12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. NormanMakin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and offered prayers.
.- I rise to a matter of privilege. Privilege and abuse of privilege are terms difficult to define. Later, Ishall conclude with a motion relating to the action of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) last night in applying the closure immediately after he had moved the adjournment of the House. I do not deny that he acted within his rights, and in accordance with the practice of the House as laid down by Standing Order 262a, But the Standing Orders are the creation of the House ; members are greater than - the Standing Orders, and their rights should be respected. The action of the Prime Minister was unprecedented. On one occasion Mr. Andrew Fisher, when Prime Minister, moved the closure while Sir Joseph Cook was addressing himself to the motion for the adjournment of the House, but never has the closure been applied without debate on that motion having taken place. As there is no precedent for this occurrence I have been obliged to examine other similar occurrences. That which most closely approximates the incident of which I complain arose in 1924 when the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, was in charge of the House. It was grievance day; Mr. Speaker had put the question, “ That I do now leave the chair,” and the then honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) had risen to speak when the Prime Minister moved “ That the question be now put”. Mr. Mahony raised a question of privilege and was about to address himself to it when he was ruled out of order by the then Speaker, the Right HonorableW. A.Watt. There is no analogy between the point of privilege upon which Mr. Mahony rose and that to which I intend to address myself this afternoon.
The right to speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House has always been greatly prized by private members. It is to them what the Sydney Domain or the Yarra bank is to a man who has a doctrine to preach to the public. The men who speak in the Domain and on the Yarra bank are restricted by certain regulations, and if they break them they are prevented from speaking. The motion for the adjournment of the House, is, in effect, a declaration by the Prime Minister that the Government has transacted all the business it desires to do at that sitting, and that if a private- member wishes to ventilate any subject, he may now do so. The time between the submission of the motion and the carrying of it belongs to private members, and the Leader of the House should intervene only when he thinks that honorable members in addressing themselves to the motion are abusing their privilege. That did not occur last night. There was no obstruction; in fact, nobody had an opportunity to speak to the motion. Had the members of the Opposition been obstructive I could have understood the action of the Prime Minister, but they had done nothing to obstruct government business yesterday. The Prime Minister will recall that on Tuesday night he crossed the chamber and said to me, “ What are these ugly rumours I hear regarding a formal motion for the adjournment of the House?” I told him that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) proposed to submit a formal motion for adjournment in order to discuss the rationing of employment in the Defence Department. The Prime Minister said, “ Do you think that is necessary? Why not discuss the matter on the Supply Bill?” 1 promised to consult with my leader. I saw the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), who, after conferring with the Prime Minister, agreed that a formal motion for adjournment should not be submitted and that the discussion on the Defence Department should take place on the motion for Supply. The readiness with which the Opposition fell in with the Government’s wishes is proof that it had no desire to obstruct business. When the Prime Minister applied the closure to the second and third readings of. the Supply Bill the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) voted with the Government, but when later he sought to address himself to the motion for the adjournment of the House he was denied the right to speak. Nobody will accuse him of desiring to obstruct the business of the House. I have raised this matter because I regard it as highly important that the right of honorable members to address the House should not be abrogated. I recognize the obligation of the Prime Minister to conserve government time ; and nobody objects to the application of the closure in order to expedite government business.
– Subject to qualifications.
– The Prime Minister has no right to deprive private members of the time that, in accordance with practice, belongs to them. I therefore move -
That this House disapproves of the action of the Right Honorable the Prime Minister in moving the closure on the question “That the House do now adjourn “ at a time when no debate on’ the ‘question had taken place, and consequently no obstruction could be alleged; as by such action he deprived members of ‘one of their most cherished privileges.
– On a point of order, I submit that the motion which has been submitted, Mr. Speaker, discloses no point of privilege justifying an interruption of the proceedings of the House in this way. The motion is an attempt to use the procedure relating to the question of privilege in order to censure the Prime Minister by a motion without notice. It is not suggested that any honorable member was deprived of any right in contravention of the Standing Order; that the Prime Minister took action in breach of the Standing Orders, and dispossessed a member of the House of some right or privilege to which he was entitled.
– The honorable member in raising a point of order is arguing the question of privilege, a procedure which I cannot allow.
– I am endeavouring to show that the motion does not raise a question of privilege, and therefore is not competent, and should not be allowed. The ideas connoted by the term privilege do not includethe right to speak in the House contrary to the Standing Orders. There has been no breach or disregard of the Standing Orders whereby the rights of honorable members have been violated. I submit that it was for the. honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) to show that the Prime Minister disregarded some Standing Order, and thus deprived honorable members of some right; he cannot claim an unreal or visionary right not allowed by the Standing Orders, as a matter of privilege. The honorable member’s rights can only be exercised subject to the Standing
Orders. I submit that, as it has not been alleged that the Standing Orders were contravened, broken, or disregarded in any way, there is no point of privilege in the honorable member’s motion.
– On the point of order, I submit that there is a distinction between the infringement of the Standing Orders and a question of privilege. The honorable member who has just resumed his scat has said that it is not alleged that there was any breach of the Standing Orders,. That is so. Breaches of the Standing Orders, I submit, are dealt with by rulings from the Chair; the Chair protects honorable members in their rights under the Standing Orders. A question of privilege is a different matter, and is dealt with in a different manner; and, as on this occasion, by a motion. I submit that it is for the House to determine whether there has been an unwarranted interference with the rights of private members as members of this Parliament. That, I submit, is the question which the motion raises; it is different altogether from any question of infringement of Standing Orders.
– Still, a prima facie case must be made out.
– This matter has given me considerable thought, and I have come to the conclusion that the motion of privilege which has been moved by the honorable member for Oxley must be proposed to the House. It is for the Chair to insist upon the observance of the Standing Orders and rules of procedure ; but when the question of privilege is raised, it should, I think, be determined by a decision of the House itself.
, - In seconding the motion, which I do with a perfectly clear conscience, I should like to say in reply to the point of order raised-
– The point of order having been decided, the honorable member would not be in order in referring to it.
– I recognize that, and I apologize for my error. It is for the House alone to determine whether its privileges have been interfered with. To interfere with those privileges is a right that resides only in this
House, and it should be very carefully guarded. For that reason I support the motion of the honorable member for Oxley. Next to the privilege of ventilating grievances on the motion for Supply, there is no privilege more cherished by honorable members on both sides and of all parties than that enjoyed under the motion for the adjournment of this House. I submit that last night there was a definite, interference with that privilege. We, as an Opposition, would have been entirely lacking in our duty had we not taken the first opportunity to express our disapprobation of the unwarranted interference with our rights. No abuse of privilege was attempted, or even contemplated, by honorable members on this side of the House. Indeed, I may claim as much for every honorable member no matter on which side he sits. They sought only to use a right. The attitude of the Opposition towards Government business and the general conduct of business in this House has been generous, and I regret that an occasion has arisen when that attitude has been challenged by the Prime Minister. In supporting this motion, I do not propose to do more than reaffirm, as emphatically as I can, that there is nothing that this House should guard with greater jealousy than this privilege which has been possessed by honorable members ever since the institution of parliamentary government. The motion implies no direct censure on the Prime Minister, as such. The basic contention of the motion is that the rights of honorable members of this House must be jealously guarded, and we, as an opposition, should regard it as our first duty to see that our privileges are maintained at any cost, and no matter from where the challenge comes.
– We have listened to a sad story; based on nothing real.
– A bed-time story.
– The grievance is purely imaginary. The mover of the motion admitted that my action last night was in accordance with the Standing Orders. Standing Order 262b says -
After any question has been proposed, either in the House or in any committee of the whole, a motion may be made by any member, . rising in his place, and without notice, and whether any other member is addressing the Chair or not, “That the question be now put,” and the motion shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.
To deny an honorable member the right to move that motion would be to deny him the enjoyment of the privilege it gives, and what the mover and seconder of the motion are seeking to do is to censure me for exercising that privilege. They would, indeed, deny me a right that every honorable member of this House possesses. Their motion, if carried, would constitute a breach of my privileges. I was quite within my rights in doing last night what I did, and what any other honorable member on either side of the chamber had the right to do.
– I made that perfectly clear.
– Yet the honorable member challenges my right to do what any honorable member may do! So much for that point.
The second point that was made was that action such as mine had never been taken before.
– In such circumstances.
– What does the Leader of the Opposition mean by “in such circumstances “ ?
– Without any debate.
– Evidently the Leader of the Opposition supports the mover and seconder of the motion in saying that on the motion for the adjournment of the House having been moved, the motion “ That the question be now put “ had never previously been put before there was an opportunity given for debate.
– That is what I understood the mover of the motion to say.
– The mover of the motion can say whether that is what he said.
– I said that, so far as I could find out, it had not been done.
– Then I shall give the honorable member some information. I invite him to refer to page 2843, volume Ixxi, of Hansard, where he will find that on the 31st October, 1913, the motion was put in such circumstances.
– That was seventeen years ago.
– I do not know what limit of time the honorable member, puts to the word “ never “. On that occasion the then Prime Minister (Mr. Joseph Cook) moved “ That the House do now adjourn”, and before there was any debate on it he moved “ That the question be now put “. The following day he took the same action in exactly similar circumstances.
As I do not intend to allow government time to be occupied by motions of this kind, and as I have answered the points made by the previous speakers, I now move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the motion (Mr. Bay- ley’s) be agreed to - put. The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Having reviewed the proofs of the report of yesterday’s proceedings, I am of opinion that my rulings regarding the asking of questions appear to have interpreted the Standing Orders too strictly. In deciding a point of order raised by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey), I stated that no honorable member was permitted to anticipate debate upon any business that was before the House. That ruling was strictly correct. No question should anticipate the discussion of business set down on the noticepaper. May’s Parliamentary Practice, and rulings by Mr. Speaker Salmon and
Mr. Speaker Johnson support that view. I appreciate, however, that a too narrow application might be given to my ruling. A question that seeks to elicit information upon business pending in the House is in order, but must not anticipate discussion. Therefore, honorable members should be careful to so frame their questions that they will meet this require- - ment. It should be emphasized that the Speaker is, until the House otherwise decides, the sole judge of whether questions are in order or not.
– I desire to make a personal explanation in connexion with the statement that you, Mr. Speaker, have just made.
– If it is the intention of the honorable member to review the ruling that I gave yesterday, he is not in order. The Standing Orders definitely lay it down that if an honorable member takes objection to a ruling, he must do so at once in writing, and debate on the motion to dissent from it is then forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day. If the honorable member was misrepresented by any statement that I had made, it is competent for him to endeavour to remove the misrepresentation by making a personal explanation; but he must not traverse any matter that relates to the ruling that I gave yesterday.
– It is not my wish to traverse the matter at length. But there has been some misrepresentation, inasmuch as honorable members of this House know that yesterday I was indignant because of the ruling that you gave, and your explanation to-day may lead to the belief that such indignation was unwarranted.
– Order! I cannot permit the honorable member to proceed along those lines, because he can see quite clearly that that would involve a discussion upon the ruling that I gave yesterday.
– Will you inform me, sir, whether it is a fact that on the 4th December last, according to Hansard, page 679, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) asked in this House certain questions relating to the duty on whisky ?
– Order I Obviously I am not in a position to give offhand an answer to the question. The honorable member in asking it seeks to defeat the ruling that I gave yesterday; and I cannot allow him to do that.
Views on Freetrade.
– During the visit to England of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton), whom I congratulate upon his safe return to Australia, the honorable gentleman was interviewed by many prominent persons. According to a report that has appeared in the press, he was interviewed by members of the International Freetrade League, to whom he expressed certain opinions. Will he now state what are his views with respect to freetrade?
– That is a momentous question that requires a great deal of consideration. I ask the honorable member to be good enough to give me notice of it.
– The Advocate, a newspaper published in Tasmania, in its issue of the 16th June last, contained a report which stated that the Postmaster-General visited Hobart for the particular purpose of conveying to the supporters of his party the intimation that the Federal Government had decided not to proceed with the purchase of a Commonwealth, line of steamers to link Tasmania with the mainland, because of the fact that no money was available for that purpose. The Sydney Morning Herald to-day published an article headed “Shipping Service,” “Tasmania and the mainland,” “Minister’s difficulty,” which reads -
Because of the present financial stringency it is believed to be unlikely that any action will be taken by the Federal Ministry in the near future to establish a shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland.
Will the Postmaster-General indicate the Government’s intentions with respect to the provision of an improved shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland?
– I ask the honorable member to give notice of that question.
– The practice of reading extensively from newspaper clippings and letters when asking questions without notice is a growing one. Previous speakers have ruled against it, and, although I am reluctant to curtail the privileges of honorable members, I must ask them to make their quotations as brief as possible.
Temporary and Exempt Employees
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Treasurer investigate the whole matter of American insurance companies operating in Australia, with regard to - (a) Deposits with governments; (A) undisclosed profits; (c) reserve against, unexpired risk?;
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Eviction of Tenants
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions, are as follow: -
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether the Film Censorship Appeal Board has yet come to a decision regarding the scenarios submitted for the scenario awards of merit; if not, when may such decision be expected?
– The board has not yet completed its examination of the scenarios submitted. It is actively engaged on the work, and its report is expected at an early date.
asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Position of Brigadier-General H. E. Elliott
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 6th June the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) asked me whether I would ascertain the saving which had been effectedby the Postmaster-General’s Department by the purchase of locallymanufactured dry cells since the introduction of the new tariff. I have had inquiries made, and am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the Australian company supplying cells to the post office found it possible to reduce its price quoted for last year’s supplies by 3d. percell in respect of the order recently placed for next year’s requirements. 1 am informed that on the basis of the estimated consumption this will result in a saving of approximataely £3,000.
– On the 5th June the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the following questions, upon notice -
Is the Minister for Markets and Transport in a position to answer the following questions in connexion with the Paterson butter scheme: -
What was the* amount of bounty per ton for the 1928-29 export season?
Taking each State of the Commonwealth separately, what is -
the amount of butter tax;
the bounty received;
the loss or gain to each.
What was the average price of butter per lb. sold on the London market during the 1928-29 season?
What was the average consumption of butter per lb. per head of the population- of Australia for the year 1928-29?
Is it a fact that Australia is the highest consumer of butter per head of population in the world?
What was the average price per lb. paid for butter by consumers in each State of the Commonwealth for the year 1928-29?
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies to the honorable member’s questions: -
It is not possible to ascertain the amount of bounty received by the dairy farmers in each State.
– On the 20th Juno the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) - asked rae a question regarding new appointments made to the permanent staff of the Commonwealth Public Service. Information which has been prepared by the Public Service Board shows that the number of persons appointed to the permanent staff of the Commonwealth Public Service during the period 1st December, 1929, to 31st May, 1930, was 615, while the number of persons who left the Service during the same period was 441. The appointments made were, with few exceptions, to junior positions in the Public Service, vacancies for some of which had existed prior to the commencement of the period in question. While the number of positions created during that period was 540, the positions abolished numbered 616. The resultant decrease in the number of new appointments would not be wholly shown in the figure given for the period 1st December, 1929, to 31st May, 1930, but would be reflected in returns for subsequent periods.
– On the 19th Juno the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) asked me the following question : -
In how many awards of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is provision made for sick and holiday pay for workers employed from day to day?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that it is the practice of the court to include in the daily wage fixed in awards prescribing daily hiring an amount calculated to compensate the employee for time lost by reason of sickness and holidays. Consequently there are no awards of the court prescribing the payment of sick and holiday pay to employees whose engagement is from day to day.
Message recommending appropriation reported..
Report (No. 4) brought up by Mr. Tully, read by the Clerk, and agreed to.
The following papers were presented : - .
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1930, Nos. 07, 08.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 02.
War Service Homes Act-Land acquired at Brighton, Victoria.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the manufacture of sewing machine heads.
Resolution reported ‘and - by leave - adopted.
That Mr. Forde and Mr. Theodore do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Forde, and read a first time.
- by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill provides for the payment of a bounty on the manufacture of sewing machine heads within Australia, and I am of opinion, after careful investigation, that it will, lead to the establishment of a very important industry. Provision is made for payment of a bounty of £2 on each household sewing machine head manufactured in Australia for five years from the 1st October, 1930. The bounty is linked up with customs duties imposed as from the 20th June, 1930, on household sewing machine heads under item 168b of the tariff. These duties- are 10s. British preferential tariff, and 20s. general tariff, per head. As 70 per cent, of imported sewing machine heads come from the United Kingdom, itmay be said that the combined assistance proposed for the establishment of the sewing machine industry in Australia is equivalent to slightly over £2 10s. per household sewing machine head. The bill is drawn on the same lines as other bounty acts, except in regard to the following matters that have particular relation to the circumstances concerning the manufacture of sewing machines: -
In common with other bounty legislation, the bill provides for the withholding of the bounty in the event of the manufacturer not selling sewing machine heads at a reasonable price, or if his profits should exceed 10 per cent, per annum. Furthermore, the bounty will be withheld, if reasonable conditions of employment and rates of wages are not observed by the manufacturers in respect of employees engaged in the manufacture of the heads.
– Is provision made again for special tribunals?
– Awards are operating in factories in the two States in which we expect manufacture to be undertaken, and, I hope that the appointment of special tribunals will not be necessary.
The magnitude of the importations of sewing machines into Australia is not generally realized. For some time, the total imports have been approximately 45,000 sewing machines each year, and the present importations are slightly over 40,000 machines per annum, or 800 weekly. The value of the annual importation is: Sewing machine heads, £160,000; stands and cabinets, £170,000; total £330,000.
Until 20th June, 1930, no duty was actually imposed on imported heads, but there have been, since the 1921 tariff, deferred duties on heads, namely, £2 10s., British preferential tariff ; £3 intermediate tariff; and £3 10s. general tariff on each imported head; . These deferred duties have been postponed from time to time pending the establishment of a local industry for the manufacture of heads, and they now stand deferred until on and after 1st January, 1931. In due course, if Australian manufacturers produce a sufficient number of sewing machine heads, the deferred duties will be made operative, and, in that event, the bounty of £2 per head provided by the bill will cease forthwith. If no other action is taken before the 1st January, 1931, the duty will become operative from that date, but the usual procedure is for the Tariff Board, after investigation, to report to the Minister whether the development of the industry is. such as to warrant the deferred duty coming into operation.
I propose to refer now to the events which led to the Government’s decision to introduce this bill. In 1924 Bendigo Sewing Machines Limited, of Bendigo, started making complete household sewing machines on the understanding that the Government of the day would soon apply the deferred duties on heads. The company had a right to expect that the deferred duty would be operative within a reasonable time, or that a bounty would be paid in the initial stages of the industry.
– How many machines is the company making now?
– No machines are being manufactured by them now, and the Government will not be committed to any liability until some have been produced.
– Meanwhile the Government is collecting 10s. of customs duty for every machine head imported from the United Kingdom.
– And £1 per headunder the general tariff. The best machines are sold for about £19 4s. cash, and £24 on terms, and the importers make over 100 per cent, gross profit on the landed cost. Therefore, I do not think that they will be justified in passing the duty on to the public. The last Government in 1924 did not make the - duties operative, and, in May, 1925, the Bendigo company applied for a bounty of £2 10s. per head. The matter was referred in the usual manner to the Tariff Board for investigation, and, after a thorough inquiry, the Tariff Board recommended, in December, 1925, that a bounty , be paid for three years at the following rates: - Output of 1 to 2,000 heads per annum, £2 10s. each; output of 2,001 to 4,000 heads per annum, £2 each; output of 4,001 and over per annum, £1 10s. each. This recommendation was supported by the Comptroller-General of Customs, and the then Minister for Trade and Customs (the late Honorable H. E. Pratten), but the Government decided not to grant the bounty. It seems that the reason for this decision was that the Bendigo company was then only, producing sewing machines at the rate of 40 per week, or 2,000 per annum, whereas it had been the practice to expect a new industry to meet at least 40 per cent, of Australia’s requirements before any tariff or bounty assistance would be given. In this case, of course, the Bendigo company was only producing 5 per cent, of the Commonwealth’s requirements. I remind honorable members that however necessary or feasible the condition- namely, that 40 per cent, of Australia’s requirements should be supplied by new industries - might have been from the early days of federation up to the end of the war period, such a condition, if applied today, would effectually preclude the establishment of almost any new industry in Australia. During the earlier years of the Commonwealth, there was not such a great disparity between Australian and foreign costs of production, and it was possible for a well-capitalized concern to suffer the initial losses frequently involved in producing 40 per cent, of the Commonwealth’s requirements of any particular article, and then, when the necessary tariff, protection had been given, the company could recover the earlier, losses in a comparatively short time. To-day, however, that would seldom be possible owing to the larger differences in costs now existing, to say nothing of the present lack of opportunities for mass production in Australia, and the reluctance of investors to face a long period of losses or absence of profits on their capital. As already stated, the Government of the day did not approve of assisting the Australian sewing machine industry, and the result was that the Bendigo Sewing Machines Limited failed and went into liquidation in 1926 after producing 1,500 sewing machines. I visited Bendigo in company with the member for the district (Mr. Keane) and received a deputation whiph strongly urged that something should be done by the Government to assist the industry for four or five years while it was becoming established, after which it would be able to supply a big percentage of Australia’s requirements and could stand on its own feet.
– Is there any proposal to require the manufacturers to refund the bounty out of their future profits?
– There is a clause in the bill which provides that if the companies concerned make a profit of more than 10 per- cent, the bounty will be reduced accordingly. The failure of this company should not be taken as an indication that the successful production of
Sewing machines in Australia is impracticable. After all, it must be remembered that the Bendigo company’s failure was the natural result of having to manufacture, under Australian conditions, sewing machine heads on a free-trade basis in competition with similar heads produced in other parts of the world with much lower labour costs and under ideal conditions as to large output, and so on. As a matter of fact, inquiries made by the accountant of my department have proved that the Bendigo machine was practically identical with the best make of imported machine of that time, and, in a considerable number of cases that were investigated, it was found that, after constant use for three and a half years, the Bendigo machine had given almost complete satisfaction. It had been used by dressmakers.
– And in schools.
– In educational institutions and other places, and had given complete satisfaction. That was a noteworthy achievement, considering the brief experience of the company in a project not previously tried in Australia, and the results suggest that there is no adequate reason why the major part of Australia’s requirements for household sewing machines should not be made within the Commonwealth. I might add that the Wilson Sewing Machine Company, of North Melbourne, produced a few sewing machines in 1925, but it also’ had to close down owing to lack of protection. Some mouths ago, the present Government was urged to consider the best means of reestablishing this industry. In view of the fact that a favorable report on the industry had been made by the Tariff Board in December, 1925, a special departmental investigation was made in regard to the plans that had been drawn up for the establishment of a new company at Bendigo for the manufacture of complete sewing machines. That investigation showed that the successful reestablishment of the industry was well within the realm of practicability. The skilled employees associated with the original company will still be available; all production machinery, except a few obsolete machines that have been disposed of, is still in Bendigo, and the persons behind the venture are men of good standing and financial resources. Both the Bendigo and the Sydney companies are absolutely confident . that they can re-establish this industry.
– Will they guarantee that the whole of the machine will be Australianmade ?
– They guarantee that 95 per cent, of the article will be Australianmade. The only part of the machine which will not be Australianmade is worth about 2s. 6d. Furthermore, the Government was impressed with the assurances of those concerned that adequate capital could be obtained for recommencing manufacture and meeting the initial difficulties of manufacture and sale that are common to nearly every new enterprise. The Government was also seised of the potential value of the sewing machine industry to the Commonwealth. When producing between 40 and 50 machines per week, the original Bendigo company employed 60 hands. That means that if Australia can make all the sewing machines it requires, constant employment will be found for nearly 1,000 workers in sewing machine factories, in additiqn to which local manufacture will immediately bring about a demand for raw material, such as iron and wood for sewing machine, stands and cabinets respectively, and so provide further employment in the timber, furniture, iron and other industries. Furthermore, the sound establishment of the manufacture of household sewing machines will most likely lead to the production of factory sewing machines, such as are used in the boot industry. A factory will be established almost immediately in Sydney, and in January or February next will commence manufacturing the rotary type of household sewing machine. It might be mentioned that the manufacture of sewing machines does not require a large number of highly skilled workmen, because practically all of the parts of the machine are stamped out or otherwise made from mastergauges, dies, templates, &c. It is of course, essential that gauges, dies and templates should be exceedingly accurate, and be maintained in that condition. This latter phase of the industry requires the employment of skilled engineers, and on this point the Bendigo company has satisfied the inquiries of the Government. Accordingly, it decided to, introduce the present bill. It is significant that, immediately following the announcement of the Government’s policy in this regard, I was interviewed by Mr. R. M. MacDougall of Sydney, whose father, Mr. James MacDougall, started the steel wire industry, in Australia, and was responsible for the establishment of the huge works of Rylands Bros. Limited, at Newcastle, previously the Austral Nail Company. Mr. MacDougall, senior, has been for the last four years president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. Mr. R. M. MacDougall was works and sales manager, and a director of the Austral Nail Company, and, later, of Rylands Bros. Limited. He supervised the design and building of those factories and the training of the workmen and staff, numbering between 800 and 1,000 men, who were all Australians.
– To what extent are Australian materials to be used in the manufacture of the machines?
– The cost of the machine must be 95 per cent. Australian. Mr. R. M. MacDougall informed me that he could obtain the necessary capital and would, if sufficient, protection is granted, start a sewing machine factory in Sydney by the end of next November. Mr. J ames MacDougall will be a director and a substantial shareholder of the new company. “Mr. MacDougall expects that his com- pany’s production will begin at the rate of 5,000 machines per annum, and soon develop to 10,000 per annum. Already he has a suitable factory under offer. Fifty employees will be engaged at the start, probably 100 next January and 200 the following June. Both vibrator and rotary types of sewing machines will bo made. The company will build most of its plant in Australia and has already obtained an efficient engineering shop. Selling arrangements have been made with two of the biggest distributors of Sydney, subject to the quality of the machines being satisfactory. It is also important to note that, although all sewing machine heads are now imported, local industries have already been established for the manufacture of the ironwork stands, and also the cabinets. Some S,000 machine heads each year are thus fitted with Australian stands and cabinets, which are made in Sydney, and the quality and appearance of the Australian workmanship are exceptionally good. The cabinets are well worth inspection. The bill will certainly stimulate the local production of cabinets and stands, as well as render possible the manufacture of the machine heads. It is important to note that the duties on imported heads, imposed as from 20th June, 1930 - 10s. British preferential tariff, 20s. foreign - will at once return additional revenue to the extent of £25,000 per annum on the present importations. . That amount will, of course, be reduced as local manufacture progresses. However, it is not expected that more than 8,000 Australian machines will be made during the first twelve months of the operation of the. bounty, or more than 10,000 to 11,000 machines during the second twelve months. Therefore, the duties that are already being collected will be more than sufficient to pay the bounty during the first two years, and the Government is of opinion that these duties will cover the whole cost of the bounty during the five years of the operation of the act.
– Is there to be a trust fund?
– There will be no hankypanky business; the money will be allocated for this purpose as required.
The Tariff Board’s recommendations of 192G have been departed from in two respects. The first is in . regard to the duration of the bounty. The Tariff Board, recommended three years, whereas the bill provides for a five years’ bounty. Similarly, the Tariff Board recommended a reduction in the bounty of 10s. per head when the output of any manufacturer is between 2,001 and 4,000 machines per annum, and a further reduction of 10s. per head when the annual output exceeds 4,000. machines. But the Government has decided, for several reasons, that it is advisable to pay the full rate of bounty for the five years without any sliding-scale reductions. When the Tariff Board recommended the adoption of a sliding scale a factory was in actual operation with a regular staff, and it was ready to begin immediately a campaign of quick expansion which might have justified the expectation that after three years the imposition of the deferred duties would be the best course to pursue. But at present no Australian companies are operating. One company is dormant
– The Bendigo company is hibernating.
– That is so; and the Sydney company is only now making preparations to start production in a big way. To all intents and purposes, both companies will have to start de novo and will meet the usual difficulties that confront any new project. Moreover the Government is of the opinion, after carefully investigating the effect of increased production on overhead costs, that the reduction’ of 10s. per head recommended by the Tariff Board for an output of between 2,001 and 4,000 machines per annum was not justified by the actual trading results of the old Bendigo company. Four thousand machines per annum would be only 80 per week, which is a bagatelle compared with the Australian demand of 800 per week, and it was found in 1925 that an output of only 80 machines per week, or 4,000 per annum would represent, for the first two or three years at any rate, a total cost of production, .including direct costs of labour and materials, plus overhead and selling expenses, that would require the full .measure- of assistance proposed by the Government.
In any case, the interests of the Commonwealth are protected by other clauses of the bill. If experience shows that the bounty of £2, plus the duties - 10s. British preferential, and 20s. foreign - are too high at the stage when our manufacturers have obtained a large share of the local market, and should have reduced their overhead costs, then the net profits, together with the bounty, would obviously exceed the reasonable amount of 10 per cent, mentioned in the bill under clause 11. In that event, so much of the bounty as may cause the net profits to exceed 10 per cent, will be withheld from, or be required to be refunded by, the manufacturer.
It has been arranged for the further protection of the- public that the accountant of the department, Mr. Townsend, shall, in future, supervise the payment of all bounties and investigate the effects of them, with the object of ensuring that the recipients shall make the best use of them.
– He will have to work 24 hours a day to do that.
– Unfortunately, he is working long hours at present; but that can be dealt with in another way. In this particular instance, Mr. Townsend will be able to advise the Government as to whether the conditions are being observed, and whether the company is profiteering. He will also be able to ensure that the consumers will get a fair deal, as they certainly should do when public money is being expended to encourage an industry.
– What will be the ultimate difference in price between imported and locally manufactured machines?
– It is expected that when this industry gets on its feet the manufacturers will be able to produce machines equal to the imported machines at a lower price than the people have to pay for machines to-day. We believe that our experience in connexion with sewing machines will be a repetition of our experience in connexion with electricity meters. It will be rememberedthat when the New South Wales Electricity Meter Company started manufacturing meters in Australia the price of meters here was 36s. each, but to-day it is 27s. Similar instances of reductions in price have occurred after other manufacturing industries have been established here. First-class sewing machines can be landed in Australia for approximately £8 10s. each; but the public is being charged more than double that price for them. I believe that as soon as there is active competition in this industry in Australia, cheaper sewing machines will be made available to the public. There will be the additional advantge that the money spent on these machines will remain in the country and not go overseas.
The Government believes that any provision for lower rates of bounty would cramp the industry at the very time it needed capital and resources to develop its production on the very best technical lines, and to meet the intense competition that may be expected from the wellentrenched, vested importing interests.
The investigations that have been made indicate that the Government’s policy will result in the public obtaining good sewing machines at less than the present average selling prices.’ The original Bendigo machine was usually retailed at £15 cash, and sometimes lower, whereas nearly 70 per cent, of the imported machines are sold in Australia at £19 4s. cash and £24 time-payment. I doubt whether there is any industry in which so much wastage occurs, or the cost of distribution is so high, as in the sewing machine industry.
– That - is probably because the sale of machines has to be personally canvassed.
– Even if that is so, it does not justify the charging of such a high price for the imported machines. I am confident that the re-establishment of this industry in Australia will mean that we shall make available to the public an article at least equal to the imported machine at probably £15, as against the £19 4s. that is charged to-day.
– At what price will the machines be sold for in the early stages of the re-establishment of the industry? Has a price list been prepared?
– I am not able to give the right honorable member any details on that point at the moment. In any case, it would probably not be wise to make public the price that the rival companies propose to charge for their machines ; but there is every prospect that the public will benefit as the result of the re-establishment of this industry in Bendigo and the opening of a new factory in Sydney.
– Is there any effective provision in the bill to protect the interests of the public?
– The right honorable member may rest assured that the interests of the public will be safeguarded. Both the Sydney and Bendigo companies have undertaken to sell their complete machines at substantially less than £19 4s. cash, or £24 terms; and the Government is of the opinion, after examining all the facts, that these undertakings can undoubtedly be carried out.
I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of honorable members also because it will lead, to some extent at least, to the decentralization of industry. I was delighted when I visited towns like Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo, to find that a big industrial decentralization movement is on foot in Victoria. It was a revelation to me to see such well equipped factories as I found in those towns. We need to encourage people to establish homes outside of the metropolitan areas of all the States, and measures of this kind must have a good effect in that regard. One of the great difficulties that we are facing in Australia at present is the centralization of our population in the capital cities. We should do everything possible to counteract that. I am glad to submit this bill to the judgment of the House, for I believe that it well deserves the most favorable consideration of honorable members. Apart from the fact that the measure is designed to stem the flow of imports and create more employment in Australia, itshould lead to the re-establishment of the factory at Bendigo, which would, as I have said, mitigate the tendency towards the centralization of industries in the already well-developed capital cities, and provide a good means of livelihood for young men in Bendigo, who otherwise might have to leave their homes to secure employment. The opening of the new factory in Sydney should also improve the position of the industry by creating a healthy competition between the two Australian companies. When these two : factories are in full swing we may look forward with confidence to the day in the not distant future when Australians will make all the sewing machines that are needed here.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Gullett) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Debate resumed from 24th June(vide page 3132), on motion by Mr. Brennan -
That the bill be now read a second time. [Quorum formed.]
. In February of this year the Prime Minister made a public statement to the effect that he had been advised from London that among the reasons which had caused Australian stocks to fall in price were the fall in the price of our wool and the industrial trouble that occurred in Australia. The low price of ‘our primary products, and the industrial unrest that prevails here, undoubtedly make it difficult to obtain capital from overseas for new Australian industries. The fall in the price of our commodities also reduces the wealth of our own people and makes it difficult to provide employment for them and to maintain our present standard of living. These difficulties can be overcome only by meeting falling prices with an increased production at competitive prices. But the co-operation of every individual in the community is necessary to increase our production, and that co-operation is, in turn, entirely dependent upon the maintenance of peace in industry. In these circumstances, I submit that the value of this bill must be judged by the extent to which it causes the Federal Arbitration Court system to work more satisfactorily than it has done in the past. If we can have peace in industry under proper conditions we shall be able to increase our production. The bill will not tend to eliminate the irritating delays and’ duplication of awards which have been a feature of the past. When one examines this bill in detail one finds that it really does nothing for the various partners in industry - labour, capital, management; and tb( community. The only section, ‘upon which it will confer any benefit are union officials, who may be appointed under the bill as conciliation commissioners, in which office they will exercise practically all the powers now reposing in judges of tho Arbitration Court. The bill will tend to weaken or destroy the rights of individual members of trade unions. The Labour party has seriously injured the principle of arbitration by refusing to support awards made after the careful study of the industries concerned. Its attitude towards the timber-workers’ strike and the waterside-workers’ dispute went a long way towards destroying the faith of the people in the arbitration system. That faith was wounded in the past; from this bill it will receive its death blow. This is the thirteenth amendment of the Arbitration Act; it was moved on a Friday, and I am sufficiently superstitious to believe that the result will be fatal.
Every one must recognize that the federal Government has failed to grasp a great opportunity of producing something really worth while in the way of industrial legislation. The Australian Labour party was created forty years ago for the specific purpose of improving industrial conditions. The party has been consolidated, and to some extent organized, by industrial legislation passed in the meantime. Labour was returned to this Parliament with a definite mandate to make the federal arbitration system work satisfactorily from the point of view of the community as a whole. The Labour Government commands the largest majority ever enjoyed by any single party in this Parliament. It had a unique chance to break new ground; to get right above those issues which in the past have tended to divide the forces of industry. It should have brought forward a comprehensive scheme of industrial self-government, one which would restore, and maintain, goodwill, and banish the existing atmosphere of conflict and suspicion. It should have evolved a system whereby labour and capital could combine in harmony, giving to industry a real charter entirely. independent of politics. The truth of Mr.
Samuel Gompers.’ statement regarding the effect of the Labour movement’s entry into politics is becoming more and more evident. Speaking in New York, in 1918, he said -
The fact is that an independent political Labour party becomes either radical, socialistic, or else revolutionary - but it is primarily devoted to one thing and that is to vote-getting. Every sail is trimmed to the getting of votes.
Because the Australian Labour party has been intent upon winning political honours, the welfare of trade unionists has been, to a considerable extent, lost sight of. Members of the Government, as a result of their association with the trade union movement, were in a position to introduce legislation which would have conferred real benefits upon the trade union movement, but nothing of that kind has been done in the bill now before us. If honorable members will read the speeches made by myself and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) before the last election, they will see that the last Government was proceeding to carry out a constructive policy in regard to trade unionism. Speaking in 192S, I said : -
The bill aims at giving responsible and democratic self-government and control, to the unions that are registered in the Federal Arbitration Court. It places the responsibility of disciplining the members nf unions on the organizations themselves, and it provides means for the extinction of the smouldering fires of job control. All these things will help and not harm or hinder unionism at all.
– They are nicely turned phrases.
– Tes, and they outline a policy which, had it been carried into effect, would have benefited trade unionism, and industry as a whole. As Mr. Gompers pointed out, the attention of the Labour party is entirely devoted to winning votes. The good of unionism has been subordinated entirely to political exigencies. One has only to remember the recent coal dispute to understand that. First the miners were induced to give up their work, and they were then encouraged to .refuse the terms offered, because they were hoping all the time for some” form of political interference as promised by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore). The timber strikers also were led to believe for months that relief would bo given to them by legislation. They have since been undeceived. When the Bruce-Page Government brought down its arbitration amending bil! in 192S, members of the Labour party said that everything done by our Government tended to create industrial turmoil. Last year, however, when we introduced a proposal to abandon the field of industrial legislation to the States, the very same critics produced figures to show that the period during which the BrucePage Government had been in office had been notably free from- industrial trouble. . They cannot have it both ways. This merely provides another proof that the political Labour party is always ready to trim its sails to any wind likely to waft it to political success.
It is proposed in this bill to repeal the provision in the act providing that any ten members of an industrial organization may apply to the court for an order requiring the taking of a secret ballot. That provision has, since its insertion, been opposed by the small clique which dominates the trade union movement, and desires to perpetuate class warfare. They tried to show that the provision was intended as an attack on working conditions, and the Government has heeded their argument. Personally, I should like to see membership of a union recognized as a guarantee of efficiency, but it appears to be the policy of this Government to remove any provisions requiring persons associated with trade unions or their management to be properly qualified. For instance, conciliation commissioners, with a power formerly possessed by Arbiration Court judges, are to be appointed to deal with industrial disputes, but it is not stipulated that they shall possess any definite qualifications for the work. In my profession a man must first of all be qualified, and then, before becoming eligible for membership of our organization, must prove that he is competent. I should like to see such a standard of efficiency insisted upon that unions would not tolerate bad workmanship from their members.
I also think that the executive officers of trade unions should be given more definite tenure of office than they enjoy to-day. When a man has to stand for election every year, he is compelled to think continually of how the rank and file of the organization will regard his stewardship, instead of being able to take a long view of his work. Provided he is competent, he should enjoy the same security of tenure as the managers of big industrial concerns. I should also like to see trade unions interesting themselves1 in other things than fighting for awards before the Arbitration Court. Actually, wages and conditions should, as much as possible, be fixed, not by the Arbitration Court, but by bargaining between organizations of employers and employees, i should like to see, also, an extension of the social benefits that trade unions are in a peculiarly happy position to give. In other countries, where the workers have not completely immersed themselves in politics, they have themselves secured the benefits of unemployment insurance schemes, benevolent funds, labour banks, and the means of controlling and owning industry. Those activities provide an outlet for the energy and ability of members of unions, and enable them to rise to important positions instead of displaying mental agility in arbitration court cases, or ultimately becoming representatives of the workers in Parliament.
