11th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In this morning’s newspaper appeared the announcement that the Kellogg Treaty for the renunciation of war has been ratified by the British Government. Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether the notice of ratification by the Commonwealth has yet been deposited at Washington?
– Notice of ratification of the Renunciation of War Treaty by the British Government and the Governments of the various Dominions was deposited at Washington on the 2nd March.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral responsible for the notice served by the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor on the Timber Workers Union, requiring payment of the fine of £1,000 within seven days?
– Yes. The notice is in accordance with the usual procedure following the infliction of a fine.
Dismissal of Employees - Relief Measures - Proposal foe Settlement.
– What measure does the Prime Minister intend to apply to the coal mine-owners to prevent them from holding the community to ransom? If existing laws do not permit of legal action being taken by the Commonwealth Government, will the Prime Minister introduce immediately legislation to give the Commonwealth power to deal with the situation ?
– The Government will take any steps which the law’ allows to prevent any section from holding the community to ransom. The honorable member’s second question raises a matter of policy and as such cannot be answered.
– Will the Commonwealth Government institute immediately a system of relief for the coal miners on the northern fields of New South Wales, who are the victims of a vicious plot to reduce wages?
– Order ! The honorable member in asking a question may not debate the matter.
– Will the Government take steps to ensure that the miners who are locked out are supplied with the necessaries of life, because it is extremely doubtful whether the relief at present being afforded by the State . will be adequate to the requirements of the unemployed miners and their dependants.
– The relief of necessitous persons is the concern of the State Government, and does not come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.
– Has the Prime Minister received a communication from the coal miners’ officials recommending a proposal for the settlement of the trouble in the industry? If so, will he inform the House of its nature?
– The communication that I have received from the representatives of the coal miners is similar to that which -has already appeared in the press, but it does not contain any suggestion for the settlement of the present dispute. It shows that there has been a misunderstanding about the proposals put forward at the conference at Canberra last week, and in reply to the letter from the representatives of the men I have written to them pointing out exactly what those proposals were.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact that, when Mr. Lyons was Premier’ of Tasmania, he promised the Federal Government that if the Launceston Marine Board would not construct a deep water jetty in the Tamar River the State Government would do so? Has he seen the statement published in the Tasmanian press, that the present State Premier (Mr. McPhee) had declared that the Federal Government had never approached the State Government on this subject, and that he could find no record of Mr. Lyons’ promise? What steps does the Postmaster-General intend to take?
– I have not seen the published statement to which the honorable member has referred, but as I have previously told the House, Mr. Lyons declared in my office that if the proposed wharf was not constructed by the Launceston Marine Board, the Tasmanian Government would build it. As to the last part of the honorable member’s statement, it is not for the Federal Government to request the Tasmanian Government to construct the wharf.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether he has yet received the report of the royal commission which is inquiring into South Australian disabilities ? If he has received it, will he make known the intentions of the Government in regard to the granting of relief to South Australia before the Financial Agreement Bill is disposed of, so that South Australian members may be guided thereby as to their attitude on that measure ?
– I do not anticipate receiving the report of the commission in time to make it available to the House before the Financial Agreement Bill is dealt with by this Parliament.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet received the report of the Tariff Board on the cotton industry? If so, when will it be made available?
– The first instalment of the report reached me to-day. I expect to receive the balance to-morrow, and the report as a whole will have my immediate consideration.
– In the Adelaide Advertiser of 26th February appeared an article headed “ The Industrial Trend -The Political Outlook.” Part of the article reads -
The Commonwealth Government Hansard Staff was brought to Sydney to take a verbatim report of Mr. Theodore’s speech at the Town Hall mass meeting, to be used politically and otherwise later.
I ask the Prime Minister whether any member of the Commonwealth Hansard Staff was taken to Sydney for that purpose?
– The question should have been addressed to the AttorneyGeneral; but I have no hesitation in saying that there is not the slightest foundation for the newspaper statement.
– In view of the statement made in a recent discussion, that it was proposed to institute an inquiry into the ramifications of the coal industry, will the Prime Minister inform the House when the proposed royal commission will be appointed, and by whom it will be constituted?
– At the conference which was held in Canberra last week the personnel of and terms of reference of the royal commission were considered, and both the coal-owners and the representatives of the miners expressed a wish to make representations to the Government on those subjects. So soon as those representations have been received, the appointment of the royal commission will be proceeded with.
– In view of the fact that on the last two Fridays it has been necessary to delay the starting of the train to Sydney to meet the convenience of honorable members, will the Minister take steps to have the train schedule altered so that the train may in future leave at a later hour?
– The fact that it has been necessary on two occasions recently to ask the stationmaster to delay the train gives weight to the suggestion of the honorable member. I shall give consideration to his question, with a view to ascertaining what can best be done to meet the wishes of honorable members.
– When will the report on native affairs in Central and North Australia, submitted by Mr. Bleakley, be made available to honorable members?
– Within a few days.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether proceedings were instituted against the Timber Workers’ Union for breaches of an award subsequent to the visit to Canberra of Messrs. Corke and Alcock, officials of the Timber Merchants’ Association of Victoria and New South Wales? On what date did those gentlemen visit Canberra, and on what date were the proceedings ordered against the union?
– I am unable to carry in my mind the dates to which the honorable member refers, but investigations with a view to proceedings had continued for some considerable time before the visit of those gentlemen to Canberra. If the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper, I shall obtain for him the fullest information.
– Will early opportunity, or, indeed, any opportunity, be given to this House to discuss that highly important matter, the cable merger, which has recently been the subject of discussion and legislation in the House of Commons, and which vitally affects this country?
– It is not proposed to give a special opportunity to this House to discuss what is described as the merger, which is the formation of what are called the Merger Company and the Communications Company to take over the Pacific cable, certain other Imperial cables and the Beam wireless system, on a lease for a period of 25 years. The only extent to which Australia is directly affected by the transaction is so far as our own 6/l8ths interest in the Pacific Cable is concerned. What is more important from Australia’s point of view is the arrangement which is now under negotiation between the Amalgamated Wireless Limited and the Communications Company, but that negotiation has not yet proceeded to a point at which any useful purpose would be served by a discussion in this House.
– In a report in the daily press of a recent speech of the Treasurer regarding the term of office of the Composite Government appear the following words : -
More of the dreams, ideals and aspirations of the founders of Australia have been crystallized into actual accomplishment during that period than in the previous history of the federation.
I should like the Treasurer to inform the House of the nature of the achievement to which that statement refers?
– Had the honorable member remembered the record of the Government, there would nave been no need to ask that question. An outstanding achievement to which I might refer him now is the financial agreement at present under consideration by this House.
– Is there any truth in the rumour that Sir John Butters, the Chairman of the Federal Capital Commission, has tendered his resignation to the Government?
– Ten minutes ago Sir John Butters was carrying out his duties as Chief Commissioner.
– Will the Minister say definitely whether he has received the resignation of Sir John Butters?
– Has the AttorneyGeneral noticed press statements which show that Judge Lukin is, from the Bench, carrying on a controversy with some of the industrial leaders? Is that in accordance with the usual practice of the judges? If such comment from the judicial bench is allowed, should not honorable members have the right to criticize the judiciary in this chamber?
– I have seen certain press statements; but whatever may happen outside, it cannot affect the rules of procedure within this House.
– The Treasurer addressed a meeting of the Country party” recently in Sydney. His address was fully, and I have no doubt, faithfully, reported in the columns of the Sydney Morning Herald, under the appropriate heading “ Disruption. “ In one interesting portion of it he is made to say that the Country party has cordially cooperated with the Nationalist party during the past six years and accepted full responsibility for the joint action taken by the Government. The report continues - “Agreements on the whole have been fairly and reasonably honoured. “
– I assume that the honorable member will connect his question with some act of administration for which the Treasurer is responsible, or with the conduct of some matter of public business in this House with which he is officially connected.
– I shall do so, Mr. Speaker. I had almost completed the quotation which, by your indulgence, I was making by way of explanation. The report to which I have referred credits the Treasurer with having said, “Agreements, on the whole, have been fairly and reasonably honoured, so far as circumstances permitted, by both parties to the pact. “ I now ask the Treasurer whether he can think of any further words of qualification of his standard of honour-
– I remind the honorable member that he gave me an assurance that he would base, on the newspaper quotation which he made, a question affecting some act of administration or some business of the House for which the Treasurer is responsible. I now ask him in future, to confine his questions to such matters.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Duty on Raw cotton andlinters to be imposed;
Deferred duty on cotton yarn to be made effective ;
Duty on cotton wadding and edible oils to be increased;
Bounty to be given on percentage yarn;
Bounty on cotton yarn to be increased.
This report will be completed in a few days.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the houorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
If so, will the Minister take steps to have the Commonwealth practice brought into line with the British practice?
– The information is being obtained.
Rebate to Dyers and Cleaners
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether any arrangements have yet been made which will enable dyers and cleaners to obtain a rebate for petrol used for other than road purposes?
– Great difficulty has been experienced in arranging for this rebate, and negotiations are still being conducted with the oil importing companies. Finality in the matter is expected to be reached at an early date.
– On the 7th February, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) asked me whether I would give consideration to a proposal that the official address of all departments should be Canberra, and I promised to look into the matter. Consideration has now been given to the matter, but, in view of the fact that the activities of certain Commonwealth departments are, in the main, still administered from Melbourne, it is not considered practicable to give effect to the suggestion of the honorable member, and it appears that any difficulty that exists in this matter must remain until all the departments concerned are transferred to Canberra. The arrangements made for the representation of these departments in Canberra are, however, such as to ensure that any communication addressed to Canberra will be promptly passed on to the proper quarter.
Connecting Road to Karrakatta Military Reserve
– On the 28th February the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) asked me certain questions in regard to a request received from the Premier of Western Australia for assistance in connexion with the construction of a road connecting the Swanbourne rifle range with the military reserve at Karrakatta. I now desire to inform the honorable member that, although the road, in question would be an advantage to the Defence Department, there are many other services which are departmentally of a far more urgent nature and have had to be postponed owing to funds not being available. In the circumstances, it is regretted that the request made by the Premier of Western Australia cannot be acceded to.
Supervision of Postmen - Petrol Supplies at Geelong - Tenders.
– On the 28th February, 1929, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) addressed to me the following questions: -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 28th February, 1929, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) addressed to* me the following questions: -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following particulars : -
– On the 28th February, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information -
– On the 14th February, the honorable member forWentworth (Mr. Marks) stated that complaints were being made about the amount of debris gathered and thrown into Sydney harbour and asked me to make an investigation into a report made by an alderman of the Paddington Council that rubbish from the naval depot at Rushcutters Bay was emptied into the foreshore of that bay.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that a report has been received from the District Naval Officer at Sydney, to the effect that no debris or’ refuse is at any time thrown over the wall of the depot. There is no floating refuse to dispose of except the contents of waste paper baskets and these have been for years periodically burned together with any drift woodor inflammable harbour sweepings which may have been left by the tide.
– On the 27th February last, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) asked me whether my attention had been directed to the report of a speech made by Dr. Rivett of the Council of Industrial and Scientific Research criticizing the patent laws of the Commonwealth. I have since ascertained that the speech referred to by the honorable member was made, not by Dr. Rivett, but by Mr. Sigmont, president of the Institute of Patent Attorneys. One newspaper wrongly attributed the speech to Dr. Rivett, but this newspaper has since published a correction.
– On the 1st March, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follow : -
– On the 28th February, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to advise the honorable member as follows: -
The following papers were presented -
Northern Australia Act -
Central. Australia -
Ordinance of 1929 - No. 1 - Stamp.
Public Service Ordinance - Regulations.
North Australia -
Ordinances of 1929 -
No. 1- Stamp.
No. 2 - Board of Inquiry.
Public Service Ordinance - Regulations. Public Service Act - Appointment of C. W.
Watt, Department of the Treasury.
Declaration of Urgency.
Upon the Order of the Day being read for the further consideration of this bill in committee -
– I declare that the Transport Workers Bill 1929 is an urgent bill.
Question - That the bill be considered an urgent bill - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Limitation of Time.
– I move -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: - For the remainder of the committee stage, until 9.30 p.m. this day; for the remaining stages of the bill, until 10.30 p.m. this day.
Honorable members interjecting -
– Order! I remind honorable members that, under the Standing Orders, the Prime Minister has only ten minutes in which to make his speech. They must refrain from interjecting.
– This measure has been before the House on several occasions. The whole of the 14th February was devoted to a discussion on the motion for leave to introduce it, and the whole of the 15th and 20th, and part of the 22nd to the second-reading stage. The measure has also been considered in committee during one day. It is essential that it should be passed to-day so that it may be sent on to another place for consideration. I hope that honorable members will pass the motion and not lessen the time available for the discussion of the bill by debating it at any length.
