11th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Disallowance of Determinations
– Has the Prime Minister given consideration to the suggestion I made yesterday that the Public Service Arbitrator’s determinations Nos. 33 to 36, inclusive, of 1928, should be discussed in this House? If so, with what result?
– I am giving consideration to the suggestion, but I have no statement to make at the present time.
– When does the Prime Minister expect to receive the report of the Constitution Royal Commission, and when does he propose to hold the special constitutional session which he promised would be held soon after this Parliament transferred to Canberra?
– I have no information as to when the Constitution Commission will complete its report and send it to the Governor-General. The holding of a constitutional session must await the receipt and examinationof that report, and a determination of the amendments to be submitted to Parliament.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the chairman of the Constitution Commission has been appointed President of the Legislative Council of New South Wales? Is that gentleman still drawing fees as a commissioner as well as his salary as President?
– Immediately the chairman of the Royal Commission was appointed President of the Legislative Council of New South Wales, he notified the Government that he would not continue to draw remuneration as a commissioner.
– At the conference between the Postmaster-General and the directors of Amalgamated Wireless Limited, to be held in Canberra next week, will the Minister request the company to produce a standard all-electrical receiving set which can be sold at a price which will place it within the reach of the poorer sections of the community?
– I shall give consideration to the suggestion.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral lay upon the table all documents relating to the prosecution of Jacob Johnson, including those from which he quoted last night ?
– I am certainly prepared to table copies of the documents from which I quoted last night, but I cannot undertake to make available all the reports that are made to the department in relation to legal proceedings instituted by the Commonwealth.
Prizes for Scenarios
– Having regard to the large amount of money that must have been collected by the Commonwealth since July of last year, through the increased duty on films,which was recommended by the Royal Commission on the Moving Picture Industry for the specific purpose of creating a fund from whichawards couldbe made for approved scenarios and films, and in view also of the large demand in Great Britain for Australian films of merit, will the Prime Minister give immediate consideration to the offering of such awards for the encouragement of producers and writers?
– The recommendation of the Royal Commission in regard to the offering of award’s of merit for Australian films and scenarios is receiving the consideration of the Government.
– Prior to the general election I addressed a question to the Treasurer regarding the pension of £1,000 per annum that is being paid to Mr. Kell, formerly Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. The Minister promised to make inquiries. Is he yet able to supply the information?
– I am under the impression that I made public the reply I had received from the Commonwealth Bank board of directors. If I did not do so, I shall let the honorable member have the information.
– Having regard to the terrible ravages of pneumonic influenza in Europe and some of the Pacific Islands, notably Fiji, will the Minister forHealth inform the House whether steps are being taken by his department to safeguard the Australian people against an epidemic similar to that of 1919?
– The department has no evidence that a severe epidemic of influenza is raging in any part of the world, but all necessary precautions to protect the health of the Australian community are being taken by the quarantine branch.
– I understand that influenza is particularly prevalent in Europe, and that the medical authorities in England are warning people in Aus tralia against the possibility of an epidemic here.Will the Minister for Health take early precautionary measures?
– I repeat that there is no evidence of a severe epidemic of influenza in any part of the world. There is the usual winter recrudescence of influenza in Europe, and every precaution is being taken by the quarantine branch to protect the health of the Australian people.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that Dr. Argyle, Chief Secretary of Victoria, has already taken steps, in conjunction with the medical profession, to prevent the ravages of influenza which he anticipates may occur in Australia next winter ? Will the Minister consult with the Ministers for Health in the various States with a view to taking the necessary preventive measures?
– I have already taken all necessary steps in cooperation with the health authorities of the Stated.
– Will the Minister for Health state exactly what he means when he says that there is no evidence of an epidemic in any country of the world ?
– I can only say that my statement must be taken to mean what its words would convey to the average person. I repeat that there is no evidence available, at present, of the existence of a severe outbreak of influenza in any part of the world, but there is the usual recrudescence of the epidemic, which is noted every winter.
– I should like to know if the Minister for Health noticed the following statement by the Victorian Minister for Health, published in the Melbourne Age of yesterday -
Referring to the subject yesterday, the Minister for Health stated that the present conditions in America and Europe were similar to those that preceded, ten years ago, the outbreak of pneumonic influenza in Australia.
In view of that authoritative statement will the Minister ascertain precisely what steps are being taken by the Commonwealth health authorities to combat this impending invasion, and. inform the House at an early opportunity, say next week?
– I have read the statement referred to by the honorable member, and all I can say is that the necessary action has been taken.
– Has the Prime Minister received any information as to the result of the election in the Northern Territory? If so, when will the chosen member be permitted to take his seat?
– The law provides that no member may take his seat in Parliament until the writ certified by the Returning Officer has been returned. Following questions asked on this subject a few days ago, the Attorney-General has furnished an opinion regarding the possibility of the honorable member for the Northern Territory taking his seat at once. It is for the authorities of the House to decide whether effect can be given to the suggestion of the AttorneyGeneral.
– Will the Prime Min ister draw the attention of the State Premiers at their next conference to the desirability of the State systems of voting being brought into conformity with the Federal system in order to minimize the number of informal votes cast by electors?
– I shall discuss that matter with the State Premiers at the first opportunity.
Accommodation for Private Members
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, in what circumstances are honorable members entitled to have the use of private rooms in this building?
– No private member has a right to a separate room ; the Chair is aware of only three parties in this House and the party rooms are allotted accordingly. That is in accordance with the provision made when this building was designed. In addition, some members have announced themselves as independents, and one room has been subdivided for their use. Certain other members have, on occasions, asked that rooms should be made available in which they might attend to their private correspondence, and their requests have been granted, but no rooms are permanently allotted to them. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is occupying temporarily one of the rooms allocated to independent members.
– Other members also have rooms.
– I am not aware of that. By arrangement, one small room may be available in which a private member may attend to his private correspondence.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory has been deprived of his room.
– I have been informed that the honorable member for the Northern Territory will use the Labour party room.
– Who is using the room which he formerly occupied?
– That is one of the rooms set aside for Independents, and I understand that the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mc Williams) has been given permission to use it.
– May I inquire what is the position of the honorable member for Wannon ? Has he severed his connection with the Nationalist party and become an Independent?
– I am not in a position to express an opinion as to the party connexions of any individual member.
– Perhaps I may be allowed to explain that I am not raising objection* to any honorable member having a separate room for his convenience. If it were possible I should like every honorable member to have a room to himself; but I think that the political status of honorable members who enjoy this privilege should be clearly defined, so that the House may know what is the position.
– No honorable member has a right to any room for his own personal use. There are three party rooms on this side of the building for the accommodation of the members of this House, and in addition a large roomwas during the last Parliament subdivided and given over to certain members who had announced themselves as independent. I assume that they have arranged among themselves about the use of that accommodation. No one has been excluded from any room.
– May I inquire, Mr. Speaker, what steps, if any, will be taken in the future to meet the violent and rapid spread of independence in the Nationalist party?
– It is impossible for me to express an opinion.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if the report of the Tariff Board - to which was referred nine months ago the question whether greater protection should be given to the cotton industry - has yet submitted its report, and if so, will that report be made available to honorable members? If the report has not yet been received, does not the Minister consider that there has been unreasonable delay in considering the request and reporting upon it ?
– The report in question has not yet been received from the Tariff Board.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker: (1) Who was the manufacturer of the lift facing the Opposition room in this building? ‘(2) What was its actual cost? (3) Could the manufacturer have made it so that it would close automatically? (4) Is it not a fact that it has been more or less out of order since its installation, notwithstanding the earnest and continued attention given it by the engineers ? (5) Can the firm who erected it be compelled to perfect it, or has the firm been paid in full?
– The honorable member was courteous enough to inform me last evening that he proposed to ask me some questions concerning the lift, and I therefore made the necessary inquiries. I am advised that the lift was manufactured by the Standard Waygood Lift Company, Sydney, and that the approximate cost was £2,090. The door should close automatically unless improperly handled. The lift well doors did not form part of the contract for the instal lation of the lift, but were included in the building construction work. I regret to say that it is a fact that the lift has been out of order on a number of occasions. The lift has been paid for in full. The lift well doors have also been fully paid for, the cost having been included in the cost of constructing the building under the supervision of the Federal Capital Commission. I shall take steps to prevent any inconvenience to honorable members in the future.
– I should like to know, Mr. Speaker, if it is possible to have better arrangements made for the convenience of honorable members who return to their homes in Sydney by train each week-end. I was concerned on Friday last when I saw you, sir, looking for a seat, and more so when I noticed the seat allotted to you. It is undesirable that members, some of whom are accompanied by their wives, should have to scramble for accommodation. To the best of my recollection the Friday afternoon train was put on to meet the convenience of honorable members who wished to return to Sydney; but it has also been of advantage to persons travelling between Canberra and Sydney and intervening stations. But members, who have a strenuous time during the parliamentary sittings here, should be able to travel in reasonable comfort. I have spoken to the Sergeant-at-Arms on the subject, and he is inquiring whether it is not possible for at least one carriage to be allotted for the separate use of honorable members.
– The transport of honorable members is a matter which is in the hands of the Works and Railways Department; it is not within the province of the Speaker. I have nothing to complain of personally. On Friday morning last the messenger whose duty it is to attend upon honorable members who are travelling, courteously provided me with a ticket for the seat allotted to me; but as this officer was then performing his duties for the first time possibly some little confusion occurred. On my return to Canberra I spoke to the Sergeant-at-Arms, and arrangements have been made to avoid confusion in the future. As the special messenger is exceedingly busy on travelling days, it is desirable that honorable members should do what they can to help him by giving early advice of their intentions, so that he may have time to make the necessary arrangements. I shall refer to the Railway Department the suggestion made by the honorable member that a carriage should be reserved for honorable members.