One of the causes of industrial unrest throughout the world today is that the active-minded men, who feel that their capacity is great enough to enable them to rise superior to the drudgery of their lives, have not sufficient opportunities to employ their energies. If. those energies were given full play in constructive union activities, there would be more industrial peace, bigger production, lower costs, and better conditions, generally. If there is any body whose duty it is to provide those opportunities, it is the Labour party. That party was brought into existence to raise economically the mass of the workers of this country. But our experience emphasizes the assertion that is sometimes sardonically made, that now that the Labour party has become a political force it realizes that there would be no reason for its existence if it cured our economic ills, and, accordingly, it wishes a number of grievances to remain unremedied so that it can use them for the purpose of obtaining votes. It should have been the object of this Government to bring down a bill designed along the lines that I have indicated, rather than one which is merely a pale reflection of obsolete measures that in the past have failed to ensure industrial peace, and that in the future may lead to industrial war. The people hoped for a comprehensive measure that would wipe out old sores, destroy mistrust and suspicion, allay antagonisms, and lay the basis for mutual trust and goodwill. Instead of that, they are given a replica of old shibboleths and formulas, dressed in somewhat similar garb, but with the difference that capital is to be chastised with scorpions instead of whips.
I deplore the time chosen and the methods adopted for the introduction of this bill. It was brought down in the middle of the hearing of a case in the Arbitration Court in connexion with the graziers’ award, a matter in which the Australian Workers Union, the biggest union in Australia, is vitally concerned. It is well known that the incomes of those who carry on the grazing industry of, Australia are to-day less than half what they were two or three years ago. When times were good and prices high, the shearers earned big money.
– The cost of living was high, too.
– I do not dispute that. I point out, however, that during, and since the war, the grazing industry carried Australia on its back, and enabled, not. only the shearers, but also many other people to enjoy much better conditions than otherwise they would have had. Now the industry has met such troublous times that many of those who are engaged in it can see their incomes disappearing. Dozens of men with whom I am acquainted are unable to employ any labour, even in their households. Large numbers of those who, last year, had an income running into thousands of pounds, this year are not able to meet the expenses of management. The industry has been the sheet anchor of Australia’s prosperity for the last fifteen or twenty years, and has paid high wages to those who have been employed in it. Surely, now that it is under the weather, th;s is not the time to bring down a bi’l which aims a blow at the procedure adopted in the making of its awards and to push the industry deeper into the morass from which it is making gallant efforts to extricate itself.
The provisions of the bill place individual members of unions at the mercy of union officials. .It is an ironical jest to call the measure a conciliation and arbitration bill, and to state in the title that it is “to promote goodwill.” According to the Sydney Morning Herald of to-day’s date, the President of the Chamber of Manufactures, in Sydney, holds the following opinion : -
Under a plea that the bill was designed to promote goodwill in industry by conciliation and arbitration, the Federal Government was threatening to land Australia still deeper in the bog of industrial instability and unrest. The measure had all the elements of discord and unrest.
– He is suffering from hallucinations, as are many other people.
– He and other manufacturers have a large amount of capital involved. They must consider not only that capital, but also the wellbeing of every worker who is dependent upon them for employment. That is a very serious obligation, and they speak with a due sense of their responsibility. If honorable members wish to make this a bill that- will bring goodwill and peace to industry, they should pay attention to what manufacturers and employers generally say regarding the provisions which, in their opinion, will lead to conflict. Their suggestions must hot be’ brushed aside; they have not been made in any partisan spirit.
– I am sorry to say that they ‘ have been bitterly partisan, and entirely unjust in their criticism.
– The. statement that I have just read is hot a partisan one. If every honorable member opposite approaches this matter in the one-eyed manner suggested by the AttorneyGeneral’s interjection, there is not the slightest hope of Australia being benefited! In my opinion, the bill will do a great deal to make unionists themselves dissatisfied with the arbitration system as well as with the control that is exercised” over them by their officials. The democratic safeguards that were incorporated in the last amending measure do not find a place in this. Just as the 1890 depression brought about a revolt of the workers against the employers, I should not be surprised if the existing depression results in the workers revolting against the tyranny of union officials. The bill will bring, not peace, but a sword. Many of its provisions contain the elements of class warfare, and will tend to create division where there should be unity. The result must be an accentuation of the bad impression that has already been created by many of the hasty and ill-considered actions of this Government.
In February last, the Prime Minister said that he had received from London advice to the effect that in the opinion of the outside world the low prices of our products and the industrial troubles that had occurred in Australia were the two great contributing factors to the loss of Australia’s prestige abroad. The abolition of compulsory military training, the imposition of embargoes on imports, the Government’s refusal to face the vital question of the cost of production, and its interference with the gold standard of currency, have tended to bring Australia’s prestige to the lowest level that it has ever reached. We should be careful to avoid doing anything further to accentuate that impression. It is worth while quoting the view of the London Times on this matter. Referring to a statement by the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) with respect to the cost of production, it said -
It is, of course, immaterial what Mr. Scullin subscribes to, because the purchasing power of the workers is not a matter within his control. Wages in terms of money are one thing, purchasing power is another. The point that really concerns the workers is the exchange value of their labour in terms of the necessaries and luxuries of life. In the long run the wealth production of any country divided by the number of its inhabitants decides the average standard of living, and nothing Mr. Scullin can do will alter it. It is important, however, to emphasize the condition in the long run, because Australia by borrowing abroad has been able hitherto to postpone the evil day. How little the position is yet understood there is shown by the recent complaint of the maritime workers that reduced imports have rendered thousands unemployed. That, too, was inevitable because, though the workers do not realize it, Australia’s difficulty is not internal but external. Imports would have diminished, tariff or no tariff, ‘because, as the exchange rates show, Australia had failed to create by exports, services, or borrowing the necessary credits abroad to pay for them. Meanwhile, there is no escape from the fact that if wealth production is diminished the people will have less to share. In the long run, the only remedy for Australia’s plight is increased production of goods at prices that will enable them to be sold in the world’s markets; loans, if she is fortunate enough to get them, should be regarded as temporary accommodation to provide a breathing space to enable her to put her house in order.
It seems to me that this bill represents Labour’s most abject failure since its assumption of office. It was given a special mandate to remove from the arbitration system all legalisms and difficulties that prevented the consummation of industrial peace. After a period of nine months, the mountain has brought forth, not a mouse, but a germ which may cause lockjaw in the industries of this country. Instead of’ putting unions under the control of the members themselves, they are to be governed by union officials. . Under clause 31, the principle of absolute preference to unionists is placed in the forefront of the bill. A worker will not be able to obtain a job under this provision unless he is a unionist. I am prepared to admit that unionism may be a good thing; but, if there is to be compulsory unionism in every calling, there should be certain fundamental qualifications associated with it. The first requirement is that there should be easy entrance by means of nominal fees, at any rate, into the unions. In New Zealand any man can join a union on payment of 5s. Extravagant entrance and maintenance fees should not be charged. The second requirement is that the members themselves should have complete control over their organization. Therefore, it is essential that the members should have the right to express their opinion by means of a secret ballot, which should be part and parcel of the constitution of every union. Everybody who has had to deal with large bodies of workmen knows that there is a tendency for a few dominating spirits, who very frequently do not properly interpret the mind of the whole organization, to take charge in union affairs. If there is no provision for a secret ballot, which makes possible the same independent expression of opinion as that obtained under the electoral law, the great body of the unionists will be unable to give full expression to their wishes in union matters. There should be a secret ballot clause in the constitution of every trade union.
– Can the honorable member name any organization of workers that has not such a clause in its constitution?
– The bakers’ union has no such clause.
– The marine cooks in their recent industrial dispute complained most bitterly that for several years Mr. Tudehope had not given them an opportunity to express their views. At the time of the trouble I quoted statements made in the press, including a letter from the organization itself, which bear out my contention. If honorable members say that such a provision is part and parcel of the constitution of every union registered in the Arbitration Court, what harm can there be in leaving the act as it is? What advantage is to be gained by eliminating it? If we are to have compulsory unionism, the members of unions are entitled to take secret ballots when they desire to express their opinion as a body.
– The provision for a secret ballot has proved to be very irritating, . and quite futile in practice.
– That is the most weak and unconvincing statement that I have ever heard a lawyer make. The Attorney-General suggests that we must not pass laws for the guidance and safeguard of the people of this country, because they may prove irritating to wrongdoers. If any organization is, working satisfactorily there will be no desire by its members for a secret ballot; but, should they be dissatisfied with the management of their organization, what democrat enjoying manhood suffrage, which gives the right of a secret ballot at election time, can possibly defend the attitude of the Government on this matter?
– Ten men could now dislocate the affairs of the union.
– Under the present act such a ballot can be taken only at the discretion of the judge; and, under the bill, it could be at the discretion of the conciliation commissioners. If the Government expects . the last word in wisdom to come from these commis sioners, and if it has supreme confidence, in them, they ought to be able to exercise sufficient discretion to determine whether or not a secret ballot should be held in those cases in which members of the union ask for it.
The second fundamental requirement of compulsory unionism is that if a mau does not desire to remain a member of a union, because, perhaps, he has accepted another job, or has started on his own account, surely he should be permitted to resign when he pleases. The bill stipulates that there can be no resignation while a plaint is under consideration. He would be a very poor secretary of a big union who could not keep a plaint continually under consideration by the Arbitration Court.
– There ought to be some limitation of time.
– Yes. It is absurd to suggest that this provision should operate for ever and a day. It is an iniquitous proposal. The Government should not be given power to force men into unions unless the unionist is given compensating safeguards. I notice also that the individual’s right of appeal to the court against expulsion from a union is eliminated by this bill. At the present time, a unionist has an opportunity to appeal to the court, and for some extraordinary reason the Government proposes to abolish the right of appeal. This is another right of the individual that is to be sacrificed for some mysterious reason. I am afraid that this proposal, if agreed to, will result in a certain amount of tyranny.
It is proposed that unqualified auditors shall be allowed to examine the books of the unions. The late Government brought in a provision to ensure that only qualified auditors should be permitted to examine those books. If there is to be compulsory membership of unions, compulsory payment of union fees, and no right of resignation from a union - a person, will be unable to obtain work unless he is a unionist - surely it is reasonable that the funds of the unions should be safeguarded in every possible way. The bill merely provides that a competent auditor may be appointed. In the medical association a qualified auditor is insisted on, and whether he is competent or not is ascertained by experience of his work. A similar course is pursued in the legal profession, members of which must first qualify themselves before they are accepted. Unionists, themselves should have control over their leaders and the handling of their funds. Some time ago the Miners Federation pointed out that out of about £64,200 contributed in union fees since 1920, only £19,103 had been drawn out. There should have been a profit of £45,096, and the Queensland section of the union claimed that the central council of the organization had nothing to show for it. If the payment of union fees is to be made compulsory, the unionists should be protected. The Bruce-Page Government applied to unions the same rules as those appertaining to friendly societies, to ensure the proper control of union funds.
Finally, it is essential that, if there is to be compulsory unionism, the members of ‘ the union should not be called upon to pay political levies without their definite consent.. In a civilized community there should be the’ freest possible expression of individual political views. If unionists are to be forced into a political party organization in order to get work, their funds should not be used contrary to their convictions. It is incompatible with compulsory unionism . to compel men to join political parties in which they may not have the slightest interest. It is worth while to consider the reasons why American unions decided not to engage in politics. Mr. Samuel Gompers says, in his autobiography -
The emancipation of the working class can be achieved through their own efforts and that emancipation will not bring class rule and class privileges for them but equal rights and duties for all members of society. Economic betterment is the first step to the desired end; to its achievement all political effort must be subordinated. Political action can be effective only by constituting the labour class a separate political party. The emancipation of labour’ is not merely local or national, but is international.
He stated that what he desires - and I imagine that it is what everybody desires - is that in seeking emancipation the working classes’ should not be segregated as one section, but should have equal rights with all members of the community. That; can be done only if unionism is divorced from politics. On many occasions Mr. Gompers pointed out that engaging in politics tends to dissi pate the economic influence of the unions, and has an adverse effect on their economic betterment and wage conditions. He says, at’ page 268 of volume 2, of his autobiography -
The federation has maintained that economic organization is adequate to deal with all of the problems of wage-earners. Its political action is simply to . utilize the functions of the trade union in another field.
He relates that he visited England and discussed this subject with representatives of the trade unions of Great Britain. He continues -
When it came time for me to speak, I referred to the fact that since the British Labour movement had inaugurated its political activity and launched an independent Labour party, progress in securing better wages, hours, and conditions of work had been retarded. At the conclusion of my remarks David J. Shackleton, then Leader of the Labour party and prominent in the Trade Union Congrees, said substantially: “Mr. Gompers is . absolutely right. I know from my own knowledge of the textile trade that wherever textile workers have been most active in. politics they have been the poorest organized with the poorest conditions.” After the dinner Mr. Whitehorn, Official Reporter for the Parliamentary Committee, told me that Mr. Shackleton had asked him to make no mention of that portion of the above statement. It seemed that for political expediency economic truth had to be suppressed.
What must happen all the time was described by Mr. Gompers in 1918 -
The fact is that an independent political Labour party becomes either radical so-called or else revolutionary - but it is primarily devoted to one thing and that is vote getting. Every sail is trimmed to the getting of votes.
– How did he know? He had no practical experience.
– He has been connected with unions all his life, and has been instrumental in lifting the standards of the American worker higher than those of any other workers in the world.
– Moonshine !
– The statement can be verified by official statistics and other authoritative publications. The effective purchasing power of wages in the United States of America is higher than in any other country.
– That is nonsense.
– It is true. In Philadelphia, the effective wages are from 15 per cent, to 20 per cent, above those in Canada, and Canadian wagesare 15 per cent, to 20 per cent, above those of Australia.
-What did Mr. Adam say?
– The- honorable member contends, that he and his. colleagues are. better qualified to speak on industrial matters than I am because they have had practical experience, and I am only a theorist. Now he asks us to accept the observations of, Mr. Adam, who passed through America in four or five months, against the experience of Samuel Gompers,, who. spent his, whole life in the industrial movement there. Politics makes the Labour party continually shift its ground, because it has allowed unionism to get away from the only true and safe ba,sis, - economic facts. Absolute preference to unionists must be accompanied by these qualifications - a minimum entrance fee, reasonable financial provision for carrying on. the work qf the union, no political levy, maintenance of the union as an economic organization, the right to; resign at any time, right of appeal, against expulsion and, proper protectionof the funds of, the organization. The abolition of the secret ballot- destroys- the possibility of’ an individual unionist, maintaining any check on hisorganizationandhonorable members, opposite, have neyer yet, adduced a sound reason for. adopting, that, course.
Thebillproposesto eliminate from theacttheprovision requiring the court totakeintoconsiderationthe probable economic effect of an award. Nothing woulddomoretodamage Australia in the eyes of the: would than the blazoning forth,aspartofthepolicyofthis Government,that,infuture,economic facts are to be- ignored, and that we intendtoactasifAustraliawereaRobin son.Crusoeisland,economically,politi- cally, and financially detached from the’ rest of the world.. We must recognize that w,e cannot take out of’ the pot more than isputinto it, and that the highest-average wage that, can be paid, in represented by the total wealth, produced divided by thetotal numberofworkersinthe community.Duringthelastfewyearswe haveshutoureyestothatfact.Asa result, oftheintrusionofpoliticsintothe economic fieldandtheuseofthe arbitration systemasafairy godmother- dis-. pensing borrowed money and the high-, prices received fpr products, in the pro-, duction of which only a limited amount of- labour is employed, we have been able to shorten hours, increase wages, and bring about a rigid demarcation of industry and employment which has led to considerable overmanning. Now we have reached the end of that period; the loan money available has diminished, and the price of wool has dropped. Yet the Government still refuses to face the facts. Recognizing that intelligent judges “will not find it possible to award wages which are so much at variance with economic realities, it has decided- to, substitute untrained partisans, who, as industrial commissioners, will! award a wage which cannot be justified by sober economic facts. It is interesting to quote the opinion expressed by Mr. Sawkins, Statist to the Industrial Commission in New South Wales. He was formerly associated with Mr. Justice Beeby on the- Board of Trade, and has had a long experience of industrial matters. He. shows, conclusively that whether economic effects, be mentioned in the act or not, they have, never been disregarded, and, never can be disregarded by the, court. In, July,1929,hesaid-
Twenty years history, has. shown, that; it is beyond, the. power, of the wage-fixing authorities to raise the average standard’ of living, either of the- basic-wage earner or of the wholebody of’ wage-earners. This can. only, come as a result, ofincreased production by, the nation, as a whole making more goods, to be divided amongst us all.
In addition, an examination of the history of the basic wage as fixed by the States indicates clearly that economic- necessities periodically bring; into being a uniform, basic-wage rate in all the States.. In fact, at the present time the figures of the. various- State basicwage rates-, have a- smaller range- than that of the Federal, Arbitration Court- basic-wage rates inthe different: localities..
The recital of the history of the attempts to establish a- basic-wage rate in- Australia is extraordinarily interesting’ as demonstrating these points as well as from the point of view- of- its, effect upon prices- and its effect upon unemployment.
When the basic-wage rates of all the authorities, State- or Federal; are examined it is found that, the- universal practice in. determining- the basic-wage rate has been, to choose. approximately the ruling, rate as a basic-wage rate and then to seek methods of justifying the chosen rate-in terms of whatever domestic- unit was . taken or prescribed. Experience, has- shown these authorities that marked departures from ruling rates, even when gradually applied; were inevitably, followed’ by a- corresponding movement of . the prices leveland, when- applied instantaneously, were followed by instantaneous movement in unemployment. Postwar history, which has been a period of disturbed prices in Australia, is sufficient to demonstrate these points very clearly.
That wage regulation does not of itself increase the effective values of wages is proved by the figure’s of the Commonwealth Statistician (Mr. Wickens) as to the value of effective wages over a period of years. These figures show that in 1920, thirteen years after the “ Harvester decision “, the basic wage being paid, despite the increases in the nominal wages, was not then equivalent to the actual wage of 30s. per week paid by McKay in 1907, and which the “Harvester decision” set out to rectify. All the wage fixation up to that time, whether founded on the number of children and a wife, or propped up by various devices of using index numbers, had gone for less than nothing. The basic-wage standard of living remained where it had been. The effective wage of 1907. disguised in a money garb which was certainly twice as voluminous but of only half its original texture and belittled, if anything, by the persistent efforts to improve it, remained the average living or basic wage of 1920.
To correct this position the New South Wales Government of 1920 brought in an 8s. rise in the basic wage suddenly. The reaction was swift. In three months the unemployment percentage rose from 7 per: cent, to 14 per cent., whereas other States showed only slight increases and . their unemployment percentage remained between 8 per cent, and 9 per cent. A similar result of increase in unemployment percentage to 10 per cent, occurred in Queensland on its attempt to raise the basic wage suddenly.
Then the wage-fixing tribunals throughout Australia, recognizing the disastrous effects that .had come from the sudden raising of the nominal basic wage, tried the other alternative. In October, 1921” New ‘ South Wales reduced its living wage from £4 Ss. to ‘£3 18s. In April, 1922, Victoria averaged 13s. Od. per day. In ‘ April J922 South Australia averaged 12s. ‘lid. per day. In Queensland, in April, 1922, the Arbitration Court reduced the basic wage from £4 2s. to £4. AH over Australia every State, whatever basis it determined its basic wage on, had come to a £4 dead level” so . as to “adapt its basic wage to the existing circumstances and necessities.
As a result the unemployment figures fell from those just quoted to 9 per cent, in New South Wales in 1922, 7 per cent, in 1923, 9 per cent, in 1924 and 1*925, and 7 per cent, in 1920, and, strange to say, for the first time the effective basic wage improved. By 1923 for the first time since the “ Harvester declaration “ of 1907,- the McKay i basic wage of- 30s. per week that was being paid in that year of 1907, was passed, the basic waste in 1923 being 8 per cent, more effective, but even then was still about 11 per cent. le?s than the “Harvester award “ declaration. This being 8 per cent, more effective- meant that the wage then received in 1923”, for the first time bought, more food, clothes, rent, fuel, £c, than it had ever been able to do before.
That is corroborated by the declaration of Mr. Justice Piddington when announcing the finding of the Basic Wage Commission in 1920. He pointed out that if the Harvester standard were to be maintained the commission should award a basic wage of £5 16s., but the commission did not do so, though attempts had been made in the past to ignore economic facts. Thus it was admitted that in the fixation of the basic wage the burden it would impose on production and the ability of production to bear the burden must be considered. By that attitude the Basic Wage Commission had checked an increase in wages, which would have been merely nominal, because economic circumstances would have dictated increased prices. This problem should be approached at the present time from the point of view of economic facts. The basic wage should be divorced from the index numbers and transferred to a basis of productivity. If an employee in a calling to which the index number is applied, by improved efficiency increases his .output, a reduction in the. price of his product becomes possible. Under the present system of using index numbers a reduction in the price of the article brings in its train a reduction in his wage. Surely the employer, should give his employees some bonus when price levels are .reduced as the result , of their increased output. The present machine-made wage will -never improve the position of the people, because it rises and- fails with the index figure. We should use another basis altogether for fixing wages. The most satisfactory method is by direct negotiation between the parties interested, who are practical men and are concerned with the economic possibilities of the situation. That would certainly be preferable to the parties appearing before an arbitration judge or conciliation “ commisioner and giving evidence on oath which, after all, is probably magnified. It is well known that the practice is for the advocate on each side to ask for more than he expects to get. We are much more likely to get results by introducing less politics and more self-government into industry, and I had hoped that the Government when introducing this bill would have taken a step in that direction. I have always regretted that men doing similar work should receive different rates of pay. That seems to me to be a calamity, and is only possible because, in fixing the wages and conditions of industry in Australia, economic factors have not be?n taken into consideration. I am disappointed that the Government has not introduced a new and comprehensive scheme which . the people of Australia would recognize as a satisfactory and final adjustment of the wage problem.
.- The speech of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) demonstrates clearly to me that his knowledge of industrial matters is decidedly limited. Lie. does not even recognize his own limitations, otherwise he would have suppressed ‘ the opinions that he uttered this afternoon.
– I would remind the honorable member that I quoted Mr. Gompers.
– The fact that the right honorable member quoted a bogus unionist is further evidence of his limitations. Arbitration has come to be recognized in Australia as an institution in our_ national life. It exercises a great influence ‘over the lives of the community generally, inasmuch as it is capable of regulating the wages and working conditions of practically every wage and salary earner in Australia. After the federation of the Australian States, wagefixing tribunals were established in some of the States; but in at least one State there was no such tribunal. In the States where those tribunals did exist they worked as separate entities, regardless of the industrial conditions existing in the neighbouring States. It is true that any disparity, or unfair commercial .competition between the various States before federation could be remedied, to a large extent, through the tariff, because each State had control of its own customs; but with the advent of federation and the granting of interstate freetrade, it soon became apparent to all leaders of public thought that industrial legislation on a Commonwealth basis was necessary to bring about some degree of uniformity. Let me quote the opinions of some of the leaders of public thought in those days. Sir Edmund Barton, Australia’s first Prime Minister, said -
The grant of interstate freetrade, which follows the adoption of a uniform tariff, ip likely, in many respects, . to be crippled unless the Commonwealth has power to deal uniformly with the conditions of employment throughout Australia. The conditions of employment and the price of articles are inseparably in’terwoven, and these conditions and prices are also inseparable from the nature of the tariff, whether it operates externally only, or externally and internally among the States.
Mr. Alfred Deakin, when . Prime Minister, said
To restrict the powers of the. Commonwealth to the mere imposition of duties,’ while conditions under which the manufacture of protected articles is carried on differ so widely in the different States, would be to permit discrimination and discord. …
Effective and useful as State industrial laws have in many cases proved, their operation is circumscribed by State boundaries, and it can hardly be claimed for them that they either do, or can, secure uniformity in the conditions of manufacture throughout Australia. No authority but the Commonwealth Parliament can do this. … As the power to protect the manufacturer is national, it follows that unless the Parliament of the Commonwealth also acquires power to secure fair and reasonable conditions of employment to wage-earners, the policy of protection must remain incomplete.
I agree with those sentiments. The policy of protection must remain incomplete without Commonwealth legislation designed to bring about uniformity of conditions among the States. Such a bill, providing for compulsory arbitration, was introduced . into the Comm’onwealth Parliament, and became law in 1904. It was supported by many prominent statesmen of the day. Mr. Alfred Deakin introduced that legislation, and it was supported by men like the Hon. C. C. Kingston, Sir Joseph Cook, the late Mr. Justice Higgins, and a number of other eminent men.
– It was supported by the brains of the nation.
– Undoubtedly. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Brennan), when introducing the present bill, quoted a statement of the previous Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and it is -well worth repeating. It reads -
The people of Great Britain, as that country began to advance industrially to the position of the chief manufacturing nation of the world, became conscious that hideous abuses were being practised in the industrial sphere. Employers were using men, women, and children as mere chattels, and in many cases abominable injustice was being done to them. In order to protect themselves against exploitation, employees began to gather together in groups, and to act co-operatively in their own interests. That action was bitterly resented by employers. Everything was done to prevent the growth of co-operation among the working classes, and the establishment of the principle of collective bargaining. But the struggle continued, and the workers gradually and irresistibly established that principle! They did it with the sympathy and with the full support of public opinion. Employers were often stupid and misguided, and it was from them the opposition came; the great body of public opinion was behind this great effort of the workers to secure equitable and decent conditions.
Mir. Bruce said that the employers were using men, women and children as mere chattels, and that in many cases abominable injustice was being done to them. In Tasmania in pre-arbitration days, there was no industrial legislation or wagefixing tribunal. Because of the existence there of outrageous conditions in industry, a royal commission was appointed by the State Government to inquire into the wages and working conditions of the workers of Tasmania, and the disclosures - made by that Commission were so shocking - it being clearly shown that sweating was rampant - that the Parliament of the day shamefully carried a motion eliminating the names of the employers and sweaters who were mentioned in the report. Notwithstanding that, I have with me the only official copy of the report in existence. It contains the names of the sweaters who committed these outrages in Tasmania. To give honorable members some idea of the conditions that existed in pre-arbitration days in Tasmania, I shall quote one or two extracts’ from the evidence accompanying the report.
– What has that to do with this bill?
– It has a lot to do with the bill. I am not going to give the names- of the honorable member’s friend.3 and supporters mentioned in this report.
– Everybody has agreed to the principle of arbitration, so why waste time on these things ?
– Honorable members on that side advocate the abolition of arbitration. I need only mention the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory).
– I obtained this report from the parliamentary library, and it is available to honorable members.
– No one is interested in it.
– It is evident that the honorable member does not wish the names of his political friends who sweated their employees to be made known.
– I haveno objection to the names being given.
– The following is the evidence of one witness: -
What is your occupation? - I am a sawmiller.
Are you a henchman, or what? - I am at the saw frame.
What are the terms of your employment - the conditions under which you work; - At so much per week.
How much? -£ 1 13s.- a week.
What are the hours of your employment? - Nine hours a day.
Are you a married man? - Yes.
Any family? - I have six in my family.
What rent do you pay? - 7s. a week.
When you are away on holidays do you get paid for them? - No.
Holidays are deducted from your wages? - Yes.
That man had been employed for twenty years in the service of a saw-miller. He was a married man with a wife and five children, and received themagnificent wage of £1 13s. a week. His rent was 7s. a week. In view of those conditions, is it any wonder that honorable members opposite do not wish to listen to this evidence.
– What is the date of that report?
– The evidence was taken in 1905 or 1906. The following is the evidence of another man in the employ of the samesaw-miller : -
You are a mill hand? - Yes.
What are your terms of employment? - By the week.
How much do you get? - £1 5s. a week.
Are you a married man? - Yes.
Have you any family? - Yes; two children.
Do you pay rent? - Yes.
Are you accommodated with a house owned by your employer? - Yes.
Do they allow you anything for rent - do you pay it out of your wages? - Yes.
What do you pay? - I pay 5s. a week.
Is there any concession allowed you by your employers ? - No.
Then £1 5s. is the total amount you receive from them ? - Yes.
How long have you been in their employ? - Close on six years.
Does the mill work on New Year’s Day and Regatta Day? -No: it is closed down.
You could not work if you wished to on those days? - No; it is closed.
The day’s pay is deducted? - Yes.
You are quite sure of that? - Yes.
Again, I ask, is it not necessary to have some authority to regulate wages?
– It probably is in Tasmania.
– Some persons of the same political views as’ the honorable member would take us back to those times if they could. Here is the evidence of an enginedriver -
What are you occupied at? - I am an enginedriver.
What are the terms of your hiring - your engagement as regards wages and so forth? -
I am a weekly servant, and am paid £1 10s. a week.
How many hours do you work? - Half an hour longer than any one else; from 7 a.m. till 6.30 p.m. is my right time. I am always a minute or two later cleaning the engine, and half an hour earlier to get up steam.
How many years have you been in the employ of- ? - I started at the , mill twenty years ago for him. Then.I was away for some years. I have been here eleven yours now.
Arc you a married man? - Yes.
Have you any family ? - Yes.
How many? - I have eleven.
Have you any rent to pay? - Yes.
How much? - 15s. a. week.
That man received the munificent wage of £1 10s. for 50 hours, a week in the old days of, freedom of contract, when, I have no doubt, economic considerations were pleaded as they are now, as an excuse for low wages.
– What government introduced industrial arbitration?
– The first arbitration bill was introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament by the late Honorable Alfred Deakin with the full support of every member of the Labour party, and every advanced thinker of that day. If the honorable member had been a member of that Parliament I can guess how he would have voted. Here is the evidence given by a carter and driver -
What is your occupation? - I am a carter.
What rate of wages do you receive? - £1 2s. 6d. per week.
What are your hours of employment? - I turn out at 8 a.m., and knock off at 5.30 p.m.
You have to attend to your horses in the morning? - Yes.
What hour do you do that? - I come at 7.30 a.m. to do that.
A storeman and packer who appeared before the commission gave the following evidence : -
What is your occupation? - Assistant packer.
What are the terms of your engagement as regards the wages you receive, and the hours you work? - From 8 a.m. till6 p.m., for £1 2s. 6d. per week.
How many hours actual work a week do you do? - Fifty.
How long have you been at this employment? - Since 7th August, 1905.
How long have you been receiving your present rate of wages? - A little over three months.
What were you receiving before that? - £1 per week for the first nine months.
How old are you? - Twenty-eight.
Are you amarried man ? - Yes.
Do you pay any rent? - Yes.
What rent do you pay? - Eight shillings per week.
Have you any family? - Yes; -two children.
A fireman on a ferry boat was- questioned as follows : -
What is your occupation? - Fireman.
What are the terms of your employment as regards wages? - I get 17s.6d. per week.
And what hours do you work? - I start at 7.30 a.m., and finish up at about 8.30 p.m.; that is, on two days in the week. About 7.30 a.m. till6.30 p.m. one day; and when in Hobart we finish a little earlier.
Do you receive your food ? - Yes.
And sleeping accommodation ? - Yes.
You say you work two days from 7.30 a.m. till 8.30 p.m., and- one day from 7.30 a.m. till 6.30 p.m.? - Yes.
What hours do you work on the other days? - I commence work at 8 a.m., andfinish at about 5.30 p.m.
Then you work two days of eighteen hours, two of eleven hours, and two of nine and a half hours, making a total of 77 hours? - Yes.
Do you ever work on Sunday? - Yes; we blow the boiler on Sundays. That takes about an hour and a half.
Do you get anything extra for that? - No.
Do you live on board the vessel all the time? - No; I have got my home in town.
– I should be ashamed to come from Tasmania.
– These things happened under governments of the same political complexion as the honorable member. The mate of that boat was also examined by the commission, and I take the following extracts from his evidence: -
What rs your occupation? - Mate on the steamer-
What is the nature of your employment? -
Working’ on deck, and discharging the duties of mate.
What wages do you receive? - £1 10s. per week.
What hours do you usually work? - Sometimes eight hours per day, and sometimes ten.
Have you been in the employ of the company long? - About fifteen years.
Although the man was the mate of this vessel for fifteen years, he received only £1 10s. per week. I shall now quote some extracts from the evidence given by certain female workers. The first, an upholsterer, was examined as follows: -
What is your occupation? - Upholstering.
What rate of wages do you receive? - 3s. 6d. a week.
What were you getting prior to- that?- 2s. 6d. a week.
Did you get 2s.6d. a week when you first caine ? - Two shillings.
Did you start at 2s. a week? - No; I came here a month for nothing; and then I got 2s.
You work the usual hours of the establishment? - Yes
How long, have you been here? - One year and five months.
I suppose the wages inthe cases that I have previously referred to could be regarded as basic wages, but in this case we have. got well below that.
– Slavery has been abolished and’ Queen Anne is dead!
-~There are those who would bring us back to the days of. slavery. A dressmaker gave the following evidence : -
What is your occupation? - Dressmaking.
What rate of payment do you receive? - Five shillings a week.
How long have you been at the dressmaking? - Three years next November.
In this establishment all the time? - Yes.
What wages did you get when you first came? - Two’ shillings and sixpence per week.
How much the next year? - Three shillings.
How long have you been getting five shillings? - Only last week.
What before that? - Four shillings a week.
How old are you? - Seventeen.
A saleswoman who was examined showed the conditions that prevailed in the establishment where she worked. I make the following extract from her evidence : -
What is your occupation? - Saleswoman.
What rate of pay do you get? - Thirteen shillings a week.
How long have you been here? - Just over four years.
What rate of pay did you receive when you first entered- service? - I started at 2s.6d. a week.
When did you get your first rise after that? - I think it was three months.
What did you get then? - Four shillings.
How old are you? - Nineteen.
Another saleswoman, employed by the the same company, gave evidence as follows : -
What is your occupation? - I am saleswoman in the underclothing department.
What rate of pay do you receive? - Five shillings a week.
How long have you been in this employ? - I shall have been here twelve months next month.
Did you start at 5s. a week? - No.
How old are you now? - Sixteen.
What time do you start in the morning? - At 8.30 a.m. till6 p.m.
Every day? - With the exception of Friday, then we have to work till 10 o’clock.
Do you have a half-holiday? - Yes; on Saturday, from 1 o’clock.
Your hours per week would be 50? - Yes, I suppose so.
Have you ever been absent from work through sickness ?: - Yes;” I’ have been away two or three times.
Did you get your wages just the same? - No; they were stopped.
Have you seating accommodation at your work, or are you standing up- all day? - I stand up all day.
I now come to the case of a female cashier; Her conditions are described in the following questions and answers: -
What is your occupation? - Cashier in the clothing department.
What rate of pay do yow receive? - Five shillings a week.
How long have you been ina employ ? - Ten months.
What amount were you paid when you first commenced? - Two shillings and sixpence a week.
Have you been- cashier all that time? - Yes.
Does a considerable amount of money pass through your hands every day? - Yes.
How old are you? - Seventeen.
Did you have- any experience as a cashier before you came here? - No.
Are you responsible for the amount of cash in the till at night tallying with the amount on the dockets taken during the day? - Yes.
Supposing the cash does not tally, what is the result? - I make it up if it is under.
Although she received only 5s. a week she was obliged to make up any discrepancy in her cash at the end of each day. A sleeve hand employed by a dressmaker gave the following evidence: -
What is your occupation? - Sleeve-hand, in the dressmaking room.-
What rate of pay do- you receive? - 4s. 6d. a week.
How long have you been here? - Two years and ten months.
What wages did you receive when you first started? - I came three months for nothing, andthen I got 2s. 6d. a week.
How long before you got another rise? -
I think it was about twelve months, and I got a rise of 2s.; that made it 4s.6d. a week.
Here is the evidence given by a butcher-
What is your occupation? - Butcherman; orderman.
What rate of pay do you receive? - £1 a week find my keep, and a joint of meat.
What are your hours? -6.30 a.m. till 7 p.m.
Every day? - All but Friday and Saturday.
How old are you? - Twenty.
Would your hours be longer on Fridays and Saturdays? - Yes; till 10 o’clock at night.
Any half-holiday during the week? - Yes; Wednesday.
What do you value your meat at? - 4s. or 5s.
Are you married or single? - Married.
The next witness to whom I shall refer was the proprietress of a dressmaking business. From her evidence I abstract the following : -
You carry on the business of a dressmaker? - Yes. “On you produce a list of the persons in your employ? - Yes. It is as follows: - F. M- , 9s.;B. M- , 7s.; Ina H- , 8s.; Eileen F- ,6s. Apprentices: Minnie P- , 4s.; Emma L- , 3s.; May F- , 2s.6d.; Daisy A- , 2s.
What are the hours of employment? - Eight hours a day - from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 0 p.m. On Friday evenings we work till 7 o’clock, so as to have everything finished by 1 o’clock on Saturdays.
What is your custom as to employment of apprentices? - When they come I generally pay them 2s. per week to start, as a rule. Sometimes I do not give them anything; but I generally give them something from the start to encourage them. Perhaps not the first week, as they may not be able ‘to do anything I give them to do. Then, after the first week, 2s.
You do not require gratuitous service? - No: 1 do not believe in getting anything for nothing. I always pay the girls from the beginning, as it encourages them to learn. I give them 2s. at first, and, of course, as they go on and improve they get more.
For what length would they get the 2s.? - As they get on. Perhaps in three months they may get a little more, or in six months; according to the progress they make.
Are they paid for holidays? - Yes; but when two holidays come in one week, they generally work half a day extra to make up for them. They work one half-day to make up for a whole day. They do not come back at night. They work on a Saturday afternoon to make up for it.
Ifa girl is absent a short time through illness, is any deduction made from her wages? - When she is away I do not pay her.
Have you been engaged in the trade a good many years? - Yes; a good while.
So much for the wages that were paid in those days. Now let us look at the hours of employment that then prevailed in the dressmaking business. This is another abstract from the evidence -
What is your occupation? - A dressmaker.
Employed by Miss M- ? - Yes.
What rate of pay do you receive? -9s. per week.
How long have you been in this employment? - About seven or eight years.
What hours do you work? - From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; on Friday nights until 7 o’clock; and on Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
How long have you been in Miss M-‘s employ? - Between seven and eight years. I have not been anywhere else.
What branch of dressmaking are you engaged in? - The bodices.
How long have you been receiving 9s. per week? - About six months.
What did you receive before then? - 8s. per week.
Do you get any holidays during the year? - Yes; all the holidays and Saturday afternoons.
And when you get a public holiday, are you paid for it? - No; we make up the holidays on the Saturday before or afterwards.
From the evidence given by another dressmaker I quote the following: -
What is your occupation? - A dressmaker.
How long have you been in that employment? - A year and four months.
What rate of payment do you receive? - 3s. a week.
What age are you? - Sixteen.
What wages did you receive when you first came here?-1s. . a week.
For how long? - For about six months.
What were, you increased to then?- To1s. 6d. per week.
How long did that last? - Three months.
Then what were you raised to? - To 2s. per week.
What was your next rise? - To 2s.6d. per week.
How long have you been receiving 3s.? - About four months.
Those cases are from the city of Hobart. “We . now come to three cases from the northern end of the island.
– Was any inquiry made into the profits of the firms, paying those wages?
– Will the honorable member say what government first gave relief from those conditions?
– The Government of Sir Elliott Lewis, when the Commonwealth Government held a pistol to his head.
Here is an extract from the examination of the next witness, a milliner -
What is your occupation!! - Milliner.
Are you employed on weekly wages? - Yes.
Are you head of the millinery department? - Yes.
