12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and offered prayers.
– I have received from South Australia two letters relating to the price of petrol. Gamlings Limited, customs, shipping and carrying agents, of Adelaide, have written -
The larger petrol import companies will not sell their first grade petrol to us under 2s.1d. per gallon (whilst we can purchase from the smaller and independent companies at 1s. 7½d.) unless we hire from them one of their pumps or install one of our own. If we hire one of their pumps they will allow us a reduction of 3d. per gallon ; if we instal our own pump outfit and lease the pump outfit to any one company from that one company we can obtain a further halfpenny per gallon reduction.
The Country Carriers Service Station, also of Adelaide, has written -
Recently the Shell Company, the Vacuum Oil Company, the Texas Company, and the Commonwealth Oil Company, circularized resellers of petrol who were selling petrol at a lower price than 2s.1d. and. 2s. per gallon, that if they continued selling petrol at a lower price than 2s.1d. and’ 2s. per gallon, they (these companies), would cease to serve the re-sellers unless the re-sellers paid cash with order; whereas if they ceased to trade with the cheaperpetrol they could have the usual trading terms which extended generally to six weeks before payment.
As an officer of the Trade and Customs Department Las been appointed to inquire whether manufacturers, importers, or distributors are taking advantage of the tariff and bounty legislation to exploit the community, will the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs cause inquiries to be made as to whether petrol can be re-sold in Adelaide at1s. 7½d. per gallon; and whether if it can be sold at that price subject to the installation of a particular type of pump, whether that condition should be prohibited and petrolsold at such price?Will the Minister also inquire whether distributors have been refused petrol unless they sell at or above a minimum price stipulated by the suppliers?
– I shall have the fullest possible inquiry made into these complaints and let the honorable member have a reply at an early date.
Cost of Living Allowance
– Having regard to the severe retrenchment in one section of the Defence Department, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government proposes to increase the pay of all other branches of the service by means of an additional cost of living allowance of £6 per annum, amounting in all to £180,000 per annum, although the cost of living has in fact decreased?
– The allowance is provided for in awards of the Public Service Arbitrator, and is automatically adjusted in accordance with an index figure which is ascertained by taking the average cost of living for the twelve months ended the 31st March. Ever since 1924 the figure so ascertained has been applied to the cost of living allowancefor the succeeding financial year. This system produces anomalies, sometimes in favour of the Service and sometimes against it, because of the time taken to ascertain the index figure.
– Has the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs read the report published in the Sydney Sun of yesterday of a speech by Sir Arthur Rickard at a luncheon at the National Club under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) ? Dealing with bounties Sir Arthur Rickard is reported to have said -
It is marvellous what they will give a bounty to next. I think that there is a great deal of log-rolling, if not something worse, in these matters. I hope I am not right butI cannot help feeling that it is so.
Will the Minister take steps to ascertain if the report is accurate? If . it is, does he consider that Sir Arthur Rickard’s statement is a reflection on the honour of the Minister and members of the Cabinet generally? If he does consider the statement offensive, what steps does he propose to take to compel Sir Arthur Rickard to prove or withdraw it?
– I rise to a point of order. The Assistant Minister is asked to express his opinion as to whether a certain statement is a reflection on his honour. I submit that a question asking for an expression of opinion, and not seeking to elicit information, is out of order.
– If a statement appears to reflect on the honour and integrity of Ministers, it is competent for an honorable member to ask a Minister how he regards it and what action he or the Government proposes to take concerning it.
– I have read the statements reported to have been made by Sir Arthur Rickard, and the conclusion I have come to is that they are amongst the most unfair and unfounded remarks I have ever read. They evidently emanate from one who is actuated by party political bias. The complete ignorance displayed by Sir Arthur Rickard in regard tobounties shows that whatever he knows about land salesmanship, his knowledge of Australian industries and the methods of protection applying thereto is lamentably weak. As a matter of fact, in respect of all bounties proposed by the present Government, a full public inquiry was previously made by the Tariff Board, and in each instance the Tariff Board’s recommendation was the basis of the legislation introduced. All the existing bounties, with the exception of those proposed on flax and sewing machines, were initiated by the Bruce-Page Government, and the extension of the cotton bounty was approved by the Senate by 22 votes to 5, the majority including most of the Nationalist members of that chamber.
With regard to his statement that the bounty system would cost the country £7,000,000 for this year for the sugar industry alone, the fact is that no bounty is paid on sugar. The sugar bounty was abolished as from July, 1913. The present sugar agreement and the prices now operating were fixed by the BrucePage Government for a period of three years as from 1st September, 1928.
Mr. THOMPSON as Chairman, brought up the report of the select committee appointed to inquire into and report upon the tobacco-growing industry, together with minutes of proceedings and evidence, and moved -
That the report be printed.
.- If the motion is agreed to formally, the House will have no opportunity to discuss the committee’s recommendations unless the Government bases legislation upon them. It is desirable that honorable members should have a chance to address themselves to this matter, and I therefore ask leave to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Mr. LACEY, as Chairman, brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed construction of a steamer for lighthouse service.
Ordered to be printed.
Construction of Trawler
– Is the statement that the Government is about to enter the fishing industry correct, and is it proposed that a trawler shall be built in Australia at a cost of £50,000? If so, will Parliament be givenan opportunity to discuss the proposal before any expenditurein that direction is incurred?
– It is not true that the Government is entering the fishing industry. An exhaustive examination of the fishing industry was made by the Development and Migration Commission, and its report dealt with the varieties of fish in Australian waters. Valuable research was also made by the use of the vessel Endeavour. The commission recommended that a vessel should be constructed by the Commonwealth Governmentfor the investigation of practical and scientific questions. It is proposed to carry out that recommendation, but the date of commencing the work has not yet been announced. It has not yet been decided where the vessel is to be built.
– Assuming the construction of a Government trawler to be a public work, and, as public works estimated to cost £25,000 or over must be referred to the Public Works Committee, will the Prime Minister, before proceeding with the construction of a proposed trawler, refer the proposal to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report ?
– When the definite decision is arrived at to build this ship, the work will obviously be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report.
– A little while ago, I asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs a question in respect of a request for a duty on wood-wool. The fruit-growers are much concerned about the possibility, not only of the imposition of such a duty, but also of a duty on wood for fruit cases. I should be glad if the Assistant Minister will, in view of the seriousness of the position, particularly to Western Australian fruit-growers, who are working on a very spare margin, examine the whole matter from an economic standpoint, and, if necessary, refer it to the Tariff Board.
– The requests for duties are so numerous that it is impossible for meto give, off-hand, the details of each ; but I shallhave inquiries made, and give the honorable member a reply probably later in the day.
TARIFF Board’s Report.
– When does the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs expect to make available to honorable members the reports of the Tariff Board on the timber duties and duties on other things which he promised to lay on the table at an early date last week?
– All the reports of the Tariff Board that are available will, I hope, be placed on the table within the next few days.
– In view of the many disquieting reports that have been received from overseas concerning the quality of our Kangaroo brand of butter, will the Minister, if he has not already done so, inquire as to the reason of this, and ascertain whether steps cannot be taken to prevent the shipment from Australia of butter which is obviously below export standard?
– On the adjournment of the House a week or so ago, I informed an honorable member that many of the reports regarding the quality of our butter sent overseas are misleading and unreliable. But I admit that there is room for improvement in the quality of our butter, and I have, therefore, arranged a meeting of the interests concerned, including the Butter Board and government inspectors, the outcome of which will, I hope, lead to a great improvement in the standard of our butter in the future.
– Does the Government intend to take steps to have a redistribution of seats in the near future?
– In view of the fact that the census will not be taken next year, a redistribution of seats is considered necessary, because of certain marginal differences. In Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, the marginal difference above or below the one-fifth allowed is so great that it is necessary to have such a redistribution. This work will take some seven months, and it ,is anticipated that it will be finished by June next.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.What assistance, if any, has been given by the Government to a company known as the Central Australian Gold Exploration Company?
– The Government has agreed to grant free transit for one Thornycroft lorry and four men from Quorn to Alice Springs.
– Is that assistance available to anybody?
– Yes, for the same purpose, and if going to Central Australia.
– Can the Minister inform the House of the name of the secretary and the leader of the company?
– The secretary is Mr. E. H. Bailey. I do not know what the honorable member means by the “ leader of the company “, the leader of the expedition is my brother, Mr. F. Blakeley. So that there may be no misapprehension on the part of honorable members, let me say that the Central Australian Gold Exploration Company is in exactly the same position as any other company. In the first place it asked for a subsidy of £1 for £1. In the past it has been the custom to make certain grants to companies, one of which was given £300. It has been the custom to make grants up to £2 a week to approved owners of prospecting outfits. Following the practice observed for many years by previous Ministers, I made certain recommendations to the Government. These were accepted.
– Has the Minister for Home Affairs yet received from the Premiers of those States which have not accepted the offer of the Commonwealth to prepare joint rolls, an intimation of their willingness to co-operate with the Federal Government in this respect?
– I have been in communication with the Governments of Western Australia and Queensland concerning the matter mentioned by the honorable member, and I shall continue to urge upon them the desirableness of adopting uniform rolls for Commonwealth and State elections.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say if there is any, truth in the statement which appeared in to-day’s newspapers that 100 postal linesmen, all of whom are returned soldiers who had qualified for permanent employment in the Commonwealth Public Service, have received notice of dismissal? If so, does this action indicate a departure by the Government from its policy of preference to returned soldiers in regard to retrenchment, and, thirdly, does the department intend to take action with a view to preventing these men from joining the ranks of the unemployed?
– Certain works undertaken by the department will be finished shortly, and the men engaged upon them will necessarily be thrown out of employment. The notices of dismissal served upon them do not raise the question of preference to returned soldiers in any shape or form. I am not sure if the figure mentioned by the honorable member is correct, but I understand that about 100 men are affected. These men would have been dismissed immediately after this Government came into office but for the fact that the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) was able to provide extra money to keep them in work up to the present time. It will be necessary to dispense with their services if money is not available upon the completion of the works on which they have been employed. If work can be found for them elsewhere that will be done.
– Is it a fact that a number of applications have been received from persons desiring appointment as linesmen in the department? Have the applicants been required to present themselves for examination in the several States to determine their qualifications?
– It is the practice to conduct an examination of all applicants for such positions, to ascertain if they are properly qualified in the event of their appointment
– Can the Minister for Defence inform the House what he proposes to do with the Jervis Bay Naval College, and state also if there is any truth in the current rumour that negotiations are proceeding to convert it into a monastery?
– We are attempting to lease the college, but I have to admit that the present time is rather unpropitious. There is not the slightest truth in the rumour mentioned by the honorable member.
Proportion Rejected in 1929.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– It has been necessary to communicate with the High Commissioner’s Office, London, in connexion with this matter, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Payments to Insurance Companies
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Commonwealth Authority in External Affairs.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
They are autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Power to legislate in relation to the external affairs of Australia is conferred upon the Commonwealth by the Commonwealth Constitution Act.
Exports to Germany and Italy
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What commodities were exported from Australia to Germany in the years 1927-28 and 1928-29, and what were the quantities and value of each of such commodities?
– The details of exports to Germany from 1924-25 to 1928-29 are contained in a very convenient form on pages 771 and 772 of the Overseas Trade Bulletin No. 26. A copy of the pages containing this information will be handed to the honorable member.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What commodities were exported from Australia to Italy in the years 1927-28 and 1928-29, and what were the quantities and value of each of such commodities?
– The details of exports to Italy from 1924-25 to 1928-29 are contained in a very convenient form on page 775 of the Overseas Trade Bulletin, No. 26. A copy of the page containing this information will be handed to the honorable member.
Supply of Vegetables and Bread
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Retaliatory Action in Philippines.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - . 1.Has his attention been drawnto an article in the Sydney Morning Heraldofthe 26th instant, headed, “ Retaliation from the Philippines against Tariff Increase”, in which it is stated that the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources ofthe Philippines had drafted definite recommendations urging legislation locally and by the United States Congress to raise the tariff against Australian goods by 100 per cent. by way of retaliation for the Australian tariff?
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Now that work has been resumed on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales, what is the estimated number of coal-miners there and elsewhere who will participate in the £100,000 to be shared among unemployed coalminers ?
– I am not at present in a position to supply the particulars desired by the honorable member, but details of the scheme will be made available as soon as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– It is not possible at the present juncture to make a statement on this subject, all aspects of which are receiving the fullest consideration of the Government. The honorable member may be assured that no time will be lost in bringing the matter to finality.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
As the Australian airman, Kingsford Smith, is the first aviator to circumnavigate the globe, and has successfully crossed the Atlantic by the east-west route, will consideration be given by the Government to -
Suitably recognizing this superhuman undertaking?
Taking over the plane “Southern Cross,” as was done on the occasion of the flight of the late Sir Ross Smith and Sir Keith Smith?
– The Government has noted with gratification the feat accomplished by the Australian, SquadronLeader Kingsford Smith, and has officially congratulated him upon his achievement. I am not in a position at present to indicate what further action, if any, the Government proposes to take, but will bear in mind the suggestion of the honorable member.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Governments to pass legislation ratifying any such agreement?
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Nestles Milk Company - Bryant and May Proprietary Limited
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– In accordance with the Prime Minister’s statement made in the House on 17th June, 1930, a departmental accountant will be deputed to investigate the methods of trading adopted by the industries referred to with a view to ascertaining whether there is a prima facie case for submission to the Tariff Board for inquiry under section 15 of the Tariff Board Act.
Employment of Returned Soldiers and Non-Soldiers
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The particulars desired by the honorable member are being obtained from the Commonwealth departments concerned, and will be made available as early as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Emigration of Inmates
– I desire to refer to a reply made by me in the House on the 24th June to a series of questions by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) regarding the working and purpose of the Borstal Institution in England, and its relation to migration to Australia. I then stated that inmates of the Borstal Institution had not, since the inception of the joint Commonwealth and State migration scheme in 1921, been brought to Australia as assisted migrants. This reply was based upon information that had been obtained by cablegram from London.
In view of the subsequent statement by the honorable member on the subject, I have had further inquiries made, with the result that the information originally furnished by me has been confirmed, not only by the High Commissioner’s Office, London, but also by the British Overseas Settlement Office.
As the advice furnished by both departments is so definite, I can only assume that the boys referred to did not come to Australia as assisted migrants. If, however, the honorable member is in a position to supply me with any detailed information regarding the boys stated to have been sent to Australia in 1924 from the Borstal Institution, I shall be glad if he will make it available to me in order that the matter may be further investigated.
– On the 25th June, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following questions, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the Postmaster-General to make a statement, with reference to tenders for wireless broadcasting station equipment.
.- The Prime Minister appears to be making a practice of moving for the suspension of the Standing Orders with the object of enabling Ministers to make statements. The Opposition is always willing to give the Prime Minister, or any other Minister, leave to make a statement upon any matter affecting the business of the public, though we think that such leave should not be used for the purpose of making controversial and partisan attacks. It has always been the practice of this House to extend the utmost consideration to Ministers to enable them to make statements on public matters. It is true that recently a difference of opinion arose on this question. On that occasion certain honorable members felt that before leave should be given to a Minister to make a statement the House should be informed of the subject that he desires to deal with. I respectfully suggest that the Prime Minister should consider the propriety and desirableness of adopting the practice when asking for leave to make a statement, of intimating the subject to be dealt with. If that is done, it will be rarely, if ever, that objection will be taken to the making of such a statement. I suggest also that the practice of suspending the Standing Orders should not be allowed to become an ordinary practice of the House, but should be adopted only upon special occasions and in unusual circumstances. We recognize, of course, that there can be no debate upon the subject of a statement made by leave, and it is for that reason that such statements should be made only for the purpose of giving information to the House and the country, and not for the purpose of making controversial or party attacks. I suggest that the Prime Minister should ask leave to withdraw his motion, and then ask the House to give the PostmasterGeneral leave to make a statement.
Mr.R. GREEN (Richmond) [3.38].- Recently I exercised my right under the Standing Orders to object to leave being given to the Prime Minister to make a statement, because I considered that the House was entitled to the courtesy of being told the subject to be dealt with. In consequence of my action a division of the House occurred. Later I explained why I had objected to leave being given. I have never taken, and never shall take, objection to members of the Government being granted leave to make such statements as those referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), but I submit that we should be told the subject of the statement. The motion moved by the Prime Minister mentioned the subject with which the Postmaster-General would deal. If, when asking for leave for Ministers to make statements, the right honorable gentleman would always announce the subject to be dealt with, no objection would be taken.
To move the suspension of the Standing Orders, as the Prime Minister has done this afternoon, merely to permit the Postmaster-General to make a statement is like using a heavy weight to swat a fly. In my opinion, the Standing Orders are being used in a manner that was never intended when they were framed. As I stated at the conclusion of the speech which I made on a previous occasion of this kind, I do not think leave should be given for the making of a statement unless the subject-matter of the statement is mentioned in advance. If that practice were adopted, I do not think honorable members on this side of the chamber would offer the least objection to the Prime Minister or any other Minister making statements of public interest or concerning the departments under their control.
. -I agree with the Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Latham) that in moving a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable a Minister to make a statement, the subject-matter proposed to be dealt with should be disclosed to the House. On this occasion I informed the House that my object in moving the suspension of the Standing Orders was to enable the Postmaster-General to make a statement concerning the letting of contracts for the erection of wireless stations. The Leader of the Opposition has never yet denied me or any other Minister the right to make a statement, and the action I have taken is not to be regarded as a reflection upon the Opposition. Such statements may amount to a bald recital of facts, or they may be in reply to some criticism and border on the controversial, although made for the purpose of giving official information. While the statement which the Postmaster-General desires to make is not of a controversial nature, it is in reply to certain criticisms which have been made with respect to the letting of contracts by his department for the erection of wireless stations. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) accused me of discourtesy to the House recently in not making known the nature of a statement I proposed to make; but on that occasion an announcement was to be made concerning a delicate situation affecting the financial position of the Commonwealth. But I had supplied the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Country party with a typewritten copy of the statement I proposed to make.
– That is so.
– In those circumstances I expected that the members of the parties concerned would be made acquainted with the nature of the statement to be made.
– Those copies were supplied only after the House met.
