18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Mon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to - . That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30’ a.m.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that, following hig reply to the Leader of the Australian Country party last week in respect of the proposed raising of loans in America’ by the Brisbane City Council and the Metropolitan Water,’ Sewerage . and Drainage -Board,, the Brisbane Courier Mail of the 26th April published a statement by Alderman Moon, Vice Lord
Mayor of Brisbane, to the effect that -tha right honorable gentleman’s statement - that’ neither of’ those authorities had received permission to float, a new loan in New York - was untrue. Alderman Moon further stated that the raising of a loan in Australia by the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board might cause confusion in Brisbane, and waa either an. ‘ extremely poor attempt to mislead the people, or’ was indicative of the confusion that exists in treasury circles in Canberra. Does- the Prime Minister regard this as an attempt by Alderman Moon to mislead the people for party political purposes, by covering up the bad business practices of the Brisbane City Council, and belittling the Commonwealth Treasury? Has the Prime Minister any comment to make on Alderman Moon’s statement)
– There appears to have been some confusion in the minds of those who have been speaking about the various loans, as to which, loan was referred to, I’ believe that some confusion arose between the Leader of the Australian -Country party and myself last week. I shall have- a statement prepared, setting out the facts in regard to the loans that are to be converted in America, and the effect which they will have on the granting of permission to float loans locally. I have not seen the statement published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail, and do not know what may have been Alderman Moon’s intention when he made the remarks attributed to him in connexion with the matter; therefore, I cannot say whether they have any party political significance. As Treasurer, I am quite accustomed to misstatements being made in regard to my intentions and actions.
– “Will the Minister for Housing ascertain, and’ inform me tomorrow if possible, the amount of rental subsidies paid by the Commonwealth to each State in respect of the difference between the true rental value of houses leased Tinder the housing scheme and tho actual rents received, the period over which these subsidies were paid, and whether it is considered that an increase of the volume of claims is likely?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information for the honorable member. I could not give from memory the exact amounts, because they vary from month to month. Provided the people keep the present Government in’ power, and thus ensure a continuance of the policy of full employment that has been adopted by it, the anticipation is that the volume of these claims will not. increase:
– Can the Minister for Works and Housing inform the House of the proportion of families to homes in the Commonwealth ? Does he think that an increase of the birth-rate is likely if young married people cannot find places in which to shelter and bring up their children
– I cannot tell the’ honorable, member the proportion of homes to families. One reason for ‘the shortage- of homes in Australia to-day’ is the better economic circumstances of the people. If the honorable member looks at some of the pre-war newspapers in the Library she will find page- after page of advertisements concerning empty houses, flats, and rooms. .There are few more people in Australia than there were before the war.
– There is half a million more ! What ‘ is the Minister talking about?
– He is mis-informing the House.
– The reason is the better financial state of the people. They - are able to or desire to become purchasers of. homes, and the Government if doing its best to ensure that they shall be adequately housed. Before the war housing was always left to private landlordism, and although we heard many promises on the hustings that millions of pounds would be spent on housing by different parties if. they were returned to power, that did not happen. In the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements we have said in effect that never again shall shortage of money be a reason for the scarcity of homes in this country.
– Recently the Minister for Works and Housing stated that the Commonwealth had a programme for constructing 10,500 steel houses. I ask the Minister whether he intends to allocate any of these houses to. Western Australia? If that is not the present intention, will he alter the programme so that Western Australia will receive a fro rata allocation?
– Being a Western Australian myself, . like the honorable member for Fremantle, naturally I surveyed the possibilities of some of these houses, which will be of the Beaufort home type, being made available to .Western Australia. However, on examination of the position, I ascertained that the cost factor would rule out such a proposal. Of the present order of 10,500 houses, 5,000 will be supplied to the Victorian Housing Commission under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement. The remaining 5,500 homes were ordered by me as Minister in charge of War Service Homes. These will be made available mainly to ex-servicemen in Victoria, but some of them may be erected in Canberra. The engineers of my department are at present examining methods of prefabricating houses, and I hope that they will be able to develop a system of prefabrication which will be suitable to Western Australian conditions and the availability of materials in that State.
– Has the Minister for Housing seen the statements that are issued from time to time by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and the Minister for Information, to the effect that the population of Australia has increased by approximately 400,000 since the war years? Does the honorable gentleman regard this as an insignificant number of people to provide accommodation for under the housing scheme? Is he aware that approximately 10,000 homes which persons in New South Wales have attempted to build privately are still in the skeleton stage, many of them having been in that ‘ condition for several months, because the prospective homebuilders have been unable to secure the materials that they need in order to complete them ? Has the Government of. New South Wales sought assistance from the Commonwealth Government in the direction of speeding up the supply of materials for these private buildings?
What response has been made by the Commonwealth to any such request?
– The periodical statements by my colleagues most certainly would be true. That is a characteristic of all Ministerial statements. Births have been responsible for most of the increase that has occurred in the population of Australia. However, even if adults represented a considerable percentage of the increase, I would not regard it as insignificant, because I realize to the full the responsibility of providing adequate housing for the people of this country. My mind has been exercised by the problem of skeleton homes. The distribution of materials within a State is under State control. At a recent conference at which the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to housing was discussed I drew the attention of the representatives of the States to the large number of unfinished houses throughout Australia, and urged them to complete all the houses the construction of which had commenced. That is all that the Commonwealth can. do under the Constitution. During the conference reference was made to a number of bottlenecks which existed, particularly in respect of building requisites. Efforts have been made to remove those bottlenecks ; firms supplying building materials have been asked to assist the States to the full extent of their capacity, and representations have been made to the Commonwealth Bank in cases in which financial aid was required. Where necessary, action has been taken to obtain import licences for tools and machinery which would assist in the removing of bottlenecks.