We would like to know if you are in full charge of the millinery department ? - Of the millinery room, yes.
Have you the putting on and discharging of girls employed in your room? - I do not suppose I have.
Some one else puts the girls on ? - Yes. When they advertise for apprentices for the millinery, the girls are sent to me, and I interview them and recommend my choice, but I have not the whole say in the matter.
What is the practice when a girl is taken on as apprentice to the millinery? - When they come as apprentices there they come for twelve months for nothing and we are supposed to teach them the trade. We keep them on for three years and they get 2s. Gd. and os.
They get 2s. Od. for the second year? - Yes; and 5s. next year.
What is the practice in the event of one of these .girls being absent through sickness after she has been receiving payment? - That payment is stopped for the time she is away.
Every ti ie they arc absent their pay is deducted? - Yes.
Here is another case from the same district -
How are you occupied? - l am in the showroom.
How long have you been employed there? - About fifteen months.
What rate of payment are you receiving? - I am getting 2s. Od. a week.
What payment did you get when you first came? - I came for the first twelve months for nothing at all. I have been getting 2s. Od. for about three months.
This is the experience of a ‘bus conductor -
What is your occupation? - Conductor on the motor-bus.
What rate of payment do you receive? - 15s. a week.
How many hours do you work? - Two days I work fourteen, and one day I work ten. There are only three conductors on. There used to be four, and we have been going like this for a month or a little over.
Does that include meal hours, or is it exclusive of meal hours? - That is without meal hours; not counting meal hours in.
What hours will you work to-morrow? - Come at quarter to eight and work till eleven at night.
And on Sunday? - I go on at two o clock on Sunday and work on until ten p.m.
Are you running all the afternoon on Sunday? - I go out on the tourists’ drives.
Another case was that of a dressmaker at Launceston. For the first six months she received no wages, and, at the time of her examination, after she had been working for two years, she was receiving 5s. a week. Her wages were stopped if she was away through sickness, and she received no holiday.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) stated the other day that the spirit of Christianity should permeate social and industrial relations. What evidence of Christianity is there in the treatment of the workers whose cases I have cited? The doctrines of Christianity have been preached right through the ages. They were preached in the days when slavery flourished. The conditions I have described are unjust, un-British and un-Christian. In the words of the ex-Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, the employers were using those men, women and children as mere chattels, and, in many cases, abominable injustice was being meted out to them. Many honorable members on the other side advocate the abolition of wage regulation; but even they would not favour a return to the bad old days of slavery, and the open economic ring. The Federal Arbitration Court was established to co-ordinate aud stabilize industrial conditions throughout Australia, and to procure some measure of uniformity in working conditions. Prior to its establishment there was unfair commercial competition between the States because of the varying industrial conditions prevailing. Having regard to the limitations placed on the Federal Parliament by the Commonwealth Constitution, I am bold enough to say that the Arbitration Act has worked remarkably well during the 26 years it has been in operation. Only last year, when an attempt was made to abolish the system of federal arbitration, Mr. Justice Powers said -
I feel that I would fail in my duty to the public if after ah experience of thirteen years of the good work done by the court by conciliation and arbitration and the loyal observance of 90 to 95 per cent, of the awards by the unions, I did not assist as- far as possible in getting the questions answered in the negative, or the repeal of the act postponed for further consideration. I am satisfied that the suspension would be a great blow to interstate trade and commerce, and to the public, if some court, tribunal or board capable of settling interstate industrial disputes by conciliation and/or arbitration is not retained and the parties are left to “direct action” to settle interstate industrial disputes.
I agree with’ that. It would be quite impracticable to abandon, the federal arbitration system now. -Yet of late years there has developed an agitation for the abolition of the arbitration system: The attitude of the three main political parties may be summarized as follows: - The Federal Labour party has always fought strenuously for the maintenance of effective industrial legislation, and against any proposal for the abolition of arbitration. Cp to a few months before the last election the Nationalist party looked askance at any proposal for abolition, while I think it is true that the abolition of arbitration has always been favoured by the members of the Country party. The agitation to which I have referred culminated in the action of the Bruce-Page Government when it brought down proposals for practically abolishing the federal arbitration system. It was claimed by members of that Government that arbitration could be left to the States; in short, that we should revert to the old pre-federation system to which Mr. Justice Powers referred when he said -
One need only refer to the industrial legislation of the different States at the time it is proposed to repeal the act, to see what difficulties would at once have to be met by those engaged in interstate commerce, because the industrial legislation differs in every State and each State believes its own to be the best. Two States have wages boards and no arbitration act. Wages boards can only deal with a few branches of disputes. Four States have arbitration acts - all different. One State has child endowment - five have not. Two States have 44 hours by act of Parliament - one (Queensland) has notified its intention to repeal the act. Four States, generally speaking, recognize 48 hours with 44 hours in some industries. One State has an act making awards common rules - the others have not. One State has awards not affecting rural workers, others affect them to some extent. Some States fix a living wage on the needs of a man, his wife and two children, and other States on the needs nf a man, his wife and three children. It is hard to realize how that state of affairs and the many additional awards necessary if six States make six awards instead of one, to settle interstate disputes, can be considered to be an improvement on present conditions.
In Tasmania, even at the present time, it is impossible to get awards from the wages, boards for certain industries.
– That applies on the mainland also.
– That is so. In Tasmania it applies to the Carters and Drivers Union, for instance.
– Why is that?
– Because it is not a recognized industry under the Wages Board Act. The same thing applies to storemen and packers, and to clerks. Under Tasmanian legislation it is possible for the clerks employed by various firms to be working under many different awards. A clerk employed in a hardware shop may be paid £5 5s. a week, while one employed in a grocer’s shop next door may be receiving only £4 4s. a week. Honorable members opposite referred to the duplication of industrial legislation. That duplication would be much greater if the federal arbitration system were abolished.
– Why did not the Labour Government in Tasmania alter all that when it was in power?
– Because men of the same political persuasion as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) were in control of the Legislative Council. If we could abolish that body there might be some chance of making progress. It has always been contended by those opposed to the abolition of arbitration that if the legal protection of the workers’ were removed conditions would quickly revert to the old level and economic chaos would prevail. Many sections of employers openly advocate the repeal of industrial legislation, and urge a return to the open economic ring. A few years ago the Metal Trade Employers Association published a manifesto stating that under arbitration the unions had become bowelless tyrants, and advocating a return to the open economic ring. The Pastoralists’ Review, an organ which supports the Country party, stated recently that in order to achieve industrial progress, it was necessary to repeal the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and to abolish the basic wage. It is history now how the last. Government, in an attempt to abolish federal arbitration, suffered defeat at the polls. The election was fought chiefly on the arbitration issue. Those who supported the abolition of the Federal Arbitration Court were routed, and those who stood for the retention of the arbitration system were returned to power by an overwhelming majority. The Government claims, and .rightly so, that it has a mandate to make federal arbitration effective. I consider that the bill introduced by the Attorney-General is as nearly perfect as the Constitution will permit. It is a genuine attempt to bring the employer and the employed closer together, with a view to attaining the ideal of peace in industry.
I regret that the speeches of some honorable members opposite have not been constructive. Most of them have been destructive. It is easy enough to pull down, but it is hard to build up. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) claimed that the arbitration system was largely responsible for unemployment. If that be so, how is it that in countries which have no arbitration system there is more unemployment than in -Australia? The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) referred to the industrial conditions in America, and implied that if we followed the American practice here we would quickly achieve the industrial millennium. There is no arbitration system in that country, industrial regulation being by mutual consent of the parties; yet its unemployed number 4,500,000. In an article entitled “ Bankruptcy or Bedlam,” that he contributed last month to The World To-day, Mr. F. O’Hanlon quoted Mr. Green, the President of the American Federation of Labour, as having said that approximately one worker out of four in the United States of America is unemployed. Mr. O’Hanlon goes on to say -
So careful a statistician as Sir Josiah Stamp puts the number of unemployed in the United States of America at 4.300.000.
Judged by the acid test of supplying a livelihood for her people, American industry stands condemned. For her failure- there seems to be no excuse or extenuation. While to other nations the war was a source of grievous loss, to America it brought a torrent of gold. And with the end of the war. the flow has not ceased, for the nations which poured out their blood now pour out their hard-won earnings into the reservoir of American wealth. £18,000,000,000, a year is the estimated income of the 120.000.000 of the United States, an income equivalent to £150 a year for every man, woman and child. Yet 41/2 million workers and their dependents, amounting to 18,000,000 in all, have neither work nor well-being.
Yet theright honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) cites the United States of America as the country that is most likely to bring about the industrial millennium !
I suggest that one of the main causes of unemployment in Australia is the reduction that has taken place in the expenditure of loan money. Another principal cause is the installation of modern labour-saving machinery. Australia is spending thousands of pounds every year in the application of science to industry. New machinery is being put into commission as a result of that expenditure, and it is responsible for a greater output by a fewer number of employees. I quote again from the article “ Bankruptcy or Bedlam”-
Whatever doubts may ‘be cast on American achievement, there can be no denial of her efficiency and productivity. Skilled observers stand amazed at her technique and her energy. Statistics, official and otherwise, attest the truth of their observations. Steel companies to-day produce three times as much as they produced in 1914 with the same number of men; tobacco. companies within the last five years have increased their output by S3 per cent, with 13 per cent, less labour; in the same period the petroleum industry, with 19 per cent, less hands, has gained 84 per cent, in output. With a view to illustrating the relative efficiency of labour, a bulletin was issued by the National Industrial Conference Board towards the end of the year 1928 showing the value added per wage earner, per annum, in various industries. Here are some extracts -
These figures indicate that the American workman (aided by machinery) is three times as productive as his British, competitor.
I am pleased that the outstanding feature of the bill is conciliation. An effort is to be made to promote goodwill in industry, and to achieve that objective conciliatory, rather than coercive, methods must be adopted. The Government is anxious that there shall be an atmosphere of conciliation rather than an atmosphere of the court, inwhich the parties to the dispute are at one another’s throats in a fight to the finish. That is an altogether wrong spirit. The bill purports to introduce a spirit of goodwill. The act to-day is far from perfect; its procedure is too slow, too cumbersome, too costly. The passage of this measure and the appointment of conciliation commissioners will make the court more accessible and less costly; and will make it work more quickly than it has done previously. The existing act contains many savage and vicious provisions. The spirit underlying it is one of compulsion and force, whereas it ought to be one of sweet reasonableness and common sense. The error that the last Government made was to embody in a conciliation measure the penal clauses of the criminal code.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) in the policy speech that he delivered prior to the last election, said that if he and his party were returned to power he would endeavour to remove the entangling legalisms of the arbitration system. I have had some little experience of arbitration matters, and I am satisfied that the presence of our legal friends in the Arbitration Court is not conducive to an early settlement ‘ of any case. I am pleased that the Government has seen fit to provide in this measure that solicitors shall not bc permitted to appear in the court except with the consent of all the parties and the approval of the judge or the conciliation commissioner. Under the existing law, cases are continually held up pending an appeal to the High Court of Australia to prove something that is apparent to every one, such as the existence of a dispute. This measure proposes to allow the court itself to decide whether a dispute exists or not. One could quote ad libitum the opinions that have been expressed by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the exPrime Minister of Australia, Mr. Bruce, regarding the necessity for an effective and up-to-date arbitration law, and. the comparative efficiency of the existing law despite its many unsatisfactory provisions. Only a few months prior to the last election those gentlemen defended the arbitration system. The policy that they placed before the electors must have been dictated by some outside body.
There is one other point that I should like to make regarding conciliation commissioners and the object of conciliation. The chief purpose of the bill is to promote goodwill in industry, by conciliation and arbitration. It is proposed to set up a court of conciliation, with a view to enabling the parties to arrive at an amicable agreement. The conciliation commissioners are to be vested with the same powers as are conferred upon a judge of the Arbitration Court.
The Leader of the Opposition, and other honorable members opposite, have criticized the provisions that relate to the appointment of conciliation commissioners, on the ground that a person might be appointed who did not possess special qualifications, that the commissioners would have no security of tenure, and that there would be no appeal from their decisions. Yet those honorable members who make that complaint advocate a wages board system, the basis of which is identical with this. The chairman of a wages board has no security of tenure, he does not necessarily possess any special qualifications, and there is no appeal from his decision.
There is another provision that I am glad has been incorporated in the measure; it is one that I believe will be conducive to the early settlement of disputes. The existing law provides that “ industrial dispute “ means “ any threatening or pending or probable industrial dispute.” So soon as trouble is pending, probable, or threatened, the conciliation commissioners will be able to jump into the breach and effect a settlement before there is any dislocation of industry.
With other honorable members I regret that the Constitution will not permit of our making this a better bill than it is. The Leader of the Opposition complained that the Commonwealth Court can deal only with interstate disputes. That is perfectly true. It is necessary for that court to have the power to deal with all disputes and to make a common rule.
I applaud the Government for its proposal to charge the conciliation commissioners with the duty of acting according to equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities or legal forms. They will be removed entirely from legal entanglements, and will not be bound by the rules of evidence; but they may inform their minds in any manner that they may think fit, with a view to reconciling the parties and inducing the settlement of a dispute by amicable agreement. Clause 17 proposes to remove the provision in the act that makes it mandatory for the judge to take into consideration the economic effect of any award. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) asked how that could be done in a dispute in which railway employees were concerned. He stated that every railway system in Australia is losing money, and that if the judge were compelled to take that fact into consideration he would be unable to grant in such a case any amount higher than the basic wage. The same thing would happen in a dispute affecting the teachers of the Education Departments of the States. There is no monetary return from their services and if the judge were obliged to consider the economic effect of any award he might, make, he would be unable to grant to the school teachers of this country more than the basic wage. It would be most difficult for any judge to arrive at a decision in those circumstances. I claim, however, that the matter should be left to the discretion of the judge. Under this measure he will be able to inform his mind in any manner that he may think fit, and thus will have the power to consider the economic effect of his award.
– Why remove the provision if he will be able to consider the economic effect?
– Because it amounts almost to a direction in favour of the reduction of. the wages of the workers. If wages are reduced and the purchasing power of the people of Australia is lessened, God keep the business community. The result will be decreased employment and further stagnation. Undoubtedly sound argument can be advanced in favour of a. readjustment of rents, interest rates and capital values generally; but it would be economic madness to reduce the wages and lessen the purchasing power of the people of this country.
The only other provision to which I desire to refer relates to the appointment of conciliation committees. Under it, a conciliation committee can be appointed in any locality to deal with an interstate dispute. That provision is in the exist ing law; but the conciliation commissioners will be able to sit in the locality in which the dispute originates, and probably nip the trouble in the bud. The policy of this party is conciliation first; and, if that should fail, arbitration. Without provision for arbitration there would be no alternative except direct action, in the event of conciliation breaking down. The Government is a firm believer in constitutional methods, and prefers arbitration to direct action.
I reiterate that the people of Australia gave to this Government on the 12th October last, a definite mandate to make arbitration effective. I trust that this House will respect that mandate.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
.- I understand that the Government desires to complete the debate on the second reading’ of this bill to-night.
– I understood that it was to be finished by to-morrow afternoon.
– No; to-night.
– Quite a number of honorable members desire to address themselves to the bill, and, therefore, I shall curtail my remarks, and make them as concise as possible. I feel that in being asked to support the proposed amendments to the Arbitration Act we are called upon to undertake a very important task, because we are asked to do something that will have the effect of promoting goodwill and peace in industry. We ought to approach the subject of conciliation and arbitration in the spirit of the invitation contained in the words, “ Come, let us reason together”. ‘The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) opened the present session of this Parliament in that spirit. He urged us to resolve ourselves into a kind of economic convention, to disregard party differences, and to approach the Government’s legislative proposals purely from an economic point of view, which is from the point of view of reason. I, for one, desire to consider the present bill from that aspect. I have listened patiently to the lengthy speeches that have been delivered, and I consider that honorable members on both sides, but particularly on the Labour side, are prone to say things that they do not mean. That tends to introduce an element of unreality into our debates.
Members on the Labour side, especially, are constantly saying, not only by inference, but in so many words; that honorable members on this side represent the capitalistic interests, and those interests only. They declare that we have no concern for the welfare of the genuine worker. I do not believe that members on the Labour side mean what they say. My conviction is that every member of this House is desirous of improving the lot of every man, woman and child in the Commonwealth. If honorable members opposite spoke their real mind, they would admit that we on this side are just as anxious as they are to serve the best interests of the workers of Australia. We shall never have goodwill and peace in industry until we have goodwill and peace in politics.
– An industrial arbitration act containing criminal provisions is not likely to prove successful.
– I shall deal with that aspect of the matter later. Certain members on the Labour side are constantly inveighing against the capitalists, and calling them, as was done in this debate, wild beasts. One member pointed out that it was impossible to reconcile the interests of the capitalistic employer with those of his employees. I can understand that statement being made by a member who sincerely believes in the Labour objective, which is the socialization of industry, because he considers that the interests of employer and employee are antagonistic and irreconcilable; nothing will satisfy him short of the complete control of industry, or, in other words, its socialization. That is an ideal so utterly remote that I believe that it has no appreciable effect on the practical judgment of most members on the Labour side. They hold this objective in a dim and idealistic way, but it has little effect on their judgment when they come to deal with practical affairs.
Take the speeches delivered recently by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde). He is not only trying to serve the interests of employees, but is doing his utmost to promote those of the capitalistic employers, which are supposed to be utterly irreconcilable with them. To-day, in introducing the bill to provide for a bounty on sewing machines, he said that the Labour Government was prepared to guarantee to capitalistic employers a 10 per cent, return on the capital invested in that industry.
– What is wrong with that?
– He did not say that he was prepared to guarantee a 10 per cent, return.
– He practically guaranteed it. In effect, he said to those employers - “You risk your capital in this venture, and the Government will give you this bounty, if and until your profits exceed 10 per cent.”
– The honorable member may not anticipate the debate on another bill.
– I was merely showing how difficult it is for us to act on the invitation of the Prime Minister to ‘ sit round a conference table, so to speak, and take counsel together, in order to bring about peace and goodwill in industry, while one party holds the views that certain members of the Labour party express in regard to employers. Some of the ideals of that party are so remote as to have no appreciable effect on their practical judgment.
Before I deal with the bill itself, I should like to say a word or two about the circumstances that have led us to our present position. In order to understand the exact extent and nature of the proposed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, I have gone carefully through that statute, and I have been struck with its breadth, generosity and comprehensiveness and believe that its provisions, if properly administered, would very largely promote goodwill and peace in industry. I have been an advocate of the federal arbitration system ever since I entered Commonwealth politics. I supported the BrucePage Government strongly when it brought down the 1928 act. It will be remembered that the late AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) introduced the bill at the end of 1927, and he delivered his second-reading speech upon it in that year. The measure was not further proceeded with at that stage, in order that it might go out to the public and be care- fully considered by every interest involved, so that -when we returned in 1928 we should be in a position to discuss it from every point of view. That gesture on the part of the Bruce-Page Government showed, at least, a bona fide belief in the soundness of the measure. In 1928 the bill was discussed, and it will be remembered that the AttorneyGeneral dealt with the suggestion that federal arbitration should be abolished. He said that he tabled the bill then under discussion as the Government’s answer to those who said that it should be abolished. I stated at that time that I supported the measure most heartily. Then came the election of 1928, and, from the public platform in my constituency, I supported the act that had been passed by Parliament only a few months previously. Among other things I specially supported the penal clauses of the act. That was my fifth election in Fawkner, and I was returned as a supporter of that measure, and the principles involved, by the largest majority that I had ever secured.
After that came the proposal of the Bruce-Page Government to vacate the field of federal arbitration. I opposed that, and. I went back to the same platforms in the constituency where, a few months before, I had strongly supported and commended to the people the act which had been recently passed. I criticized the action of the Government, and I had the support of Labour on that occasion,’ but on a distinct understanding as to the ground on which I received it. It was given ‘ on one ground only. I was told by my Labour friends that they had opposed me at every election in the past, and probably would do so at every election in future, but on that particular occasion they endorsed my attitude in refusing to support the BrucePage Government in its endeavour to vacate the field of federal arbitration. That was the distinct understanding on which I received the support of Labour. I emphasize that because it has an intimate bearing on the mandate which the present Government claims to have received. Two or three nights before election day, at my last meeting in the industrial centre of my constituency, I was asked, “ In the event of being’ returned will you vote for the repeal of the penal sections of the Arbitration Act and the whole of the Transport Workers Act?” I replied, “Most emphatically no. I do not want to get one vote under a misapprehension. In regard to those measures I am heart and soul in sympathy with the Bruce-Page Government, and, if returned, not only shall I not vote for the repeal of them, but I shall support the Government in every step it thinks necessary to ensure obedience to arbitration awards, on which obedience the success of any arbitration system absolutely depends.” I am sure that my Labour friends will confirm what I have said; no vote was cast for me under any misapprehension as to what my attitude would be in regard to those measures.
– Labour was helpless to retrace its steps at that time, anyhow.
– Because the nominations had closed.
– Quite so; but Labour was satisfied to support me on one ground only, namely, that I was opposed to the abolition of the Federal Arbitration Court. Labour electors could have refrained from voting.
– No; voting is compulsory.
– There is a way in which an elector can express his disapproval of a candidate without rendering himself liable to a fine for having failed to record a. vote. I come now to the mandate that is said to have been received by the Labour Government to bring down a measure such as is at present before the House. I have no mandate to support such a bill, and the Government has no mandate from the people to amend the Arbitration Act in the manner proposed. Many people who have no association with trade unionism, and usually support the Nationalist party, voted for Labour candidates at the last election, on the one ground that Mr. Bruce insisted from the beginning to the end of the campaign that the repeal of the Arbitration Act should be the determining issue. By that insistence he made the election practically a referendum on the question, “Do you wish the Federal Government to remain in the field of arbitration ?” Does the honorable member for
Flinders (Mr. Holloway) imagine that lie was returned by a vote that was sympathetic to the general policy of Labour ?
– He was returned because the Crimes Act had been put in operation against him.
– I say without fear of successful contradiction that he was returned by the swing of Nationalist votes against the late Prime Minister, caused by the expressed intention of his Government, if returned to power, to vacate immediately the field of federal arbitration. The present Government’s duty is to legislate on behalf of, the people, and unless its general policy can be shown to have been endorsed by the people it cannot claim to have a mandate to give effect to it. In. reference to the legislation now before us, the Government’s mandate is not from the people, but from the trade unionists.
– Is not a government to be judged by the policy announced by its leader?
– But the Government claims to have a mandate in regard to a particular measure. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Brennan) will admit that thousands of Nationalist votes were recorded for Labour candidates on the one ground that to vote for supporters of the Bruce-Page Ministry would be to declare in favour of the evacuation of the field of federal arbitration.
– That was not the only reason.
– I admit that. It is impossible to claim for any one feature of the Labour policy a general endorsement by the people. However, I am not concerned as to whether the Government feels that it has a mandate. I have to deal with the bill on its merits, and I ask myself whether my constituents gave me a mandate to support such a proposal. I reply unhesitatingly that I have no such mandate; that is clear from my reply to the questions asked of me regarding the penal clauses of the Arbitration Act and the Transport Workers Act. I stood as a Nationalist, not as a Labour candidate, and the electors knew exactly how I would vote if I were returned and these issues arose. With a full understanding of my attitude they elected me to represent them, and in those circumstances the Attorney-General will agree that I have no mandate to support the bill.
– The honorable member’s mandate is distinct from the mandate of the Government.
– Quite so. It is not my purpose to show that the Government has no mandate, but I express my opinion, based on the character of the proposals before us, that the mandate is from the trade union movement.
– Suppose that it is?
– If a proposal is intrinsically right the source of the mandate does not matter;- the Government need not have a mandate at all. If the bill makes for goodwill and peace in industry, I shall .vote for it; if, in my opinion, it does not, I shall vote against it. The first question I ask of myself is whether the amendment proposed in the; bill will tend to achieve the end we all have in view - the promotion of goodwill and peace in industry. That is the test. Before declaring whether the proposals are an improvement on the present act, let us consider the essence of existing legislation. Remembering that this Commonwealth legislature is hampered by constitutional restrictions, but having regard to the extent of its legislative power in industrial matters, how does the present act propose to perform its function, of promoting goodwill and peace in industry? It proposes two methods - conciliation and arbitration. It realizes that for the purpose of effective regulation of industry, organizations of capital and labour are essential. It recognizes also that when power is concentrated in the hands of individuals or groups of individuals or organizations there may be a tendency to abuse it, to use it tyrannically;, therefore, the act makes the tyrannical use of power by capital or labour a punishable offence.
– Does not the honorable member think that the act can be put to good use?
– I agree with honorable members opposite that splendid work has been done under the present act. But I am dealing with the methods by which it is designed to effect its purpose of promoting peace and goodwill in industry. It realizes that in the in- terests of everybody, disputes, if they arise, should be amicably settled, but that, if possible, they should be prevented. To that end provision is made for the appointment of a conciliation commissioner, who has no power of arbitral decision, but whose duty is to endeavour, before a dispute has matured, to bring the parties together in friendly conference with a view to settling their differences. That is an excellent thing, and every one approves of it. The next step is this : If it is found impossible to effect settlement of a dispute by means of conciliation through the agency of a conciliation commissioner, then, under the act, the judge must come upon the scene. So that the judge may make impartial decisions the act provides that he shall be perfectly independent of outside influences. First of all, he is given life tenure which makes him independent. It is recognized that it is advisable to free the judge as far as possible, in the exercise of his function, from legal technicalities and forms, and provision is specially made in the act for that. The judge need not even bother his head about the rules of evidence in considering a case. He can inform his mind in any way that seems to him just so that he may properly exercise his function of arbitrator.
– He may even consider the economic effect of his award.
– I am coming to that. I am trying to realize the atmosphere in which the judge acts, because we have heard so much about these dreadful legal technicalities. The act provides that so far as is humanly possible the judge must be free to exercise his own good common sense in the discharge of his arbitral ‘functions. The judge must act according .to the principles of equity, of good conscience, and of the substantial merits of the case that he happens to be trying, and when dealing with any industrial matter, he must have regard to the claims not only of those immediately concerned, but also of society ns a whole. Even when an agreement has been come to amicably by the parties, and it is desired to register it as an award of the court, the judge, in examining it, must have regard to the interests of the community in general, and has power to disallow any term of such agreement if, in his opinion, it is detrimental to the interests of the general community.
– That places a big responsibility upon the judge. .
– It is a tremendous responsibility, and in no way does the amending bill relieve a conciliation commissioner or a judge of that responsibility; rather is it increased. A man who is carrying out this important work cannot be relieved of responsibility. It is vital work concerning the very best interests of the community as a whole. The decision of the judge may have the widest effect throughout ‘ the community. Therefore, we saddle him with full responsibility and give him the utmost freedom, so that he may come to a just decision. If he thinks that the circumstances of the case warrant it, he may appoint a conciliation committee, and delegate to it the power necessary to enable it to bring the parties to an amicable settlement of the dispute. Not only that, but .the judge may appoint assessors, If he is considering a case in which there are technical difficulties on which he does, not feel competent to give an opinion, he is empowered under the act to call, in assessors, men who are experts in a particular class of work, to assist him in giving his judgment. If the judge thinks it advisable he can refer the whole or part of a dispute to a local industrial committee, and clothe it with the power necessary to enable it tq investigate and report upon the best settlement, in its judgment, of a particular dispute.
– The present judges have never exercised any of those three functions.
– I am now dealing with the act and what is possible under it.
– And the bill.
– No. I shall come to the bill presently. I have already said that before I considered whether the proposed amendments would be improvements to the act, I must first of all get a clear idea of the existing law which we are now asked to amend. I shall consider in a moment whether, having regard to the object aimed at, the amendments would improve the present act. That is my task.
– There is much that is good in the act.
– There is a great deal more good in it than most people imagine. There is more good in it than even I imagined until I had made a careful study of it with a view to considering the proposed amendments on their merits. If I consider that they would be improvements, I shall support the bill, but if I consider that they would be a detriment to the act I shall vote against them. Let us consider the amendments themselves. First of all, take the question of conciliation, about which we have heard so much, and which, we all agree, is the ideal at which we are aiming. We cannot force goodwill or peace, but we can induce goodwill by kindly action and treatment.
– -Not by penalties.
– No one suggests that we can force goodwill by penalties, but I shall deal with penalties in due course. I am taking one thing at a time. We cannot force peace or goodwill, and that is why, under the act, a conciliation commissioner may be called in. In that event he is clothed with no judicial power, and has no power to make an arbitral decision. He has the power simply of reconciliation. He is a recon.ciliator wherever reconciliation is possible. In examining the proposed amendments, I find, in the first place, that the new conciliation commissioner is to be given practically all the powers of a judge. We have been trying, as far as possible, to get away from the idea of having a judge. But by clothing the conciliation commissioner with the powers of a judge we shall rob him of his power as a real conciliator. I do not quite understand the position of honorable members on this side who assume that the new conciliation commissioner will of necessity be a secretary of a trade union. I do not. know whether that will be so or not; but it is suggested that the new conciliation commissioner must, unlike the present judges, be a man with an intimate knowledge of industry and industrial conditions. Where are we to find such a man?
– I . am willing to take the job.
– God forbid. We have been told that a judge, because of his judicial training, holds aloof, so to speak, from the world of business and industry, and is, therefore, unfitted to deal with industrial matters, and that a conciliation commissioner with the requisite knowledge of industrial conditions is necessary. But where are we to find such a man ? If he has an intimate knowledge of industry or industrial conditions he must have been either an employer of labour or an employee.
– He may be both.
– He may have started as an employee and risen to the position of employer. To begin with, a labour man will naturally view a successful employer with suspicion.
– Labour selected Sir Robert Gibson to act in that capacity on many an occasion.
– That may be so; but Sir Robert Gibson was not given any power to make an arbitral decision.. He acted as a real conciliator, and not as a judge. But it -is intended, under this amending legislation, to make the new conciliation commissioner a judge, and if he is an employee he will be viewed with suspicion .by the employer, and if he is an employer he will be viewed with suspicion by the employee. The conciliation commissioner will be clothed with power to call the parties to a dispute before him, so that they may reason together and endeavour to come to a settlement. But it must be remembered that, in the event of no agreement being reached, the conciliation commissioner will have the power, in the last resort, to make a binding decision from which there is no appeal. That power alone will destroy his function of conciliator. By clothing him with judicial powers we make conciliation and the existence of a spirit of goodwill and peace among the parties to industry absolutely impossible.
– The conciliator may not necessarily arbitrate on any particular case.
– That statement is indeed far-fetched. It is generally admitted that the present act has enabled a great deal of good, to be done in the direction of conciliation. The late Mr.
Stewart did an immense amount of invaluable work as a conciliation commissioner in the settlement of industrial disputes, not by virtue of his extensive knowledge of industry and industrial conditions, but by the exercise of simple kindness, tact and good sense. Yet in the face of this, honorable members opposite have argued throughout this debate that the conciliation commissioners should be clothed with judicial powers and be equipped with a wide-knowledge of indus. trial affairs. Our experience with Mr. Stewart showed that this is not at all necessary; in fact, it is absolutely unnecessary. In certain cases the very fact that a man has a wide knowledge of industrial matters might incapacitate him from exercising conciliatory powers effectively. I had a most interesting conversation, with Mr. Stewart on this subject shortly before his death. I found that he was strongly of the opinion that a vast amount of good could be done by an extension of the principle of conciliation and an increase in the number of commissioners, who, he considered, should be readily accessible in different parts of the Commonwealth to the parties to a dispute. But Mr. Stewart did not even suggest that the commissioners should be clothed with judicial powers. He showed me, in the course of our conversation, testimonials from both employers and employees to his tact and courtesy in bringing about a settlement of various disputes. I shall, without hesitation, vote against the proposed amendments insofar as they affect conciliation commissioners, for I do not consider them to be in the best interests of industry.
I come now to the principles which are to guide the judges and the proposed conciliation commissioners in making their decisions. It is proposed to retain the principles of equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of the case ; but to delete the provision which requires a judge to take into account the economic effect of an award on the industry specifically before him and upon industry generally. “Why does the Labour party wish to delete this provision ? I am sure that the people who are said to have given the Government a- mandate to alter the act would not approve of this amendment. A judgment of the court cannot be of any value whatever unless it takes into account the effect that it will have upon industry.
– The honorable member has drawn attention to the tremendously wide discretion that the judges already exercise.. I ask him whether he does not think that the excision of this provision will enhance rather than reduce the discretion which a judge may exercise ?
– I certainly do not. As the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) pointed out, the deletion of this provision will give the impression that a judge need not necessarily take into account the probable economic effect of ally judgment that he may make.
– I did not expect to hear such a remark from a leading King’s Counsel.
– Well, the AttorneyGeneral has my opinion for what it is worth. It has been suggested that a judge could not possibly take into account the economic effect of an award covering railway workers or officers of an education department. But why not? Supposing that a judge disregarded all economic considerations in making a railway award, and provided that every employee in the service should receive not less than £1,000 a year.
– He would be murdered for doing. so.
– And if he did so he would deserve to be murdered. I put such an extreme case only to show that there are economic limitations which must be respected. The Government is not consistent in this matter, for while it is proposing to excise this provision it is proposing at the same time that judges and conciliation commissioners shall have the power, not only to fix minimum wages, but also wages below the minimum for workers who may not be able because of infirmity or some other cause to earn the prescribed minimum. The irresistible inference to be drawn from that provision is surely that a man who receives the minimum wage must earn it. The principle upon which the minimum wage is to be based is the capacity of the industry to pay it and of the worker to earn it. That surely is an economic consideration. I am afraid that the trade unions which have brought pressure to bear upon; the’ Government to- delete the provision that judges shall have regard to economic considerations do not realize the implications of the other provision to which I have referred.
I come now to what seems to me to be the crux of the whole subject from the Labour party point of view. Honorable members opposite hold up their hands in holy horror at the very suggestion that a trade unionist is capable of dishonest or dishonorable conduct.
– Hear, hear !
– My honorable friend shows by his interjection that he thinks that membership of a trade union renders a man incapable of such conduct, which, of course, is absurd. One of the provisions of the act which members of the Labour party object to - though I cannot for the life of me understand the ground of their objection - is that men who resort to cowardly and ruffianly conduct against law-abiding, peaceful citizens who darc to accept work which has been refused by unionists should be properly punished. Honorable members opposite are squeamish to a degree in regard to the punishment of trade unionists, but they have no scruples about punishing other people. A provision in the Central Reserve Bank Bill, which was passed recently, enacts that if a bank fails to send the prescribed quarterly return it shall be liable to a fine of £500.
– Only if it wilfully fails to send in the return.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the cowardly ruffians who treat peaceful workers so outrageously do not do it wilfully? It is also provided in the Central Reserve Bank Bill that if a bank fails to furnish returns, required by the Commonwealth Bank Board of the gold it holds, or if it furnishes false returns, it shall be liable in the case of individuals to a fine of £100 or imprisonment for one year, and in the case of corporations to a fine of £1,000.
– The honorable member did not support that bill.
– I am not talking about my support of it, but the support of honorable members opposite. They are not willing to allow a trade unionist to be penalized for improper conduct, but other people must be heavily penalized for such conduct.
I have purposely ; ref rained’ from saying anything about the deletion of the provisions for the holding of secret ballots, for, after all, this has to do with the internal management of trade unions. But I have no sympathy whatever with an honorable member opposite, who asked by interjection this afternoon, why outsiders should be permitted to interfere with the domestic arrangements of trade unions. That honorable member’ would not apply that argument to. companies. We should remember that the outsiders who are spoken of so disrespectfully are the community whose servants we are. Honorable members opposite have not the slightest compunction about interfering with companies, and I can see no reason why trade unions should not be properly controlled.
After carefully studying the provisions of this bill, I am forced to the conclusion that they would not promote goodwill and peace ‘ in industry or the general community, but would strengthen the stranglehold which the trade unions already have on industry.
.- Seeing that this bill is of crucial significance, in thatit relates to what is admittedly the most important of all human problems, it is extraordinary that we should be told, as we were by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), that the introduction of it is an exhibition of bias in favour of one class and of prejudice against another; and by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) that it is an effort to strengthen the stranglehold of trade unionism upon the life of the community.
– I said that that would be the effect of the amendment.
– In a previous speech the honorable member for Fawkner distinguished’ remarkably between effect and intent. I do not propose to allow him now to assume that the intentions of this party are any less high-minded than those which moved him to address himself to this measure: The Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act has a history extending over 26 years, during which it has been amended twelve times. At least eleven of the amendments have been framed to make good discovered failings in the statute, failings due partly to the constitutional limitations under which, this Parliament has to work, and partly to the successive contradictory interpretations placed upon the act by the High Court, sitting in its appelate jurisdiction, and to the manner in which it has defined the powers of Parliament. A great deal of the mischief which has arisen’ over the application of the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act to Australian industry may be laid at the door of the learned judges of the High Court, whose judgments have bewildered, not only this legislature, but also the parties directly affected by the decisions given. The twelfth amendment, which was made in 1928, and which was referred to so eulogistically by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), made a radical change in the principle of arbitration, and was deeply biased against one section of the community. It embodied the belief held by many honorable members opposite that goodwill in industry can be enforced by an application of terrorism. Furthermore, it contained an intimation to the judges of the Arbitration Court that the discretion which they had hitherto exercised unfettered had been abused. If the contention of the honorable member for Fawkner is correct, that the removal of the section directing judges to take into consideration the economic effect of an award is an instruction to the judges not to take such factors into consideration, the contrary must also be true, and for 21 years, from 1907 to 1928, successive presidents of the Arbitration Court must have been under an obligation completely to ignore economic facts in framing their awards.
Mr.Morgan. - By this bill the Government is definitely directing the judges not to take economic factors into consideration.
– It is doing nothing of the kind.
– By inference it is.
– Before honorable members opposite can justify their protest against the deletion of this section from the act, they must prove that during the period it has formed part of the law the judges have actually proceeded on lines fundamentally different from those they previously followed.
– Some of them have.
– I do not think so. ‘ ,
– What is the need for’ deleting this provision?
– In my opinion, the successive awards made by the Federal, Arbitration Court have really only adjusted wages to the purchasing power of money as compared with what it stood at in 1907,at the time of the Harvester award. There is this’ exception, that in 1921 Mr. ‘Justice Powers introduced an addition’ of 6d. a day to overcome what he described as the “ lag “, meaning the delay which usually occurs in raising wages upon a. rise in prices.
– Why should this section be excised?
– Because Parliament is not competent successfully to instruct Arbitration Court judges as to what economic facts they should take into consideration. In the library attached to this building there are scores of books written by eminent economists. I thought for a moment of bringing in half a dozen of these books, and quoting from them to show how divergent are the views held by economists even on the definition of economics. Most of us think that we know at least what is meant by the science of economics, but hardly any two writers on. the subject can be found to agree on a definition.
– The honorable member will find as much diversity of opinion over the definition of equity, a term which is to remain in the act.
– What we have to ask ourselves is, has arbitration failed? We have the testimony of practically all , parties in this House that arbitration, as a general principle, has worked effectively in Australia. If there are faults, they’ are not inherent in the system,” and canbe overcome. There is a wealth of testimony to the effect that the awards of . the court have been observed reasonably well. There have been only two instances in which awards of the Federal Arbitration Court have been violated by trade unionists; but there have been quite a number of instances in which employers of labour have failed to carry out the provisions of awards. I do not propose to pursue that aspect of the subject now, . because there exists provision for correcting any such abuses.