– That is so. I was only able to hand a copy across the table when the House met ; but no discourtesy was intended to the parties in opposition. I trust that on this occasion honorable members will support the motion, as the statement made by the PostmasterGeneral is brief.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– From time to time questions have been asked in the House in regard to the letting overseas of certain contracts for broadcasting equipment. Some questions have been asked on the subject by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge), and I think that a certain amount of misconception exists in the mind of the public as to the actual position. In these circumstances I should like to make the position quite clear. In February, 1929, tenders were invited for the supply, delivery and installation of certain stations for the national broadcasting service, and in June of that year, before the present Government came into office, it was decided to accept the tender of Standard Telephones and Cables Australasia Limited for the supply of two.’2-kw. stations of British manufacture, and to defer the installation of three 5-kw. stations pending a comprehensive examination being made in the hope that it might, be . possible to have at least a portion of the apparatus manufactured in Australia. The overseas tenderers’ - Standard Telephones, and Cables Aus tra,lasia Limited - were approached and asked whether they could undertake the manufacture in Australia of a proportion or the whole: of the plant they offered, and if so, what additional cost, if any, would be incurred. While the company appeared to view the proposition sympathetically, it hesitated to embark on such a manufacturing project. It agreed, however, that certain parts of the equipment could be satisfactorily manufactured in the Commonwealth at no great additional cost. It submitted an alternative quotation providing for the total expenditure in Australia, including the cost of installation, of £4,630, out of a total of £17,937, for a station with one type of aerial, and of £4,412 out of £17,988 for a station with another type of aerial. The department looked very closely into the lowest tender - that of United Distributors Limited, an Australian company - and special inquiries were instituted in regard to the company’s financial position and ability to carry put the contract. Unfortunately, at that time the company was in serious financial difficulties, and the department did not feel justified in placing the contract with ‘ it. The company has since gone . into liquidation. As it submitted the lowest tender, and is an Australian company, I should like to make it quite clear that the department gave every consideration to its tender, and, for the information of the House, I shall state briefly what happened. On the 15th August the managing director of the company said that he waa endeavouring to bring about an amalgamation of his interests with .those of another company of some standing, and if this materialized he believed he would be able to give the department substantial guarantees as to his company’s ability to manufacture the plant “and safeguard the department’s interests. On the 27th August he communicated further with the department saying “there is every likelihood of the consummation of this plan, within the matter’ of a , fortnight.” On the 3rd September the department expressed its, willingness to allow the whole matter to stand in abeyance for two weeks, and on the. 17th September the’ managing director said-
It. is all but certain a new company- “will be (formed….. Next .Friday, 20th September, is the day, scheduled for a -conference-, which should practically finalize the matter ‘
By . the end of Oc’tober no further’communication had been: received from. the company; but it was known that, up to that time, efforts to secure amalgamation had not been successful. Those facts show what was done by the department to enable the company to obtain the contract if such a course had been justified.
– That stage had been reached when the previous Government was in office.
– Yes. I submit for the information of the House the following particulars of the tenders received: -
Tenders were received from United Distributors Limited, Standard Telephones and Cables Australasia Limited, and Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited.
– Are they all Australian companies ?
– Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited and United Distributors are Australian firms, but Standard Telephones and Cables Australasia Limited is an oversea company. In the circumstances I have outlined no Government would be justified in giving further consideration to the tender of United Distributors Limited, nor can I conceive of any member of the House in his private business placing an order in circumstances similar to those which then prevailed. As a matter of fact, the managing director of the company expressed his appreciation of the consideration shown to his company. I understand that reconstruction of the company has now been effected, and, if it should again submit a tender, what has happened in the past will not prejudice the company’s prospects of obtain ing any future contracts. The tender of United Distributors had to be passed over for reasons which I have explained, which left a decision to be made between the tenders of Standard Telephones and Cables Australasia Limited, of £17,988 per station, and Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited, of £28,582 per station. The discrepancy in price was so marked that I did not think that the department would be justified in accepting the local tender. It was not a question of patents or ability to execute the contract, the main consideration was that of cost.
There are certain aspects of the negotiations to which I should like to draw attention. The offer of. the Standard Telephone Company provided that a fairly substantial proportion of the work should be done in Australia ; in fact, that out of £18,000 worth of work, £4,600 worth should be done here. On the other hand some portions of the plant, even if supplied by Amalgamated Wireless, would have had to be imported, as shown by the fact that the company would have had to pay duty amounting to £570. There were five stations to be equipped, and the* important thing is that the difference between the two tenders was no less than £55,500. We were a; the time, and indeed still are, in somewhat of a dilemma. £55,000 would provide employment for twelve months for 200 men. It has been claimed that employment could have been provided for a certain number of persons in the factories associated with the Amalgamated Wireless Company; but not nearly so much employment could have been furnished in this way as if the £55,000 were devoted directly to giving’ employment in the Postal Department. A question was asked in the House only to-day about the dismissal of temporary employees of the Postal Department. It has been necessary to terminate the employment of 100 men, but had the tender of the Amalgamated Wireless Company been accepted those men, or a similar group, would have had to be dismissed even before now. I accept full responsibility for what has been done. I approved of the acceptance of the Standard Telephone Company’s tender. If any mistake were made, it was my mistake and not that of the Director-General or of Cabinet. I made my ‘ decision prior to the imposition by the Government of an embargo upon the importation of certain articles into Australia. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge), in a recent interview with the press, is reported to have said -
It is a lamentable circumstance that within 24 hours of the tabling in Parliament of a new tariff schedule compelling the manufacturing, commercial, and consuming interests to favour Australian products that the Postmaster-General announces, in response to my question, that the Commonwealth Government hag ordered, at a cost of £71,070, five radio broadcasting stations from overseas.
Is it not extraordinary that while the Federal Government is importing transmitting stations into the Commonwealth, Australia is manufacturing similar apparatus for export?
From that it would be possible to draw the inference that, within 24 hours of his asking the question, the action complained of was taken. As a matter of fact, no transmitting stations have been ordered since the 6th November last. To suggest otherwise is simply to mislead the public. The statement has been made that while we have been importing transmitting apparatus, manufacturers in Australia have been making similar sets for export to New Zealand. Inquiries made in that regard disclosed that the only apparatus supplied by Amalgamated Wireless to the Postal Administration in New Zealand is three short wave radio telegraph sets for use in Apia, Raratonga and Wellington, representing a total cost of approximately £8,000, and a modulator for telephone purposes to be associated with the wireless telegraph transmitter installed at Wellington. The four broadcasting stations in New Zealand at Wellington, Dunedin, Auckland and Christchurch were all supplied and installed by Standard Telephones and Cables Limited, and I am advised that none of the New Zealand broadcasting apparatus has been supplied by the Amalgamated Wireless Company.
Furthermore, there have been suggestions to the effect that the specifications for these stations were drafted by the department to correspond with a type of transmitter manufactured by overseas firms, to the detriment of Australian manufacturers. To these assertions an emphatic denial is given. The specifications were drafted in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department; they were drawn up as stipulations of the performance required, and, in order not to limit the tenderers, the following clause was included : -
The tenderer is free to submit any design of broadcasting plant that in his opinion will meet .the transmission and service requirements of this specification.
This left the matter quite open, and, as a matter of “fact, tenders were submitted for different’ designs which would have fulfilled the transmission and service requirements. That is the position in regard to the tenderers. The choice had to be made between the Standard Telephone and Cable Limited at the lower price> and Amalgamated Wireless at the higher price. The department and the Government are always prepared to give special consideration to Australian tenderers. We are at present giving a wide measure of preference to local manufacturers. ‘ As an instance of this I quote- the following table of contracts which have been given to local manufacturers, although the materials could have been obtained more cheaply from abroad : -
– Does the Government expect the English firms to keep on tendering?
– It expects that the encouragement given to Australian manufacturers will eventually enable them to compete with imported articles on equal terms. The Government will not give to any tenderer any guarantee that he will get contracts irrespective of price; nor will it grant a monopoly to any tenderer. It will give substantial preference to Australian manufacturers ; but no guarantee or monopoly.
– Was this material in course of transit at the time the. embargo was placed on imports?
– Some, but not all of it, was in transit. The Government was committed to the contract and went on with it. Honorable members will agree that that was the right thing to do in the circumstances.
– Other contractors who had firm orders did not get these concessions.
– The Standing Orders having been suspended to permit the Ministerto make a statement, there can be no debate.
– The policy oftheGovernment is to encourage Australian manufacturers as much as possible.That policy has been applied to the technical departments of the Commonwealth as well as to outside firms and companies. Some time ago the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) and the Honorary Minister (Mr. Beasley), introduced a deputation to me with the object of making the fullest use possible of the Lithgow factory. The deputationists were of the opinion that work for the post office could be undertaken there. The technical advisersof the post office supplied the authorities in charge of the Lithgow factory with all the information available, with a view to seeing whether the Lithgow factory could manufacture on satisfactory terms, many of the requirements of the post office. In the case under discussion the facts were such that I wascompelled to accept an overseas tender. I wish to emphasize that that decision was. not arrived at about the time that the honorable member for. Martin (Mr. Eldridge) asked his. question. Nothing has been done in this connexionsince the 6th November last, some time before the Government decided to give the present definite preference to Australian manufacturers. I have given this information at the requestof the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) and in order that honorable members maybe acquainted withthe facts, and thus be in a position todeal with the matter when the Estimates come before us.
– Should I be in order in referring at this stage to the matter dealt with by the Postmaster-General(Mr. Lyons) ?
– The honorable member may now speak only by way of a personal explanation - in which case he must claim to have been misrepresented - or by leave of the House.
– I ask leave to make a statement.
Leave not granted.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration, (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c -
No.18 of 1930 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 19 of 1930 - Fourth Division Officers Association of the Trade and Customs Department.
Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 64.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Regulations -StatutoryRules 1930, No. 56.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 2 of the principal act is amended by omitting paragraph i, and inserting in its stead the following paragraph - “i. To promote goodwill in industry by conciliation and arbitration;”
Section proposed to be amended -
The chief objects of this act are - (1.) To prevent lockouts and strikes in relation to industrial disputes.
.- This clause proposes to alter what the principal act describes as its chief objects. The alteration marks a change of outlook which I wish were genuine. The first of the chief objects. of the existing legislation is “ To prevent lockouts and strikes, in relation to industrial disputes.” The third of those objects is “To provide for the exercise of the jurisdiction of the court by conciliation, with a view to amicable agreement between the parties.” There are other objects, but for the moment let us consider those which aim at the prevention of lockouts and strikes in relation toindustrial disputes, and the making of amicable agreements between parties. The bill proposes to abandon the prevention of lockouts and strikes as one of the principal objects specifically named, and to substitute the promotion of goodwill inindustry by conciliation and arbitration. I agree that the major object of industrial legislation should be to promote goodwill in industry; that the prevention of lockouts and strikes is subsidiary to that object. I wish, however, that I could see in this bill any provisions which have been particularly designed to bring -about that result.I agree that we ought to alter the law incertain respects with respect to lockouts and strikes; but I doubt whether this bill has been drafted along wise lines, because, in addition to striking out the pecuniary penalties for lockouts and strikes, it also proposes to remove those provisions which make it possible to suspend or cancel an award, or to de-register an organization in case of a lockout or strike. Later I propose to ask the committee to retain those provisions, while agreeing to abandon the provisions for pecuniary fines. While I raise no objection to this placard being placed in the front of the bill, I ask the Attorney-General to give careful consideration to amendments which will be proposed with the object of promoting actual goodwill in industry. One of the best means of bringing about goodwill in industry is to do everything possible to make industry efficient and successful. If it is prosperous, there is a much better chance of goodwill existing, and actual co-operation being found, than if industry has difficulty in carrying on operations. Therefore, I shall submit a number of amendments with the object of removing some of. the evil effects which I fear certain provisions of the bill, as at present drawn, will have. My purpose will be in conformity with the general idea of promoting goodwill in industry.
.- The proposed amendment in clause 2 is to omit from the act the words “ To prevent lockouts and strikes in relation to industrial disputes,” and to insert in their stead the words “ To promote goodwill in industry by conciliation and arbitration.” I am sure that , the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Brennan) has started off extremely well in having such ideals as those placarded in this clause, but one looks in vain throughout the hill for provisions that are likely to bring about the goodwill that is so much desired. When Parliament assembled in March of this year, the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) made a statement to the House in which he asked for the co-operation of the people in the efforts of the Government to meet the difficulties in which Australia now found itself. He said that the problems confronting us were serious, and a proper realization of them should result in wholehearted co-operation by all sections in the working out of a satisfactory solution. Indeed, he added, Parliament might fittingly become an economic conference of representatives of the people meeting to discuss the general position. The Government will acknowledge that members of the Opposition have done a great deal to facilitate the business of the House. We have attempted to make practical and helpful suggestions to the Government, and we still desire to be .of assistance; but it seems to me that we are not receiving much encouragement from the Government, because, from day to day, Ministers lose no opportunity of introducing measures the passage of which would assist in realizing the Labour objective. We all recognize the serious financial crisis confronting the Commonwealth, and we deplore the unprecedented unemployment. In the circumstances, one would expect that the Government would hesitate to introduce contentious legislation. The proposals now before the House, if agreed to, would increase unemployment, and certainly maintain the industrial warfare now being waged. The Opposition would fail in its duty if it did not strongly protest against the contents of this bill.
Without doubt, members on this side are behind the Attorney-General in the endeavour to promote goodwill in industry by means of conciliation and arbitration. At the last election, the Prime Minister announced that it was proposed to amend the Arbitration Act, and to introduce a business-like system of arbitration, free from “entangling legalisms “ ; but the contents of this bill indicate an extreme interpretation of the mandate that the Government claims to; have received from the people. [Quorum formed.] No member likes to read in the report of his own speech that at one stage of it a quorum was called for. The fact that a quorum has just been called for shows that honorable members behind the Government either have complete confidence that it is moving on right lines in proceeding with this measure, or that they take little interest in the bill. When the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) drew attention to the state of the House, there were only five members on the ministerial side, while the Opposition was almost up to its full strength. The AttorneyGeneral, in moving the second reading of the bill, said that peace in industry was an ideal, the realization- of which was devoutly to be wished; but I should be greatly surprised if he seriously expected this measure to promote industrial peace or goodwill. If the Government really desired to achieve that object, I imagine that the Prime Minister would have persevered in his proposal to hold a peace conference in October last. The following statement, which appeared in the public press at the time, was approved by the people generally -
Proposals for summoning another conference on industrial peace and industrial legislation wore made by the Prime Minister (Mr. J. H. Scullin ) during an interview with representatives of the employers and employees’ delegations to the Industrial Peace Conference which was called by the previous Government, but which eventually broke down.
Then followed the names of the persons attending the conference, including representatives of the employers and the workers. To that meeting the Prime Minister pointed out that the people had declared for the maintenance of federal industrial arbitration, and, accepting that as a fact, he would welcome any suggestions that might be made for framing improved arbitration legislation. He suggested that the delegates should call a conference for the specific purpose of considering industrial legislation generally, and Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration in particular. . He assured those present that, if such a conference were held, their representations would receive the full and sympathetic consideration of the Government.
The public of Australia read that statement with a great deal of pleasure. It was rightly believed that the Prime Minister, enjoying the confidence of the trade union organizations, would have sufficient influence to bring about peace in industry - that he would succeed where the late Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) had failed. But that conference was never held, and the reason was that objections were made by certain trade unions. For instance, the Sydney branch of the Carpenters Union, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, adoptedthis attitude -
A recent meeting of the Sydney branch of the Carpenters Union expressed uncompromising hostility to the proposed industrial peace conference convened by the Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin. The decision of the Federal Government was described as an act of treachery against the working-class. It was condemned on the ground that the suggested conference would assist the employingclass in smashing the militancy of the organized workers. .
That was a great disappointment to the people generally. Doubtless,other protests were communicated secretly to the Government. But whatever the reason, the Prime Minister appeared suddenly to lose his enthusiasm for the holding of this conference. We know, of course, that the industrial organization’s were consulted with respect to this measure. That was right and proper. I suggest, however, that the other side in industry, the employers, had an equal right to be considered. How is goodwill to be promoted in industry unless the legislation controlling industry begets confidence in both sides? That will not be the result under this measure. I admit that the interests of capital and labour are not identical; but at the same time, they are not antagonistic, and a reciprocal spirit should be evinced by each towards the other. The employers would welcome asystem that would bring peace to industry. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) delivered an interesting speech in which he appealed for the co-operation of all sections, and invited from the Opposition suggestions designed to improve the bill. A few sentences later, however, he rather inconsistently expressed unequivo cal approval of the bill. It is of no use for the Government to pretend that it expects the Opposition to make suggestions with the object of promoting peace in industry, while it adopts the stand that this bill is the last word that can be said on the matter.
– I have never adopted that stand.
– I did not say that the Attorney-General had done so. Under an ideal system of arbitration, strife and class hatred would be discouraged.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) is delivering a secondreading speech instead of confining himself to clause 2.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I remind the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) that the clause with which the committee is dealing has a wide application. The honorable member for Lilley is quite in order.
– I thank you, Mr. McGrath. I am very sorry if the honorable member for South Sydney considers that my criticism is too pertinent. When I was interrupted, I was propounding the theory thatan ideal system of arbitration was one that discouraged class hatred and strife, and suppressed direct action. Arbitration should, above all, aim at meting out equity and justice to employers and Workers. Surely the honorable member for Flinders does not expect those ideals to be attained Under these proposals! That is impossible, because the scales of justice are loaded oh one side. Before industrial peace can be achieved, it is absolutely essential for both the employers and the workers to understand the complicated problems that are connected with industry. The Attorney-General is indeed an optimist if he believes that this amendment of the act will bring about that very desirable state of affairs. The suggestion is that these proposals . are designed to promote goodwill in industry, by conciliation and arbitration. Has not the fact been overlooked that the whole of the penal clauses of the act are to be removed, that the Arbitration Court is no longer to be the final authority in a dispute, that a union cannot be de-registered no matter how serious an offence it may commit, and that consideration is not to be paid by the court to the economic effects of its awards? The Attorney-General has denied that the court is not totake into consideration the economic effects of its awards. Heshould show his warrant for such a statement, in view of the fact that a section of the act, which laid upon the judge that obligation, is to be struck out. Under other proposed amendments, lockouts and strikes are not to be prohibited, no award can be cancelled in consequence of offences against decisions of the court, and members of unions no longer will be able to question the authority of their officers.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath):The honorable member must confine himself to the provisions of clause 2.
-I wish to conform strictly to the Standing Orders. The clause proposes to amend the act with a view to promoting goodwill in industry. I am endeavouring to prove that the result will be the reverse of what is intended. We are inclined to boast of our democratic institutions; we are proud of the supremacy of Parliament, and of our social system with its high standard of living; old-age pensions, basic wage, workers’ compensation, and shops and factories legislation. But surely there is urgent need to remind the people of the likelihood of their losing the benefits that they have gained through our parliamentary institutions if they do not awaken to the danger that is impending under this measure. Too much indulgence is being given to agitators who advocate the destruction of our social system. The people will be well advised to consolidate their present position rather than embark upon a fanciful experiment, the result of which they cannot at present foresee. Our existing economic system may not be all that is desired, but until we can substitute a better we should endeavour to improve it, and not do anything that may cause it to break down. We must educate the people to a realization of the fact that the best interests of all can be safeguarded by increased efficiency. The frequent assertion by honorable members opposite that the party which sits on this side is out to lower wages and impair our standard of living, shows that they are becoming prejudiced, They should give this party credit for the samehonesty of purpose that they themselves claim to possess. Our one aim is to make our social system work equitably and fairly towards every section of the community. These proposals of the Government will not help to achieve the object that theAttorneyGeneral has said that they are designed to serve, because from the first to the last page of the bill the attempt is made to place one section in complete control of industry. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) suggested a conference between the cream of the employers and the workers,, in an attempt to bring about conciliation and thus promote peace in industry; but a few minutes, later he expressed the belief that the workers should . obtain complete control of industry. Inconsistent statements of that character lead the Opposition to believe that the Government does not intend to accept amendments that will make this a workable measure. We are strongly of the opinion that many leaders of industrial organizations do not want peace in industry. They do not disguise the fact that their objective is the nationalization of industry. Every effort has been made to prevent the profitable investment of capital, and every hold-up of industry has been regarded as a step nearer the socialistic objective. I am anxious to maintain conciliation and arbitration for the peaceful settlement of disputes, and to provide all reasonable safeguards to ensure the maintenance of the existing standards of living, and the best conditions of labour that industry can afford, but I am entirely opposed to socialism and the nationalization of industry. Members of the Opposition are anxious to co-operate with the Government in framing legislation that will be in the interests of all concerned, but the Government has made a serious mistake in neglecting to consult the employers. The very nature of the bill makes clear the fact that only the unions have been invited to make suggestions.