Accountancy Courses - Allowances to Reconstruction Trainees
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction give consideration to the request of students who are undergoing a rehabilitation course in accountancy at Chalmers-street, Sydney, for a mid-June break of one week from their studies?
– I shall examine the matter with a view to deciding whether effect can be given to the request.
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction read the press report of a protest meeting of more than 2,000 ex-servicemen that was held in Sydney last night, at which were carried unanimously resolutions relating to the living allowances that are paid by the Commonwealth to reconstruction trainees, and to the establishment of war neurosis centres ? If so, has the Minister any comment to make concerning these resolutions, and can he indicate whether or not the Government intends to give relief in the directions mentioned?
– I have not read the press report to which the honorable member has referred, but the matter has been mentioned to me. I am well aware that on many occasions when there is criticism of the Government the press exaggerates the number of persons who participate in so-called protest meetings. The total number of reconstruction trainees who are obtaining full-time and part-time benefits under the reconstruction training scheme is more than 200,000. In any group of people, there are always a fewindividuals who will be dissatisfied, no matter how much may be done for them. Tie decision was reached recently to increase as from the 1st July next the scale of allowances payable to reconstruction trainees. ‘ Under the new scale, single men will receive £3 10s. a week, plus a travelling allowance of 5s. a week, and a living-away-from-home allowance of 15s. a. week where that is applicable. A married man with one child will receive a living allowance of £5 10s. a week, plus the other allowances where they are applicable. I believe that any reasonable person will admit that those allowances are not ungenerous.
Victorian Metal Trades Dispute - Petrol Rationing
– In view of the fact that an announcement has been made that, because of the transport strike in Victoria, no petrol ration tickets will be issued to private motorists in that State for the month of May, and as such a decision can only have been made with the approval of the Commonwealth Government, and as thousands of workers depend on the generosity of private motorists to convey them to their places of employment - a service to the community which will no longer be possible if petrol supplies are unobtainable - will the Prime Minister reconsider the decision with a view to making full supplies of petrol available in Victoria for the month of May, even if by so doing private motorists in neighbouring States are denied petrol? Further, will the right honorable gentleman arrange for the transport of additional petrol by road to places on the border of Victoria, and will he arrange for Commonwealth Government vehicles to transport petrol from such border towns to the places where it is. required in Victoria, particularly for the transport of such essential requirements as superphosphate for farmers who are now sowing this season’s crop, in view of the fact that any shortage of superphosphate will diminish the harvest?
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has given close attention to the maintenance of petrol supplies for Victoria. As the honorable member for Indi is aware, the oil companies would find considerable difficulty in providing sufficient petrol to meet an abnormal demand. I shall discuss with the Minister for Supply and Shipping either to-day or to-morrow the points raised by the honorable member for Indi and shall let him have an answer as soon as possible.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is true that, following the decision of the Arbitration Court to deregister the Amalgamated Engineering Union, but to stay proceedings for fourteen days, the president of that union has announced his intention, and that of the members of the organization, to continue the struggle indefinitely? If that be true, does the statement of the Minister for Labour and National Service, or the statement attributed to him, that the Prime Minister would not interfere in such matters as they concern a dispute between employers and employees, correctly represent the attitude of the Government? If it does not, and if the Prime Minister accepts the situation for what it is, namely, a grave national emergency, will he say what he proposes to do, in co-operation with, the Government of Victoria, to ensure that essential transport and power services, are maintained ?
– I do not remember having read a statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service purporting to refer to some statement made by me.
– It appeared in the Mel-‘ bourne press this week-end.
– That, of course, is no guarantee of its accuracy. The honorable member asked what action I proposed to take in conjunction with the Premier of Victoria, and in reply I have to inform him that -there have been consultations between the Premier, Mr. Cain, and myself. I have also kept closely in touch with the persons associated with the dispute. However, I had no contact with the union, and have no comment to make as to the accuracy of the statement attributed to Mr. Cranwell. I have nothing further to say on the subject at the moment. As the situation develops I propose to discuss it again with the Premier of Victoria.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that the unlawful industrial disturbance in Victoria has in the last two days reached the position of extreme gravity? Is he aware that both State and Federal laws are being violated with impunity by certain people who arc well known? Does he agree that failure to deal with these lawbreakers is only encouraging otherwise decent people to look upon the Government with contempt? Will he collaborate with the law authorities in Victoria to devise some effective method of dealing with people who order or incite bodies of men to take action in conflict with the laws of the country?
– I appreciate the honorable member’s concern,’ but it is unnecessary for him to re-state the importance and gravity of the situation in Victoria. Neither I nor those advising me in my department are aware, having looked through certain sections that have been referred to, that the Commonwealth can at present take any legal action, but I will have the matter looked into afresh and see what can be done in the matter. I am quite aware of the gravity o,f the situation, but the .honorable gentleman must remember that the Arbitration Court has made an order in one of three cases. That order is not yet operative owing- tothe court’s own decision that it shall stand in abeyance for a time. Two other cases are coming UP. Nothing that I have said is designed to prejudice those matters.
– The Prime Minister recently promised that he would confer with the Attorney-General in response to my request that action for contempt of court be taken against Mr. J. Cranwell, federal ‘president of the Amalgamated Engineering .Union, and the Communist, Mr. J. J. Brown, under section 58ab of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which prescribes a heavy fine for incitement to strike. In view of the increasing gravity of the strike position in Victoria, caused largely by the continued activity of these agitators, and the great hardship and unemployment unnecessarily falling upon the people of Victoria >and the threat to the peace and good order of the State, will the Prime Minister inform the House the result of his consultations with his colleague and when action is to be taken?