What is the reason for the attack which has been made on this bill? The charge against it is that it favours the unions, that it will increase their power, and that it is biased against the employers. The bill, if passed, will excise from the act the section which provides that a secret ballot of members of an organization may be conducted by a court on the petition of a few unknown persons. It will also repeal the penal provision against strikes and lockouts. It will enable one judge to reduce hours or increase wages, and it provides that a bench of three judges must deal with applications to increase hours or reduce wages.
– Does the honorable member think that that is right?
– Yes. The bill will also greatly extend the conciliation provisions of the present act, and make conciliation the paramount feature of the whole system. It will also restrict the appellate’ jurisdiction of the High Court, and vest in judges of the Arbitration Court the authority to finally determine whether or not a dispute actually exists. It will repeal section 25 d of the act, which directs the court to take into consideration the probable economic effects of a proposed award, or of an agreement which is to be certified.
We have to ask ourselves why it is desirable that the penal provisions in respect of strikes and lockouts should be repealed. There is nothing in the bill to provide for the repeal of all penalties in the present act ; it repeals only those relating to strikes and lockouts. In my opinion, no argument need be advanced to justify the repeal of penalties for strikes and lockouts other than the plea of expediency. This was the reason advanced by the late Prime Minister from his place in this chamber for not enforcing the penal provisions. of the act in connexion with a notorious lockout last year. That was the justification offered by the late Prime Minister, and he was valiantly and eloquently - and I might add, logically - supported by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). If my memory does not fail
Bie, the honorable member for Fawkner also justified the action of the Government in declining to enforce the penal provisions of the act against John Brown.
– No; I protested against the then Government’s action.
– The honorable member protested, but when it came to the crucial test, which would determine whether the Government should stand or fall, he supported the Government.
– It was a choice of evils.
– The law provides that any one found guilty of causing a lockout is punishable by heavy penalties. That provision was not enforced, because the last Government thought it inexpedient to enforce it. But the law as such will remain unless the amendment proposed in the bill is effected. We propose to make that amendment. The late Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) put it to Parliament last year that it was more important to achieve industrial peace, to open the mines- and to resume production than to enforce penalties. That argument seems to me to go to the very root of the matter. I cannot see that the existence of legal provision for the enforcement of heavy penalties is likely to assist in healing such ruptures as may occur in the relations between employers and employees. The parties to industry must accept responsibility for their actions, and will be judged by the community for anti-social behaviour. Government after government has been compelled to recognize the. impracticability, and even the entire undesirability, of’ enforcing the penal provisions of the law in relation to strikes and lockouts. If any body of men feel that the conditions of employment offered to them are an affront to their sense of decency, or to the hopes of a better social life that they entertain, they have a right, which is inherent in their manhood, to refuse to offer their services to those who seek to purchase them.
– They have no right to kick into insensibility other men who accept the work that they refuse.
– My honorable and learned friend cannot “ get away “ with that. Penalties for assault and battery do not find a place in an arbitration act ; that offence has no connexion with arbitration, or the settlement of disputes between organized employers on the one side and organized trade unions on the other. Any man who commits an assault can be dealt with under the ordinary processes of the law; and that is the right way to do it. Surely the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), with his years of experience, does not contend that men who commit atrocious crimes against the ‘individual go scot-free in this community ? If they do, it is not because I go to their defence when” they make answer to the charge in the civil courts.
I propose to deal briefly with the provisions that relate to the secret ballot. I feel that a case can well be made out for the. right of this community to control every form of organization ; but I do not believe that we have reached the stage when so tremendous an assertion, of the power of the State would be acceptable to honorable members opposite. For example, before the directorate of the national bank is added to in a time of economic crisis and commercial difficulty, do they agree that a secret ballot should be taken of the whole of the shareholders ?
The crux of this measure, from the stand-point of honorable members opposite, is that we propose to allow one judge to reduce hours or increase wages, but insist that three judges must hear any application for an increase of hours or a reduction of wages, and that, in addition, the provision which requires a judge to consider the economic effects of bis award is to be excised from the act. The fixation of the wage level at an irreducible living standard goes to the very roots of the history of arbitration in this country. Do honorable members opposite stand for the postulate that labour is a commodity to be bought and sold according to strict economic considerations? If they do, I can quite understand their objection to the proposal to excise that provision from the act. But for my part - and I believe that I have the support of every humanelyminded man in the world - we, have long since passed the stage when industry should consider itself the master of man, and dictate the terms upon which he shall find subsistence. I believe that man should be able to stand up and say that industry is his servant. Rightly organized and properly conducted, it is capable of ministering to his needs. He has the right to refuse to be a mere piece of machinery, to be oiled and greased so many times a week, and expected to incorporate himself in the soulless mechanism of the ordinary technical processes of modern production. If honorable members opposite still cling to the dictum of the mid-Victorian economists that labour is a commodity and that peace in industry depends upon peace in politics, I can assure them that they are on the wrong track. “We refuse to accept so ghastly a dogma as that men and women, human flesh and blood, are to be regarded as so many units, to be measured on the basis of the cash nexus, and. that they are to have in themselves no right to participate in the fruits of the earth, except upon the best terms that they can make.
– The honorable member is building a straw man for the purpose of knocking him over.
– Then we will burn the straw man. I can take it that honorable members opposite do not agree that labour is a commodity to be bought and sold at the lowest price.
– At the highest price.
– May I contend that labour, rightly considered, is not to be bought and sold at all ; that it is a partner in the processes of production, a collaborator with the captains of industry.
– That is the American conception.
– What is the Australian conception of the honorable member for Balaclava?
– It is not practised in a single union in Australia, but it is to be found in every American union.
– If it be admitted that we can discard the old dogma that labour is a commodity, and that it has the dignity of human status, we have to fix a level below which that human status will not be permitted to be degraded. We must have a yard-stick that will at least measure up to what shall be the irreducible minimum at which . men and women will be expected to live.
That brings me to the history of the working of the Arbitration Act. Every honorable member remembers the Higgins’ formula, that men have a right to be employed, and that when employed they have a right to be assured that their wives and families will be. given, according to the normal standard of the time, a reasonable subsistence. I put it to honorable members opposite, that any industry which employs a man at a wage that does not give to him and to those who are dependent upon him a standard conformable to what has come to be regarded as the minimum human standard, takes out of that man more than it gives back to him, and, therefore, it is parasitic ; it lives upon what it does not earn. It becomes a vampire, sucking, as it were, :f rom labour that which belongs to .labour. If. the working nien of this community were to form themselves into a public company; if they were to regard themselves as representing so much capital, and were to expect at the end of the year, not only an income that would meet every running charge necessary to carry on their family lives, - but also “would make provision for a big fat dividend of 10 per cent, upon capital or turnover, as well as a certain sum for reserve, as- ‘the banks and other big companies do, labour -would not be Obtainable in Australia.
Let me examine in some detail the standard of living in this country. It !is extraordinary that the Commonwealth -Court has never made a general inquiry into- -the standard of living, except the admittedly inadequate investigation that the late Mr. Justice Higgins made in the (Excise1 case .21 years ago. In the CommonwealthStatistician’s Labour Report, No. 17, will be found the statement that “ only -one. comprehensive- effort has been made by the federal authorities ‘to ascertain specifically what the actual requirements were in the various States- according to reasonable standards of comfort in respect of . . . a man. wife, and three children.” The late Mr. Justice Higgins in the Harvester case in 1907 did not -declare the merits of. the ; issues on the equivalents in that year -of the. findings of the commission. -If. .he ;had done so, the basic, wage for unskilled labour would have been fixed at 53s. lOd. instead of 42s. a week.
I said earlier that, whether or not the court had a . direction, to take into account economic considerations, it had never done other than vary the original rate to the new purchasing power of money. To prove the correctness of that statement, I quote the testimony of Mr.
Wickens, the Commonwealth Statistician, who, in reply to a question put to him by a royal commission, pointed out that, as a fact, it would be found that thewage -fixed by Mr. Justice Higgins, instead of being sufficient to provide for a man, his wife, and three children, was sufficient only to provide for a man, his wife, and but one child. I know that there has grown, up in this community the absurd fetish that the court compels an employer to pay a wage that is based upon the ‘assumption that every man who receives it has a wife and three children. I submit that any careful dissection of the basis upon which the late Mr. Justice Higgins made his 1907 award, and of the variations that have been made since that time, will show that, on the evidence that the Commonwealth Statistician has been able to compile, the wage fixed is sufficient for but one child and not three. The tables that the Commonwealth Statistician published a year ago show the importance to this community df having a living standard ; that is to say, of insisting that there shall be a minimum below which even the courts may not be permitted to go. They show that the 92 per cent, of the children of wage and salary earners whose parents are said to have an income of less than £250, and the 85 per cent, of the children of non-employees similarly restricted, constitute nearly 90 per cent, of the total dependent children in the Commonwealth. Professor Wood, Lecturer on Economics in the Melbourne University, has said -
Despite our boasted prosperity, far too large a proportion of the children of our wage-earners pass some portion of the schoolage in households where the standards of life, health and decency do not measure up to any . reasonable option. Properly administered help to these children constitutes our best form of investment.
The primary purpose of the bill is to rid the act of certain hindrances to peace and goodwill in industry, and to remove the. .provocative provisions that were incorporated, in the amending legislation of 1928. “The bill is designed, further, to develop effectively the extension of the conciliatory functions of the court. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) offered the opinion that we could not obtain competent men for that work. > He said that it was wrong to vest the arbitral and conciliatory func- tions in one man or in one body. I remind him that, in a speech made earlier in this debate, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) extolled - - I think, wisely, and certainly very ably - the Victorian wages board system. He said that it was a most admirable method of regulating wages. . While making due allowance for the fact that the States have sovereign powers to enforce industrial laws, it must be admitted that the system of wage regulation in operation in Victoria brings the two partners in industry together in an attempt to arrive at a settlement of their differences. The proposal of the Government in this bill combines the conciliatory and arbitral functions, which the honorable member for Fawkner has said could not and should not be done. The conciliation commissioner will resort to conciliation as far as possible, and when conciliation fails he will proceed to exercise distinctly arbitral power, and decide the issue between the two parties who have failed to respond to his efforts at conciliation. The honorable member for Fawkner, who doubts the practicability of this proposal, has himself acted as chairman of a wages board in Victoria.
– But a wages board is not called together to deal with a dispute.
– Nine out of every ten cases that come before a wages board are the direct result of differences . of opinion between employers and employees, as to the wages to be paid, the hours to be worked, and other industrial conditions, and those are precisely the issues that emerge in the Federal Arbitration Court. If there were no dispute between, the parties who go before wages’ boards, there would be no occasion for them to do so,- because they could make an - agreement outside and register it. Everyone knows that the bulk of the matters that come before the Arbitration Court, and which are labelled “ disputes “, are merely the result of a refusal on the part of one side to agree to the demands of the other.
– We on this side are frequently charged with making these technical disputes.
– Yes. Many of them are pure fakes, in order to establish the right to appear before the court.
One of the amendments to the act made by this, bill is to strike out certain words in the statute that have been.productive of real disputes. Sub-section 1 of section ‘2 provides that among the chief objects of the act are “ To prevent lockouts and strikes in relation to industrial disputes.” Every word in that phrase is capable of misconstruction. What is a dispute? What is a lockout? What is meant by “ preventing a lockout or dispute”? What is an industrial dispute as distinct from a dispute? It is proposed ; to eliminate that phrase and substitute the words “ To promote goodwill . in industry by conciliation and arbitration “. I submit that this Parliament is not yet bankrupt in regard to its ability to deal with this problem. If we cannot pass a measure that will promote goodwill instead of strife, on the sole basis of ‘ a sincere desire to obtain the best results from industry, we cannot do it in any other way. Bad conditions are responsible for bad men. If there is antagonism between the two parties to industry, it cannot be removed by the imposition of the penal provisions which the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) wishes’ to preserve. The world cannot carry on its’ industries under the present industrial system if there is not a readiness on the part of employers and employees to do the best they can to give opportunities to’ the millions of men for whom no work is’ now offering. If ever the gospel of conciliation should evoke a response from the employers of Australia it should do so at the present time.
Nothing is to be gained by threatening employees with a penalty of £1,000, and their leaders with imprisonment, or by allowing officers of the court to go into their organizations and conduct ballots. If ever there was a time when industry should be conducted on a new basis it is. now. If this measure is biased at all, its; bias is to promote goodwill between employers , and employees. It puts Australia first. In reply to the . sophistry of the honorable member for Fawkner,’ who suggests that the Government of the’ day had no mandate to wipe out the penal provisions of the act, I remind him of what was said in the last Parliament. Those provisions became a dead letter as- a result of the administration of the late Government. The trade unions will never tolerate their members being heavily fined, in view of the black chapter in our history relating to the failure of the late Government to prosecute the coal-owners in connexion with the lockout on the northern coal-fields. The interests of society and of industry will be best promoted by the encouragement of conciliation conferences rather than by launching prosecutions.
Wage determination is the most fundamental and difficult problem in connexion with industrial relations, involving both the prosperity of industry and the standard of living of the workers. Demands for increased wages are often countered by the argument that they will result in business depression and unemployment. That is one of the arguments frequently put forward in recent years, and the reply is that in many countries the level of real wages has risen, while industrial prosperity has been maintained, and even increased. In his Recent Economic Changes Professor Wesley C. Mitchell states, at page 864 -
That organizations of wage-earners should grasp the relations between productivity and wages, and that they should take the initiative in pressing constructive plans for increasing efficiency upon employers, is not wholly without precedent; but the spread of such ideas and the vigour with which they are acted on by large organizations must startle those who have believed that trade unions are brakes upon economic progress.
That quotation is taken from a chapter in which the writer testifies that one of the greatest stimulants to efficiency in industry is the demand that the workers have made for increased wages. He points out that the lower the wages the less pressure there is upon business executives to improve efficiency, develop productive capacity, and put industry in a position to compete with impending changes in methods of production. The fact that it is beneficial to improve wages, reduce hours of work, and give the employee a better share of the fruits of production is well illustrated in a book by Rowe, entitled Wages in Practice and Theory, in which the author says -
The ordinary stimulus of competition can be, and should be, reinforced by a constant pressure to raise wages, if the utmost is to be got from the present, or indeed any system of industry. Within limits, which are probably in most industries, and at most times, appreciably wide, an increase in wage rates, if it is maintained for a reasonably long period, is more than likely to generate sufficient improvement in the efficiency of production to pay for itself, in the sense that though the first results will be some unemployment, and some reduction of the national dividend,. the ultimate result will be the re-absorption of these unemployed workers, and an increase in the national dividend.
Trade unions ought consciously to try and keep wages not in exact adjustment with, but a trifle above, the cm-rent marginal productivity equivalent; to accept the fact that this is bound to produce a variable, but permanent, margin of unemployment.
– Does the honorable member agree that the basis should be productivity?
– That is different from what the honorable member said earlier.
– The basis of life is productivity. Because I say that industry should be the servant, of man, does the honorable member imagine that I believe that man could live without industry? Everywhere throughout the world industry is owned, controlled and directed by a comparatively small section of the community. The great majority of human beings have no access to the fields, factories, or workshops, and have no proprietary interest in the equipment used for the purposes of production. Ownership resides in a small class. I have nothing against those who comprise it; I am merely stating an economic fact. A few persons in every community are the owners and directors of the .equipment that society must use in production to maintain its. existence. By what means can we insure that the instrumentalities of production shall be made available for the common good, and that the great mass of human beings who are deprived of ownership rights in this equipment shall have access to it? Without such access they are doomed to be industrial exiles.
– Not necessarily.
– Is it not true that more and more the control of production in all the great spheres of industry is falling into the hands of gr,eat trusts and monopolies, and huge aggregations of capital ?
– That is the outcome of the tariff.
– Whatever its origin, we cannot ignore the economic fact that millions of persons have no proprietary right in production, no means of ensuring admission to a factory or field, no equipment with which to produce on a competitive equality with those who are already in possession. Dr. Clifford said -
It is as unfortunate as it is true that out of every ten children born in England yesterday eight will all lose their lives to pay tribute to the other two. Eight of them are the servants from birth of the two who are born to the inheritance of ownership over land, factories, or workshops.
That is true to a large extent of Australia. In the cities of Melbourne and Sydney, thousands of workmen have no access to the factories. They cannot enter a boot factory or any other manufacturing establishment and say that they will work. The opportunity to produce is denied them. We must have regulation of the relations between the owners and controllers of industry - the employers - and the workers. This bill is not put forward as the final answer to the age-old problem of what constitutes a fair deal to the masses, on the ‘one hand, and the employers on the other. But if we give more emphasis to conciliation and less to arbitration, and remove from the act the punitive provisions inserted in 1928, we shall contribute another practical instalment to the long series of efforts during the history of this Parliament to make the federal arbitration system of service not only to industry, but to the nation also.
.- There are no honorable members to whom I listen with more delight than the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin), and there was little in the speech of either of them with which I disagreed. The honorable member for Fawkner devoted a great deal of his speech to defining the mandate he had received from his electors. I agree with him that the issue at the last elections was mainly the continuance of the federal arbitration system. By an. overwhelming vote, the people of Australia gave a definite mandate to this Government to remain in that field, and do what it can to improve the existing machinery. The act has already been amended twelve times, and Hansard during the last 26 years has been filled with hundreds of speeches on the subject. I have said inside and outside this chamber that industry will not know real peace except upon the conditions which have, been very ably specified by the honorable member for Fremantle. Labour is not a chattel to be bought . and sold; it is entitled to co-partnership in industry. Only when the workers who produce the wealth of the country have a fair and equitable share of what they produce will peace in industry be assured. Short of that, we shall never find a complete remedy for industrial ills; but the Government is bound by the mandate of the people at the last election to try to improve existing legislation. I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that the bill, good though it is in the opinion of ministerial supporters, is only a stopgap, and that nothing effective can be done until the people by referendum give to the Commonwealth Parliament increased powers in industrial matters. I am strongly opposed to the first of the referendum bills introduced by the Government, and defeated in another place, and strongly in favour of the other two, and I’ hope that the Government will persist with them. The right honorable member for North Sydney, although a great believer in arbitration, did not claim that it was wholly responsible for Australia’s extraordinary growth and the increase of wealth during the last quarter of a century. In the last ten years the population of this country has increased by 1,000,000, the annual production by £100,000,000, bank capital and fixed deposits by £127,000,000, and savings bank deposits by £89,000,000. That is an extraordinary record of which we ought to be intensely proud, and in the making of which the workers have played a mammoth part. I claim that the Government has received a solid mandate from the people, and the honorable member for Fawkner spoilt an otherwise excellent speech by saying thatthe mandate was given only by the trade, unionists. What about the reduced majorities of the honorable members for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), Kooyong (Mr. Latham), and Henty (Mr. Gullett), and the loss of the Nationalist strongholds of Martin, Barton and Parramatta? Were the Nationalist candidates rejected by the votes of the unionists only? The truth is that there was a sweeping movement throughout Australia against the Bruce-Page Government, and the Labour party undoubtedly received a mandate.
– Cannot the honorable member think of something else?
– Nationalist supporters do not like to be reminded of the facts. What of my own position? The whole power of the late Government was directed against me.
– And the wealth of the picture interests was- behind the honorable member.
– The interjection reminds me that the honorable member was returned with a majority of only 100 votes. Mr. Bruce and his Ministers, and Mr. Bavin and members of his Cabinet, spoke against my candidature night after night; yet the great majority I have held for twelve years was only slightly reduced.
– The honorable member was returned by the Labour votes.
– The Labour votes helped me; I am not so foolish as not to recognize that. I repeat that the Government has a mandate from both trade unionist and nationalist voters to retain the federal arbitration system and, if possible, improve it. What are the objects of the act? -
Are the people opposed to that? Of course not-
No honorable member would hesitate to address his constituents in favour of each of those seven objects; and they are in accord with the mandate given to the Government by the electors. The honorable member forFawkner, by reason of his early association with the wages board system of Victoria, favours conciliation. One of the principal features of the bill is that it proposes to increase the number and powers of conciliation commissioners. The bulk of the work to be done under this legislation will be entrusted to such commissioners rather than to the Arbitration Court. I am not greatly in favour of courts, although I have been appearing before them for 27 years; in fact, I instructed the right honorable member for North Sydney in the first case heard in the Federal Arbitration Court 26 years ago, and I had enough of arbitration on that occasion.
– It was the only case that the honorable member ever had.
– Of course the. honorable member for Warringah and I hate one another like poison. At the last elections he used faked photographs against me, and also published extracts from my private letters in the press of Australia. It is certainly bad form on his part, while I am speaking, to sit at the table laughing and grimacing. I remind him that when he made his speech yesterday, I listened to him without making one interjection, and he might extend to me a similar compliment. If there is onething that we should prize in our political life it is the courtesy that it is usual to extend one to another. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) is not much in favour of conciliation commissioners. His speech, I thought, was spoilt because of bis suspicion of the motive of the Government in introducing the bill. He is suspicious of the powers that are to be given to these commissioners and the use that may be made of them. He is afraid that any decision given by them will be in favour of the working man at the expense of his employer. He should at least realize that, if his suspicion is justified, the people will deal with the Government at the next elections. The people are our masters, and if this Government does wrong, as the last Government did, it will lose office. If under this legislation one section of the people is favoured at the expense of another the Government will perish. I therefore do not share in the intense suspicion of the honorable member forFawkner, who seems to think that everything that this Government does is evil. I shall support the second reading of this bill if I am here when the vote is taken, and I hope that it will be amended in committee. I urge the Attorney-General to accept any amendment, no matter from which side it comes, if it will improve the bill. If we are sincere we should try to do our best for the industries of this gorgeous land of ours, because after all, the foundation stone of the wealth and prosperity of this country is the happiness and contentment of our people. This Parliament alone is not able to maintain the standard of living of this country. That is only possible if goodwill and peace exist- between the employer and the employee, and, as representatives of the people, we should do all that we can to improve the position as we find it. I have looked through the bill. One cannot but be impressed with the enormous powers of the conciliation commissioners. If the right men are not appointed we may certainly have chaos in industry. Whether the commissioner is to have an intense knowledge of commerce and industry, or whether, as the honorable member for Fawkner suggests, he is to be an ordinary layman who, by his tact and courtesy, will bring the parties to a dispute together and arrange an amicable settlement, remains to be seen. On many occasions settlements have been arranged through the agency of conciliation commissioners; but we never hear of that; we hear only of strikes. The members of the Ministry are not fools, and will not appoint men as conciliation commissioners who are likely, by their decisions, to wreck the Government. The other day an employer said to me, “ If this bill is put through Jock Garden will be appointed as a conciliation commissioner.” I replied, “ You do not know the present Government as well as I do, and I do not think that it will do anything foolish.” I am going to trust the Government, but if it does wrong I shall oppose it. I shall do everything in my power to improve the bill. There are certainly some strange clauses in it. Clause 18c deals with conciliation commissioners, and paragraph 4 reads -
A conciliation commissioner shall also have all the powers which the court or a judge has under this act for the purpose of preventing or settling industrial disputes, including the powers contained in section 38, other than -
the powers contained in paragraphs
and (f) of that section, and (b) the power to give an interpretation of any term of an existing award, contained in paragraph (c) of that section.
The conciliation commissioner cannot impose a penalty for the non-observance of an award. He cannot declare a common rule. He cannot give an interpretation of any term of an existing award. But, strange to say, under clause 38 oa, the commissioner can set aside an award or any of its terms. That power is also given under paragraph 3 of clause 28. We should watch the position closely at the committee stage, because I think this is a blemish. If the three judges give an award the conciliation commissioner may upset it, and I think that that is going too far.
– Both parties to an industry may want an award set aside as a preliminary to a new agreement.
– Under clause 19b 1 the conciliation commissioner may make a representative order to bring before him during any hearing any interested person. I have no objection to that. Under clause 20 1, the commissioner may make an order restraining any State industrial authority from dealing with an industrial dispute. That is certainly a large power. Under clause 28 1, the commissioner may make an award for a period not exceeding five years, and at the end of that period the award will continue to operate unless the commissioner decides otherwise. Under clause 35 1, the .conciliation commissioner may appoint two assessors to assist him. That isa .very necessary power. Under clause 40a the commissioner may, by his award, bind a board of reference. Some of those powers are, of course, very necessary. I know nothing about unionism, and I wish that I had one-quarter of the knowledge that the supporters of the Government have on industrial matters. But, as honorable gentlemen know, I am a great traveller. I have had seven trips to America, and on many occasions I have inspected the great factories at Detroit and other places. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton), who has just returned from America, is well aware of the enormous extent to which industry has grown in America. Quick measures arc adopted in that country. If there is trouble with a working man in a factory at 9 a.m., it is settled that afternoon. Things are done at once. If a man severs an artery and no doctor is available, a ligature is applied immediately. If a man cuts his finger he is told to look after it and not to let it fester. The same direct method is adopted in the industrial world. If trouble arises in a factory the foreman forwards a report to one of the directors. The director, the foreman, ‘the man concerned and a representative of the union, if there is one connected with the works, are called together and the dispute is thrashed out and settled. There is nothing in this bill to prevent us from adopting similar methods in Australian industry. [Quorum formed.] When a dispute arises we should attend to it immediately to prevent it from spreading.
Section 18a deals with the jurisdiction of the court. Under the section the chief judge and two other judges now have power to increase and decrease hours, but not wages. The proposed amendment will give the three judges power to increase, reduce, or alter both hours and wages.
– Including the basic wage.
– Full power is given to the chief judge and the other two judges to deal with wages and hours in any way they like.’ In these circumstances it seems to me that sec tion 18aa, which deals with interpretations affecting standard hours, is superfluous. We shall have to watch this at the committee stage of the bill.
It is strange that, although it is agreed that Parliament has no constitutional power to authorize the court to make a common rule, it is proposed to amend paragraph c of section 29 with the object of making an award of a conciliation commissioner “binding as a common rule” on all organizations and persons to whom it is at any time declared to apply. Apparently this is an effort to obtain a common rule in another way; but I do not think that it will succeed.
I agree with the honorable member for Fremantle that the penalties provided in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act have never been effective. Although, I must admit that I voted as a party man with my party for the bill which provided for the imposition of these penalties, I think a conciliation and arbitration act is not’ the place for them. The John Brown case, which was the most appalling of its kind that ever happened in the history of the Commonwealth, showed the ineffectiveness of the penalties. It will be remembered that I scathingly criticized the Government of which I was a supporter for withdrawing the quasi-criminal prosecution launched against John Brown, although I voted against the censure motion to save the Government, because I believed that the prosecution had been withdrawn through an error of judgment. The honorable member for Fawkner took the same stand as I did on that occasion. We all commit errors of judgment at times, and we should have sympathy with each other in this regard. The Australian people cannot be forced to do what they do not desire to do; but an appeal to their sense of justice is nearly always effective. It has been said that all penalties are being withdrawn against the employees, but not. against the employers. This is not so; for section 9 (2) provides that -
An employee shall not cease work in the service of his employer by reason of the circumstance that the employer -
is an officer or member of an organization, or of an association that lias applied to be registered, as an organization: or
is entitled to the benefit of an industrial agreement or an award; or (c)has appeared as a witness, orhas given any evidence, in a proceeding under this Act.
Penalty: Twenty-five pounds.
Then section 78 (.1) says -
Any organization or person bound by an industrial agreement shall for any breach or. non-observance of any term of the agreement be liable to a penalty not exceeding such amount as is fixed by the industrial agreement; and if no amount is so fixed, then to a penalty not exceeding in the case of an organization Five hundred pounds, in the case of an employer Two hundred and fifty pounds, and in the case of an employee Ten pounds.
It will be seen, therefore, that some penalties against employees are being retained.
It is wisely proposed in clause 11 of the bill that section 21aa of the act shall be amended to enable an application to be made to “any judge sitting in chambers” for a declaration that a dispute exists. At present, it is necessary at times for organizations to go to a great deal of trouble to prove that a dispute exists in more than one State. Reference has been made to the case with which my firm was concerned 25 years ago, in which our clients had to spend hundreds of pounds to create a dispute outside of New South Wales before they could approach the Arbitration Court. It is a farce that this should be necessary. At the same time, I feel that this proposed amendment may lead to a good deal of costly litigation, and land us in the High Court. Still, it is a good thing that the Government is trying to do something to facilitate arbitration.
I am glad that steps are being taken to prohibit legal practitioners from appearing before the court, for that will be the effect of the amendment proposed to section 27. I have earned a good many pounds by appearing before the court, but I am convinced that by prohibiting the legal fraternity from taking part in its proceedings we shall overcome 25 per cent, of our troubles. After all, legal practitioners live by their profession, and they are not likely to cry their eyes out because cases in which they are engaged occupy many weeks longer than the parties expected. Lawyers are fine fellows, but they should be kept out of the Arbitration Court.
I realize that the speeches that we make on this bill are not likely to have any. great effect, for industrial unrest can be alleviated or aggravated solely by the employers and employees. We have received many circulars from different bodies in connexion with this bill. I trust that the Attorney-General will look into one or two points made in the letter sent to us by the United Bank Officers Association.
– I shall do so.
– We have also received letters from the council of the Employers Federation, in which the fear is expressed that if this bill is passed our whole industrial arbitration edifice will crumble to the dust. There is, undoubtedly, fear in some quarters, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has said, that the Government is about to do something that will wreck our industrial structure. But if the Government is responsible for anything like that the people may be trusted to deal with it. We are the servants of the people, and I trust that we shall do our best . to put upon the statute-book a measure which will conserve the interests of, and deal equitably with, all sections of the community.
. Whenever a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill is introduced a spirited debate may be expected, for the measure must necessarily raise controversial issues. The members of the Parliamentary Labour party have stood for arbitration almost ever since the establishment of their party; but the members of the parties opposite are not in that position. It is true that members of the newly-formed Australian party who have spoken in this debate have supported the bill, but the members of the Nationalist party and the Country party have opposed it. In my opinion these two parties have always been against arbitration.
It is a great pity that the seriousness of the industrial disputes that have occurred in Australia in recent years has been magnified for political reasons. No subject has been more used for political party propaganda in Australia than industrial unrest. The last three elections have been fought on this issue. In 1925 the election campaign was held while a shipping strike was in progress, and the next election was f ought during the waterside workers dispute. Political capital was made out of both these unfortunate troubles. But the last election was caused because the Government of the day dared to attempt to destroy the temple of arbitration.
A good deal of extraneous matter has been introduced into this debate) particularly in regard to the number of strikes that have occurred in Australia. It is almost impossible to avoid this, and I suppose that I shall take the opportunity of referring to a number of matters that are not specifically dealt with in the measure. In my opinion industrial arbitration has been a great success, but the Government is entirely justified in introducing this bill because it is designed to improve the system. The last Prime Minister, in almost every speech that he made in introducing a bill in this House, referred to the mandate which his Government had received from the people; but if ever a government had a mandate from the people to do anything, this Government has a mandate from them to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I believe that the amendments set out in the bill merely give effect to election promises made to the people. If the Government had not introduced this measure this session it would have deserved severe censure. The following statement was issued on behalf of the Labour party during the election campaign, following upon the attempt of the last Government to abolish the Federal Arbitration Court: -
Tlie Labour movement pins its faith to the federal principle. But it does not necessarily want a federal court as at present constituted, lt wants a federal system freed from the entangling legalisms that now surround the court. It believes in round table conferences and the work of conciliation generally. But it wants to have in the background a federal tribunal to which recourse can be* had if conciliation fails. In many cases agreement has only been reached with employers because the employers knew that if there was no agreement, then the matter would go to arbitration. If that safeguard goes, there will be chaos, confusion and strife.
We are now giving effect to the promise we then made. Every amendment we are now seeking to make was forecast in the speech of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) before the last election. As au honorable senator stated some time ago, if ever a party had a mandate, this party has one for’ its industrial programme. In 1928 the Bruce-Page Government amended the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. We opposed its action, and promised the people then that when we got into power we would have the act altered by repealing the penal provisions. We are how honoring that promise.
In this bill conciliation is rightly placed before arbitration. In the last amending bill introduced by the BrucePage Government all prospect of conciliation between employer and employees was destroyed. So little confidence had the workers in the Government’s intentions that they even refused, in some instances, to have anything to do with the judges it appointed. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), in his policy speech, promised that the Federal Arbitration Court would be retained; that the act would be amended by eliminating the penal clauses; that legal entanglements would be abolished; and that conciliation would be encouraged. It is not very long since some honorable members on the other side spoke in the same terms, the late right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) among them.
Honorable members have said that the Arbitration Court has been proved to be a failure because it has not prevented strikes. As a matter of fact, the awards of the court have been obserced quite as well as have any other laws on the statute-book. If there were no Arbitration Court, Australia would be in a condition of constant industrial turmoil, and practically all disputes would have to be settled by costly industrial warfare. It has been suggested by members of the Opposition that, instead of approaching an Arbitration Court, the parties should confer and settle their disputes. That is what the Government wishes, and employers and employees are encouraged in this bill to follow that method of reaching agreement; but there must be some authority to adjudicate when they are not able to come to terms. It would have been a good thing for Australia if we had not been so willing to broadcast news of every industrial disturbance which occurs. As a matter of fact relatively less time is lost through industrial disputes in Australia than in practically any other country.
We do not hear about the strikes that occur in other countries, and it would be a good thing if we took steps to prevent other countries from hearing about ours. Honorable members opposite have said that some workers’ advocates are opposed to the principle of arbitration. If there are any such, they do not speak for organized labour in Australia. It is true that there are many employers opposed to arbitration, despite the fact that it would be beneficial to them to have uniform rates and conditions prevailing throughout the Commonwealth. Such employers have affinity with the unscrupulous group who organized themselves into the Single Purpose League, pledged to the abolition of arbitration. Their object was to reduce the standard of living, and force down wages. Those who oppose the principle that industry should pay a living wage, range themselves with the section whose avowed purpose it is to force down the standard of living. They are prepared to submit to the inconveniences arising from the existence of different wage standards in different States in the belief that they will more than make up any loss by exploiting their workers. The people of Australia will not stand for that sort of thing. They have expressed themselves in favour of the principle of arbitration and of a fair living wage. Some honorable members opposite desire wages and conditions to be governed by supply and demand. We opposed the last Government’s policy of unrestricted immigration because we believed it to be part *of a plan to force down living conditions. The Federal Arbitration Court was first to be abolished, and then the labour market was to be flooded with people from overseas. This Government desires to make the Arbitration Court more accessible to the workers, so that they may approach it with confidence, and have their cases heard without delay. Wages have already been reduced to a considerable extent in Australia - more, perhaps, than is generally thought. I believe that many men are to-day working under conditions which they are reluctant to disclose. The Arbitration Court is not responsible for depression in industry. It has been proved that high wages do not contribute towards unemployment. As a matter of fact I do not admit that wages have been either increased or reduced by our arbitration system. Since 1911, at all events, the effective wage has been the same. In proof of that I shall quote figures that have been published by the Commonwealth Statistician. They show that in 1911 the average wage per week in Australia was 518. 3d.; in 1914 it was 55s. 3d., and in 1929, 101s. 5d. The index cost of living figure was fixed at 1,000 in 1911. By 1914 it had risen to 1079, and in 1929 it stood at 1979. Therefore, it is absurd for any honorable member to say that arbitration is responsible for high wages, and it is equally incorrect to say that it has not maintained our standard of living.
– If the wage has not increased since 1911, how can it be said that there is a higher standard of living?
– The conditions of the workers have been considerably improved, even though the value of the wage that they receive is only equal to what it was in 1911. Those who oppose arbitration are not in favour of a basic wage.
In the last Parliament, honorable members who sit opposite supported a measure that made it mandatory for the judge to take into account the economic effect of his award upon industry. They are now opposed to this bill because, under it, that matter is to be discretionary and not mandatory. I consider that the Government has taken the right course. It is not possible for the economic effect of an award to be absolutely proven, although it is possible to prove positively the cost of living. Under the provision in the act as it stands, a mining company, for example, knowing that it would be going to the Arbitration Court, and that the economic effect of an award would have to be taken into consideration, could work the unprofitable portions of its mine and make it appear that if the claim of the men were granted it would be inimical to the welfare of their enterprise. Thus, with an award covering a period of five years, it would be able to make a considerable profit. I contend that not only the immediate effect, but also past profits should be taken into consideration. There are in Australia big mining companies that have paid huge dividends to their shareholders ever since they commenced operations. It is said that recently they have not been making any profits, and some are threatening to close down. In passing, let me say that this Government would act wisely if it brought down legislation to prevent a mining or any other company from closing down, and indiscriminately throwing its employees out of work. During the war period, when excessive profits were made and huge dividends were paid, there was not very much talk of the economic effect of an award; the basic wage was then good enough for the worker. Every worker is entitled to a living wage.
– We are all agreed on that.
– The honorable member cannot say that, and at the same time argue that the economic effect upon industry must be the first consideration. The paramount concern should be the fixing of a living wage for every employee. The fundamental principle of arbitration is to provide a reasonable standard of living for a worker and his family. In the past, the judges of the Arbitration Court have determined what is a reasonable standard, and I do not believe that their judgment on that point can be questioned. Those who advocate that the economic effect of awards should be taken into consideration, and that piecework and other methods of breaking down a living wage .should be provided for in our Arbitration Act, are never willing to adopt the suggestion that the fixing of a sufficient basic wage should be the first consideration. The miners at Broken Hill are to-day working for a basic wage under the contract system. It was their suggestion, that provision for such a wage should be embodied in the agreement, and, at first, it was strenuously opposed by the employers. That has always been the experience of the workers under the contract system.
– Such a provision is included in all agreements.
– Despite what honorable members may say, they are opposed to the principle of first fixing a living wage.
I maintain that awards are broken more often by the employers than by the employees. As a matter of fact, I believe that almost every award that has been made by the Arbitration Court has been broken in some particular by the employers. I know of many cases in which a judge, having determined what the living wage shall be, has left it to the employer to give extra remuneration for dirty work, extra skill, and so on; and in hardly any case has that suggestion been adopted. On practically all occasions the minimum wage has been the maximum wage. There are in existence to-day, awards, in the securing of which I was concerned, that have never been put into operation. After an award is made the employer immediately alters the conditions in the industry. That is just as much a breaking of the award as would be a demand by the employees for extra pay. I have known that to happen in almost every large industry. [Quorum formed.]
I said in my opening remarks that I was pleased that conciliation had been given a foremost place in this bill. Every advocate of arbitration must derive satisfaction from the fact. When the late Mr. Justice Higgins was the President of the Federal Arbitration Court, he encouraged conciliation whenever the opportunity presented itself. I was interested in three or four cases that came before him. Before proceeding with a case, he would suggest that the parties confer with a view to agreeing upon as many points as possible, leaving for his determination only those matters upon which, there was no hope of ‘ agreement. Dr. Jethro Brown adopted a similar procedure in the South Australian court, and he was able to deal with twice as many cases as was possible under our act when it was minus this provision. Had a spirit of conciliation operated in the early stages of the last waterside dispute, the principal trouble would have been obviated.
– What is the use of talking of conciliation ? Why was the award not obeyed?
– The trouble on the waterfront was largely due to the alteration of the pick-up time. That alteration was incorporated in the final award by J udge Beeby, and the union was not aware of the fact until the award was promulgated. Both the union representatives and the representatives of the shipping companies agreed that two pick-ups should operate in every port of the Commonwealth, and they put that decision before the judge. Judge Beeby remained adamant, and refused to alter the judgment. Had an opportunity occurred to find out what prompted the action of the judge, I should have been foremost in asking that an inquiry should be held. Had conciliation been practised and the desire of both parties to the award acceded to, the trouble would not have occurred.
– Even allowing for that, does not the honorable member agree that the unionists should have been sportsmen, accepted the award, and then made application for an alteration?