– It has occurred to me that if a car is reserved for honorable members it might be marked, so that it can be seen that it is set apart for their use. If only half-a-dozen honorable members were on the train they would, I am sure, be only too glad to make room for the general public, but under existing arrangements confusion and discomfort occur at Goulburn and at other stations along the line, owing to the inrush of wayside travellers, burdened with baggage, who have difficulty in finding seats.
– I shall see that the honorable member’s suggestion is brought under the notice of the department concerned.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s question are as follow : -
Recommendations by Public Service Board.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of the House all reports and recommendations made to the Government by the Public Service Board with reference to the determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator, Nos. 33, 34, 35 and 36 of 1928?
– I am unable to see my way to comply with the honorable member’s request. The report in question was made for the confidential information of the Government, with whom responsibility rests for the action subsequently taken.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the Advances for Homes Department of the Government Savings Bank operates under three divisions, of which Division 3 is as follows : - “ In this division, advances may be made from funds obtained by the Commissioners from the Commonwealth Housing Fund, for the following purposes, under the conditions stated: -
To purchase a dwelling already erected;
To discharge a mortgage or mortgages on a dwelling, where the conditions of such mortgage or mortgages are, in the opinion of the Commissioners unduly disadvantageous to the borrower,” and since the funds available in New South Wales have been exhausted, when may the Savings Bank expect further funds from the Commonwealth Housing Fund?
– Funds will be made available from the Commonwealth Housing Fund as soon as the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales asks for them.
” The Ghosts of Menin Gate.”
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the painting entitled “ The Ghosts of Menin Gate “ will, as requested last year by the honorable member for Angas, be shown in each State capital before it is finally hung at Canberra, so as to give citizens of each State an opportunity to view the painting?
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Dismissals of Officers
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Under what regulations are the Commonwealth police in the Federal Capital Territory governed ?
– The Police Force of the Territory for the Seat of Government is governed by Police Ordinance 1927. Regulations under the ordinance have been drafted and will be gazetted shortly.
Ordinance to Control Printers and Newspapers
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill has been introduced to fulfil a promise which I gave to the people during the recent election campaign. Because of circumstances to which I shall refer presently, it was necessary to pass the Transport Workers Act, to deal with a serious situation that had arisen on the waterfront. Regulations were then framed to enable the Government to give effect to its provisions, and I promised that when this Parliament assembled legislation would be introduced which would embody the substance of these regulations so that the waterside industry would be controlled wholly in accordance with the expressed will of Parliament. That promise I am now carrying out, and the bill before honorable members provides for the regulation and government of the waterside industry, in particular, and of the transport industry generally.
Yesterday strong objection was taken to the motion for leave to introduce the bill, and during a heated discussion honorable gentlemen opposite expressed the view that not only should the bill not be introduced, but that the Transport Workers Act should be repealed. The Government, of course, refused to adopt the course suggested, and the House endorsed its action. Let me now relate the circumstances which necessitated the introduction of the Transport Workers Act at the end of last session, and of this measure at the present moment. It is only by considering those circumstances that one can fully understand the reasons for the course now being followed.
In December of 1927 a strike upon the waterfront took place. It was brought about by the Waterside Workers Federation, and the controlling officers of that body “said definitely at the time that the strike, although ostensibly relating to payment for overtime, was really a demonstration to protest against the intolerable delay in the determination of certain matters by the Federal Arbitration Court. The court, cognizant of what was happening on the wharfs, and having had considerable experience of the methods of the organization I have mentioned, said that it was prepared to fix an early date for the hearing of the matters at issue, but only on the condition that the Waterside Workers Federation would give a definite undertaking to obey any award that might be made. That undertaking being given, the court then proceeded to consider the matters in dis pute. After long consideration and an examination of the working conditions at the different ports of the Commonwealth, the judge gave his award, but he did not make it operative immediately. The award was given in August of last year, and he invited both parties to the dispute - the shipowners and the Waterside Workers Federation- to express their views upon it. Both did so. The Waterside Workers Federation raised the very debatable and troublesome question whether there should be one or two pickups. That and other matters were considered by the judge, and hia award came into operation on the 10th September. Immediately, the Waterside Workers Federation called a meeting, at which the unions throughout Australia were represented, and this resolution was passed -
That the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia repudiates entirely the pernicious and vicious Beeby award of 1028.
That was the resolution of the organization which, in order to get matters considered by the court, had given a definite undertaking that it would obey any award that might be given. As soon as the award’ was made operative, although the representatives of the federation had promised to obey it, and had bad an opportunity of putting before the court their objections to certain provisions in it, it passed a resolution describing the award as pernicious and vicious. The resolution was broadcast throughout Australia, and had a tremendous effect upon the minds of the unfortunate men belonging to the federation who were engaged in the waterside industry. Honorable gentlemen opposite should treat this matter seriously, because unquestionably, those men were extraordinarily unfortunate. They have suffered intensely by strikes. The advice of their leaders placed them in a disastrous position of which nothing but defeat could be the outcome. The unfortunate effect of the passing of that resolution was that, on Monday, the 10th September, when the award became operative, the waterside workers at the different ports of Australia refused work, and the Commonwealth was faced with a great industrial upheaval, pregnant with the most disastrous consequences, because of the holding up of the whole of the overseas and interstate shipping. No government could remain inactive in such, a situation. A government is responsible for the protection of the rights and interests of the people, and cannot allow one small section to dictate to the whole community. Next day I made a statement in this House to the effect that the Government would not allow the holding up of the whole of our maritime transport services. The Government then issued a warning that it would take every step necessary to keep these services going, and that the men must recognize that if they would not carry on these vital and necessary services, an opportunity would be given to others to do so, and that any who accepted the Government’s offer would be given protection. At the same time I communicated with the Premiers of the States, informing them of the attitude of the Commonwealth Government, and inviting them to afford every protection to any man who might undertake work on the waterfront. I communicated with the shipowners, and, as the head of the Government, called on them to continue their services.
Honorable gentlemen opposite have said, from time to time, that I was guilty of provocative action. I shall deal with that charge later. Having now recited the circumstances which led to the trouble, I ask any honorable member opposite to say whether, had he been in my place, he would have refused to take action to protect the people of this country, and to prevent a small minority on. the waterside from dictating to the rest of the community. If the Opposition would not have done that, it is clear that they are not fitted to hold the reins of government in this country. Volunteers were called for and there was an immediate response to the appeal. It became obvious that there would be no stoppage of the shippinig services. At this stage, the federation, which previously had repudiated the award, describing it as pernicious and vicious, proceeded to alter its policy and to recommend the men to resume work. They did not frankly admit that they had misled the men and tell them that their only course was to return to work. They passed a resolution to the effect that their action now having served its purpose, the men should return to work. The trouble, however, had then gone too far, and the men could not be controlled merely by the passing of a resolution, particularly one framed as that was. In many of the Australian ports the men would not return to work, and the disasters that came upon them were inevitable. Action was taken against the Waterside Workers Federation under the law of the country, and it was fined the maximum penalty of £1,000. There was no other course open to the Government. If laws are placed upon the statute-book they must be obeyed, and those who will not obey them must be punished.
I remind honorable members opposite that they are beginning to promulgate an extraordinarily dangerous doctrine. They say that this is class legislation, and that such legislation should not be obeyed. I ask them, therefore, if they believe in constitutional government. If they do, they must recognize that they cannot discriminate between laws, and should not inflame the passions of the people by telling them that they can obey some laws and disobey others. I remind them, too, that the act to which they take exception was passed by this Commonwealth Parliament. They may retort that it does not express the will and views of this great democracy. To that I would reply that, since the act became law, we have appealed to the people of this great democracy. A federal election has been held, and the Government responsible for the measure has been returned to power. Those opposite who persist in saying that this act should not be obeyed are declaring that they do not believe in constitutional government; but they should state that disbelief openly and honestly. They should not pretend to do that which their speeches repudiate. We have to recognize the necessity for this measure.
I have given the facts which led up to the introduction of the act which it is now proposed to amend. At some ports wiser counsels prevailed, and the waterside workers continued under the new award; notably at Sydney and in Tasmania ; but in Queensland, at Newcastle, and to a considerable extent at Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle, the men refused to work under the award of the court. On the 20th September, the Government gave notice in this House of its intention to introduce the Transport Workers Bill, “which subsequently became law. Regulations were issued under that statute governing the conditions of work on the waterfront. The passage of such a measure was necessary, as the Government had to protect the men who were willing to serve the country at a time when it was vital that essential services should be kept in operation. The Transport Workers Act was introduced with the object of ensuring continuity of work along the waterfront, and also - I do not wish there to be any misunderstanding upon this point - to protect volunteers. Honorable members opposite may say that no man who is not a unionist, or refuses to follow a trade unionist leader, should be protected in his occupation; but those who come to the assistance of the country when a small group of trade unionists is trying to hold the country to ransom will be protected by this Government whilst it is in office. Let there be no misunderstanding as to where the Government stands in this matter. In various ports of Australia serious acts of violence occurred, and there were also determined attempts at intimidation. One of the most despicable features of the’ disturbance was the intimidation employed against volunteer labour. This law will protect the individual volunteer. But I deeply regret that while this measure will, to a great extent, protect the volunteers, it cannot protect their unfortunate wives and children. To intimidate them is the most despicable form of tyranny. That a vendetta against the husbands and fathers should be carried into the home by intimidating wives and children Ls intolerable. I say without hesitation that if any way of dealing with such intimidation presents itself, I shall not hesitate to adopt it.