– Naturally, the question raised, by the honorable member, and other aspects of the very serious trouble in Victoria, have been the subject of- consultation between the Attorney-General and myself. The Attorney-General indicated that at the moment certain court proceedings are being taken in this matter. These proceedings will not be concluded for some little time, and I am unable at this stage to make any statement with regard to the consultations that have taken place.
– Can the Prime Minister assure the House that he fully appreciates the seriousness of the situation in Victoria?
– Order ! The Prime Minister already has answered that question three times.
– Can the Prime Minister give the .assurance that he is fully aware of the possible andprobable incidents and disturbances which could quite easily occur if a big city such as Melbourne were blacked out and all its public utilities ceased to operate? Can the right honorable gentleman also gave the assurance that he has discussed with the Premier of Victoria ways “and means of meeting any eventuality, and indicate what action is in contemplation ?
– I have discussed this matter with the Premier of Victoria on a number of occasions, the latest being this morning. I am fully alive to all the possibilities of the situation, and have no further statement to make at the present time.
– Can the Treasurer say whether an employee who has undertaken to purchase bonds in security loans by having amounts deducted weekly from his salary or wages is entitled to receive the bonds when the final payments have been made? . In the event of the firm which employs him retaining the bond what action can the employee take in order to obtain it? Does the right honorable gentleman not think that if the practice of withholding bonds from employees became prevalent it would tend to deter workers from subscribing to such loans?
– After the final payment is made it takes some time for arrangements to be completed for the issue of the bonds, owing to the great volume of work. 1 shall have the matter examined, and further information will be( made available to the honorable member later.
REPORT in .Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ “SS. “Misr”.
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen a report in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph that Douglas Robson, a member of the first batch of 200 British builder-migrants, is leaving for England by Themistocles because he does not like our working conditions, pay or way of living? Can the Minister say whether this report is correct?
– I read the report referred to, and I asked the officers of the Immigration Department to advise me regarding it. They have informed me that the statement in the Daily Telegraph concerning one Douglas Robson, who is reputed to have come here as one of the first 200 builders from Britain, and who is now allegedly returning, is sheer fiction. They also stated that there was no man of that name among the first 200 British builder-migrants, and no one with a name even remotely resembling it. -Neither was there a man of that name among the 300 who arrived in the second ship. They also say that no one of . that name has booked a passage on Themistocles for return to Britain. This story appears to be another one of those that have emanated from the “ lie factory “ in the Daily Telegraph office, and which are served up to the public as news.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration relating to the ship Misr which arrived recently with some migrants from abroad. The Minister was good enough to make a short statement about it the other day from -his own observation. However, during the weekend. I had a conversation with a man who was a passenger on that ship and who seemed to be a man of experience and of sound judgment, and- his account of a great number of those migrants was, to put it midly, simply revolting - so much so that I have felt very disturbed about it since. Therefore, I desire to ask the Minister - and I put the question not because of any prejudice in this matter or with a desire to create prejudice - whether any statements have been taken from passengers as to the type of people included among those migrants and as to the conditions under which they travelled. If not, could such statements be taken while passengers are yet available? In particular, I have been told that several Australian seamen from the vessel Katoomba travelled on Misr. and they might be able to give very useful information on these matters. Particularly, I ask whether the Minister could have a searching examination made into this matter for the satisfaction of the public mind, because not only have I been told this but also a great number of people have had similar accounts given to them.
– I appreciate that the Leader of the Opposition has not asked the question in any spirit of prejudice and that he does desire to secure the fullest information possible about the conditions under which approximately 700 people, representing 26 nationalities, travelled on the Egyptian shipMisr from Port Said, via Durban, to Australia recently. I saw the ship at Fremantle, but I was not able to board it at that port. However, I did board the vessel at Melbourne, as I announced in the House recently, and I gave it as my opinion that the lack of knowledge of modern sanitation and hygiene on the part of a number of passengers created very great difficulties for others. I, myself, did not hear many complaints on the morning of the day on which I boarded the ship. In order that the question of security might be adequately covered, I placed two departmental officers on the vessel at Fremantle and they travelled on it to Melbourne. They are therefore in a position to report on conditions on the ship generally, but they presented me with no adverse reports comparable with the allegations which were made to the right honorable gentleman by his informant. To ensure that every endeavour is made to set the public mind at rest on this matter, I will have as searching an investigation made as can be undertaken now, not only with whatever passengers are available to give information, but also through the two officers whom I mentioned and in whom I have complete trust. One of them was with the Security Service during World War II., and served as a major in World War I. The other is a Western Australian officer of my department, who was a major in the Australian Imperial Force and who was a prisoner of war in the hands of the Japanese for a number of years. Both officers are men of sufficient standing to have their reports regarded as being authentic and reliable. I shall obtain the information as soon as possible.
-I wish to ask the
Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral a question which arises from the fact that many primary producers in my electorate are unable to keep their party telephone lines in order owing to lack of wire. The Minister will realize how valuable a good telephone service is to primary producers. Is it possible to obtain wire for this purpose through the Postmaster-General’s Department? Would the Postmaster-General make supplies available from departmental stocks?
– Like the honorable member, I realize how important a good telephone service can be to primary producers. I know how important it is to members of Parliament. I shall ask the Postmaster-General, when he returns to Canberra next week, to look into the matter to see if it is possible to meet the honorable member’s wishes and thus serve the needs of primary producers by making wire available. I am sure the PostmasterGeneral will be only too happy to do so. There may be difficulties in the way. I do not know just what is implied in the question raised, but I am certain that the Postmaster-General will do whatever he can in the matter.