– As a matter of fact, I advised them to take that action. I also advised the men at all ports in my electorate to continue working. They did so, and there is no trouble at those ports to-day. Had the spirit of conciliation been in evidence at that time there would have been no occasion to incur heavy expenditure on additional policing of the waterfront. If Judge Beeby’s example were followed, and objectionable conditions placed in the awards in the same fashion, disputes could be precipitated in any industry, although neither employer nor employee desired them. The incorporation of this provision in the bill will obviate such occurrences in future.
I am glad that the Government has withdrawn the penal clauses from the act. They merely created an atmosphere of hostility and distrust. The Government i3 wisely endeavouring to foster a better feeling between parties to any dispute. Those penalties did nothing towards bringing about industrial peace; they merely engendered trouble.
Honorable members opposite are continually crying out for piece-work instead of a set wage. They are entirely wrong in their attitude. I .believe that the Australian worker will do a fair day’s work if he is paid a reasonable wage, and that there is no need to introduce piecework in Australia. I admit that some industries are peculiarly adapted to the practice, and that in them it operates successfully. Instead of the workers of the world receiving a reduction of wages, they are entitled to an increase. I know that that contention is objectionable to the conservative minds of honorable members opposite, but I direct attention to the daily encroachment of labour-saving appliances in industry. Surely workers are entitled to some of the advantages of the innovation. That view is endorsed by arbitration judges, whose advocacy of it should be considered. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. B. Green) maintained that the Australian worker is going slow. I remind the honorable gentleman that 200,000 Australian workers have produced so much that warehouses are full of the fruits of their labour; they have worked themselves out of a job. Our workers have not gone slow. Unfortunately, there is some defect in our industrial system. Our method of distribution appears to be wrong, as we are producing too much of certain commodities, and are failing to extend the products of others. I do not blame the captains of industry for installing laboursaving devices. They have a perfect right to keep abreast of the times. I know some of the industries of Australia particularly well. Since 1913, 1 have visited the quarries at Iron Knob, which- supply the iron stone for Newcastle. A few years ago, that stone was quarried by day labour, and if two men handled 90 tons of stone in a day they performed a good day’s work. When I visited Iron Knob last February I saw a machine in operation that lifted some 3,380 tons of iron stone in eight hours. That machine is working three shifts in 24 hours, and affords an example of what is happening everywhere in the industrial world. We are definitely reaching saturation point. Something will have to be done to establish additional industries in Australia, and to give some of the advantages of modern invention to the workers who are suffering through the extensive use of labour-saving appliances. Every machine placed in operation puts some persons out of work. There should be some method of adjusting the matter, but it cannot be done by cheap, carping criticism concerning the output of Australian workers. In solving the problem, it will be necessary to maintain the standard of living of the workers.
– Does the honorable member admit that the use of the machine to which he has referred cheapens the cost of steel and so allows the industry to expand ?
– There is only a limited amount of work available for our steel manufactures, and they are supplying the demand. Honorable members opposite are always urging that wages must come down.
– “Who said that?
– I have never heard the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) advocate that rates of interest should be lowered..
– Nor has the honorable member heard me say that wages should come down. I urge the honorable member to display a little honesty.
– The honorable member and his colleagues continually refer to the effect of a living wage on industry. When they contend that the cost of production is too high they mean that wages are too high, and seek a reduction. *[Quorum formed.] Those who oppose compulsory arbitration say, either that wages must come down, or that the cost of production is too high, and they also contend that we have an artificially high standard of living; but they do not complain that interest or the value of property is too high. If wages were reduced 25 per cent, there would be a 25 per cent, increase in the cost of living. A few years ago a Labour government in South Australia built 1,000 homes for the workers in the city of Adelaide. The cost of these houses to the occupants was £700 or £800 each. They are occupied by wage-earners, who are paying for their properties under the provisions of the State Bank Act. If those employees’ wages were now reduced by 25 per cent., they would still have to pay the whole of the original purchase price of their homes, the value of which would have been reduced by 25 per cent, owing to the reduction in the purchasing power of their wages. The claim that wages should be reduced is prompted by a desire that the poorer classes should pay the piper in the present period of economic depression. It is hoped by those who oppose arbitration, that the rich shall be made wealthier, and that those who have little shall have less. Labour does not stand for that proposal, which, like the “go slow “ canard, was rejected by the people at the last election.
I realize that every strike must be dealt with on its merits ; but many strikes have been encouraged, even by employers. No political section in this country, or, perhaps, in any part of the world, has gained more advantage from strikes than the party represented by the Opposition. For three consecutive elections that party made political capital out of industrial trouble. It would never have survived the 1925 election if the seamen’s strike had not been ‘in progress. Eventually the very principle that it depended on for its tenure of office - industrial legislation - brought about its defeat. Although the bill does not go so far as one would like, it is a step in the right direction. It is calculated to promote industrial peace to a greater extent than the amendments of the act for which the late Government was responsible.
.- I arn not opposed to arbitration; but, if T accepted all the statements of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey), my confidence in it would be sadly shaken He has told us that the effective value of wages at the present time is only equivalent to that of 1911. If that be true, arbitration has completely failed in its object. We know that the country does suffer considerable disadvantages from a high standard of wages, and, if there is no compensating advantage to the workers, arbitration has, indeed, failed. I believe, however, that on the whole it has been of benefit to the people, and, if administered impartially, will prove to the general interest of the community. Within my own recollection reform was needed; but it did not como from either compulsory arbitration or trade unionism. Those who introduced that much-needed reform in Australia were the great Liberal leaders of a generation ago, and I am proud to say that foremost among them were the lawyers of the day, to whom the working people of Australia are most indebted for their emancipation from poor industrial conditions. The names of Deakin and Barton have been mentioned by honorable members opposite. I would add the names of Higinbotham, Kingston, Wise, Quick, and Higgins, and there are others.
The foremost leaders of thought who removed the deplorable conditions that obtained 30 or 40 years ago were almost invariably members of the legal profession, and it ill becomes honorable members opposite to seek cheap political capital at their expense.
Compulsory arbitration was only supplementary to the reform that was effected through factories legislation. So long as wages were increased, and the employers were able to pass the increase on to the consumers, compulsory arbitration was satisfactory to both sides in industry, and I have no doubt that it would still be acceptable to both the parties directly interested were it not for the fact that prices have increased to such an extent that the increase can no longer be passed on. Australia must trade with other nations in order to carry on her industries. The development of high wage-fixing can mark but a brief phase in the nation’s history. That phase has probably ended, for if we are to sell our goods on a reasonable basis, our money standards must, at any rate, approximate those of the countries with which we trade. The other nations have ceased their inflation, and, generally speaking, they - are returning to pre-war standards. I quote with approval the words of the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), who, when speaking on the second reading of the Central Reserve Bank Bill, stated, “ The Commonwealth is suffering from the consequences of world-wide deflation.” Other honorable members opposite have recognized the trend of our economic affairs. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) stated some time ago that “ England, by reducing her price level from 283 in 1920 to 126 in 1930, has more than doubled the quantity of goods we will require to export to pay back our war loans.” His suggestion was that because of the disadvantages due to our high economic standards we should apply to Great Britain to release ais from a corresponding amount of our national debt. I do not agree with the honorable member in that matter, but he realizes the disadvantages that are associated with an entirely artificial standard of living.
I regret to say that compulsory arbitration has not given the results that were expected of it. It is proposed by the Government to remove the provision of the act requiring the court to take into consideration the economic effect of awards on the industries concerned; but it is essential that this provision should be retained. In this matter honorable members on this side have received support from a rather unexpected source. The Assistant Minister for Industry (Mr. Beasley), referring on the 12th November last to the Government’s arbitration proposals, said -
Hie functions of the Federal Arbitration Court should not be confined to questions of wages and hours. They should embrace such contingent factors as market conditions abroad, evidence of profits, and the various economic considerations which affected trade and industry.
I hope that the Minister will stand up to that statement in this House. It should be an axiom in connexion with any system of price-fixing that regard must be had to its economic effect upon other industries, and the community generally. The specious argument advanced by the Attorney-General that a principle which is so plain to all need not be stated in the Statute, is merely plausible. That is all that may be said for it. [Quorum formed.] The hollowness of the argument is seen when we examine the statements of honorable members in explanation of the motive for the elimination of the provision relating to the economic effect of awards. Quite unreservedly member after member declared that the existing basic wage must be regarded as sacrosanct; that, subject only to the rise or fall in the cost of living, there must be no interference with the existing wage standards; that, in short, wages must be fixed with regard solely to the cost of living. The slogan of the Labour party is “ No reduction in wages.” On that slogan it Avon thousands of votes at the last election. The Prime Minister reaffirmed this declaration in his statement of policy on the 12th March last, and at each Labour conference a resolution is passed declaring that there must be no interference Avith wage standards. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway), who was one of the early speakers in the debate, stated that the present basic wage must be maintained as the absolute minimum. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) said he would increase it to £5 10s. a week.
It should be realized that the basic wage was fixed during a period of fictitious prosperity. This year the income from our exportable products has declined by between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000, and borrowed capital which would go into consumption has been reduced by about £30,000,000. Estimates of economists as to the extent by which the national income has been diminished vary from £60,000,000 to £100,000,000. We may safely assume that this year the amount available for the payment of wages in industry is about £50,000,000 less than it has been for some years past. The number of workers has not been reduced. If the fund from which wages is paid has been reduced by £50,000,000, and if the national dividend is static, is it not obvious that a large proportion of the workers will have either no employment at all or, at the best, very little employment? It is estimated that 15 per cent, of the working population of Australia is out of work. The actual percentage would probably be higher if it were possible to include in the figures the number of young persons who have not yet been classed as prospective workers, and the number of aged people who, owing to their inability to obtain employment at the basic wage rate, are claiming old-age pension payments. The increase in the number of applications for old-age pensions is due in part as I have said, to the fact that many elderly people are unable to earn the basic wage and are not permitted to work for less. It should be borne in mind also that a certain number of the persons unemployed in Australia have dependants. It is safe to assume that the workless and their dependants number not less than’500,000, and that a considerable proportion of these people are in absolute distress. This bill will do nothing to help them.
– On the contrary, it will increase the number of unemployed.
– This bill will not make another job available for the workers of Australia.
The Government and its supporters are extremely solicitous about the welfare of those who are in work. I think I heard the honorable member for Bendigo say that his concern was to legislate for the protection of those who were in work and that he was not concerned about the unemployed. This generally characterizes the attitude of the Government. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) spoke about the irreducible minimum wage upon which people may be expected to support life. How idle it is to talk about the irreducible minimum to those who are unable to secure employment, and to their dependants who are in absolute poverty. They live somehow or other very much below the standard of the basic wage. It should be the first duty of the Government to have regard to the condition of those who are unemployed than to be so solicitous for the more fortunate sections of the industrial workers who are in constant work.
Another provision which I consider most objectionable is that relating to preference to unionists. The AttorneyGeneral has contended that the elimination from the act of the words “ other things being equal “ will not affect the discretion of a judge of the Arbitration Court. I am surprised to hear this expression of opinion from the Attorney-General, who has advanced the same contention with regard to the provision relating to the economic effects of awards. As a lawyer he must know that one of the elementary canons impressed on all law students is that in construing an amendment of a statute, to ascertain the intention of the legislature it is necessary first to scrutinize the original act. It is ridiculous, therefore, to argue that in construing the provisions of this law as amended, judges of the court would be unaffected by the provision which strikes out of the preference section the words “other things being equal.” A judge, in construing the law as amended, would look at both acts to inform his mind of the purpose underlying the amendment, and would be justified in coming to the conclusion that preference may be granted to unionists absolutely without any restriction. This is a position which I cannot support. I do not give adherence to the principle of preference to unionists even in the restricted form provided in the original act.
– Not even in regard to the British Medical Association?
– No man joins the British Medical Association unless it suits him to do so. This principle of preference to unionists should never have been conceded. A man should be just as free to say whether or not he will join a union as he should be free to say whether or not he will go to church or profess any particular religion. There should be no compulsion upon the individual in matters of this kind. This principle is especially offensive in view of the fact that in more recent years trade unions have assumed political colour. A man should not be obliged to join a union which has developed into a political body, and stands for political principles with which he may be in disagreement. It is all the more objectionable when he is forced not only to join a union, but also to contribute to its funds for the maintenance of a political campaign which may be distasteful to him. This compulsion is an unwarranted interference with personal liberty, and should not be tolerated even in the restricted form in the act. For the same reason I object to the retention of the benefits of an award by unions which repudiate it. Surely it is obvious that if one of the parties to a convention or agreement breaks away from it, the other party is released from the obligations which the undertaking imposes upon it. The same conditions apply in respect of awards of the Arbitration Court. If one party to an award refuses to obey it, I do not say that we should impose a penalty upon it for its non-compliance with the order of the court, but if it refuses to abide by it the other party should be released from its undertaking. With preference to unionists in operation what will happen when a strike occurs? The employer cannot employ others willing to obey the award, and the job must be held up till the strikers are appeased. The suspension of awards is not in the nature of a penalty; parties are not penalized by being deprived of an award they do not want. The Government proposes to give complete control to the Labour unions, and the employers will not be able to get men except through the Trades Hall. The union secretary may send along an incompetent or a waster; if the employer sacks him he must apply again to the same source. No employer should be placed in such a position that a few union officials may ruin his business by sending to him men who will not work satisfactorily. It will be possible for a union official, by irritation tactics, to harry an employer into obeying the dictates of the Trades Hall. In regard to penalties, as they have been ineffective, there is no reason for retaining them. But all of them should be removed.
The bill provides for the appointment of so-called “conciliation commissioners.” That is a misnomer; these gentlemen will be arbitrators. The function of a conciliator is to bring the parties together, and, if possible, into agreement. When, in the event of their failing to agree, he makes an award that is binding on them, he is no longer a conciliator, but an arbitrator. The statement that the bill is intended to promote goodwill and peace in industry by conciliation is merely a pious expression; it has no foundation in the provisions of the measure, because every element of conciliation has been removed from it. [Quorum formed.]
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) said that for the determination of industrial causes specialists are needed. I agree that it is desirable to have a specialist for every job, but a more important qualification than special knowledge is impartiality. No matter how competent and well informed a man may be, unless he goes into court free of bias, his decision is not likely to be sound and acceptable to the parties. If a commissioner is to be a man who has had experience in the industry under consideration, he must be drawn from one of the parties to the dispute, and from whichever side he is drawn the other side will regard him with suspicion. From the outset his attempt to discharge his duties properly will be prejudiced. A reference has been made to the appointment of a former member . of this Parliament to the Arbitration Court Bench. I do not defend that appointment; I think that it is improper that members of the legislature should be appointed to preside in the Arbitration Court; but similar appointments have been made by the Labour party. The President of the Western Australian Arbitration Court was a former member of the State legislature.
– He had been out of Parliament for ten years before his appointment.
– That is so. A similar appointment was made in Queensland, but general satisfaction has been expressed regarding the manner in which both these gentlemen have discharged their duties. Certainly the Arbitration Court judge in Perth has given satisfaction to all parties, and his decisions are generally respected. Nevertheless the principle I have enunciated remains sound. In connexion with the judicial Bench a very high standard of ethics has always been maintained. As soon as a man is appointed to the Bench he must sever all previous associations, and put aside his prejudices and sympathies. Morally, as well as by oath, he is bound to decide all issues referred to him according to equity and good conscience.
– Does the honorable member think it possible that we may appoint an honest man to be a conciliation commissioner ?
– The Attorney-General particularly should know the high standard of conduct and impartiality that is expected of judges. Nearly every man appointed to the bench has been a successful practitioner, and, in the course of his judicial duties, many people come before him with whom he has been associated in his earlier career. It is conceded generally that judges, by reason of the high standard of ethics that applies to their office, set aside all their associations and predilections and act with absolute impartiality. But if a judicial appointment is made from amongst the officials of trade unions or employers’ associations, however honest the appointed man may be, he will be suspect by one party, and will be fortunate if pressure is not brought to bear upon him by the industrial organizationswith which he has been connected.
– It is worthy of note that the only industrial commissioner appointed in Australia has been very highly praised by honorable members on both sides of the chamber.
– That gentleman was only a conciliator and had no arbitral power; moreover, he was a per manent official of the court. A legal man may not be the ideal president of an arbitration court, but judges are usually selected from the best brains at the bar, and their training and experience qualify them to sift evidence and readily grasp a subject. As a class, the judges are the most able men in the community. In the past there has been very little complaint against those who have presided in the arbitration courts. It is true that recently one judge was burned in effigy, but most of the decisions in the arbitration courts during the last 20 years have been loyally accepted. That in itself is a tribute to the ability and capacity of the judges. I doubt very much whether the decisions of conciliation commissioners appointed from one party to industry will be accepted in the same way.
The bill is not wholly bad. I recognize that the act is capable of improvement, and, therefore, I propose to support certain provisions of the bill. But the greater part of it is not an impartial attempt by the Government to do justice between the parties . to industry. The dominating idea is to put such power in the hands of trade unions that the Government will be able to claim that it has carried out the pledge given before the election and repeated very often since, that there would be no interference with the basic wage. It will be very difficult to prevent such interference. A basic or standard wage cannot be constant. It should be in the nature of a barometer indicating the prosperity of the country. In bountiful times it should rise; in times of adversity it must inevitably fall. It is impossible to fix a certain standard and declare that it shall not be altered, no matter what economic conditions obtain. The Government is pretending to do that, but if it does not make a better effort to redeem the economic position of the country I am afraid that a reduction of wages will be forced upon the country earlier than it should be. The Government would be better advised to face frankly the economic facts, and particularly to direct its endeavours to the succour of the unemployed and their dependants.
Sitting suspended from 12 (midnight) to 12.30 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 27 June 1950
, - The bill is designed to improve the conditions of the workers of this country. When passed, it will be the thirteenth amendment, of the original act, and despite the fact that the figure 13 is considered of bad omen, I feel confident that, on this occasion, the effect will be quite the reverse of unhappy. The bill is not so far-reaching as I should like it to be, but, unfortunately, because of the limitations of the Constitution, the AttorneyGeneral has found it impossible to insert in it provisions that would have given much greater satisfaction to the industrialists of Australia than the proposed amendments do.
– There has been no indication by the supporters of the Government that there are such provisions.
– The common rule is one of them.
– Which the Government lias rejected this year in the case of the Public Service.
– The omission of provision for the common rule has caused a great deal of concern to the industrial workers of Australia. An award embodying that principle was made by a judge of the Arbitration Court in respect of the Theatrical Employees Union in 1925. That award was challenged by the employees through the High Court which had delivered the Cinema judgment. That was the accepted principle of the court until the latter part of last year, when the Clothing Trades Union made application for the common rule to apply to a South Australian firm. This was taken before the High Court and the previous judgment of 1925 was reversed.
– There has never been a common rule under Commonwealth jurisdiction.
– The principle has been accepted for the last five or six years by the Arbitration Court, and was not challenged until last year. Arbitration plays a considerable part in the national life of this country, and it has not had the deadly effect upon the industries of Australia that honorable members opposite would lead the people to believe. Yesterday, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) detailed the awful con- ditions of employment that obtained in Tasmania in 1906. Tasmania was not the only State in which the workers were suffering as the result of being sweated by their employers. It is well known that in every State the services of women and children, and men too, were, at that time, being exploited by the employers. It was as the result of those shocking conditions that the Arbitration Court was brought into being. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) stated that those who were responsible for the improvement of the workers’ conditions in this country were all good liberals. [Quorum formed, j I would remind him that the workers in their time of oppression, by banding together, were able to elect to the Commonwealth Parliament a few of their representatives, and it was the driving force of that small band of Labour men that led to the improvement of the conditions of the workers of this country. We have to turn back many pages of history to discover the tragic circumstances that surrounded the efforts of the reformers in the industrial movement. Men, and even women with babes at their breasts, served long terms of imprisonment because of their advocacy of improved conditions for the workers. As the result of their sacrifices and efforts*, wages boards and arbitration courts were brought into existence. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court was established in 1904, and in 1907, for the first time in the history of Australia, a basic wage was laid down. Honorable members opposite have gone to great pains to convince themselves and the general community that the basic wage has had an ill effect upon the progress of this country. Although the majority of them deny that they are seeking a reduction in the basic wage, nevertheless some of them have openly avowed that the wages paid to the workers are excessive. They loudly proclaim that it is necessary to reduce the cost of production, and by that they mean a reduction in the wages of the workers.
– That is an old platitude.
– Yes, but it is true.
– I doubt whether there is a single honorable member in this House who really believes that.
– Several honorable members opposite were sincere in their advocacy of a reduction in the wages of the workers.
– Who are they?
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) is one of them.
– That honorable member was opposed to arbitration only.
– Any honorable member who is opposed to arbitration is in favour of a reduction in the standard of living of the workers. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) both stated that they were opposed to the Arbitration Court, and any honorable member who advocates the abolition of that court is advocating a reduction in the wages of the workers. Honorable members opposite know full well that if the Arbitration Court were abolished, the protection enjoyed by the workers since 1907 would vanish, and the open shop system would again operate. My close association with industrial organizations, and with the fixing of the wages and conditions of the workers, has led me” to the conclusion that wages boards are absolutely useless for the purpose of fixing wages. Some of the State industrial tribunals afford absolutely no protection for the worker.
– The State system is preferred in Queensland.
– The system in Queensland is totally different from that operating in the other States. Queensland has a State industrial court in which the worker when endeavouring to improve his conditions does not have to face his employer. An official or advocate of his organization is permitted to plead on his behalf. In some of the States the union officials are not allowed to appear before wages boards to put the case of the workers whom they represent. I have been present in cases before the wages boards and I know of instances of victimization. It has frequently happened that men who have appeared before the board to fight for their rights in opposition to their employer have not long remained in their jobs.
Honorable members opposite seem to be strongly against the appointment of conciliation commissioners with full power to determine the questions submitted to them; but I believe that this proposal is well worthy of acceptance. Had the late Mr. Stewart been clothed with full power to settle disputes he could have done much more valuable work than he did, but as it was, his usefulness was greatly restricted.
– He was a conciliation commissioner; but it is a misnomer to call by that name the persons proposed to be appointed under this act.
– The appointment of conciliation commissioners under the conditions provided in the bill will prevent congestion in the court. Under existing conditions our arbitration process is cumbersome and slow. It took an organization with which I was connected nearly four years to get an award from the court. Had conciliation commissioners with full power been appointed years ago, arbitration would not have been submitted to so much adverse criticism. It is not essential that these men shall be qualified legal practitioners, but it is essential that they shall have some practical industrial experience. The judges of the court have often been handicapped because of their lack of experience in industry, and they have frequently had to appeal to the advocates of both the employers and the employees to help them out of difficulties.
The proposed amendment of the section of the act which provides for preference to unionists has also been subjected to a good deal of criticism. At present preference may be granted “ other things being equal “ ; but that qualification has been found to be unsatisfactory. Unfortunately many workers are not prepared to take their part in the fight to secure higher wages and improved conditions; but as soon as the union is successful in doing so they expect to receive the benefit of its effort. In my industrial career I have come into contact with some of the dirtiest, scabbiest, and meanest men on earth, who have consistently and unfairly criticized the leaders of the trade union movement, but have been the first to claim the benefits of awards obtained by trade unions. The unions have only been able to improve the conditions of the workers by fighting over a long period of years, and these unprincipled, and often unscrupulous, persons who refuse to fight for an improved standard of living should not be allowed to enjoy the fruits of the victories that are won. Years ago, when I was working as a miner in Broken Hill, an industrial dispute occurred, and the mine managers sought the help of a non-union organization there to break down the resistance which the trade unionists were offering to the proposals they put forward. But this non-union organization refused to take any side in the dispute, and said, in effect, “ We will stand pat until we see what the Trades Hall can secure for us”. Individuals who adopt that attitude deserve no consideration from their fellows.
Objection has also been expressed by honorable members opposite to the proposed deletion from the principal act of the provisions for the holding of secret ballots. It will be remembered that while the present Leader of the Opposition was holding the portfolio of Attorney-General in the previous Government a secret ballot of the timber-workers was ordered. He was asked what would happen in the event of the ballot being favorable to a continuance of the strike, and he replied that the workers would have to accept the award.
– The whole thing was a sham; it was the greatest farce in the history of trade unionism.
– That is so. I have been connected with the trade union movement for many years, and have taken my place in the strikers’ camp. I have known of secret ballots in which nearly 100 per cent, of the voters decided against a reduction of wages or an increase of hours ; but in every such case it has been alleged by those outside of the union concerned that the ballot was faked. It is ridiculous that ten disgruntled members of an organization should be permitted to ask the court for an order for the holding of a secret ballot.
– They must be financial members.
– That is not so. Section 56a, which it is proposed to delete, reads -
Any tcn members of an organization or a branch thereof may, when any vote is taken or about to be taken in any election of the committee or officers of the organization or of the branch, or in respect of any resolution proposed for adoption by the organization or the branch, as the case may be, demand, either verbally or in writing, that the vote be taken by secret ballot.
There is nothing there about financial members.
– The men who approach the court may not even be members of the organization concerned.
– They may not have paid their contributions for two or three years. Their names remain on the register in the possession of the court until they resign, or are granted clearances. The secret ballot provisions of the act are ridiculous, and should be repealed.
I regret that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) saw fit to criticize trade union secretaries in the way that he did. I hardly expected him to descend to those tactics. He alleged that trade union secretaries did not always play the game with the members of their organizations, but sometimes demanded money from them before finding them a job. It is possible that certain persons of the kind I have already described have informed the Leader of the Opposition that the secretary of some trade union has demanded money from them before taking any steps to find them employment; but it is only proper that such persons should be required to pay the contributions they owe to the union. It has been said by honorable members opposite that levies have been struck for political purposes without the members of trade anions having any say in the matter. I have been secretary of a union for a long time, and have also been secretary of the Labour Council in Tasmania, an organization which controls a large number of unions, and I defy the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), or any one else, to prove that there is, in the constitution of any trade union, a provision authorizing the striking of political levies. We are frequently twitted by honorable members opposite about compelling the unionists to contribute money to have ourselves elected, but how do the Opposition party secure funds to fight elections? The following is an extract from Smith’s Weekly, of 20th March, 1926 :-
Members of the National Federation ‘ and of the Australian Women’s National League accuse the National Union of Victoria (the money bags behind the present party in office in federal politics) of having dissipated £59,000 in the recent elections.
Of this sum, all but £10,000 was spent in Victoria. Before the Commonwealth Electoral Officer the other day, various individuals swore that, to their knowledge, the amounts allowed by law to be spent personally upon election expenses did not exceed £100 in the case of aspirants to the House of Representatives, and £300 in the case of Senate candidates.
What about the money that the party spent on candidates?
– What we object to is that men are compelled to belong to the unions, and to subscribe to political funds, regardless of their political views. Many of our supporters belong to unions, yet have to subscribe money to fight us.
– There is no provision in the constitution of any trade union to compel members to pay political levies.
– But money raised by levies is used for political purposes.
– It is not used for political purposes. During the 1926 election campaign the Nationalist party spout the following sums in trying to get its candidates elected : -
Price, the candidate who stood unsuccessfully for Bourke, is known as one of the greatest twisters who ever took the platform.First, he was an anticonscriptionist, and then, when it paid him better, he became a conscriptionist. That man has sold himself to every political party in Australia. The amounts spent in other electorates were -
How is all that money raised?
– By voluntary subscription.
– Some honorable members on the other side refused to have anything more to do with such voluntary subscriptions. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) is one of them. That money has been taken out of the pockets of the workers of this country, not directly, but indirectly, by those whom honorable members opposite represent in this Parliament.
– I represent more industrialists than does the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Culley).
– The honorable member is drawing on his imagination. At any rate, I am convinced that he is misrepresenting the industrialists in his constituency.
– They do not think so. I have held the seat for thirteen years, and it used to be a Labour seat at that.
– I remind those honorable members who affect to ridicule my small majority that I was up against a pretty stiff proposition last election. I was opposed by two captains, a brigadiergeneral, the president of the Soldiers Fathers Association, and an insurance agent. In spite of that, however, and in spite of the assistance given to my opponents by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett), and by the last Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), I increased my majority from 128 to just on 4,000.
Honorable members opposite have said that arbitration has failed, and that the cost of production must be reduced. In support of this they cite the labour conditions obtaining in other countries which compete with us. I was fortunate enough to be able to go abroad in 1927, thanks in a measure to Mr. Bruce, who accepted me as a member of a Labour delegation. I was- able to study industrial conditions in Great Britain, and I do not want to see similar conditions in Australia. Much has been said about the practice obtaining in the iron and steel trades in Great Britain, and how representatives of workers and employees get together round a table, and arrive at an amicable settlement of their differences. In 1927 there was a strike at the Austin works outside Birmingham.’ The men were fighting against conditions which the employers sought to impose. They had been out of work for weeks, and many of them were practically starving. They were told by the employers that they must accept the terms offered, or stand outside the gates and continue to starve. Some honorable members on the other side would like to see the same sort of thing here. They would like to see the policy of the Single Purpose League adopted in this country,so that men would be bidding against one another for such work as was offering. T trust that that sort of thing will never be seen here. I am of the opinion that a mandate was given to this Government at the last federal election. Arbitration on that occasion was the outstanding question; and it was on that, issue that this party was returned with an overwhelming majority. The AttorneyGeneral has endeavoured to carry out the promise that was then given to amend the Arbitration Act and make it more acceptable to the workmen of this country by promoting goodwill in industry along the lines of conciliation and arbitration. I believe that if the bill passes both Houses, the outcome will bc peace in industry in the Commonwealth for a long time to come; not the peace that my friend the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) and other honorable members who sit opposite would . like, but one that will do justice to the workers. If an attempt is made to compel the workers to sacrifice the standard that has been laid down since 1907, there will not be peace in industry. I wish the bill every success.
– I listened with considerable interest to the speech of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Culley). In his concluding remarks, he said that arbitration was the issue on which the last election was fought, and that the Government had been given a mandate to bring down this bill. I agree that one of the many issues upon which the election was fought was whether arbitration should operate solely in the State or the Federal sphere. I accept the decision of the people of Australia that arbitration shall continue to operate in the Federal sphere. I agree that the Government was entitled to adapt the arbitration law to make it conform with its own policy ; but I join issue with the honorable member for Denison on other assertions that he made, particularly the assertion that conciliation commissioners should be appointed with full arbitral power. That is an amazing proposal. Conciliation commissioners can do no more than conciliate; it is only an arbitrator who can have arbitral powers. How the two can be grouped under one head I cannot understand. I shall deal more fully with this matter later, and also reply to the arguments of the honorable member with respect to the proposal to do away with the 3ecret ballot. Industry in Australia has been handicapped for many years by periodic disputes and conflicts; but the position is threatened with serious aggravation if this bill becomes law.
The plea of the Attorney-General that the bill is designed to promote goodwill in industry, by conciliation and arbitration, might be regarded as little short of hypocrisy; for no one who has any conception of industrial conditions could believe that such a measure, which in every detail reflects the mind of an extreme partisan, could bring about goodwill.
– -I rise to order. Is it in order for the honorable member to say that the attitude of the AttorneyGeneral is little short of hypocrisy?
– If the honorable member made that remark he was out of order.
– I shall repeat what I said, so that the position may be made quite clear. ‘ My statement was that the plea of the Attorney-General that the bill is designed to promote goodwill in industry, by conciliation and arbitration, might be regarded as little short of hypocrisy; for no one who has any conception of industrial conditions could believe that such a measure, which in every detail reflects the mind of an extreme partisan, could bring about goodwill.
– The honorable member may not by inference convey the impression complained of.
– I have no desire to do so.
I am, and always have been, a staunch believer in the principle of arbitration. The present proposal of the Government is anything but arbitration. It is nothing but an attempt to alter the present arbitration legislation in such a way as to give trade union officials greater dominance in industry than they now possess, make more difficult the system of arbitration in regard to the settlement of industrial disputes, and prevent any consideration being given to the economic conditions of the nation in fixing wages and conditions in industry.
The proposals of the Government are in my opinion, designed, not to bring about peace, co-operation and goodwill in industry, but to give greater power and authority to the union bosses. Keeping the trade unionist under the control and domination of the union official is not going to contribute to industrial peace. I believe that the court proceedings which are associated with arbitration today do not tend towards peace and harmony in industry, but more or less drive both sides into opposite armed camps.
What is wanted in industry is more real conciliation, not the camouflaged system of conciliation or arbitration that is proposed by the bill. To-day we resort to arbitration proceedings before a judge to settle disputes in industry and to decide the wages and conditions of an industry. Seldom, if ever, have the arbitration awards so made given complete satisfaction to both sides. I believe that arbitration should never be resorted to until conciliation has failed. To-day we are reversing what I believe to be the correct procedure. We should try first to conciliate the parties; and then an, points that remain in dispute should be submitted to arbitration. The function of a conciliation agency is to bring about voluntary agreement, which in every case is more likely to be accepted and adhered to by the parties than an arbitrary decision given by an arbitrator, which seldom, if ever, gives satisfaction to both sides. The insane folly of continuous industrial warfare has become apparent to all except those who are violently opposed to the existing social order. Progressive industrialists and thoughtful leaders throughout the world realize that what is required in industry to-day is a practical method of eliminating industrial disputes, improving the economic position and status of those who are engaged in industry, and creating an atmosphere of greater confidence, goodwill and cooperation between both parties to industry. Sir Alfred Mond, now Lord Melchett, writing upon industrial questions recently, gave expression to the following views : -
The chasing of the elusive rainbows of socialists’ theories or the submitting to the destruction and ruinous doctrines of communism are not the paths along which sound progress are to be achieved.
There can be no doubt that you cannot build a sound industrial system or continue to fight industrial battles’ of the world unless the captains of industry know they have behind them a willing and contented army of workers.
Management and workers thus become interested in the efficiency of their business and schemes for the reductions in cost or suggestions for improvements become adequately remunerated. A scheme by which all those engaged in industry become participants in its prosperity forms part of the new stimulus towards industrial co-operation which is urgently needed.
– Has he written that since he changed from Liberalism to Toryism ?
– It is one of his most recent writings. There is one gospel that ought to be preached to-day; that is, conciliation, co-operation and recognition. I was interested to notice, during the course of this debate, that the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) saw fit to advocate what Lord Melchett himself has suggested, namely, profit-sharing in industry. At Hansard, page 2869, the honorable member is reported to have said -
I have met practically every group of employers in Australia, and on few occasions only have I known any employer to allow his employees a share in any excess profits accruing as a result of the fluctuations of market prices. Usually an agreement is entered into between the employer and employee based on the price of a certain commodity at a certain period. That commodity may be lead, and if, subsequently, the price of lead increases, with a corresponding increase in the profits of the employer, the minimum wage of the man working in the mine is seldom altered … On one or two occasions I have known excess profits to be shared among employees without violating any union principles.
I am glad that the honorable member has become more enlightened in his industrial views, and that on the floor of this House he is prepared to advocate profit-sharing. But I regret that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) saw fit to join issue with him on this matter. That honorable member said -
When piece-work and longer hours are introduced into industry, not 15 per cent, but 50 per cent, of our workers will be unemployed
. Bad as the position is in Australia to-day, it would be aggravated if the unions encouraged payment by results.
All serious thinkers on industrial questions the world over to-day are advocating piece-work, payment by results, and every other method of giving the workers in industry greater remuneration. The result has been the elimination in other countries of much of the industrial trouble that recently we have experienced in Australia. Every person who has at heart the interests of the workers will advocate on their behalf the adoption of piece-work and profit-sharing, so that they may obtain a greater return for their effort. The regulation of the wages and conditions of the workers in industry has passed through many stages. To-day, the workers throughout the world are participating in the benefits of an incentive wage, profit-sharing, piece-work, bonus system, and co-partnership or Whitley Councils.
– Have these schemes helped the situation?
– Undoubtedly, they have.
– Does the honorable member wish to see American conditions in operation in Australia?
– I want the workers of this country to have the best possible conditions that industry can give them. I do not wish to see them doomed for life to receive only the minimum wage; I should like them to enjoy such conditions as would enable them to give their families opportunities to fit themselves for the more important positions in society. Employees in the works of progressive American employers elect representatives to a council, which considers matters arising between the workmen and the management, including those affecting wages, hours, and working conditions.
It is a mistake to assume that the system of employee representation is purely an American innovation. It is known in Europe as the shop committee system. It was first devised by Mr. Mackenzie King, now Prime Minister of
Canada, when he was a professor in a Canadian university, and it was first applied in America in 1916. Mr. Mackenzie King’s proposal was somewhat similar to that known in England as the Whitley Council plan, except that it provided no governmental participation. It proposed committees, elected by the workmen, to sit in deliberation with, representatives of the management on all matters appertaining to the work, covering, indeed, pretty nearly everything connected, with the industry, including wages, hours of labour, and working conditions which might affect the well-being of employees. The success of the plan was remarkable, and where it has been tried these committees have learned how to reach decisions satisfactory both to the workmen and the management.
There is not in America that sharp demarcation between employer and employed which is to be found in older countries and in Australia. The young American wants to go ahead, and he knows from his own observation that the highest positions are open to those having energy, integrity, and intelligence. He does not regard himself as a. member of a working caste, bound to the service of an employing class. As he works, he likes to believe that he is serving himself. When labour disputes occur, there is, therefore, a comparative absence of. class feeling. It is more a business dispute, the seller asking more than the buyer is prepared to give. Under the American system the doctrine of high wages is believed in, because high wages give high consuming power, but the high wages are earned by efficiency. The piece-work system is very popular with the workmen, because they know that as they become more efficient their earnings increase. I recently read a statement issued by Dr. Mayo, whom I met in Australia in 1924 or 1925, showing that in one district in the United States of America the employees are medically’ examined once a year on their birthday. It was shown by the statistics that had been kept that the industrialists in that district had added twelve years to their lives, because they had avoided many of the diseases to which other workers had been subject. As soon as the presence of disease was noted, it was checked.
– Those workers are examined regularly iu order that they may be hurled out of industry if they are found to be unfit.
– That is not so. The object is to check disease and to ensure that they will continue to be perfectly fit.
– The main object is to speed up the workers.
– If they are able to maintain their general efficiency, they can earn higher wages and become more prosperous and better citizens. The ambition of every individual is to enjoy the highest standard of living that he can obtain. The following is a quotation from a report on “How the United States of America prevents strikes”-
The Works Council increases efficiency. Latterly, under this system, our company agreed to the formation of workmen’s committees which deal with the elimination of useless labour, of ‘ unnecessary operations, of inferior methods. The workmen accept this idea because they know that the lower the price at which an article can be Bold the more we can sell. As a result of this co-operative work, labour in America is, by and large, receiving nearly twice its earnings in pre-war days, whereas the cost of living has risen only about MO per cent.
The Works Council is always seeking suggestions from the workmen for the reduction of costs of manufacture, and prizes, varying in value according to the practical result of the suggestions, are awarded to those who have had the intelligence to see a better way of doing things. The workman recognizes that his interests and those of his employer are not separate but demonstrably one and the same.
Fear that the elimination of labour will mean loss of employment has been proved to be groundless. If the cost of production is reduced, the price of the product is also reduced to an equivalent extent, so that more of it is sold; therefore, any labour displaced by the elimination of an operation is at once absorbed in making the additional quantity of articles demanded. That knowledge is engrained in the minds of American workmen, and that is the reason they are so interested in methods of efficiency.
Where there is a spirit of co-operation, where all parties sincerely seek harmony, and where machinery has been set up to permit of the smooth working of industrial relations, the causes of complaint are few and easily settled.