.- The Standing Orders which govern our procedure are framed to enable the business of Parliament to be transacted in a proper manner, and if used in a legitimate way are unobjectionable. But I ask honorable members if they are being’ so used on this occasion. A new Parliament has. now been sitting for four weeks when honorable members opposite propose to scurry away to their homes, leaving undone the work they have only just been elected to do.
– The honorable member should speak for himself.
– I am speaking of those who are supporting this proposal. The reason for the motion is obvious. Will any one seriously suggest that the Government is so overloaded with work that it must rush this measure through today? Will the honorable member for Kennedy deny that the House is hurrying into recess within two weeks, although there is sufficient work to keep it busy for months to come? If the business of the House had been unnecessarily obstructed one could understand the Prime Minister’s action of this- afternoon; but I challenge any honorable member to say truthfully that there has been any obstruction of business. The session commenced four weeks ago, when, if the usual practice had been followed, at least three weeks would have been occupied in discussing the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. The Opposition, however, spent only five minutes in discussing that motion, and the Prime Minister virtually pleaded with us to “ for heaven’s sake, say something; discuss the subjects outlined in the Governor-General’s speech.” The reply of the Opposition was that they would discuss the measures of the Government when brought before Parliament. Now the right honorable gentleman is depriving us of the opportunity to do so. It is easy to understand that the Government preferred to have three or four weeks given up to an abstract discussion on the Address-in-Reply, when no important decision could result to having its actual legislative proposals discussed. The Government does not want this measure to be fairly discussed. Although this is one of the most drastic measures that has been introduced into this Parliament, fully one-fourth of those on this side of the chamber have not had an opportunity to speak on it. Every honorable member has a duty to perform for his constituents, and yet the House is being denied the opportunity of expressing its views freely on this bill. No valid reason has been given by the Prime Minister for the action he has just taken. He dare not give the country the real reason for it, which is that he is anxious to go into recess, because he is in doubt concerning the support he is likely to get from his followers. Honorable members opposite who are supporting this motion, and who cry out against a 44-hour week for working men, do not themselves work one-half of that number of hours a week. They wish to run away to their pleasures and their business before the work of the country has been done. But we, on this side, wish to stay to attend to the work we were elected to perform. If honorable members will refer to the notice-paper they will see that there is sufficient, to keep the House in session during April, May and June. The Prime Minister says that the Transport Workers Bill must be rushed through to-day to meet the convenience of another place, which is waiting for business. But is there not power under the Constitution for that chamber to initiate legislation? On reading the Prime Minister’s policy speech one ‘might have thought that he was bursting with energy, and had a full legislative programme to submit. But now that he is back in Parliament he is anxious to get into recess as quickly as possible. He tried to make it appear that there has been some obstruction when, as a matter of fact, we have refrained from occupying time unnecessarily. It is true that one censure motion has been submitted, but its discussion occupied only a day. One day was occupied in debating the motion for leave to introduce this bill, but it is a measure of the utmost importance, and threefourths of the members of the Opposition have not yet spoken, on it. Parliament exists for the free and. open discussion of important legislation.
– Honorable members opposite do not wish legislation to be discussed.
– No. They sit like dumb’ dogs when legislation comes forward; but the members of the Labour party are not prepared to do that. Honorable members on this side protest -against legislation like this being rushed through Parliament before the representatives of the people have had an opportunity to discuss it fully and properly.
.- The heroics of the Leader of the Opposition will certainly not deceive any member of this honorable House, and I doubt if they will deceive any member of the public. The contents of the bill are particularly well known to all honorable members. The general principle involved was discussed in the last Parliament, and from thousands of platforms during the last election campaign. The bill was debated fairly fully on the motion for leave for its introduction, and also on the second reading. The Leader of the Opposition has said that there has been no obstruction. To one of the principles of the bill, particularly the issue of licences-
– The honorable member may not discuss the details of the bill.
– The principles of the bill are simple, and there are only about two provisions to be dealt with in the committee stage which raise questions of principle. But twelve honorable members, all on the other side of the chamber, spoke on the short title and on the clause providing that the act should come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. Honorable members know that members of the Opposition were only carrying out their declared intention of opposing the bill at every stage. No one questions their right to do that, but the Government is entitled to ask the House whether it is prepared to facilitate the putting through of business which has’ been placed very clearly before the electors, the measure under consideration being one of the major items of the ‘Government’s policy. The time of the House was spent last week in the discussion of details that were of no . significance from the point of view of either the Opposition or the Government. It is obvious that if discussion of that character were to be permitted, a whole session could be spent on a single bill. It is said that the Federal Parliament shuts its doors too soon and does not sit long enough. Inquiry into the facts reveals that this Parliament compares very favorably with the Parliaments of all the States in relation to days and hours of sitting. Honorable members, and the public also, are aware that the distances that members have to travel to attend this Parliament constitute a circumstance not entirely irrelevant to the period of the sittings. This Parliament compares more than favorably with any other Parliament in Australia with respect to the length of its sittings. As far as the motion before the Chair is concerned, the time allowed is ample for the discussion of clauses which raise matters of principle, and I therefore ask the House to agree to the motion.
.- The Attorney-General has made a number of positive statements unsupported by argument, and he has taken occasion to refer to the heroics of my honorable leader. I venture to say, at least, that there is more genuine evidence of heroism on this side than is manifested by those honorable gentlemen who are in such a hurry to run to their homes like rabbits to their burrows, in order to escape the criticism that may be directed against them by honorable members on this side. May I suggest one or two serious thoughts to the Attorney-General ?
At the present time the popular slogan of the Government is “ Peace in Industry.” If one turns to the industrial conditions prevailing in Australia to-day, and realizes that they are the direct result of legislation passed and proposed by this Government, one is able to form an adequate notion of how far the Government has brought about peace in” industry. It deplores, or affects to deplore, certain things that are taking place in the country and in industrial circles. It deplores that the law is being flouted and disobeyed. My comment upon that is that there are two ways of dealing with the matter. The one is by direct action and the other is by deliberation, and I charge this Government that, in the most cowardly way, it is closing up the avenues of deliberation and discussion. While this unrest in the country continues, arising as it does out of this very measure, the consideration and discussion of- which are to be shortened, the best evidence exists that this House should continue to sit to find avenues out of the impasse into which the Government has led us. The Government prefers to run away from its responsibilities instead of facing them - to adopt punitive measures rather than explore the avenues of ameliorative legislation. So the Government proposes to limit the discussion to a few hours, which will permit of only a fraction of the total number of honorable members having an opportunity of speaking upon the bill. Surely the Government realizes that not only the House as a whole, but every member, has a responsibility to his constituency, and every member is entitled to an opportunity to record his views, if not on every matter, at least on those vital things that closely concern him.
As my respected leader pointed out, the excuse for a motion of this kind, and even the justification, would be a programme of proposed legislation which would involve the House sitting for several months ahead. But has the Prime Minister outlined such a programme ? Not at all. The truth is that the Government and the party supporting it are shirking discussion. They do not want it. They want to go into recess as soon as posssible in order to be free from the pillorying that the Opposition and the press are giving them. The Attorney-General was good enough to say that already the measure had been discussed, if you please, in the last parliament, and that no measure was better understood by the people than the present proposal, even before it was introduced for ratification by this Parliament. May I suggest to the honorable gentleman that at least there is some evidence afforded by the result of the last election that the people not only appreciated the effect of this legislation but largely disapproved of it. Apparently that had no influence upon the Attorney-General. I protest, at all events, and say that it is scandalous, when we come here from various distant parts of Australia, that we should be practically invited to furnish ourselves with week-end return tickets so that we might speedily get back to our homes after having made pretence of working. Parliament is sometimes spoken of disparagingly as a place in which nothing happens but talk. There are only two things which can take place in Parliament - talk and fight ; and most people recommend talk, which is assumed to take the form of reasoned debate upon public questions. I hold the view, although I am not permitted to develop it at the moment, that the bill now before the House is not only one of the most important, but also one of the most oppressive ever introduced into the National Parliament. One would naturally conclude that a government would be pleased to fortify itself with the knowledge that before a measure of this description became law it had been thoroughly discussed in Parliament. On the contrary, it will have to face the . well-founded and just criticism that, after having received what practically amounted to condemnation at the elections in regard to the character of the legislation it put forward, and being ashamed to keep its proposals under public survey too long, it not only hastened their passage through Parliament, but forced them through by the use of machinery which was never meant to serve the ignoble purpose to which the Prime Minister is now putting it.
– I have always been thoroughly in accord with the principle of allotting a certain time for a debate, but I loathe the application of the gag, and I do not think that I have ever voted for it. The best method of limiting a debate is to allot a certain time for it, but the time proposed to be allotted for the discussion of this bill, is not reasonable. Allowing for the dinner adjournment, it will not give more than three and a half hours for the completion of the committee stage, and I have an important amendment to move. If the time for the committee stage is extended until 9 p.m. to-morrow, that will give ample opportunity to discuss what many honorable members and many people outside regard as a measure of vital importance, and if honorable members opposite choose to waste the time allotted they must accept the responsibility. I regret the debate that took place on the short title; the time could have been much more, profitably employed in discussing important clauses. If the time for the consideration of the bill in committee is extended until 9 p.m. to-morrow I shall support that, but I shall vote against any attempt to limit the committee stage discussion to three and a half hours.
.- This is the ‘second occasion on which the Prime Minister has made use of the Standing Orders to prevent debate on this measure. Ministers are displaying indecent haste in their desire to get into recess. It will be little short of a scandal if Parliament is in recess for six months after Easter while the country is seething with industrial trouble. Parliament should be kept open to give honorable members a right to ventilate matters of national importance on the floor of the House. Otherwise they may be ventilated in a way not at all conducive to the national welfare. The Prime Minister has talked about days being devoted to the discussion of this bill. As a matter of fact, the days to which he has referred were not devoted solely to the consideration of this measure. Other matters were considered and dealt with before debate was resumed on the Transport Workers Bill. I can assure the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) that no time was wasted in discussing the short title. Honorable members simply took advantage of a legitimate opportunity to state their reasonable objections to the bill, just as they always do when they have sound ground for opposing or criticizing a contentious measure. Noncontentious measures usually go through with scarcely any debate. The Government told the people during the elections that it would carry through a certain programme, but now that we are back from the elections we are not to sit for more than a few weeks and the guillotine is to be applied to enable the Prime Minister and his Ministers to get into recess. It is true that the Transport Workers Bill has been debated for some time, but that is merely the excuse for the use of the guillotine. The real reason for its application is the Government’s discreditable desire to get into recess. No other Australian Ministry has used the powers of Parliament to stifle debate as this Government has done. We are told by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) that the Commonwealth Parliament compares favorably with State Parliaments in regard to- length of sittings; but since the formation of the Bruce-Page Government the Commonwealth Parliament has been noted for its long recesses. I do not think that the last Parliament sat for more than twelve months out of the three years for which it was elected. And now the same old tactics are to be employed again. The proper thing for the Government to do is to give Parliament ample time to discuss measures. If there is a desire to adjourn for Easter, we can re-assemble after the holiday and continue sitting until May- If it is necessary to avoid the cold winter months, we can then adjourn until August. But I suppose the Government will ask us to pass a Supply Bill to cover the first few months of the new financial year, so that the recess can be extended until September. It is evident that the Government is anxious to get into recess when it will have freedom from those awkward questions which are asked by members of the Opposition on the floor of the House. I protest against the application of the guillotine.
.- I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) and other honorable members in protesting against the proposal of the Government to curtail the discussion on this bill. Both the
Prime Minister and the Attorney-General advanced reasons, if I may dignify their excuses with such a title, for this extraordinary proposal. The Prime Minister claimed that it is the desire of the Government to give another place something to do. That argument is so bereft of reason that it is unworthy of analysis. The Attorney-General advanced a more astute argument, and intimated that the Government, if it so desires, is entitled to ask the House to proceed with the bill. Did not the real reason for this proposal emanate from the combined party meeting which was held last week? That meeting of what are supposed to be two distinct parties considered the advisability of limiting the discussion “of bills during this session, with the result that the representatives present pledged the members of their respective parties to a time limit on this measure.
– That is untrue.
– I merely asked whether that is the reason. Those outside that charmed circle cannot be blamed for asking such a question, as it was distinctly stated in the press that when the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), who apparently regards the Nationalist party as obnoxious, objected to the holding of combined party meetings, he was informed that the purpose of that meeting was not to discuss matters of policy, but merely to consider what business should be placed before the House prior to its adjournment. However, I have not the slightest doubt that, when a division is taken on the matter, we shall quickly discover whether there is any lack of unanimity on the part of honorable members who form the rank and file of the Nationalist-Country party pact. While I have no objection to matters of policy being discussed at party meetings, I do object to two parties which are supposed to have different ideals, and a different outlook and policy, meeting behind locked doors and forming themselves into a sort of super-parliament. At such meetings they discuss matters of vital interest to the country and arrive at decisions which bind individual members of both parties to certain action, a procedure which makes this merely a recording chamber to ratify the decisions so arrived at. That reprehensible practice has been going on in the Commonwealth parliamentary sphere for some time.