Under the regulations issued under the Transport Workers Act, licences were taken out by volunteers, and work in the Australian ports was carried on. Eventually members of the Waterside Workers Federation also took out licences, the strike collapsed, and the essential transport services of the country were resumed. But what was the effect on the unfortunate members of the Water side Workers Federation? Misguided leadership resulted in thousands of volunteers having priority of employment in work which the members of the Waterside Workers Federation had had absolutely to themselves before the strike. No provision was made in the award for preference to unionists, but preference was given to them by the employers. Yet to-day, because the waterside workers followed the advice of leaders who misled them, there are on the wharfs thousands of men who would not be there and enjoying priority of employment if the unionists had obeyed the award of the court and the law of the land.
I will ask honorable members opposite, who do not hesitate to criticize the action of the Government in this regard, what they would have done in the circumstances. They would have been faced with this position : The hold-up which ensued before the Government took action resulted in large quantities of produce which was awaiting shipment rotting on the wharfs. This involved a heavy loss to many producers who had worked for twelve months to raise it. Produce intended for interstate and overseas shipment was being held up indefinitely, and the livelihood of primary producers taken from them. As a consequence of this holding-up, unemployment was becoming rife - I remind the House of what was occurring at the Newcastle steel-works and at Holden’s motor-body works in Adelaide. Men were being thrown out of employment everywhere owing to the absence of transport facilities, and the position was rapidly becoming worse. On one occasion the wool sales were held up, and I think about £2,000,000 was thus kept out of circulation. Thus industry was being crippled, and unemployment was increasing. If overseas transport had been stopped for any longer time, tens of thousands of men in Australia would have lost their employment and thousands of men on the land the whole of their year’s work. Could the Government, then, stand by, and allow the strike to continue?
I have been bitterly assailed, particularly during the election campaign, for what has been termed my brutal conduct towards the wives and children of the transport workers. Have honorable members opposite given one moment’s consideration to the sufferings of the wives and children of the men who would have lost their employment if the strike had continued? They forget the hardships which would have been imposed upon the wives and children of the primary producers if their livelihood had been taken away as was threatened. And had the dispute lasted much longer, the sufferings of women and children everywhere would have been a thousandfold worse than they were. They have never thought of all the other workers in the country; their concern is only for the interests of this one small section, which was trying to hold the community to ransom. What attitude, I wonder, would they have taken if, instead of being an irresponsible Opposition, they had been the Government, charged with the responsibility of protecting the interests of the country as a whole? I say without hesitation that the Government took the right course, and that its action has been approved by an overwhelming majority of the people of Australia.
It has been suggested by honorable members on the other side that the Government should have intervened in the dispute, that we should have brought the parties together, so that the spirit of sweet reasonableness might have prevailed. I do not think that I am misinterpreting honorable members opposite when I say that that was the attitude they adopted. I ask them to consider exactly what that suggestion means. We have established in this country a system of arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes. The Waterside Workers Federation deliberately flouted that system. Although the union stated that it would obey any award, and had a legal obligation to do so, no sooner was an award issued than the union declared that it was pernicious and iniquitous, and advised their members to disobey it. Cannot honorable members see that had the Government intervened other than to uphold the authority of the court, it would have taken the first step towards the repeal of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and the destruction of the Arbitration Court? Such action would have been a flagrant interference with the authority of the court, and would have seriously undermined its influence. It would have made the Government an authority superior to the court; would have made it, in fact, a court of appeal from the decisions of the Arbitration Court. For a number of years past the feeling has been growing up in thiscountry that our arbitration system is a somewhat lax arrangement, under which the awards of the court may be obeyed Lt’ they are suitable, but may be disobeyed if they are not. The feeling seems to have been that if sufficient trouble were created, and the consequences to the country looked sufficiently serious, the dissatisfied party could rely on the Government to step in and see that something better was obtained. The Government has been working steadily duringthe last few years to dissipate that feeling. So long as the court is in existence the Government will support its authority, and take every step possible to make both sides obey its awards. Unless the Government persists in that attitude, we may as well recognize that the court must go, because we cannot have a system of law in this country which thepeople will regard with derision, and which they will obey or not just as they choose. I make no apology for the Government’s action in this matter. It is the only course we could have taken, and we will steadfastly follow it. It has been also suggested that the action of the Government has been such as to prevent the achievement of peace in industry, and to defeat all efforts to bring the two sides together for the discussion of their differences. As a matter of fact, it has done nothing of the sort.
We have, in a sense, given a lead to the rest t>f the world in industrial legislation, in the regulation of wages, and the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes. We evolved a system which we considered was the wisest method of achieving these ideals. That system was compulsory arbitration, the compulsory settlement of industrial disputes by an independent tribunal, and the enforcement, with the full penalties of the law, of the decisions of that tribunal. We must either carry out that system, or discard it. We cannot have a hotch-potch of industrial legislation, which means one thing at one time and another thing at another time. There has never been any doubt as to what our arbitration system involves; it is laid down in unmistakable terms, but, unfortunately, it has not worked in some respects. Some persons say that it has worked disastrously; others say that it has been successful up to a point, but that it has certain inherent defects. Let us then, if we are to have a conference between employers and employees, begin at the point at which the system has ceased to work successfully. From that point they can go forward, and deal with the difficulties which confront them. Nothing will be gained by attempting to disguise those difficulties. The attitude of the Government is that if any suggestions can be put forward by those who are engaged in industry for a better system of regulating wages and conditions, and for a more certain method of settling industrial disputes, the Government will give those suggestions the most serious consideration. But, until there is something better to substitute for what we have, the Government proposes to see that the laws of the land are obeyed. It is unfortunate that, on the eve of this peace conference, we have received news from Great Britain that the employers there have turned down the recommendations of the Melchett- Turner conference. That is a fact which everybody must deplore, without necessarily expressing any views upon the domestic problems of Great Britain, or as to how” far the recommendations of the conference would, or would not, have helped to solve those problems. I suggest that what has happened in Great Britain need not in any way affect our procedure in Australia. We have prided ourselves in the past on being pioneers in industrial affairs. We were the first country to recognize clearly the rights of the workers, to admit that they cannot be regarded as parts of a machine, to be thrown aside when their usefulness is past. No matter how unsatisfactorily our system may be working in some respects, we should remember what we have achieved in the past, how we have improved the status of our workers in Australia, and provided them with better conditions than prevail in most other countries of the world. There is no reason why we should not continue on these lines, irrespective of what is happening between employer and employee in Great Britain, or elsewhere. I deny that this measure has done anything to destroy the spirit of conciliation in industry.
Everybody must recognize that we cannot have a system of law based on the wishes of any one section, or which any section may, at its own whim, defy or refuse to obey. This measure, to a great extent, embodies the regulations as they exist at the present time. The matter of penalties was raised during the discussion yesterday; particularly the penalty of twelve months suspension of licence when a man is found guilty of any of the offences set out in the act. The regulations provide that the penalty shall be suspension for one year, and no discretion is left to the licensing officer to cancel the- licence for any period less than one year. In this bill, it is laid down that the penalty shall be not less than six months, or more than one year. This is done in order to give a certain amount of flexibility to the provision. A man’s licence cannot be suspended upon the arbitrary decision of a licensing officer. Provision is made for appeal to a magistrate from the decision of an officer, .so that the rights of individual workers may be protected against any harsh or unjust decisions. The other new provision in the bill is designed to check a practice which appears to be prevalent throughout Australia, namely, the demanding of bribes by gang foremen from individual waterside workers who wish to obtain employment. The men have had to submit to this, although bitterly resenting it. The bill provides for the imposition of a penalty both on the person who pays the bribe, and the person to whom the bribe is paid, the penalty being the cancellation of the offender’s licence and the payment of a fine up to £10.
– Was there a special reason for fixing a minimum period of six months ?
– Yes, in matters of this kind the tendency is always to reduce the penalties to the absolute minimum, so a full discretion is not proposed. This provision will probably mean that, generally speaking, the period of suspension will be only six months. The maximum will not be imposed except in really flagrant cases. The Government feels that it is necessary to provide a heavy penalty, as the offence is serious. The men must recognize their obligations if they are to be allowed to work upon the waterfront. I do not propose to examine the effect of the whole of the regulations; but the fullest investigation has been made into the position in all ports. Since the licensing system has been in operation a real stoppage of work has not occurred in any port, whereas prior to the application of the system a stoppage occurred at one or more Australian ports practically every day. The regulations also have overcome certain very serious difficulties which existed in some ports. I referred yesterday to one of these, the blacklisting by waterside workers of individual shippers who had earned their animosity. The regulations have also tended to improve the efficiency of the work on the wharfs, particularly in Queensland, where the standard was lower than elsewhere in Australia. This improvement has been noticeable, not only in the ports where the system is in operation, but also in other ports. It is essential that we should have continuity of operations on the waterfront and the Government is taking this action to ensure that stoppages shall be reduced to the absolute minimum. The system of working provided for in the regulations has proved to be effective, and for this reason I ask honorable members to pass the bill.
the Labour party were returned to power steps would be taken to introduce unemployment insurance. A promise which the right honorable gentleman made in order to secure his re-election three years ago, is now considered to be fit subject matter for a sneer. Unemployment is, however, one of the greatest problems which faces Australia, and unsil it is conscientiously grappled with it is useless to talk about restoring peace in industry. Of what use is it to talk to men about peace in industry when they are starving? How can they be expected to get together to discuss industrial problems when they do not know where their next meal will come from ? If honorable members opposite who so readily support the industrial legislation of the Government had unemployed workmen coming to their door day after day, as they come to our doors, begging for the right to work, chey would understand the situation a good deal better than they do. The Prime Minister talks glibly about the obligations of the Government, and asks what this party would do to meet the situation if it were in power. We would at any rate seek to remove the cause of unemployment and not waste so much time in talking about the effects of it.