Strikes are almost unknown in industries in America in which the workers are employed under the system to which I have referred.
Half of our industrial troubles would never reach the courts if the employer thoroughly understood the position as the worker viewed it, or if the worker knew the difficulties the employer had in obtaining orders, in financing his business, and in scraping up the money necessary for the pay roll. Who have benefited most by the more advanced method of regulation of industry? Undoubtedly, the workers. Who have suffered most under the system proposed to be perpetuated in even a worse form under the present bill? The workers and their wives and families. Under any system of profitsharing, or an incentive wage, the workers’ interests could be preserved by the agreements arrived at being submitted to the Arbitration Court for ratification. I hope that a serious effort will be made in committee to provide for an incentive wage.
Limitations in the Constitution cause many difficulties in effectually providing for a system of arbitration for the preservation and settlement of industrial disputes and for regulating industry. There must be a definite dispute, which must extend beyond the limit of any one State, before application for an award can be made to the Federal Arbitration Court. This is a frequent cause of trouble. It causes unions to create disputes rather than seek to avoid them. Having full regard to the limitations imposed by the Constitution, the proposals of the Government are a keen disappointment to me. I hope all parties in the House will early confer with a view to arriving at an agreement on the powers that this Parliament needs over industrial matters properly to approach this important problem, and jointly appeal to the people by way of referendum. Only two major referendums have been carried by the people - those dealing with the Constitution itself and the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. In both cases there were many conferences before an agreement was arrived at, and then - and not till then - was the appeal made to the people. We have too long tried to overcome this limitation in the Constitution. We should make a united appeal to the people for fuller powers that would enable us to give industry a chance to develop. Constitutional limitations cause many difficulties in providing for a system of arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes and the regulation of industry. First there is the inability of the court to make a common rule. Then there must be a definite dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State before the court can function. Huge costs, running into tens of thousands of pounds, have to be incurred to get an award, and the serious and vexatious delays that occur are another cause of dissatisfaction. Mr. George Anderson, in his book The Fixation of Wages in Australia, says -
There are60 federated unions affiliated with this council, representing more than 350,000 unionists. In carrying out our work we have encountered many difficulties, because of the limitations in the Federal Constitution, involving the unions in enormous expense and labour, and causing vexatious delays in securing awards. The necessity to prove the existence of a dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State, and failure to obtain a common rule have been serious obstacles in the way of the court. Thousands of pounds have been spent in fighting legal technicalities raised by employers. To prove the existence of an interstate dispute has meant prolonged constitutional arguments. The delay and cost has at times brought some unions almost to financial ruin. The inability of the Arbitration Court to make a common rule has forced unions to serve logs and summonses on each employer, as the award can only be made to apply to the employers cited before the court. In some cases unions have to serve logs and summonses on 10,000 employers. Several unions have to serve up to 5,000 logs and summonses. The cost of printing and posting is a serious drain upon the uuions’ funds.
– That is not what the honorable member said at Rosewood last year.
– That is exactly what I said; I quoted from this book. I commend the honorable member for paying such close attention to my speeches. If he continues to do so he will gain a lot of up-to-date and accurate knowledge.
– Who is George Anderson ?
– He is a student of economics and philosophy, a graduate of the University of Melbourne, and a barrister of the Supreme Court of Victoria.
– He is a master printer, and appears in the Arbitration Court for the employers in printing trade cases.
– He is also a student of industrial affairs. He said, further -
In the Engineers’ and Blacksmiths’ case, 1924, the oral address of one of the represenatativesof the largest union alone occupied three days, the shorthand notes of the evidence and argument occupied 2,450 typewritten sheets of foolscap; the addresses, 280 sheets, and in addition the exhibits submitted, some of them very lengthy, numbered 190.
The hearing of that case occupied nearly a year. These are some of the limitations that hamper us in trying to devise an effective scheme of arbitration.
– The honorable member must be in favour of the bill.
– I am in favour of the Commonwealth Parliament having greater power to deal with industrial matters, and in the interests of industry and those engaged in it, and for the sake of the development of Australia, I urge that all parties in this Parliament should co-operate in asking the people to grant to this Parliament fuller industrial power, so that it may legislate effectively, instead of passing the hopeless and biased proposals contained in the bill. The conditions regulating industry are too intricate. Most industries are governed by both Commonwealth and State systems of arbitration, and often these overlap, with resultant confusion. This condition is probably without parallel in any part of the world, and is a frequent source of industrial trouble. I regret that the Government’s proposals do not aim at doing away with the overlapping of awards; but are more likely to accentuate the existing disabilities. They will divide the parties to industry into two hostile camps, and I fear will be productive of trouble rather than goodwill. The continuance of the system of dual control of industry is indefensible, and I hope that, in the committee stage, the Government will accept amendments designed to relieve industry of some of these regrettable burdens.
I am in accord with the proposal to ‘ remove the penalties in respect of strikes and lockouts. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), wheu Attorney-General in the Bruce-Page Ministry, submitted this proposal to the industrialists at a conference in 1927; but apparently they had not the courage to make up their minds to accept or reject it. These penalties have been in the Arbitration Act since 1904, and, although Labour governments have come and gone, they have not previously made any attempt to remove them. It is to the
Credit of the Bruce-Page Government that in 1928 it substantially reduced the penalties. I welcome their complete elimination, because generally they have <been ineffective.
The bill provides for the appointment of conciliation commissioners. I said earlier that in the past we have tackled conciliation and arbitration in the wrong order. When trouble occurs in an industry, we should first endeavour to bring the parties into agreement by conciliation, and only the points remaining in dispute should be referred to an arbitrator.
– If the parties agree, would the honorable member then refer the matter to a judge or any other tribunal ?
– The function of a conciliator is to bring the parties together and, if possible, to agreement. There his duty ends. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Culley) suggested conciliation commissioners with arbitral powers. That is a contradiction of terms. A conciliator cannot have arbitral powers. The proposals of the Government are radically and fundamentally unsound and impracticable. The bill empowers the appointment of an unlimited number of so called conciliation commissioners who are to exercise all the powers of an Arbitration Judge, who is appointed for life. No qualifications are prescribed, and the commissioners are not to be given independence by fixed tenure. This proposal very much resembles the system introduced by Mr. Lang, when he was Premier of New South Wales. He appointed a large number of commissioners with extraordinary powers, and it was necessary for the Bavin Government to bring in amending legislation so that the act could become operative. Mr. Lang appointed trade union officials who had no special qualifications for the work.
– And the Bavin Government did not remove one of them.
– The bill introduced by Mr. Bavin took from the commissioners the right of a casting vote; their function was limited to conciliation. Previously there had been no right of appeal from the decision of a commissioner. Mr. Bavin conferred that right of appeal, and both parties to industry were placed on an equal footing. Prior to these amendments the act was ineffective, and there was a lack of goodwill between the parties; but for the amendment introduced by Mr. Bavin, the act could not have operated. This bill, however, does not provide for an appeal from the decisions of a commissioner. Although the conciliation commissioner will not have power to increase hours and decrease wages, he will have power to decrease hours and increase wages in defiance of a decision of the Full Arbitration Court. That is a most improper and dangerous provision. These commissioners will not be conciliation, commissioners in actual fact. There are no qualifications specified in the bill in respect of these appointments, yet, when appointed, these commissioners will have power to override a decision of the full Arbitration Court.
– Would the honorable member say that members of the legal profession have a. knowledge of industry?
– The judges, who are specially trained to sift evidence and elicit facts from witnesses, are better able to deal with industrial problems than are men of no special qualification at all.
– The power to increase or decrease the standard hours of work will still be in the hands of the Federal Court.
– Yes, but the decision of the Full Court may be set aside by a conciliation commissioner! This is an amazing and indefensible proposal.
I come now to the provision in the bill relating to the repeal of the secret ballot. The Government has undoubtedly yielded to the clamourings of extreme union leaders, because the secret -ballot, which hitherto has constituted a safeguard for the reasonable-minded worker, is to be abolished. The very success of trade unionism has tended to destroy control by the individual worker of the affairs of his union, and has increasingly made him the servant of his highly-paid officials. The secret ballot has been welcomed by trade unions generally, though not by some union officials who control their unions regardless of the wishes of their members. Take, for example, the cooks’ union, which has not full power to remove its officers. The following letter, which was sent in 1927 to the then Industrial Registrar by members of the Queensland branch of the Marine Cooks, Bakers, and Butchers Union, appeared in the Daily Mail : -
We feel that it is time that the management of the union was carried on according to the rules registered under the Arbitration Act, and not by the general secretary and the executive committee, and a few members in Sydney, as at present. Matters in dispute, are -
No members outside Sydney have any voice in the business of the union.
There are no nominations called or ballot held every year as per rules for election of executive committee and general secretary.
We know nothing about the financial state of affairs, only that we get an annual report and balance-sheet every year. And we find that expenses are by far too great.
We must pay our contributions and levies; obey orders from Sydney whether we like them or not. We are paying machines only. Now we want the rules carried out, nominations called throughout Australia, and ballot held, every member having his rights by the rules.
Every branch and agency to receive the minutes, and cash accounts of . general meetings in Sydney, together with the business and motions, and the right to vote on same.
– Who signed that letter?
– I have not the signature, but I took this extract from Hansard, and the signature of the person who signed it is shown therein. I used the letter during the debate on the bill in 1928 in justification of the secret ballot. It continues -
We consider that if the voice of the whole of the members carried on the business instead of a few as at present, it would save a lot of disputes and things would run smoothly.
That letter, which was written during the recent industrial dispute on the waterfront, expresses the desire of a body of trade unionists for the power to govern their own union affairs. They feel that if they could do so there would be more likelihood of preserving industrial peace. Another example is the Bread Carters Union in Sydney, which recently obtained an order for a secret ballot from a State court. There had been a protracted dispute which involved litigation in the New South Wales court between the rank and file and the officials of the Bread Carters Union. Finally it was brought to a head by the judge of the Arbitration Court ordering a secret ballot to be held.
– I know something about that case. The secret ballot was not ordered under the 1928 act.
– These extracts were quoted in this Blouse prior to the passage of the amending bill of 1928, and were used to justify the secret ballot. The following extract is taken from the Sydney Morning Herald -
The ballot for election of officials for the Bread Carters Union, conducted under the supervision of the Department of Labour and Industry, resulted in an overwhelming victory for the rank and file candidates, who won all the important executive positions in the union. Under direction of the Industrial Court the counting of the ballot was continuous, and as a result the returning officer and his staff were obliged to count throughout Tuesday night. They were locked up in the Trades Hall, and meals were supplied to them. The counting commenced about 4 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, and continued for 26 hours. There were 31 candidates for the fifteen positions, and about 900 votes were recorded. All the present officials were defeated.
That case provides definite evidence of a union being rendered inoperative by internal strife and conflicts between its officials and members. When the latter were given the opportunity to vote at a secret ballot, they were able to rid themselves of obstructive officials, and . to regain control of their affairs. That is an excellent example of the efficiency of a secret ballot in the direction of avoiding industrial trouble. Trade unions are most important bodies in a modern community, and it is necessary that their members shall have full powers of selfgovernment and self-determination. I regret very much that the requirement to have union accounts audited by a qualified accountant is being removed by this bill. In many instances it is compulsory for men to join unions before being permitted to work. They have to pay a definite entrance fee and an annual contribution to the funds of the union.
– In what union?
– In all unions. The fees paid by trade unionists to-day amount to a colossal sum.
– To what union does the honorable member belong?
– At’ one time I was a member of a union. To-day I am a member of the parliamentary union. The provision in the act is similar to that relating to friendly societies, for the protection of their members, and a similar provision should also operate in respect of the trade union movement.
Let me say, in conclusion, that this is a biased measure, having no regard to the interests of industry at all. It will not make the conditions of employment any better; in fact, it can only make them worse. It will not provide more employment, but on the contrary, will threaten disputes and unemployment. The conciliation commissioner will not be able to reduce wages or increase hours, but he will be able to increase wages and reduce hours even in defiance of the decision of the Pull Arbitration Court of three judges. They will not be conciliation commissioners, but arbitrators, with powers similar to judges. The bill will give a dangerous authority to a few militant union leaders. In this democratic country the workers are to be denied the right of enforcing a majority opinion, because under this bill they will be deprived of the privilege of a secret ballot. In making awards the commissioners will not be required to take into account the economic position of the industries into which they inquire, and the ability of those industries to pay the rates of wages demanded. lt is an amazingly foolish policy to increase the cost of living and add to our unemployed army by imposing excessively high duties, and even prohibitions of the importations of goods, with a view to developing new industries in Australia, and at the same time, by partisan legislation of this nature, to drive away every one who might desire to take advantage of the sheltered markets available here.
However, as the bill is essentially one that must be considered in detail in committee, I trust that honorable members on both sides of the chamber will endeavour to fashion it into an instrument which will be beneficial not only to the workers of Australia but to our industries generally.
– It has been said frequently during this debate that this bill can be dealt with more effectively in committee than in a second-reading debate; but if we spend as much time on it at that stage as we are now doing we shall not be able to visit our electorates before the middle of next vear. [Quorum formed.]
The measure has been dealt with already from the point of view of the barrister, the paid official of organizations, the ordinary unionist, and the nonunionist. I propose to consider it from the point of view of one who knows the conditions that prevailed before the introduction of arbitration, in the days when freedom of contract prevailed, when round table conferences were common - at which by the way, the workers usually got kicked on the shins - and when the “ boss “ was approached directly by his employees. After a wide experience covering all those phases of industrial negotiation, I say unhesitatingly that the arbitration system is the best method that has yet been devised for settling industrial disputes. The honorable member for Flinders rightly observed that arbitration had been of immense benefit not only to the workers but to industry generally.
This law, like others that have been passed, is not perfect. The last Government endeavoured to repeal it because of a certain amount of overlapping of Commonwealth and State tribunals. The Leader of that Government said “Arbitration must go without a moment’s delay “. But the people thought otherwise and that right honorable gentleman is now touring the Continent of Europe at his own expense for the first time for many years. During the election campaign, the Labour party declared that if it were returned to power it would repeal the Transport Workers Act and the penal sections of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It also promised to propose amendments to the act with the object of securing and maintaining peace in industry.
It has been said by honorable members opposite that the appointment of conciliation commissioners under the conditions proposed will destroy our industrial fabric, but the Government is responsible to the people for its actions, and if it does anything foolish it must expect to meet the same fate that the last Government met for its stupidity in trying to remove from the statute-book a measure which had been upon it for a quarter of a century. In 1928, the Bruce-Page Government appealed to the people to return it to power in order that it might introduce legislation with the object of securing permanent peace in industry; and, when having been returned, it entirely repudiated its promises.
Prior to the introduction of industrial arbitration, much serious industrial strife occurred in Australia, and many methods of settling disputes were tried and abandoned. This Government believes that the amendments which it now proposes to make in the act will maintain peace in industry. One of the commonest complaints made against the Arbitration Court is that it is slow in making its awards; but the appointment of conciliation commissioners should assist the court to deal with its business expeditiously. The Queensland method of settling industrial disputes is most effective. Every police magistrate and clerk of petty sessions in that State is also an industrial magistrate, and immediately an industrial dispute occurs there the parties submit it to the magistrate of the district for settlement.
– What Government introduced that system?
– A Labour Government.
– But a Nationalist Government is now trying to improve it.
– Evidently the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is not aware that the three : gentlemen appointed to the industrial court bench by the Labour Government have been retained by the Nationalist Government.
– That is because the Moore Government does not believe in the policy of spoils to the victors.
– Perhaps that is why Mr. McGill, who was campaign director in the last State election in Queensland, has been retained by the Moore Govern”ment ever since the election at 25 guineas a day.
– What is he -doing now?
– The honorable member may visit Queensland if he likes and find out for himself. The fact that the parties to industrial disputes in Queensland are able to approach the industrial magistrates without delay has led to the rapid solution of many difficulties, and prevented the dislocation of many industries.
The American method of dealing with industrial troubles has been mentioned during this debate. In that country, shop committees are appointed in every large establishment, and through these the employees are brought into direct contact with the employers. If a grievance occurs it is settled on the spot. The conciliation commissioners; proposed to be appointed under this bill will not have such direct contact with the parties to disputes as the shop committees of America, but they will nevertheless be able to bring the parties together without delay.
Another cause of complaint against the arbitration court as it is at present constituted is that previous governments have appointed to its bench persons who are out of touch with the workers and out of touch with industry generally. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) said to-night that it would be a good thing if lawyers were kept out of the Arbitration Court. I agree with him. It costs a union a great deal to conduct a case before the Arbitration Court, and the fees which unionists have to pay for this purpose amount to a regular tax. Recently, shearers’ wages in Queensland were reduced by 4s. a 100, bringing them down to the New South Wales level. It has been said that if a conciliation commission is appointed it will be biased, but no one can say who will be appointed as commissioners. This Government surely has some regard for the workers, and it would be absurd to appoint, as commissioners, persons who would fix a basic wage of £20 a week, because industry would cease, and the workers would suffer. Under the system of conferences with the bosses, we always noted that, during times of great unemployment, attempts were made to reduce wages, generally with success. During the last three . or four years, those connected with industry must have noticed that, with the dumping in Australia of large numbers of unemployed from overseas, the stage was being set for what is called a reduction of the cost of production. Honorable members on the other side claim that this does not necessarily mean a reduction in the rate of wages.
What else can it mean ? The Arbitration Court lays down a fair living wage for the workers. Is there anything wrong with that? There are not enough thousand-a-year jobs to go round, and somebody must be on the basic wage. The court also stipulates an 8-hour day. Surely no one would advocate a working week of more than 48 hours. Although there have been great improvements in machinery within recent years, the workers have not benefited. The immediate effect of new inventions has nearly always been to disorganize industry, and to throw workers out of employment.
– Why is the clerks’ union applying to the Arbitration Court for a 35-hour working week?
– Perhaps it desires to help its unemployed members. The invention of the Wahl adder, and other automatic calculating machines, has had the effect of displacing clerks. Has the honorable member ever seen an ass starving to death in a well-grassed paddock? Yet the unemployed in this country are starving in the midst of plenty. Governments have failed in the past in not making unemployment a charge on industry. Even the animals are treated better than are our workers. A man
Owning draught horses must keep them fed during a slack period, but the workers may starve if there are no jobs for them.
– Does the honorable member think that a 35-ho’urs working week is a contribution towards the solution of the unemployment problem ?
– This bill is not directed towards the solution of the unemployment problem, I do not think that it will have the effect of creating one more job. The workers, however, are aware of the incongruity of paying one judge £3,000 and two others £2,500 a year each to argue about whether they themselves shall receive £4 a week or £3 10s. It is all very well to talk about peace in industry,, but the Bruce-Page Government depended for its very existence on industrial disturbances. The 1925 election was fought on the issue of the deportation of Walsh and johnson. The cry then was that there could be no peace while those two men wore in Australia.
In 1928, however, they were still in Australia, but the Government had forgotten all about Johnson, while Walsh was in the Nationalist corner. It is a fact that immediately prior to both the 1925 and the 1928 elections, serious industrial trouble developed, and was made the most of by the Nationalist party in its electioneering propaganda. The Bruce-Page Government told the electors that if it were returned it would secure peace in industry. Many people fell for that line of talk. The workers, especially, wanted peace, but the Nationalist party did not want peace in industry at all. It wanted the open economic ring, by which it could bring back the conditions that prevailed in the eighties and nineties. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) smiles. I heard him say tonight that he represented the workers. However, out of 60,000 votes cast in his electorate, he was able to secure a majority of only a bare hundred. Practically 30,000 electors in the Oxley division supported the Labour candidate. The honorable member f Or Oxley may be doing his best to represent those voters now; but they certainly did their best to get rid of him at the last election. I think his majority slipped even’ more than did that of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill).
Let us glance at some df the disputes which occurred when Australia enjoyed, the much lauded open economic ring; when we had round table conferences; when we used to meet the boss, sometimes riding miles out to the shearing sheds for the purpose, only to find that he refused to abide by the agreement signed theyear before, and proposed to put on free labour. One of the earliest disputes wasbetween the Australian Steam Navigation Company and the seamen’s union. It was brought about by the ‘men refusing to work on the ships alongside Chinese. After the dispute had been in progress- for some time, seventeen ships were tied up. The company was at that time in receipt of a subsidy from the ‘Queensland Government, and the only way it could be made ‘to put its ‘ships into commission again was by threatening to recall the subsidy. Eventually the company promised to get rid of the Chinese’. Even in those days labour was -no’t cheapenough to suit a company, and Chinese- were imported. Strikes took place in the pastoral industry even when there was no arbitration. The honorable member for Oxley must remember the shearers’ strike in 1902, when the employers used strike-breaking gangs led by thugs. We have heard recently of “ basher gangs “, but they were nothing compared with the gangs used to break strikes 30 years ago. A member of another place advocated the shooting of the strikers, and he is still known as “ Shoot-‘em-down Thompson.” Gatling guns, soldiers and police were sent out to the disturbed area to bring about peace in industry. Those were the methods of conciliation employed by the fore-runners of our Nationalist Governments. It has been said that arbitration is a failure, and that unions will not obey awards, but Mr. Justice Powers, who is a better authority on such matters than any member of this House, has said that from 90 per cent, to 95 per cent, of the awards have been honorably observed. When the Bruce-Page Government threatened to abolish federal arbitration, Mr. Justice Powers made the following statement : -
I would fail in my duty to the public if, after an experience of 30 years of the good work done by the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and the loyal observance of 90 per cent, to 95 per cent, of awards of unions, I did not assist, as far as possible, in having the repeal of the act postponed for further consideration. I am satisfied that the repeal of the act will be a great blow to interstate trade and commerce, and to the public, if some court, tribunal, or board, capable of settling interstate industrial disputes by conciliation and arbitration is not retained, and the parties are left to direct action to settle interstate industrial disputes.
It will be found legally impossible for the States to settle interstate industrial disputes.
Mr. Bruce put the case for his Government in the following way : -
There is only one issue to be faced at this election. The .Bruce-Page Government realizing the chaos that overlapping of Federal and State awards has brought upon Australian industry, particularly in view of the continual industrial upheavals that take place in the Southern States, decided to abolish the Federal Arbitration Court, and leave the matter to each individual Arbitration Court. By this means no worker is deprived of any arbitration privileges at all.
A great champion of the cause of arbitration has been the ex-Attorney-General, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). He said in April, 1928 -
Those who say that arbitration has broken down are not acquainted with the facts . . . Those who make broad statements that the whole system has failed, completely disregard the fact that, while in three or four industries there have been serious difficulties, scores of other industries are working under awards or agreements of the Arbitration Court with reasonable satisfaction to both sides.
Speaking in London, he is reported to have said -
Since he had arrived he had noticed that there was a strike in the coal industry, even in London. People in Australia were too prone to advertise their difficulties. The Arbitration Court in Australia had worked most successfully.
Would the abolition of the Arbitration Court mean greater employment, as is claimed by honorable members opposite? There is a Nationalist Government in New South Wales and Queensland, in both of which States the rural workers’ award has been withdrawn. That action did not cause one additional worker to be employed in the rural industries.
– It certainly did in Queensland.
– It did not result in the employment of one extra man. Men who previously tramped the country searching for work were able to sell their labour at the rate provided by the rural workers award. The award was policed by the Government, and the employers were afraid to pay less than the ruling rate of wage. The majority of those who to-day are tramping the roads must take what is offered to them, even though it be only bread and beef in return for the chopping of wood. When the Labour party was defeated in Queensland in 1929, the ratio of unemployment was less than 7 per cent. If the abolition of the rural workers’ award has led to the provision of additional employment, why is it necessary for the Nationalist Government in that State to commence relief works?
– From the stand-point of humanity.
– Humanity at £2 10s. a week is “a hit thin. Has the honorable member for Oxley ever tried to maintain a wife and three children on £4 a week?
– It is far better to have £2 10s. a week than nothing.
– That is quite right. While the Labour party was in power in Queensland it gradually reduced its expenditure until it was in a position to carry out public works. It left over £3,000,000 in the Treasury.
– Loan funds.
– Had it remained in office, it would have been able to absorb the unemployed at award rates of pay. To-day those men are being exploited, not only by the Government, but also by the local authorities. The Greater Brisbane Council dismissed thousands of men. Thousands were thrown out of the railway service, also, after the advent of the Moore Government. The honorable member for Oxley must know that after the defeat of the Labour Government the railway awards went by the board, porters who carried luggage were dispensed with, and the work was given to the “ redcaps,” and the six saints’ days that previously were holidays, were cut out of the awards. But it is impossible for any government to ruin, or even hurt, a State like Queensland. It has just come through a five years’ drought ; yet, despite what the honorable member for Oxley designates as the disability of fourteen years of Labour rule, it is better off financially, and has fewer unemployed, than any other State in the Commonwealth. When the Moore Government was returned to power its first act was to attack the workers. The loss of six holidays in a year was a serious blow to the working man. Quorum formed.] The working week also was increased by four hours. The claim was that the new Government wished to relieve the unemployed position; but the re-introduction of the 48- hour week threw one man in every eleven out of employment, leaving him to be exploited and to be forced to accept £2 10s. a week if he were a single man, and £3 a week if he were married. It was necessary for the Government to bring about a change in the Federal Arbitration system, because the people had lost faith iti it as the result of statements made by persons in responsible positions with regard to cases before the court. We had the spectacle the other day of an organization, which has abided loyally by the Arbitration Act, taking a secret ballot of its members to determine whether it would have compulsory arbitration or direct action. But its case had been pre-judged before it went to the court. It knew what the fate of its case would be before the evidence was heard. On that occasion the union advocate withdrew from the court. If the proposed conciliation commissioners could be more biased than the gentlemen who made the. recent statements they would prove a failure. Legislation was passed in Queensland recently causing the retirement of judges in that State at the age of 70 years. The result was that judges who retired from the Queensland judiciary were placed on the bench of the Federal Arbitration Court. Men approaching their second childhood cannot be expected to bring about peace in industry.
– Is the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) in order in referring to members of the judiciary as men who are entering their second childhood ?
– It would certainly be unparliamentary for an honorable member to refer to the judiciary in those terms. I ask the honorable member if he applied those words to the judiciary.
– No. I said that arbitration could not be successful under a judiciary in its second childhood.
– Hansard will show that the honorable member used different words from those.
– The honorable member has given me an assurance that he did not apply those words to members of the judiciary.
– Could the Hansard report of the words used be read at this stage ?
– A motion could be made that the words be taken down.
– I take it that the words used have already been recorded by Hansard.
– When a member gives an assurance it is usual to accept it. I accept the assurance of the honorable member for Kennedy that he did not use the words in the way suggested.
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has evidently been in the habit of putting into the mouths of honorable members words that they have not used. I said that there had been an amendment of the Judiciary Act of Queensland to compel judges in that State to retire on reaching the age of 70 years, that these men had been appointed to the bench of the Federal Arbitration Court, and that arbitration could not be a success if administered by men in their second childhood. I am aware that reflections should not be cast on the judiciary, but honorable members opposite, and particularly the honorable member for Henty, do not hesitate to insult the class which members on this side represent. Since I have been a member of this . chamber, he has often tried his bouncing and bullying tricks.
– Do not cry!
– I am rather inclined to laugh at the man who advised his previous leader, to “ spend fifty millions bravely “, and referred to the late Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) as the “ tragic Treasurer “. When he is not insulting the workers he insults the members of his own party.
The unions take no exception to the provisions for a secret ballot. I know of no union or organization of workers that is prevented from holding such a ballot. I have attended many union meetings, and I have taken part in numerous industrial disputes. The question has often been raised whether there should be a show of hands or a secret ballot to determine matters at issue, and, in most cases, when the members desired a secret ballot, it was held. But the unions take exception to the amendment of the act made by the Bruce-Page Government, which provided that ten members of a union might call upon their organization to take a secret ballot. This would enable a handful of unionists to hold up the settlement of an industrial dispute indefinitely. In some cases, over twelve months has elapsed before the hearing of disputes.
I believe that this bill will be welcomed by the workers. It is an effort to bring about peace in industry, and I think that it will be appreciated by the employers, too. The late Government, even after promising the people peace in industry, tried to escape from its responsibilities by transferring the control of compulsory arbitration to the States. The opposition has a majority in the other branch of the legislature, and it will be interesting to note what happens to the bill in that chamber. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) was returned in 1928 with a majority of 3644 votes, but in 1929, when the arbitration issue was submitted to the people, his majority was reduced to 100. Sir Granville Ryrie, when he proceeded to England, left the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) a majority of 20,000 votes, but that majority fell last year to under 2,000.
The recent struggle ou the Northern coal-fields left the workers high and dry after twelve months, although the late Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) said that he was convinced that a breach of the arbitration law had been committed by the coal-owners. He issued a summons against one of the proprietors, but did not proceed with it. In the case of the Timber Workers Union, however, once the summons had been issued against it, the prosecution was carried out, and the organization was fined ‘ £1,000. The waterside workers were penalized, and practically starved to death, owing to the action of the late Government in issuing licences under the Transport Workers Act. Judge Beeby did not take evidence in Queensland on account of having met with an accident. He said that he would go to that State later to hear evidence. There was no trouble in Queensland in the industry, apart from one port, yet the whole of this organization was drawn into an industrial dispute as a result of the Beeby award. Conciliation would have saved considerable trouble in Queensland at the time of the waterside dispute, but that would not have suited the Bruce-Page Government. The Parliament had nearly run its course; the Government was without a policy upon which to go to the country ; it would not adopt the proposal of the honorable member for Henty to “spend £50,000,000 bravely”; and a waterside dispute extending from Brisbane to Perth, came opportunely to provide the
Nationalists with an election cry. I do not think the people ever paid so much for arbitration and got less results from it than during the last six years. The workers will appreciate a change to a system which will enable them to approach the tribunals with some confidence.
– A system that will create a little more unemployment.
– What is wrong with the constitution of the Queensland court, which operated successfully during the fourteen years of Labour government ? In that time nothing was done to the detriment of industry. I welcome this bill, and I hope that it will pass in its present form, and will prove just as beneficial to the workers as the Queensland act has been during the last fourteen years.
– The Attorney-General, when moving the second reading of the bill, spoke of the general success of the Federal Arbitration Court, and quoted speeches by the late Prime Minister and the present Leader of the Opposition to that effect. Although we must concede that a measure of success has attended the operation of the act, it is an unfortunate fact that the dislocations of industry, although not numerous, have been very serious. One of the major causes of them was the failure of Labour leaders in the organizations, and in this chamber, to take a courageous stand against such interruptions. The Attorney-General speaks optimistically now “ of a new province of law and order/’ but this is quite a new role for him. I was gratified to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie, who alone amongst the Government supporters has stated definitely that he stands for constitutional practices and believes in obedience to the awards of the court. We all were interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway), who has had a considerable practical experience in the working of the Arbitration Act. But a disappointing feature of his speech was that he was’ not as definitely in favour of the observance of awards as was the honorable member for Macquarie. Although he said that the decisions of the court should be obeyed, he immediately offered excuses for the conduct of the leaders of the unfortunate timber-workers’’ strike, which resulted in the unemployment of many members of the unions and much suffering to their wives and children. The dislocation caused by that strike and the trouble on the waterfront was not readily forgotten by the people, nor can Labour leaders lightly divest themselves of responsibility for their attitude in those disputes. To-day the red element practically controls the Trades and Labour Council in New South Wales, and we can appreciate the quotations of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill), who showed that many of the organizations of Labour have candidly avowed that they are opposed to the principles of arbitration. That is important, because in federal elections, New South Wales is usually the pivotal State. Mr. Lang, when Premier, tried his prentice hand at conciliation, and with such results that at the following elections he was hurled out of office. Undoubtedly conciliation is the ideal method of composing industrial differences, but there is nothing in the bill that ensures real conciliation. When the regulations were first framed under Mr. Lang’s act in New South Wales, they provided for the appointment of six chairmen of conciliation committees. As that number was not sufficient to provide positions for those who expected them on account of their services in Labour organizations, it was increased to twelve. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) took the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) to task for having referred to one of the chairmen, Mr. Morgan, as an ex-pugilist. I am sure my leader did not intend to reflect personally on that gentleman; he merely suggested that a career in the ring was not necessarily a qualification for the chairmanship of an industrial committee. Mr. Morgan is a friend of mine, and I know him to be a very estimable and honorable citizen. A flaw in the New South Wales act was that the chairman of a conciliation committee had a casting vote, and by the exercise of it he became really an arbitrator. It is true that matters could be referred from a committee to the industrial commission, but Parliament never intended that the committee should have arbitral power; or that a chairman should have the right to dispose of an issue by his casting vote without the agreement of the parties. Mr. Justice Piddington, in the Rylands case, upheld the right of a chairman to record a casting vote. The Lang Government had intended that the committees should be conciliatory, and to that end had accepted an amendment inserted in the Upper House; but it was overruled by Mr. Justice Piddington in the Rylands case. Mr. Bavin, by abolishing the chairman’s casting vote, restored the committees to their proper functions of conciliation. I am afraid that if this bill becomes law in its present form the experience of the Commonwealth will be very similar to that of New South Wales. The bill refers to. conciliation commissioners, but as they will have arbitral powers equal to those of judges, their functions will be no more conciliatory than were those of the chairmen under the New South Wales act.
– Are not the judges conciliators?
– The judges may act as conciliators, but they are not conciliation commissioners, whose duties are entirely conciliatory and not arbitral in character. The qualifications for appointment, as commissioners are not laid down in the bill. It is therefore extretnely likely that leaders of the Labour movement will be appointed as conciliation commissioners. Our experience of official unionism has been expensive, and the action of the union leaders during the timber-Workers’ strike is not likely to be forgotten by the general community for some considerable time. I am not suggesting that union officials are less honorable than the members of any other section of the community, but it seems to me that the conciliation commissioners are to be chosen from one side of industry only, and that is the employees’ side. They will be men who- have been connected with Labour organizations all their lives.
Mr-. brennan.—Why does the honorable member say that?
– That is only my opinion. It is evident that this Government intends to follow the example of the Lang Government in New South; Wales, which appointed as a conciliation commissioner a former Labour Attorney1-
General. This bill, when it becomes law, will have the same effect as had industrial legislation of New South Wales. There are many large industries in New South Wales, and in view of the employers’ experience of State commissioners it is only natural that they are now viewing with some apprehension this proposal to appoint federal conciliation commissioners. If the Attorney-General really desires to bring about conciliation in industry, he should allow the act to stand as it is, because the Bruce-Page Government in introducing its amending legislation in 1928, did aim at true conciliation.
– Did not the Nationalist party want to repeal that legislation?
– At the last election the policy of the Nationalist party in regard to arbitration had changed. At that time a lot of misrepresentation was indulged in by the Labour party. It was said that the Nationalist party did not stand for arbitration at all, but that statement was nothing but camouflage and misrepresentation. During this debate it has been admitted over and over again by honorable members supporting the Government that this bill is restricted because of the limitations of the Constitution. There was no mention of the limitations of the Constitution during the election campaign. At that time the Labour party told the people that if it were returned to power everything in the garden would be lovely. It was because of the dual systems of arbitration and the overlapping of awards that the Nationalist party decided to remain in the arbitration field only in respect of the maritime industries, and to vacate the remainder of the field to the States. The conciliation commissioner will have the power to reduce hours and to increase wages. There is no objection to that on the part of employees in industry, but to the employer it seems to be a one-sided arrangement, because the commissioner will have no power to increase hours or decrease, wages. That can be done only by a majority of the full Arbitration Court of three judges. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. A fair deal should be given to the employers as well as to the employees; Is it any wonder that this legislation is not being welcomed by the employing section of the community? Employment can be found for people only if the wheels of industry are kept moving, and any interference with the hours and working conditions of employees, to the detriment of the employers, must result in increased unemployment.
The bill also provides for preference to unionists, and, in this connexion, the Government is going to a length that was never dreamed of by the general community. When preference to unionists was included in the industrial legislation introduced by the Lang Government in New South Wales, it applied not only to unionists seeking employment, but also to unionists in employment. This Government is indeed taking a headstrong stand in insisting that before a man may earn his living he must join the trade union movement. Surely it should not be necessary to conscript workers in a democratic country like Australia. By compelling a man to join a union we deprive him of his individual liberty, and if he stands for the principle of free citizenship, and refuses to join a union, his wife and children must starve. That is carrying the principle of preference to unionists too far. I would agree to extending a reasonable preference to unionists, because I quite understand that there are certain individuals in the community who are prepared to enjoy the benefits obtained by the trade union movement without taking any active part in it. If a man does not wish to join a union he. should not be forced to do so. Every man has the right to earn his living in this country. I should not object to preference to unionists, all other things being equal, but the proviso “ all other things being equal “ is to be withdrawn, as it was in New South Wales under the Lang administration. This provision will have a dire effect on the volunteer waterside workers. Much has been said about the fight that was put up by the waterside workers, a considerable number of whom are returned soldiers. We are sorry for them if they are suffering individually, but it must not be forgotten that they brought the trouble upon themselves. If this bill becomes law, volunteer labour will become a thing of the past. Primary industries are largely carried on in my electorate. The present
Government is making an appeal to the farmers of this country to grow more wheat. It has acknowledged that the financial salvation of this country lies in the exports of our primary products. I ask in what position would the primary producers of this country be if volunteer work were not permitted? During one strike the primary products of Queensland and Western Australia were allowed to rot on the wharfs, and as a last resort the primary producers themselves transferred their products from the wharfs to the vessels lying alongside. It is inconsistent for the Government to appeal to the primary producers and at the same time to introduce legislation which, if it becomes law, will prevent them from marketing their produce when a transport strike is in progress. Is it any wonder that they view this legislation with apprehension ?
I regret that the secret ballot is to be abolished, because it is a fundamental principle of democracy. It is of such importance that centuries ago blood was lost in order to retain it. Surely we may assume that the trade unions of this country are democratic in character. I admit that the secret ballot failed in the case of the timber-workers’ strike, but only because of the lack of police. The Bruce-Page Government inserted the secret ballot provision in the Arbitration Act, and had the Attorney-General taken a firm stand and insisted upon its retention, I do not think any animosity would have been engendered in the minds of those who politically were opposed to the late administration. Had a secret ballot been taken on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales, when the trouble first started, the miners would have returned to work fifteen or eighteen months ago. Every honorable member knows that the terms under which the coal-miners have resumed work could have been secured fifteen or eighteen months ago. I have been informed on the very best authority that if a secret ballot of the coal-miners had been held at that time these terms would have been accepted then. This would have saved a tremendous loss to the coal-miners in particular, and to industry’ in general; but instead of that we have to-day 16 per cent, of our workers unemployed.
– What was the authority to which the honorable member
– It was a reliable authority. If the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) is well-informed on trade union matters he will know that the officials responsible for the continuance of the dispute in this industry have been removed from office. The honorable member has told us frequently that the rules of trade unions make provision for the holding of secret ballots, and that the waterside workers could have held a ballot had they desired to do so. But a prominent member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales . has told us how one secret ballot was held by the Waterside Workers Union. The returning officer merely announced that all ballot-papers in favour of the question were to be placed in a ballot box on the right of the room and those against it in a ballot box on the left of the room. In these circumstances, it is no wonder that the rank and file of trade unionists desired provisions for the holding of proper secret ballots to be placed in the act.
I congratulate the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) upon providing for the repeal of the penal sections of the act. These have never been workable. Very many years ago the Honorable James Ashton, M.L.C., predicted that the penal provisions of the act would prove to be unworkable. He said that it would be possible to gaol the few persons among the employers who might be found guilty of offences; but it would be impossible to gaol the thousands of employees who might offend, for there would not be sufficient gaols to hold them.
