work as criminal offences for which those found guilty shall be liable to imprisonment or deportation.
Having taken that stand on the Crime’s Act - having, objected to the inclusion of that provision when the measure was before the House - I object, in the name of this party, to its application. I admit the difficulties that present themselves. I recognize the seriousness of the situation, which is liable to extend ; but I do not believe that this country has exhausted all the methods available for settling the present dispute, short of the application of the Crimes Act. I do not think that the Government has exhausted all the means at its disposal.
– The Government has done nothing up to date.
– I have no knowledge of anything that the Government has done. It may have done something; if so, I should be interested to learn what it is. Speaking for myself and for honorable members on this side generally, we certainly have not proclaimed from the house-tops what we have done; but we have got into close touch with the accredited representatives - the responsible officers - of trade unionism, and have expressed our views to them. In these views they have concurred, and have made very considerable efforts in the direction of securing peace. I regret exceedingly that their authority in the trade union movement has been defied by the Marine Cooks Union; but that would not justify me, in agreeing to what I think is in its very essence a wrong principle, and saying that the Crimes Act should be applied if men refuse to work, or the ship-owners refuse to give them work.
I believe that the machinery of the Arbitration Court should have been brought into operation to settle this trouble. The compulsory conference sections of the act should have been put into operation, and even if such an effort failed at first it should have been repeated when the dispute had developed. I believe that if there had been a more vigorous administration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act it would have led to a settlement of the trouble. While I do not consider it the function of the Government to dictate to any court, I certainly do consider it a function of government to indicate to the court what the Government thinks is its duty in certain circumstances. That is where I think the Government has failed. I believe that both parties to the dispute could be forced into the Arbitration Court, and could be dealt with under the Arbitration Act if they evaded or broke the law. While holding no brief at all for the original action of the cooks, and certainly none for their defiance of the representatives of trade unionism, who have endeavoured to settle the trouble, I deprecate the action of the Government in applying the Crimes
Act, and declaring men to be criminals because of acts which are not criminal in character.
In committee: (Consideration resumed.)
– Prior to the dinner adjournment I was endeavouring to impress upon the committee the difficulty that would be experienced in applying the proposed new section 25d, which provides that the court, before making an award, shall consider its probable economic effect in relation to the general community and the industry concerned. I pointed out that this provision would prevent the employees from receiving a fair share of the fruits of production. At least two honorable members opposite referred to the mining industry. If the economic position of that industry were taken into consideration, I presume that the “ mining companies would be expected to carry on their operations profitably, having regard to the market prices obtainable for ore at the time. It is safe to assume that only employees would suffer; they would be expected to accept a reduction in wages. I have before me authentic returns relating to the operations of mining companies at Broken Hill up to the end of 1924. I find that the total value of the output up to that time was £120,810,033 ; the bonuses paid amounted to £26,341,574, and the authorized capital of the various companies was £7,823,000. But those figures do not represent the full financial standing of those companies. During a long series of years they enjoyed great prosperity. When they were taking out rich ores they paid their shareholders handsome dividends, and put substantial sums to reserves. I find that the Broken Hill South Company, in the last period recorded at the end of 1926, paid a dividend of 65 per cent, to investors, and over the previous period of three years the dividends averaged 50 per cent. The company also amassed in reserves no less than £1,270,183. The Broken Hill North Company occupied an even more favorable position. During the last period to which I have referred, it returned a dividend of 95 per cent., and over the three years the dividends averaged 70 per cent., while £1,813,926 was placed to reserves. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company, which, of course, has interests other than mining, returned dividends over the three years averaging 5 per cent. ; but its reserves amounted to £2,687,708. In determining the wages paid to the workmen employed in the industry, will regard be given to the huge reserves that have been built up, or to the vast profits made in times of prosperity? I say emphatically that it will not. Every effort has been made to keep the miners’ wages down to the lowest possible margin, and in many cases they have been begrudged even a living wage. The greedy shareholders have now picked the eyes out of those mines, and have fattened as the result of the labours of the miners, who have had to face many perils in the course of their employment. Now that the metal market is less favorable than it formerly was, and the ores won are not so rich as they used to be, it is desired by the companies that the workers should submit to standards equivalent to the prevalent depression and uneconomic position of the industry. It is upon this that the court will be compelled to base its decisions and as it applies to the mining industry so it will apply to others. We could not stand for a principle of that description. Chief Judge Dethridge recognizes that a man is entitled to at least a living wage. Commenting upon the claim of the Merchant Service Guild of Australia for increased wages, he said -
Every worker should be entitled to a living wage. In some cases the result may have been that some men have got more out of the industry than they have put into it; but the court has said that if they are willing to work they should get the living wage, even if they do not give adequate economic return. But, when it gets to the higher grades of labour, the court has not said anything of the kind. The court has said, “ As far as we can we will give those higher grades of labour what their skill justifies.” I can only measure what their skill justifies by what in the past it has been the practice to give them.
If the principle which underlies this clause is applied, the Chief Judge and every other judge of the court will be prevented from recognizing the margins of skill that have been observed in previous awards of the court, because they will be compelled in framing an award to take into consideration the economic circum stances which have been created, not by the worker, but by the inordinate greed of the owners, who as a rule demand from industry more than they have a right to expect. We frequently hear it stated that different industries cannot afford to pay the basic or living wage ; but I learn from the Investors’ Guide that there are in Australia 271 companies or corporations whose dividends are- higher than any bank rate of interest. In many instances they are returning very substantial dividends on watered capital. Only seventeen companies are not paying dividends, and, with one exception, they have fairly substantial reserves. Will labour share in this treasure gained from industry ? No ; it is only in time of depression in trade that cognizance is taken of the economic position. If the worker received an appropriate share of the wealth which he produces he might be able to survive a period of depression; but that, is denied him. When a union makes a claim for an adjustment of wages and conditions the court will be required to take into consideration the economic position of the industry; and it will not be either entitled or prepared to increase the rate of wage above that sought in the log, even although the economic position of the industry -might fully justify such an order. It is deliberately intended that economic circumstances shall operate in only one direction, that of wage reduction. That is unfair and unjust to those who are the principal factors in industry. In the extreme view of the economic relation of the two units in production or service it may be logically advanced that labour could produce the essentials of community service without the aid of those who invest their capital merely for what they can get out of industry; but, on the other hand, those who have command of capital cannot carry on without labour. I say this merely to show the value and the absolute dependence on labour. It is anomalous to call upon the labourers in industry to suffer loss that is occasioned by either the avarice of the shareholders or the inefficient or unscientific methods that are employed. I cannot, therefore, endorse the principle which the clause expresses. We must recognize, also, the possibility of its undermining seriously the principle of affording our industries adequate protection against foreign competition. I believe that certain employers would be prepared to dispense with a margin of tariff protection so long as they can secure lower rates of wages, and thus reduce the cost of production. The whole of the burden would then be borne by the labourers in industry. While we assist different industries by means of the tariff and the payment of bounties, we should insist upon their being placed upon the most efficient basis. If the captains of industry are not prepared to take action along those lines they do not deserve the consideration which they seek from this Parliament from time to time. Before there is any interference with the standard of conditions enjoyed by the worker to-day we should compel those who are receiving such big rake-offs from their investments to disgorge a little so as to maintain the industry during a period of partial depression. We should certainly make it possible for the labourers in industry to share adequately in the benefits it confers. I should be an unworthy representative of those who are wealth producers if I did not endeavour to protect them from what I regard as a very serious intrusion upon their rights, meagre as those rights are. My experience in industry is shared by many of those who are engaged in a capacity similar to that which I have filled as a worker. I know that the worker in the great majority of cases lives only from week to week, or fortnight to fortnight. His wage or salary is sometimes mortgaged before the week has expired. That surely proves that he has only a bare existence, and deserves a more substantial and generous proportion of the wealth which he produces. The basic wage to-day does not provide for more than the most frugal sustenance. Many persons who have given good service to industry are to-day walking the streets because industry is unable to meet the situation in which it is placed on account of the unscientific methods that have been adopted. Whenever there is depression the champions of the employers and the investors want the sacrifices to be visited upon those who are least able to bear them. We should not be doing our duty if we supported the principle enunciated by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes). The honorable member for Boothby argued that it was better to have half a loaf than none at all. It is very poor consolation to be given only half a loaf when one is confident that industry can afford a full loaf.