This is a most contentious measure. I did not approve of the action of the Opposition in debating the motion granting leave to introduce the bill, as I consider that the best course is to follow the usual parliamentary procedure, and to concentrate discussion upon the second reading and committee stages. But I realize now that the Government did not intend that honorable members, generally, should have an opportunity to debate the bill, and I object to repressive tactics of that nature. I have always stood for constitutional government and for the enforcement of the laws of the country, even though I may have opposed their passage in this chamber. But if laws are to be obeyed by the various sections of the community, they should first be fully deliberated on by representatives of the people who are elected to Parliament. That procedure is not being observed in this case. I admit that the application of the gag is sometimes justified, but that is not so in this instance, and the action of the Government is distinctly unwise. Although I object to all-night sittings, I consider that the Government would be well advised to devote such a sitting to the discussion of this legislation rather than gag it through in the manner proposed. The honorable member for Franklin has expressed the forlorn hope that the Prime Minister will agree to the extension of the discussion of the committee stages of the bill until 9.30 to-morrow night. That is a fair proposal, but it will not be fairly received. In order to make it an issue,- 1 move -
That the words “this day” first occurring be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ to-morrow.”
.- The only reason advanced by the Prime Minister for curtailing discussion on this bill, was that there is at present no business for submission to another House when it meets to-morrow. It has been pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that the Government has the power to initiate legislation in the Senate, of which power, I remind the House, it recently availed itself. Surely it is a reflection upon the political capacity of the Government that it is through its arrangement of its legislative programme that such a position arises. If honorable members view the matter dispassionately they will realize that there is no urgency for the introduction of this legislation. The act is already operating by means of regulations. Even honorable members on the Government benches who may agree to the general principles of the bill, but disapprove of the savage penalties provided, and the granting of extensive powers to subordinate authorities, will, if they support the Government’s motion, deliberately deprive themselves of an opportunity to debate the provisions to which they object. Many of these provisionsare highly contentious, and should be fully discussed. This bill is an extraordinary piece of proposed legislation, quite unlike anything that has previously been placed before the Commonwealth Parliament. It is an attempt to control industry in a manner which is without precedent. Not more than 25 per cent, of the members of this House have so far exercised their right to discuss the bill, so that it cannot be fairly said that there has been obstruction. No attempt has been made to stone-wall the measure. From the point of view of the Government, the speeches of the Opposition have been commendable in their brevity. There was, I admit, a debate on the title of the bill, but that occupied less than an hour. In any case, honorable members should be allowed a fair measure of discretion in discussing a measure of this kind. The action of the Government in bludgeoning this piece of legislation through the House is a confession of political cowardice on the part of the Prime Minister. If honorable members allow legislation to be passed in this way they will destroy the prestige of Parliament, and open the way for a political dictatorship. It seems that the real motive actuating the Government is a desire to get into recess as quickly as possible, and thus avoid criticism. I take this opportunity of formally protesting against what amounts to an attempt to deprive half the representatives of the people of Australia from fairly discussing this important bill.
– I support the motion of the Prime Minister, not only because this bill, when passed by us, will provide work in another place, but also because I believe that ample time has already been given for discussion, and the time remaining allows for proper consideration of the important clauses. It will be remembered that there was a protracted debate on this subject when the Transport Workers Bill was introduced during the latter part of the last Parliament, and the principles of the measure were then discussed at length, and ad nauseam by members of the Opposition.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Warringah in order in referring to a measure which was dealt with by a parliament of which I was not a member?
– The honorable member is quite in order.
– Furthermore, this matter was discussed on every platform throughout the country during the last election campaign. It was made an issue on which the electors were asked not to return candidates supporting the Opposition, and the electors, as revealed by the Senate vote, declared in favour of the Government by a majority of 50,000. I also support the motion because an unprecedented course was adopted by honorable members opposite in regard to the motion for leave to introduce. There was a long debate then, and another on the second reading. Any impartial observer of the proceedings must admit that the Opposition deliberately wasted the time of the House.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw any statement to the effect that members of the Opposition deliberately wasted time.
– I withdraw the statement, but say that members of the Opposition, in debating the short title of the bill, furnished unmistakable evidence of their intention to oppose and thwart’ the Government in every way possible.
– Why should not they ?
– I admit that they are entitled to do it if they are able, but it is also true that the Government would be failing in its duty, and admitting itself to be impotent, if it allowed the Opposition to take charge of the business of the
House, and prevent the passage of legislation to which the Government was pledged. I am prepared to stay in the House and discuss the business of the country as long as anybody else. I am regular in my attendance, and am prepared to devote my time to the affairs of Parliament, but I am not prepared to listen while stone-walling tactics are indulged in.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in stating that the Opposition indulged in “stonewalling”?
– I did not say it did; I merely said that I was not prepared to stay here and listen to “ stonewalling” tactics.
– The honorable member should not insinuate that “stonewalling “ tactics were indulged in.
– I am not prepared to stay here to listen to useless discussions deliberately indulged in to delay the business of the House. Honorable members opposite complain that discussion has been stifled. May I remind them that Mr. Lang, the late Premier of New South Wales, forced 12 clauses of the Workmen’s Compensation Bill through the State Legislative Assembly with the use of the gag. With this record before us of the stifling of discussion by a Labour Government in a State Parliament it ill becomes honorable members opposite to indulge in mock heroics when this Government endeavours to carry through the business of the House in an orderly and legitimate way.
– The proposals contained in this measure are not new. This legislation was discussed at very great length in the last Parliament, and this bill is introduced merely to give effect to the definite promise of the Prime Minister during the election campaign that the regulations made under the Transport, Workers Act would be given statutory form. Therefore there is no justification for the statement that honorable members are not being allowed ample time for the consideration of the principles involved. A few days ago honorable members of the Opposition asked the Government to introduce a more orderly method of transacting the business of the House. They admitted that the guillotine Standing Order is fairer than the haphazard system of allowing a limited number of members to talk for many hours to the exclusion of others. The moment, however, we attempt to give effect to their suggestions they raise violent opposition. Never, according to their declarations, is the measure to which the guillotine Standing Order is applied one to which it should be applied. Why is the Government resorting to this method of limiting discussion? It is not because of cowardice, as has been suggested ; but simply to enable consideration in a satisfactory and orderly fashion before the House adjourns at Easter of all the measures mentioned in the Governor-General’s speech. A particular reason for discounting the mock heroics of honorable members opposite is the fact that in the State Parliaments Labour Governments have applied the guillotine ruthlessly; measures of the utmost importance have been forced through Parliament in one and a half or two days, and some of this hasty legislation has meant ruin to thousands of workers. Honorable members of the Opposition have accused the Government of wishing to close up Parliament; but statistics prove that in respect of the number of days and hours of sitting the record of this Parliament for the last six years compares more than favorably with that of previous parliaments or of State parliaments. For the information of honorable members I should like to compare the sittings of this Parliament with those of the Parliament of Queensland during the last eight years, for five of which the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) was Premier of that State.
Honorable members interrupting,
– Honorable members must cease this interruption and allow the Treasurer an opportunity to address the House. I have previously warned certain honorable members, and if they persist in their disorderly conduct I shall be obliged to take action.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the Treasurer in order at this stage in discussing the days and hours of sitting of the Queensland Parliament ?
– The Government has been charged with attempting to use the Standing Orders with undue severity in order to. prevent discussion. The
Treasurer, as a member of the Government, is in order in attempting to show that in other parliaments similar action has been taken by other Governments.
– In the session 1926-7-8 this House sat on 205 days, an aggregate of 1,657 hours; in the session 1923-4, on 129 days, for 1,040 hours; in 1925, on 37 days, for 297 hours.
– I rise to a point of order. The motion before the Chair relates to the time to be allotted to the discussion of a particular measure. Is the Treasurer in order in indulging in a discursive talk on the sittings of previous Parliaments?
– Order ! The time allowed for the discussion of the motion has expired.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Stewart’s amendment) stand part of the question - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 27th February, vide page 599).
The principal act is amended by adding after section 3 the following….. sections.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).I think it would suit the convenience of the committee if the proposed sections in the clause were discussed separately. The first question will be that clause 8 to the end of proposed section 4, be agreed to.
Proposed new section 4 -
This Part of this Act shall apply to waterside workers at such ports in the Commonwealth as are specified by the Minister by notice in the Gazette and to those ports.
– The clauses of the bill largely reproduce the regulations which exist under the Transport Workers Act of 1928, and it will be of assistance to the committee if I indicate where there are variations from the regulations which are already known to honorable members. This is one of the clauses that vary slightly the provisions of the regulations. The existing act applies in ports where licensing officers have been appointed, and it is proposed that it shall apply to waterside workers at specified ports, those ports to be specified by a notice in the Gazette so that the ports to which this legislation applies will at all times be readily ascertainable.
.- The Attorney-General thought fit to explain this clause, although we have been told time after time that honorable members and, indeed, the people generally, knew all about the bill. Yet so soon as we reach the first proposed new section, it requires an explanation by the Attorney-General. It was also said that there were only one or two clauses that were at all debatable. Now clause 8 is really the bill, and it contains 24 proposed new sections. Proposed new section 23 indicates that everyone of these provisions will be separate sections of the act, so that we are asked to deal with 24 proposed new sections under this clause, apart from what is contained in the following clause. That must be done in from two to three hours. Although the proposed section is important, I shall not take much of the time of the committee in discussing it. It gives the Minister the right to specify the ports at which licences are to operate. I say distinctly that that violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution. It certainly discriminates against certain men in different parts of Australia. The Attorney-General himself has laid it down that the Constitution forbids preference in legislation to the States against other States as such, or against parts of States as such. It has also been laid down that the power to legislate in industrial matters is forbidden under the Constitution. In the Harvester case it was ruled by the High Court that a man in one locality is not to be treated differently from a man in another locality. This clause will enable a distinct discrimination to be made between men who live in different parts of Australia and in different ports as such. This pernicious legislation should not apply to any ports of Australia and the Government dares not apply it to all the ports, just as it dares not prosecute for breaches of the law every person who commits them. If it did that its legislation would indubitably break down. The Government selects individuals here and there to be prosecuted under this penal legislation. The Government is now by legislation, to specify the ports in Australia to which licences are to apply. This discretionary power is an indication that the Government does not wish to apply these provisions to all the ports of Australia, because if it did so, this obnoxious legislation, in its general application, would break down. I believe that if it were tested, the High Court would rule that it violates the Constitution legally as well as in spirit. At any rate we object to this proposed new section, as we do to all the proposed new sections under this clause, because they are all to apply to any part of the Commonwealth.
– I had intended to speak on the second reading of this bill, but the abrupt, and to me, wholly unexpected termination of the debate made this impossible. Under your ruling, Mr. Chairman, I gather that we have a certain licence to roam over this clause and the proposed new sections in it.
– Proposed new section 4.
– Am I to understand that we shall not be permitted to discuss the whole of clause 8 at this stage?
– The portion of the clause under discussion is proposed new section 4.
– If we are to take each proposed new section in the way you, sir, have indicated, we shall never deal with the whole subject as a deliberative body fresh from the electors should do. I trust that I view this matter with a certain detachment, but I shall not be able to discuss the licensing system if I am confined to the provisions of proposed new section 4. I therefore ask; Mr. Chairman, that honorable members be permitted to discuss the licensing system, and not only the effect of the proposed new section.
– I suggest that in connexion with proposed new section 6, an opportunity will be given to all honorable members to discuss the merits of the licensing system.
– The scope of proposed new section 6 is not sufficiently wide to permit the discussion I desire. Unless we are allowed to discuss the licensing system generally, it would be better that the question be now put, rather than to continue this pretence. I hold certain views regarding the system, and I propose to make them known, either in this chamber or elsewhere. If the Chairman rules that the scope of proposed section 6 is sufficiently wide to permit of a general discussion of the licensing system, I shall be satisfied; but I cannot accept the assurance of the Attorney-General on the matter.
– I said at the outset that, in my opinion, it would facilitate matters if this clause were put to the committee, not as a whole, but section by section, and the concensus of opinion was that that would be the most convenient procedure. No member of the committee objected to my proposal. Had an objection been raised, the Chair would have had no option but to take the clause as a whole.
– I certainly should have objected had I known that a discussion on the whole clause was not to be permitted. I suggest, now, that, you reconsider your decision, in order to enable a discussion of the licensing system to take place.
– As my sole object in conducting the business of the committee is to meet the desires of honorable members, I again ask them whether they desire that the clause shall be discussed as a whole.
-I submit that if we discuss the clause as a whole there will be one vote on about 24 separate provisions. My object in assenting to the suggestion that the proposed new sections should be taken separately was to enable honorable members to deal with each as they desired.
– A discussion of the clause as a whole will not prevent any honorable member from moving that clause 8 be amended in any direction that he may desire.