– That is not correct.I have consulted with others.
– I invite the AttorneyGeneral to point to any provisions in the bill that are designed to. deal equitably with all sections of industry. As a lawyer, a parliamentarian, and, a student of public affairs, the honorable gentleman must recognize that there are two parties to industry, and any attempt to make one section paramount will be doomed to failure. I recognize that at the last election the Government received a mandate from the people to continue the federal arbitration system, but not one elector in ten thousand expected proposals so extreme as those contained in the bill.
– All the laudable objects set out in this clause are contained in the existing act. The real object of this measure, namely, to give to union officials control of unionists, is not stated.I regret that the Government has not seen fit to introduce a broader system of conciliation and arbitration, based on past experience, to make impossible strikes and lockouts, which have caused so much loss and privation in the past. The only alteration for which the clause provides is the elimination of the words, “ to prevent lockouts and strikes in relation to industrial disputes,” and the substitution of the meaningless, pious expression, “to promote goodwill in industry by conciliation and arbitration.” Whilst it is right that an objective for which the bill does not provide should be eliminated, it is deplorable that the Government should thus admit that the purpose of this legislation is not to prevent lockouts and strikes. Every civilized community must rule out these eruptions in industry as of no advantage to either party or to the people generally, and particularly at this time of depression everything possible should be done to prevent them. Unfortunately, the Government has frankly stated that the measure provides for their continuance and aggravation.
.- For factory acts and other democratic industrial legislation, the workers have little to thank the political party to which the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) belongs.
– Even the present Arbitration Act is the result of a bargain between the Protectionist partyand the Labour party. Honorable members opposite prate of conciliation, but without an arbitration court in the background, able to force recalcitrant parties to accept prescribed conditions, few conferences between employers and employees would have any chance of success. That is my conviction after many years of experience in the industrial arena. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) raised the old bogy of depriving the unionists of the control of their unions. Every organization to which this legislation will apply will be registered before the court, and the officials elected by ballot to control its affairs must do so in accordance with its registered constitution. Conciliation has played an important part in the relations of employers and employees only because it has been supported by the Arbitration Court. The honorable member for Lilley has denied that the Opposition believes in the reduction of wages. Almost daily one can read in the newspapers of some organization of employers that is endeavouring to lower the conditions of the toilers, primarily by lowering wages. Only last week the employers at Broken Hill, without any recourse to conciliation or arbitration or conference with the workers, declared a 17½ per cent. reduction of wages to be essential if the mining industry was to continue. Everywhere we see that the employers’ idea of conciliation is to dictate the conditions upon which men shall work. They are not concerned with considerations of justice; they declare that an industry can carry on only upon certain conditions, and they are indifferent as to whether the worker can support himself and his family on the wages they offer. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has said that the Labour party believes in the continuation of strikes and lockouts. If the honorable member could have the experience of conducting a strike for five or six weeks, he would understand how little union officials desire industrial turmoil. The only men who work for peace in industry are the representatives of organized Labour. A few individual employers are prepared to do justice, but employers generally, on account of the attitude of the organizations to which they belong towards wage reduction, are not prepared to resort to conciliation. Before the Arbitration Court was created, how often did the employers invite* their employees to meet them in conference? Freedom of contract was their gospel, and for that honorable members of the Opposition consciously or unconsciously stand. Without the disciplinary power of the Arbitration Court in the background, employers would say to the workers to-day as they did in the- past “ These are the conditions under which you may work. We have framed an agreement; you may sign it or walk out.” Although members of the Opposition disavow any desire to reduce wages, the fact is that they represent that section of the community which is always clamouring for a reduction of the cost of production at the expense of the worker.
.- The words “ To promote goodwill in industry by conciliation and arbitration “ are not a frank avowal of the purpose of the bill, which is obviously designed to propitiate trade union officials and to express their views. Any substantial advance towards conciliation necessitates an attempt to understand and provide for the difficulties of employers and employees. No such attempt is evident in the bill. The difficulties of one party to industry have been provided for to a large extent, but there is little or no evidence that the problems . confronting the other party have even been considered. In order that this clause may more candidly summarize the contents of the bill, I move -
That all the words after “ promote “, paragraph 1, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the supremacy of trade union officials.”
– I am at a loss to understand the purpose of the Government in altering the first object of the act.
– What about the honorable member’s invitation, “ Come, let us reason together “ ?
– That is what I desire. An act of parliament is supposed to express the will of the community in relation to a specific matter. Then, in regard to the question of conciliation and arbitration, it is just as if the community of Australia has said, through the present act, “We are going to take a hand in the conduct of industry; we have suffered in the past, from strikes and lockouts, which ‘arc1 the barbarous methods employed by the parties to industry in the settlement of their disputes ; we are going to take a ‘ hand ; and now we say that where a dispute exists in Australia the parties to it must first come together in a reasonable way.” That is what the AttorneyGeneral suggests.
– That is the honorable member’s suggestion and not mine; although I accept it.
– I am glad to know that the Attorney-General accepts the first fundamental proposition made by the community. It says, “We insist in our own interests that settlement ought to be attempted in a conciliatory spirit, and that reason must be brought to bear in order to bring the parties together.” Then it says, “ We provide the machinery whereby if the parties fail to come to an amicable settlement of their dispute, an arbitrator must decide the matters at issue.” The community goes a step further and says, “ The dispute having been referred to an arbitrator, the parties must abide by his decision, and in our own interests we must insist that both parties to the dispute abide by that decision. We consider that to be absolutely essential to the success of the system of arbitration.” Now, under the present act, the community says, “In the event of either party to a dispute failing to abide by an award, it must stand the consequences, and we provide penalties for breaches just as we do for breaches of any other law ; the. offender must stand the consequences of his deed.” On the other hand, the Attorney-General in bringing in this amending legislation practically says that the community has changed its mind, and now says, “Although we used to regard strikes and lockouts as barbarous methods of settling disputes, although under the present act we expressed the opinion that conciliation and arbitration should be substituted for the barbarous methods of strikes and lockouts, we have changed our mind in regard to all that, and we now say that conciliation having failed, the arbitrator having been requisitioned and having given his award, the parties may accept or reject the award as they please.” To the employer the community says, “If you are not satisfied with the decision of the arbitrator you can lock out your employees with impunity.”
– That is not so. There are penalties for breaches of an award.
– That shows the extraordinary inconsistency of this legislation. There are some penalties retained in it for breaches of an award, but there is no penalty for a lockout.
– The honorable member had better consult the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) about that.
– The Government is skating on thin ice on this question.
– My reading of the bill is that the employers may indulge in a lockout with out;, being guilty of an offence.
– That is the idea that the Government is fostering, but section 38 still allows the court to impose a penalty of £1,000 for a breach of an award, and we can only suppose that the Attorney-General thinks that that section will still prohibit lockouts and strikes under a penalty of £1,000.
– I must say that in reading the bill, I was puzzled with its inconsistencies. Does the AttorneyGeneral say that one of the objects, if not the main object of this bill, is to prohibit lockouts and strikes? If the object of the bill is not to prohibit strikes and lockouts, then they will not be offences under the act. It is extraordinary that whereas the whole trend of public opinion in the past has been against lockouts and strikes as being barbarous methods of settling disputes,’ they are now to obtain. If the employees do not like an award they can go on strike in defiance of the Arbitration Court. I should like to hear what the AttorneyGeneral has to say as to how far, under this bill, the employer and the employee can disregared with impunity an award of the arbitrator. If they cannot disregard the award without being guilty of an offence, then I see no reason for inserting in the act a provision which will convey to the parties to industry the idea that they can have the benefits of arbitration and conciliation and still retain the old barbarous weapons of the strike and the lockout.
Mr. LAZZARINI. (Werriwa) £4.55],-^ I wish to reply briefly to some of the arguments of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). There can be no misconception regarding the provision in the bill which deletes all penalties under the act in respect of strikes and lockouts. The labour and industrial movement of this country has for many years wanted to delete those penalties from the Arbitration Act.
– It has never proposed to do so.
– For the simple reason, as the honorable gentleman admitted when a member of the late Government, that we can prove a strike, but never a lockout. It a man ceases work it is alleged that that proves a strike, but if an employer sacks a number of his employees that does not prove a lockout. There has never been a conviction for a lockout. It is because this Government realizes that the provision in the act which provides penalties for strikes and lockouts is class legislation, disregarding altogether the employers, that it now proposes to delete that provision altogether. I represent a coal-mining district. Not long ago 30 men were taken from Port Kembla to Sydney to stand their trial for breaches of an award. They had ceased work, and it was termed an illegal strike. Finally, they were told that if they returned to work the summonses issued against them would be withdrawn. The strike was settled by those men voluntarily returning to work. I frequently visit the South Coast, and I know that it is the custom in the mining industry there for the whistle to blow at 5 p.m. if there is work the ‘ following morning. That whistle frequently does not blow at 5 p.m., and yet it is impossible to prove that the coal-mine owners have brought about a lockout by not providing work for their employees. The owner’s excuse in that case is that there is no business or that it is necessary for the machinery at his mine to be overhauled. Can any honorable member cite one case of an employer being charged for a lockout and convicted ?
– There has been none.
– That is what I am saying. Work ceased on the northern coal-fields ‘because of a lockout. Why did not the then ‘Attorney-General (Mr.
Latham) prosecute the coal-owners on that occasion?
– Why did not this Government prosecute the. coal-owners?
– Because, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, there could be no conviction.
– The honorable member knows better than that.
– The honorable member, when Attorney-General, issued a summons against the coal-owners and subsequently withdrew it.
– Merely to allow a conference to take place.
– Why did not this Government prosecute the coal-owners?
– Because we knew that it was practically impossible to obtain a conviction.
– I have never said that.
– The Leader of the Opposition has said the opposite. He made the foolish statement that it was easy to prove a lockout, but not a strike. I know of numerous instances of employers refusing to provide work for their employees, their excuse being that their machinery required to be overhauled or that no business was offering. No arbitration law can compel an employer to carry on an industry at a loss. In 1928, just on the eve of Christmas, the employers in the metal trades in Sydney dismissed 30,000 employees so as to avoid paying them the award rates for the Christmas holidays - Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
– - Does the honorable member think the employers ought to be allowed to do that? ‘
– Certainly not. It was, however, impossible to take any action against them. They simply dismissed their employees, and, therefore, could not have been charged with being guilty of a lockout. The honorable gentleman knows very well how difficult it is to prove a lockout in industry, although employers so often dismiss men to defeat the terms of an Arbitration Court award. It is therefore hypocritical on the part of honorable members opposite ‘ to say that the penal provisions in the act apply alike to employer and employee. It -is easy to prove a strike, but almost impossible to prove” a lockout. For this reason I contend that the penal sections should never have been inserted in ,the act, and I hope that similar provisions will never again disgrace an arbitration law of this country.
.- The paragraph proposed to be inserted states that one of the objects of the act is to promote goodwill in industry by conciliation and arbitration. The speech delivered by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Lazzarini) reminds one very forcibly of the fact that so “much ill-will in industry during recent years has been due to a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the effects of industrial legislation passed by this Parliament. Much of that misunderstanding and misrepresentation is chargeable against honorable members opposite. A most conspicuous example is to be found in a speech on the second reading of the bill by an honorable member who, in other respects, takes a reasonable view of industrial legislation; I refer -to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway). In his second-reading speech the honorable member, merely repeating what he said during the last election campaign, declared that practically every amendment to the act made in 1928 by the Government of which I was a member was of a penal and coercive character.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I submit that while the discussion on this clause permits of a wide margin in debate, it is out of order for an -honorable member to quote the second-reading speech of another honorable, member. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition is reading from the second-reading speech on this hill made by the honorable member for Flinders.
– I did not quote the precise words as they appear in Hansard ; I- merely referred to the fact that the honorable member for Flinders made certain statements concerning amendments made by the previous Administration to the’ Conciliation- and Arbitration Act.
– I submit that the honorable member is not entitled to quote the remarks of another honorable member in the second-reading debate.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).If .the Leader of the Opposition attempted to quote from Hansard extracts from the speech of another honorable member in the second reading of’ this bill he would be out of order. I remind the Attorney-General that the purpose of the clause is to insert in the act a paragraph stating that one . of the objects of the act is to promote goodwill in industry by conciliation and arbitration. That permits of a wide debate.
– .Very well, Mr. Chairman. I accept your ruling.
– I rose for the purpose of directing attention to certain facts which have been responsible for so much ill-will in industry throughout the Commonwealth in recent years, and I mentioned specifically the statement of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway), who went on in his secondreading speech to say expressly that every one of the amending sections inserted by the previous Government contained a provision for fine or imprisonment for breaches of the act. Statements of this character lead to ill-feeling between employer and employee. As regards the amending acts of 1926 and 1928, they are entirely inaccurate. The 1926 bill provided for the appointment of conciliation commissioners, and I think I am right in saying that it contained no penal provisions. The 1928 amending bill contained 52 clauses of which about 40 are retained in the present bill. It is only necessary for honorable members to study carefully the 1928 act to see that it is quite untrue to say that every section ill it contains penal provisions. Any statement to that effect is a misrepresentation of the facts and calculated to do harm.
Let me take another mis-statement of the facts, also frequently made by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) in this House and elsewhere, namely, that section 25d in requiring a judge of the Arbitration Court to pay regard to the economic effect of ‘ awards, removes protection which hitherto existed for the maintenance of the basic wage. It is only necessary for honorable members to read the section to understand its purpose. It provides that the court shall, before making an award or certifying an agreement, take into consideration its probable eco nomic effect in. relation to . the community in general, and upon the industry, or industries concerned. It is, however, provided in . express terms that the section, shall not affect the practice of the court, in fixing the basic wage. ‘ In other words, the language of the section. gives the lie direct to what has been said on so many occasions during the last two years, concerning, arbitration legislation passed by the Bruce-Page Administration. ,It is this , sort of. thing that has been responsible for so much industrial .unrest. One would imagine from the speeches which are made so often by honorable members supporting . the Government and leaders of industrial organizations, that there is a substantial. section of this community that profits by illwill in industry and industrial disputes. Surely we are all sufficiently sane to know that employers and employees alike, and indeed, . all sections of the people, gain profit and well-being by continued peace in industry. And yet for many years we have been obliged to listen to this absolute misrepresentation of provisions in our industrial law inserted at the instance of the previous Administration. These statements about the basic wage being endangered are entirely inaccurate, as also is the allegation that the penalty imposed upon trade union organizations for participating in a strike was provided in the 1928 legislation. It is to be found in the 1904 act.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) spoke of the difficulty of proving a lockout and, of course, he referred to the recent protracted dispute in the coal-mining industry; He mentioned, also, that I had ventured a certain opinion relating to the difficulty of proving a lockout. It will be recalled that I expressed the view that there was a prima facie case against the employers, and I instituted proceedings accordingly. I do not say that the case would have succeeded. I intimated that although there were certain legal difficulties I thought that a prosecution ought to be instituted. What did honorable members opposite say about that matter ? The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) declared that if the Labour party were returned to power the coal-mine owners would be prosecuted for every day during which the lockout continued. What has been bis attitude since this Government came into power? He is now silent, and is quietly supporting a Government which refused to prosecute the coal-owners. All honorable members know that the prosecution was withdrawn by the previous Administration to permit of a conference to take place with a ‘view to settling the dispute. The present Government, if you please, after winning an election by all kinds of promises, including a pledge that the coal-mine owners would be prosecuted, takes no action at all. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) laid some stress upon my statement in the House that it would be difficult to prove a lockout. When I was AttorneyGeneral I kept close watch on all industrial, disputes, and never once was the suggestion made to me except in the coal case that an employer ought to be prosecuted for a lockout. I now invite the honor; able member for Werriwa to state the facts and not, by inadvertence possibly, the opposite of the facts.
– What does the Leader of. the Opposition mean ?
– I refer to the honorable member’s error with respect to my statement as to the possibility of proving a lockout; I now invite him to give particulars of an identifiable lockout in recent years, outside the dispute of the coal-mining industry. There may have been such lockouts, but I was unaware of of them. All I can say is that during the four years, or thereabouts, when I was Attorney-General, no complaint was made to me by a trade union organization or any other body dr -person that the employers in any industry were guilty of a lockout, except in the case of the’ coal dispute. ‘
– That is what I said. What has the Leader of the Opposition to say about the 30,000 employees- in the metal trades who were dismissed just before the Christmas holidays in 1928 ?
– There is an obvious distinction between an allegation that there is a lockout arid proving it. As I have said, there may have been lockouts, but they were not brought to my knowledge when I was Attorney-General. If employees, as in the case of the timberworkers’ dispute and the trouble in the metal trades,- refused to work in ‘ ac cordance with an award of the court, and if the employers offered employment only on the terms of an award, clearly the. employers’ action could not be regarded as a lockout. Obviously, the abstention by the employees from work upon the terms of an award, was tantamount to a strike. That clearly is the interpretation to be placed on their action if our industrial laws mean anything.
.- I support this proposed alteration. The history of industrial relations during the past few years has been such as to warrant some alteration in our industrial legislation. The last Government took action to amend the Arbitration Act in a drastic way, and the people disapproved. The electors have indicated that they desire peace in industry, and it is in harmony with their desire that we should alter the act by substituting the words, “ To promote peace and goodwill in industry “ for the words, “ to prevent strikes and lockouts “.
– What about the amendment ?
– I do not propose to refer to the amendment, because I consider it to be quite absurd. It is pro, posed in this bill to’ delete all sections of the Arbitration Act imposing penalties on employers or employees in i connexion with strikes and lockouts. Just as honorable members opposite represent the interests of employers, we, on this side, represent the workers. There are men here who have spent a lifetime in the service of the workers, and they are just as eager as any honorable member opposite to promote peace in industry. The old act did not prevent strikes and lockouts. The main .object of the present amending bill is to substitute conciliation for arbitration as far as possible, and as a step in this direction it is proposed to delete from the act all those ridiculous threats held over the heads of both’ employers and employees, threats which it t has been proved cannot be enforced. I believe that when lawyers have been ex. eluded from the industrial tribunais, “employers and employees will have a better chance of settling their differences amicably. I can see no reason for retaining in the act any penalties for strikes and lockouts.. No legislation will prevent the boss from closing his works if he wants to, nor will any law ever prevent the worker from exercising his right to withhold his labour if he thinks he is not getting a fair deal. If he is to be denied that right, he might as well be dead.