– (Mr. Duncan Hughes) . - The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I find myself out of agreement with some of the sentiments that have been expressed during the debate on this clause. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said that the closing down of the Mount Morgan mine was responsible for the services of 2,000 men being dispensed with, and that that action affected very seriously no fewer than 10,000 persons. He also argued that the withdrawal from circulation of the amount which those men received in wages made a big difference to the community. That is quite true. I remind him, however, that about 700,000 persons are employed in Australia in protected industries, and that if his ideas in regard to the tariff were given legislative expression 3,500,000 people would be seriously affected.
While there is a great deal to be said about the wealth extracted from the Broken Hill mines, a great deal of credit has also to be paid to the management of those mines for the way in which they have revolutionized mining operations and brought efficiency to bear. Scientific research has resulted in an increased output.
– One can still find inefficient management at Broken Hill.
– Possibly, but there is a great deal of efficiency displayed, and I understand that the adoption of the De Bavay process has meant millions of pounds to the owners of the mines. I quoted figures the other day to show that an independent tribunal of engineers and experts in the United States of America had examined seven great industries in that country and had come to the conclusion that 70 per cent, of the lack of efficiency in those industries was due to employers and managers, and only 15 per cent, to the workers, the remainder being attributable to other causes. According to my reading, Germany stands industrially to-day, as it did in the pre-war period, as the moat highly organized country in the world, and I believe that in this respect the United States of America stands second. If 70 per cent, of the inefficiency displayed in the United States of America is due to the employers and managers, and only 15 per cent, to the employees, I shall be interested to know what the respective percentages would be if a similar investigation were made in six of Australia’s leading industries.
– The honorable member must know that wonderful advances have been made in the United States of America since that investigation was made.
– That is probably true; but, even in those days, American industry was wonderfully well organized. Mr. Delprat, formerly general manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, paid a great compliment to the Australian workers. After his experience in Europe and America, he said that, there was no more adaptable worker in the world than the Australian. Sir Henry Cowan, a recent British visitor, has publicly praised the capabilities of Australian workmen.
The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) has indicated the attitude of honorable members opposite towards this provision of the bill. The honorable member thinks that the slight modification which the Attorney-General proposes to make will spoil its effect, and his statement that he would not be sorry to see it wiped out altogether discloses what is in the mind of many others sitting behind the Government. What that is has been plainly stated by Mr. Samuel McKay, the successor of the late Mr. H. V. McKay as head of the great industrial establishment at Sunshine, in Victoria, and chairman of the advisory board of the Employers’ Federation. When Mr. McKay left Melbourne recently to come to Canberra, he handed the following statement to the Melbourne Age: -
Australia’s most urgent need is a national stocktaking and sufficient courage and foresight in those who are in power to boldly re store the freedom taken from industry by Parliaments in past years.
Mr. McKay is an Australian, but he has inherited a good deal of Scotch caution, and I have no doubt he carefully studied that statement before handing it to the press. Briefly, what he said was, “ Leave us alone.”
– He paid his workers £1 10s. a week when he was left alone.
– The honorable member is referring to the gentleman who was formerly in control of the Sunshine works. I do not know that Mr. Samuel McKay would have done what his predecessor did, but we gather from his published statement that he would like to see the abolition of the Arbitration Act and a reversion to the old days. That means that he would rather have individual bargaining with his workmen than collective bargaining; he would rather have a number of men competing for each job offering. An opportunity such as that would be a golden one for the employers desirous of taking advantage of the fact that there are practically 100,000 out of work in Australia at the present time. The absence of all restrictions would permit them to engage men under any conditions they chose to impose. Of course, I do not think that some honorable members sitting behind the Government would go so far as that. Speaking at a dinner given in Canberra a few nights ago to the representatives of the proprietors of the leading newspapers of Australia, the Prime Minister said -
One of the mistakes that Australia had made had been that the ideals of the founders of the arbitration system had not been realized. No regard had been given to whether the system could withstand economic circumstances. It was possible, while maintaining the fundamental principles, to get back to a position where it would be recognized that whatever else was wanted from the arbitration system would depend on those who benefited by it, and how far a wages fund for improved conditions was created by increased productivity.
Giving his idea of how an Arbitration Bill should be framed, the Prime Minister made use of the words “ economic circumstances,” which are to be found in the proposed new section.
There are some honorable members who are in favour of the abolition of compulsory arbitration and the adoption of what is known as the American system. The other night I dealt extensively with that system. I pointed out what an independent authority had had to say about it, and expressed the hope that the day would never come in Australia when the majority of the people would discard our existing arbitration system to adopt one which is in keeping with American methods.
– If we secured as good results from the adoption of the American system as have been obtained in the United States of America, it would be all right.
– No man with any humanitarian principles would be inclined to apply the American system to Australia.
– The representatives of Labour on the industrial delegation to America do not support what the honorable member has said.
– I know that one gentleman who represented Labour on that delegation has said that official duties in Australia on his return prevented him from taking part in the deliberations of the delegation when it framed its report, suggesting that his attitude is, “ Do not hold me responsible if there are sentiments in the report with which I do not agree.” I do not say, however, that that is a proper attitude for him to take up, because having accepted the invitation of the Government to take part in the delegation, I think he should have remained with the delegation until its report was completed, even to the dotting of the last “ i “ or the crossing of the last “t.” Of course, a minority report was submitted.
– The other Labour delegates signed the report.