In moving the motion for the second reading of this bill the Prime Minister has done nothing but stir up an old dispute in an effort to justify his action. He said something about two pick-ups which the judge provided for, but I notice that he did not say, as he said yesterday of an award of the Public Service Arbitrator, that it was a mistake. I have no hesitation in saying that if ever a member of the judiciary made an error Judge Beeby made one when, in spite of the opinions expressed by all employees and many of the employers, he upset the system of work in many ports on the waterfront by providing for two pick-ups. His action precipitated trouble. The Prime Minister had not a word to say in condemnation of that. The right honorable gentleman asked what the Labour party would have done in the circumstances that I have mentioned. My reply is that if like the Government, it had not a positive policy to remedy the trouble it would at least not have interfered with the efforts of those who had practically settled the dispute. Prior to the unwarranted intervention of the Government the trouble was being settled Quickly by the exercise of sweet reasonableness. I should like to know what is wrong with sweet reasonableness that it should he sneered at by honorable members opposite. Surely the proper basis for a discussion of the problems of industry is sweet reasonableness. A speedy settlement of the trouble was prevented only by the provocative action of the Government in frustrating the policy of sweet reasonableness which had been adopted by those who were attempting to have the ships worked with the least possible delay. I have never hesitated to say that a blunder was made in carrying the original motion which caused the men to cease work ; but in various ports of Australia operations had been resumed within a week or a little more of the carrying of that motion. The men were working.under the award, although there were parts of it with which they disagreed. There need have been no serious trouble, but the Government, with panicky haste, rushed the
Transport Workers Bill through Parliament, and put its provisions into operation. As a matter of fact, it did not even take time to frame the legislation properly ; but merely made provision for the issuing of regulations. These regulations were enforced in Western Australia before a copy of them was available there for perusal. No doubt this was done for political reasons; but it ill becomes those who were responsible for that to talk about preserving peace in industry.
The spirit in which the act was put into operation was shown by what happened in Melbourne. An offence was committed by the Melbourne branch of the Waterside Workers Federation, and immediately the law was put into operation. I have never objected to the law being upheld; but I shall always protest against it being savagely applied to a particular section of the people. In this case the maximum penalty was pressed for. On the very afternoon of the day when two officers of this union were addressing the men in Melbourne, in an effort to induce them to work the vessels in port, the federation was fined the maximum penalty of £1,000. Can there be any wonder that bitterness prevails? To impose a fine of £1,000 upon a union, the members of which never have much cash to spare from their hard-earned wages, is indefensible. We believe that the introduction of the licensing system was deliberately rushed in order to enrage the men who had resumed work.
The Prime Minister has talked a good deal about what he calls the dangerous doctrine that some laws may be obeyed, but others may be ignored. As Leader of the Labour party, I have spoken on this subject on two occasions in my place in this chamber, and on each occa”sion I have had the full concurrence of my supporters when I declared that we stand for the upholding of constitutional authority and the observing of the law. But we do not stand for the application of maximum penalties and all the rigour of the law against one section of the community only. I remind the Prime Minister that there is something more than the letter of the law; there is the spirit of justice in a community. The Prime Minister is ill advised to talk about the dangerous doctrine of obeying only some laws and awards, for we remember his miserable apology of a day or so ago for not accepting a certain award of the Public Service Arbitrator. The right honorable gentleman said on that occasion that some awards of the Arbitrator may be obeyed, but some need not be. Is there any justice in enforcing the provision of an award which obliges many men to travel miles to a port to be present at a second pick-up when there is unlikely to be any work for them, and when they really cannot afford to spend the fare required to travel to the picking-up place? The men could probably earn a few shillings in their own district by doing casual work if they were not obliged to attend at the second pick-up. Is there any justice in forcing men to go into the bush to work for a basic wage of £3 19s. per week, and of imposing a maximum penalty on them if they refuse to do so?
The Public Service Arbitrator, after hearing evidence from both sides, determined that certain employees living in Canberra, were entitled to a Canberra allowance, which no one can say is excessive, for it is actually less than the Government voluntarily gave to other employees living in the same district. The Arbitrator listened to the representatives of the Public Service Commissioners and also to the employees, and then made his award. It was in such circumstances that the Prime Minister said that the Government was justified in not observing the award, because in his opinion the Arbitrator had made a mistake. No previous Prime Minister ever attempted to balance himself on such slippery ice. How idle it is for the right honorable gentleman to talk of constitutional government and the observance of awards when he is trying to evade the award of the Public Service Arbitrator in regard to the postal workers. He told us that the purpose of the licences issued to workers on the waterfront was to protect the volunteers. My mind stretches back many years over the industrial fights of other countries, and I know of the trouble that has always been caused by this alleged protection of volunteers, by the encouragement of men to break faith with their fellows and to snatch the bread from their mouths when they are registering a protest against unfair conditions. My own observation and the lessons of history convince me that, though a government may temporarily smash a union, and by starvation force the workers to yield, no government has obtained, or ever will obtain, a permanent victory over the working classes by these methods.
– Does not the honorable member believe in protecting volunteer labour ?
– No policy that encourages a batch of men to “ scab “ on their fellows is any good to industry.
– Is that an answer to my question ?
– The honorable member is well and truly answered.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) interjected that a volunteer should be called a “ scab.” I resent that statement, and ask that it be withdrawn.
– The authority of the Chair does not extend beyond the expressions of honorable members in reference to each other. I can restrain the application of unparliamentary terms to an honorable member, but what honorable members may choose to say about persons outside Parliament is entirely within their own judgment and taste - of course, with certain exceptions. I remind honorable members, however, that all interjections are disorderly.
– I was anxious to hear from the Prime Minister how these licences protect the volunteers. I could understand his claim if the licences were issued only to volunteers, and thus conferred a preference, which is the only effective protection. But they are issued indiscriminately. There is no inquiry as to whether the applicant is a volunteer or a unionist, or a person of good character ; men merely pay a shilling and get their licence. What protection does that give? I am quite certain that as soon as the ship-owners are ready to re-instate the unionists, who are the best workers, they will do so, and the volunteers, despite their licences, will disappear from the scene as volunteers always have clone in every dispute. The Prime Minister was only humbugging the people when he said that the licence is a protection to the volunteer. Only an inexperienced person, like the Prime Minister, could delude himself with such an argument. Nor did he deceive the public when he made a grave charge against the big body of organized workers on the waterfront. There was no ambiguity in his reference to those men who intimidate and terrorize women and children. That was clearly an attack on the “Waterside Workers Federation. The only inference to be drawn from the right honorable gentleman’s statement was that the outrages committed in Melbourne against women and children were instigated and approved by the Waterside Workers Federation, and. presumably the Political Labour party. He is well aware that responsible officers of the federation repudiated the outrages, and that resolutions deploring them were carried at the conference of unions at the Trades Hall, Melbourne. He knows that I, speaking as the leader of the Labour Party in the Federal Parliament, bitterly resented and condemned the damnable bomb throwing, and that I, and other labour leaders, dissociated every trade unionist from these dastardly acts.
– I made no reference to the bomb outrages. I was referring to the terrorizing of the individual wives of workers in their homes and their children in the schools.
– No person who listened to the right honorable gentleman’s speech, or who will read it in Hansard could draw any inference other than that I have mentioned. I am glad, however, that he has withdrawn and apologised.
– The honorable member is misrepresenting me. I explained my statement; I have not withdrawn anything.
– The Prime Minister has asked, “If the Government’s methods are wrong, what is the remedy?” It is a fair question. My answer is, that the remedy is not to be found in coercion. The rigour of penal laws may be properly applied to criminals, isolated individuals who break the law and act to the detriment of the general community. But the man who commits an industrial offence is not a criminal, and until the present Govern ment came into office there had been no attempt in Australia to make him one. The Government, by its legislation, has forced upon us the appearance of protecting criminals, when, in fact, we are as much opposed to the criminal as is any other section of the community. The Government has made refusal to work under inacceptable conditions a criminal act. It may be quite proper to make such a refusal an offence under an Arbitration law, but the Government has brought it under the Crimes Act and accuses us, who resent this policy, of supporting criminal actions. Every student must know that in the buying and selling of human labour as in any other transaction, disputes will occur, and no law can be devised that will not in some circumstances be disobeyed when employer and employee differ in regard to wages and conditions of labour. With a smug pretence of being just, honorable members opposite pretend that the penalties of the arbitration law apply equally to both sides. Will these penalties be applied to the mine-owners who have given notice of dismissal to the coal-miners? The AttorneyGeneral will answer me with a learned dissertation on the law, and tell me that these employers do not come within the provisions of the Arbitration Act. I know that. There is nothing to prevent any employer from dismissing his men at any time. It is not necessary for him to enter into a conspiracy with other employers to break an award. He is an organization in himself, and can sack thousands of men with impunity ou the pretence that he cannot afford to carry on his industry. But if a number of workers declare that they cannot afford to continue at their jobs under the conditions laid down by the court, they become guilty of a crime. The workers have to organize to do effectively what the individual employer can do without organization. &.gain and again the employers, while observing the legal technicalities, have, in practice flouted the will of the court. They disregard the law just as much as the workers do, but they are immune from punishment. And no employer has done that more flagrantly than the Prime Minister did yesterday.