– I suggest that if that is agreed to, and the whole clause is under discussion at one time, there will be one vote on about 24 separate provisions. Moreover, members would probably address themselves to the different sections which make up the clause, so that an orderly debate would be almost impossible. I suggest that in connexion with proposed new sections 6 and 12, the general principles of the bill will be fairly open for discussion, as they contain the main underlying principles of the measure. It will be entirely within the discretion of honorable members as to how much time shall be devoted to discussing proposed new sections 4 and 5, which are comparatively formal when compared with proposed new sections 6 and. 12.
– The Standing Orders clearly provide that the clauses must be taken as printed.
– Under what . standing order does the Attorney-General insist on the committee dealing with the proposed new sections separately?
– I do not insist on anything.
– The general practice is to take a clause as a whole. There may be some virtue in dividing this clause, but seeing that the suggestion emanated from the Attorney-General, I doubt it. Clause 8 should be discussed as a whole, so that every honorable member may address himself to that part of it to which he desires to direct attention. I realize that we can do no more than express our opinion, but we should not be prevented from doing that.
– Standing Order 122 distinctly provides that a complicated question may be divided with the permission of the committee. My proposal this afternoon was endorsed by the committee.
– It is true that the Standing Orders’ provide that a complicated question may he divided. This, however, is not one question, but a great many questions. Honorable members should have the opportunity to speak on that aspect of the clause to which they desire to draw attention.
– Several honorable members have given notice of their intention to move amendments to some of the proposed sections, and it was with a view to enabling them to do so that I asked whether the committee desired the clause to be discussed as a whole. However, I shall again put the question. Is it the desire of the . committee that clause 8 be considered as a whole ? There being no voice, raised in dissent, the clause will be discussed as a whole.
Proposed new section 12 - (1.) A licensing officer may cancel a licence issued under this part to a waterside worker in any case as to which he is satisfied that the worker after a licence has been issued to him -
– It must be conceded that this system of licensing possesses at least one merit, that of novelty. So far as I am aware, it has never been applied to an industrial dispute in any part of the world, certainly not in Australia. Some honorable members profess to see an analogy between the issue of licences to waterside workers and the licensing system under which electricians, plumbers, doctors and others follow . their callings. There is no such analogy, as I shall proceed to show. Admittedly, the licensing system we are now considering aims at the maintenance of peace on the waterfront. Its outstanding feature is its partial application, and the circumstances in which it operates. Licences are issued to electricians, plumbers and doctors with the object of protecting the public. There is no issue of licences to some persons engaged in an industry, calling, or occupation, and not to all so engaged ; all plumbers, electricians, and doctors are licensed, not some only. Regarded from that angle, the analogy fails at the outset, because the system does not embrace more than50 per cent. of those who are engaged in the industry. At all events, the whole of those who are employed at the busiest and most important port in the Commonwealth are not working under it. Therefore, it cannot be justified on the ground that it protects the public. Its obvious purpose is to compel obedience to an award. Licences are granted to electricians, plumbers, and doctors to protect the public, and only those persons are licensed who satisfy the licensing authorities of their competence in the profession or calling concerned. Under this system, however, any person may be licensed at the option of the officer in. charge. No attempt is made to ascertain whether the applicant is, in fact, competent to perform the duties of a waterside worker.
– Or even if he is physically able to do so.
– That is so. It was with some astonishment that I heard it suggested that the business of loading and unloading a ship does not demand any skill. That is not true. I, for one, should be very sorry indeed to entrust the operating of a winch, or the duties of a hatchman, to an inexperienced or unskilled person. It is not disputed that no attempt is made to ascertain the fitness or otherwise of an applicant in all other callings in which a licence is required.
In all other cases that is the determining factor. So far as I am aware, no attempt has been made to ascertain whether the applicants for licences are efficient and reputable persons. Every person, who has applied has been subject perhaps to the exigencies of supply and demand, granted a licence, and, no doubt, when the dispute was at its height, persons were licensed who were not of reputable character. Every honorable member of the committee must wish to maintain peace in industry. Personally, I have always stood for law and order, and I say emphatically that the unionists cannot employ the strike as a weapon and at the same time enjoy the benefits of arbitration. No body of men can be allowed to take the law into their own hands, and industrial peace is obviously essential to the welfare of the community. Unhappily, there has been much industrial trouble on the waterfront, and I would be the last to suggest that a government should stand idly by, and allow the dislocation of an essential service to continue. But I would remind this Government, and the people of the Commonwealth, that in industrial warfare we are fighting, not against a foreign enemy, but against Australian citizens, and that therefore the means we adopt to secure industrial peace must be such as will enable that peace to be permanent and not such as is calculated to cause a festering sore on the economic body of the community. In warfare between nations, belligerents at times resort to means incompatible with civilization, which they attempt to justify by necessity; but in this case it is our fellow citizens, persons with whom we have lived and worked, who are arrayed against the community.
– But they are adopting methods of warfare that should not be tolerated in any community.
– When they adopt methods that are foreign to the spirit of the community, we must condemn them; but without their aid we cannot carry on the business of the country.
I now come to another point which I wish to make. It has never been laid down in this, or any other British community, that a man should be compelled to work against his will. To do that would be to ‘ create a condition of slavery. I do not deny that these men have been misled, nor that they have been guilty of an offence against the community. I am not debating that aspect of the question at all, but am examining the proposed methods of dealing with them. Though they may have sinned grievously, yet grievously have they suffered, and the punishment provided in this measure does not end when the offence has ceased. Licensing is to be permanent in a system which has hitherto been entirely free from it. It is said that the use of this alien weapon is essential to the maintenance of industrial peace. If that be so, I ask why is it not generally applied, for there is at the present moment more industrial trouble in Australia than I have ever previously known. Some 12,000 coal miners, and perhaps 20,000 timber workers, are on strike. Is the licensing system, if it be a good system, capable of application only to the men on the waterfront 1 If it be a panacea for nation-wide industrial disputes, why not apply it generally, so that industrial peace may prevail from Dan to Beersheba. But its object is not to settle strikes, but to penalize those who resort to them. Its avowed purpose is to punish those who commit a breach of an award of the Arbitration Court. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), in his policy-speech, said -
A conference is to be held between the employers and employees at an early date which, 1 trust, will do much to promote a better understanding in industry. If, as a result of their deliberations, any suggestions are submitted for an alteration or an amendment of the industrial ‘ laws of the Commonwealth
He was referring particularly to the Transport Workers Act - the Government will give to such suggestions the most sympathetic consideration.
If words mean anything the meaning to be attached to that declaration is that the act was intended to deal with an emergency. Upon the Government was cast the responsibility of maintaining law and order, of restoring normal working conditions, and the essential services which had been interrupted by the illadvised action of certain branches of the Waterside Workers Federation. The right honorable gentleman stated that, if the employers and employees at the Industrial Peace Conference should make any suggestion for an amendment of the industrial laws of the Commonwealth, the Government would give it sympathetic consideration. The conference did make a most pertinent suggestion. It expressed its unanimous opinion that penal laws did not conduce to industrial peace.
While I do not deny that my long association with the waterside workers may have coloured my judgment and given it an unconscious bias, it has also given me some authority to speak on this subject. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) said the other night that this measure had been a conspicuous success. There is no evidence whatever that licensing contributed in any way to the restoration of essential services. It is quite true that, after the system was put into operation, these services were restored; hut this restoration was due, not to the effect of the licensing system, but to the abundance of voluntary labour which was available owing to the great industrial depression, and to the fact that police protection was given to the volunteers. Had the licensing system not been in operation, the strike would have collapsed from those causes. The proof of this is supplied by our own experience. Unhappily, industrial disputes are common in all countries; but this is the first occasion on which a licensing system has been introduced as a remedy. Most of such strikes have failed, and in every case the failure of the men has been due to the abundance of volunteer labour, and the police protection afforded to it. Those are the factors that have operated in this case. The licensing system did not shorten by a single day the unhappy struggle between the unions and the employers.
– On the contrary, it prolonged it.
– I believe it did. Let us look at the matter from another angle. It is notorious that arbitration is a plank of the Government’s platform ; the Prime Minister has said a hundred times that he believes in arbitration. What is arbitration? It is a system for the settlement by a properly constituted legal tribunal of industrial disputes between employers and organized labour. Without organized labour - that is to say, unionism - arbitration is unnecessary and impossible. Unionism, as we know it in this country, must be a party to every dispute. The arbitration system was introduced many years ago, and has now become part of the substance of our legislative and industrial edifice. It was introduced to provide a means by which unionists could have their grievances redressed without resorting to strikes. Plaints can be filed in the Arbitration Court only by the representatives of organized labour. As Prime Minister, as Attorney-General and as a union leader, I have urged men to join unions, and even the judges on the Arbitration Court bench have adjured men to become members of industrial organizations in order to obtain the benefits of arbitration. It was said the other night - 1 believe by the AttorneyGeneral - that as a result of our arbitra tion system, the number of unionists had increased three or four fold during the past twelve or fifteen years. Arbitration has a direct relation to unionism. If there are no unions, arbitration becomes merely a sham and must disappear from the stage. We have arbitration because we have unions; if unions go, arbitration must follow. Now let us consider this licensing system in relation to unionism. Honorable members on this side say - “ We believe in unionism, but, of course, it must be sane unionism.”
– No; we say that it must be industrial unionism, and not political unionism.
– We are dealing with industrial unionism. There is nothing in this licensing system that justifies inquiry into a person’s politics;” the licence is issued to a member of an industrial union. It was not because the men who struck at Port Melbourne were members of the Political Labour party that the country was thrown into confusion ; it was because they were members of an industrial union. Unionism and this licensing system -cannot be co-existent, because they are mutually destructive. Where unionism is, this licensing system cannot be, and, where the licensing system obtains, unionism is doomed. There is no doubt whatever about that. What shall it profit a man now to join a union? Suppose he is a member of the Stevedores’ Association at Port Melbourne; what does he gain by such membership with this licensing system in operation? Nothing, and less than nothing. He ,gains something if he is a member of the union in Sydney; but none whatever in Melbourne, where a non-member is frequently preferred to a unionist. We must make up our minds what we want; we must take our stand for compulsory arbitration or for strikes. We, on this side of the chamber, stand for arbitration, but, if this licensing system operates, no inducement to join a union will exist; to talk of arbitration is farcical.
I am strongly in favour of maintaining law and order, and I think that I have fought for industrial peace. I have shown by my acts that I have stood for industrial peace as long as I have had the honour of occupying a seat in this chamber. During the twenty years that I had the privilege of leading the waterside workers, a period of almost unbroken industrial peace was maintained. The country enjoyed peace and knew nothing of licences. Unionism was built up during that period. I do not deny that its power has been sometimes abused, or that the men have been misled; but surely the AttorneyGeneral will not say that these men have not equal rights with other citizens. Under paragraph a of sub-section 1 of proposed section 12, a waterside worker’s licence may be cancelled if he refuses or fails to comply with “ any lawful order or direction given in relation to his employment.” That does not mean that the licence will be cancelled if he fails to comply with an order of the court or the terms of an award. Anything that the employer tells a man to do is a lawful command, provided it falls within the scope of his employment. If the employer tells the man at the winch to drive it more rapidly, or if he insists upon a certain load being placed in a sling or truck, provided an award of the court does not prescribe a different weight to be placed there, it will be a “ lawful order.” Anything that the employer orders a man to do will be a lawful command, provided it relates to an industrial matter. One of the complaints of seamen in all parts of the world is that a captain, or a first officer, may make their life a hell upon earth by giving them lawful commands that they dare not disobey because the law says - “ You must obey lawful commands.” No other body of workers, no section in the community would tolerate such a law as this, and I intend to move that that paragraph be struck out. To include such a provision in a Commonwealth statute will disgrace this Parliament. It is opposed to the fundamental principles that have regulated industrial conditions in this country from the earliest days of self-government. It is unnecessary; it is subversive of freedom. If a man refuses to work in a manner prescribed by an award he can be punished; if he refuses to obey a legitimate lawful command of his employer he can be dismissed. But this paragraph goes far beyond these just and necessary disciplinary regulations. For under it a man loses not only one job. but all chance of work for six months. It is opposed to the spirit of our time. It is a direct incentive to men to fling away this hollow pretence of arbitration and resort to whatever means they have at their disposal; to obtain even-handed justice. Let us maintain law and order; let us enforce the awards of the court; but let us do it as if dealing with our fellow citizens, and not under cover of this penalty that steals from them everything but the mere shadow of their freedom. If it is laid down that the employee shall comply with the terms of an award, I shall agree to it ; but the term “ lawful order “ covers the whole field of conduct. Such legislation would be abhorrent to those who had to work under it. There should be some recognition of what is due to men. In my opinion, the whole section is doubtfully constitutional. Where the AttorneyGeneral gets the power to legislate in this way I do not know. This Parliament has no power to make an industrial law, but this section if passed by Parliament and assented to by the Crown will be an industrial law. It deals with an industrial matter, and does so directly. If the AttorneyGeneral says that he gets this power from the trade and commerce paragraph, I maintain that, if under that paragraph we can enact legislation that takes from the workers every right they have, there is- nothing that cannot be done to the employer and to the employee. If this can be done to the employee, then we can prescribe the rate at which coal shall be sold, and the profit that shall be allowed to the coal-owners. I move -
That paragraph a sub-section 1, proposed new section 12, be omitted.