– I know, but there were some so-called representatives of Labour on that commission who did not represent the sentiments of the industrialists of Australia. I propose to make a quotation for the purpose of showing that it is not desirable to scrap our arbitration awards and substitute for them the United States of America system of conducting industry. But even in America there are some men, such as Henry Ford, who believe in treating their employees with consideration. Henry Ford recognizes that, under modern conditions, men are merely cogs in a machine, and in order to give them some respite from their monotonous occupation, he works them only five days out of the seven. The book from which I quote is called An Australian Looks at America by Hugh Grant Adam, associate editor of the Melbourne Herald. He states -
Useful evidence as to whether the present industrial prosperity of America is due to the practice of a new principle of co-operation between labour and capital should be found in the figures showing the division of national income among the people of the country. If there is co-operation in earning, there must surely be co-operation in payment, or it is not co-operation at all. I take the latest figures published by the Bureau of Internal Revenue in Washington. An analysis of these figures shows that the increased revenue of the last twelve months has increased the number of captains of industry who have an annual income of fi ,000,000 or more from three to seven. It has added 9,000 to the number of near-rich whose income is over £10,000 a year, and it has put one-sixth of all the taxable income of the nation into the hands of 30,295 people. In other words, the increase of industrial prosperity has led to a greater concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. This does not afford much evidence of increased cooperation between capital and labour, as shown by the distribution of profits.
However, I mistrust conclusions based on statistics, even when those conclusions are my own. Let us get right down to specific cases. If the spirit of co-operation is a hig working factor in American industry, I should have found it, for I did not go about America with my eyes shut and my ears closed. I spent my days in visiting factories, and my evenings in talking with employers and employees. The only sort of co-operation I found was the sort of co-operation that was established between the tiger and the young lady from Riga when they returned from that famous ride. You will remember that the young lady from Riga was inside the tiger.
The argument I heard was, “ Co-operation between labour and capital makes the country industrially prosperous. America is industrially prosperous. Therefore America has cooperation between labour and capital!” America is enjoying many of the conditions that might be expected to result from the enthusiastic co-operation of labour in the business of profit-making. Labour works hard, at great speed, and for long hours. It does so because the pace is set by the employers, and it has no alternative but to keep up that pace or get out. That is the extent to which labour co-operates with capital in America. This cooperation has been brought about by the weak position of the individual worker in the absence of labour organization.
We also hold those views. We shall fight with all the power we possess against a return to the iniquitous system which prevailed before the introduction of Factories Acts, Wages Boards, and Arbitration Courts. There are honorable members on the other side who, I am quite sure, do not want to get back to the old conditions any more than we do. Amongst that number I can include the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell).
– The honorable member knows that there is not one member on this side who wishes to return to those conditions.
– If we take one retrograde step, we do not know where the thing will end. If we allow the employers to engage their work people without let or hindrance, and on any terms they are able to force the workers to accept, we shall soon get back to the conditions which prevailed many years ago. There must be some regulation of the relations between employers and employees.
It is not true that industrial unrest has been more rife in Australia than in other countries, nor is is true that more time has been lost through labour troubles in recent years than in previous times. The Australian Year-Book publishes a graph which shows the comparative amount of unemployment for the last five years as compared with previous years, and it may be seen from this that from 1921 up to the present time unemployment as the result of labour troubles has been less than during any previous period. It is unreasonable to expect industry to proceed entirely without friction. The man has not yet been born with wit or genius enough to frame an act of parliament which will prevent all industrial trouble. Wherever there is a high-spirited people, there will be found a spirit of unrest, exercised sometimes rightly, and sometimes wrongly. This is the spirit of Australia. This country would not be the great nation it is but for that eager and restless national spirit. It is the spirit of the pioneers who first colonized the continent, it is the spirit that can be found to-day in their descendants on the farm, in the factory, and in the mine.
People who seek absolute industrial peace are seeking the impossible.
– Nobody expects to obtain complete industrial peace.
– Industrial disturbances have been comparatively few in Australia during recent years.
I am prepared to admit that this clause is somewhat modified in its effect by the amendment moved by the AttorneyGeneral. Without that amendment it would have been neither more nor less than the placing of dynamite under the citadel of Labour. I do not think there has ever been an industrial upheaval in Australia so severe as the maritime strike in the 90’s, and the disturbances which followed it. We do not want to return to the conditions which brought that trouble about. On the whole, we have reason to be proud of the way in which the Australian workers have comported themselves. While there has undoubtedly been an industrial disturbance now and then, the great majority of the workers have been going on peacefully with their jobs day after day. It is wrong to say that the Australian workers, as a body, are guilty of go-slow tactics, and of not doing the fair thing by their employers. The present condition of Australian industry is a glowing tribute to the efficiency of the Australian workers. Conditions in this country are probably as good as anywhere in the world, but we should not be content with being merely as good as other people; we ought to be better.
This bill will not make for industrial peace. No man can put his foot on the neck of an Australian workman without that workman resenting it in the most unmistakable manner. ‘The other day the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) who, by the way, would do better if he made his speeches in this Parliament instead of to the Women’s National League, referred to the provision in this bill for a secret ballot. He said that he would not only give votes to the workmen, but to their wives as well. My experience is that when there is any industrial trouble, the womenfolk are the last to give in. Although they suffer most, they are by no means the first to yield. Some of the provisions in this bill are altogether too harsh.
Clauses which impose fines and imprisonment are not reconciliable with conciliation provisions. The two things are contradictory. The one is the welding of the big stick, the other is the holding out of the olive branch. The Registrar of the Arbitration Court could give some information to members of this Parliament as to what has been done by conciliation in the direction of maintaining peace in industry. Thousands of men are workng under agreements which have been registered in the Arbitration Court, and which were arrived at simply by meetings between the representatives of employers and employees. I do not like this clause, nor the bill as a whole. Some of the clauses have been introduced at the suggestion of the trades union, and they naturally meet with our approval. But some drastic clauses to which we object very strongly have been already passed. The Government will never succeed in bringing about industrial peace by a measure of this kind.
.- I cannot allow the proposed section to pass without voicing my opposition to it, and trying to get from the Attorney-General some explanation of what is meant by the direction to the court to consider when making an award its probable economic effect in relation to the community in general, and upon the industry or industries concerned. It is true that he has moved ari amendment which excludes “ the practice of the court in fixing the basic wage “ from the scope of such an investigation; but I am not so much concerned about the practice as about the basic wage itself. How will it be affected by this proposed section? Section 25 of the act reads - ‘
In the hearing and determination of every industrial dispute, and in exercising any duties or powers under or by virtue of this act, the court or the Chief Judge shall act according to equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities or legal forms, and shall not be bound by any rules of evidence, but may inform its or his mind on any matter in such manner as it or he thinks just.