This amending legislation has been carefully considered by the trade union movement. The Government has considered it, and has collaborated with a committee from this side of the House. Members of that committee have had long experience of industrial affairs, and are sincere in their efforts to promote goodwill in industry. They realize that the employers, by their organization and capital, provide the means of employment. We, on this side, know all that. No trade union leader wants strikes. He does not want industry to be held up, and he certainly docs not wish to cause the suffering which always falls upon the families of those involved in industrial disturbances. We recognize that the penal clauses of the Arbitration Act were not all inserted by the last Government; but it is a fact that when that Government was preparing the 1928 amending bill representatives pf the Labour movement approached the then AttorneyGeneral and presented certain suggestions. Those suggestions were not adopted.
– Representatives of the employers approached me in connexion with the present bill.
– How can the honorable member describe any portion of the present act as threatening? Is it a threat to attach a penalty to a breach of the law?
– I have not a legal mind. I have just a plain “ Aussie “ industrial mind which regards it as futile and silly to retain in an act provisions which have been proved to be unworkable, lt is the desire of every honorable member of this House to keep industry moving easily and freely, especially at this time of depression. Surely honorable members opposite will admit that there are on this side of the House members just as anxious to secure peace and goodwill in industry as they are themselves. I support this clause and the bill in the hope that future” industrial negotiations may be characterized by this spirit of goodwill.
.- I was interested to hear from the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) that this measure had been considered first of all by the trade union movement, then by the Government, and that consequently
– The honorable member is misrepresenting what was said. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) said that the bill had been considered first by the Government, then by the trade union movement, and then by an industrial committee from this side of the House.
– Yes, that is what he said. In other words, he said that the bill had been considered by the representatives of one side of industry only”. The Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) said that the bill was designed to promote peace and goodwill in industry. Does he consider that the best way of achieving that is to consult one side of industry only ? Evidently he believes that if he creates a desert he may call it peace. If he destroys industry, there can be no industrial unrest; we would have the peace of industrial paralysis. Surely, if the honorable member were sincere in his desire to secure goodwill in industry, his first step would have been to consult both sides. When the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) brought down his amending bill in 1928, he consulted the trade union leaders as well as the employers.
-1And then ignored their suggestions.
– That is not so. I accepted all their suggestions which were practicable.
– In this case, the employers have not been consulted at all by the Government. When I was speaking on the second reading of this bill, I quoted from a statement of the President of the Chamber of Manufactures, Sydney, and it will bear quoting again -
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.
– A mere jumble of words.
– It is not. That is the statement of the President of the Chamber of Manufactures, a man who represents, in his. official capacity, millions of pounds of capital invested in this country. He is a man whose goodwill it is necessary to procure if there is to be peace in industry. If the AttorneyGeneral is in earnest, he should, even at this late stage, consult the employers, and bring down a bill which would really carry out the mandate given to the Labour party at the last election - to free the arbitration system from entangling legalism, and make it benefit the community as a whole. The Government did not receive a mandate to gratify the wishes of trade union officials only. I cannot understand why the Government should desire to delete the words, “ To prevent strikes and lockouts” from the present act. Why should there be anything antagonistic between the ideas of promoting peace and goodwill in industry, and of preventing strikes and lockouts?
Mr.Beasley. - If we promote peace and goodwill there will be no strikes and lockouts.
– It seems to me that the Government, by proposing to delete those words, has made an abject confession that it knows it will fail in its alleged object for securing peace in industry. If the Government really desires to promote goodwill, it will accept the amendments and suggestions emanating from this side of the committee, so that the measure, as it leaves this chamber, will represent the united efforts of all sections to evolve a really workable piece of industrial legislation.
Anotherclause provides for the deletion of that section of the act imposing penalties for strikes and lockouts. At the same time, the section providing penalties for breaches of awards is to be allowed to stand. If we are going to wipe out any of the penalties, why not all of them? It may be argued that, in a technical sense, the penalties for breaches of awards apply both to employers and employees, but it is being made as difficult as possible for the workers or their organizations to be prosecuted for a breach of an award.
– That is misrepresentation.
– I am surprised that the Attorney-General should accuse me of misrepresentation when in 1928 and 1929 he, and the members of the party to which he belongs, flooded this country with all sorts of wild and false statements concerning the intention of the BrucePage Government to reduce wages and to lower the standard of living in Australia.
– I rise to order! I direct your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the fact that the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) is not dealing with the subject matter of the clause under discussion.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I have already intimated that in discussing this clause, which is somewhat comprehensive, honorable members will be in order in dealing generally with the system of conciliation and arbitration.
– I am glad that the clause is sufficiently comprehensive to discuss the subject that I have raised, and that I am to be given the same latitude as has been extended to other honorable members. When interrupted by the Attorney-General I was. saying that this is a one-sided measure, as it will not be as easy to punish employees who do not observe an award as it will be to penalize employers. If that is the case the Government is not meting out even-handed justice, and I trust the Attorney-General will be willing to accept some of the amendments to be moved by honorable members on this side of the House to improve the bill. It is quite obvious that it will be easy to proceed against employers whose addresses are known, but it will be difficult to take action against employees, because no record is to be kept of their addresses. In one case penalties can be enforced and in others they cannot. Surely something should be done to prove that employees proceeded against arc members of a union. The onus of proof that they are not members of a union should be on them. All I suggest is that both sides engaged in industry should be placed on the same basis, and I shall support any proposal to give effect to what I suggest. If the Attorney-General wishes to. bring about peace and goodwill in industry he should remove this objectionable feature of the bill.
– Why was not that done two years ago?
– Provision was made in the last amending measure to place both parties on the same footing; but the words which were then inserted are now to be deleted. Despite the misrepresentations made concerning the amending arbitration measure introduced by the ex-Attorney-General in 1927, and passed by Parliament in 1928, no one can truthfully deny the fact that its main object was to provide a real form of selfgovernment in industry. In that measure provision was, made, among other things, for holding a secret ballot of union members, and for a proper audit of trade union accounts. That was done in order to provide a proper form of self-government in industry, and to place it in a better position than previously. Objections were raised to some of the provisions in that bill, but they were, I contend, without substance. No one can truthfully assert that the measure introduced by the Bruce-Page Government was not a definite step forward, or deny that it constituted a determined effort to bring about peace and goodwill in industry and to ensure that both sides would have the fullest possible confidence in the personnel of the court. This bill provides for the appointment of conciliation commissioners, who will have practically the powers enjoyed by Arbitration Court Judges before they were granted a life tenure. These conciliation commissioners may be appointed to deal with only one case or to hold office for a limited period ; but if confidence and goodwill is to be restored, they should not be empowered to make awards, but should occupy the position of a chairman without a deciding vote and in that capacity endeavour to get the two parties to agree upon some definite arrangement so that industry can be successfully carried on. That is a proposal worthy of consideration. If accepted it would have a soothing rather than an irritating effect, and would- make this measure of some use. At the inception of the discussion in committee, I suggest that the provisions of this measure be discussed in a conciliatory spirit, and that an honest attempt be made to remove many of the objectionable features which, I think, the bill contains. As opportunity arises we shall submit Amendments in that direction, and I trust that the Attorney-General will consider such proposals, as, if adopted, might bring about peace and goodwill in industry.
– I had hoped that honorable members opposite would be prepared to submit proposals to improve this measure; but it appears that if the words to be deleted had remained in the bill, the same opposition would have been offered. Honorable members opposite are not really opposed to the wording of the clause, but are sceptical concerning the honesty of the Government. Honorable members opposite who have spoken have made it quite clear that they doubt that the Government honestly desires to pass a conciliation and arbitration bill which will ensure peace in industry. If that is their belief, it is to be regretted that they should be so politically biased as to doubt the honesty of their opponents. My opinion concerning the necessity to delete the words to which exception has been taken is based on years of experience in the industrial arena. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) knows that during the past twenty years there have been numerous conferences between the representatives of employees and the employers’ federations of Australia, and that hardly a quarter of any year has passed without both sections in industry meeting in an endeavour to improve our arbitration system.
– That practice has always been in operation.
– Yes, for the past twenty years. Although some honorable members opposite may not have been in close touch with the industrial situation during recent years, the Leader of the Opposition knows that that practice has been followed. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and other honorable members opposite have said that the Government has made no attempt to get down to details, or to convene a conference .between employers and employees to discuss the industrial situation. The Leader of the Opposition should be aware that official’ representatives of the employers and employees requested the Bruce-Page Government to delete the penal provisions of the existing act.
– That is not so.
– If necessary, I can give the names of the representatives.
– The honorable member should adduce some evidence in support of his statement.
– I make that definite statement and deny that it can be truthfully contradicted. Both the employers and the employees urged the previous Government not to insert the present penal sections in the existing act, as they believed that they would do more harm than good.
– Yes, after the industrial conference.
– At the conference held at Canberra, and in the Commonwealth offices in Melbourne the representatives of both parties urged the Government not to insert the penal provisions in the act.
– That is not so.
– The Leader of the Opposition should prove his statement.
– I shall do so. The honorable member has not adduced one word of evidence in supportof his statement.
– I could, if necessary, give the names of the representatives of both sides.
– The honorable member should submit some proof.
– In 1929 a request was received from an industrial conference ; but I have been speaking of the period prior to the introduction of the 1928 bill, and the time when that measure was under discussion.
– I am speaking of the period prior to the introduction of the bill submitted by the Bruce-Page Government, and to the time when the measure was before the House.
– Will the honorable member state one fact to support what he has said.
– Represen tatives of the Chamber of Manufactures approached the Government both in Canberra and in Melbourne.
– I was not present when it happened, and I never heard of it.
-Mr. Hugh V. McKay approached the Government:
– I never heard of it.
– The Leader of the Opposition asked for proof.
– That is not proof.
– The President of the Chamber of Manufactures approached the Government.
– Where is the honorable member’s proof of that statement?
– I definitely assert that the representatives of both parties approached the Government and urged that the penal clauses be not inserted in the bill. The hostility displayed towards the late Government’s industrial legislation was due principally to its penal provisions, which it was contended would increase industrial unrest. The first to which I wish to refer is that mentioned by the right honorable member for Cowper, who suggested that the bill should be amended, to give the court power to compel the holding of a secret ballot. This is an interference with the domestic affairs of a trade union. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Latham) claimed that the provision in the act, which permits ten disgruntled members of an organization of even 5,000 or 10,000 members to demand a secret ballot has done some good.
– Only the court can order the taking of theballot.
– The section gives the courtpower, on the application of ten persons, to authorize a perfect stranger to enter a union office, take charge of its books, and conduct a ballot. That surely is an interference with the domestic affairs of a union. The frequent application of the provisions of this section would make every registered organization of employees in Australia insolvent, for it cost’s hundreds of pounds to hold a ballot of a large organization. Honorable members opposite appear to forget that members of organizations may themselves order secretballots to be taken. Every union which seeks registration in the court has to submit its rules to the court for endorsement, and in every case the rules contain provision for the holding of secret ballots. The majority always rules in trade union organizations, and all ballots are secret ballots.
– Then according -to the honorable member, the provision for the holding of secret -ballots is quite all right so long as it is not embodied in legislation.
– All unions hold ballots on questions of importance which come before them. In the circumstances it is utterly ridiculous to allow ten disgruntled members to force a union to hold a secret ballot.
– T3ie judge decides whether a secret ballot is to be held.
– But the judge may not hear both sides of the case; it might be an ex parte application.
– It is expressly provided in the act that both parties may be heard.
– The object of the section which we are seeking to delete is to break up the workers’ organizations, but we shall never secure peace in industry by these means. Honorable members opposite are continually saying that the object of the Government, in introducing this bill, is to give the trade unions complete dominance over industry.
– Hear, hear.
– They have also suggested that the trade unions should be given no legal standing whatever.
– That is not so.
– Most honorable members opposite believe that trade unions should not be recognized by law.
– That is a figment of the honorable member’s imagination.
– Although the Opposition has not said so in as many words, there is no doubt whatever that it fears that, the Government may appoint trade unionists as conciliation commissioners.
– Hear, hear! Mr. Croft, for instance.
– I agree with that.
– I am not surprised that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) should express his agreement with such a statement, for he said some time ago that the Government would descend so low as to appoint any hack or derelict as Governor-General of the Commonwealth.
– I ‘have never said anything of the kind ; I challenge the honorable member to name the occasion on which he alleges that I used those words.
– The report appeared in the Herald, a newspaper with which the honorable member was closely associated.
– I challenge the honorable member to produce a copy of that newspaper with the statement in it.
– I shall do so. The statement was made in an address to the Women’s National League. Honorable members opposite have urged even during this debate that trade unionism should be robbed of its power. It has also been suggested that before drafting this bill the Government should have held a conference of employers and employee? to consider suggested alterations of the act. But every time we have held a round table conference of that nature in the last ten or twenty years the representatives of the employers have urged that the power- of conciliation commissioners should be,extended. When they have been asked to submit a dispute to the conciliation commissioner they have said “.It is of no use to do so because the commissioner has no. power to settle it.” As a matter of fact many of the proposals iti this bill have been endorsed time after time by representatives of the employers.
The employers’ federations of Australia, and our chambers of commerce and chambers of manufacture have repeatedly spoken in high terms of the work Of the Mond Committee, in Great Britain, and have agreed with its findings. They -have even asked that- a similar policy should be pursued in Australia.
– Do I understand the honorable member to say that the employers have endorsed the ‘amendments contained in this bill?
– They have on many occasions agreed with the principles underlying the amendments.
– Let the honorable member mention one occasion on which they have endorsed one amendment.
– They have expressly asked ‘that th e power of the conciliation commissioners should be extended.
– But that is not being done.
– The resolutions of the Mond Committee to which I have referred are as follow; -
The Mond Committee, therefore, advocated the perfecting of the trade union movement. It recognized that without a proper organization of employers and employees it would be impossible to secure and maintain peace in industry. At the last industrial peace conference held in Australia those present said with one voice that it was desirable to adopt a better method of collective bargaining. On that occasion Mr. Ashworth, President of the Employers Federation, actually endorsed the sentiments expressed in this bill, although he has since attacked the bill.
– He has issued a statement which condemns the bill root and branch.
– Mr. Ashworth has recently turned a complete somersault. From time to time he has advocated round-table conferences with a view to avoiding the necessity for the parties to a dispute appearing before a court.
– The bill does not provide for that.
– It does. I say without hesitation that the actions of the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), when Attorney-General in the Bruce-Page Government, did a great deal to create industrial unrest. Practically all of the new clauses in the. amending Arbitration Bill of 1928, which he introduced, were penal clauses.
– That isnot so.
-Why are 40of them being retained?
– They are being retained because they are of no account. Penal clauses in industrial legislation will not tend to bring about peace in industry. The experience of those who have met in conference with a view to settling disputes is that penal clauses are a menace to industrial peace. The Leader of the Opposition himself has told me that he does not believe in the efficacy of penal clauses in industrial legislation.
– So far as strikes and lockouts are concerned.
– No legislation can compel a man to work, or make an employer keep his factory open, if he does not want to do so. Yet the Leader of the Opposition pretends to wax wrathful because we on this side object to penal clauses in which he himself does not believe.
– The honorable member is misrepresenting my remarks.
– Peace in industry will not be obtained by attempting to force men to work. Only by mutual agreement can we hope to achieve industrial peace. Ninety per cent. of what the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) said regarding the people’s decision at the last election is correct. The people want federal arbitration to continue; but they want it to be freed from its irritating provisions. They want better conditions, more continuity of employment, and the settlement of disputes by conciliatory means. This bill has been drafted along those lines. Penal legislation in industrial matters will not promote peace in industry.
– Then take out all the penal clauses.
– That is what the Government is doing in this bill. I regret that honorable members opposite have not approached the consideration of this measure in a more conciliatory spirit. It was surprising to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) use such biased language in their second-reading speeches. The former suggested that trade union leaders accepted money from men whom they provided with jobs. Even if that were true - which I deny-it could not have happened more than once in a million times.
– I did not make a general statement to that effect; I said that a small minority of trade union leaders did so.
– I objected to the statement at the time; and I object to it now. Knowing the trade union movement as he does, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) should have withdrawn that statement if he wanted to be fair and honorable.
.- Like the last speaker, I had hoped that this bill would be considered in a more conciliatory spirit. Honorable members know that immediately after a conference of trade union leaders which met in Canberra recently had complained about the delay in introducing arbitration legislation, this bill was tabled. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) said that a - special industrial section of the Labour party drafted it in collaboration with representatives of the trade union movement. No other section of the community was consulted by the Government in regard to the bill. If industry is to succeed, the two parties associated with it - the representatives of capital and of labour - must work together in harmony. Yet we have the admission that only one of the parties to industry was consulted with regard to this bill. Receiving no invitation to express their views concerning this measure, the various chambers of manufactures and chambers of commerce have now asked for -an opportunity to represent their case to the Minister. The Government has ignored the employing section of the community in that it has allowed the bill to reach the committee stage without making any effort to obtain the views of that section. Was there ever any more one-sided legislation; yet it is claimed to be designed to bring about conciliation, lt has not attempted to incorporate in this legislation provisions which would ensure the smooth working of our industries. On -the contrary, ‘ throughout the bill there is evidence of the bias of its framers. The interests of the workers are being sacrificed to those of the trade union officials. When Attorney-General in the BrucePage Government in 1928, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) urged the trade union leaders to agree to the abolition of penalties for strikes and lockouts. He invited these union leaders to agree to the removal of these penalties, and at their request Wrote them officially urging their acceptance of his proposal. He told us then that’ the trade union officials had not replied to his representor tions in that connexion with respect to lockouts. ‘
– During the whole of the debate on that measure my statement was not contested.
– The only suggestion in this bill of an attempt at conciliatory methods is the provision to. do away with penalties for strikes and lockouts. The ex-Attorney-General was .prepared to do that a couple of years ago.
The amending legislation introduced in 1928 protected the workers by providing for the., taking qf a secret ballot on major ques.tipns. in dispute with the approval of an arbitration judge after application had been made to him. The only argument! have heard advanced for dispensing with the secret ballot is that the. regulations “of every -trade union provide for that means of ascertaining the views of its members. To the’ extent that the workers are To be deprived of their right to take a secret ballot this measure is biased. . The secret ballot was a protection to the workers from their extreme leaders. This is not a bill in favour of conciliation, but one designed in the interests of the trade union officials who dominate the Labour party ‘ both inside and outside Parliament’. It is proposed that conciliation commissioner’s shall be appointed ; but their qualifications are not stated, although they are to have almost unlimited power. In this connexion we have only -the experience of the .Lang Government in New South Wales to guide us. That ‘experience was not such as to inspire us with confidence. What little success the - so-called conciliatory commissioners had was due to the amending legislation’ introduced by’ Mr. Bavin, which made the commissioners conciliators instead of arbitrators. Notwithstanding that Oversea investors look askance at Australia because of our defiance of economic laws, the proposal before us ‘ continues to ignore those laws insofar as they apply to wages and condition’s of labour in industry. The’1 bill contains- a clear indications pf the Government’s intention to ignore economic laws. At least its action in this connexion will be so interpreted. This Parliament has never previously been called upon to .consider a measure, the passing of which would do so much injury to industry as will that before us if placed on the statute-book in its present form. “We had every reason to expect that in its industrial legislation the Government would have made an effort to apply to industry some of the principles laid down by Lord Melchett, who has played such a prominent part in bringing about peace in industry in Great Britain, but there is no evidence in this bill of any such intention. Not until a system of payment by results is introduced will the workers be raised above the breadline.