– The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has dealt generally with the principles of the bill, and has made a number of comments and criticisms that are, on the whole, of an unfavorable nature. I shall reply shortly to the points raised by him. He. remarked that this legislation at least had the recommendation of novelty. We have been accustomed in this House to regard the right honorable gentleman as having a special knowledge of waterside workers and waterside conditions in Australia ; but when he made the statement to which I have referred he was surely unaware that systems of registration of waterside workers have been in operation in Great Britain for quite a number of years, in some cases under regulations and in others under agreements between the waterside workers and their employers. In the city of Liverpool in 1912, in London and in Bristol in 1919, and in Hull in 1925, systems of registration of wharf labourers were introduced, a common feature of them being that unlicensed workers could not be employed and that licences might be taken away in the case of specified offences. Therefore, the system provided in this measure is not so novel as is suggested. I quite agree with the right honorable member that a distinction is to be drawn between a system of registration of this nature applied to waterside workers, and systems of registration that imply the possession of a certain amount of skill on the part of the licensee, as in the case of a plumber, an electrician, or a professional man. I do not suggest that this system gives a warrant or guarantee nf ability as other licences do. It would have been regarded as very objectionable if the Government had sought to introduce qualifications and disqualifications that would have made the granting of the licence dependent upon the applicant’s merits, and the Government definitely rejected the exclusion of men by a standard of qualification. At the same time, it might be desirable if those concerned in waterside work on both sides came together and formed a committee, or some other body, to deal with the present casual nature of the work, so that there could be some provision as to the qualification of men registered . or licensed to do it. Registered callings which are more . parallel to the registration of waterside workers are such occupations as those of a cab driver or motor driver. A marine store dealer must have a licence, because public interests require protection. It is important that there should be a system of registration and identifica tion, and, above all, of disqualification of those individuals who are not suitable persons to exercise those callings. It is submitted by the Government that it is important in the case of waterside work, having regard to facts notorious to all honorable members, that there should be a system of disqualification of waterside workers as provided in this bill. The right honorable gentleman has asked “Why is not licensing generally applied to all occupations ? “ The readiest answer is that, fortunately, necessity has not arisen for its application to other occupations. But it certainly has arisen in the case of waterside workers. Again and again many industries have been held up on account of action by waterside workers or their officials which has been taken - I use mild words - without due consideration of the interests of the community as a whole or of their fellow workers. Honorable members must know that it is the opinion of other trade unionists that the waterside workers have not given trade unionists at large and their fellow workers generally a fair deal. Accordingly, there are special reasons why, in the interests of the community as a whole, legislation of this character should be applied to them. It has been said by the right, honorable gentleman that we should remember that after the present dispute is ended we shall have to work and live alongside these men. But I suggest that we must take into consideration the attitude of the Waterside Workers Federation, its refusal to allow its members to work alongside the men who, during what has been called the war, came forward to do the work of the community on the wharfs, its refusal even to permit these men to live. I submit that every person in the community, whether he be a member of a union or not, has the right to work in accordance with the law of the land. So long as a trade union is obeying the law of the land this licensing system does not interfere with it. No principle of trade unionism is prejudiced by the bill. It has been suggested by the right honorable member that a system of registration is necessarily inconsistent with unionism.
– I did not speak of registration. I referred to the licensing system.
– Very well. According to the right honorable member, this licensing system, which means that a man must obtain a licence before he can work, and he may lose it if he is guilty of certain breaches of the law and so forth, is not consistent with unionism. The relation of a licensing or registration system to unionism is surely plain enough. Any unionist who applies may get a licence, and, as a matter of fact, unionists working on the waterside to-day are licensed.
– In certain ports only.
– Another class of transport workers, taxi drivers and carriers are licensed, and organized in unions, and there is no reason why they should not be. In the same way the waterside workers are licensed in the ports where the act applies, and the act has been applied in the past and will be applied in the future, only where circumstances make it necessary to apply it. It has been applied only in cases in which the men have accepted engagements and then refused to work in accordance with the terms of an award of the Arbitration Court, or in which they have . assaulted or in some other way intimidated their fellow workers. If the bill is passed, it will be applied in similar cases in the future. It has been said loosely that this measure savours of industrial conscription and that it compels men to work. There is not a line in the bill which can justify a comment of that description. Paragraph b of proposed new section 12, sub-section 1, is the only provision that even remotely approaches the subject. It provides that a licence may be cancelled where a waterside worker having offered for work or engaged to work, has refused to work in accordance with the terms of a current arbitration award. Surely no honorable member can object to such a provision as that. The bill does not say that the waterside workers must work in accordance with the terms of an arbitration award ; but it says that if a man offers to work or has engaged for work he must work in accordance with the terms of a current arbitration award or run the risk of the cancellation of his licence. The right honorable gentleman said that it had been claimed that the act has proved a conspicuous success. I certainly made that claim; because the passing of the Transport “Workers Act made it possible for work to be resumed on the waterfront, and the cancellations of licences that have taken place have been on the grounds of intimidation of or assault upon other workers. The deterrent effect of this legislation has been very marked. It is something that has been badly needed on the waterside for many years.
In regard to the constitutional power of this Parliament to pass legislation of this kind, I refer the right honorable member to the remarks I made on the subject when the bill was introduced last year, and to the case of the Australian Steamship Company versus Malcolm, which deals with it. The right honorable gentleman has moved to omit paragraph a of proposed new section 12, 1, which provides that a licensing officer may cancel a licence where a licensed worker has refused or failed to comply with any lawful order or direction given in relation to his employment. The necessity for a provision of this kind has mainly been indicated by the actions of waterside workers in certain Queens land ports. In recent years these men have adopted the policy of boycotting individuals, firms or companies. They have refused to handle any goods addressed to or from those persons, firms or companies, and there was no means of overcoming the trouble until this provision was put into force. So far as I am aware, there is no means of dealing with it effectively except by a provision like this. Honorable members will see that the power of cancellation is conferred upon a licensing officer who is an officer of the government. I do not suggest that every breach of a lawful order or direction ought to be dealt with under this provision; but it is quite impossible to specify in the provisions of a bill the sorts or kinds of lawful orders or directions which are sufficiently important to justify cancellation in the event of a refusal to obey them. In the first place, there is the discretion of the licensing officer, who may be credited with being experienced and with having common sense; but the matter is not automatic, and, furthermore, there is an appeal to a court. It is the duty of the court to determine whether or not the licence should be cancelled, and in coming to its decision it will take into account all the circumstances . of the case. There are certain circumstances in which licences ought to be cancelled for disobedience of lawful orders. There are many other cases in which they should certainly not be cancelled for disobedience of lawful orders. But it is impossible to draw a distinction in our legislation. What is provided is that the matter of cancellation shall be considered first by the licensing officer, and secondly by a court. I ask honorable members to stand by the proposed section as printed.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
.- As I did not address myself to this subject when the principal act was before the House last year, or during any prior stages of this bill, I desire now to say a few words upon this clause, which contains the crux of the whole enactment. I shall state very briefly why I feel obliged to vote for the clause as it stands, and against the amendment proposed by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). It was alleged, as an objection to this provision, that it was a novel one. Although that has been contradicted by the Attorney-General, and very sound evidence has been advanced to show that licensing is not in any way novel, I fail to appreciate why novelty should constitute an objection. Certainly the right honorable member for North Sydney, when Prime Minister, was not at any time daunted from taking action because no precedent existed for it, and what, in one man, was attributed to courage, should not, in another, be regarded as foolish temerity. The provision is by no means novel; it has been successfully applied in other parts of the world.
The justification for this licensing provision springs from the conditions which existed precedent to its introduction. For a long time there had been the gravest industrial unrest on our waterfront; the community generally was being prevented from pursuing its lawful occasions, and its business as a whole was being dislocated and its interests sacrificed. A large number of men who, for one reason or another, had selected the waterfront as the arena in which they should perform their allotted tasks for the community, were refusing, on various grounds, to carry out those tasks, and were preventing other men who were willing to do so from serving the interests of society. The unions were presuming to say who should and who should not carry on the work of the community in this specific sphere. They arrogated to themselves the right to say whether this service to the community should or should not be performed. The result was a very critical clash between the rights of the community as a whole and the rights of a certain body of men in particular. It must be conceded that, if anybody had the right to say who should or should not carry out that work, it was the Government, which represents the community generally. It was therefore perfectly right that, in order to overcome what one might call a sectional tyranny, a greater communal tyranny should be exercised on behalf of the community as a whole. The Government, representing the whole of the community and no section thereof, stepped in and claimed that it, if anybody, had the power to say who should work on the wharfs. So that the introduction of the licensing system simply represents the assertion by the Government of that supreme power, which it alone, and no particular section, can exercise, to speak and act on behalf of the general I community.
It has been alleged that this licensing provision renders nugatory, in this field of work, the benefits to be derived from the operation of trade unionism. I cannot admit the soundness of that contention. Not only does this provision buttress the awards of the court; it still leaves the advantages of the Arbitration Court available to unionists. The unions will still be able to avail themselves of all the rights that they previously enjoyed in the matter of wages and working conditions. So that, instead of running counter to trade unionism, the .measure supports it in all those ramifications of its activities which are of benefit to the union members.
As regards paragraph (a) of proposed new section 12 “Obedience to lawful commands,” it has been urged that the principle is a wrong one, and a parallel has been drawn with the old and bad days in which sailors were ill treated. We all know those deplorable conditions used to exist. But I am inclined to believe that those conditions could not exist to-day, at any rate not with anything like their old severity, because trade unionism has done much to ameliorate the lot of the sailor. I am confident, too, that such conditions could not apply to our waterside workers. The efforts of the unions and the moral sense of the commuaity would oppose them, and would prevent the continuance of brutal abuses. It has been said that this clause is too far-reaching and that a man should not be punished for refusing or failing to comply with any lawful order given in connexion with his employment.
– There may be no objection to his being sacked, but he should not have his licence taken from him.
– The one is equivalent to the other.
– Oh, no. The operation of this provision will take from him his chance of obtaining further work.
– One cannot impose a greater punishment on that man than to sack him and make him lose his livelihood without appeal, but he has the right of appeal against any action taken under this clause. Can it be seriously contended thatif an injustice were committed through the operation of the provision, the whole power of trade unionism would not be invoked and used to support the afflicted person? And that is where the advantage of trade unionism will continue to operate. To countenance the converse, that a man is justified on general lines in refusing any lawful order connected with his work, would be to introduce lawlessness and conditions under which society could not exist. I have no complaint or criticism to make in connexion with this clause. The Government is trying to treat the symptoms of unrest and dissatisfaction which undoubtedly exist in the community to-day. If I have any criticism to level against the Government, it is because it has not endeavoured sufficiently to get down to the bedrock cause of that disturbance in order to effect a permanent cure. But I hope and believe that it will do so eventually. If it does not, it shall be my endeavour to seek to force it . to take the necessary action. In the meantime, this very necessary temporary measure is required to keep the fabric of society together and to enable all sections of the community to pursue their lawful work.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).Before putting the amendment, I desire to know whether any honorable member has a prior amendment to move.
– I have a prior amendment.
– Then it will be necessary for the honorable member to obtain the consent of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) to the temporary withdrawal of his amendment.
– I am prepared to withdraw my amendment temporarily.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Proposed new section 6 - (1.) Any person desiring to obtain a licence as a waterside worker at a port to which this Part applies, may make application to the licensing officer at that port in accordance with the prescribed form.
– I move -
That the following new sub-section be added to proposed new section 6: - “ (3.) No licence shall be granted to any alien whilst British-born applicants are able and willing to become waterside workers.”
I have seen the conditions prevailing on the Melbourne wharfs. I have seen aliens, some of whom have not been very long in the country, obtaining work while British-born men who hold licences could not. I do not wish to speak harshly of those whom we admit to, the country - if we admit them at all we should treat them fairly - but I do not think that work should be given to aliens who have only just arrived, and who, perhaps, can scarcely speak English, while our own people cannot get employment in an industry in which they have worked for years.
– Would the honorable member distinguish between alien persons who had become British subjects, and those who had not?
– I refer to all aliens. I do not think that those who are alien-born should be given work under licence from the Commonwealth Government, while British or Australianborn men remain unemployed.