In my opinion that section gives to the court all the power it needs to investigate the position of any industry in regard to which it is asked to adjudicate. It is told to act. according to equity, good conscience, and tha substantial merits of the case. To the earlier additions to that section no serious objection can be offered; they no doubt are born of experience, but the proposed section now before us is in a different category. As soon as the bill was circulated honorable members on this side of the chamber recognized this as a dangerous provision directed against the basic wage. The Attorney-General has said that the proviso he has moved will preserve the basic wage; but I am afraid that, in practice, the court will be influenced by the direction given in the earlier part of the proposed section now before us. I regard this as a deliberate attack upon the wages, hours, and standard of living of the workers. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) admitted that he does not approve of the present method of fixing the basic wage. His statement that it would be preferable that three men should each receive two-thirds of the basic wage rather than that two should receive the full amount and one be unemployed, is founded on false reasoning, because if the basic wage were reduced to two-thirds of the present amount two men would still be doing the work on that basis, and the third would remain unemployed. The only gain would be to the employer, who would be getting the same amount of labour for two-thirds of the present cost. The honorable member also questioned the fixation of the basic wage on the basis of a family of five. The court was asked to fix the wage upon the most just and equitable basis, and it is too late to attempt to alter the practice in the direction of depriving the workers of any benefits they now enjoy. I do not say that some alteration may not be necessary if a national insurance scheme is brought into operation, but nothing may be done which will take from the worker that to which he is entitled in the judgment of the court acting according to equity and good conscience under section 25. If the proposed section is put into operation for the purpose of breaking down the workers’ conditions in that way there will be more industrial unrest than at present. Organizations will refuse to register under the act, and will depend upon their strength to win what they want by direct action. I have tried to imagine the considerations which would weigh with the court when studying the probable economic effects of its awards. I can imagine it being asked by the employers to have regard to the capital invested in the industry, overhead charges of every description, holidays, superannuation, workers’ compensation, and so on. The workers will naturally object to these factors being taken into account by the court when fixing the remuneration to which they are entitled for their labour. I hope that the court will maintain the standards that have already been set up, but I fear the results of this proposed section. I am not satisfied with the benefits that accrue from the act even in its present form. I contend that the worker who makes an indispensable contribution to industry is entitled to a little profit from his labour over and above the bare cost of living. Every man who invests his capital in industry does so with the object of drawing out dividends. The average wage paid is the basic wage, and the man has to be exceptionally skilful if he is to receive a higher payment.
– He would draw more wages if he worked under a system of payment by results.
– The honorable member has no practical knowledge of the system of payment by results or he would not advocate it. I worked in a factory where the system was in operation, and J know its pernicious effects.
– Was that before the Arbitration Act came into operation?
– Yes. I believe that the system is practically non-existent at present; but honorable members opposite desire to re-establish it. Those who are familiar with the principle will fight strenuously to keep it out of industry, as they recognize that it is a continuation of the barbarous law of the survival of the fittest.
– Workers in my district are paid by results, and they have to get State relief.
– That is so. In that industry men live for a great portion of their existence in the bowels of the earth, shut out from God’s sunlight, and daily take their lives in their hands.
– The shearers would be loth to relinquish the system of payment by results.
– We know what shearers were paid in the days to which I made reference last evening. I spent seventeen years of my life working in a factory, and I had practical knowledge of the conditions that obtained. When I began I worked a 56-hour week, I never received one penny in overtime, and every holiday that I had was at my own expense. My worst period of the year was Christmas time, because I was always in debt after the enforced holidays. When my boss heard that I was connected with politics he would have been pleased to shift me with his boot, but I anticipated him and left before he had the opportunity.
– Those “ bad old days “ are long past.
– But the honorable member wants to get back to them. After I had been seventeen years in that factory I received only 39s a week - and I was a married man. I was not a dud, because I was shifted from the factory to the warehouse, and even at this moment I could take up my tools and work with any man in the industry. I was doing the best class of work in the shop. Whenever a new line was introduced it was my job to finish the first dozen, and the price was fixed on my time. I weighed the material and did the whole job. After I left that man had a strike, which lasted for one week, and he went down on his bended knees and asked for that which he had hitherto opposed, a wages board. When that wages board made its first award it fixed the wage at £2 12s. 6d. a week, for the job that I had received 39s. To-day men doing the same job received £5 2s. 6d. That man had apprentices who were bound to him for five years. At the end of their third year they were put on half piecework, and were paid half the rate that the piece-work men were paid, for the same job. Being young and vigorous - and foolish - some of those apprentices turned out more work than the journeymen, and were paid only half their rates.
The employer got the “rake off.” No doubt employers will, in future, when asking arbitration judges to examine the economic results of an award, urge them to compare conditions in Australia and the United States of America.
– An excellent system exists in the United States of America, as may be ascertained by reference to the report of the industrial delegation which recently visited that country.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has quoted an independent opinion of American conditions which absolutely contradicts the report of the delegation. It states that the delegation merely visited the show places, which are visited by all such delegations.
– Any good Australian worker could make 50 per cent, more than he is now making if the system of payment by results were in operation.
– I know the system well. I have seen men go to work in the middle of the week, and, by superhuman efforts, still draw a full week’s wages at the end of the week. The boss would then make every endeavour to cut their wages down. He would take a rivet out of the handle or door of portable washing coppers and cut a couple of shillings off that job. I do not wish to pillory any particular industry; but I have personal knowledge of the one of which I speak. I know that in a boot factory, the rates paid to clickers, heelers, solers and upper fixers are cut down until the men have to go as quickly as the automatic machine, otherwise they are not wanted. If a boot employee should “ kill “ a boot while it is in the machine that boot has to be raffled amongst the employees, as the employer will not bear the loss. Frequently our coal miners are abused for having put the darg in operation. Actually they set themselves a task which is a fair thing both for the employer and the employee. Yet they are charged with practising job control. The employer for whom I worked for so long employed a great number of boys, who were given a task and told that they could go home when it was finished. Some of them would get away at half-past three to four in the afternoon, after passing through a physically exhausting process. At that time none of the machines was protected, and should a piece of tin jam in one, the boy, in order not to waste time, would put in his hand to free it, without stopping the machine, and off would go a finger. Almost every week boys were taken to the hospital, permanently mained because of the operation of that vicious system of payment by results. That employer had a standing advertisement for boys in the newspaper. Honorable members should keep those facts in mind when advocating that pernicious system.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) and others have stated that the Arbitration Court is responsible for the present slump in trade. Sir Henry Barwell urged that wages should come down and that hours should be lengthened, as industry could not stand existing conditions. If the court acts in equity and good conscience it will see that the workers engaged in certain of the staple industries of Australia in which almost fabulous profits are being made at present, receive a little more than the basic wage.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to have that interjection. I am told that the auctioneers earn more for selling the wool these days than all the men earn who shear the sheep. A shearer receives 40s. for shearing 100 sheep. The sheep yield, on the average, 8 lb. of wool each. The wool sells, on the average, at ls. 6d. per lb. On a selling commission of 5 per cent., the auctioneers would, therefore, get £3, as against a shearer’s £2. I think that substantiates my statement.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That proposed section 25d, as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed section, as amended, agreed to.
Question - That clause 22, as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 21 (Agreement to have effect of award).