– What is the position in American countries to-day ?
– In my second-reading speech I quoted many examples of what is taking place in those countries. I quoted an example of the application by Mr. Mackenzie King of the principle underlying the Whitley Councils. Almost every effort made in Australia to provide that the workers shall obtain a greater reward for their labour has been opposed by trade union officials.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the dinner adjournment, I pointed out that this measure was a biased proposal, and designed rather to give greater dominance in industry to trade union officials than to promote peace and goodwill. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has submitted an amendment to leave out the words, “To promote goodwill in industry by conciliation and arbitration,” and to insert in their stead, “To promote the supremacy of trade union officials.” The very genesis of this measure creates suspicion. There are two parties to industry, the employer and the employee, and both have, responsible functions to discharge in the development of the industries of this country. But the employer, who finds the. capital necessary to carry on industry, has not yet been consulted in regard to this bill. I hold no brief for one side only. I desire that both sides be consulted so that some agreement may be possible ensuring greater peace and goodwill in industry. When the late Government brought down the amending arbitration bills of 1926 and 1928, it invited both employers and employees to meet the Leader of the Opposition, who was then AttorneyGeneral, and discuss with him every phase of those proposals, which were designed to improve the relations between the parties to industry^ I regret that that excellent example has not been followed on this occasion. The employers have asked the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) why he has not consulted them. I hope that in the interests of industry generally he will yet do so, and listen to their representations, because, the amendments that would be suggested would assist in producing the peace and goodwill that the measure, according to this clause, is designed to create. This Government submitted a draft of the bill to the industrial section of its own party in the House, and then it consulted only the trade union officials outside. That, according to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane), is the history of the bill which we are now asked to consider a measure that is claimed to promote goodwill in industry. It has been designed and drafted entirely from the point of view of one side, and, in its present form, cannot possibly be regarded as a conciliatory measure. No good could come from a bill that had its birth in such circumstances.
I agree with the proposal to abolish the penalities for strikes and lockouts. The provisions in the present act. in that regard have been inoperative, and there is no good reason why they should be retained. The bill, in this respect, is an adaptation- of the legislation drawn up by the Attorney-General in the late Government, who made representations, to the union officials, te support the removal of all penalties for strikes and lockouts, but, unfortunately, they could not make up their mind whether they wanted these penalties or not. I regard as mere camouflage, the statement in this clause that the object of the bill is to bring about goodwill in industry. It is double-headed; it removes practically all the penalties and disabilities, so far as defaulting trade unions and union officials are concerned and retains practi- cally all the penalties that the present act imposes on employers. The proposal with regard to the so-called conciliation con> missioners is made without qualifications as to the terms of appointment. They will have no security of tenure, and, apparently, their tenure of office will depend upon the satisfaction they give the persons who appoint them. One remembers that in the recent action of the Australian Workers Union, which was heard before Judge Dethridge in the Arbitration Court, when the union could not get everything it desired it withdrew from the court. We now find that some of the very men who left the court will more than probably be appointed as conciliation commissioners.
I strongly believe in conciliation and there is ample power under the act as it stands to appoint conciliation commissioners. The late Government had introduced that system by the appointment of the late Mr. Stewart, who was Registrar of the court, to act in a conciliatory capacity, and he did useful work in that regard. I pay tribute to the services which ho gave to the Commonwealth, and to the trade union movement generally, by virtue of the fact that under his guidance many disputes were settled by conciliation. Such a system of conciliation is calculated to produce goodwill in industry; but grave suspicions have been created already regarding this Government’s extraordinary proposal. There cannot be goodwill in industry if the Government refuses to accept any of the amendments which members of the Opposition propose to submit as the bill passes through committee. I hope that honorable members behind the Government will co-operate with the Opposition in its desire to amend the act for the purpose of producing goodwill between employers and employees. The Melbourne Age, which is comparable in its political views with the Labor Daily in Sydney, and the Daily Standard in Brisbane, has condemned this bill, lock, stock and barrel.
There is ample evidence that the secret ballot is required among trade unionists in Australia to-day. The Premier of Victoria (Mr. Hogan) recently accused the President of the Port Melbourne Stevedoring Association (Mr. J. Goddard) of being responsible for the suffering of unionists, waterside workers and their families, through not accepting the advice tendered during the waterside workers’ strike in September and October, 1928. There we have an instance of the leader of the Labour movement in Victoria condemning a union leader for not acting fairly to the unionists, and being responsible for their misery and trouble. I shall give another example of that. Members of the Queensland branch of the Marine Cooks Union complained to the Registrar of the Arbitration Court that they were not being fairly treated. Their case was stated in these words -
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, aa 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 hold, 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.
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.
This letter expresses the desire of a body of trade unionists for power to govern their own union affairs free from the domination of union bosses. If this were possible, they would be free from industrial trouble. One might quote clause after clause of the bill showing that it proposes the deletion from the act of the sections that place obligations on the employees, while practically every section applying to the employers has been left. The section relating to the boycotting of goods or persons is proposed to be repealed. This bill removes the ‘power under the act to prevent intimidation or mass-picketing, the evils .pf which were amply demon.strated during, the. timber,workers’ strike. The. act gives protection t.p the worker who desires to. return, to his employment and work under the terms of an award; but- by the bill that, protection . is withdrawn. Previously, if an individual or group of persons , insulted the court, they could be dealt with,; but; that section is proposed to be struck out of the act. Everything possible has. been done to make it easy for the trade union officials to defy arbitration, and make it ^effective, and it has been done under the pretence of a desire to create goodwill in industry. In its present form, t!lie bill cannot achieve that object, and I hope that it will be materially amended, so that out of this ill-considered proposal some good may yet come.
.- I should not have attempted to discuss this clause now but for the very obvious and determined effort that members of the Opposition made this afternoon to remove any possibility of the committee engaging in constructive work. Honorable members opposite spoke a good deal of the importance of sober and reasonable consideration of the amendments which they indicated that they - intended to move. They emphasized that the amendments would be submitted in a ‘bona fide way, with the object of producing peace and goodwill in industry; .but the very first amendment that the committee is asked to consider shows that the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), who has submitted it,, either does not understand the bill, or, what is worse, is ready, for the sake of a little cheap political propaganda in the country, to make it impossible for this committee to give any other amendments that he may propose the consideration that, on their merits, they may deserve. The clause under consideration makes no radical alteration in the present act. It merely proposes that the words “ To prevent lockouts and strikes in relation to industrial disputes “ be “left OUt, and that there be inserted in their stead the words, * To promote goodwill in industry by conciliation and arbitration “.
– What is the difference ?
– If the reference to lockouts and strikes were left in the act, there should be some provision, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) suggested, for penalizing those who engaged in lockouts and strikes. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) expressed the opinion that the provisions relating to penalties had never been enforced, but had remained a dead letter. Expressing his own view, he said that he was unfavorable to the imposition of penalties for strikes and lockouts. Therefore, between his opinion and that of the honorable member for Fawkner, there is a gulf much wider than that between the Government and the Opposition. The amazingly contradictory positions that are being taken up by those who oppose this clause are evident from the suggestion of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) earlier in the debate, that before this bill is considered by the Parliament a conference of employers and employees should decide the kind of measure that would best promote peace and goodwill in industry. But on the very point that is material to the clause the committee already has before it the advice of a representative conferonce of employers arid employees, which unanimously agreed that penalties for strikes and lockouts should no longer continue to be a feature of the Federal Arbitration Act.
– Why not remove all penalties ?
– I shall give reasons in a few moments. The honorable member apparently does npt see the distinction there is between a penalty fer a breach of an award made by the court, and an attempt to impose mass punishment upon men who engage in a strike or upon employers who engage in a lockout. The two’ are quite different and distinct.
– There is provision for a fine of £10 a head on trade unionists.
– For breaches of awards. The penalties are the same for employers and employees for breaches of awards.
– On the face of it they are, but actually they are not.
– Of course they are. What we are dealing with at present is the effect, that this act will have upon the people of Australia. It will not, in the future, do what it has done in the past, namely, lend itself to a class-biased administration, and give to the Minister for the time being the power to determine whether he will continue to enforce the law or set it aside as was done last year.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the penalty for a breach of an award, as it appears in the act, is capable of enforcement.
– Most assuredly it is capable of enforcement. But in considering the objects of this bill I do not propose to deal in detail with the particular clause which relates to penalties. Later, we can decide whether or not the penalties provided for breaches of awards are enforceable. At the present stage I simply say that the accusations that this bill is biased, and that it has been drafted to assert the supremacy of trade union officials, are a grotesque perversion of what is contained in the bill. I regard such statements as utterly insincere, and made deliberately to create a misconception in the country as to the purposes of the bill, and to blast it in the eyes of the public before Parliament has had an opportunity to give proper consideration to it.
– It needs blasting.
– The honorable member is prepared to excite public animosity towards the measure, not upon its merits, but on the basis of the absurd statements concerning its objects that have been made this afternoon by the Opposition.
I wish to deal with two or three statements in connexion with the secret ballot, that have been made by way of interjection by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). One of the reasons advanced for the contention that the measure is biased is that it deletes the provision in the act relating to the secret ballot. If I understood the Leader of the Opposition, he said that before the judge made an order he would call upon the trade union to show cause why it should not be made, and that the union would at least have an opportunity to state its case. But that would not happen until the provisional order had already been made. The act is most specific upon the point. Sub-section 6 of section 56 c provides - ‘
If a judge is satisfied that 10 of the persons so ‘applying are members of the organization and that the application is bona fide - and relates to a matter of substantial importance, the judge may. give directions for a secret ballot to be taken by the organization . . .
Section 56 / reads -
Neither the secretary nor any member of the organization, would have heard the evidence upon which the judge had made the provisional, order. No evidence is. submitted to them so that they may knowprecisely the gravamen of the charge that they have to answer.
– And the applicants cannot be cross-examined.
– As the honorable member for Parkes says, the applicants cannot be cross-examined. I submit to the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Fawkner, that in no other matter that comes before the courts of this country does a judge arrive at a decision upon evidence that has been received in such a remarkable way. I put it forward as a principle that the honorable member for Fawkner cannot question, that justice cannot be done in any court in this country except in the presence of the accused and unless he be able to exercise his right to cross-examine the testimony upon which he is being judged. That seems to me to be an elementary principle of justice.
– If the name of the person who gave the information to the court were divulged he would have the “ basher gang “ on his trail.
– Every side track is opened up to provide a way of escape from the dilemma in which the honorable member finds himself; he runs up any illogical right-of-way that he meets. The clause before the committee is clear and specific, and is logically connected with the hill as a whole. It is proposed to remove from the act the provision that it now contains for the imposition of penalties for strikes and lockouts. In doing that, the Government is giving effect to the expressed and unanimous wish of a representative conference of employers and employees. Because that is being done, the Government considers that it would be preposterous to continue to set out, as an objective of the bill, the prevention of strikes and lockouts; but as the purpose of the measure is to promote peace and goodwill in industry we want to insert those words. The provision for penalties for breaches of awards is to remain in the act.
– Because a man who will not pay to an employee who has earned it the wage that is prescribed, is, in my opinion, the equivalent of an embezzler or a thief, and should be prosecuted. If he deliberately and wantonly pays £4 2s. a week to a girl whose prescribed wage is £4 10s. a week, and continues to do so until he is detected, he wrongs, not only the law, but also the girl whom he employs; and he should not only be called, upon to make restitution of the amount that he has. improperly withheld, but also be convicted and penalized for having flouted the law of the country. That seemstome to bereasonable.
-Why should not the union also be penalized?
– The employee is penalized time and time again. The supreme penalty in connexion with industry is always leviable against the employee. He cannot sack the employer and bring his business to an end. But the. employer alwayshas the right, and exercises it for a thousand and one reasons that he need not give, to send tramping from the place of employment the particular person or persons who do not give him the kind of service that he considers proper. For honorable members opposite to argue, inthis day and generation, that there is before the law and in fact absolute equality as between employee andemployer is to argue an absurdity. Did not Anatole France say on one occasion that “The law in its majestic equality punishes the rich man for stealing bread equally with the poor starving person.” But that was an ironic commentary, for these equalities do not exist in society.
This bill makes no pretence at establishing an artificial equality. I cannot for the life of me, other than, for the reasons that I have already assigned, see anything valid in. the objection to this clause; The definite inference to be drawn from the remarks of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. (Mr. Francis) is that trade union secretaries will probably be the appointees under the provisions relating to conciliation committees.
– The honorable member for Richmond says “ undoubtedly “. I submit that that interjection is not only an impertinence, but is absolutely belied by the history of appointments made to the judiciary or any other important bodies by Labour Ministers in either the State or the Federal sphere during the last 25 years.
– What about Lang’s appointments ?
– Whom did he appoint?
– In Queensland two. Ministers received arbitration appointments.
– The regularity with which the Deputy Leader of the Oppositionrefers to Queensland, leads me to suspect that he suffers in rather a bad form from Queenslandphobia. Have appointments been made by Labour Governments to the Arbitration Court in Queensland that have not been justified upon their merits ?
– That is another story.
– I throw the accusation straight back at the honorable gentleman in this way: that the present Government in Queensland, which succeeded a Labour Government in that State, had no hesitation in confirming in office the appointees, of a Labour Government, so satisfiedwas it with the bona fides of their work and their competency. The other evening I was astounded to hear the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), in his second-reading speech, reflect upon the appointment by the Western Australian Government of Mr. Justice Dwyer to the presidency of the Arbitration Court of that. State.
– But a Labour Government in that State got ridof some magistrateswhom it did not like.
– Yet another bark from the dark ages. Here was a man who, years ago, was in Parliament. He left Parliament to return to his legal practice. He had been engaged exclusively in the practice of the law for nearly fifteen years. He was appointed president of the Arbitration Court with the full and unquestioned approval of every representative interest, both employer and employee, in “Western Australia, as well as of his legal confreres at the bar. There was no suggestion of any impropriety in regard to the appointment until, four years later, it is mentioned in this Parliament as an argument against the passage of this bill.
There is just one other point to which I wish to refer. I can understand the point of view of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). His attitude appears to me to be perfectly logical. He wishes to retain the original provision, because he desires that the penalties for strikes and lockouts shall remain in the act. That is perfectly consistent. I respect the logical sequence with which the honorable gentleman has argued the matter. But other honorable members opposite who have spoken upon this clause are in no such position. As a matter of fact they disagree with the honorable member for Fawkner. They agree upon nothing except a desire to besmirch this bill in an attempt to make political propaganda so that the public will misunderstand its purpose.
It has been urged in the course of the discussion that the employers have had no opportunity whatever to make representations in connexion with the nature of the bill.
– The statement was that they were not consulted. Every one in the country has opportunities to write letters.
– Of course they have. I. understand that representative employers were consulted, and that they have made to the Minister definite representations as to what they believe the bill should contain. For years, representative bodies of employers and employees have made representations to a succession of federal Attorneys-General regarding arbitration acts and what they should contain. And no one who is at all con versant with the history of this subject is in ignorance concerning the kind of measure which each side regards as appropriate for Parliament to pass.
– The honorable member does not suggest that the employers who were consulted recommended any of the amendments in the bill.
– I should not be surprised to learn that they have recommended some of the amendments which have just been circulated by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member is quite wrong about that ; they were prepared in Canberra to-day.
– Whatever difference there may be between representation and consultation, I venture the opinion that the employers of Australia are not without a definite voice in this Parliament; that what they desire to have done will be stated here, because time and time again they have not been lacking in eloquent voices to state their side of the case in the Parliament of this country.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) says that this bill is a mild instalment of the Government’s policy as accepted by the people. I do not know what a full application of the Government’s policy might be. I think that, as a sort of compromise, the words set out in this clause could very well be associated with the words in the section it proposes to amend, so that the provision would read, “to promote goodwill in industry by conciliation and arbitration and to prevent lockouts and strikes in relation to industrial disputes.” I should like honorable members to cast their minds back to the days when there were no arbitration courts. They were referred to last week by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy). In a short space of time the worker has obtained from the parliaments of Australia wonderful concessions; his rights have been recognizedi But the principle of arbitration is more likely to be wrecked than promoted by this bill. It shows distinct party bias. The amendments it seeks to make in the arbitration law of the Commonwealth will throw the workers once more back to the dark ages when there was no arbitration in this country. It was the ex-Prime Minister, the Right Honorable Stanley Bruce, who made a gesture entirely sincere to promote goodwill in industry. It was his suggestion that the employers and employees of Australia should get together because of the seriousness of the times, and try to bring about goodwill in industry. But the leaders of the Labour movement said that they would not sit in conference with him, because they regarded him as a partisan. In reply he said, “If I am a hindrance I shall get out of the way, but have a conference.” Is it not hypocrisy now for Labour to bring down a bill to secure goodwill in industry, which it refused to promote when it waspossible to bring it about without a bill? There is gross inconsistency in Labour’s attitude.
The honorable member for .Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) has spoken of class bias in administration being feared by this side of the chamber. In clause 31 we find a proposal to omit the words “ other things being equal.” The employer is not to be given a choice. The unionist, no matter whether he is superior or inferior to another citizen, must be chosen for employment. It is a back-stairs way of defeating the principle of preference to returned soldiers. If that provision does not introduce party bias into the bill I should like to know what else it does. This bill is also likely to wreck arbitration, because there will be no longer any obligation to abide by awards. If there is to be no attempt to prevent strikes and lockouts, why need the people be put to the heavy expense of maintaining an Arbitration Court? When the arbitration system was evolved in this Parliament, the taxpayers, whose interests are paramount over those of any sectional party, felt that it was worth spending money on something that would prevent strikes and lockouts. It is, therefore, regrettable that party bias should have been introduced into a measure which makes provision for the setting up of a court to give workers and employers a fair deal in industry with no power to make awards effective. The amendments in this bill are more calculated to bring about friction and ill-will than to promote peace in industry. We could adopt clause 2 with the milder term it uses in place of the words in the act in the hope that the Government’s object is to promote a further term of goodwill and conciliation, but there are other clauses in the measure that seem to belie the motive behind clause 2. Compulsory provisions which the people are entitled to have in an act of this description are to be removed apparently in the interests of one section of the community only. Having regard to the losses that the absence of peace in industry have caused in Australia, particularly to the working man, it should be our earnest endeavour to bring peace into industry, particularly at a time like this. Legislation, whose purpose is to make one section of the community supreme, cannot lead to peace in industry.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway), who must know a tremendous lot about arbitration and conciliation, charges honorable members of the Opposition with being actuated by political bias, and says that our attitude is dictated by ignorance of industrial matters. It is possible, I think, for a man to be in one groove so long that he becomes obsessed by one idea; be has no eye for any interest but that which he has served so long. To my mind it is like swapping horses when crossing a stream for the Government to bring down a measurelike this, just when the Prime Minister is drawing attention to the seriousness of the financial situation. Either the Prime Minister is not in earnest when he saysthat the situation is serious, or the Government is not in earnest in submittingthis bill. The honorable member for Flinders made reference to the control of trade unions. When the unions ask that an act should be passed to give them certain powers and rights, and particularly when they ask that preference tounionists should be legalized, surely they are entitled to give Parliament and the people some right to regulate their affairs. It is a right which is exercised by Parliament in regard to every otherdepartment of life. Business corporations are expected to produce balance-sheets certified to by properly accredited accountants. But the suggestion that thesame principle should apply to those great organizations, the trade unions of” Australia, is regarded as an offence-
Truly they are very thin-skinned people. The honorable mem’ber for Bass (Mr. Guy) said that these organizations are part of the national life of Australia. Admittedly they are, but let them remain a part of the national life, and not endeavour to be an exclusive entity by attempting to dominate the country.