The right honorable gentleman asks for the remedy for these industrial troubles. My advice to him is to try to mete out justice to all parties. Improve the lot of those whose lives are lived in the shadows; make better the relations between employer and employee, by legislation or arbitration according to the dictates of experience; put all on an equality. Such a policy is possible and the Labour party has on many occasions offered to co-operate with the Government in devising it. But we are not prepared to co-operate in legislation that is provocative, coercive and tyrannical. There is no sovereign remedy for the ills of the industrial body, there is no royal road to peace in industry; but a big improvement can be effected if the right spirit is displayed. That spirit has never been in evidence since this Government has been in office. In every country in the world disputes occur between employers and employees; but can any honorable member recollect a time within the last quarter of a century when there was as much bitterness in the industrial arena as there has been under the regime of the present Government? Its industrial legislation bas provoked the present deplorable state of affairs. At the very time when the system of licensing on the waterfront was decided upon, Ministers knew well that the pacificatory advice of Federal and State labour leaders and also union leaders was being accepted by the workers. The Prime Minister and others went through the country asking “ Where is Scullin ? Why has he not the courage to do this and say that ?” No courage is required to make speeches on the platform or statements to newspapers, but courage is needed by those who go to a body of workers who are chafing under a sense of injustice and whose minds are inflamed, to tell them that they are in the wrong and that they should put themselves in the right. I, and other labour leaders, did that, and our counsels were about to be rewarded with success when the Government decided to license the workers as though they were so many dogs with collars about their necks. This Government has exploited industrial, legislation for electioneering purposes. In 1925 its election cry was “ Deportation of the extremists, and secret ballots of unionists “. Although several big disturbances have occurred since, no attempt to operate the secret ballot has been made. For the last general election a new cry was needed; hence the licensing of the transport workers.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m..
.- Now that the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) have spoken to the second reading of this bill, the fire and glamour of the debate have, to a certain extent, disappeared. This is only natural, because the gentlemen mentioned are the leaders of their respective parties in this chamber, and both took a prominent part in the crisis on the waterfront last year. We who are the rank and file sitting on these benches may be likened to a jury in court. We listen to what is said by the leaders of both sides, and the obligation is upon us to weigh the evidence and, by our votes, to decide the issue.
I was privileged to be present this morning, and listened with great attention to the excellent speeches delivered by both the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition. I could not help feeling that if the utterances of both gentlemen were carefully examined it would be found that except in respect of one or two fundamental points only, upon which naturally there would be the greatest divergence of opinion, they were not in marked disagreement. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister, like many other honorable members, in the not unnatural excitement one feels when addressing a chamber such as this, omits sometimes to emphasize certain points in this speech, and occasionally leaves unsaid things which he had intended to stress. When £ was in London towards the end of last year news came through by cable of the crisis on the waterfront. As is usual, news of any industrial upheaval in Australia is given prominence in the British press, though other events of equal importance in the development of Australia are hardly noticed. It is unfortunate that all our troubles and setbacks should be blazoned forth and given undue prominence in the world’s press. But concerning the recent crisis, I was delighted to read full cabled reports of the speeches delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) during the election campaign. The honorable gentleman’s remarks, as reported in the British press, certainly lacked nothing on the score of clarity, and I was particularly pleased to note that he stressed the futility of strike methods for the settlement of the dispute. In all his speeches he exhorted the industrial section of our people to obey the law of the land, and pointed out how utterly hopeless it was for them to expect their grievances to be adjusted satisfactorily if they resorted to a strike. I can assure the honorable gentleman that his remarks had a noticeable effect on public opinion in the Mother Country. It was my privilege to move about a good deal in diplomatic and political circles, and I was most gratified to hear on every hand favorable comments concerning the general tenor of his speeches. Almost without exception I heard the expression “ Thank God there is in charge of the federal opposition forces a man who realizes the responsibilities of his position. “ ‘ The honorable gentleman’s speech this afternoon bears out what I am saying, so I cannot help feeling that, to a certain extent, the right honorable the Prime Minister was in error when he spoke of the dangerous doctrines preached by all members of the Opposition. I was not in Australia during the election campaign, but I have made it my business to read the speeches delivered by prominent members of all parties. There is no doubt that many honorable members opposite appeared to be disposed to inflame the mind of the working classes regarding the attitude of the Government to our industrial problems. The Leader of the Opposition referred to this matter this morning. He is quite right. We must, if possible, remove the feeling of suspicion that exists in the minds of the working classes. This should not be impossible of accomplishment. That the matter is viewed with concern by the Government is evident from speeches delivered last week by the right honorable the Prime Minister in Canberra and by Senator Sir George Pearce in Melbourne. In bis re marks, the Prime Minister said that, if possible, the employers of labour should make known their profits, and in this way dissipate that atmosphere of suspicion which is doing so much to keep alive the suspicion that the industrial section of the community is not enjoying its fair share of prosperity in industry. I see no objection to the adoption of this course. Personally, I can only carry on with the dividends which I receive from the investment of thousands of pounds in a number of industrial concerns, particularly in coal mines in New South Wales. I realize that if the employees in industry are not contented, I cannot expect dividends. I sincerely believe that it is the responsibility on all public men, not only in this chamber, but also outside it to improve the relationship between employer and employee so as to ensure prosperity in industry and thus remove the feeling of suspicion that appears to exist in the minds of the working classes.
I regret that at the outset of his speech the Leader of the Opposition should have charged the Prime Minister with lack of sincerity. I am sure that upon reflection the honorable gentleman too, will regret the tenor of his remarks. He stated that hitherto he had thought the Prime Minister absolutely sincere, but that recent events had caused him to alter his opinion, and he did not now think that the right honorable gentleman was sincere in what he was doing in connexion with the industrial life of this country. In the sphere of party politics all statements should not be taken at their full face value. I feel certain therefore, that the Leader of the Opposition did not mean quite what he said. One has but to know the right honorable the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) to realize that they are animated by the highest motives. No one can suggest truthfully that the Prime Minister would give up his great private and personal interests to serve this country for six years as he has done for what he is likely to get out of it, or that it would give him satisfaction to do anything by way of legislation to sow the seeds of suspicion in the minds of the working classes. But we must face the position, and realize that unless something is done to improve our industrial relations the future prosperity of Australia will be endangered.
The Leader of the Opposition asked pertinently enough what action had the Government taken to solve our unemployment problem. It was my privilege recently, as a member of the Empire Parliamentary Delegation, to pay a visit to Canada, and later to Great Britain. During my sojourn in England I came in close touch with the captains of industry and leaders of labour in the House of Commons and House of Lords. Ou many occasions we discussed practically every phase of the political and economic life of Australia, and I think it was generally agreed that the man had not yet been born who could solve the problem of unemployment in any country. This gaunt spectre stalks through every land. England has her millions of unemployed. Even the United States of America, mighty and prosperous as that country i3, has a standing army of 1,250,000 of workless people. Canada likewise is in much the same position. The only hope of ridding the Commonwealth of this frightful tragedy of unemployment is by the improvement of our industrial relations so that the wheels of industry may be kept turning continuously. This is a self-evident truth. It requires no words of mine to emphasize it. The Leader of the Opposition said that because of the Government’s action the spirit of sweet reasonableness was absent from the industrial life of the Commonwealth. It is not improbable that in the fullness of time the turn of the political wheel will bring the honorable gentleman into power as the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. I ask him now what would ho have done had he been in power last year? If one may judge from the speeches he delivered during the election campaign he would have been obliged to enforce the law, because he told the trade unionists of Australia that they could not hope to succeed by striking. And if I remember aright, he said also that if returned to power the Labour party’s first action would be to amend the Arbitration Act so as to make the Arbitration Court more workable. Is not that what the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral are doing? Could honorable members expect the Government to stand idly by, in a time of great industrial unrest, which was threatening the whole of our export trade ? We must admit that to the best of their ability they are acting and always have acted, in the interests of the people.
This bill contains provisions for penalties to be imposed upon members of trade unions if they commit certain offences. If a man is convicted on a charge of murder he must expect to suffer the penalty. As a member of the legal profession in New South Wales, I am registered in the Supreme Court of that State. If I betray a trust or commit a misdemeanor, I must expect to pay the price. In such an event, my name would be removed from the register and I could no longer practise my profession. In introducing this bill the Government is simply giving effect to the will of the people. Would the Leader of the Opposition do otherwise if he were in power? During the ten years of my membership of this House I have never voted against the Government on any vital issue, though the Government has done many things of which I did not approve. I may utter my protest, but I shall vote for my Government, because I am sent here by my constituents to do so. One has to search one’s mind to determine what he himself would do in a position of great responsibility. The law must be enforced. Whether arbitration is good or bad, or is right or wrong is another question. Many employers in Australia to-day say “ Wipe out arbitration; we have had nothing but trouble since it was instituted. Let us get back to the old days of agreements between employer and employee.” Let me remind honorable members that a return to the old conditions without arbitration would mean the intensive sweating of the working people of this country. No doubt there are many imperfections in our arbitration law, and we have all done our best to remedy them; but I am certain that if the conference which is to take place shortly could place ‘ before the Government concrete suggestions for the improvement of our arbitration law, they would be given immediate effect.
– Yet the Opposition contends that the honorable member is in league with the capitalist and out to destroy the working man.