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 23 (Representation of parties at hearing) -
.- It is not necessary for me to debate this clause at length in order to make my position clear. The Attorney-General said that he had been in consultation with trade union representatives in the preparation of this bill, and that they made a number of suggestions. Very few of those suggestions have been adopted. One was that the Attorney-General should eliminate from the act the provision permitting lawyers to appear in the Arbitration Court in any circumstances. It is generally agreed that their appearance in the court adds to the cost of arbitration. Frequently they introduce into industrial questions legal issues that really do not touch the merits of the case in question at all. We should have been content to allow the section to stand and would not have objected to lawyers appearing with the consent of both parties; but this clause provides that they may appear by leave of the court or by consent of all the parties. We take strong exception to this proposed amendment of the section. We believe that arbitration proceedings should be removed as far as possible from all legal technicalities, and that those who appear before the court should not have to incur unnecessary expense. With all due respect to members of the legal profession, I say that whenever they are briefed in a case their appearance adds to the cost and very often delays the hearing. There is nothing in the cases that come before the Arbitration Court to call for the assistance of trained legal minds. As a rule the court deals only with questions of fact, and the representatives of the employers and the employees, being conversant with all phases of the industry concerned, are able to state their position with perfect clarity. The representative of the employer is a man selected from the particular industry that is appearing before the court, either as a claimant or a respondent, and the representative of the union has a full knowledge of his industry. It is true that certain lawyers are specialists in arbitration procedure, but they are not specialists in a particular industry, and therefore they must be briefed by the parties in the case. Representatives of employers and union representatives may not be able to place the facts before the court as logically as a trained legal man would do, but they can state them clearly enough to enable the judge to decide on the evidence. The trade union movement desires the Arbitration Court to be freed of all legal atmosphere. Under exist ing conditions lawyers may appear only by the consent of both parties, and I think they are entitled to be heard whenever there is a claim for a variation or an interpretation of an award. As a matter of fact, the suggestion was made to the Attorney-General to so amend this clause as to provide that the consent of both parties should be obtained before lawyers could appear in any case whether it concerned an original award, a new award, a variation of an award, or an interpretation of an award; but instead of that this clause opens the door wider for the admission of lawyers into cases. We, therefore, take exception to the provision, and shall vote against it.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 postponed.
Clause 17 further postponed.
Clause 26 -
After section 30 of the principal act the following section is inserted: - “ 30 a. - 1. Any person interested may apply to the court for a declaration that a State law dealing with an industrial matter or an award, order or determination of a State industrial authority, is invalid under section 30 of this act. “ 3. Where the court makes a declaration under this section declaring that a State law or an award, order or determination of a State industrial authority is, wholly or in part, invalid, the declaration shall be conclusive evidence in all courts and before all State industrial authorities that the law, award, order or determination is so invalid “.
.- Clauses 17, 25, and 26 all deal substantially with the same subject-matter, and have relation to Federal awards, State awards and State laws. Clause 29 provides for conferences between judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and State industrial authorities, and clause 32 requires the Commonwealth Court to consider whether any matter before it would better be dealt with by that court or by a. State tribunal. Clauses 29 and 32, therefore, are designed to secure that the Commonwealth Court shall, before taking any action to deal with a dispute, consider, if thought desirable, in conference with the State tribunals, whether it is a matter which should be handled on a Federal or a State basis. One of the difficulties in Australia to-day in industrial regulation is the duplication and overlapping of awards, and these two provisions, together with those which we are immediately discussing, are designed to reduce that overlapping and duplication to a minimum. The application of clauses 29 and 32 should ensure that the Commonwealth Court shall deal only with matters which, in its opinion, should be dealt with by it upon a federal basis, and not by the separate States upon the basis of facts relating to each of them separately. That being so, the group of clauses that is now before the committee provides for the supremacy of Federal awards in cases with which the Commonwealth Court deals after having taken into consideration the matters to which I have referred. One of the most important things to obtain in Australia to-day is to secure as far as possible a single source of industrial regulation. If there is only one tribunal dealing with an industry both employers and employees know where they are; but if there are several tribunals ‘ making awards or determination in an industry, then chaos and misunderstanding arise. These sections are in part a redraft of existing provisions of the act. Clause 17, for example, is a redraft of section 20, which was intended to provide for what clause 17 provides. This section sets out that if it appears to the court that any State industrial authority is dealing, or is about to deal, with an industrial dispute, the court may, in the prescribed manner, direct that authority not to deal with the dispute, and thereupon that authority shall cease to proceed in the matter of the dispute, which shall be dealt with by the court. That is the existing law. The section, however, applies to an industrial dispute, and that means an interstate industrial dispute, according to the definition in section 4 of the act. A State court never does deal with the whole of an interstate industrial dispute, and, therefore, to meet the position, the words, “ or with part of an industrial dispute” have been put into the proposed new section, Further, the existing section relates directly only to a dispute, and not to a matter in which an award has been made. Accordingly, the clause provides that when a State industrial authority is dealing with a matter which has been dealt with in an award of the Federal court, the Federal court shall have power to prevent the State industrial authority from proceeding further in that matter, on the principle that there should be one rule - a single source of industrial regulation - for each industry.
All attempts to arrive at a political division in the Federal and State industrial spheres have failed. Various attempts have been made at Premiers’ Conferences and by referenda in the past, and it has been impossible to arrive at any subdivision of industries between the Commonwealth and the States for the purpose of industrial regulation. The only method of dealing with this subject, unless either the Commonwealth or the States completely abandon the’ field, is to encourage provisions such as these, indicating to the court that it should particularly consider whether a matter should be dealt with federally, before it deals with it at all, and that once it is in the hands of the Federal court it ought to stay there. There should be no other authority dealing with the matters to which the award refers. That also applies to clause 17. There, again, it is provided that the Federal court may direct the State court not to deal with that matter. The history of the relations between Federal and State awards is quite interesting. I do not propose at this hour to delay the committee by going fully into it. There has been a very acute controversy on this subject in the courts, and the views and contentions of the parties to industry have changed in accordance with what they have conceived to be their interests from time to time. In the year 1909, the High Court decided, in what is known as the Whybrow case, that if a State award was inconsistent with a Federal award, then the Federal award prevailed, and the State award was void to the extent of the inconsistency. With the particular test of inconsistency there laid down, I need not trouble the committee. It was further decided in the Whybrow case in 1909, that if there was inconsistency between a Federal award and a State law, then the State law prevailed. In 1926, however, in the case of the Clyde Engineering Company versus Cowburn, generally known as the 44-hours case, Whybrow’s case was reconsidered, and the rule was then laid down that if a State law was inconsistent with a Federal award, then the State law had to go by the board. It was also held that if a State law dealt with the same matter as a Federal award, but in a different manner, there was an inconsistency between the State law and the Federal award. Clause 17 and clause 26, which is now before the committee, are a legislative recognition of the principles laid down in the cases to which I have referred. They are based upon the principle that if we are to have a Federal Arbitration Court making awards in interstate disputes, then these awards must be the rule of law in each of the States to which the interstate dispute extends. If - any other rule is adopted there may be a Federal award made for four States, and the State Parliaments or State industrial tribunals may independently operate by cutting out little bits, or adding little bits, in the four several States. Any action on those lines is the sure way to confusion, expense, duplication, and general loss, and the infliction of unnecessary and artificial burdens on industry. These new sections, accordingly, lay down the rule that, while care mustbe taken in determining whether a Federal award shall or shall not be made in a particular dispute, when that Federal award is made it shall be supreme. But how is the ordinary citizen - the employer or the employee - to find out whether, in the eye of the law, the awards are inconsistent, or deal with the same matter? Up to the present time the only means of ascertaining that has been by some one becoming either the willing or unwilling victim of a prosectuion and finding out what is right and what is wrong after a prosecution in the police court and a review by another tribunal. Clause 26, however, provides a procedure whereby any person interested can obtain an authoritative ruling from the Arbitration Court as to whether he is bound by the Federal or by the State rule. It introduces the proposed new section 30a in these terms -
Any person interested may apply to the court for a declaration that a State law dealing with an industrial matter or an award, order or determination of a State industrial authority, is invalid under section 30 of this act.