– What union is the honorable member in ?
– I am in the union of Australia, and I want it to be such that our nation may advance. If this Government gave more attention to the problem of placing our people in honest employment they would be doing more good than they will achieve by indulging in pernickety amendments to our industrial legislation.
– Does not the honorable member stand for secession?
– I stand for the union of Australia ; for the placing of every part of this great continent on a basis of equality. I do not want any State or Section of the community to inflict a permanent injustice on another State or section. I stand four-square against injustice wherever it may occur. It makes me none the less a true Australian and Britisher if I find it necessary to demand secession ; to be bound under a permanent bond that is crushing and withering away several of the States in the Australian Commonwealth is no more conducive to placing our community on a sound basis than are the objects of this bill.
.- It would appear from the speeches of honorable members opposite that the debate is retrogressing .to the second-reading stage. I am of the same opinion as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) in regard to the amendment of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). I even go a little further and -say that I believe that it has been brought forward merely to cast ridicule upon the measure. Honorable members on this side of the chamber were opposed to the 1928 amendment of the act, which introduced penal clauses. The then Prime Minister, the Eight Honorable S. M. Bruce, was forced to admit that the inclusion of those penal clauses in the act merely led .to a blind alley when the ^Government was called upon to put them into operation in connexion with the lockout that existed in the coal industry. Mr. Bruce admitted that although the Government had prosecuted workers, the application of those clauses had led nowhere, and had achieved nothing. Reference was made to the penalty inflicted upon the timber-workers, and to the victimization of the present honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway), and the right honorable gentleman was candid enough to admit the futility of the penal clauses to bring about a resumption of work in any of the industries concerned. Our experience was that men previously gentle in nature and angelic in appearance were metamorphosed into ferocious individuals when subjected to the application of those clauses. I recall how tigerish the ex-Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) became after he tasted the blood of the timber-workers and of the waterside workers. He became so vicious that he went after the late John Brown and wanted to bite him. However, when lie was about to make his bite the late Prime Minister pulled him off, and said, “Don’t touch him. He belongs to us.”
The honorable gentleman has taken me to task, claiming that I continued to support this Government, notwithstanding its failure to prosecute the coal-owners. I remind him that I did not sit silently behind the Government during its inactivity in that respect; also that this Government, which I support, never believed in the application of the penal clauses, and therefore did not put them into operation against the late Mr. John Brown. I disagreed with them on this, as everybody knows.
– Members of the present Government did not express those views during the last Parliament, as will be seen by a reference to Hansard.
– My colleagues stated that they intended at some future date to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, by repealing the penal clauses, and that to go on with the prosecution would have been inconsistent with their future intentions as expressed in this measure. Personally, I believe in greater audacity. Had I my own way, I should have prosecuted the late Mr. John Brown and deported him and the whole of the coal-owners if necessary, leaving the repeal of the act until later. I have no hesitation in saying where I stand.
– The honorable member has been very mild !
– This bill is too mild for me, but I accept it as an honest attempt to overcome industrial turmoil. I object to honorable members opposite introducing a flippant amendment such as that now before the committee in an attempt to hold the measure up to derision. The time has arrived when the question should be put, and succeeding clauses dealt with.
When the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) was AttorneyGeneral, he stated that one of the reasons why he withdrew the prosecution against the late John Brown was that such action would hold up an impending conference that had every likelihood of settling the coal dispute.
– That was the only reason.
– I regard that as a poor, flimsy excuse. When the Labour party moved a vote of censure against the Bruce-Page Government because it withdrew the prosecution against the late John Brown, the honorable gentleman distinctly said that he had received advice from the Crown Law authorities to the effect that a prima facie case had been made out against that person.
– Let the honorable member read what I said. The reference was not to t,he Crown Law authorities at all.
– In answer to an interjection by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), that if the prosecution had been proceeded with the colliery proprietors would have had thrown on them the onus of justifying the lockout - that it would then nave been necessary for them to show that their concerns were not making a profit - the honorable member said that the Crown Law Solicitor’s Department had stated that there was every reason for believing that the coal interests of the late Mr. John Brown were making a profit.
– The honorable member is inaccurate in the whole of his recol- lections. I consulted external counsel, not the Crown Law authorities, and the right honorable member for North Sydney had omitted to read one-half of the definition of a lockout.
– I shall read what the honorable gentleman said on the 15th August, 1929. He declared “ Counsel advise- “
– “Counsel,” not the Crown Law authorities.
– Who were the counsel?
– Dr. Brissenden, and a junior.
– The honorable gentleman said I was altogether wrong in my recollections. I shall read his statement, to show that my memory is not at fault. He stated -
Counsel advised that if certain evidence which they thought would be obtained were available, and there appeared to be no doubt about the matter, a prima facie case could be made out that the refusal to give work was unreasonable. The ground upon which that advice was based was that counsel thought that they could make out a prima facie case that profits were being earned at the collieries of John Brown.
– Read on. That is only a portion of my remarks.
– I shall no.t .read the whole of the speech. Notwithstanding the attitude then taken up by the honorable gentleman, he now opposes the elimination of the penal clause in regard to strikes and lockouts.
– I am not opposing their elimination; I said so in my secondreading speech.
– Then why does the honorable gentleman not call off hia dogs and allow us to go on with the business, instead of holding up the Government’s legislation? The honorable gentleman and his colleagues are continually squealing about long sittings and “ all-nighters,”” yet they waste time by moving a factious amendment such as that now under discussion. Clause 2 has my support as it stands, without any amendment from honorable members opposite.
.- I think this is & convenient opportunity to define the position of the Government with regard to the conduct of this bill.. We are now discussing clause 2, which sets out the chief objects of the bill and inserts for the first time asits primary object the words “ To promote goodwill in industry by conciliation and arbitration.” At the second-reading: stage, I said that the Government would consider seriously any proposals submitted from either side of the chamber to improve the character and further the objects of the bill. That is still the attitude of the Government, but it does not desire that on every clause the committee should be delayed by a series of second-reading speeches; generalizations repeated over and over again, and inaccuracies reiterated with wanton disregard of the clear terms of the bill. The clause under consideration is not only supported by the Labour party, but has the endorsement of the Leader of the Opposition, and, obviously, the mere captious repetition of all the political propaganda that was indulged in at the second-reading stage does not indicate a genuine desire on the part of the Opposition that the bill should leave this chamber as perfect an instrument as by legitimate compromise it can be made. As Minister in charge of the bill, I do not propose to rise repeatedly on every clause, and it is just as well at this stage to clear the ground a little.
I propose to ask the committee to dispose of the bill within a reasonable time, and I invite honorable members, if they are sincere in their expressed desire to improve the bill, to bend their minds genuinely to that purpose. I ask them not to take up the time of the committee in repeating statements which are palpably inaccurate. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), usually a temperate and thoughtful speaker, voiced such utter nonsense as that the bill makes no provision for the de-registration of unions and for the imposition of penalties upon members of organizations, and that, generally, it is heavily biased in favour of one section of the community. I can tolerate with reasonable patience the prophecies that the Government intends to appoint as conciliationcommissioners, trade union secretaries and others intimately associated with the Labour movement. There is no answer to such predictions except merely to deny that the Government entertains any such idea and direct attention to the fact that no provision of that kind is contained in the bill. To members of the Opposition trade union secretaries are bugbears. My honorable friends opposite have an in curable prejudice against the recognized leaders of the trade union movement. But this bias against the leaders of organized labour is not the fault of the Government. It is a congenital disease, a mental obsession for which the Government has no panacea. All I can say is that the prejudice is not founded upon anything contained in the bill. Therefore, let us get on with the bill.
– And have less sloppiness.
– Let us have less sloppy inaccuracies. In answer to those honorable members who say that unions cannot be de-registered and that penalties cannot be imposed upon members of organizations, I ask the committee to read sections 38 and 44, and also section 60, which sets out in detail the causes for which a union may be de-registered, subsection 4 providing that even after a union has been de-registered penalties may still be imposed upon its members. I ask honorable members to make a colorable pretence, of being in earnest in regard to this very serious matter, and to drop the rodomontade which was, perhaps, appropriate to their second-reading speeches. I make concessions to the necessity under which they labour to speak to their constituencies, and I did not interrupt them when they spoke at large. I tried to be patient even when the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) misrepresented the bill last week. I am sorry that I failed, because I have been accustomed to hear him debate public questions thoughtfully and incisively, and it pains me to hear honorable gentlemen who should, and I believe do, know better, misrepresent the plain printed terms of the bill.
Honorable members will be pleased to know that having made these general observations at this early stage, it is not my intention to direct their attention further to these matters. In the future consideration of the bill they will proceed at their own risk. They have circulated certain proposed amendments, and, in accordance with the promise I gave, I hope to provide an opportunity for their consideration. I also propose to submit two or three amendments - not anything like the large sheaves that were submitted by the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr.
Latham) when he introduced his Arbitra. tion Bill in 1928- and if I try to meet honorable members to ever so little an extent in respect of any clause - if I respond in kind to the spirit manifested by the Leader of the Opposition in his second-reading speech, when he politely invited me to consider with him certain amendments - they need not raise a war whoop of triumph.
The statement has been blatantly repeated that in presenting this bill the Government has been directed by the representatives of organized labour. Honorable members opposite seem to be a little confused as to when and where the direction was given. One honorable member said to-night that a Labour conference sat in Canberra and on the following day the bill was introduced. But a colleague correctly reminded him that the bill was printed long before that conference. The direction, he said, came not from the Canberra gathering, but from the Australasian Council of Trade Unions in Melbourne.
– Hear, hear!
– The right honorable member has satisfied himself as to the precise time and place of the bill’s origin. I assure the committee that the Government has not disdained assistance, advice or suggestions from any source, and least of all from the representatives of organized labour. It is well that honorable members should understand that. The representatives of organized labour, in the persons of members of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, submitted for the consideration of the Government a comprehensive measure, going a great deal further than this modest bill pretends to go, and it is my regret that the Government considered that the time and circumstances, and the limitations imposed by the Constitution, precluded the introduction of such legislation at the present time. The result is that the bill before the committee is practically as originally drafted by and for the Government; it was endorsed by the ministerial party and accepted by organized labour as at least a genuine effort to advance a little distance towards our objective in regard to conciliation and arbitration. So far have I been from precluding advice and suggestion from anybody that only this very day, and within the precincts of the House I received a deputation from a body of men who described themselves as being representatives of Australian employers.
– Speak a little louder.
– I could not speak loudly enough to reach the centre of receptivity, if there is one, in the honorable member’s head. I conclude by saying
Several honorable members interjecting
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).Will the Minister resume his seat? I request members of the Opposition, and particularly those on the front bench, to permit the Minister to be heard in silence.
– I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for obtaining order for me for the time being. I am quite inexperienced in presenting bills as a member of a Government. I have had long and intimate experience of the duties of a member of the Opposition, and I can hardly remember a previous occasion when there was, from both front and back benches of the Opposition, such a continuous and organized effort to prevent a Minister being heard while attempting to explain a clause.
I ask honorable members to meet me in the spirit indicated by the very words we are considering in this clause - the spirit of goodwill. I welcome the observations made ‘by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), when he invited us to come and reason together. However, if this is a sample of the sweet reasonableness to be expected from those who claim to represent the employers of Australia, if this yapping and yowling is the ‘beginning and end of their argument; if this is their best contribution towards bringing about, peace in industry; if this is how they discharge their duty to their country in a time of stress and strain - if, at a time like this, they cannot restrain their ribald quips and interjections - I cannot hold out much hope that the bill will be a success. The success of this measure must depend entirely upon the spirit in which it is received.’ and upon the good faith of citizens. The bill provides only the machinery for bringing about goodwill. It provides ample machinery if it is honestly and fairly implemented. If, however, it is to be received in this bitter, carping party political spirit, if every interjection is to be directed towards winning votes in tory electorates, the measure, as it leaves this House, cannot hope to achieve the end Ave desire.. Having met the representatives of Labour, who thoughtfully dissected the bill with me, and having met the representatives of employers who considered the measure with equal thought and honesty, and believing as I do in the good faith of the electorates outside, whether in support of Labour or of capital, I still have hope for the success of the bill, despite the fact that we are at present getting little support from members of the Opposition. I trust that after the bill has become law, as law it will become, it will bring about a new era of industrial peace, and will confer benefits upon the country at large.
Mr. R. GREEN (Richmond) [9.20J. - The Minister in charge of the bill said that he bad a long experience in Opposition, but little experience in introducing bills. During my parliamentary experience - not so long as that of the Minister - I have never before known a Minister to stone-wall his own bill in committee. If he really desired the support of members of the Opposition, as he claims he docs, he should have given an opportunity to the interests we represent to assist in the framing of this measure. The Minister had his opportunity when introducing the bill to explain its provisions, and he should have confined his remarks just now to answering the points raised by those who have spoken on this clause. This is the thirteenth amendment of the conciliation and arbitration bill - a very unlucky number - and it will, I believe, make the act worse than it was before. Honorable members know where I stand in regard to arbitration. I regard the Federal Arbitration Court as the greatest curse ever inflicted on Australia. I should dearly like to see the end of it. It has never yet created a job, but it has put thousands of men out of employment. For that, if for no other reason, the Federal Arbitration Court should be abolished.
– I thought that one of the honorable member’s objections to the bill was that it would create jobs for union secretaries.
– It will make jobs for those who already have them, perhaps, but not for those now out of employment. It will merely have the effect of throwing a few more men out of the jobs they now hold. The alleged purpose of the bill is to promote goodwill in industry. I agree with that principle. Goodwill’ is the lubricant which enables the wheels of industry to revolve easily. This bill, however, will not provide that lubricant. The people of Australia have groaned for too long under the burden of the federal arbitration system. The court has been apologized for on countless occasions, and the act itself has already been amended twelve times; yet we are no nearer the goal of industrial peace than when the court was established. Now we are making the thirteenth attempt, and with this devil’s amendment peace in industy is at last to be secured ! ^ If I had my way the bill would be very short indeed. It would be of one page, and would simply provide for the repeal of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, 1904-1928.
At the present time every State has its own Arbitration Act, and its own Arbitration Court, and the Federal court overlaps the functions of the State courts. Nothing could tend more to create industrial unrest and discontent than the present system. Employers in the one town are often subject to different awards, as are even the workers in a single shop. Our Constitution prevents the enforcement of a common rule. If the Federal Arbitration Court is made supreme the beneficial effect of experimental industrial legislation in the various States will be largely destroyed. Recently a 44-hour working week was introduced in New South Wales, while in Victoria the 48- hour week still obtained. With a 48-hour week in operation in Victoria we have been able to compare the results obtained in that State with those of New South Wales, where experimental industrial legislation in this connexion, introduced by the Lang Government, was in force. Australia has gone industrially mad, and, in the absence of such a check, it would be difficult to say to what extent industrial legislation would go. One of the objects of the bill, we ‘are told, is to endeavour by conciliation and arbitration to obtain peace and goodwill in industry; but, as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said, that is merely a sop to union secretaries and union bosses. Although we have been told that the bill has been framed with the object of securing peace in industry, I shall be very much surprised if it has the results which its supporters anticipate. In view of the fights that ensue between the “ins” and “outs” in the Labour movement, and the difficulty in obtaining unanimity, it is unlikely that peace in industry throughout the Commonwealth will be obtained under this measure. The Government proposes to appoint conciliation commissioners with practically the same powers as an Arbitration Court judge, and whose tenure of office is to be limited. Such commissioners may be appointed for a month, I presume on probation, and if they perform their work to the satisfaction of the Government, or to the union bosses, they mil be re-appointed.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to have confirmation of my statement from the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan) who admits that if these men do their job according to the dictates of union bosses they will have their term of appointment extended.
– I did not confirm that statement; nor did I intend to convoy any such impression.
– Conciliation commissioners should be absolutely independent, and their terms of appointment should be such that they will . always give an unbiased judgment. Their reappointment should not be subject to cabinet ratification. Arbitration Court judges, appointed for life, give decisions in accordance with the evidence submitted to them. They are appointed for life. so that they may be absolutely independent.
– They are so appointed to give them full judicial power.
– That is one of the reasons. But, under this measure, it is proposed to appoint them for such time as the Government considers necessary.
I questioned the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) when he was speaking about the appointments made in New South Wales by the Lang Ministry. Every one of the conciliation commissioners appointed in that State was associated with the Trades Hall, and, consequently, biased in industrial matters. I am not speaking personally of these men; but it cannot be denied that they represented only one class, and that they have for years lived in the atmosphere of the Trades Hall in Goulburn-street, Sydney. The conciliation commissioners appointed by the Lang Government were selected to give effect to the wishes of the Government which appointed them, and it is only reasonable to suppose that similar appointments will be made by this Government.
– Assuming that the honorable member’s statement is correct, can he say that any of their decisions were wrong?
– The succeeding Government sacked them lock, stock, and barrel, and there was no public outcry concerning their dismissal.
– The succeeding Government did not do any such thing; they are still in office.
– They do not sit on the bench.
– They do.
– They have been deprived of their power. Under this measure conciliation commissioners are to possess greater power than a Full Bench of a. State Supreme Court. A conciliation commissioner appointed for a fortnight will have such powers.
– No period is mentioned.
– I know that. But a conciliation commissioner appointed for a fortnight will have greater power than the Full Court of a State. It was SuKgested by some honorable members opposite that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) makes a travesty of the bill, but, in my opinion, the bill in its present form constitutes the greatest possible travesty on legislation. ‘ The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane), who has some knowledge of industry in Australia, said that it is futile to retain the words “to prevent lockouts and strikes in relation to industrial disputes,” and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan), in referring to the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), said that those words were a mere jumble of words.
– I said the quotation of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) was a jumble of words.
Mr.R. GREEN.- I do not wish to misrepresent the honorable member. The honorable member for Bendigo said it was futile to retain in this clause the words “ the prevention of lockouts and strikes “.
– If the honorable member thinks that it is futile to allow such words to remain in the bill, one is able to obtain a clear idea of his mentality in industrial matters. I should imagine that the prevention of strikes and lockouts is a most essential feature of our industrial life; but the honorable member for Bendigo, who was a prominent’ union leader before he became a member of this House, says those words are futile. What does the honorable member want?
– Peace in industry.
– That can be obtained only by providing for the prevention of lockouts and strikes.