– I think that all honorable members sympathize with the honorable member’s objective, which is to ensure that work on the waterfront shall not be taken by those of alien birth from British and Australian-born workers, but his amendment would not have that effect unless the whole bill were altered. It must be remembered that under the Transport Workers Act licences are granted practically to all those who apply for them. I sincerely hope that, in the future, some arrangement may be come to whereby the present tremendous surplus of waterfront labour may be reduced, and the work made less casual; but this amendment would do nothing in that direction. It would be necessary to alter completely the provisions of the Transport Workers Act, and to bring about the decasualization of labour on the waterfront. Practically any applicant can obtain a licence at the present time, and the only effect of the amendment would be to make it necessary first to ascertain whether all British-born persons who wanted licences had obtained them before licences were granted to aliens.
– If there was a shortage.
– The honorable member’s amendment lays it down that licences are not to be issued to aliens until every British-born person who prefers to work on the wharfs has been given a licence. Obtaining a licence, however, does not ensure that employment will be secured. There is nothing now to prevent any British-born citizen of Australia who wants a licence from getting one. The material point, so far as the worker is concerned, is not so much whether he can get a licence, as whether he can get work. This amendment would do nothing to ensure that the British-born worker would be able to obtain work. It merely provides that a British-born subject shall get a licence before licences are granted to foreigners. So far as anybody knows, every British-born subject who wishes to obtain work on the wharf already has his licence, and if not he can get it to-morrow morning. If the honorable member for Franklin proposes to give the Britishborn licensee a guarantee that he will get work, it is necessary to recast the amendment and say that no aliens shall be employed on the waterfront while there is a British-born subject prepared to accept the work. I ask honorable members, however, to consider whether it would not be introducing a principle that goes very much farther than anything which has been applied to any industry in Australia up to now. Many who are not British born are members of the Waterside Workers Union itself. Are honorable members who favour this amendment prepared to draw a distinction between different persons within the ranks of the trade unions themselves - between those who are British born and those who are alien born? If we make the distinction in one union, then we must apply it as a principle to all the unions, and that would make it necessary to revise our whole policy in regard to our treatment of aliens in Australia. It is ‘ very easy to be carried away by something which appeals at the first blush to our imagination, but it is well to see where it might lead us. If we accept the principle that employment shall be given first to those who are. British born and then to aliens, Ave must apply it not to one industry only, but to industry generally in Australia. Are we prepared to say that persons in Australia who are not British born are to be deprived of an opportunity of earning their livelihood? If we do that we shall be doing something that no other country in the world has done up to date, and something which will seriously complicate our relations with every other people on the face of the globe. I repeat that the amendment as drafted would not ensure preference of employment to Britishborn workers on the waterfront.
– It would have that effect if the principle were introduced in those ports where the licensing system has not yet been put into operation.
– It would be possible if we restricted the number of licences to be issued, and refused to license more workers than were considered sufficient to carry on the work of a port. But to do that would be to accept the principle that alien labour should be shut out until all those of British or Australian birth had obtained employment. That would be entirely opposed to a principle to which we have hitherto subscribed, namely, that all citizens, whatever may be their nationality, who have been admitted to the Commonwealth, shall have equal opportunities to obtain employment. In the trades unions themselves this principle has been adhered to, and we have heard time and again that Italians who come to Australia make as good trade unionists as any one else. Another important point is that this amendment would also apply to persons alien born who become naturalized citizens of Australia. I hope that it will be rejected.
.- It is well known to those who have watched events on the waterfront that advantage has been taken of the great army of unemployed to smash the unions, and amongst those used for the purpose are migrants, aliens and others. Australians have been denied an opportunity to work, while preference has been given to men who cannot speak the English language. One can understand the desire to make some provision against a repetition of that policy, but I remind honorable members that this amendment goes beyond the mere use of foreigners as strike-breakers. The adoption of it would be a declaration that the licence is so good that it should be reserved for Britishers, and that the dog collar should not hang about the neck of any alien. Licensing is wrong in principle, and we should not even indirectly put our imprimatur upon it. This legislation will go the way of all coercive laws ; therefore, let us not try to patch it up, and thus deceive the people into the belief that there is some virtue in it that we desire to reserve for Australians and other Britishers. The Prime Minister’s arguments did not impress me.
– The dog collar is alright if the unions use it.
– It is true that in the unions are men who were born in foreign countries. The majority of them, I believe, are naturalized, and if by the granting of naturalization we confer citizenship upon aliens, they are entitled to the rights of citizenship ; otherwise we must jettison the whole system of naturalization. It ill becomes any man to sneer at unions which accept foreigners as members. It would be a very poor type of union that would deny to such men the right to work.
– There have been no sneers at unionism on that account.
– The honorable member is not aware of all the criticism that has been directed against the unions.
– The statement has been made that the unions are dominated by foreigners.
– The foreign element has been quoted again and again to cast suspicion upon the unions. The amendment does not remove the strong objection that we have to the way in which foreigners have been brought into Australia and used against the unions, and it will not prevent the repetition of that practice. Had the licensing system never been introduced, if the ship-owners had a free hand to employ volunteer labour to smash the unions, they would have done exactly as they have done. The licences have accomplished nothing; they did not settle the strike or set the wheels of industry going one minute earlier. I entirely dissent from the allegation by the Attorney-General, that the licensing system has stopped pilfering on the wharfs. If it has done so, why has it not been extended to all ports? There is no value or virtue in it, and I see no advantage in excluding aliens from wearing a dog collar and reserving it for Australians and other Britishers.
Amendment (by Mr. Hughes) put -
That paragraph (a), sub-section (1), proposed new section 12, be omitted -
The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- This is the crucial clause, and I submit that the contentions of the Prime Minister in opposition to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin constitute the most logical argument against the principles of the bill’. The right honorable gentleman contended that it was wrong in the issue of licences to discriminate between Britishers and aliens; but this bill does infinitely worse, for it discriminates even between native born Australians by setting up two distinct qualifications for employment on the waterfront. Paragraph 4 leaves to the discretion of the Minister the ports in which the licensing system shall operate, and that exposes the inherent weakness of the argument used by honorable members opposite in defence of this legislation. If the issue of licences is a remedy for or preventive of wrong-doing by the members of the Waterside Workers’ Federation, the system should logically be extended to all ports of the Commonwealth. To subject certain ports to the odium of the obligations contained in this measure and to exempt others is to make it plain that the Attorney-General’s object is not to preserve the essential services in all ports of Australia, but on the contrary to apply specific punishments as distinct from the ordinary punishments for workers in particular ports. It is not correct to say that the penalties as they now operate have been applied to all persons who have offended against the awards of the court. Men who actually ceased work and refused to observe the previous award have never been and are not now subject to the application of the licensing system, because the Minister for the time being in charge of the administration of the act has, at his discretion, prescribed penalties for one port thai have not been imposed for another. If, as the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) suggests, this bill will buttress the enforcement of the arbitration awards, then surely its provisions should be applicable wherever the arbitration awards are applicable. But his argument is not sound. The workers in the port of Sydney who do not observe all the obligations of the arbitration’ award will not be subjected to a punishment similar to that prescribed for workers at the port of Fremantle who commit an identical offence. To apply in one State and one port a specific set of penalties more grievous than those applicable to other ports and States, is to entirely misuse the power of this Parliament. It brings about an invidious distinction, not only between citizens of the Commonwealth, but also between citizens of States.
– It is questionable whether that provision is constitutional.
– That point was raised by the right honorable member for North Sydney, and the Attorney-General, in his reply, made no reference to it.
– I referred to the point raised by the right honorable member for North Sydney but not to that raised by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I could understand the argument of the Attorney-General that this measure is designed to ensure the continuance of an essential service, if ho were to take into account all the agencies and instrumentalities that are requisite for the carrying on of this service. But more than workmen are required in the loading and unloading of ships. Stevedoring companies are just as essential as workmen in carrying on the work at the wharfs. 1 would remind the Attorney-General that there is a long list of specific instances of stevedoring companies breaking the awards of the Arbitration Courts. How is it that the penalties for breaches of the awards by the employers are confined exclusively to the Arbitration Act, but the penalties for similar offences by workmen are not only contained in the Arbitration Act but also extended in this measure. If the Attorney-General’s contention that the method’ of registration in operation in Great Britain has effectively controlled this class of labour, is sound, then we should adopt the entire system. Not only are the workers of Great Britain registered for employment, but their employers have to register as well. Stevedoring companies are registered by the port authority, just as hawkers and porters at railway stations are registered by municipalities. The registrations in Great Britain are carried out not in pursuance of British legislation, but under the ordinary regulations which the port authority itself imposes in order to conduct effectively the operations at the port. I should not object to the responsible authority, at the port of say, Fremantle, Melbourne, Mackay or Geraldton, imposing such regulations as it deems proper for the effective loading and unloading of ships at that port, but it is certainly unjust for this Parliament to compel the Fremantle Harbour Board to refuse employment to ordinary citizens of Western Australia simply because they have not complied with this specific Commonwealth law, while at the same time wilfully omitting to compel the observance of a similar law at, say, the port of Corio, Hobart, or Sydney. The unfairness, or may I suggest the malice, underlying the basis of this legislation seems to me to be clearly apparent. The
Attorney-General has stated that it is only right that there should be a disqualifying condition relating to the holding of licences. With that I should agree if licences were to be issued generally to all persons in all ports, to employers as well as to workmen, and if the conditions attachable to the licences would bring about a complete supervision of the employment of labour. But that at once brings us up against the point raised by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), that this Parliament would be engaged in directly legislating for the control of industry. I have a recollection of the Attorney-General, in 1926, travelling through the Commonwealth urging the people to vote at a referendum to give to this Parliament the power to deal directly with the control of industry and the maintenance of essential services. Although he’ contended that it was absolutely necessary for this Parliament to have control of essential services, the fact remains .that the country refused to give him the powers that he sought. It seems to me that under cover of this measure he is seeking to exercise authority which the people by referendum have upon more than one occasion refused to give to this Parliament.
– Where is the mandate for this legislation?
– It was lost in, the National party room last week. If the only ground for disqualification were refusal by the workers to work under an award of the court, one might say that the sole purpose of this measure was to buttress up the observance of Arbitration Court awards. But this legislation goes further. It interferes with the proper exercise of the sovereignty of the States, because it deals with the ordinary relationships of employer and employee. I have yet to learn that this Parliament is empowered to deal generally with contracts of service as between employer and employee. It has power to legislate for the settlement of industrial disputes by conciliation and arbitration and the provision of facilities for effective bargaining; but I should be glad if the AttorneyGeneral would inform me where he gets the constitutional authority for this Parliament to legislate upon the general relationship of employer and employee. The right honorable member for North Sydney, when dealing with the grounds for disqualification pointed out that the constitutional provision was weak. I go further, and I ask how does the AttorneyGeneral justify the inclusion in this measure of penalties for pilfering? For years we have had difficulty in defining the sovereign rights of the States. In this measure the effect of the disqualification provision is to prescribe a penalty for pilfering over and above that prescribed by the ordinary State court, which convicts a person of pilfering and imposes a sentence. I have yet to learn that pilfering on the wharfs of Australia is worse than it is elsewhere, and I should be glad to know from the Prime Minister, or the Attorney-General, how many persons, since the licensing system has been instituted, have had their licences cancelled because of convictions for pilfering. I venture to say that there are not half a dozen such instances. It is evident that the motive behind the bill is other than the maintenance of industrial peace in this Commonwealth. If this measure could in any respect be shown to have in it the potentialities of making for peace in industry, there would be some argument in support of it. Unfortunately, its effect will be otherwise. I warn the Attorney-General, who professes to believe that this system of licensing is a remedy for industrial disputes, that the day will inevitably come when a government of a different character will sit upon the Treasury benches, and that, following the precedent established by this Government, it may pass legislation to enable it to licence ordinary traders and business people and to stipulate what businesses or vocations shall be subject to the licensing system. The Attorney-General is now establishing a precedent, the eventual effect of which we cannot foresee. I know of no more effective method of interfering with the ordinary private enterprises of Australia than by the wholesale subjection of our citizens and traders to a system of licence. If the » Commonwealth Parliament can license waterside workers, then it can license coal producers, shipping companies, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers - it can prescribe the conditions under which a licence shall be granted as well as the penalty for a breach of those conditions. This proposal lends itself to the exercise by this Parliament of an authority in the sphere of industry which was not contemplated in the Constitution or in any of the amendments that have since been made to it, and I venture the opinion that within ten years’ time the employers of Australia who have seized upon this instrument as a means of oppressing the waterside workers will find that it has become a two-edged sword.
– It may surprise the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) to learn that on this side of the chamber, there are many who agree with him that the principle of licensing persons who desire to engage in industry, whether as employees or employers, should be extended very largely. Indeed the principle is being extended every day in other spheres of trade and commerce in the country. For instance, a licence has to be obtained before a person can establish a newspaper.
– But the authority of Parliament has not first to be obtained.