– Invalid because inconsistent with a Federal award?
– That is so. It is considered that the State authority should have the opportunity to argue the matter before the Federal court. Accordingly notice must be given to the State Attorney-General of any application under the section. It is desired to omit the proposed new subsection 3 because, upon a further consideration of similar provisions in other acts, and indeed in another section of this act, it Was thought undesirable to give even the appearance of an attempt on the part of the Commonwealth to deprive any person of the right to contend, in any proceedings in which that person was concerned that the State law or award was valid. I hope I have made it clear that these provisions are all part of a system, the object of which is to remove instances of overlapping and duplication and to ensure that there shall be one rule instead of several rules, or - what is almost as bad - the uncertainty which at present exists as to whether there are or are not several rules. I move -
That after sub-section 1, proposed new section 30a, the following sub-section be inserted : - “ 1a. At least 28 days’ notice of the application shall be given by the applicant to the Attorney-General of the State concerned, who shall have the right to appear upon the application.”
.- The four clauses which have been enumerated by the Attorney-General are remarkable in that they set out to do certain things, and then go no further. Clause 17 takes the power to order State authorities to desist from dealing with a case that is either being dealt with or is about to be dealt with by the Federal court. That court, however, merely makes the order, and there leaves the matter. I do not know for what reason the section has been dropped which provided that, having ordered a State authority to desist, the Federal court should then proceed to deal with that matter itself. Although it may prevent a State from dealing with any matter, there is no guarantee that the Federal court itself will take it up.
– In the case of an award that has been made, the matter has already been dealt with. That is one of the new cases to which the section refers.
– What is the procedure when a case has not been heard?
– In that case it is the subject of proceedings before the court.
– The section to which I refer provided that the court should deal with the matter. Four principles are involved in the four clauses; and the Attorney-General has used to its fullest extent his capacity as a lawyer to catch the State authorities both coming and going. It would appear that he, his advisers, or his urgers, have in mind the necessity to deal in a friendly manner with a friendly government or with the industrial authority of a friendly govern ment. Clause 17 apparently deals with the industrial authority of a hostile government. Section 20 of the principal act, which is repealed by clause 17 of the bill, was embodied in the arbitration law for a certain purpose ; but because of the howl for uniformity, and for the elimination of duality and overlapping of awards, by employers throughout Australia, the Attorney-General has introduced this new provision. First of all he lays down definitely what a State authority shall or shall not deal with. Then clause 25 makes certain something which already is obvious, by giving it legislative expression. That which has already been laid down in such a manner that no protest has been evoked is made articulate in the bill. There is no doubt that Federal awards and laws prevail over those of the States. Clause 26 introduces an entirely new provision. I can imagine the legal fraternity licking its chops in an anticipatory fashion because of the invitation which is being broadcast to the employers of Australia. A man who employs only ten persons in a small, obscure factory, established for the purpose of manufacturing dolls’ eyes, glass paper, or something of that description, can approach the Federal court, and, so long as the industry is interstate in character, that court must make the declaration which is sought. There are very few industries that are confined within the boundaries of any one State. The Attorney-General went a step further in this clause; but, apparently as an afterthought - either of his own volition or because of the prompting of other people - decided that it -was just a little too brutal and that the wind should be tempered to the shorn lamb. Therefore, it was magnanimously agreed that the Attorney-General of the State against which the action was being taken must be given 28 days’ notice of the intention to apply to the Federal court for a declaration that the matter which the State had dealt with, either by legislation or through its industrial legislation, was invalid, under section 30a of the Commonwealth act. But as there might be some State industrial authorities under the control of Tory governments, there is a fourth prong to thi3 pitchfork; Clause 29 enables the judges of the Federal Arbitration Court to confer with a State authority. They can have quite an amicable yarn together and decide what is to be done with the parties who will come along - whether their cases shall be heard by the Federal court or by a State authority. Although the matter in dispute may be interstate in character, an arrangement may be made between the Federal judges and the State authorities which will prevent a union from having its case heard by the court to which it is entitled to go. These four principles which I have mentioned have been lying dormant in the Federal Arbitration Act, but they have been given fresh life by the Attorney-General and his advisers in order to make one last endeavour to eliminate the overlapping of awards. I think that the federal law should prevail. Most of us agree with the principle for which the Labour party stands, that of the supremacy of the Federal Parliament in all matters; but I must enter my protest when I find that discrimination is to be made between one State authority and another. The recent Labour Government in New South Wales, against the wishes of certain employers, set up an authority presided over by Mr. Piddington. It was probably one of the factors which led to the reclothing with more verbiage of the provisions of the Commonwealth act that I have mentioned. And it is just possible that certain recent happenings in South Australia may have some bearing on clause 29, which gives the Federal arbitration judges power to confer with a State industrial authority. I am extremely doubtful of the ethics of catching the States coming or going, as the case may be. It may be pleaded that every possible avenue should be explored in the desire to bring about industrial peace, but I am distrustful of these provisions.
– Does the honorable member want the overlapping of awards to continue?
– No; but if the employers and employees generally in an industry are content to continue under the State industrial authorities, why should it be possible for a small minority engaged in that industry to take the whole of that industry, whether it likes it or not, into the Federal Court? Where an industry is” working amicably under an award, I think it should be allowed to continue working under that award. Ultimately, I believe, the whole of the industrial legislation of the Commonwealth and all its industrial courts will be under the control of the Commonwealth Parliament, but until that can be brought about some power must be left to theStates to carry on the work which ultimately we desire to have transferred to the Commonwealth. This Parliament has not legislated in many directions covered by State legislation. Queensland and New South Wales have their Hut Accommodation Act and their Rural Accommodation Act. It would be a very easy matter for the pastoralists of Australia to submit to the Federal Arbitration Court a plaint touching lightly on accommodation ; and under the provisions of clause 26, immediately the Federal Court took cognizance of it, all the legislation of the New South Wales and Queensland Parliaments dealing with accommodation for shearers and rural workers would be altered. Is it fair that, although the Commonwealth Parliament lacks the power to legislate in regard to a particular matter, it can, through the Federal Arbitration Court, prevent the States from enforcing their legislation in regard to it? Upon action taken under clause 26 it is quite possible for certain conditions to be laid down in a Federal award which come into conflict with the factory legislation of the various States, and all State legislation that is in conflict and inconsistent with that award, is immediately superseded.