Continuation of Medical Activities
– Recently, Colonel Gordon, formerly British Supply Officer to General Eisenhower, who has been studying supply problems in Europe, pointed out the vitalimportance of continuing the medical work of Unrra after Unrra ceases that work. His statement coincides with statements by Unrra officers who estimate that hundreds of thousands of deaths from typhus and tuberculosis will occur if Unrra medical activities cease. I ask the Minister for External Affairs: Has the Commonwealth representative on Unrra taken any steps to prevent the cessation of Unrra’s medical work when it is still necessary? If not, will the Minister instruct the Australian representative to do so ? Further, will the Minister consult with the Minister for Health to ensure that Australia will have sufficient supplies of serum to give medical aid to the greatest possible degree whether or not Unrra medical aid continues, or whether or not the United Nations continues the work through some other instrumentality?
– The honorable member has called attention to the danger of there being a gap in the medical work of Unrra which, has been very important and, in some respects, very successful. Recently, the United Nations called a conference dealing with health, and approved a draft constitution of the World Health Organization; and that body took into account the very matter to. which the honorable member has referred, that is, with the probability of Unrra ceasing its activities in a month or so, what could be done to fill the gap in the meantime. As one of its purposes, the Health Conference has set up an interim commission on which, I think, Australia is represented by Dr. Redshaw; and Unrra allocated to that body, which will continue the health work of Unrra as far as possible, the sum of 1,000,000 dollars. In addition, there is the Children’s International Relief Organization, to which I referred in the House last week. In relation to that, there will be medical work of importance, particu- . larly in respect of tuberculosis, rickets and other diseases caused through malnutrition. There is no need to give any specific instruction to our representatives because they are aware of the importance of the matter to which the honorable member refers. I shall consult with the Minister for Health on the matter raised in his last question. As a matter of fact, the Government decided only to-day that it will introduce legislation to secure the permanent adherence of Australia to the World Health Organization,part of the work of which will be devoted to carrying on this important work of Unrra.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question which arises from a recent Government announcement that employment figures had reached a record high level in Australia, the figure mentioned being, I think, 95 per cent. In view of the fact that there are now greater shortages of sugar, soap, matches, boots and shoes, and many clothing items, than during the war period, that the position in regard to housing appears to be getting worse instead of better, and that there is very little improvement in the supply of fencing wire and other farm requirements, can the Prime Minister say, having, regard to the official statement that there are more people at work in Australia than ever before in precisely what occupations these people are employed?
– It is apparent that the honorable member has not been very observant in her travels or she would have realized that a great number of activities which could not be carried on during the war are now proceeding. It is only necessary to travel through the countryside to see the large number of houses being erected, many of them by private enterprise, and in the capital cities of all States, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, whole blocks of buildings being constructed. Apart from that, a great deal, of work is being carried out in the repair of factories, houses and buildings of all kinds, which could not be undertaken during the Avar. The unemployment figures recently supplied by the Minister for Labour and National Service are the official figures. Many of the people who are not working to-day are unemployed because they are not physifully fit to undertake the kinds of work that are offering. Local governing bodies are also undertaking large programmes of work which could not be proceeded with during the war, including the construction of roads, curbing and guttering, and the reticulation of water supplies in cities and towns. As to factory production, Ido not profess to say that the whole output is of essential goods. A, proportion of factory production is of luxury goods, as will be seen from an inspection of the goods offered for sale in shop windows to-day as compared with the war period. It is not possible offhand to supply figures relating to the number of employees in each different industry. I shall endeavour to obtain the information from the Commonwealth Statistician, and shall supply a fuller answer to the honorable member as soon as practicable. ‘
Rights of Private Citizens
– Is there any way in which reputable private citizens may be protected from libellous, untrue and damaging statements made by honorable members in this House under parliamentary privilege, such as those made by the honorable member for New England last week about decent citizens who are known to me - and many of them, doubtless, to the Prime Minister - to be entirely opposed to communism or to have any connexion with the Communist party? -Mr. CHIFLEY. - -So far as I knowand I believe that my legal friends in the House will agree - there is no way in which a private citizen may obtain redress in respect of libellous statements made in the Parliament under the cover of parliamentary privilege. I have always regarded it as a reflection on democracy that statements should be permitted to be made in this chamber under the cover of privilege which may entirely ruin the career of a private citizen.
– Or another member of the Parliament.
Mv. CHIFLEY.- That is so. I have always sought to avoid saying anything in the Parliament that I would not say outside this chamber. That is a guiding principle which some honorable members might well adopt. I admit that occasionally it may be necessary for honorable members to make attacks in the Parliament on private persons, that being the only means of bringing a matter of malpractice to the notice of the public; recourse to this means should, however, be the exception rather than the rule. Many of the people mentioned by the honorable member for New England are constituents of my own electorate. I had not heard of some of them before, but I have been receiving letters from individuals who have been accused by the honorable member for New England of having had some association with ‘ communism. They strenuously deny the honorable member’s allegation and, from inquiries I have made during the week-end, there would appear to be not the slightest justification for some of the charges that were made. However, unless this House itself is prepared to act, I cannot see any w.ay of ensuring protection to private citizens who are libelled in this House.
– I ask the Prime Minister what consideration, if any, has been given by the Government to the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition that any extension of food rationing in Australia to provide greater assistance to Great Britain should be the joint responsibility of all parties in this Parliament ?
– I assume that I have the permission of the Leader of the Oppo1sition to mention the fact that prior to the meeting of the Parliament this week he sent me a telegram suggesting that as there were so many difficult problems associated with any extension of rationing to provide more food for Britain, both he, and the Leader of the Australian Country party would be prepared to accept membership of a joint parliamentary committee to examine the whole question. In reply, I -indicated to the right honorable gentleman that I would place his suggestion before Cabinet. I did so, and, in its wisdom, Cabinet decided that, as all the facts in relation to the matter were known, nothing could be gained by the appointment of a joint parliamentary committee. I also informed the right honorable gentleman that a Cabinet sub-committee was being appointed to review the matters and that at a later stage I hoped to be able to make a statement, to the Parliament. That is where the position rests to-day.