– That is the charge that the Opposition has made against the Prime Minister and, incidentally, his supporters. It is not true in his or our case. Why are we in public life? It is not for what we can get out of it, but rather to try, to the best of our ability, to develop this great and glorious country of Australia. That is a grand objective, but party politics have brought a lot of white ants into it. Perhaps we cannot help that. The Leader of the Opposition has said he has no objection at all to the law being put into operation. Good luck to him for saying that. His objection is to the penalties provided in the act for breaches of the law. Whether they are too heavy is a matter for argument, and I do not wish to discuss that at this stage. There must be a penalty in every law, otherwise we should be unrestrained from doing the evil things which are inherent in every one of us. There is always something restraining us from doing wrong. If the employer or the employee does wrong, he should get his deserts. We must maintain some standard of economic life. Any charge against the Government is a charge against its supporters. Honorable members opposite say that the Prime Minister is trying to smash unionism. That is an absurd contention. We should be madmen to try deliberately to wreck the economic life of Australia. The Government may make mistakes, but generally it strives to improve the conditions of the people. It is absurd to suggest that the Prime Minister is trying to wreck unionism, because he lias emphatically stated that the Government believes in unionism, provided that it is clean and wholesome, for the good of the whole body politic, and not for one separate part of it only. The Leader of the Opposition asked whether the Prime Minister in taking the action that he did, afforded protection to any one. The right honorable gentleman showed more ably than I can, how he tried to protect the wives of the waterside workers by appealing to their husbands not to take part in the strike. By refusing to work, the waterside workers have allowed thousands of men to mount the ladder of employment ahead of them. But there is something else to protect, and that is our great export trade. We cannot permit of any interference with the sailing of the vessels that take our produce 13,000 miles to the overseas markets. I was with General Sir Granville Ryrie at Australia House when word of the strike, came through, and we discussed the position. The British traders came to Australia House and said “ What are we to do? We have forwarded orders for goods that we have contracted to sell to the great warehouses throughout England. We cannot carry on, because we never know, when dealing with Australia, whether we shall have regular supplies.” We are up against that position in London. How can we sell our produce overseas when we cannot guarantee continuity of supplies? The men on the waterfront can make or mar this great country of ours. We must keep up our overseas contracts. What is the use of producing goods if we have no market for them. Once markets are lost it is exceedingly difficult to re-establish them. When speaking the other day I suggested that the Empire Marketing Board in London should confer with the Empire Immigration League in ascertaining how many migrants of the right type we can absorb, where markets can be established, and bow we can best sell our produce. The work of those bodies would be futile if our products could not be shipped overseas. The Leader of the Opposition has asked whether the Prime Minister, in his efforts to maintain the shipping services, has protected any one. Our export trade has, without doubt, been protected, apart altogether from the well-being of those men who are now working on the waterfront.
These continual strikes must have an adverse effect when we approach London and New York for further loans. The financiers of Wall Street and London have said to me “Why don’t you get Scullin, Hughes and Bruce round a table and try to settle these disputes.” We have the brains in this chamber, and there is no doubt that these problems could be solved if party politics did not interfere. The waterside workers’ strike is one carbuncle on the face of Australia, and the timber workers’ strike is another.
Now we are likely to have a carbuncle in the form of an upheaval in the coal industry, which, if it takes place, will considerably depreciate the value of the shares that I hold in a coal mine. These strikes adversely affect every section of the community, even members of this House, like myself. Yesterday a deputation of coal-miners waited on the Prime Minister asking that a royal commission be appointed to investigate the industry. Honorable members opposite are continually saying that this country is run by commissions and boards. How are members of this House to get the information necessary to enable them to carry out their duties if we do not appoint commissions and boards of inquiry to investigate our industries. I am a firm believer in the appointment of royal commissions, and I regret that the Prime Minister did not grant the request of the deputation. But had a royal commission been appointed, the Opposition would not have hesitated to charge the Government again for daring to appoint another royal commission. Can we, therefore, blame the right honorable gentleman for refusing the request of the deputation? I firmly believe that a searching inquiry of the industry would perhaps compel the mine-owners to divulge their profits. I am not afraid to say what profits I get from my coal mine shares. My returns from that source are equivalent to 8 per cent., whilst those from city properties are equal to about 4£ per cent. There is very little to be gained by holding land in Australia to-day.
– Did not the honorable member get in on the ground floor?
– I did in one instance. I am receiving returns from a property acquired by my great-grandfather, in what was then the “ tent “ town of Sydney, which was handed down to our family and in which I now have a share. The working man should remove from his mind the suspicion that we awful capitalists, who provide the money to keep factories, coal mines, and our industrial life generally in action, are determined to get the last penny out of the working man. It is the duty of the leaders of those two sections vitally concerned in our industrial progress to come together and adopt a programme under which every one in this country may reap a golden harvest. We should be able to legislate in such a way that employment will be available for our own people, and that migrants from overseas may be readily absorbed. Perhaps we could then enjoy a glorious prosperity such as the United States of America, with a population of 120,000,000, is experiencing. That would, I think, be possible if we could dispense with industrial troubles. I am sure honorable members opposite know that I am sincere. We trust that a coal crisis may be averted, and that the offer of the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government - which I have not studied exhaustively - will be accepted. Industrial troubles are experienced in almost every industry. When speaking this morning to a gentleman engaged in the sugar-milling industry in Queensland, he said “ I can obtain machinery for my sugar mills much more .cheaply and more expeditiously by ordering from Great Britain. I have been caught on three occasions by waterside troubles and my mills held up.” Such occurrences seriously interfere with our industrial and general development, and persons with capital at their disposal hesitate before investing it in the sugar industry, which employs thousands of men. when the mills may be held up indefinitely owing to causes beyond their control. On one occasion I had the pleasure of accompanying the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde”) on a visit to the great sugar mills nt Belinda. We also visited Bundaberg. Mackay and other important centres which depend to a large extent upon the sugar industry, and where progress is often retarded bv the waterside workers refusing to handle cargo.
Before I conclude I wish to place before honorable members opposite something rather startling. It is an aspect of our industrial life that, so far as I know, has not been given much prominence before. When I was accompanying the members of the Empire Parliamentary Delegation, a discussion arose on a train concerning strikes. A member of the Australian delegation said that there were not any more strikes in Australia than there were in Great Britain. One of the delegates said, “Do you realize that they do not have any strikes in Canada or in the United States of America?” As I was anxious to obtain information, I exclaimed “ What !” I now wish to touch upon something which is very dear to us all, and for which I am sure we would all fight - the maintenance of the White Australia policy. At present we have a floating foreign population of about 2 per cent, of our total population ; but there are no coloured working people in Australia. We do not intend to have them. But Canada is alive with foreign migrants. On watching the train go through country stations, we saw that, they were crowded with foreigners, principally Italians. When we visited some of the great farms we found that the men who owned and were working them could not speak a word of English. They could not even answer the simple questions that we put to them concerning the progress they were making. Many of them were Russians. In inspecting the mighty skyscrapers, some of which have 68 floors, under construction in American cities, we found that practically every man working on them was an Italian. God forbid that that should ever be the case in Australia. We have erected a legislative barrier around Australia to keep out foreigners, and we must maintain it at all costs. Do the working men of Australia - I do not include them all, because thousands of them are opposed to strikes - realize that, by striking, they are upsetting our economic life and assisting to destroy the White Australia policy that is so essential to the future of the Commonwealth? In Australia we are safe and enjoy unexampled freedom. The continuance of the White Australia policy is a subject which some day may be considered by the League of Nations at Geneva, and. if it is, I trust that the Government will not nsk me to be one of its representatives. I have been to Japan. I know the art;tudc of the Japanese people toward our White Australia policy. They have no desire to interfere with it. They cannot, however, fail to realize that certain sections in Australia are always quarrelling, and that attempts are being made by certain people to destroy our economic life. They know, too, that whilst some of their people are starving, some men here are not satisfied with decent wages and a 44 or 48- hour week. Millions are living in barns on the canals. What would the representatives of these people say at Geneva, if our White Australia policy should ever come before the League of Nations for consideration? They would rightly contend that, as a population of only 6,000,000 occupying a continent larger than the United States of America is continually quarreling and not satisfied with their lot, then they should have the right to use some of our land. That is only natural. As human beings they have a right to live, and to secure land on which to produce food to bring up their families. The population of Japan is over 70,000,000, and as 774,000 babies are registered yearly, it is rapidly increasing. I appeal to the working men of Australia to assist whatever government may be in power to improve our economic conditions, so that other nations shall not be able to say that Australians do not want to work their land and produce for export. The appeal I make is, if party politics permit it, to get things so shaped that we may set an example to the rest of the world without having to suffer the indignity of having our utterances thrown back in our mouths by people overseas.
.- As a new member, I am not altogether conversant with the procedure adopted in this House, and if I infringe in any way I crave your indulgence, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) declares that he will voice his protest, but will support his government whether it be right or wrong. He said, “If the employer is wrong, give him one in the neck, and if the worker is wrong, give him one in the neck.” But apparently when his government is wrong, he is not prepared to give it one in the neck. My admiration goes out to the man who has the courage of his convictions and is prepared to give expression to them when the occasion arises. Honorable members of the Opposition have the courage of their opinions, and at all times when they think the Government is wrong, they will be prepared to give it one in the neck. There has been more talk of industrial peace during the regime of the present Government than in any corresponding period in the previous history of the Commonwealth, yet in the same period there has been more industrial strife, with its consequent unemployment, depression and poverty, than we have ever previously had in Australia. And the cause for all this industrial strife is the coercive, provocative and galling legislation introduced by the Bruce-Page Government. When the last Labour Government was in office, there was no need for talk of industrial peace; we had it. The natural remedy, therefore, for our present ills is to return Labour to power under the leadership of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) who sat behind the last Labour Government which gave this country industrial peace and prosperity.