– I agree with that, but in any event, clause 26 merely provides a convenient means of finding out what is the case.
– To my mind, the means it provides are too convenient. That was found to be so in the engineers’ case. The people who were interested had no difficulty in ascertaining the position.
– The engineers’ ease was a very expensive one.
– I agree that it was expensive, but under this clause irresponsible persons are given power which I do not think they should possess. I agree that every person should have certain rights, but this is an invitation to individuals who may be carrying on an obscure business in one State, but have a branch in another, to upset not only State awards, but the industrial legislation of the State itself. The Factories Acts passed by the various States might be affected by such a clause as this. Take, for instance, the Scaffolding Acts, which have been passed by the State legislatures, and the regulations for the safeguarding of machinery which have been built up gradually over a long number of years. When a case comes before the Federal Arbitration Court dealing with conditions for labourers on buildings, or those engaged on the construction of water conservation and irrigation works, this clause would enable the whole thing to be thrown into the melting-pot, even those matters which have been previously settled by State legislation. The Attorney-General, and members on that side of the chamber, virtually say to the employers and employees, “ Go to it,” and if they accept the invitation there is going to be endless litigation, which will result in industrial chaos. I am entirely opposed to these four clauses. I shall not ask the Attorney-General to withdraw them, because I know quite well that such an appeal would be useless, since they are the result of propaganda which has been carried on for some time and which is in the new provisions which it is proposed to insert in the bill.
.- This clause which it is now proposed to pass, and which, in one form or another, has found expression in previous legislation, originates in that wise provision in the Constitution, which lays it down that whenever the laws of a State are inconsistent with the laws of the Commonwealth, the latter shall prevail, and the former, to the extent of their inconsistency, be invalid. Most people applauded that provision when it was made part of the Constitution, and they possibly also applauded, as I did, the judgment of the High Court, which asserted the superiority of a Federal award over an inconsistent State law. In other words, in the Glyde Engineering case it adopted a new reading of the law as laid down in Whybrows’ case. I point out, nevertheless, that the Federal principle involved the concurrent rights of legislation in the Commonwealth and in the States. That has led to a certain amount of what is known colloquially as overlapping. This overlapping has become, to some extent, a bug-bear in the minds of honorable members opposite.
– I remind the honorable member who interjected that he is also very much bound up with a school of thought which stands for the rights of local legislatures, in other words, for State rights. More than once he has stood for the local power of the States to govern themselves and legislate freely, and has resisted the encroachment of the Commonwealth Parliament upon State powers. I mention that, not because I am in agreement with those who may be grouped together as State-righters. I have always advocated strongly the granting of full Commonwealth powers. When the last referendum was before the people I had to face some severe criticism from many people, including some of my own political friends in certain of the States, for what I conceived to be my consistent stand in regard to the extension of Commonwealth powers. I still stand for them. May I place on record in the presence of the AttorneyGeneral what the existing law provides for? Section 20 of the principal act reads -
When a State law or an award, order, or determination of a State Industrial Authority is inconsistent with an award or order lawfully made by the court, the latter shall prevail, and the former shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be invalid.
That is a .clear expression of the superiority of the Federal power, and its meaning was made more definite by the High Court’s interpretation in the Whybrow case.
– Nevertheless we have overlapping awards.
– Does the honorable member take the responsibility of saying that he would legislate in such a way as to prevent any overlapping of awards in all circumstances ?
– The bill proposes to amend that section by adding after the words “ is inconsistent with “ the words “ or deals with any matter dealt with in “, and by inserting after the word “ inconsistency “ the words “ or in relation to the matter dealt with “. If these amendments are agreed to section 30 will read -
When a State law or an award, order, or determination of a State Industrial Authority is inconsistent with, or deals with any matter dealt with in an award or order lawfully made by the Court, the latter shall prevail, and the former shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, or in relation to the matter dealt with, be invalid.
My concern is with the addition “ or deals with any matter dealt with in “. It does not follow that because the Federal court has dealt with a matter, it has dealt with it finally and exhaustively to the exclusion of a State Parliament or a tribunal created by a State Parliament which might conceivably give attention to a phase of the matter not dealt with or only partially dealt with by the Commonwealth Court. Surely it is a rather drastic action to oust the State jurisdiction because the matter with which it wishes to deal has been already dealt with in an award or order or determination of the Federal court. It is curious that I should have to urge this view upon almost empty benches opposite.
– The position is the same on the opposition side of the chamber.
– I had expected ministerialists, especially those who are the special champions of State rights, to subject this proposal to a searching scrutiny. For my part, I stand for the concurrent rights of the States and local autonomy while the present federal system stands just as I believe absolutely in the superior rights of the Commonwealth when there is a clear conflict between the two jurisdictions. The Attorney-General has provided facilities for an inconsistency to be declared, not by reference to the High Court, as in the past, but by the simple process set out in his further amendment; -
I ask the Attorney-General to Consider whether he has not proceeded too far in the direction of ousting the jurisdiction of the State authority in these matters.
It may have the effect of placing arbitrary limits on the power of the States to legislate. Although I strongly support the paramount right of the Commonwealth in its own domain, and have advocated an extension of the Commonwealth power, I say that the Federal system of legislating must at present be concurrent with that of the States. I believe in the exercise of local government by local authorities, whose power shall be concurrent with that of the Commonwealth authority, except when the two are in absolute conflict. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has expressed his antagonism to the clause, and I am inclined to agree with him. The existing case law, founded upon the Constitution, is sufficiently definite to assert the paramount right of the Commonwealth in the event of overlapping and the Attorney-General is now trespassing dangerously upon the concurrent right of the State to legislate upon a matter of local concern of which it may have special knowledge, and with which the Commonwealth may not have dealt effectively or, at any rate, not exhaustively.