– It has been stated recently that Australia’s population i3 moving rapidly .towards the older age groups. If that statement be correct, the speeding up of immigration is imperative. So that the Australian people may he informed of population trends in this country, I ask the Minister for Immigration whether he will make a statement to this -House at some later date ‘ on the following matters: - (1) The number of individuals, per million, of 65 years or over to-day, compared with 1900, and with the figures for the intervening periods during which a census has been taken; (2) the number of. children per family in 1900 compared with 1947, and the significance of this’ trend; (3) the number of marriages, and the number of families, showing the number of childless marriages; (4) any other information that will present a complete picture of future population trends and age groups among the Australian people?
– There is considerable merit in the suggestion of the honorable member for Denison, who, for ten years, was Minister for Health in a State government. ‘ I do not know just how soon all the information sought could be -compiled nor do I know whether it is all readily available, but I shall do my best to have it assembled. I shall then consider either making a statement to the House, or perhaps convening a departmental committee to study the whole problem and to supply me with information upon which I can make a detailed statement at a later stage.
– Will the Prime Minister revert to the practice that prevailed in war-time under which when a Minister was going overseas on an important mission .there was an all-party farewell to him? Shortly we shall have the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Information going away, and I think that such an auspicious occasion should be marked by a proper farewell. I ask that 100 naval ratings attend as a guard of honour so that they shall be accorded a fitting farewell.
– The honorable member probably knows that I am averse to an excessive ‘number of parties being held.
– So am I.
– Therefore, I have endeavoured to discourage rather than encourage parties being held for any reason. Time and money can be spent to better purpose. But I will give consideration to the honorable gentleman’s request.
– Will the Prime. Minister inform me whether two proposals for drought relief were submitted to the Commonwealth Government recently by the Quensland Government? Has it agreed in either of those proposals to come within the Commonwealth drought relief scheme, under which the Commonwealth and the State each pays 50 per cent, of the grant that is made to drought-stricken’ primary producers within that State? Has the Prime Minister also given any consideration to the submission of the Premier of Queens- , land, Mr. Hanlon, that the Commonwealth payment of drought relief to New South Wales was unconstitutional? Did not Mr. Hanlon make a complaint regarding the Commonwealth contribution of one-half of the amount of £1,500,000, which was paid to relieve distressed cereal growers in New South Wales? Did not the scheme provide that the Commonwealth’ and’ the State should provide money on a £1 for £1 basis for those in distress?
– Perhaps the position will be clarified if I prepare a statement in reply to the honorable member question. On a previous occasion, I made it clear that the Queensland Government, I understood, did not desire to participate in Commonwealth-State schemes providing assistance to droughtstricken primary producers on a £1 for £1 basis. The views of the Queensland Government regarding the granting of relief to primary producers or others affected by drought and other disasters was that loans should be m’ade at a certain* rate of interest through the available organizations. On the .other hand, the Government of New South Wales was generally prepared to agree to any proposal for Commonwealth-State assistance on a £1 for £1 basis. Any State Government may submit to the Loan Council requests for loan money for the purpose of providing drought relief. If the Loan Council approves of such an application, - the Commonwealth meets one-half of the sinking fund payments. The honorable member asked whether . I had received two requests from. Queensland. Apart from earlier correspondence, I received quite recently from the Premier of Queensland, a letter protesting rather against the granting of money to ‘ New South Wales under this scheme, and the omission of Queensland. I do not remember any other recent correspondence on the subject, and I am sure that the Queensland Government has not offered to contribute on a £1 for £1 basis: However, I shall have a statement prepared dealing with the matters raised by the honorable member so as to make perfectly clear what has happened. As to whether the Commonwealth has the constitutional power to make grants of this kind, I have yet to find that when the Government is giving anything away any one raises objections to the constitutional validity of the payment.
Reseller’s Permits for ex-Servicemen.
– In New South Wales and other parts of Australia many ex-servicemen are desirous of establishing petrol bowzers, particularly in view of the recent increase in motoring. When an ex-serviceman in New South Wales applies to the Liquid Fuel Control Board for a permit he is informed that a permit will only be granted if he can produce evidence that he can secure a pump. When he approaches an oil company for a pump he is told he will only be provided with one if he can produce a permit from the Liquid Fuel Control Board. He is therefore completely frustrated. This question was raised in the House several months ago by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and the honorable member for Bendigo, and they were told that action would be taken to rectify this position. Nevertheless, I was approached in my electorate yesterday by several ex-servicemen who told me that they had applied for permits to the Liquid Fuel Control Board some time ago but were still unable to obtain any satisfaction from the board. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping see that some liaison is established between the Liquid Fuel Control Board and the oil companies to overcome this difficulty.
– I do not know whether the Commonwealth Government has power to rectify this complaint. The Liquid Fuel Control Board is empowered to issue permits for petrol pumps, but the supply of the pumps is entirely a matter for the oil companies. Obviously, a permit is not of much use to an individual unless he can secure a pump.
– He cannot get one without the other.
– I am not aware of the circumstances of this matter, but I shall consult with the Minister for Supply and Shipping and ascertain whether anything can be done.
Shortage of Supplies in Queensland.
– I have just flown from Queensland, where there is considerable consternation among industrialists because of their inability to obtain necessary foods, including eggs and potatoes, only one of each of which can be procured after queueing up for a long while. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping immediately ensure the availability to the people of the stocks of food that are being held ? Will he also make it possible for the workers of Queensland to purchase matches, which at present are unprocurable?