I am sorry that the AttorneyGeneral did not consult the employers as well as the employees before drafting this bill. The previous Government wisely consulted both parties. In these difficult times, when the financial position is so serious that the banks are withdrawing overdrafts and increased Commonwealth taxation is almost certain on account of the deficit, it is desirable that everything possible should be done to improve our industrial relations.
The Attorney-General has intimated that he is prepared to consider any pro posals that may be made for the improvement of the bill, and I trust that he will accept some of the amendments that will be moved with the object of making the bill as useful as possible.
.When the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) was Attorney-General in the Bruce-Page Government he consulted every branch of industry before he drafted the amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration bill for which he was responsible; but the same cannot be said of the present Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan).
– He consulted only the arbitration committee of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions.
– A perusal of the manifesto issued by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions forces one to the conclusion that that body, and not the Attorney-General or his colleagues in the Government, is responsible for this bill. There is not an amendment in the bill that is not included in the manifesto. The Attorney-General, in his speech in introducing the measure, said that in the forefront of it were not the clashing weapons of the strike and lockout, but the solvent remedies of goodwill and conciliation. It is quite true that the clashing weapons of the strike and lockout are not placed in the forefront of the bill; but they lie hidden, like so many masked batteries, ready to pour out their murderous fire when the order is given by either the leaders of the Trade Union movement or the leaders of industry. The solvent remedies mentioned by the honorable gentleman are solvent only in the spirit of goodwill and co-operation which is entirely missing from the bill. The Attorney-General also said in his speech -
We do not put this measure forward as a full and final expression of our policy in this regard.
Was the honorable gentleman trying to save the face of his Government when he said that? Probably his conscience has been troubling him for having introduced this bill, with which he can have very little in common. We must recognize that the obsequiousness of the honorable member is part of the pricethat he is called upon to pay for his association with the
Labour party, of the members of which it may be truly said -
Theirs not to reason why;
Theirs but to do or die.
The Attorney-General has preferred, on this occasion, to do what the executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has directed him to do.
Let me contrast the action of the members of this Government in that regard with the action of the members of the Bruce-Page Government. The latter decided that certain things should be done with the object of increasing peace in industry in this country, but owing to treachery in the ranks of their own party they were prevented from doing what they set out to do. Having the courage of their convictions, however, they preferred to go to the people and ask them to decide the matter, rather than prove false to the trust that had been reposed in them. They preferred to die politically rather than prove false to themselves. In my opinion it would be far better for the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to be removed from the statute-book entirely than for this bill to be passed in its present form. I am certain that if the bill is passed without amendment we shall slowly but surely revert to the practices referred to particularly by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway), but also by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), and others that existed in the early nineties prior to the advent of arbitration or even the appointment of wages boards, shop committees and the like. It is useless for the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) to say that we would like to see those conditions restored. The members of the Nationalist party stand four square for arbitration. Ever since I have been a member of this House I have supported arbitration, and in 1926 I assured the electors that I stood for the continuance of federal arbitration. Our party was returned to power at the next election. In 1928, when the Leader of the Opposition, who was then AttorneyGeneral, brought in certain amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, I and others on this side of the House supported him. We were determined to make arbitration workable in Australia.
Unfortunately, however, there were those within the Labour movement whose activities rendered it impossible for federal arbitration to function as it should. Mr. Bruce, on several occasions, declared that arbitration was on its trial, and that unless some of the unions changed their tactics it would be necessary for his Government to change its arbitration policy. In 1929 we went before the electors on the issue of whether or not arbitration should be handed back to the States.
– And the honorable member’s party lost.
– We did, but it was largely the result of misrepresentation. Another factor contributing to our defeat was that we were compelled to face the electors at a time when there was a great deal of unemployment, and when privation stalked through the land. Those who were opposed to us politically told the people that we were out to reduce wages, and increase hours. No such thing was in our minds.
A few months previously the BrucePage Government had introduced the Transport Workers Bill, the passing of which ushered in a reign of peace on the water-front such as the country had not enjoyed for many years. The last speaker on the Government side referred to disturbances on the water-front, and mentioned the Beeby award. He said that Judge Beeby had given out that he would visit Queensland, and take certain evidence there. As a matter of fact, Judge Beeby found it impossible to go to Queensland himself, but he called for written evidence from that State. On the evidence, and on the evidence obtained in other States, he framed an award that was to apply throughout the whole of Australia. The award issued by Judge Beeby was almost word for word the award under which the waterside workers had been operating in Queensland. I do not ask honorable members to accept my statement for that; I refer them to the statements of some of those who were selected to contest Senate seats at thelast elections on behalf of the Labour party. One of these went so far as to take a copy of the Queensland Waterside Workers Award in one hand, and a copy of the Beeby award in the other, and to prove to his audience by quoting first from one and then the other that they were identical. It was desired to bring these men under the provisions of the federal award, because theirs is a section of the maritime industry which is federal in character. This is particularly the case in regard to seamen. Suppose a ship were to leave Melbourne with a full complement. If each State were working under its own award those men, recruited in Melbourne, would be engaged under the terms of the Victorian award. If, through sickness among the crew or for some other reason, it were necessary to engage more men -at Sydney, the new arrivals would have to be engaged under a New South “Wales award ; and if it were necessary to take on still other men at Brisbane they would be employed under a Queensland award. This would create an impossible situation. “We desire, therefore, that maritime workers shall all come under the federal court, but that other classes of workers shall be under their respective State industrial tribunals. Besides maritime workers, I would also include journalists and theatrical workers among those who should work under federal awards. A journalist may be living in Sydney, but may be employed by newspapers printed and published in two other States. Therefore, his wages and conditions should be governed by a federal award. Theatrical performers travel from State to State in the course of their work, and they also should have a federal award. It W.: claimed by some that teachers should have a federal award, but I do not accept that.
– “What about the shearers? Do they not go from one State to another, travelling from “Western Australia to Queensland in the course of their work?
– Of course they do, but men in the one shed work only under one State award. In 1928, when Mr. Jim Riordan was contesting the Kennedy electorate against Mr. G. Francis he published a pamphlet headed “ Bush workers and pastoral workers, protect your interests.” The pamphlet said -
If the Bruce-Page Government be returned you will be compelled to work under the federal court, and will suffer the following losses in your wages.-
And then follows a list of the amounts which pastoral workers would lose if they were compelled to operate under a federal rather that a State award. However, in 1929 the Bruce-Page Government was no longer advocating that all industries should be governed by federal awards. It was urging that nearly all industries be controlled by State awards. On this occasion Mr. Darby Riordan, a brother of the former candidate, was contesting the Kennedy electorate, and he also opposed the return of the Bruce-Page Government, but now it was on the ground that if that Government were returned the shearers, &c, would be compelled to work under a State award.
If this bill passes in its present form we shall be slowly but surely forced back to the conditions existing prior to 1890. At that time the only method at the disposal of employers and employees for settling their industrial differences was the strike or lockout. Both these means were used with the utmost rigour. Sometimes the employees won, and sometimes they lost, but even when they won their gains did not make up for what the victory cost them. The same might be said of the employers. The effect on the workers of this condition of affairs was to induce them to turn their faces towards Parliament, and to look for political assistance. The shearers’ strike of the nineties was really the genesis of the Labour party as we know it to-day. It is to be regretted that the trade unions, instead of remaining purely industrial organizations as they are in America to-day, should have become both industrial and political. That has been their undoing. It is proposed in this bill to grant absolute preference to unionists. In the present act there is a saving clause, “ other things being equal.” Under the proposed amendment, those words will be deleted from the act, and there will then be absolute preference to unionists.
– That is an inaccurate statement.
– It is here that the cloven hoof is shown. The AttorneyGeneral has attempted to make it impossible for volunteers to obtain employment on the waterfront, but has been defeated at every turn. This will give him the opportunity that he requires; and if the bill should pass in its present form it will not be long before the number of volunteers working on the wharfs is greatly diminished.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway), in his opening remarks, referred to the fact that, for the first twenty years, federal arbitration proved very successful. The reason is not far to seek. That period marked an era of great prosperity in Australia. It may safely be said that wages were continually increased, the employers being unwilling to refuse the demands of the men for fear that the wheels of industry would be stopped, and they would lose the greatvolume of trade that was coming to them in the form of contracts. It was not until that prosperity was checked, as it has been during the last three or four years, that arbitration was truly tested as a means of bringing about industrial peace.
– It i3 still successful.
– I still stand for arbitration. While it. may have failed on a few occasions, the gain that has resulted to the community far outweighs any disadvantages. The problem is to bring about harmony in industry, and that can only be done if all concerned receive an adequate return, the workman for the labour that he puts into industry, and the employer for the capital that he invests.
At the present time the condition of the world’s markets makes it imperative for the cost of production to be lowered. I stated previously that a rising market, which made possible increases of wages, and frequently a decrease in the number of hours worked, resulted in arbitration proving so successful. To-day, however, not only the system of arbitration but industry itself is imperilled throughout Australia, and both will remain in that state unless the products of our primary and secondary industries are increased in volume. Such an increase would result in a substantial decrease in the cost of production, which would make it possible for our primary products to be sold overseas, and would increase the local demand for our manufactured articles. The question arises, how can such a highly desirable position be brought about? One fact may not be successfully challenged; that is. that the present wage rate is not more than sufficient to enable a man adequately to maintain himself and his family. A reduction of wages at this time would mean a lessening of the spending power of the community, and, eventually, more unemployment. But our standard of living is sacrosanct. Thus it will be seen that a reduction of wages does not provide a solution of the problem. Where, then, is it to be found? To my mind, it lies in the further application of the system of payment by results.
– That system would put more men out of work.
– It would put more men in work. It is interesting to note that- the honorable -member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) has not interjected at this stage. The reason is that he and the union that he has represented for so many years stand for payment by results, and piece work. Many attempts have been made by the militants to break down the system; because, wherever it has been adopted, peace and contentmentare to be found, and that is not desired by a certain type of union official. I refer honorable members ‘ again to the waterside workers’ strike in Queensland to prove that officials of that type are to be found in this country. As I said previously, the Beeby federal award was an exact copy of the Queensland award..
– Nothing of the kind.
– It is useless for the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) to say that it was not. 1 challenge him to produce a copy of the Beeby award find a copy of the State award that existed when it was superseded, and to show wherein the two differ. Queensland waterside workers had been working contentedly under the State award; but no sooner did they come under the federal award than they were advised by the president and the secretary of their organization to strike against it. They did so; and we are all familiar with what happened.
That brings me to the question of the secret ballot, because such a ballot entered largely into that industrial disturbance. The majority of the men, despite what they had been told by Mr. Andy Brown and the president of the union, knew full well that they were foolish to strike against the Beeby award. They desired to return to work, and demanded that a secret ballot be taken.
That ballot was taken; but no one will ever know the result of it, because the ballot box with the ballot papers inside was kicked to pieces in the place where it was taken. The secret ballot was provided by the Bruce-Page Government with the object of giving to trade unionists the control of their organizations. To my mind it was one of the finest contributions that has yet been made to the principle of arbitration.
A number of honorable members opposite view this bill solely from the standpoint of the unions, and the effect that it will have upon the working of unionism. Neither the unions nor the employers have any right to regard arbitration as an instrument which was designed purely for their benefit.If they alone suffered as a result of industrial disputes, they would have been allowed to do so. But the general public must be considered; because, whether a man manufactures goods or sells his labour, it is the general public that has to pay. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the welfare of the general public has not been taken into consideration by the Attorney-General. Arbitration undoubtedly was introduced to save the general public from the sufferings that industrial disturbances entail, and any amendments of the act should have that object in view. As I am convinced that strife, and not harmony, will be engendered if this bill passes, I shall oppose it.
– Among the many mis-statements and inaccuracies glibly uttered by the honorable gentleman who has just concluded his address, was a statement to the effect that the amending bill now before the chamber made preference to unionists absolute. The honorable member should, and, indeed, must, know that that is not so, and that preference to unionists, in theclear words of the statute, is, and will remain, in the absolute discretion of the court. The terms are that “ the court, by its award, or by order made on the application of any organization or person bound by the award, may “, and then follow the words which empower the judge to give preference to unionists in his absolute and untrammelled discretion. I would not find myself gravelled for argument if I were asked to establish a case in favour of absolute preference to unionists. As a matter of fact, it stands to the credit of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that, in the first bill that was introduced by him in the House ofRepresentatives, there was a provision for mandatory or absolute preference to unionists, and because itwas considered unconstitutional, or likely to be declared so, the proposal was abandoned, and a provision was inserted in the bill, leaving the matter to the discretion of the court. It has remained in the discretion of the court to the present day, and it is not being removed by the bill now before this chamber.
Under any system of arbitration which prescribes machinery for awarding a minimum wage, it is arguable on just grounds that preference to unionists should be absolute, and while I declare that this bill contains no such provision, I do not exclude myself from the possibility, with wider industrial powers, and. taking the stand that the right honorable member for North Sydney, supported by the present Leader of the Opposition in another place, took of claiming absolute preference to unionists for those bound by Arbitration Court rules and entitled under those tribunals to a minimum wage. The basis of that argument is the sound ethical theory that those who by organization and sacrifice win higher wages and better conditions should not be subject in the wage market to competition by those who hold themselves aloof from the struggle. The fact is, as stated by the late Mr. Justice Higgins in his work, A New Province for Law and Order, at page 18 of the edition in my hand, that -
The only case in which the court has ordered preference is the case of a tramway company which deliberately discriminated against unionists and refused not to discriminate in future. In the exercise of the discretion which the court has and will continue to have, the rule they have laid down is that they will not give preference to unionists except in those cases where there has been clear preference against unionists or discrimination against unionists.
The most striking modern case coming under my notice in which, there has been discrimination against unionists was that mentioned by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley), namely, the water- side workers’ case, in which we have proof of flagrant discrimination against unionists. By reason of that fact, an application was recently made to the court in the hope that preference to unionists in the discretion of the judge . might be. given. The judge, in the exercise of that discretion, and in view of the history of the case, thought otherwise. But whatever his view - it is entitled to respect, and it will be respected - the fact is that discrimination is to-day, and has been for some time, so exercised in an invidious and cruel way against the unionist workers on the waterfront.
This bill has been debated by members of the Opposition under two vital, or, at least, serious misconceptions. One is that the measure has been dictated to the Government by militant industrialists; the other is that it is, in its character, biased and partisan. Neither of those statements, so freely made by members on the Opposition side, has the slightest foundation in fact. It is true that the industrialists of this country, represented by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, have taken the stand which they are entitled to take regarding the proposals submitted by the Government to this House. It is equally true that as earnest of their industry and interest they conceived a more ambitious and comprehensive scheme of arbitration for submission to this chamber; but the fact remains, notwithstanding the friendly consultations that proceeded between representatives of the Government and representatives of the trade unions, this modest effort is the draftsmanship of myself alone, approved by the Cabinet, and accepted by the party whose spokesman for the moment. I have the honour to be. So far as the criticisms to which I have referred are honestly made, I may hope to remove those misconceptions. So far as they represent unscrupulous propaganda, it would be idle for me to concern myself with them any further. The bill has been introduced by reason of the pledge which the Labour party gave, to the people before the Government assumed office - a pledge which was endorsed by the people - and the pre- sentation of the bill, modest as it is in its conception, represents a fulfilment, at least in part, of the mandate given to this Government by the electors of Australia,
The Leader of the Opposition has referred to the acute industrial problems which beset us at the present time, the existence of which we must only too sorrowfully acknowledge. He adds that this bill will provide no solution of the problem. I have never said that it would, or could, provide a solution; it would be absurd to make such a claim on behalf of this measure. It will provide neither the solution of those problems, nor amelioration of the conditions arising out of them, if the motives of those who submit this bill are aspersed, and its terms deliberately and wilfully misrepresented. But if the words written in black type on the memorandum on the bill before the House, namely “to promote goodwill in industry by conciliation and arbitration,” could be written in letters of gold in the hearts of the people of this country, and if there was a real and generous effort to achieve the ideal set out in the forefront of the measure, some good might reasonably be expected from the bill. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has invited honorable members on both sides to “ reason together.” I welcome the spirit in which the invitation is given, but I cannot think that it is entirely consistent with the honorable gentleman’s bitter regrets that to some extent, at least, we have modified the penalties and the litigious character of the act.
The Leader of the Opposition admits the constitutional limitation under which we labour ; but I am bound to remind him that, if we may judge by his attitude to the appeals recently submitted for the amplification of the powers of the Commonwealth, through the medium of its Constitution, he has not done very much to assist us to obtain fuller and ampler powers. The honorable gentleman congratulates himself - perhaps he also congratulates us - that there still remain in the Arbitration Act some 40 sections for which he claims responsibility. I have not checked those figures, but I am pre- pared to accept them as being about correct, and I accept that fact also as at least a Blight additional proof that we are not proposing to amend this bill vindictively against the honorable gentleman and his proposals, but discriminatively to preserve the best, and, from our point of view, to reject the worst, that we find in it. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that if the court is to function effectively, win respect, and achieve the results for which we hope, its awards must be respected and obeyed. I do not say that for the first time today; I have frequently said it, both before the recent election and on every occasion since when I have been called upon to make a public declaration on the subject. So the Leader of the Oppo.sition and I are agreed on that point. It is gratifying also that the honorable gentleman, and the Government, are in harmony in regard to the repeal of that section of the act which provides for the imposition of fines of £1,000 in respect of strikes and lockouts, and also in regard to the declaration of the Prime Minister that the Government has a mandate to maintain the federal principle in industrial arbitration. The honorable gentleman has asked the Government to consider the desirability of taking the further step of prohibiting awards which, in themselves, provide penalties for strikes and lockouts. That is a matter for consideration. I ask him in return, to consider the general policy of the bill, a substantial part of which is not to fetter the discretion of the court.
I acknowledge gratefully the temperate and argumentative manner in which the Leader of the Opposition addressed himself to the bill; I have no complaint of his attitude as a responsible and able Leader of the Opposition. I could have greatly wished that the standard he set had been maintained by some of the honorable gentlemen associated with him. If they had patterned themselves upon their leader the debate would not have degenerated to the level to which it was reduced by the captious addresses of certain honorable gentlemen, who skipped airily from one inconsequential inaccuracy to another, never seeming to be certain of a fact, or, if they were certain of it, never inclined to state it fairly. I assume that the honorable member for Kooyong was spokesman for the Opposition as a whole. One of the first remarks he made by way of objection to the bill was that from 1927 to 1929 there was a developing evidence of lack of faith in and loyalty to the principle of arbitration on the part of the trade union movement. Apparently that was his excuse for the broadside attack which he made upon arbitration ; with such disastrous consequences to his party at the end of last year. But if there was- some weakening of the allegiance of the trade union movement to arbitration - and I do not admit it - might not the honorable gentleman have remembered also that, unlike the Leader of the Government, he leads a party which contains members in this House - the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan), and others - who are wholeheartedly opposed to the principle of arbitration ? He should not have forgotten the Single Purpose League, men like Mr. Ashworth, president of the Employers Federation, and many supporters of the Opposition, whose antagonism is not to the amending bill, but to the whole principle of industrial arbitration and the. regulation of wages and working conditions.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the bill is heavily biased in favour of trade union officials. I challenge that statement, made by him apparently as a considered opinion, and repeated with gross intemperance inside and outside this chamber by others. May I say at once that the bill is designed to provide machinery for holding the balance fairly between the interests concerned, and is a mild instalment of the accepted policy of the Government? If it be partisan to keep one’s pledges and apply one’s policy, submitted to, examined and accepted by the people, then only in those circumstances do I admit that the bill is in any sense partisan. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) questioned the mandate of the Government to introduce such legislation, but I was strongly impressed with the view that the honorable gentleman was considering, not so much the mandate of the Government, as what should be his own fluctuating attitude in regard to this measure, supporting arbitration as he did with the help and concurrence of Labour at the last election, and, opposing it in the House this evening.
The Leader of the Opposition criticized the bill in detail, and he referred particularly to the conciliation commissioners. They represent an institution introduced not by this Government but by the last government, which alone was responsible for the origin and tenure of these commissioners. Only one has been appointed, and he has been applauded for his knowledge, judgment, and tact. Therefore, one wonders why, having regard to the only experience we have had of the system, there should bo such profound distrust of commissioners as arbitrators.
– But the bill gives greater powers to the commissioners.
– I acknowledge that wo are now proposing to give to the conciliation commissioners extended powers, hut surely the appointment of men like the late Mr. Stewart - described in such glowing terms as a man whose life was devoted to conciliation - as conciliators first and arbitrators secondly, might honestly be accounted a move towards freeing the court of those “entangling legalisms “ to which my right honorable leader referred. Still, I appreciate the argument that the conciliation commissioners under this bill are to be vested with extensive powers. The fact must be borne in mind, however, that they are not to exercise judicial or penal powers, though they will certainly be entrusted with such responsible duties as will require of them integrity, experience, and unpurchasable honesty and impartiality. My own view is that the commissioners should act in association with the judges, one or more, who should lie the spinal column and the directing brain of . the system. As uniformity is desirable, it obviously must be sought after and attained between awards of the conciliation commissioners, if and when awards are made by them, and awards made by the judges. The point raised by the Leader of the Opposition that in certain circumstances a commissioner may override or alter the decision of a full court is worthy of further consideration, although I think the danger is more imaginary than real.
I believe also that a limited tenure is a safeguard as well as a danger. Under the wages board system, which has been so greatly extolled by honorable members opposite, the chairman exercises, subject to the very rare industrial appeal which is permitted by Victorian legislation, very wide powers; he has no particular qualifications, except insofar as he has been wisely chosen as a person deemed in all the circumstances to be suitable, and he has no security of tenure.
We hear fantastic stories about the impending appointment of trade union officials as conciliation commissioners under the bill. I read in the Argus of the 24th June-
The proposed appointment in the various States of industrial commissioners under the Arbitration Amendment Act has caused a stir in labour circles. Already a number of union secretaries are pressing their claims for appointment, and some have made special visits to Canberra for that purpose. Provision has been made in the act for the appointment of two commissioners for New South Wales.
The truth is that no trade unions secretaries have approached the Government on this matter. They have not made any suggestion or application, either directly or indirectly, to me or to any member of the Government, and it would be strange indeed if these gentlemen had come to Canberra, and the Government had remained in ignorance of the object of their mission. The truth is that nothing of the kind has taken place. Again, the Melbourne Herald, of 23rd June, refers to “ a bludgeon against industry “ and in its leading article says -
In its general effect the bill gives a dangerous amount of authority to a few militant union leaders.
It gives no such authority at all; none whatever. The Melbourne Argus, of the 5th June, published this heading : “ Arbitration proposals; absolute power for unions.” There is no power at all, much less absolute power, for unions any more than for any other citizens. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 12th June, among other things in its leading column, says -
The penal clauses of the existing act are to be repealed as far as unions are concerned, but not for the employers. The unions will be free to flout awards which the employers will be constrained to obey.
I need only say, in reply, that such an intention is not expressed in the bill, nor implied in it. Would any honest man, certainly not the Leader of the Opposition, contend that these statements quoted, not from the gutter press, but from leading daily journals, are anything but totally incorrect? They go further, because the Melbourne Herald, which is known to have a wide influence in Victoria, and has associations and interests in London, makes, under the heading of “ Arbitration Bill blunder,” this statement -
Adverse comment is being made in financial circles regarding the Australian Arbitration Bill, says the financial editor of the Times.
It is hardly likely if the Herald is read and credited in London that the position would be otherwise. The statement continues -
Some of the provisions of tho measure are considered to be decidedly one-sided, and unlikely to give confidence to investors thinking of establishing industries in Australia consequent on the tariff increases, and the reverse of encouraging to those invited to subscribe to Australian loans.
That statement is most regrettable, and, indeed^ deplorable, because I know that this journal is interested in sustaining Australia’s credit and Australia’s good name. I know also that it is working to maintain Australia’s credit abroad and yet in Victoria it prints about this bill something which is not in it, and which is a veritable travesty of the truth so far as its meaning and contents are concerned, which is subsequently reprinted to our discredit in London. I adrait that there is room for differences of opinion about this legislation. There is any amount of opportunity for honest argument on it, but that very fact is a substantial reason why the contents and the meaning of the bill should not be deliberately misrepresented, and the misrepresentation scattered abroad so as to injure the reputation, not only of the Government, but also of the country for which, at the moment, the Government speaks. Mr. Robert Menzies, a barrister practising in Victoria, has not disdained to join in this defamatory chorus, subordinating his legal reputation to somewhat cheap political phrase making. The fact that he has himself associated his status as a K.C. with that of an honorary advocate of Argus policy has doubtless led well meaning men like Mr. Ashworth, President of the Employers’ Federation, and others into serious error and misrepresentation. I adopt Mr. Menzies’ view, however, that the conciliation commissioner must be highly qualified and sufficiently paid. No doubt he would retire in terror if I were to suggest meeting him on the question of the extended tenure of office of these conciliation commissioners. Does the Leader of the Opposition invite me to give these commissioners a substantial tenure, five or ten years or some such period? That may be worth considering. The honorable gentleman referred to the inequality of the provision relating to the basic wage and standard hours, as evidence apparently of bias. Apparently the suggestion is that that clause is deliberately intended to favour the employee as against the employer, but I submit for his consideration that the two principles involved are radically different. The reducing of basic standards is a much more serious matter than the increasing, in circumstances of economic buoyancy of wages or the shortening of hours. The former is a matter of grave national concern to be approached in the most deliberate way by responsible men in council with the right in the Attorney-General to intervene, if lie so desires, as representing the public interest. The other represents the adjusting in more buoyant conditions of wages and hours, which matter may well be left to a single arbitrator. That is the difference between the two principles involved. The one is a question of improving the standard of the worker on a rising market; the other is a question, of whether his basic wage, his necessaries of life, are to be rendered by an award of the court more difficult to procure.
The honorable gentleman stated that section 25d means that no regard is to be paid to economic facts.
– I referred to its repeal.
– -I stand corrected. The honorable gentleman said that the repeal of section 25b means that no regard is to.be paid to economic facts. That represents the first descent of the honorable gentleman to ill-considered criticism . The truth is that the reference to economic facts was removed because it was regarded as a political gesture designed and calculated to impair the discretion of the judge. It has no other meaning, and I point out, as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) pointed out this evening in his admirable speech, that for 241 years the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act contained no reference whatever to these economic facts. During that time, the greatest judges that we have had in that jurisdiction, if I may be permitted to compare without disparagement, presided over the court. O’Connor, Higgins, Quick and others administered conciliation and arbitration without any necessity for direction by the legislature on the question of economic facts. Does anybody think for a single moment that these judges disregarded economic realities? No one does. It was not until 1928 that political pressure was originated for the purpose of directing and influencing the court, and I venture to hope that those responsible for the movement did not succeed in influencing the court. These words having been removed justly, because we think they were improperly inserted, it will be for the judges themselves to consider any facts that occur to them as relevant and proper in making a just award.
The honorable member for Fawkner pointed out in his speech that the judges enjoyed a wide discretion in that they were not bound by the rules of evidence, but were required to administer the act having regard to equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of the cases that came before them. That is perfectly true. The provision that they shall have regard to economic facts is, insofar as it has any meaning at all, a limitation of the amplitude of the power expressly given to them by the legislature. One wonders when it became a principle of construction that judges, in administering the law, are required to construe statutes by reference not to what they contain but to what has been removed from them. However, we are in this happy position, that if any judge desires, as seems to me unlikely, to refer to the objects of this amendment, and to find out what was in the mind of the responsible Minister who submitted the bill to Parliament, he may find it on record that it is intended to discourage governments from using the legislature to direct improperly or lead the mind of judges in respect to matters regarding which they should have complete discretion. However, if the clause stands as at present, we may yet have the interesting experience of a full-dress debate in the High Court as to what it really means.
This reminds me of the reference of Mr. Menzies to the bill as “ a choice morsel of legislative atavism.” Refreshing my memory by reference to the dictionary I found that atavism means reversion to an original type. Candidly, that is what this bill, in a certain sense not implied by the critic, really is. It is a reversion to the original form of the arbitration act, plus certain sections for which the Leader of the Opposition has taken credit, and plus some other, but not revolutionary, proposals submitted by this Government, minus others to the repeal of which we are committed by popular vote”. I was interested to find in my researches into the meaning of atavism that the present Leader of the Opposition in another place (Sir George Pearce), was himself associated with an earlier bill which made preference to unionists mandatory and absolute, but made no reference to economic facts. One wonders whether Mr. Menzies, speaking as he did from a safe Tory electorate in Victoria, expects to dragoon the gentleman to whom I have referred into rejecting this measure which, in this phase at all events, is precisely the same as he fathered many years ago, and which, in fact, in all its principal features, is the same measure. One also wonders whether the leader of another place, in thinking of atavism and of fledgling economists, will remember the dictum about teaching one’s grandmother to suck eggs.
There is only one political gesture which this Government recognises as fitting for this or any other Parliament to make in this matter- It is that this and all other systems of arbitration must fail, and none will be encouraged by the present Government, unless recognition is given to the fundamental principle laid down by Mr. Justice Higgins in his own imperishable words that wage fixing can inno circumstances be permitted, without challenge, to do violence to the social conscience. Arbitration can never be tolerated to become, and I hope is not likely to become, an instrument of social oppression or an offence against social decency.
The Leader of the Opposition has complained of the removal of the inhibitions contained in section 38d of the act. This reminds me that one of the most flagrantly unfounded charges against the bill is that it removes all penalties upon the workers. One could wish that it were practicable to do this; but I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the penalties to which he referred are themselves one-sided, in that they operate only against trade unionists. That from the nature of the case may be understandable, but the general policy of this bill is to reduce the penal provisions of the act to a minimum. But the various penal disciplinary clauses which unhappily still remain in the act have added to them the additional disciplinary power in proposed new section 38, paragraph oa to set aside an award or any terms of an award. When honorable members opposite say that this bill abolishes all penalties upon the employees they forget that the following provision still remains in the act: -
The Court shall, as regards every industrial dispute of which it has cognizance, have power -
In addition to that, there are many other grounds upon which the registration of a union may be cancelled. It may be cancelled, indeed, for any cause which the court thinks fit. Penalties are still provided for breaches of agreements, contempt of court, and so on. It will be seen therefore that it is totally incorrect to say that all penalties against the employees are being removed!
Much ill-considered vapouring has been vented upon the proposal to abolish the secret ballot provisions of the act. The Labour party is not opposed to the secret ballot; it is favorable to it; but it is against espionage, disloyalty to majority rule, and interference with the domestic affairs of a union. It is against the application of an inquisitorial procedure to trade unions which is not applied in anything like the same way to any other organization, company, friendly society, or club of selfrespecting men. If this argument fails to convince the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) of the justice of the present proposal he should be convinced by the undeniable fact that the secret ballot provisions of the act have proved to be futile and impracticable. In one instance only, namely, that of the New South Wales branch of the Federated Clerks Union, has there been a moderately successful ballot under these provisions, and that was conducted largely with the consent of the union. Secret ballot by consent may be held at any time, and with that policy the Labour party is in entire accord.
I do not propose to refer in detail at this moment to other objections that have been taken to the bill. There will be opportunities at the committee stage to do that, and I shall avail myself of them. The Government does not expect that the passage of this bill will result in either miracles or revolutions, but it submits the measure to the House as an honest contribution to the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth. I regret that it should have been the subject of so much ill-informed and ill-considered criticism from persons of an order of intelligence which would lead one to expect that they would at least inform themselves of its contents before proceeding to asperse the motives of the Government in introducting it.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Marin)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the Standing Orders he suspended so as to allow the Order of the Day, viz.: - Western Australian Agreement (Wiluna Gold Mines) Bill - Consideration, in committee, of the Governor-General’s Message No. 33 - made an Order of the Day for the next sitting, to he made the next Order of the Day for this sitting.
– I understand that it is intended only to make a statement on the matter, and then to adjourn the debate. I am prepared to consent to the Standing Orders being suspended at this hour when many honorable members are away, only on an understanding that a full opportunity for discussion will be available later. As a general rule, I think it would be improper to suspend the Standing Orders for the purpose of bringing on new business after an all-night sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message).
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to ratify an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the State of Western Australia granting financial assistance to that State and for other purposes.
Resolution reported, and - by leave - adopted.
That Mr. Theodore and Mr. Scullin do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Theodore, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I desire to outline the reasons which prompted the Government to enter into this agreement, and also to give the particulars of the agreement itself, so that honorable members may become familiar with the proposal. The purpose of the bill is to ratify the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and Western Australia granting financial assistance to that State by indemnifying it in respect of certain guarantees given by it to the Midland Bank Limited in relation to the advances made by the bank to the Wiluna Gold Mines Limited. Besides ratifying the agreement, the bill provides for the appropriation of such an amount as may be necessary to meet any liability of the Commonwealth arising under the agreement. The agreement to be ratified is printed as a schedule to the bill. The annextures to the agreement have not been printed, but photostat copies are available for perusal by honorable members, and I have handed one to the Leader of the Opposition. The agreement contains the following particulars : -
The principal provisions of the agreement are -
In November, 1929, representatives of the Wiluna Gold Mine Limited asked the Commonwealth to guarantee an overdraft of £300,000 with the company’s bank.
The company stated that its capital of £1,000,000 would shortly be exhausted; that it required a further £550,000 to complete its first unit of plant; that it desired to raise £300,000 from its bankers subject to a Government guarantee; and that it could then raise the balance of £250,000 from the public. The company undertook to repay the £300,000 by halfyearly payments of £25,000 each, commencing in June, 1931. The company stated that it was adopting improved methods of mining which, if successful, and applied to other mines known to possess large deposits of. low grade ore of similar characteristics, would result in an increase of the output of gold from £2,000,000 to £4,000,000 yearly, and would greatly increase the number of men employed.
The company was informed that the Commonwealth Government would not grant financial assistance direct to the company, but would be prepared to cooperate with the Government of Western Australia in extending financial assistance provided the Government of Western Australia was satisfied that the Wiluna enterprise was of such a nature as to warrant Government aid. The Commonwealth undertook that if the Government of Western Australia was willing to guarantee a bank overdraft up to £300,000 repayable by the company at the rate of £50,000 per annum, the Commonwealth would be prepared to recoup the State against any losses arising from such guarantee. It was stated at the time that, any assistance in this case was to be regarded as an addition to the special assistance granted to the State in recognition of the disabilities suffered by the State under federation. The offer, of course, was to be subject to ratification by Parliament. The Western Australian Government subsequently guaranteed the overdraft granted by the Midland Bank to the Wiluna Gold Mines Limited. The Commonwealth has now entered into an agreement with the State of Western Australia on the lines indicated.
Satisfactory reports regarding the prospects of the mine, and special reports in regard to the mining and metallurgical processes to be adopted, have been received by the Commonwealth. The most important aspect of this proposal is that relating to the methods to he adopted by this company in carrying on mining operations. It is expected that these new methods will make possible profitable mining operations in .many centres for some years to come. The special method adopted by the Wiluna G.old Mines Limited are dealt with in the reports of the technical officers of the company, and Of a State mining engineer. I have a number of documents from which I desire to quote, because they throw light upon the mining and metallurgical methods that are to be adopted at Wiluna,’ and indicate also the progress that has been made up to date. The first is a letter from Mr. H. E. Vail, consulting engineer, addressed to the then Premier of Western Australia, the Hon. Philip Collier, and dated the 16th January, 1930. In it Mr. Vail, on behalf of the Wiluna Gold Mines Limited, sets out the proposal that he made to the Commonwealth Government, and recounts the proposition that was placed before the Government of Western Australia for financial support. The relevant paragraphs are as follow: -
Following on my recent interview with you on behalf of the Wiluna Gold Mines, Limited, I now make formal application for your vitally necessary assistance which will enable us to provide further capital to- complete the installation of plant and preparation of our mines at Wiluna, for an output of 40,000 tons of ore per month.
The original capital of £1,000,000 provided for the purchase, development and equipment of the mines is now exhausted and according to the estimates provided by our General Manager, we require a further £550,000 to complete our undertaking. My principals advise me that this sum is absolutely beyond their ability to raise. They have, however, intimated that if the Government will provide a bank guarantee for £300,000 it will not be beyond their ability to raise a further £250,000 of fresh capital, in view of the confidence which will be inspired by the Government’s action in responding in this practical manner.
It has been known to us for some considerable time that we would exceed the capital available in bringing our property to production and under ordinary circumstances it would not ‘have been difficult for our principals to provide the necessary funds, but owing to the crash of the New York and London exchanges, it has become very difficult to obtain loans, and to undertake to raise money by an increase in the capitalization of the company at this stage would be absolutely impossible. ….
The first instructions I received were that I approach the Federal Government for ail advance of a very substantial nature; alternatively to. request the State Government to provide a bank guarantee of £300,000. On interviewing the Prime Minister (‘Mir. Scullin), and the Commonwealth Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), I was informed that it was absolutely impossible for the Government to comply with our request as they themselves were much in need of cash. It then occurred to me to request them to guarantee our bankers rather than to approach the State Government, realizing as I do that the State Government has at all times shown a disposition to assist mining as far as their resources would permit, and that in regard to Wiluna they have gone very far in providing a railway for our convenience. I therefore requested the Commonwealth Government to guarantee our bank for £300,000, and while they expressed, their sympathy and desire to assist us, they pointed out the inadvisability of making such a grant to an individual company, but suggested that if your Government would make the guarantee which I desired, they would guarantee your Government against loss.
These are the terms on which I now ask you to consent to giving us a guarantee.
You will realize that in so doing you are incurring no risk whatever; in fact, there is no risk to the Federal Government as our undertaking is a sound business proposition, and we are prepared to enter into an agreement to reduce the guarantee at regular intervals at the rate of £50,000 per year from the commencement of operations. To substantiate my claim that the undertaking is a sound business proposition I will call your attention to the fact that before our principals undertook to raise any capital they satisfied themselves by reports by competent mining engineers that there was an abundance of ore and that it could be successfully treated at a profit. When the State Government was approached to lay down a railway, they caused an examination to be made by their responsible officer and on his report the railway was constructed. Thus, we have the reports from two independent sources by engineers fully qualified and reputable. . . .
It is acknowledged that the cost of preparing the mine and equipping it for’ 40,000 tons is enormous, but I justify the expenditure with the assurance that we are pioneering mining methods not previously employed in Australia. It is recognized by all those familiar with gold-mining in Australia that there are millions of tons of ore which only require a reduced cost of production to restore gold-mining to the high position of the principal primary production of the State that it enjoyed in the best days of the Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie goldfields. That our efforts will be successful there can be no doubt whatever, and following our success interest will be revived in gold-mining, and many mining centres throughout Australia which are now mere remembrances of the early days ‘will again blossom into prosperous mining centres.
Already the Lake View and Star Company have recognized that the adoption of modern mining and treatment methods will be the salvation of their group of mines at Kalgoorlie and have committed themselves to a policy involving an expenditure of over £1,000,000.
What applies to the Lake View and Star and Wiluna mines will be followed by other companies in. Australia and in complying with my request for assistance you will be granting to mining generally a concession of enormous value.:
The output of gold from the first unit of the Wiluna plant will amount, to approximately, £60,000 per month, and as soon as the Lake View and Star have increased their tonnage from the present, output to 40,000 or 50,000 tons per month, from these two properties alone the output of gold from Western Australia will be approximately double its present figure.
I combine these two mines in my argument, as the financial interests supporting both Wiluna and Lake View ventures are identical.