– The questions raised by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) are important and warrant the attention of the committee. I shall explain briefly the reason for proposing to insert in section 30 the words “ or deals with any matter dealt with in “. Under that section varying decisions have been given by the High Court. Different opinions have been expressed as to the meaning of the word “ inconsistency “. In Whybrow’s case three judges supported one view and were opposed by the opinions of two other judges. In the latest authority on the meaning of the word - the decision of the Full High Court in the case of the Clyde Engineer- . ing Works versus Cowburn - five judges took another view of “ inconsistency,” and two judges dissented. “With the word “inconsistency” left standing by itself in the proposed section, without any attempt to clarify the law and express the intention of the legislature, the position is that we have two varying decisions of the High Court - one, three to two, and the other five to two - upon the meaning of the word “ inconsistency “ itself. “With that position it is the responsibility of the committee to deal. I put . it to the committee that it is unsatisfactory, when we are dealing with the bill, to leave the law in that state. It is for that reason that it is now proposed to adopt what is in substance the view of the majority of the judges in the later case, by providing that where a Federal award deals with a matter which is also dealt with by a State award, and there is inconsistency, the Federal award shall prevail. I answer the very relevant remark of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) by inviting his particular attention to the words “ in relation to the matter dealt with.” It is only so far as the two awards deal with the same thing in a different way that the Federal award is given supremacy. The honorable member will admit that no difficulty arises if they both deal with it in the same manner. But the honorable member puts this point: The Federal award may not deal with the matter exhaustively. There may be other aspects which are dealt with by the State award. And he suggests that it is surely wrong to provide that because a Federal award deals with aspects A, B, and C, of the matter a State award should be invalid in relation to aspects A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. I do not regard the section as producing that effect. The words of the section will be -
The former shall to the extent of the inconsistency, or in relation to the matter dealt with, be invalid.
I should think that there would be little doubt in the case to which I have referred that the matter dealt with by the Federal award was only A, B, and C. The matter dealt with by the State award would be A, B, and C, and if it was dealt with in a different way then the Federal award would prevail. But the State award would be left untouched as to D, E, F, and G, because those matters would not have been dealt with by the State awards.
– A pretty sharp delimitation would be required.
– These difficulties are bound to arise when trying to draw a line between competing rules within the same area. They arise at present in a very difficult form because the only criterion is that of “ inconsistency,” and the meaning of that word has been differently defined in the decisions that exist at present. The phraseology adopted in the proposed section is in line with the majority decision in the latest case, and I suggest that the answer that I have given to the honorable member for Batman meets the case. I agree that the application of the principles necessitates very careful analysis. The question cannot be evaded, and these questions must arise so long as there are two sources of law in relation to industrial matters in Australia. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) cannot solve the problem by in a sense professing that it does not or ought not to exist. These difficulties do exist. Either this Parliament is going to leave the matter as it is without making any endeavour to clarify the position or it is going to lay down a definite rule.
– The honorable member is likely to break down a lot of things, that he cannot cater for.
– It is true that the facilities for ascertaining the true rule of law are improved, as they ought to be. It ought not to be necessary for some one to be prosecuted in order to find out what the true rule of law is.
.- I have no wish to interpose at this late hour in such an interesting discussion between two legal luminaries, because I am quite satisfied that they have converted themselves each to the other’s way of thinking. But they have not solved the problem facing the industrial world. I instance the problem which beset the pastoral industry about two years ago, when the award was being revised. The Federal court, that is said to transcend all the State court awards, made an award for 39s. a 100 for shearing. The State court in New South Wales dealt with the matter subsequently, and granted an award of. 45s. Of course, the shearers shore at the State award rate. And how helpless was the Federal court, that trans.cends the State court, to make its award operative! Why should courts be set up to fix wages and determine conditions if the men are to be allowed subsequently to take the law into their own hands? In the case to which I have referred there was no strike. The men simply determined that they would accept the Stat* award.
– The employers, in fact, agreed to pay what the men demanded.
– It was a mutual agreement.
– That doe3 not answer the case. There was no way out but for the employers to pay what the men demanded or lose the value of their wool, as grass seeds were ripening.
.- The case to which the honorable member for Wannon has referred simply proves that the minimum wage fixed by the courts does not always become the maximum. When tradesmen in a certain calling are scarce, they can command more than the wage fixed by the court. I wish to make it quite clear that the Labour party stands for the Federal court having complete power. We say that Commonwealth awards should prevail, but that power should be delegated in certain circumstances to the State courts.
– Our friends opposite want as many strings to their bow as they can get.
– The honorable member for Batman expressed the view of the Labour party on this subject. I do not pretend that I am able at the moment to deal with every aspect of the subject. We stand for the federal court prevailing but we claim that that is provided for under the existing law. If there is difficulty in the mind of the judges as to the meaning of the word “ inconsistency “ we might clear that up.
– That is what the clause seeks to do.
– I suggest that it goes a great deal further than that. It must be remembered that there are State laws affecting industry other than those which fix wages. There is, for instance, the Shearers’ Hut Accommodation Act, ‘ various mining acts, and so on. I am afraid that if this provision is agreed to it may place it within the power of the Commonwealth Court to render some or all of those State measures inoperative.
– All those laws do not favour the labourer.
– That is so. Legislation of this description cuts both ways. I agree that if a reactionary State government passed legislation detrimental te the workers it would be possible, if this provision were enacted, to veto it. I submit, however, that the existing provisions are sufficient to meet the needs of the case in that respect. I advise honorable members opposite who are strong advocates of State rights, to think carer fully before they vote for this provision; otherwise they may do a great deal to interfere with the sovereign rights of “the States. I am not an advocate of State rights in the sense that some honorable members opposite are. I have always maintained that as we have adopted the Federal system, we should make the Federal Parliament supreme, and delegate to the States such -powers as we deem advisable. But if this provision is agreed to, the Arbitration Court may invalidate important State legislation which is not covered, or only partly covered by Federal enactments. The Commonwealth Court might, in the hearing of a claim, refuse certain requests of the employees which are already granted in State awards, and hold that by refusing the claims, it has dealt with them, and so is justified in over-riding the State legislation. It must be remembered that the ideas of men are progressive. Many things are provided in current arbitration awards which were not thought of years ago. I believe that in the last shearers’ award the Commonwealth Court directed that certain utensils should be provided. Such a thing would not have been dreamt of years ago.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral suggest that the only object of this provision is to make the Commonwealth Court supreme in cases where there is inconsistency?
– I do not suggest that all difficulties will be removed by this provision,- but that a matter would have to be dealt with in a Commonwealth award before a State award could be declared invalid. If the Commonwealth award were silent on a point provided for in a State award, it could not override the State provision.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral satisfied that, if the Full Court when giving judgment deals with a number of points and rejects one-half of them, it will have been said not to have dealt with those points that have been disallowed ?
– I should say so. One has to look at the award - not at the reasons for it.
-I am afraid that quite a number of existing state laws, and also a number of state laws that may be passed in the future covering a number of industrial matters not provided for by the Federal Arbitration Act, may be declared invalid. I feel that we are giving too great a power to the Federal Arbitration Court.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Latham) agreed to-
Thai sub-section 3 of proposed section 30a be omitted.
Question - That clause 26 as amended be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . ‘. 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to..
Postponed clause 17 agreed to.
Postponed clause 25 (Awards and orders to prevail over State awards and orders) -
Question - That the clause be agreed to’ - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Latham), by leave, agreed to -
That one inonth’s leave of absence be given to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), on the ground of ill-health.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until to-morrow at 11 a.m.
House adjourned at 11.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 June 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280608_reps_10_119/>.