– Judging by the honorable member’s personal appearance, it does not seem that the people of Queensland are in very grave danger of starvation. I shall refer his question to the Minister for Supply and Shipping.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether the Government has received the report of the Australian observer who accompanied the Japanese whaling ships to Antarctica. If so, will the report be tabled for the information of honorable members?
– I have not yet seen the report. The officer mentioned is not attached to my department. I shall have the matter looked into immediately, in order to decide whether the report may be made available to the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether there has been a sudden increase of the price of chaff bags in Australia. If so, who’ is responsible for it? Have any steps been taken to review the fixed retail price of chaff, in order to overcome the difficulty with which chaff suppliers are now faced? Is the State or the Commonwealth responsible for chaffbag importation and administration?
– There has been a substantial increase of the landed cost of chaff bags, from, I believe, approximately 15s. 6d. to approximately 25s. 6d. a dozen.
– Does not the subsidy cover that?
– Although I am not answering a question by the honorable member for Richmond, I, inform him that a subsidy has never been payable in respect of chaff bags. The Commonwealth Prices Commissioner has authorized purchasers of chaff bags to pass on the recent substantial increase of the landed cost. It. is open to those who sell chaff wholesale or retail to make an application to’ the Prices Commissioner, if they think fit, for an increase of price which will recoup them the increased cost in which they are involved in the purchase of chaff bags
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 24th April (vide page 1620). Clause S -
Part III. of the Principal Act is repealed and the following Parts are inserted in its stead : -
Proposed new section 36 - ( 1 . ) If it appears to the Court on the application of any organization or person interested or of the Registrar -
– I move -
That, in proposed new sub-section (1.), after the word “ of “, first occurring, the following words be inserted: - “the Attorney -General or of “
If the amendment be agreed to, the proposed new section will read - ( I . ) If it appears, to the Court on the application of the Attorney-General or of any organization or person interested or of the Registrar -
The rest of the proposed new section deals with certain conditions which are to operate during the period for which an award is suspended. Proposed new section 36 empowers the court to cancel an award, which an organization has disobeyed, should the court believe that the breach is of such seriousness as to justify cancellation. My amendment would permit the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth as well as the persons and organizations already mentioned, in any case in which he thought that an award should be cancelled in the public interest, to approach the court with a view to that being done. In the course of my second-reading speech, I said that the Government had evaded the real issue in this legislation, namely, whether we are to have industrial law in Australia in something more than name - a law which has the authority which the word “law” signifies, commands the respect which the word implies, is backed by the authority of the government of the day, and is enforced through various tribunals.’ Although it is true that certain penalties are provided, I have looked in vain for provisions in the bill which indicate that the Government is determined to make this law effective. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has given notice of an amendment to provide additional disciplinary action, but the Government itself has not made any such move. So far as’ I am aware, the only action which the Government can take under Commonwealth legislation is the restricted action open to it under the Crimes Act. At question time to-day, the Attorney-General (Dr.. Evatt) admitted that he had considered the matter of the disciplinary powers which could be exercised by the Government, but he was not able to indicate to the House any particular power which could be used. He added that he thought that the Crimes Act was not applicable to the present industrial situation in Victoria. If the Government really desired to have the power necessary to enable it, of its own volition, to discipline those .who violate awards of the court and disobey the industrial laws of the Commonwealth by going so far as to challenge the authority of the Government, it would have made certain that this legislation contained the necessary provisions. My amendment does not cover all that I think should be provided in this legislation. I should like to see in it a provision authorizing the court to commit for contempt any person who incites others to disobey an award. Such a provision would be similar to the power which was recently enforced against the leader of an organization of miners in the United States of America who was deemed to have been guilty of contempt of court- for inciting members of his organization to disobey a ruling given by the court. “What is proposed here is something of that character in that it would enable the Attorney-General, as the instrument of the government of the clay, to institute proceedings before the court in order to bring about the deregistration of an organization, or the cancellation of an award, in cases in which he believed that in the public interest that should be done. The issue I have referred to is, perhaps, the gravest this country has to face. Broadly, it is whether Governments elected by the people, and tribunals appointed by them, will be able to give force and effect to the decisions they promulgate. Recently, we have seen those decisions defied with impunity by people who placed themselves beyond the law. They have assumed an arrogance and truculence which have become obnoxious to the people, and their actions have brought in their train serious dislocation and loss. In Victoria, we are _ in the midst of what can only be termed a national emergency. Power and transport services have been dislocated, and production has been retarded, while the public has been occasioned great inconvenience, suffering and loss. We have waited in vain for governments to assert their authority so as to. give some real force to the decisions of tribunals. When we ask at this late hour what the Government proposes to do we are not able to obtain any clear statement from the Government. The Attorney-General said that Commonwealth legislation did not give him authority to do the things for which we are pressing. Therefore, I bring this proposal forward as an instalment. Perhaps the Attorney-General, realizing the advantage to himself and to the Government of such a provision, will agree to accept the amendment. Whether or not the power is exercised, the mere existence of the provision should be a deterrent.
– I arn not going to accept the invitation to deal with the whole subject of what is called by one group “ disciplinary action “, and by another group “ coercive action “. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has certain proposals which, I have no doubt, he will bring forward in due course, and I do not intend to anticipate the debate on them. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), asks the committee to make it clear that an application in connexion with de-registration, which can be made by “ a person interested “ -in the matter, can also be made by the Crown through the Attorney-General. For my part, I always believed that the phrase “a person interested” included the Attorney-General and the Crown, but decisions of the court have been given in opposition to this view. I believe that there may well be cases by which the Crown should properly be a party, and for that reason I am prepared to accept the amendment of the honorable member. I think that the Attorney-General should have the right to intervene in the public interest if it is thought fit. However, the honorable member must take into account that, broadly speaking, the authority which should enforce the decisions of the court is the court itself, and the officers of the court. There is provision in the bill for that to be done. The High Court has never denied the right of the Crown to intervene in an industrial dispute; but the Arbitration Court itself, by some of its decisions, has left the matter open to doubt. I am willing to accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new sections 37 to 39 agreed to.