– It is necessary for plumbers, dentists and auctioneers to be licensed, and, in my opinion, it would be a good thing if the licensing system could be extended to those “go-getters” in industry and commerce who are a menace to honest people. I have not yet met a skilled worker who has objected to having to obtain a licence. A licence should be a guarantee of honesty and good character. I hope that the day will soon come when it will be an established principle in this country, that no man may engage in industry unless he first obtains a licence endorsed by Parliament as representative of the people. But I have not risen to give expression to those views. I take it that we are discussing the whole of clause 8 and that it is competent for any honorable member to move an amendment to any part of’ it.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).So long as the proposed amendment comes after paragraph (a) of proposed new section 12 -
Proposed new section 12 - (3.) Where a licence issued to any person is cancelled under this section, the licensing officer by whom the licence is cancelled shall, by writing under his hand, fix a period, not being less than six months nor more than twelve months from the date of cancellation, during which the person shall be ineligible to receive a licence under this part and the person shall, subject to this part, thereupon be ineligible accordingly.
– I move-
That the words “ six months,” sub-section 3, proposed new section 12, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ one month.”
While I agree with the principle of licensing, I feel that we should be careful that we do not inflict a grave injustice on the workers of this country. Waterside workers are largely confined to a particular locality. It would not be practicable for them to travel several hundreds of miles to obtain employment should they have their licences cancelled in the district in which they reside. Under the proposed new section a delicensed worker would be unable to obtain employment for six months, with the result that starvation would face him and his family.
– Apparently the honorable member would not mind if they starved for one month.
– A period of one week should be sufficient.
– The honorable member is proving that the whole bill should be defeated.
– A delicensed worker might be able to tide over a period of one month’s unemployment, or even three months, but it would be in the nature of a miracle if he could maintain his family during a period of unemployment lasting six months. I suggest that the minimum period should be one week, seeing that the licensing officer has ample discretionary power. Never previously in this or any other civilized country has legislation been enacted to prevent a man from obtaining employment in the industry in which he is best fitted to work.
– The honorable member in his amendment moved to substitute one month for six months; but, later, he suggested one week.
– I ask leave to amend my amendment by substituting the ‘ word “ week “ for “ month.”
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly.
– I ask the committee not to accept the amendment. A period of one week is so small as to be almost negligible, as will be apparent to any honorable’ member who has a knowledge of the conditions of employment on the waterside. Practically no waterside worker is employed all the year round, or even as long as ten months in a year. Work on the waterfront is irregular and casual, so that a penalty period of even one month may in reality be no punishment at all. If, however, the committee is of the opinion that six months is too long, I am prepared to accept, on behalf of the Government, an amendment reducing the period to three months, if it is moved. If we reduce the period to one week, we shall, in all cases where the minimum penalty is imposed, render this legislation nugatory.
Mr.STEWART (Wimmera) [9.9].- The longer this debate proceeds the more the defects of the measure are revealed. I should like the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral as to how long the ports referred to in proposed new section 4 will remain under the provisions of this measure. Will it be for all time? The proposed new section reads -
This part of this act shall apply to waterside workers at such ports in the Commonwealth as are specified by the Minister by notice in the Gazette and to those ports
I understand that the regulations under the Transport Workers Act now apply to Melbourne, but not to Sydney. Are we to understand that, so long as that act remains on the statute-book, the port of Melbourne will be subject to this legislation? The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) referred to the penalties provided for offences against the act. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) made it clear that many actions may be regarded as offences under this legislation. It is not difficult to imagine circumstances ‘ in which men could be goaded into committing an offence under it. Let me give <«i illustration. At one time I was on a ship “ loaded with wheat bound for England. The captain was in a bad mood, and he decided to punish the crew. He therefore, one Sunday gave the order to trim ship. In obeying that lawful command the crew shifted 800 bags of wheat. That was in 1907, when wheat bags were bigger then they are now. Stripped to the waist, and perspiring freely because of the lack of ventilation in the hold, the men shifted 800 bags of wheat from one side of the vessel to the other. Having done so, they felt fairly safe from further work of that kind, because they reasoned that the removal of many more bags would put the ship out of trim. But they reckoned without the captain, who ordered that 600 of those basts of wheat should be placed where they had come from. His command was a lawful one, for it allegedly involved the safety of the vessel. Under this legislation, to have disobeyed that command would have been to incur very heavy penalties. Or, perhaps, a sling may be stranded, and not quite safe; yet a worker who felt that to use it would he to endanger the lives of the men in the hold would be disobeying a lawful command if he refused to go ahead when instructed. Some honorable members have no knowledge of how men can be goaded into disobeying what, under a strict interpretation of the law, might be regarded as a lawful command. Are men who refuse work in such circumstances to be thrown out of employment for a period of even one week ? I repeat that the more the bill is debated the worse it appears to be, and therefore the greater is my opposition to it.
– The honorable member said that he would vote for the second reading.
– It is true that I said that I was prepared to vote for the second reading; but the remark was made without enthusiasm in the hope that, in committee, the bill would be amended. I did not think then that the Government would apply the “gag” to force the bill through and prevent a proper discussion of its many obnoxious clauses. From this stage my vote will be cast against the bill, because of what has transpired during the course of the debate and the vindictive and splenetic spirit which has actuated the drafting of this particular provision. As an act of grace and in a spirit of magnanimity, the Attorney-General has stated his willingness to reduce the period to three months. I am surprised at his adoption of such an attitude. I shall vote for the amendment of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) to substitute one week for six months; but I still maintain that the principle of passing any sentence upon an individual for the commission of an offence against these dragnet provisions is grossly unjust.
– I reply to the specific question asked by the honorable member for Wimmera by saying that a Minister will be able to revoke any specification which he may make in the Gazette.
.- The object of the clause has been misconceived. It is a vindictive attack upon trade unionists. Sub-section 2, of the proposed new section 12, provides that -
A licensing officer may cancel any licence which he is satisfied has been issued in contravention of this act, or upon any misrepresentation made by the applicant for the licence.
That has nothing to do with the applicant’s qualification for the work, nor with his attitude towards a lawful command. The Government appears to be fully determined that only those whom they wish to get licences shall have them issued to them. If they find that by some means or other a bona fide trade unionist has succeeded in obtaining a licence, they will see that it is cancelled. The licensing officer will accuse such a man of having done something in contravention of the act. He may not have stated where he worked previously, or may not have said that he belonged to the Waterside Workers’ Federation. I ask the’ Attorney-General, whose mind is supposed to have conceived this enactment, to state the nature of the contravention that is anticipated. It is evident that the Government intends to fight trade unionism, notwithstanding its protestation that this measure will not prejudice in any way the recognized trade unionist. It breathes a spirit of vindictiveness throughout, but the cloven hoof is most clearly revealed in this particular provision. If the Attorney-General can controvert my statements, let him do so. The penalty is even more severe than appears on the surface. Among these volunteer labourers who have to be conveyed to work in a closed car under the protection of members of the police force, there may be some foreigners who cannot speak the English language and who are not well acquainted with the customs of the country. A unionist organizer may endeavour to point out to them the foolishness of their action, and try to convince them that as soon as the Government has accomplished its purpose they, and other volunteers will “ get it in the neck.” The Government claims that wages are too high, that the existing conditions are uneconomic, and that the cost of living must come down. A commencement has been made in the Arbitration Court, where already an award has been promulgated that the men cannot accept. In the future, the provisions of this measure will be put into operation against those who refuse to obey awards of the court. This is vindictiveness in excelsis, but like all coercive legislation, it will have an effect fardifferent from that which is intended. It will be applied just as ruthlessly later on to those who are now hailed as the saviours of the industries of this country. The Australian soldiers fought for the freedom of democracy, but to-day they are forgotten and some have to beg from door to door. These volunteers will find themselves in a similar position. The Attorney-General should explain what he had in mind when he drafted this particular provision. How can a man be guilty of a contravention of the act before he has worked under it?
– The honorable member will find an example in the proposed new section 18.
– That section provides-
Any person who, (a) being the holder of a licence under this part, applies for the issue to him of a licence other than by way of renewal under this part. &c. That does not apply;. 1 am speaking of the original application for a licence under this act. When a licence has been issued in contravention of the act, the licensing officer may cancel it. It is for him to decide whether there has been a contravention. He will occupy a position similar to that of the drunken skipper referred to by the honorable member for Wimmera. He will be able to order aman to do anything, no matter how foolish it might be. When I was in gaol I was ordered to clean the windows. I cleaned them religiously and well, because I did not believe in doing things by halves. When I had completed the task I was told to “ Get on with the job.” I asked “What job?” and was told “ Cleaning the windows. “ I said, “ I have cleaned them “ and received the reply “ You have to clean them again. “ I answered “ Not on your life “ ; and I did not clean them the second time. They ordered me to scrub the floor. I sat down and scrubbed a yard of flooring all one morning. I applied the soap three inches thick, and took good care that I should not be accused of not having done the job thoroughly. When I left, one half of the place was clean and the other half dirty. That is an example of the idiocy of the military machine. There will be similar happenings under this legislation, which will usher in an era of industrial militarism ‘against the workers of this country, because they are fighting to maintain the conditions they have won during the last quarter of a century. The coal-owners are endeavouring to wrest from their employees the advantages it has taken years to gain. Every industrial concern is awaiting the successful application of this bludgeon so that they may use it upon their particular workers. The Attorney-General must explain the meaning of this particular provision ;. but no matter what explanation he makes he certainly cannot justify the vindictive, vicious penalty provided for obtaining a. licence in contravention of the act. I realize the futility of attempting to induce honorable members opposite to either amend or reject the measure entirely, but we can at least let the public know what use the Government is making of its strength.
.- I am sorry that the honorable member, for New England altered his’ original intention to reduce the period to one month. Such a proposal was worthy of acceptance. It is rather absurd to deprive a man of his employment for not less than six months merely because he does something which, in the opinion of the licensing officer, constitutes a contravention of the act.
– He would not cancel the licence for a trivial offence.
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) said that this was a “frightful” bill. I find that that honorable member on the 14th February last, voted in favour of the motion that leave be given to introduce the measure, and against the amendment of the Leader of- the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that the principal act be repealed. He was not in attendance when a vote was taken on the motion for the second-reading. If the honorable member for New England will not revert to his original amendment of one month, I shall feel obliged to move in that direction at a later stage.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the bill. in. committee having expired, I shall now put the question.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted, stand part of the clause (Mr. Thompson’s amendment.) - put.
The committee divided.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).There are 35 ayes and 35 noes.. As the voting is equal, I cast my vote in the affirmative and declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That clause 8 and the remainder of the bill be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- I have been listening attentively to the debate on this measure, which is called the Transport Workers Bill. I say “called” advisedly, because that is the best that I can say for it. Much has been said as to the reasons for its introduction, but to . my mind the main reason has been deliberately side-stepped by honorable members on the other side. Although the Prime Minister, in the course of his remarks, claimed that the principal act and the regulations made under it had brought about peace in the transport industry, I submit thatthis legislation has aggravated the position, Wiving industrial peace further from accomplishment than it has been for many a day in Australia. Honorable members opposite have stressed the faults of the members of the industrial organizations who are directly and indirectly affected by this bill; but if the workers have made mistakesso have the members of the Government, “and the most serious mistake ever made by this Government was its decision to make a deliberate attack, by means of legislation of this character, upon the trade union movement throughout the Commonwealth. This measure is remarkably wide in its scope. Where there is an effect there must be a cause, and only once during the. debate did I hear the words “ economic causes “ used. I- say, without fear of contradiction, that the foundation of this legislation is the economic pressure that is operating against the workers throughout the world. The amended Arbitration Act and the Crimes Act, together with this measure, are results of economic pressure operating from the older countries of the world. Why have not the workers been told the truth? Why try to disguise what has actually happened ? When one compares the wages paid overseas in certain industries with the more favorable rates ruling in Australia as the result of the constant efforts over many years of organized trade unionism, one can quite understand this concerted attack on the trade union movement. Exception has been taken to the penalties provided under this bill. Eor instance, it is stipulated that a workman shall be delicensed and so deprived of employment on the waterfront for not less than six months for a breach of a certain provision. An amendment was proposed to reduce the’ penalty to one month’s disqualification, and somebody suggested a week. . The AttorneyGeneral observed that six months was not too long a period. As one who has spent the whole of his life in industry, I ask the Attorney-General what he would do to a trade unionist who was debarred under this proposed new section from the right to work . for six months if he broke the law. of the land and stole food to keep his wife and children from starvation? Legislation of this character makes criminals of honest men. The gaols in Australia and in other parts of the world have behind their bars men who have broken, the law not because they have wanted to do so, but because economic conditions have compelled them to do it to save their loved ones from starvation. “ Peace in industry “ is the cry of this Government. What hypocrisy! The Government was elected to legislate in the interests of the whole Qf the people, and yet its legislation is given one application for the worker and a different application for the employer. If it is right to require workers to be licensed, would it. not be equally right in the interests of Australia to nationalize the coal mines and allow the men to go to work? Prom what quarter is the class consciousness, of which .we hear a good deal, now coming? Men are seeking the right to work under what some honorable members opposite are pleased to call arbitration; but arbitration in the hands of a Labour Government and arbitration as administered by the Nationalist Government are entirely different things. The industrial workers, men and women, who unselfishly and unceasingly devote their lives to the industries of Australia will not stand for legislation of this character. The Prime Minister said in one of his speeches that he felt perfectly confident in going ahead with this measure, because he had a mandate for it by virtue of the vote of the people. Why not tell the truth? How was the last election won ? How were the 1925, the 1922 and 1919 elections won? It was by appealing to the baser instincts of the people through an unscrupulous press.