There is nothing which will so quickly and permanently stabilize the finances of Australia and improve her credit abroad as an increased production of gold. There is also no primary industry which requires so much capital to establish production as gold-mining and there is no industry which distributes so much of its production locally. It is quite safe to assume that 90 per cent, of the value of the gold produced will be distributed in Australia. I venture to say that every £1 sterling produced from our Australian mines is of greater value to the Commonwealth than £1 sterling value of any other primary productions.
In pursuing our present programme we will, during the next twelve months, according to Mr. Prior’s estimates, expend in wages and salaries alone, £190,000. . . .
I have pleasure in handing your herewith a copy of the methods proposed and adopted, which I am sure will prove interesting reading to the mining section of your administration. …
The next document is a report by the State Mining Engineer, who was in office in 1927. He reported on the request of the Wiluna Gold Mines Limited for the railway connection of Wiluna with the State railway system. He summarizes the mining proposals at Wiluna in the following terms -
The Wiluna Mines Limited’s proposition has now been well proved. The lodes are long and wide. They have provided 340,711 tons of ore from above the 100-ft. level, returning £565,604 worth of gold, and it is now proved that good ore extends beyond the limits of the older workings, so that there is strong probability that tine output from the first 100 feet will be not less than 400,000 tons. The work at 140-ft., 200-ft., and 290-ft. levels has shown that the lodes maintain size and value similar to those above the 100-ft. level, leading to a very reasonable expectation of a like amount and value of ore being obtainable from each 100 feet in depth down to 300 feet, while the, diamond drill boring which has been, done,* gives, good grounds for believing that the size and value will continue much the same for another 500 feet in depth. There is no visible geological reason why they should not continue to like depths as the Kalgoorlie lodes, and have a similar life of not less than, say, 25 years.
Other mines at Wiluna, not at present working, have produced to the end of 1926 a further amount pf 197,974 tons of ore, returning 122,065 fine ounces of gold of value £518,133,. bringing the total production of the field to 538,685 tons of ore., returning 225,220 ounces of fine gold of value .£1,083,737, showing that the company’s mines are not by any means the only ones in the district; that if the field be revived there is great promise that a further large production of gold will come from leases other than those of the Wiluna Mines Limited.
proportion of the mine sampling and assays on which the- valuation of the ore reserves has been made has been checked, with the result that the mine returns of assay values may be accepted as entirely reliable. The estimates of tonnage and total value more or less “ in sight “, may also be accepted as quite reasonable, although, as explained in Appendix 1(a), I should personally prefer not to include any tonnage below the lowest levels on the lodes. The mine estimate of ore reserves as at 18th May, 1927, is 686,460 short tons of average assay value 40s. 3d. per short ton. There appears to be every reason to expect a long life for the mine, say, 25 years at least, at the estimated output of 1,000 short tons per working day.
There is no reason to fear any unusual metallurgical difficulty in getting a quite satisfactory extraction of gold from the Wiluna ore. It is expected that concentration by flotation followed by roasting and cyaniding of the concentrates can be made to give an even better and cheaper economical result than the standard sulphide treatment by roasting the whole of the ore before cyaniding, but the latter can be relied on for very satisfactory results if flotation should not come up to expectations. . . .
The last document is a report by the present State Mining Engineer, which was communicated to the Commonwealth Government by the Government of Western Australia. It states the views of the writer, and gives an account of the uptodate mining system known as the sublevel system, as well as of the metallurgical processes that are to be adopted in the treatment of the ore at Wiluna. The relevant at portions are as follow-
The main vertical shaft is larger than any other vertical shaft in this State, its dimensions being 24 ft. 4 in. x 5 ft. 3 in. inside timbers. It is divided into four compartments, two of which will be used for hauling ore in skips holding 4 tons each, capacity 60,000 tons per month from 1,500-ft. level. …
The ore will be stoped by means (of a sublevel system. Between the main haulage levels, drives of small dimensions arc put in along the lode about 25 feet under one another, and from these sub-levels the ore can be stoped from a maximum number of faces, thus providing a fast rate of extraction. It is claimed for this method of stoping that it not only gives quick extraction, but that it provides for close mining of the ore, quick delivery of broken ore to the surface, good ventilation, a maximum of safety, and low costs. The sub-level method is shown in longitudinal section of the company’s report for the year ended 31st March. ]92!i. It has not been used in this State previously (shrink, rill or flat back stoping arc customary here ) , but it is employed in America and elsewhere with good results.
The 8-ft. by 8-ft. haulage levels driven parallel with the lode will accommodate locomotives electrically driven by storage batteries, and capable of hauling rakes of trucks loaded with 30 tons of ore. The ore will thus be transported from various points along the main levels to ore pockets or bins near the main shaft. From these pockets (capacity 400 tons) the ore will be filled into 4-ton skips and hauled to the surface.
Near the service station or plat at each haulage level will be a chamber in which the storage batteries used on the locomotives will be charged. The locomotives will go to the chamber at intervals to deposit discharged batteries and take on re-charged batteries. This will bo the first occasion in the history of mining in this State when underground haulage of ore will be done by motive power. It has been the custom to the present time for ore trucks to be wheeled by men or drawn by horses, and the improved method to be adopted by this company will provide a welcome advancement . . .
The underground workings are being opened up for a production of 40,000 tons of ore per month, the largest in this State from one mine. lt can be said with complete justification that the methods adopted are in conformity with best modern practice. It is many years since a large mine was opened up in this State, and as the advancement in mining engineering has boon great _ during the past two or three decades, it is not surprising (although very pleasing) that the lay-out for this mine’s development is abreast of the times and superior to anything we have had in the past. There are features new to this State at Wiluna gold mine, but not new to mining engineering. There is no suggestion of the application of untried methods, but, on the contrary, the choice of the most suitable of approved methods has been carefully made. It may not be amiss to state that the use of electric haulage underground is included in the large development programme now being pushed ahead at the Lake View and Star Limited’s group of mines at Kalgoorlie.
The ore will be treated for the recovery of its gold contents briefly as follows : - From the time the ore is fed into skips underground until treatment has been com’pleted it will be handled’ mechanically. When it1 is automatically discharged from the skips it falls into, a gyratory crusher and is reduced to 4 inch size, and passes to Symonds cone crushers which reduce it to i inch, and is then conveyed to bins. It is automatically fed to Hardinge mills which reduce the grade to 10 mesh. After classification the ore passes through tube mills which reduce it to minus 200 mesh. The pulp is thickened and pumped to the flotation section, where the mineral containing the gold is recovered, filtered; andi washed with fresh water. The residue is discarded. The concentrate is then conveyed through Lowden driers heated with waste heat from the roasting furnaces. The dried concentrate is roasted in Edwards type furnaces, then cooled, mixed with cyanide solution, agitated, and the gold-bearing liquor is recovered in Oliver filters. The gold is precipitated from the solution by the MerrillCrowe process, and reduced to metal by the usual well-known methods.
The gold contents of the ore are held in mineral which consists mostly of pyrite and arsenopyrite in the average proportion of 3.5 per cent, of the former and 2.5 per cent, of the latter. The mineral is disseminated in a fine state of division throughout the ore, and it is necessary in the first place to crush and grind the ore very finely, so that it will pass through the meshes of a sieve containing 200 apertures to the lineal inch, or 40,000 apertures per square inch. Since the advent of the flotation process for the concentration of minerals from ores, improvements in fine grinding machinery have been made rapidly. At the present time, thousands of tons of ore per day are being finely ground at mines in Australia at small cost.” The machines and methods selected for this part of the process at Wiluna gold mines are the most efficient obtainable.
The ore having been reduced to a very fine grade, the recovery of the gold-bearing constituents is commenced. A great deal of research work has been done both in the laboratory and in a pilot plant to determine the best procedure to be adopted for the successful concentration of the gold-bearing mineral by the flotation process. With the aid of re-agents a very thorough concentration can he effected, and I am satisfied that the success of this part of the process is assured. Before the concentrate is roasted, it must be well washed with fresh water to eliminate salt contained in the mine water in which it is treated up to this point. The presence of salt in the concentrate would readily volatilize the gold during roasting, a condition certain to cause losses of a serious nature. There is no reason why this cannot be done; in fact, it is a simple operation, and also an important one. The roasting process is very well known and understood in this State, as are also the subsequent stages of recovery of the gold.
The application of the flotation process to the concentration of auriferous ores has not been generally necessary. The process is most extensively applied to the treatment of base metal ores, some of them also containing gold and silver. In quite recent years a few gold mines in various parts of the world have successfully adopted the process. We have arrived at the stage when it can bc stated, as a result of research work done by mining companies and at our own laboratory over a period of several years, that many pyritic gold-hearing ores in this State, including those at Wiluna and Kalgoorlie, can be successfully treated by flotation. The ore at Wiluna contains arsenic as well as pyrite; the ore at Kalgoorlie contains tellurium in addition to pyritc. The proper regulation of heat when roasting concentrate from either ore will obviate losses of gold. The roasted products will yield their gold contents to chemical treatment . . .
There is no doubt that the methods new to this State relative to underground workings and surface plant, which have been mentioned previously, will prove to be valuable factors in thu mine’s operations. It is my opinion that they willbe introduced into other mines in this State and elsewhere in Australia as circumstances permit. The general lay-out of underground operations, treatment plant, and equipment, combined with the efficiency of the plant and machinery, must result in low working costs, . and thus provide a sound margin of profit. Some of our auriferous ores cannot be treated successfully in the raw state on account of refractory mineral contents. It is an expensive matter to roast the whole tonnage of finely-ground ore, so costly, indeed, and in some casus so unsatisfactory, that mines have been compelled to cease operations in consequence. In the hope of definitely establishing a satisfactory process for certain ores, close attention has been given for some years to research work. As a result of investigations there are two dotation plants at present in course of construction. It seems certain that the time is not far distant when refractory ores will bc treated profitably at mines now closed down. The vast sulphide lodes at Wiluna have had to lie unworked for many years awaiting the development of a successful treatment process. It can be confidently anticipated that the treatment process now being installed on such sound lines after searching investigation will not only be a profitable undertaking for the company, but will also lead to a revival ofthe gold-mining industry.
Those documents, I feel sure, will he sufficient to make honorable members quite familiar with what is intended at Wiluna. A careful perusal of them will show that the Commonwealth Government is justified in standing behind the Government of Western Australia in this guarantee. The two Governments have great expectationswith respect to the results that are likely to accrue from the granting of this support to the Wiluna Gold Mines Limited, not so much in relation to what may be developed at Wiluna itself, but as a demonstration there of modern methods of mining, and their applicability to other low grade propositions in different States.
– With this sum, what will be the total amount of assistance granted to Western Australia?
– If there were an entire loss under this guarantee, the liability upon the Commonwealth would be £300,000. But that liability will have to be reduced at the rate of £50,000 per annum, commencing next year; and it is secured upon the whole of the present assets of the Wiluna Gold Mines Limited. There is, of course, in addition, an annual grant to Western Australia amounting to £300,000 under the States Grants Act of 1927.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Gullett) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to - The Standing. Order No. 70 (eleven o’clock rule) be suspended for the remainder of this sitting in order to allow further new business to be taken.
Debate resumed from 10th June (vide page 2578) on motion by Mr. Blakeley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.This measure, as the Minister pointed out in his second-reading speech, is practically identical with that which was introduced by the last Government in 1928, the differences being immaterial. The measure has my cordial support.
The Minister referred to a “forestry sense.” Unhappily, the forestry sense in this country, and I fear also in most other countries, is a sleepy, careless sense. It is a good thing, therefore, that at last the Commonwealth - in a modest way, it is true - is beginning to tackle this great subject. Although the amount to be expended annually is small, the objective is fairly comprehensive.
The bill proposes that a good beginning shall be made. The work to be undertaken by the Commonwealth, although at first of somewhat trifling dimensions, will, I believe, give a stimulus to the States, and lead to an increasing recognition of the great importance of forestry in all its branches in this young country. When one., considers forestry, one visualizes this continent as it appeared when the first pioneers landed upon it. At that time, practically from ocean to ocean, with the exception of some portions of the interior, Australia was a great, wide, sparkling greenwood. The changes that have come over the face of the continent, owing to the activities of man in the course of a century, are remarkable.
As we all know, the destruction of the timbers of Australia, insofar as they have been destroyed, has not been so damaging as might at first sight appear. The destruction in the great pastoral and agricultural areas, first by ring-barking, and later by clearing, was, of course, necessary. But although that was so in connexion with much of the elimination of the forests of Australia, we have perhaps prosecuted that work with somewhat relentless activity, and probably have carried the destruction far beyond what was essential to the winning of sustenance and profit from the soil of our rural areas. There is, however, still time, if we take this great subject seriously, and devote to it that expenditure and labour which it well merits, and which would meet with a substantial and relatively early return, to make wonderful progress within the next 25 years in placing the whole matter upon a thoroughly satisf actory basis.
As the Minister pointed out, the object of preserving and replanting our forests is not merely to win commercial timbers in the future. There is an equally great, if not a greater, urge upon us to take forestry more seriously because of its effect upon rainfall, not in the promotion of precipitation, but in its .proper conservation and distribution after precipitation. We know that over wide areas in Australia the destruction of timbers by ringbarking, and particularly by constant firing in the mountains, has already had a profound effect upon the rapidity with which rainwater, once it has descended, is collected in our streams and carried to the sea. That is of the greatest importance to +he welfare of this country. Even in this Federal Capital Territory, with ‘ its undulating country, one may find in the course of an hour hundreds of extensive water courses that are the ‘ direct consequences of forest destruction. ‘ In the old days, when the country was under forest, the moisture due to the rainfall was held in the soil, slowly percolated through it to the watercourses or was largely conserved in springs. The distribution of the water through the soil continued more or less throughout the year. To-day, however, if the rainfall is at all heavy, the bulk of the water passes away within a few hours, and on this account the value of a good rainfall is very greatly diminished. It was my good fortune to travel a few thousand miles in China and Korea five or six years ago. In visiting China one is surprised to note the bleak and bare appearance of that remarkable country. Even the mountain systems have been entirely denuded of their forests, and when there is a heavy rainfall the water no longer lingers and gradually flows into the streams, but quickly rushes into the great rivers and is carried out to sea. When the Japanese took over Korea - and I am neither applauding nor condemning their occupation of that country - its condition with respect to timber was like that of China, but, when I visited Korea vast areas of young forests had been planted by the local inhabitants under the direction of the Japanese. These forests extended up the mountain sides, and within a few years the whole aspect of the country will have been changed, and an enormous additional value given to the land, because of the timber growing on it and the agricultural possibilities due to afforestation.
As I have said, the bill is a modest one, but it is comprehensive. It will give a distinct stimulus to the whole practice of afforestation in the Commonwealth. It will encourage the training of forestry officers, for service in the various States, and for these reasons I cordially support the measure.
– I regard the bill as profoundly important, though probably entirely noncontroversial. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) has said that the proposal originated with the late Government, which had a very real conception of the importance of forestry to Australia. I intend to speak, in particular, on two matters. The Federal Territory is near the south-eastern corner of Australia, where we have the greatest natural system of water conservation existing on this continent. If we had mountains well inland corresponding in size and extent with those in this portion of Australia, the advantages would be great. On the highlands amongst these mountains, with many parts of which I am familiar, we have wonderful and beautiful areas known as the Snow Plains. Years ago they were largely covered with morasses, marshes. and swamps. I visit them, I am glad to say, nearly every year, and I have seen them drying up by degrees. As the forests on the sides of the mountains have been largely destroyed, when rain falls the water rushes down the slopes more rapidly than it did. The whole south-western aspect of Kosciusko is like a grey ghost compared with what it used to’ be. On the highlands the snow gums and the heaths which covered the gravel and the rocks have been burned. In places there are little trees about a foot high a.nd with a spread of six or eight feet and with trunks as thick as a man’s arm, which must have taken a great many years to grow, but when a fire sweeps through them they are destroyed in a few minutes, and will never come again. Large areas which used to be veritable sponges, so well did they hold the water, are now mere dry gravel or rock, and the erosion is constantly increasing. On these highlands falls the water that fills the Hume Dam, and upon the proper conservation of water in these mountains depends the success of the irrigation system fed from that reservoir. As the vegetation decreases the silting due to erosion increases. The flow of water becomes more rapid year by year, but there is not the constant supply of former years. Accordingly, the preservation of forests in this part of Australia is, I suggest, one of the most important national problems that confronts the people. I speak not only as one interested in the welfare of the nation, but also as a lover of this portion of Australia, and as one who is desirous of seeing our natural forests preserved. Year after year fires are allowed to destroy the snow gums and other forest timber. I most cordially support any measure that offers a chance of dealing with these important matters.
I am glad to notice that the bill, in clause 5, provides that the powers and functions of the Bureau shall extend to the establishment of experimental stations for the study of sylviculture and forest management and protection, and for the provision of facilities for the education and training of pro*fessional foresters. The subject of forestry education in Australia has, until very recent years, been rather deplorably neglected. Various efforts along these lines have been made, and most successfully in South Australia, but there has not been that determined continuity of effort which alone can bring useful results. Forestry, I suppose, is referred to in the policy speech of every State Premier, but very little in the direction of afforestation or other definite forest policy has been done. Only recently an Empire Forestry Conference was held at Canberra, and it recommended that higher education in forestry should be undertaken by the State Universities conjointly with the Canberra School of Forestry. That conclusion was arrived at with the approval of the representatives of all the States. In South Australia a forestry school had been in operation before the establishment of the Canberra institution, which was set up as the result of an understanding between the States and the Commonwealth that higher education in forestry should be given in the national capital. In Victoria, there is a forestry school of long standing at Creswick, and, unfortunately, some difficulties have arisen between the Victorian and Federal authorities in relation to the nature of the training to be given, and the place at which it is to be provided. I refer to this matter for the purpose of expressing the hope that the Minister will do whatever he can to see that the recommendation of the Forestry Conference is carried out. I am a member of the governing body of the University of Melbourne and have been for a number of years, and I was astonished not long ago to find that the Council of the University had received an offer from the Government of Victoria to provide the salary of a senior lecturer in forestry. As a member of the Council of that’ institution, I can assure this House that I usually accept with both
Lands, and very readily, any- offer of financial assistance for any branch of education.But the significance of the offer was that its acceptance would involve the introduction of higher education in forestry upon what I regard as an attenuated and entirely unsatisfactory scale, notwithstanding that an agreement had been entered into by the Victorian Government itself that this education should be given at the Canberra school. There is to be a two years’ science course at the universities, and a two years’ course at the forestry school, subject to approval by the universities, of staff and curriculum, which I, as a university man, would always seek to insist upon. These conditions were acceptable to the forestry authorities in Canberra. The degree is to be granted after the four years’ course. I hope that the Minister will look into this subject, and see that there is no further division and dissipation of effort. In too many directions in Australia we are dividing our efforts unnecessarily. I am not a believer in unification as such, but I do favour unity of effort, and, in such a matter as forestry, where we are able to carry out an agreement of the nature proposed, I think ‘ that everything should be done to give effect to it. If the present Government of Victoria proposes to continue the offer of the late Government of that State to provide advanced instruction in forestry at the University of Melbourne, I suggest that the Minister might look into the matter and. see whether there can be a thorough discussion of it, in order that there shall not be an entirely unnecessary division of staff and a dissipation of the too limited resources available for this work.
.I have been interested in this subject for many years, and I take exception to the action of the Government in forcing the second reading of. the bill through the House at this hour of the morning. I had made a good deal of preparation by way of research to enable me to discuss the measure; but it is not fair to other honorable members that I should detain them by making a long speech at this hour, and I do not intend to do so.
– The honorable member may proceed with his remarks.
-No member of the chamber had any idea that this bill was to be hurriedly passed, and particularly after an all-night sitting on the Arbitration Bill I am sure that a number of honorable members would have liked an opportunity to discuss the bill. The development of the science of forestry and the part played by South Australia in it is a very interesting subject, to which I had proposed to devote some time. But at this hour of the morning I have no option but to put my notes aside. I suppose that other honorable members also will regret that the preparations that they have made to speak on the subject have been in vain. Although I regret the tactics which the Government has adopted, I shall support the bill.
.- I commend the Minister, for the careful and thoughtful resume of the problem of forestry he gave when moving the second reading of the bill. The conservation of forests is of the greatest importance to Australia, and it is unfortunate that only in recent years have our Governments and people developed a forestry sense. Whilst the Commonwealth is to be congratulated on having obtained for its forestry branch an able principal and staff, it is regrettable that the branch should have to operate in a climate so unsuitable as that of Canberra. The best forests are grown in districts with a fairly heavy rainfall, and we have only to look at the vicinity of Canberra to recognize that this Territory is entirely unsuitable for the production of large timber. It is pitiable to see eucalypts being propagated in hothouses. One of the greatest timber problems is the shortage of softwoods, and an effort is being made to supply that deficiency by plantations of pines in the Federal Capital Territory. I do not profess to have any technical knowledge of this subject, but I am authoritatively informed that the trees have not made much progress, and do not offer any bright prospect of developing to a commercial size. I think the branch would have been wiser had it undertaken these activities in some of the wetter portions of the Commonwealth, including Tasmania, where the chance of success would have been greater. Softwoods are urgently required; to-day Australia is importing these timbers to four times the value of the hardwoods it is exporting. That regrettable state of affairs is due largely to the fact that our forestry policy in the past was not wisely conceived. The Minister stated that in many areas milling has ceased because the forests have been cut out. That is true to some extent of eastern Australia, where milling is. not profitable under existing conditions. There the saw-milling industry has become almost a negligible activity. At one time the export of heavy woods was an important feature of the country’s trade, but now it is confined to the sending of a few piles from New South Wales to New Zealand and the export of a small amount of hardwood from Tasmania. The greater portion of the export trade is from Western Australia. The only reason why saw-milling has been able to continue in that State with some measure of success is that it still has extensive forests which can be easily and economically worked. That is illustrated by a table prepared by Mr. Green, of the Commonwealth Forestry Branch, showing the relative quantities of timber that can be produced in the various States per man to be: - Western Australia, 3,400 cubic feet; Tasmania, 2,300 cubic feet ; Queensland, 2,000 cubic feet; New South Wales, 1,611 cubic feet; and Victoria, 965 cubic feet. Yet even in Western Australia the value of the industry as a producer of wealth is diminishing, not because of a shortage of timber, but through the absence of profitable markets. Millions of feet of timber is awaiting export, and the manager of the State saw-mills has twice been sent round the world to search for markets. Unfortunately the hardwood export trade has been killed by the increased cost of production. I have an authoritative statement from the largest saw-milling company in Western Australia that the cost of producing sawn timber has increased since 1914 by approximately 100 per cent. The timber is available in abundance, but the cost of milling it is so great that people, find it more profitable to use cheaper substitutes,’ and hardwood is being ousted in many capacities by iron. Honorable members opposite talk a great deal about unemployment. Although thousands of workless men are walking the streets of Sydney, several thousands of pounds worth of imported timber is being used in connexion with the construction of the North Shore bridge; Australian timber could” have been used had it been obtainable at a reasonable price. It is distressing to see the timber industry following gold mining and other native industries into oblivion. I am glad .that the Commonwealth is paying attention to the subject of forestry. The scheme that has been undertaken by the bureau is rather ambitious, and I hope that the bureau will not be another of those government activities which continue to grow until they become a serious burden on the finances. I have every appreciation of the work it is doing, but the Minister will be wise to see that it develops gradually. It is valuable for instructive and advisory purposes, but the practical work of forestry must be done by the States. Very useful operations are being carried out by the Forestry Department in Western Australia, and it is expending £80,000 per annum on reafforestation. It would be a pity if its activities were made subsidiary to those of the Commonwealth Bureau. I welcome the interest that has been taken in this matter by the Commonwealth, and I hope that the Ministry will continue to recognise the importance of forestry research and education, and give to it all possible assistance. [Quorum formed.]
– I welcome this bill as a belated effort on the part of the Commonwealth Government to take an interest in forestry. We do not recognize the value of the timber industry of Australia. I understand that all the timber used in this chamber is Australian, and one cannot but admire the beautiful panelling and polished- floors. We have in Australia extensive forests of timber, hundreds of mills, and thousands of men who are capable of working in that industry, but unfortunately they are out of work to-day. During the last few days I have received telegrams from one portion of my electorate in which 500 timber workers are unemployed, and there is a possibility of another 200 being unemployed shortly in view of our large imports of timber. During the last financial year we imported timber to the value of £4,000,000. Practically right in the heart of the timber country in my electorate a large guest house was recently constructed entirely of foreign timber. That is certainly a Gilbertian situation. Unfortunately, our timber millers are unable to compete against foreign millers. I have had the privilege of seeing the result of the extensive afforestation undertaken in France. There, miles of undulating country is covered with timber, and as trees are cut down others are planted in their place. I also have had the privilege of visiting South Africa, where extensive areas of pines are growing on land that would not keep a rabbit to the acre. I have seen in the northeastern districts of Victoria forests of pines grown on land that would otherwise be valueless. I agree with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) that we have a market for softwoods. Many of the softwoods that are imported can be grown here. They should be, and will be, grown here more extensively when the Commonwealth sees fit to assist afforestation. Recently, I had the pleasure of inspecting the new city hall in Brisbane, in the construction of which Australian timber was used. In the Herald this week I read that our timbers, to the value of £250,000 were exported to the United States of America to be used there as veneers for furniture. That country appreciates our woods, although we do not. We have beautiful timber in our silky oak, Queensland maple, and fiddleback. I welcome the bill and I trust that some benefit will result from it.
.When the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) was addressing himself to this bill he invited honorable members to visualize Australia as it existed prior to the advent of the white man. He then proceeded to draw a picture, and as he-did so my mind went back to a few paragraphs which I had read some years ago in a book written by Edward Bok. They read as follows: -
Along an island in the North Sea, five miles from the Dutch coast, stretches a dangerous ledge of rocks that has proved the graveyard of many a vessel sailing that turbulent sea. On this island once, lived a group of men who, as each vessel was wrecked, looted the vessel and murdered those of the crew who reached shore. The Government of the Netherlands decided to exterminate the island pirates, and for the job King William selected a young lawyer at The Hague. “ I want you to clean up that island “, was the royal order. It was a formidable job for a young man of twenty-odd years. By royal proclamation he was made mayor of the. island, and within a year, a court of law being established, the young attorney was appointed judge; and in that dual capacity he “cleaned up “ the island.
The young man now decided to settle on the island, and he began to look around for a home. It was a grim place, barren of tree or living green of any kind; it was as if a man had been exiled to Siberia. Still, argued the young mayor, an ugly place is ugly only because it is not beautiful. And beautiful he determined this island should be.
One day. the young mayor-judge called together his council. “ We must have trees “, he said : “ we can make this island a spot of beauty if we will!” But the practical seafaring men demurred; the little money they had was needed for matters far more urgent than trees. “ Very well “ was the mayor’s decision - and little they guessed what the words were destined to mean - “ I will do it myself.” And that year he planted 100 trees, the first the island had ever seen. “Too cold” said the islanders: “the severe north winds and storms will kill them all.” “ Then I will plant more “ said the unperturbed mayor. And for the 50 years that he lived on that island he did so. He planted trees each year; and, moreover, he had deeded to the island government land which he turned into public squares and parks, and where each spring he set out shrubs and plants.
Moistened by the salt mist, the trees did not wither, but grew prodigiously. In all that expanse of turbulent sea - and only those who have seen the North Sea in a storm know how turbulent it can be - there was not a foot of ground on which the birds, storm-driven across the water-waste, could rest in their flight. Hundreds of dead birds often covered the surface of the sea. Then one day the trees had grown tall enough to look over the sea, and spent and driven, the first birds came and rested in their leafy shelter. And others came and found protection, and gave their gratitude vent in song. Within a few years so many birds had discovered the trees in this new island home, that they attracted the attention, not only of the native islanders, but also of the people on the shore Ave miles distant, and the island became famous as the home of the rarest and most beautiful birds. Meanwhile the young mayor-judge, grown to manhood, had kept on planting trees each year, setting out his shrubbery and plants until their verdure now beautifully shaded the quaint narrow lanes, and transformed into cool wooded roads what once had been only barren sun-baked wastes. The trees are now majestic in their height of 40 or more feet, for it is nearly a hundred years since the young attorney went to the island and planted the first tree; to-day, the churchyard where he lies is a bower of cool green, with the trees that he planted dropping their moisture on the lichen covered stone on his grave. This much did one man do.
The point I wish to make is this, that although the amount covered by this bill, £20,000, is a mere trifle, and, with it, the Government can do little, we must aim at securing in this country a forestry sense and a love of trees. If we can instil in even a small proportion of our people the same love for trees that Edward Bok’s grandfather had, then we shall have in Australia a country that is beautifully timbered, and of which we can well be proud.
.I commend the Government on introducing this measure, the purpose of which is to assist afforestation! I was aroused a little by the remarks of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones). There seems to be a certain amount of inconsistency, not only in his mind, but also in the mind of the Government, in regard to our timber. There seems to be a dreadful fear that we may buy foreign timber, and yet, on the other hand, we have been told by experts that there is a possibility of our timber resources being exhausted. “We should reciprocate. In “Western Australia, there are idle timber mills. We have splendid timber there, for which at one time we had a sale, but there is no sale for it now, because of the enormous increase in the cost of the timber. South Africa used to buy our jarrah for sleepers, but because of the increase in price it was forced to use substitutes such as reinforced concrete, and, as a result, men are unemployed in Western Australia. During the time that I have been in that State, the price of timber has trebled, even for our own consumption.
– The honorable member would not say that a wage of £3 a week is, too much for the bush worker of nineteen years pf age?
– It is a question of the relative purchasing power. It is better to have that wage than nothing at all. In Australia, there is a tremendous number of people unemployed. The figures quoted by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) yesterday afternoon were significant compared with the wages that these people are earning, for they are not getting a penny for the whole of their 24 hours of misery! In the interests of our forests certain timbers which are ripening should be cut and sold, but we should not be using our hardwoods, which are admittedly the finest in the world, for purposes for which fine quality hardwoods are not necessary. If we would indulge in a little reciprocity we could allow some of the softwoods from other countries to be admitted into Australia under reasonable conditions, and export some of our fine hard timbers to other countries which need them. But we must first get down to an economic basis. There should be a great deal of cooperation between the Commonwealth and State Governments in the matter of reafforestation.
– I do not think it matters very much whether this bill is passed or not, as the afforestation scheme it provides for is insignificant compared with the schemes being developed in the various States. There should be, at least, some measure of co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the States in afforestation.
– The honorable member has shown that he does not understand the bill.
– If I do not, it is because of the manner in which the Minister introduced it. His speech contained a good deal of theory in regard to forest sense, and so on; but very little practical explanation of the objects of the bill. In that respect it was in marked contrast with the speech made just afterwards by the Assistant Minister, Mr. Beasley, in introducing the Superannuation Bill, which he explained clause by clause. I believe that it is proposed to deal with a limited area in the Federal Capital Territory in an expert way. To that there can, of course, be no objection, and it should be an excellent thing for the Territory. But’ the various State forestry departments are proceeding with far larger and more utilitarian schemes. In these circumstances it would, in my opinion, be better for the Commonwealth to assist the States by special forestry grants than to proceed with this scheme. I do not agree with the views put forward by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones). We have denuded this country of certain valuable softwoods which are necessary for building purposes, and we are seeking to compel people to use hardwoods which are not suitable for use in buildings. The effect of this is to increase the cost of building to all sections of the community.
I sympathize with the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) in his inability to place before the House the valuable information which he has gathered in the course of his extensive travels, but I respectfully suggest to him that there is still time for him to make his speech
– I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Warringah that the honorable member for Boothby should make the speech which he has prepared on this subject, which is of great importance to Australia. We should not be asked to rush this bill through the House under pressure at this hour of the morning. Seeing that these proposals were approved by the last Government, they should receive more than passing Consideration.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) argued that this bill should not be passed because it would benefit only the Federal Capital Territory. I dissent from that view, which is narrow, restricted and characteristically Western Australian. To my mind the scheme of the bill deserves every support and encouragement.
A few days ago I travelled in a motor car to the Brindabella range over part of the Cotter Catchment Area and I was informed by one of the Forestry officials that it was intended to plant suitable parts of that reserve with trees. As the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has informed, us, China and Korea are outstanding examples of the serious effects of denudation and erosion. lt- is probable that the authorities in Canberra fear’ that if they do not plant the Cotter catchment area, it may, in the . course of the years, suffer seriously from erosion.
Incalculable harm has been done in Australia by the ruthless destruction of our forests. I refer particularly to the rain forests of North Queensland and the north coast of New South Wales, from which, at one time, we obtained most of the soft timbers that we used. The supplies from those forests are, however, in process of exhaustion, and we are faced with the problem of planting new forests to meet our future requirements. Something is being done in that direction in the Federal Capital Territory and in Victoria by the planting of pinus insignis; but the schemes on foot will not ensure an adequate and permanent supply of softwoods. It is regrettable that the Cunninghamii, and Bunya pines and kauri have been cut out of our rain forests to such an extent that it will be impossible for many years to restore them. Possibly it will take centuries to do so, for the removal of the trees has reduced the rainfall. The western plains of Queensland have also been denuded of their forests and serious erosion is occurring there. Nothing is being done in those areas in the way of reafforestation. The pastoralists receive no encouragement to carry out this work. It might be different if they were freeholders, but as they enjoy only a limited tenure of their holdings there is no inducement for them to engage in reafforestation. The result is that the situation is going from bad to worse The Minister said in the course of his secondreading speech that there was no forestry sense in Australia. I am prepared to debate that. It may not be very strongly developed, but it is there, and it is growing. There is little in the subject of forestry. to inspire popular imagination, and that is why governments should place every assistance at the disposal of those far-sighted and enthusiastic forestry experts who are prepared to take this work in hand. Here in Canberra, in the employ of the Federal Government, is one of the best qualified and most able forestry experts to be found anywhere in the world; I refer to Mr. Lane Poole. I should like to hear from the Minister whether it is proposed to exploit his ability to the fullest extent in the interests of re-afforestation in the Federal Capital Territory.- The honorable mem- ber for Perth (Mr. Nairn), after venting his spleen on this measure as it applied to Canberra, waved his aims, and declared that Western Australia supplied practically the whole of Australia’s hardwood requirements. I join issue with him on that, and inform him that there are on the east of the continent great hardwood forests which can be drawn upon for years to come.
– How will it be drawn - with bullocks?
– For the information of the honorable member for EdenMonaro I may state that when the trees have reached a certain height and thickness they arc felled. The logs are then dressed, and bullock teams, directed by expert timber-getters, are employed to drag them out of the forest. Arrived at the mill, they are converted into a commercial commodity.
– The ghost of “Jaw Bone” Nield has come back!
– I do not desire to emulate the exploits of “ Jaw Bone “ Neild, nor am I speaking now in any frivolous spirit. I feel that I am discharging an obligation to my constituents :iu addressing myself to this measure. Besides the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price), several honorable members on this side had prepared voluminous -notes on this subject, and were anxious to speak. In the circumstances, I can understand their very just indignation at being denied the opportunity. 1 agree -entirely with this legislation, which the “Minister introduced in such a convincing speech. I sincerely hope that honorable members opposite will stand behind him, and see that it goes through. Anything that may be done by recalcitrant or insurgent members on that side should not be allowed to weigh with the Governmnent. It should prove its bona fides. If it fails to pass the bill, it will be guilty of a dereliction of public duty that it will long regret.
– I desire to express appreciation of the action of the Government in bringing forward this measure. I make no protest regarding the hour at which the debate “has been resumed; the measure is so im- portant that it warrants the considera- tion of honorable members at any time.
The bill is almost a copy of that which was introduced in 1928 by the BrucePage Government. The proposal ig to place on a sound basis the Forestry Bureau that has been established in Canberra, so that forestry will be in a better position than it has occupied previously. This is one of the most important of our primary industries, and it has been neglected far too long with possible serious consequences. The Forestry School has done exceptionally good work. It has already trained a personnel of 24, who have taken up positions in the various States with the object of assisting them to co-operate with the Commonwealth in preserving our forests and enlarging upon any schemes that have been commenced. I regret, that the staff at the Forestry School is so low, and trust that efforts will be made to increase it, so that many more students will be trained there. I know that there is a keen desire on the part of many young men to become students at the school, gain the knowledge that it imparts, pass through the university, and take a special degree in forestry, and then go overseas to obtain the experience necessary to fit them to play their part to develop this national undertaking. Our trade balance to-day is seriously affected because of the extraordinarily large quantity of timber, particularly soft timber, that for many reasons we have had to import, probably the chief of which is that our resources are not so great as they should be. In a very short time we will almost certainly have to depend on imports of soft timber. “When that day comes we will ‘ have to pay much higher prices for soft timber. Honorable members will be amazed to learn that the records show that we have only a fifteen years’ supply of softwoods, even if the utmost care is exercised in preserving them. “We have ample supplies of hardwoods; but softwoods are needed for many purposes.
I regret the statement of the Minister that country mills are closing down because of the cutting out of our forests. This is certainly not the. case with hardwood.
– That is not the reason.
– I am privileged to represent some of the largest timber areas in Queensland, over which. I have travelled extensively. It grieves me to find that, so far as softwoods are concerned, nature is apparently unable to develop and restore our forests to the extent that is required. In the Canungra, Beechmount, Beaudesert, Nerang, Brisbane Valley, and other districts from which for many years mainly softwoods have been taken, an effort at re-afforestation has been made; but because close attention cannot be given to the matter, or the cost cannot be met privately, the timber industry there cannot as in other countries replace by young trees the timber removed. The replenishing of our forests must be taken up as an urgent national question.
The work of the Forestry School, and its activities, are not sufficiently known. I hope that, when the bill is in committee, it will be amended to provide that an annual report of the operations of the Forestry Bureau is furnished to Parliament. When the last “budget was before this chamber the Minister was then new to his present position, and I was amazed when he exhibited such rudeness when information was sought concerning the Forestry School and its activities. We cannot afford to treat this industry lightly. It is not the duty of the Minister to keep hack information. It should be obligatory on’ the director of the school to furnish a detailed report of its operations to Parliament.
I wish the bill a speedy passage.
– Sir Walter Scott made one of his characters . say, in giving advice to a younger member of his household, “ When you have naething else to dae, J ock, you can aye be stickin’ in a tree. It’ll be growin’ while you’re sleepin’ “.
I am not so free from the physical limitations which assert themselves at the close of an all-night sitting as some honorable members on this side appear to be. For my part, I am quite prepared to support this non-contentious measure and to leave these trees about which they have said so much to do some growing while we do some sleeping. With that object, I wish the hill a veryspeedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read’ a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 negatived.
Clauses 5 to 13 agreed to.
Motions (by Mr. Blakeley) agreed to -
That the following new clauses be inserted_ “3. (1.) For the purposes of this act there shall be a Forestry Bureau. (2.) The Forestry Bureau shall be under the charge of the Inspector-General of Forests who shall, subject to the direction of the Minister, be charged with the administration of this act. (3.) The Inspector-General and all permanent officers required for the purpose of this act shall be appointed under, and be subject to, the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1928.” “ 12a. All books and accounts kept by the trustees shall be audited from time to time by the Auditor-General for the Commonwealth who shall make a report of each audit to the Minister.”
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
That Orders of the Day - Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works- Report - Automatic Telephone Exchange, Hawthorn, Victoria - Motion for Printing Paper; Ministerial Statement - Preference to Returned’ Sailors’ -and Soldiers - Motion for Printing; Ministerial Statement of Policy - Motion forPrinting Paper - be discharged.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until: Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
House adjourned at 7.30 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 June 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300626_reps_12_125/>.