Proposed new section 40 - (1.) If an agreement between all or any of the parties as to the whole or any part of the dispute is arrived at, a memorandum of its terms shall be made in writing and certified by a Conciliation Commissioner, and the memorandum shall when so certified, be filed in the office of the Registrar, and, unless otherwise ordered, and subject to any direction of the Court or Conciliation Commissioner, shall, as between the parties to the agreement or any successor, or any assignee or transmittee of the business of a party bound by the agreement, including any corporation which has acquired or taken over the business of such a party, have the same effect as, and be deemed to be, an award for all the purposes of this Act. (2.) A Conciliation Commissioner may refuse to certify any such memorandum if he is of opinion that -
– I move -
That, in proposed new sub-section (1.), the words a Conciliation Commissioner “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the Court or by the Conciliation Commissioner”.
This amendment and the following one have for their purpose the placing of the court and a conciliation commissioner on the same footing in respect of certification of industrial agreements upon matters within their respective jurisdictions.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section further consequentially amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new sections 41 and 42 agreed to.
Proposed new section 43 -
The Court or a Conciliation Commissioner may. in relation to an industrial dispute which comes before it or him -
vary an order or award and re-open any question;
set aside an order or award or any of the terms of an order or award;
– I move-
That the words “ which comes before it or him” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “, and the Court may, in relation to any other proceedings before it”.
This proposed new section provides that the court or a conciliation commissioner may do certain things in relation to industrial disputes. The effect of the amendment will be to enable the court to do those things in relation to matters other than industrial disputes, which come within its powers.
– Such as what?
– The section, when amended as proposed, will read -
The Court or a Conciliation Commissioner may, in relation to an industrial dispute, and the Court may in relation to any other proceedings before it …
The court’s jurisdiction does not relate only to industrial disputes. It has also authority to enforce awards, and to hear appeals. The purpose of the amendment is to make it clear that the powers of the court will not be confined to its arbitral functions, but will extend to all proceedings before it - to an application for deregistration, for instance. Thus, the amendment expresses the intention more fully and more accurately.
Amendment agreed to.
– Paragraph e of proposed new section 43 gives to the court, or a conciliation commissioner - but I am raising the matter in connexion with the court - power to -
I just want to raise this aspect of the matter : In ordinary arbitration proceedings I can very well understand the view, at any rate it has been a long time established, that as a general rule there should be no costs. But suppose the court, as a Full Court, has before it a question of interpretation, or a question of jurisdiction, or some other question involving, maybe, very difficult legal arguments? There is power elsewhere for the court to , have the assistance of solicitors, or counsel, and the matters will be fought out between the parties through their legal representatives. Why should there be no power in the court in those circumstances to order the loser to pay the costs to the winner?
Lt is a very sound and healthy rule. As a matter of fact, without such a rule there would be a good deal of frivolous litiga[lon in the court, as the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) knows from experience. The possibility of awarding costs against the unsuccessful litigant acts as a reasonable deterrent to frivolous claims. Where the court, as under this bill, is actually confined to matters of major importance in the View of the Government, or matters which are of legal significance, the court is given mower to allow legal representatives to appear, I want to know why there will be no power whatever in the court to make an order for costs which will include the costs of the legal representatives. They will get their costs, of course, from their own clients; they are not involved in this matter. The solicitor and counsel engaged by the particular parties will be paid their fees. The only question is whether the court is going to have power, which it would exercise in a proper way, to make the loser, who, perhaps, brought the other party there unwarrantedly, pay those legal costs. N”o reason has been advanced - and I should be very much assisted to hear one - as to why this particular matter should be put outside the functions of the court. I emphasize that it does not require the court to order these costs, but gi ves the court power to order these costs, and in some cases it will be a gross injustice if the costs have to be borne by the successful party. Then, I understand The court has to exercise some jurisdictional functions in relation to breaches of awards. I would be glad to be corrected on that point, but I understand that is so. Supposing an employer breaks an award, and does it under pretty flagrant and deliberate circumstances - and I have seen many cases of that kind - and he is prosecuted, why should he not be ordered to pay the professional costs incurred by those who prosecute him? It is not to be thought that all these things run in one direction ; they do not. Most proceedings which arise out of awards are proceedings against employers who are alleged to have broken awards, because it is very much easier to identify with an alleged “ breach the party uponwhom the greater obligation is placed. Consequently, most of these proceedings will be proceedings against employers; and I, in my time, have been concerned in a great number of proceedings of that kind on behalf of trade unions. . I raise the question whether, the. prosecution being successful, there should not be power in the court to order the payment of what will, after all, be the most substantial item in the costs incurred.
– The point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) is met by proposed new section 32, paragraph e of which, as amended earlier by the com1mittee, gives the court power - . . . to make such orders as the court thinks just ils to the costs and expenses (including expenses of witnesses) of any proceedings before the court other than an industrial dispute as to the costs and expenses of which an order may be made under paragraph (c) of section 43 of this Act.
We are now dealing with proposed new section 43. Heading .those two provisions together, they mean that in the strictly legal business of the court where it is dealing with enforcement applications and exercising its strictly judicial power, the court’s power to order costs would be of the general character mentioned in proposed new section 43 (e) the limitation excluding costs of counsel, solicitor or agent in relation to an industrial dispute. That applies only to matters where the court is dealing with an industrial dispute.
– But many of these matters will be matters involved in an industrial dispute - arguments of jurisdiction, for example.