On many occasions in Melbourne I sat in the strangers’ gallery and listened to the debates in this Parliament. I have vivid recollections of the discussions on the selection of a site for the future Federal Capital, and particularly do I remember the late Lord Forrest advocating the claims of Dalgety. Little did I dream in those days that I should one day sit as a member in the House of Parliament erected on the site selected. However, here I am. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) when speaking of the merits and demerits of leaders, made some laudatory references to the Prime Minister. I shall say nothing in that regard, but I can speak of the great attainments of the Leader of the Opposition and of his long and varied political experience. One cause for the provocative legislation we find on the statute-book to-day is the lack of knowledge of the psychology of the worker on the part of those chiefly responsible for this legislation. If allowed to prescribe, I would suggest that some of the leaders of the Government don the bowyangs, work on one of the ships all night, hang about the wharf all next day, work again on ship that night, then ou the following morning. I venture the opinion that they would view the position from quite a different angle; they would have something of the viewpoint of the worker. At the election prior to the last, the Prime Minister claimed that the workers had no control of their trade unions. He said that he, a good Samaritan, would give them that control, and the Arbitration Act was subsequently amended to do so, yet yesterday we heard the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) declare that the rank and file of the Waterside Workers Federation had disobeyed the commands of their officials. Evidently the legislation which was to give the workers control of their unions has not been successful, and, apparently in that belief, the Government has brought in the coercive and provocative bill we have now before us with the object of smashing unionism. Much has been said of the suffering brought upon women and children by the last waterside dispute, but the workers are not unreasonable men, and when we find bodies of them in the different States taking up a stand on principle despite the fact that their wives and children are starving, there must be some reason for it. During the election campaign the Prime Minister had very much to say about the Empire, but how has he treated the men who fought for the Empire? On the waterfront there are hundreds of returned soldiers whose wives and children are starving; standing idle and watching Greeks, Jugo Slavs, Maltese and Italians doing the work in which they ought to be given preference. It is our first duty to provide work for our own people, particularly for those who have wives and children depending on their earnings. The majority of the foreigners who come here live on the proverbial smell of an oil rag. I have read in the press of the immense sums of money they regularly despatch to their own country. I have nothing against foreigners, but our first duty is to Australians, and only when Australians have been provided with work should foreigners come in. When I was passing through the Indi electorate I found many farmers either not informed, or misinformed, a3 to the facts in the waterside trouble. I remember calling on one farmer with some Labour literature containing information he would not ordinarily be able to obtain. He told me that he had no time for Labour, and that the waterside .workers were always on strike, asking either for more money or shorter hours. I told him that this was not true, and he asked me what they did want. I replied by pointing out to him that if the horse which he was driving was wearing a collar that was chafing its shoulder it would refuse to pull, no matter how much it was flogged. Flogging would not make the horse pull while the collar was chafing. The reasonable course to take would be to adjust the collar so that it would not chafe and the horse would then pull without flogging. In the waterside workers’ award there was one little point which galled the workers, and that point was the second pick-up provision. Until that was removed the men refused to carry on, but the Government tried to flog them into working under degrading conditions. The Government has claimed success for its Transport Workers Act, but I warn it not to be prematurely elated. No thinking person can believe that peace has been established on the waterfront. How can it be when we have volunteers - there are other names for them, but volunteers, I understand, is the parliamentary name - are put to work side by side with unionists? The clash must come sooner or later. In my opinion, there will be no permanent peace on the waterfront until such legislation as the Transport Workers Act has been repealed. We boast of being a democracy, but for some months the waterside workers have been carrying on under regulations which have all the power and force of law, though they have not been ratified by Parliament. Government by regulations which are not ratified is not a democratic form of government. The Transport Workers Act is a piece of panic legislation, and as such should be repealed, and replaced by a carefully thought-out measure. This bill proposes to embody the regulations which were hastily drafted while the trouble was at its height, and when the Government had the backing of a large majority in this House. Prior to the last election the Government was wont to wield the weapon of coercion but perhaps now that the electors of the country have so generally endorsed the objections taken by the Opposition to that legislation as evidenced by the depleted number on the benches opposite, the Government will not be so eager to crack the whip of coercion over the workers.
I believe that there will be further trouble on the waterfront. The situation may be likened to a volcano, which the longer it is quiescent, the greater will be the disturbance when it does occur. Discontent is rife, not only among the waterside workers, but, as has recently been demonstrated, among timber workers and coal miners as well.
Sometimes I think that the time will come when the workers will refuse to surfer provocation any longer. Up to the present they have shown a very marked restraint under great provocation. We should cast our minds back to the time of the famous Eureka Stockade when men revolted against the tyrannous regulations imposed by the Government. Not only did they go on strike, but they met force with force. I ask myself, is the time coming when the workers of the present day will be driven to emulate the defenders of the Eureka Stockade, only on a much greater scale ? The waterside workers, were prepared to go back to work if that one galling condition, the second pick-up, had been removed. Three times, I understand, the workers through their officials, and backed up by both State and Federal leaders, endeavoured to secure a conference with the ship-owners, and three times they were refused. The Prime Minister, who poses as a great advocate of industrial peace, did not raise a finger to bring about a meeting between the ship-owners and the workers. Such a conference could, I believe, have been brought about if the Prime Minister had used his influence, and the strike would not have been prolonged. There seems to have been a deliberate intention to prolong the strike. Why? The electors apparently sensed the reason, and gave their verdict at the poll.
The Government claimed that its policy received the endorsement of the electors. In my judgment, the real test was provided in the campaign in the Hume electorate, which is represented by my friend, Mr. Parker Moloney. AH the smoke screens, heavy artillery, storm troops and financial munitions were concentrated by the Government in the electorate of Hume. With what result? Mr. Parker Moloney was returned with a majority of more than 2,000 over his two opponents.
– The honorable member had a pretty good win himself.
– Yes, I am not making any complaint about that. After my election, I received many telegrams of congratulation, and one of them contained these words: “Even Providence objects to the Transport Workers Act. “ I will take a win like that at any time, and I think that the honorable member himself would be glad to do the same.
When the attempt was made to bring about a conference between the shipowners and the employees, just as Shylock called, “ The bond, the bond,” so the shipowners and the Government in unison called “ The law, the law,” and, Shylocklike demanded its pound of flesh. But when the report of the Public Service Arbitrator, which was discussed in this House a day or so ago, was presented to the Government it did not cry, “ We will have the law !” but wanted to disallow the award. Where is its consistency? There seems to be an impression among honorable members opposite that peace has been secured on the waterfront; but their elation is premature. I liken the situation to a quiescent volcano - the longer the period of quiesence the more protracted and violent will be the ultimate eruption. Some honorable members opposite want to know what permanent remedy can be applied to this situation. 1 suggest that the first thing necessary is to put a Labour Government in charge of the affairs of the country. When the last Labour Government was in power we did not have to talk about the necessity for peace in industry; we had it. The country was so prosperous under Labour that the Government was urged to charter vessels to bring to Australia the crowds of immigrants who were anxious to come here. If Labour were in power, then instead of legislation designed to benefit the wealthy classes of the community, we would have placed on the statute-book legislation best calculated to bring the greatest happiness to the greatest number, peace would be restored to industry and prosperity to the country.
– This bill, representing as it does, an attempt on the part of the Government to carry compulsory industrial arbitration to its logical conclusion, and so touching a permanent issue in Australian politics, is of vital importance. Compulsory arbitration has been in operation in Australia for more than a quarter of a century, and we now have the strange spectacle of the section of the community which has always claimed the credit for introducing it defying it. The Government is called upon to determine whether compulsory arbitration can be retained or whether it must go. It should be retained only if it can be properly enforced. The Government, and I as a supporter of it, have always stood by the principle; but we must not fall into the error of thinking that any Arbitration Court judge is infallible, or that he can make an award which will be entirely satisfactory to all parties. I do not regard that as being his duty. What he is called upon to do is to bring about an acceptable compromise between the parties. All judges and arbitrators are liable to make mistakes. Some people consider that Judge Beeby made a mistake in providing in the Waterside Workers award for two pick-ups; othei’3 are satisfied that he made no mistake. Some people think that Judge Lukin made a mistake in providing certain conditions in the timber workers’ award, and others do not. lt would not matter very much if these alleged mistakes had been made in minor details; the trouble is that they have involved big principles, lt seems to me to be unfair to expect a judge or arbitrator to deal with these major matters in industrial affairs without making mistakes. I believe that we should provide a court of appeal to enable alleged errors to be reviewed. I do not think that this Parliament should be the court of appeal; but if we do not set up some body that has the confidence of the public Parliament must eventually determine the matter. It is a surprise to me that there has not been long ago so strong a demand for a court of appeal in arbitration matters that it could not be denied. An appeal may be made against the decision of almost every oilier court, and it would be in the best interests of the country for us to set up a high court of appeal in arbitration jurisdiction. It is deplorable that after 25 years our arbitration system, which has, speaking in general terms, been such a satisfactory instrument for the settlement of industrial disputes - the most satisfactory yet devised in the British community - should be accounted by some people a failure. I cannot help thinking now, that very few individuals in Australia desire the utter abolition of the system. The general public have come to regard it as the foundation of our industrial stability and industrial prosperity. It is, therefore, most regrettable that we are at present at sixes and sevens over minor details. I repeat that even judges and arbitrators must make mistakes. The Public Service Arbitrator was said in this House a day or so ago to have made a mistake in making a certain award, which might have a serious effect on the finances of the country and upon the Civil Service. Bather than risk the damage that might be done by such a mistake, Parliament has set itself up as a court of appeal. This provides a precedent for the setting up of a court of industrial appeal. What position have we reached in this Parliament when honorable members cannot be induced to consider seriously any issue other than the industrial issue ? Where are the great national questions that at one time occupied the attention of this House?