– I said that the inclusion of those words would not prevent lockouts and strikes.
– I think we are fair in assuming that as the Government wishes these words to be deleted it is averse to preventing strikes and lockouts. What did the Governmentdo in the coal strike which occurred last October, and which has just terminated? According to the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) the strike was to end within fourteen days of a Labour Government being elected, but although that promise was made to the electors early in October, andthe elections were held on the 12th of the month, the strike did not terminate until a month or so ago, and then without the assistance of the. Government. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Beasley) smiles. What did he do to bring that dispute to an end? Nothing whatever. It ended in spite of what the Government and its supporters did to keep itgoing.
– What did the honorable member do?
– I did not promise the electors that it would end in a fortnight or three weeks after the elections. I did not fool the people. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) charged the Government with having sold the workers a “pup.” The Government and its supporters in this House deceived the people. There are too many persons in this country who will not think for themselves, and who are influenced by some of these long-tongued orators who would promise the electors the sun, moon, and stars in order to be elected to this Parliament. In his efforts to secure peace in industry the late Prime Minister convened an industrial conference of both parties engaged in industry. The employers responded to the appeal, but the employees refused to be represented at any- such conference. While the Attorney-General has admitted that he accepted the advice of the employees in framing this bill, which, we are told, is to secure peace in industry, the very people who tendered him the advice will not attend a peace-in-industry conference.
– Becausethey do not trust the other party.
– That is a wonderful admission ! Honorable members opposite frequently say that we on this side of the chamber represent the employing class. If that be so, we can say, on this occasion at any rate, that the employers did not refuse to attend the conference.
– Then honorable members opposite do represent the employers ?
– The honorable member did not say that; he said that it is alleged that we represent the employers.
– As a matter of fact, we do not represent sectional interests, but all sections of the community. Honorable members opposite represent the sectional interests. On this subject we take the broad national outlook.
I propose to refer to certain public statements made by members of the Labour party in regard to arbitration bills and our arbitration system generally. If the awards of the court do not favour the so-called workers, there is trouble. By the way, I detest that word “ workers “ ; I approve of the word “ wage-earners “ with emphasis on “ earners “. I have the liveliest sympathy with wage-earners. I shall refer first to some remarks made by Senator Arthur Rae at a meeting held in Sydney Town Hall during the timberworkers strike. .That strike was, itself, an indictment of our arbitration system, for the court, by its award, caused the strike. Instead of settling industrial strife, the court, in that instance, actually engendered it. It must be admitted, therefore, that the court is a futile means of settling disputes. The remarks of Senator Rae, which I propose to quote, are interesting. At the time these statements were made the speaker was not a sitting member of the other place. He had been elected, but had not then taken his seat in the Senate.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to make a brief reply to the statement of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) had failed to answer his inquiry about conciliation commissioners appointed by the Lang Government in New South Wales. The honorable member for Richmond said that the six commissioners appointed were trade union secretaries. That is not so. One of them was a railway manager ; one was a barrister; one was a conciliation officer of the Sydney Municipal Council, but he was not appointed by the Labour Government; one was a trade union official, but was not associated with the Trades Hall in any way ; one had been a trade union ‘ secretary, but was not associated with unionism at the time he was appointed ; and only one was actually a trade union secretary.
It is regrettable that the high standard of debate set by ‘the Leader of the Opposition in making his second-reading speech on this bill has not been maintained. It has been suggested that it is intended to appoint as conciliation commissioners, persons who will be willing to be the tools of any government that may be in office. Such a suggestion comes very badly from honorable members opposite, for during the regime of the last Government, which, they supported, a representative of the employing class, was actually appointed to the Arbitration Court bench. I make no reflection on that gentleman, for he has proved to be an upright and honorable man. I call attention to his appointment to show that the Government supported by honorable members opposite did the very thing which it is now suggested that this Government might do.
I am opposed to the retention in the act of the penalty provisions, for they are useless. How could 20,000 men be punished by imprisonment for going on strike? We have not gaols enough to hold them. It is true that by going on strike the men might suffer some economic punishment, such as starvation; but it is impossible for them to be punished by imprisonment. I do not think that the community has the slightest desire to declare men criminals for refusing to work under certain conditions. As I said in my second-reading speech, I arn not favorable to the disobedience of Arbitration Court awards. But such extraordinary changes may be made in awards that disobedience of them can be understood. The timber-workers, for instance, after struggling for long years, won certain improved conditions which were swept away in a moment. This naturally caused much resentment. Just as it is unreasonable to try to stop strikes by imprisoning the strikers, so it is unreasonable to try to stop some lockouts by imprisoning the employers. I say quite frankly that a man engaged in a business which is not paying has justification for dismissing his employees; if he does not do so, he must face bankruptcy. But unfortunately employees are sometimes dismissed and a lockout caused for other reasons. The colliery-owners on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales were proved by the Coal Commission appointed by the Bruce-Page Government to have locked out their employees, not because their business was not paying, but because they wanted to force the miners to accept a reduction of wages. In view of all the circumstances, it is futile to provide penalties such as those at present in the act for industrial offences.
As the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) has pointed out, to achieve the objects of a bill of this kind we must not only provide suitable legislative machinery, but also see that it is properly operated. Whenever arbitration has been damned in this country, if it has ever been damned, it has been, as often as not, by ineffective administration.
We have heard a good deal during the debate to-day about the value of secret ballots. But not very long ago, the Leader of the Opposition, as AttorneyGeneral of the previous Government, did his utmost to force industrialists to accept the jurisdiction of the State industrial authorities. He tried his best to abolish Commonwealth arbitration. But can the right honorable gentleman mention a single State industrial act which contains provisions for the holding of secret ballots? If he was prepared to advise the acceptance, a few months ago, of arbitration machinery which made no provisions for the. holding of secret ballots, he should not oppose the elimination of these objectionable sections from our act. lt has been said that it is impossible successfully to prosecute workers for breaches of our Commonwealth arbitration laws; but a prosecution for an offence of that kind was carried to a successful conclusion in New South Wales on Tuesday last.
.- I wish briefly to refer to a statement made this afternoon by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway). He was dealing with a suggestion that biased conciliation commissioners might be appointed, and was endeavouring to lead the committee to believe that members of the Opposition would view with suspicion any appointments made by this Government. In support of that view he quoted from a speech made by me. I understood him to say that that speech had reference to the appointment of conciliation commissioners, and that I had said that the. Government would probably appoint derelicts or hacks to those positions. As I had never made a statement of that kind with reference to this bill, I warmly denied the allegation and challenged the honorable member to produce the report of my speech.’ At the time I was under the impression that the honorable member was referring to the ap- pointment of conciliation commissioners - a view which was shared by other honorable members on this side of the chamber. I have since spoken to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) and learned that he was referring to a speech I made in connexion with a suggested change in the manner of making appointments to the office of GovernorGeneral. My attitude this afternoon was based on a misunderstanding of the statement made by the honorable member. I did use the words to which reference has been made in connexion with appointments to the office of GovernorGeneral, and to that extent I stand by them. But I did not use them in relation to the appointment of the conciliation commissioners.
.- The only remark concerning which I felt hurt was the one that I had not seen in the press any such statement as that to which I referred. In order to verify my remarks, I obtained a copy of the Melbourne Age of 3rd May last, which contains a report of a meeting addressed by Mr. Gullett in which he used the words complained of. The honorable member, however, has explained that he misunderstood me, and I accept his explanation.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Interpretation).
.- This clause proposes to repeal the definitions of “ lockout “ and “ strike “. I suggest that the court should still retain, in express terms, the power of suspending or cancelling an award, or of deregistering an organization in the case of a lockout or strike; but I propose to reserve my remarks on those subjects until clause 6 is reached. If the committee agrees with my contention it will then be possible to re-introduce the definitions. Subject to what I have said, I have no objection to clause 4 being passed.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Prohibition of lockouts and strikes).
.- This clause repeals a set of sections dealing with the prohibition of lockouts and strikes in relation to industrial disputes.
Section 6, which is to he repealed, is expressed in the following terms: -
No person or organization shall, on account of any industrial dispute, do anything in the nature of a lockout or strike, or continue any lockout or strike.
Penalty: In the case of an organization or employer- £1,000; in the case of any other person - £50.
I propose now to read section 6 as it appeared in the first Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1904. The important difference between the two sections will at once be apparent to honorable members. The section referred to reads -
No person or organization shall, on account of any industrial dispute, do anything in the nature of a lockout or strike, or continue any lockout or strike.
The difference between the existing section and the section in the 1904 act is to be found in the distinction between the penalty to be imposed on an organization or an employer, namely, £1,000, and the penalty of £50 which might be imposed on a person - an employee. That alteration, which was made in 1928, was the only alteration made to that provision during that year. The alteration was in the direction of reducing penalties. During the last election campaign and almost continuously since then, the Labour party has misrepresented the facts with respect to the legislation of 1928, with the result that there are hundreds of thousands of persons in Australia who, because they thought that those who were addressing them were sincere men, really believed that the penalty of £1,000 was introduced in 1928 by the Bruce-Page Government. That is not so. Indeed, there is no foundation for such an allegation. Yet largely upon that allegation the Labour party won the last election. The 1904 act imposed on organizations and individuals a penalty of £1,000 for causing or continuing a strike or lockout. In 1920 a new section, 6a, was included, which also imposed a penalty of £1,000 in respect of a strike or a lockout when such lockout or strike was directed against an award referred to in section 6a. Those are the principal sections of the legislation providing for a penalty of £1,000. It is remarkable that section 38 c of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitra tion Act - which it is not proposed to amend by this bill - still allows the court to impose a penalty of £1,000 for a breach of an award. Accordingly, under this bill it is still possible for a judge or a commissioner to provide in an award that there must be no strike or lockout, and then to provide, by virtue of the provisions of sections 38 c and 44, a penalty of £1,000 for a strike or a lockout, notwithstanding the repeal of the penalty sections. At the end of last year, when it was proposed to abandon these penalty provisions in the Maritime Industries Bill, clause 22 provided that the determinations of the tribunals set up under that legislation should not include any provision by virtue of which penalties, by way of fine or imprisonment, might be imposed in respect of any act or omission in the nature of a lockout or a strike.
– Was that in respect of the trade andcommerce power, or the conciliationand arbitration power?
– The Maritime Industries Bill was enacted under the trade and commerce power. But there is obviously no legal objection to the inclusion of a similar provision in this bill.
– Would the Commonwealth Court have jurisdiction to place in an award a clause providing a penalty for strikes or lockouts?
– I think that it would. The honorable member will notice that paragraph c of section 38 gives the court power to impose a penalty of £1,000 for a breach of an award. There are many awards under which strikes and lockouts are, in express terms, prohibited. The prosecution of the Timber Workers Union was not carried out under section 6a, but it was a prosecution for a breach of a term of an award which prohibited a strike. I suggest that, to be consistent, the Government ought to include in this bill a provision of the same character as section 22 of the Maritime Industries Act, so that the intention of the Parliament shall be given effect to and penalties on strikes and lockouts shall not be reintroduced. I think that such an amendment should be made later, and I propose to consider, after the adjournment,- where it could be appropriately included; In 1920, section 6a was enacted, and no proposal was made in this Parliament by any party to delete sections 6 and 6a until the Maritime Industries Act of 1929 was proposed by the late Government.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) has challenged my assertion that the trade unions were not prepared to agree to the abolition- of the strike and lockout penalties. The fact of the matter is that, when I was considering the provisions to be included in the Arbitration Bill in 1927, I had long interviews with representatives of trade unions and employers in several cities of the Commonwealth, and I received representations from them on many subjects connected with arbitration ; but neither side asked that the penalty provisions should bc repealed. At a deputation that I received from the Australasian Council of Trade Unions - which then had a slightly different name - on the 13th August, 1927, 1 raised this precise subject. I asked the members of the deputation a number of questions, and, among others, I inquired whether they were in favour of repealing the penalty sections with respect to strikes and lockouts. I stated that it appeared to me that a great deal of objection to the Arbitration Act on the part of the leaders of the trade unions depended on the existence of those sections, which were responsible for a certain degree, at least, of ill-will. I asked if the Australasian Council of Trade Unions was in favour of repealing sections 6 and Ca. That was done before the bill was drafted, and the answer of the deputation was that it was in favour of repealing penalties on strikes. I said that that, of course, involved repealing the penalties on lockouts. The members of the deputation admitted that; obviously, they could not have done otherwise. I asked, “ Are you prepared to support me if I propose to repeal those particular sections”? and they replied, “Well, Mr. Minister, we should like to think it over, as it involves the- penalties on lockouts as well as the penalties on strikes.” Then they asked me to put my question in writing, which I did in a letter that was addressed to Mr. Charles Crofts, secretary of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. The first question out of four which I submitted, to the council was that of the abolition, of the penalties on lock outs and strikes. Neither on that afternoon, nor on the next day, the 14th August, 1927, did I receive any reply to my letter ; but on the 30th September I received an answer to a further letter which I sent requesting a reply. The letter of the 30th September,, was sent, by Mr. Crofts, and was addressed to the Solicitor-General, more than a month after I had raised the matter -
In answer to your letter of the 17th instant relative to the questions submitted by the < Federal Attorney-General, Mr. Latham, bearing on the industrial peace, I am to say that in reply to question No. 1- question of the retention or the abolition of penalties on lockouts and strikes - it has been decided to obtain the opinion of all unions interested in Arbitration Court proceedings.
No further communication could be obtained from the Australasian Council of Trade Unions on this subject. Its representatives saw me from time to time on various industrial matters, but they would never make a declaration of policy on the repeal of those sections. In December, 1927, an amending arbitration bill was introduced. It did not repeal those sections. I had been, able to obtain no support from either side in industry for my suggestion that they should be repealed. When the bill of 1927 came before the House, it was examined, criticized and misrepresented for several months, and, in May, 1928, the debate was resumed. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) spoke on behalf of the then Opposition. He did not say that either he or his party favoured the repeal of those sections, and he did not suggest that, they should be repealed. I endeavoured to obtain a direct answer as to whether he or his party believed in repealing them, and the reply he made, as Hansard will show, was to refer me to his secondreading speech, in which he had said nothing on the subject. On the 29th May, 1928, I stated in the House what I have said this evening, and I read the letter that I have quoted from the secretary of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. Everybody in Australia was therefore able to inform himself as to the attitude of the trade unions on this matter, and, even then, there was no indication, in the daily course of the debate, that it was desired by the trade unions that those sections should be repealed. The bill went through committee, some weeks being allowed for the discussion of the measure. No attempt was then made to force it through in two or three days. During the proceedings in committee, when the fullest opportunity was given for the moving of amendments, no amendment for the repeal of those sections was made by or on behalf of the Opposition. So, up to the time of the enactment of that measure, there had not been either an authoritative declaration, or any declaration at all, on behalf of the trade union movement, that those sections ought to be repealed. Then the election campaign ensued, and it was alleged that the late Government had introduced those sections. That statement was quite untrue, and without a shadow of foundation in fact, and the leaders who made that statement knew that it was untrue.
I now pass on to a later stage. In 1929, a conference was summoned - and it was assembled with very great difficulty - representing both sides in industry in Australia. That conference, which was held in the early months of 1929, produced only one result. After careful consideration, the employers and the employees came round to what I had suggested eighteen months previously; they agreed that, in the interests of industry, it would be a good thing to repeal the penal sections of the act. That was the first occasion upon which such a declaration was made on behalf of either side.
I have spoken in these terms because of the statement that was. made to-day by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway), who again revived the old canard that these sections were inserted in the act by the late Government. It may be that, when he made that statement during the election campaign, he was unfamiliar with Commonwealth statutes. He is now in a position to refer to the act of 1904, and to inform his mind on the facts. I hope that he will not again say that the late Government was responsible for the introduction of sections 6 and 6a, which are the only sections that impose a penalty on strikes and lockouts.
I support the proposal to repeal sections 6 and 6a, and the associated sections. In practice they have been more important in relation to strikes than to lockouts.
There has been a number of cases of industrial disputes in which it has been proved before the court that there have been strikes; but there has not been any case in which it has been proved before the court that there has been a lockout. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) suggested, in the manner adopted by some honorable members who have a free oratorical style, that there has been a large number of lockouts, and that the only difficulty has been to prove their existence legally. I can only say that I have followed this subject fairly carefully within recent years, and that for a considerable portion of that time I. was charged with the administration of arbitration legislation. On no occasion, except in the case of the coal dispute, was it suggested to me that there was a’ lockout. A strike is a refusal, in combination, to work, for the purpose of exacting from employers industrial terms and conditions. That is a general definition, and is not in the precise terms of the act. In everything that I say I refer not to times of war and national emergency, when we are not able to limit ourselves by ordinaryconsiderations, and when the safety of the community may demand the taking of almost any action, but to normal times and. circumstances. I agree that, in those times and circumstances, there should not be a penalty upon organizations or individuals for a refusal to work. But I make an exception even in normal times. State statutes, which impose penalties upon a refusal to work by menwho are engaged in essential public services such as the supply of water, gas and electricity, and in looking after the disposal of sewage, are necessary in the interest of the community as a whole.
– But the honorable gentleman does not think it is essential that they should be inserted in a conciliation and arbitration act?
– No. Those matters are dealt with by statutes of the States, and I am not suggesting that any such provision should be inserted in this act.
– In general terms,I entirely approve of that.
– I draw a further distinction between a penalty upon a strike or a lockout, and one upon intimidation or violence. There is in the Crimes Act and in the Arbitration Act as it stands at present a group of sections which penalize violence and intimidation that are directed to preventing men from working in accordance with an award of the court. Therefore, the penalty is upon the violence oi’ intimidation; while in other cases it is upon abusive and violent language and the like. Those penalties are altogether distinct from penalties upon strikes and lockouts. But speaking generally, and subject to the exceptions that I have mentioned, I believe that it is not sound to make either a lockout or a strike a criminal offence. I am, and have long been, pf the opinion that such penalties tend to bring the law into contempt. I know, and honorable members on both sides know, that frequently the announcement is made in the press by an officer of a union that if a certain course is persisted in there will be a strike. The date is fixed, and the strike takes place; but it cannot be proved that there is combined action under the direction of the union officials. Of course, statements in the press are not evidence; and although everybody in the community knows that a strike is taking place, it is pretended that it is a case of individual action. Again and again I have seen cases in which men who have organized strikes have solemnly sworn that there was no strike, but that it was individual action, when everybody knew that what they were swearing was untrue.
– There are strikes in which the men go out in defiance of their own officers.
– I agree with the honorable member. I am speaking of other cases in which everybody knows perfectly well what are the facts. These sections have been in the act for a long time, more or less as placards. I doubt whether their real significance has been realized until recently; and I do not think that for many years they have had the honest support of the public as a whole. In many cases, from a practical point of view, men have no option but to strike. Take the case of members of a union who do not believe in a particular strike. I have met many of them during strikes; they think that their leaders, and the majority or the supposed majority of the union, are wrong. In many cases those majorities are obtained by the method of holding a mass meeting, which is very different from the taking of a proper vote. An individual cannot stand out against his union and he has to go on strike if, speaking as a whole, it declares that a strike shall take place.