– Order ! On the third reading of a bill, the debate is of a more restricted nature than on the second reading, being confined to the bill as reported from the committee of the whole. An honorable member may discuss the general principles and policy of the bill, and advance reasons why he thinks that it should not be read a third time.
– If I have committed a breach of the rules of debate I have done so unwittingly, Mr. Speaker, and I am prepared at all times to abide by your decision. The bill provides that a licensing officer may cancel a licence issued to to a waterside worker in any case where he is satisfied that the worker, after the licence has been issued to him, has refused or failed to comply with any lawful -order. That has already been threshed out. But what guarantee have the transport workers that the licensing officer will not be partial or biased? After the 1917 upheaval in New South Wales I was one of thousands who were victimized. A board of appeal, clothed with the powers that are proposed to be given to licensing officers, sat and dealt with our applications, but many of us might just as well have stayed away. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has told us that the men affected by this bill went- overseas to fight for democracy. They have had a harder fight since their return to fight for the rights of democracy. I know that this bill will be passed but I sincerely trustthat the people of Australia will make it an issue at the next elections.
– Labour will ride into power on it. ‘
– I am inclined to believe’ it. ‘Not many years ago a New South Wales Government introduced and carried what was known as the “leg-iron act” and another Government came into power on the back of that bill. There is not one redeeming feature in this repulsive bill unless it be that it reveals the horrible inconsistency of the Government in regard to arbitration. As the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has said, arbitration means that only the organized bodies of trade unionists can approach the court, but the Government wants things both ways. It wants arbitration for organized trade unionists who have paid their fees and stood shoulder to shoulder to get conditions of labour worth having, and it also wants to sell licences at ls. each to men to enable them to usurp the rights for which others have paid pounds and pounds. The Government does not believe in arbitration. Its sole’ desire is to get at the best means of attacking organized trade unionism. The waterside dispute which was the cause of the introduction of the Transport Workers Act, was brought about because the waterside workers resented the double pick-up. But the whole trend pf the Government’s legislation has been to confirm the view I have, always held regarding it. There is no desire on its part to work for peace in industry. I am more than ever convinced that day by day, Ministers are displaying more class bias, and that they are acting under economic pressure from the other side of the world.
.- The Government alleges that its desire is to bring about industrial peace, but the issuing of licences to workers cannot possibly bring about industrial peace. There is differentiation between different ports on the same coast. In some ports on the Queensland coast where the men refused for several days to accept the licensing system, no licences were issued. In another port on the same coast, where the men refused for one. day only to take out licences, they were told that they could not return to work unless they were licensed. This differentiation, in my opinion, was actuated by political motives. I travelled in a train from Townsville with a licensing officer, and when I asked him who were to get the licences he was about to issue, he said that he was going to issue licences to farmers to enable them to load their sugar at Lucinda, because it was the only means by which they could get paid for their crops. When the waterside workers who had refused to take out licences were compelled to do so or starve, I want to say it to the credit of the merchants of Innisfail that they told the shipowners and the Government that they would not handle any cargo. The farmers were anxious to get back to their farms to prepare for the next season’s crop, but the shipowners, the friends of the Government, apparently with the cognizance of the Government, issued orders through the Secretary of the Farmers’ Union that if the farmers were not prepared to load the steamers, no vessels would call at Mourilyan. That is the kind of treatment meted out to people by the present Government, yet Ministers expect us to believe that they are in favour of industrial peace. Nothing could be more repulsive than to tell the farmers that they could not work the ships until >they took out licences and that unless they were prepared to work cargo, no boats would call to take away their raw sugar. They had to load the raw sugar before they could get any return for their season’s work. I charge the Government with having one aim only in connexion with its industrial legislation and that is to smash up unionism. Industrial peace cannot be brought about by legislation whose purpose is to inflict cruel injustice on people. Take the case of a man who, having already been deprived of a> licence, goes to another port and tries to get work there so that his family may not starve. He may use another name, and in that respect make a false declaration. If a man were caught in such circumstances by a licensing officer, who would probably be as great a martinet as any member of this Government, he would have his licence cancelled and could be debarred for twelve months from seeking further work. That is a remarkable state of affairs. . It is one of those things which, instead of ushering in industrial peace, will introduce industrial warfare of a highly regrettable character, as the men will be forced to fight by means of subterranean channels instead of in the open, as heretofore.
– I listened attentively to the closing remarks of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long), in which he made reference to the fact that it is useless for the Opposition to imagine that the measure can be defeated in this chamber to-night. That may wrongly be taken as a message to organized labour that it is useless to continue the struggle against this iniquitous bill. I shall use the occasion to convey to organized labour, a body with which I have been closely associated for many years, the message that while the bill may be passed by this House to-night, they still have at their disposal the means to defeat its intention. From my point of view, there is only one answer to this legislation, and that is for the trade-union movement to double its efforts to close up its ranks, realizing that only by intensified organization can it display its economic strength in resisting laws of a class bias nature for which this Government has been responsible. I shall do my utmost to see that organized labour industrially is strengthened to that pitch which will enable it to use its economic power to see that justice is extended to its supporters. I am confident that no Parliament received a mandate to propagate ideas and give effect to legislation such as this. I hope that the passing of the bill will mark another milestone in the onward march of the working class, and that it will merely serve to consolidate their ranks and bring about their early emancipation. This Government and similar governments throughout the world are endeavouring to reduce the masses to the very lowest level, and I hope that their efforts will stimulate the workers to close any existing gaps in their ranks and to work solidly for the end that they have in view. The power that lies in the hands of the workers must be patent to all, but it cannot be effectively applied without organization. When my people realize that, this legislation with other unjust impositions by this Government, will be treated with the contempt it richly deserves. The course of action I have referred to must be taken if trade unions are to survive, because enactments of this character are introduced definitely to smash the trade union movement. The Government in the first instance shewdly attacks the key industries, such as the waterside, transport, and mining industries, knowing full well that, if it can sap their vitality it will be a simple matter to deal with the smaller units. The passage of this measure must, therefore, be taken by organized labour as a. warning to give heed to the old and oft-repeated slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” Let the endeavour be to organize more upon industrial than upon craft lines, because while the workers are separated into distinct bodies, it is much easier for the employing class, with the aid of such governments as this, to use its power against the separate entity and gradually break down the spirit and power of the unions one by one. If that aspect of the situation is fully realized and acted upon, the workers need have little fear of legislation of this kind, because the power of such a movement would nullify and utterly defeat the intentions of the- hidden forces behind this Government.
I should like to add to the statement of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) concerning the clause which deals with obedience to the lawful commands of the employer. I have had experience of ship-owners in many countries, and I say unhesitatingly that they are the most callous class of employers that the world has ever known. They will stop at nothing to accomplish their purpose. To break down organized labour they will tie up their ships in the different ports ‘of the world and allow them to rot. They amassed huge fortunes during the Great War, and so are in a very favorable position to carry on their policy of agression against the working class. If their employees were involved in a dispute and were slowly starving to death, the ship-owners would not be affected in the least degree. They are living in the lap of luxury, and employ absolutely unscrupulous tactics in order to achieve their objectives. I think that it can be definitely stated that their influence is behind this measure.
– And their money.
– And that their money is behind this Government at election time. I can visualize representatives of this Government, in secret conclave with the ship-owners, discussing the means by which the development of the waterside workers’ organization may be arrested. The whole purpose of this legislation is to stop the development of the waterside workers’ organization, and to squeeze the last ounce of effort out of the employees. The waterside workers here had to wring from the employers conditions which they should have been able to obtain without a fight. The fact that the union has been able up to date to withstand their attacks has caused the ship-owners much concern. The weakness of their case has been demonstrated on many occasions, but with the aid of this Government, under the guise of maintaining “ law and order “ by means of this measure, they are going to try to force these men to accept conditions which for years have been emphatically rejected. Actually, the ship-owners have committed more breaches of industrial awards than can ever be attributed to the watersides) as would be apparent if statistics were submitted to this Parliament. At all times they endeavour to whittle away the advantages that have been so dearly won by organized labour. Proposed new section 12 will give the ship-owners the opportunity they have been longing for, because a “ lawful command” within the meaning of that provision might yet be so unjust that no man with any stomach at all would be prepared to obey it. It would follow that the licensing officers who, after all, would do the bidding of the Minister who happened to be in charge at the moment, would interpret his instructions in such a way as to deprive the worker of the means of obtaining his bread and butter.
– I do not think that the honorable member ought to reflect on the Public Service, even if he does so on the Government.
– In discussing the Tariff Board recently, a government supporter remarked that the Government made such appointments as would ensure that its policy was carried out. It is reasonable to assume that licensing officers would be appointed in keeping with that requirement. It would be an economic matter with a member of the Public Service, just as it is with any one else. His job would be at stake if he failed to recognize what the Government wanted.
– The honorable member knows that the Government has no power to discharge any member of the Public Service.
– There are ways in which it can be done.
– The honorable member knows several of them, I have no doubt.
– Perhaps I do. I have had to earn my own living, and I know the ways which can be adopted to deprive a man of the means of earning his living. As a result of bitter experience I am, perhaps, more competent to speak on this matter than are many members on the Government side who may have been born with silver spoons in their mouths and know nothing of the struggles of the working class. * When this provision is put in operation, the more active members of the waterside workers’ organization will be eliminated one by one, and it will thus be robbed of its strength. The conditions now enjoyed would not exist to-day but for the more active members of the union. Day by day they have kept close watch on the ship-owners and prevented them from imposing unjust demands. In a word, they have been the backbone of the organization. Naturally the ship-owners will seize the first opportunity to rid the waterfront of these men, and proposed new section 12 provides the means. Experience has shown, however, that there are always others ready to step forward and take the places of those who have gone down in the fight. In this instance, too, men will not be lacking to carry the fight on to ‘the bitter end.
In answer to a question, the AttorneyGeneral said that the workers who were delicensed might seek redress in the law courts if they felt they had been unfairly treated.
– And they can starve in the meantime.
– Presumably. In any case, where are they to get the money with which to take legal proceedings? Their work is casual and intermittent; they usually earn little more than’ sufficient to purchase the necessaries of life. Does the Government desire to furnish its legal friends with- an opportunity to get money from these unfortunate men? Workers should not be forced to appeal to the courts of the land for the right to earn bread and butter. It has been suggested, also, that the organization itself might be asked to pay for appeals. The Government, however, is making very sure that the organization will not have any finances with which to do so. The penalties imposed in recent legislation have quite clearly shown the intention of the Government in this respect, so that while it adopts this means of victimizing, the individual worker, it takes the necessary step, by the imposition of enormous fines, to prevent the organization from defending him. Under this provision the militant workers are, in a sense, to be placed against the wall, and slaughtered one by one. The Government may have the. numbers to-night to pass this legislation, but my message to the workers of Australia is to tighten up their ranks, and organize on industrial lines. Let that be their clarion call. Let the struggle now be- carried out on industrial lines, and by that means they will achieve their emancipation.
.- Industrial law, like other law, must be applicable to all. Once laws become discriminatory, the government responsible for them helps to foment revolution by exciting contempt for the law, and for those who have made it. The provisions of this bill have been framed in absolute defiance of the spirit of the Constitution; but my one regret is that the Government will not extend these regulations to other industries, so that the public, which is at present ignorant of the savagery of the methods now applied to the transport industry might feel the crushing effect of this legislation. The press, by its conspiracy of silence, has, to a large extent, prevented the people from realizing the tyranny of the transport workers regulations. We hear much in this House about law and order ; but I think it was Blackstone who said “ No laws are binding on the human subject which assault the body or violate the conscience.” The discriminatory character of some of’ the clauses of this bill, and the vicious and spiteful punishments provided, violate the conscience of all decent people. 80 long as I represent the constituency for which I was returned by an overwhelming majority, I shall protest against this measure, and do my utmost to induce the workers of the country to organize to secure the repeal of a law which violates the principles on which all law ought to be based.
.- I wish to protest against the freakish and stupid legislation of the Bruce-Page
Government, as exemplified in the atrocious measure which it is now trying to force through the House by means of the gag. I say to the Prime Minister, who is so fond of placing responsibility on the Opposition-
– Order ! The time has arrived when the question must be put.
Question - That the bill be now read a third time - put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 10.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 March 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19290305_reps_11_120/>.