– What about the tobacco industry and the new States movement?
– They are great national questions which we cannot have seriously considered in this House to-day. The present position is impossible and so long as it continues we shall not have industrial peace, nor will the people enjoy that mental and physical well-being which every person desires. There is a vital flaw in our industrial system, and we are not making any effort to discover it. Instead, we wrangle over side issues that will not get us anywhere.
I have given a great deal of thought to this bill. If I considered that it would bring to industry a sword instead of peace I should have no hesitation in voting against it. But I have come to the conclusion that it is the logical outcome of that flaw in our industrial system to which I have referred, and represents a conscientious attempt by the Government to do what the Opposition has failed to do, that is, to find some means to enforce the awards of the Arbitration Court. The logical basis of compulsory arbitration is obedience to awards; but human nature being what it is, the working man cannot be induced to accept anything which cuts vitally across a principle. If the men are wedded to the principle of a 44-hour week they are not likely to accept in a humble spirit the order of a judge that they shall work 48 hours.
– The honorable member can scarcely say that a 44-hour week is a principle.
– It is, in so far as it signifies a lessening of the hours of labour. The bill is the logical outcome of the refusal of the industrial movement in Australia to accept the decisions of the Arbitration Court. The first great revolt against compulsory arbitration was made last year, when the Waterside Workers Federation refused to accept an award because in their opinion it cut across what they considered was a principle.
– There was a refusal only in certain of the States.
– That may be ; but it nevertheless involved Australia in a big industrial upheaval that was accompanied by riots and disorders which were a disgrace to a civilized community. There is not the slightest doubt that continued disobedience of the awards of the court must lead to a condition approaching that of civil war. This action is being taken by the Government to ‘ protect voluntary workers. Unless protection is afforded to those who offer their labour to carry on the industries, the arbitration system must be a failure, and every legislative effort to stabilize industry must also fail. It has been found necessary to adopt these measures because of the failure of the industrial leaders in Australia, not only to inspire respect for Arbitration Court awards, but also to suggest some means by which more satisfactory awards may be obtained. A striking feature of the speeches delivered by honorable members opposite is the denunciation and invective they contain and their utter lack of constructive suggestions. The speech that was delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) was a masterpiece of invective, but contained nothing constructive. The honorable gentleman convicted himself out of his own mouth when he said that unemployment was at the bottom of all this trouble, which could have been remedied if the Prime Minister had kept the promise he made at the elections in 1925, to make provision to relieve it. If the honorable gentleman had followed up that statement by suggesting means by which the Government could relieve unemployment, he would have had the keen interest of many honorable members on this side.
That he and the members of his party speak without a real knowledge of their lesson is apparent from the reports of the famous conference that was held recently at Tweed Heads. I am sorry that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) is not present. He was a leading figure at that conference, and doubtless would appreciate the remarks that I am about to make. The afternoon session of the Australian Workers Union convention was a very important gathering. It was attended by a number of members of this Parliament, and was given wide publicity in the press. The Australian Workers Union, as honorable members are aware, is the largest industrial organization in Australia, and has many staunch champions in this House. We have been told that the solution of unemployment is such an easy matter that the Government should tackle it without delay. It was discussed at great length by the delegates to this convention and this is the view that was taken of it: -
Delegates discussed at great length a report on the subject presented by a special committee consisting of Messrs. H. Boote, W. J. Riordan, and J. Hanlon. The report was eventually adopted, and will be forwarded to Mr. Scullin, leader of the Federal Labour party, with a request that he should move the adjournment of the House to discuss unemployment and migration, pointing out that unemployment was a world-wide evil, and that it therefore followed that it resulted from world-wide causes. The report emphasized that whenever there were large numbers of unemployed, correspondingly large areas of land were held by monopolies. This was, in effect, the divorce of labour from the land.
The displacement of workers by machinery and the exploitation of labour through the private ownership of means of production by individuals and corporations were two big causes of unemployment indicated in the report. A reversal of this state of affairs was suggested, and among the remedial measures indicated in Labour’s objective was the socialization of industry.
That proposal has not been put forward in this House -
The report added that action could also be taken in other directions, less radical in operation, yet none the less vitally important. It instanced the problems arising out of the cost of production. “The employing class aims at lowering the cost by forcing the workers to accept an all-round reduction of wages,” it states. “The Peace in Industry Conference has this object in view, and the Arbitration Act has been amended to give effect to the will of the employers in this direction. But the same end could bo reached by the abolition of all purely revenue tariffs which should automatically result in lowering the cost of living and widening the avenues of employment. “
Such tariffs were indirect and crushing taxes upon the workers, the report added, at the same time suggesting increased demands upon the income of those who could “ well afford to pay. “ On the other hand, it emphasized that the protective tariff should be effectively raised, and straight-out embargoes imposed on imported goods that could be manufactured in Australia. Development work, such as the unification of railway gauges, should be instituted. Immigration should be drastically restricted so long as land monopoly and the mismanagement of industry rendered impossible the absorption of newcomers. Judicial encouragement of the copper-mining industry would find employment for thousands of men. Local manufacture of motor cars and textiles, it was claimed, along with other manufactures, would keep in the country more than £100,000,000 which was now being sent abroad.
In the view of this great industrial convention, unemployment is a most complex matter. The problem cannot be dismissed, as the Leader of the Opposition tried to dismiss it, with the suggestion that the Government should attack it offhand and settle it. The conference raised every issue that has ever been discussed in the realm of economics, political and otherwise, showing conclusively that the greatest organizers in the Labour movement do not know any more about the way to remedy unemployment than honorable members in this House, and all the other authorities who have spoken or written on the subject. The concluding sentence in the interesting report from which I have quoted is as follows: - “ The one sovereign cure for unemployment. “ the report added, “ is the triumph of the Labour movement, which will give back to the people the land of which they have been robbed, and socialize the whole mechanism of production for the benefit of all who render useful service to the community. “
The final conclusion of the conference was that the only way out of the difficulty was to nationalize the land and socialize all the mechanism of production. That shows conclusively that the Leader of the Opposition, in putting his off-hand proposal forward, was either insincere or did not know what he was talking about, because we have these authorities in the Labour movement indicating what complex problems really lie at the root of unemployment. They tell us that it is a world-wide evil and that it has world-wide causes. Therefore, it cannot be dealt with by purely local means such as those suggested in Australia. We have now reached the stage at which it is recognized that unemployment is not responsible for the introduction of this bill.
It has been said by some honorable members that there is a surplus of labour on the waterfront. The reason is obvious. Nearly half the population of Australia is crowded into the capital cities. People on the land are being attracted by the better conditions found in the cities, and naturally there is a surplus of unskilled labour at the ports. Our friends opposite cannot suggest any means by which we can absorb this surplus. They do not now talk, as they once did, of developing the great empty spaces of Australia and bringing about decentralisation. They simply accept the surplus as a fact, and tho Government, also, has apparently done that. A big strike is in progress and an award of the Arbitration Court is being disobeyed by thousands of men. Other men, who are out of work and are starving, see their opportunity and rush in. lt is not a fact, as the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) suggested, that they could be classified under some other name than that of voluntary workers, because, after all, they are only accepting work under award conditions. ‘ They are not “ scabs “. I understand that a “ scab “ is a man who will take work on any terms behind the back of his fellows ; but these men simply say, “ A section of the workers want to have a monopoly of the work under this particular award, and because the award does not suit them, and they will not accept it, we are quito prepared to work under it, provided we are given protection by the Government.” Then the organized unions step in and say, “ We cannot enforce arbitration. We will only accept awards when they suit us, and if any man, unionist or otherwise, dares to work under an award which we refuse to accept we will use physical violence.” That is the industrial issue that has come about. We have come to the stage at which certain unionists do not favour moral suasion ; they prefer garotting and the use of the sand bag and the jam tin bomb. Any Government that Bat down idly and helplessly and allowed that state of affairs to continue, when we have a system of compulsory arbitration, would not be worthy of its name, and any honorable member who declined to support the Government in the present measure would not be entitled to be called a representative of the people or even a man.
So the great Labour movement, with its high ideals, has fallen down on the job of arbitration, and thrown the onus on its opponents of rinding some way of enforcing the awards of the court. The method provided in the bill is the only way that has ever been devised since compulsory arbitration has been brought into .force. As I have already said, the bill will bring not a sword but peace to industry, because, when the great unions find that the people endorse the principle of giving public recognition to workers who are prepared to work under legal awards, they will recover their senses and say - “ The great institution of compulsory arbitration which was sponsored by the Labour Party, but upon which it has now turned its back, must be maintained inviolate. I believe that the unionists will eventually say of arbitration, “There is no escape from it. It may be a Frankenstein monster, but the people of Australia are behind it, and while we continue the futile and suicidal policy of destroying out own creation, the greatest instrument devised in any Pritish community for the settlement of industrial disputes, we shall have no chance of attaining to power, or bringing about industrial peace.” I believe that if we stand by this legislation the intransigient sections of Labour will eventually experience an access of reason. They may resist for a time and continue their desperate policy, hoping to show that they and not the elected representatives of the people govern the country, but after a few hard knocks they will come to their senses, and realize that this law, fairly and impartially administered, will be, next to arbitration, the greatest factor in restoring industrial peace.
Debate (on motion by Mr. James) adjourned.
The following paper was presented: -
Federal Capital Commission - Report for the quarter ended 31st December, 1928.
House adjourned at 3.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 February 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19290215_reps_11_120/>.