– The organization to which the honorable gentleman belongs will not allow any individual member to have a voice in its management.
– The honorable member has no special knowledge of the legal profession. Up to the present I have not heard of a strike taking place in that profession. I can assure the honorable member that our services will always be at his disposal if ever he should require them. It appears to me that when one looks at the facts of industrial life in Australia, with unionism as strong as it is, it is rather hard to justify the imposing of a penalty, as in the case of a criminal offence, upon an act that does not in itself amount to violence, intimidation, or the like, which the ordinary member of a trade union has no option but to perform. That is one reason why I am of the opinion that it is wise to repeal those provisions.
– I wish that the honorable gentleman had remembered that in connexion with certain other provisions in bis amending bill that rather harshly rendered individuals liable.
– I am dealing now with those specific sections. I am not aware of the provisions to which the Attorney-General refers. Further, I say, as others have said, that these particular penalties are ineffective, and because they are ineffective, they necessarily bring the law into disrespect. It is impossible by any form of legal process to compel large bodies of men to work on terms unacceptable to them. The penalties provided are ineffective to restore operations in industry; and, I think, experience has shown that whenever an effort has been made to enforce these sections, there has always been disappointment in the practical effect of restoring operations iu industry. Nothing is gained by the mere imposition of a’ penalty in a case unless it makes the wheels of -industry revolve again, and, it appears to. me, that these penalties do not do that. Then there is the difficulty of enforcing this law which I saw again and again while in the office cif the. Attorney-General. In dealing with the ordinary law of the land, the Attorney-General goes straight ahead. If a man has forged a banknote the Attorney-General never asks whether he has been labouring under strong temptation or whether he wanted to provide money for his sick sister or anything like that. The man, having committed an offence, is prosecuted right away. But, as Attorney-General, administering the arbitration law, I admit that I conceived it my duty to endeavour to obtain a resumption of work before putting the penal provisions of the law into operation. Before the timberworkers were prosecuted I saw both sides. I had long conferences with them in order to see if there was any other way of handling- the matter. There were separate conferences between both employers and employees and myself. Of course they were confidential; but I can assure honorable members that I exhausted every means to bring about a settlement before I put these provisions of the law into operation. It was so in the case of the waterside workers. Communications passed between the then Prime Minister and the Waterside Workers Federation before anything was done in the matter. It was the same in other cases before there was any question of putting these penal provisions into operation. That course, however, raised difficulties which became very obvious in the case of the prosecution of the late Mr. John Brown. A prosecution was instituted in his case, and then representations were made by both sides, but particularly by the miners, that if a certain conference was held there was every chance of the trouble being adjusted; and the Government, believing that that was so, believing what the miners’ representatives said-
– And what the Labor Daily said.
– Yes; believing also what the Labor Daily, the organ of the minors, said, that there was a very big change of the industry resuming without trouble if the prosecution were withdrawn, the Government agreed to withdraw it, knowing full well the political risk such action involved. That political risk became very evident indeed on the floor of this House, and in the election ; and the action of the present Government in resolutely declining to prosecute, in spite of the promise that there would be a prosecution, illustrates the difficulty of administering this particular branch of the law.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The honorable member’s time has expired.
– If no other honorable member is for the moment anxious to speak, I shall avail myself of the opportunity provided by the Standing Orders, to conclude what I was saying. The real way to enforce industrial law is to have regard to the object of industrial law, and that object is to maintain continuity of industrial operations in the interests of the community as a whole, under conditions fair to employers and employees. In order to obtain that object, the law provides for awards or determinations being made by one form of industrial tribunal /or another, and the right way to enforce industrial law is to see that citizens are able to work in accordance with those awards. I said in my second-reading speech, that in cases where intimidation or violence is used to prevent men from working in accordance with awards, the only real way to enforce industrial law is to give police protection to citizens who are prepared to work in accordance with the law. Last year, before the election, I said that that was the only way to enforce industrial law as a whole. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) speaking after me, said that my whole mind on this subject ran on penalties, penalties, penalties, and he referred to my reference to police, as indicating that that was so. As a matter of fact, the whole point of my remarks on that occasion was that the penalties were ineffective and that any individual who is prepared to work in accordance with an award, is entitled to the protection of the law. I say so still.
– What -does the honorable member say about the wellestablished system which is termed “ peaceful picketing “ ?
– There is so much “peaceful” picketing with a half brick in the hand that it easily degenerates into violence. Actual peaceful persuasion is, of .course, reasonable and proper. It is quite different from that form of intimidation or violence which prevents a man from doing ,what he is by law entitled to do. There is also the harassing of wives and families, and the pursuing of children at school, as was done in the timberworkers’ and waterside workers’ strikes ; making the lives of workers’ families not worth living. I do not approve of any such course of action as that.
I have given reasons why I support the clause for the repeal of the penalties upon strikes or lockouts, but I do not think that it follows that there should be no legal consequence attaching to strikes or lockouts, and I ask the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) to re-consider his proposal to repeal section 3Sd, and certain provisions of section 60. Section 3Sd provides that if itappears to the court that an organization entitled to the benefit of an order or award, has done anything in the nature of a lockout or strike, &c, the court may suspend or cancel the award insofar as it thinks fit. That appears to me to be a perfectly fair provision. If an organization is not prepared to work in accordance with any terms of an award, it ought not to have an award.
– That section makes provision for something which has been done in the nature of a lockout or strike.
– Yes. I say that consequences ought fairly to follow a lockout or strike if the court thinks proper, namely, the suspension or cancellation of an award. Section 60 also provides, in sub-section 1 j, to take an example, that if it appears to the court that an organization or a branch &c, is directing or advising its members to refuse to offer or accept employment in accordance with an order or award, &c, the organization may be de-registered. That, I suggest, is also a fair provision. It depends upon the discretion of the court as to whether the power should be exercised. The court would be justified in deregistering any organization registered in the court that advised its members not to work in accordance with an award of the court. An express power should be vested in the court to de-register in such a case. These provisions are sufficient to deal with strikes and lockouts, and are distinct from those providing for fines. I support .the repeal of the sections that make it possible to impose fines, but I ask the Attorney-General to give consideration to the retention in some form or another of the substance of sections 38 and sub-section 1 j of section 60 in the present act.
.-During the last election campaign, whatever other subject may have been discussed upon the various platforms, candidates representing the Labour party always obtruded one issue, the prosecution of John Brown, asking “ Why, oh why, was it withdrawn ?” That also, was the subject discussed in this chamber a little while before the last Parliament was dissolved. The then Deputy Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Theodore) moved a censure motion on the withdrawal of that prosecution, and during the debate a good deal of abuse was hurled at the BrucePago Government, because it failed to prosecute the late Mr. John Brown. Very soon after the present Parliament met the Prime Minister was asked, “ Are you going to prosecute John Brown”? and I well remember .the reply that he gave; “We are not going to prosecute John Brown, because we do not believe in the penal clauses of the Arbitration Court.” That was the first occasion on which I can remember hearing it recorded that the Prime Minister or any other, member of the Labour party objected -to the penal clauses of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Then I wondered as to the attitude of the Prime Minister towards compulsory arbitration. If there are no penal clauses for breaches of awards, for strikes or lockouts, what becomes of compulsory arbitration? It appears to me that the only way that you can compel any one to obey a law is by enforcing some penalty. I waited, therefore, with great interest for this measure that had been promised to amend the Arbitration Act, so that I could understand what really was the Prime Minister’s attitude towards compulsory arbitration. We have it defined in the bill before the committee. Some of the penalties are abolished but others still remain. .Penalties are still retained for breaches of awards. One of the reasons advanced by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) for abolishing the penalty for a lockout was that it was impossible to prove that a lockout exists, therefore, it was well to abolish it, together with the penal clauses in regard to strikes.
We have known for a long time that the attitude of organized workers in Australia was that they believed in the right to strike if an award of the court did not meet with their approval. And they have struck, in defiance of the penal clauses of the act. Personally, I -do not believe in the penal clauses. I said so from every platform from which I spoke during the last election. It was my opinion that they should be abolished. As a matter of fact the Bruce-Page Government proposed to abolish them in the Maritime Industries Bill. I do not believe in penalties that cannot be enforced. They certainly cannot assist to bring about, a condition of amity in industry.
It is my opinion that compulsory arbitration has failed utterly because it cannot be enforced. That is where a difference of opinion occurs between myself, other honorable members on this side, and honorable members of the Labour party. Honorable members opposite say that they believe in arbitration, whilst most honorable members sitting on thi.s side have contended that they also believe in arbitration. I believe in arbitration. I should think that every honorable member who wishes for a peaceful settlement of industrial disputes believes in arbitration. But if you compel organized workers and employers to engage in arbitration to settle a dispute and hang over their heads a heavy penalty you are not indulging in arbitration according to my understanding of the meaning of the word. To be successful arbitration must be voluntary. We cannot hope by law to bring about conciliation in industry or the settlement of industrial disputes. It is only when parties arrive at a common understanding in their own interests as well as for the good of the community that we shall attain peace in industry.
The penalties still remain for breaches of awards. It is a one-sided law if you can punish an employer for disregarding an award with regard to rates of wages that he must pay and you cannot penalize the worker because he will not work for an award that he considers unreasonable. Oan any honorable member opposite tell me how it is possible to enforce a penalty upon the worker for breach of an award? We know perfectly well that an employer may be fined if he is discovered paying less than award rates, and that he will pay the fine, because no well-organized industry would close its doors because of such a fine. But take the case of an individual worker, or a dozen or twenty workers. If they say that they are not going to work under an award, and walk off the premises, there is no law in the country that can prevent them doing so. We have tried unsuccessfully to punish strikers and there is no justification for retaining the penalties. If a man does not believe that the wages and working conditions awarded to him are equitable, he is entitled to refuse to work. What I, and other members of the Opposition, have always objected to is that organized workers attempt to prevent others from doing the job they have refused. Both the Crimes Act and the Transport Workers Act were designed to prevent such practices, and to ensure that mcn willing to work in accordance with an award of the court should be protected from violence and intimidation. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that as penalties for breaches of awards are inoperable nothing is to be gained by retaining them, but violence and intimidation for the purpose of preventing honest men from working in accordance with the law of the land should be punished. It is indisputable that the allegation that the Bruce-Page Government had introduced penalties into the arbitration law and had shown favour to the coal-mine owners was more responsible than anything else for the Labour party being placed in power. These allegations were undoubtedly misrepresentations. The Crimes Act was described as a brutal measure; it is nothing of the kind.. The only brutality was on the part of those who were preventing men from working under an award of the court. The truth in regard to the failure to prosecute the mine-owners was not told to the public by Labour candidates but it was well known to members of Parliament and to readers of Hansard. It was the policy of the Bruce-Page Government not to prosecute while there was an opportunity to settle a dispute amicably, but the misrepresentation of its actions succeeded in putting the Government out of office, and I take this opportunity to state the facts. When the present Government announced that it proposed to repeal the penalties on strikes and lockouts, I hoped that in order to retain the goodwill of the workers, it would go the whole way and abolish all penalties, even those provided for breaches of awards. Honorable members on this side of the chamber are charged with pretending to represent the employers. Why pretence is charged against us I do not know. We not only represent the employers; we stand for a fair deal for all sections of the community. Moreover, we represent a large majority of the real workers. The Labour party represents only the organizations which claim to speak for the workers. I have never been approached by any organization of employers in regard to the legislation of this Parliament, but I come in contact with many employers and a very much larger number of workers. I represent more workers than employers, but the workers are not necessarily members of unions. Some ministerial members who talk so much of the rights of the workers have never seen men doing real work, such as is done by the timber-getters on the far north-west coast of Tasmania, who are felling the forests, cutting the trees into logs, and conveying them to the mills. These men live in tents- or huts during the hard climate in winter time and arc the finest and hardiest workers in the world, but the Labour party does not represent them, or know their views on any political subject. The timber-workers’ strike arose out of an award of the court reintroducing a 48-hour week in city mills. The men in the forest had always worked 48 hours, and no members of the Labour party protested against that on principle. The men who clear the forests and till the soil for the production of the necessaries of life work more than 48 hours a week; dairymen work twelve to fourteen hours daily; unless they did their industries could not be carried on, or the community would pay higher prices for its food. They are not’ working under award conditions, but the employees in the city timber mills struck for a principle, because they were asked to work 48 hours a week. My objection to the Arbitration Court is that its awards can be enforced on only one section. A small employer may find that he cannot carry on profitably under an award of the court. He might say to his employees that if they would work for a few shillings a week less, he might just about be able to carry on. The men might be willing to agree to such a proposal rather than be thrown out of employment, but if he paid them £4 a week instead of the award rate of £4 5s. a week, he would be brought before the court and fined. On the other hand, an employee who thinks he ought to get £5 a week, and for that reason refuses to work for £4 5s., can walk away from the job and nothing is done to him. It is the small employer who is hardest hit by penal legislation of this kind. John Brown, or any of the other great coal-owners, could have been fined a thousand pounds, but it would not have opened the mines. The miners’ organization could have been fined, but it would not have made the men go back to work. The small employer, however, can be forced into bankruptcy, and his means of livelihood taken away from him. Organized workers have been able to enforce their claims, and get practically what they demand, from the Arbitration Court. The coal-miners, who are the most united body of workers in the country, and who, incidentally, have given the most trouble, have been able to obtain much better conditions than have been given to other classes of workers, even workers engaged in other classes of mining. When they defied the court the then Prime Minister, the Bight Honorable W. M. Hughes, said, “ We cannot have dislocation in this industry,” and he was instrumental in having passed through Parliament the Industrial Peace Act, under which a special tribunal was set up to fix wages and conditions. In the coal industry, the organization of both employers and employees is so strong and so complete that it has been able to influence, not only the industrial tribunal, but Parliament itself. ,
I approve of the abolition of the penalties fori strikes and lockouts, but if the Attorney-General wishes to prove the sincerity of his professions about peace in industry he should go further, and abolish penalties in regard to breaches of awards. We cannot obtain peace in industry if we depend solely on the law. The parties to industry must realize that it is in their interest to promote goodwill. While we have politics in industry, we shall not have peace, nor can we develop the country along sound and progressive lines.
– I am not opposed to the removal of penalties in regard to strikes and lockouts. I have never been much in favour of them. In 1928, I heard the then Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) state that he had consulted with the unions who informed him that they favoured the removal of penalties on unions, but were not prepared to agree to their removal in regard to employers. Whenhe suggested that the same conditions should apply to both sides, the Labour representatives said that they would have to consult their unions. They wentaway, and he received no further reply from them. In view of that statement, I voted in favour of the inclusion of the penal sections, but now that there seems to be a general feeling in favour of their abolition, I am agreeable to their deletion. Penalties for industrial offences never have been popular in this country. They have never had behind them the force of public opinion, a fact which has made it very difficult to enforce them. Several honorable members have pointed out that it is very difficult to make these penal sections operative, particularly against the unions. If several thousand men decline to work, there is no power on earth which can compel them to, nor can they be sent to prison even though an act of Parliament decrees that as the punishment for their offence.
I have heard of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) for many years past, but since he has become a member of this House, I have frequently wondered how such a man, lacking force of character and personality, could have become a noted leader of trade unionism. Had I known him when it was proposed to extract from him a fine of £50,I should have been the first to vote in favour of his being let alone. Looking at him now, it occurs to me that taking £50 from him would be like taking candy from a child. The imposition of penalties in these circumstances
– The honorable member forFlinders is a sick man.
– If he is so indisposed that he cannot undertake the work required of him, he has no right to be here. One is justified in assuming by the nature of his speeches that he is a sick man, and if that is so I shall say nomore concerning him.
– What is wrong with his speeches ?
– They consist merely of a series of statements without any facts to support them. When his statements are challenged he merely gives an inane grin, and that is the end of it.
– Is not the honorable member for Warringah aware that he is acknowledged throughout Australia as an authority on industrial matters?
– If that is so, I do not know how he achieved that reputation; because on the speeches he has delivered in this Parliament he could never establish such renown.
– I rise to order. I submit, Mr. Chairman, that the qualifications of the honorable member for Flinders are quite irrelevant to the subjectmatter of the clause under discussion.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The point of order raised by the honorable member for Parkes is sustained. I ask the honorable member for Warringah to confine himself to the clause.
– I was replying to an interjection.
– Interjections are disorderly.
– I have no desire to be unfair to the honorable member for Flinders, but I contend that I am in order in referring to subjects raised by him. If, however, he is ill, I have no desire to pursue the matter, and I would not have said what I have, had I been apprised of that fact earlier.
It is my intention to oppose many of the provisions in this measure, although I welcome it because a number of sections which it repeals, more particularly the punitive sections, have never been operative. I join, however, with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) in suggesting that if the Government is sincere’ in its desire to make the bill an instrument acceptable to both parties engaged in industry, it should agree to some amendments, the effect of which will be to make it fair to both parties. If the Minister will do that he will find that the remarks which he made earlier are unjustified; because honorable members on this side of the chamber are as anxious as he is to preserve peace in industry. I submit that whatever is proposed from this side of the House should receive reasonable consideration, and I can assure him that there will be no whoops of delight if he does accede to any request which we may make. I welcome the deletion of the penal sections, as that will simplify the measure and will enable both parties to a dispute to settle their differences around a table without the law compelling them to accept terms with which they are not satisfied. Capital and labour have ,o recognize that they are partners in industry, and that without proper co-operation industry cannot be properly conducted. But I cannot see how we oan have compulsory arbitration, and at the same time permit lockouts and strikes. If we legalize lookouts and strikes, it is beyond my comprehension how we can at the same time consistently advocate compulsory arbitration. In addition, if we dispense with the penalties as is proposed, arbitration will be one-sided and will eventually be found to be ineffective. I welcome the provision permitting strikes and lockouts. I could quote from the records of Great Britain showing that employers and employees have never been in favour of penal clauses, and that they have always held that the employers should be able to lock out their men and the employees should be able to strike. In a recent publication of the British Liberal party, *Britain’s Industrial Outlook, it is clearly laid down that neither the unionist nor the employer is in favour of dispensing with the right to strike or to lock out the men. Personally, I favour that view for reasons which I have already given. Men who strike cannot be penalized, but those responsible for a lockout can always be punished, because they can be readily located and their assets are always available. In these circumstances the present arbitration system is quite unsatisfactory. The Attorney-General has stated that the measure provides for the deregistration of a union whose members strike ia consequence of a disagreement with an award of the court. I am prepared to accept the Minister’s assurance that there is such a provision, although I have been unable to find it, and, if there is, a considerable amount of my objection to the measure will be removed. If an award ib given against which the workers decide to strike, employers observing an award should be permitted to seek the services of other men. to carry on work at award rates. The measure, however, provides that, as soon as the men on strike decide to return, the preference clause shall permit them to again take up work to the exclusion of those who kept the industry going. Seeing that penal provisions of this character cannot be made effective, but can only create bitterness and prevent that smooth working of industry which every one desires, we should repeal them. As long ago as 1S96 Sir Charles Dilke in a speech on arbitration, said that penal provisions in arbitration legislation could never be made effective. I, therefore, welcome this provision.
Clause agreed to.
House adjourned at 11.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 July 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300701_reps_12_125/>.