– That becomes a slightly different application. I do not think that it would be an application of the character which would exclude those payments. However, I shall look into the matter. I think that it is clear that the court’s general power to order costs would not exclude the costs of those who were employed to argue the point for the parties in jurisdictional proceedings. That is the intention of the drafting, and should any further clarification be needed I shall have the matter examined and attended to in the Senate. But the two provisions which I have cited cover the very point referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. They have to be read together.
.- The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) should have a further look at this matter. A dispute itself is of very wide ambit. This is not a plea for lawyers, because parties may appear by agents; and we know that in the industrial jurisdiction they do so in nearly 90 per cent. of cases. If the parties to a dispute consider it important that they be represented, some provision should be made for their, fees where the court thinks it proper that costs should be awarded. The AttorneyGeneral has drawn attention to proposed new section 32 with relation to the power of the court to order costs; but it is no answer to say that that provision covers the matter and that proposed new section 43, now before the committee, is only a minor matter. It is not.
– Not a minor matter; it is’ a different matter.
– It is a different matter, but still an important matter ; and I support the Leader of the Opposition in urging that consideration be given to eliminating the latter part of paragraph c of this proposed new section.
– Like the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), I am glad the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will have a further look at this. Perhaps I might just say, by way of clarifying the point I raised, that the earlier amendment of proposed new section 32 is one which relates to an industrial dispute for the costs and expenses of which an order may be made. It seems to me that some of these very questions I have referred to will arise as part and parcel of an industrial dispute. It may be that when the drafting authorities have had a closer look at this matter they may not agree with this view. On the. face of it many questions of jurisdiction will arise in the course of industrial disputes, and a conciliation commissioner in dealing with an industrial dispute may choose to refer the question of jurisdiction to the judges of the court, and the court will have power to hear solicitors or counsel on terms indicated in a subsequent amendment. My point is this : There may be nine cases out of ten in which the question of jurisdiction may be raised in a bona fide fashion, and the court may say, “ We shall not order costs to be paid I can remember a number of cases of proceedings under section 21aa in which the late Mr. Justice Higgins said - “ On this question of jurisdiction I shall allow no costs “ ; but there were many others in which costs were awarded. I have no doubt that the court would unhesitantly award costs if it came to the conclusion that objection to the jurisdiction had been raised without proper foundation. Suppose some recalcitrant group of employers desired to obstruct the proceedings in the Arbitration Court until they had raised the question of jurisdiction, saying - “ This is not an interstate dispute within the Constitution or within the meaning of the Act “ and the Arbitration Court validly comes to the conclusion that there is an industrial dispute within the meaning of the act and the Constitution. The point I make is that in such circumstances there should be power in the court to order the losing side to pay the professional costs of the wining side. That is a valid power for the court to exercise. It is true that in ninetynine cases in every hundred it may not be exercised, but the hundredth case may call aloud for the exercise of such a power. I see no reason why we should not clothe the Arbitration Court with a power of that kind. I am glad to know the Attorney-General will look at this proposal again to see if these two sections, when read together, will cover the field as well as he hopes.
– I move-
That paragraphs (k) and (l) be left out.
It is proposed to include the powers mentioned in paragraphsk andl, in a later proposed new section 43gb. Under that section it is made clear that the variation of an award or order, the re-opening of any question and the setting aside of an award by a court or a conciliation commissioner may be exercised by each of those authorities only in matters in respect of which it or he has power to make an order or award.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new section 43a (Common rules).
– This proposed new section contains provisions relating to the making of an order or award a common rule in an industry in connexion with which a dispute arises. I should like to know from the Attorney-General why he proposes to insert this section in this way. As honorable members know, the provision for a common rule was declared invalid by the High Court many years ago. Since that time there has arisen in the courts a series of questions as to whether the Arbitration Court, in dealing with a dispute between a body of unionists in an organization and a body of employers, should, make rules as to the wages to be paid to non-unionists in the same group, calling or industry. Starting from the point of time at which the court said, “No; you cannot do that”, there was a gradual development of a different set of ideas until we reached the stage when it was felt that, in the event of a dispute between an organization of employers and an organization of employees, in which a claim was made, that non-members of the employees’ organization should be paid certain rates, the court should have power . to order the payment of such rates. But that is still not a common rule; it is the making of an award in a practical sense. The provision for taking up an award and converting it into a common rule seems to be one of almost established invalidity. I would like to know why the provision is being inserted in this legislation.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has referred to a matter which has a lengthy history, namely, the power of the court to make a common rule in industry. Since the original decision denying power to the court to make such an order was made about 20 or 30 years ago, not merely in respect of disputants served with a log and represented in court, but also those not so served and represented, there have been some very important decisions by theHigh Court tending towards the expansion of the jurisdiction of the court. In one case to which the Leader of the Opposition referred, the Metal Trades case, the employees’ organization demanded of specified employers that they should observe certain conditions and pay certain wages, not only in respect of members of the organization but also persons whowere not themselves parties to the dispute, namely, non-unionists. The object of the union vas to remove any temptation from employers to employ nonunionists at wages less than those fixed by the award. The court upheld the claim of the organization. This is not quite the same problem. The question is, whether the court, in settling a dispute, should have power, or should be given power, to say to a union which has served 950 employers with a demand, “ The dispute really concerns 950 employers, but we find that there are another twelve employers who have not been served with a notice of demand and a log and who, technically, are not parties to the dispute. They, too, shall be bound by the order of the court “. If the court simply declared a rule to be common to the industry these twelve employers would be so bound and every State industrial court would have authority to exercise that power. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that the High Court originally declared that that was not incidental to arbitration, and asks why the provision is retained in the present measure. It has been retained because it seems to me that this bill, which emphasizes the preventive side of jurisdiction, intended to be exercised under the Constitution, should not exclude from the act authority to bind such employers for the purpose of preventing or settling ah industrial dispute, or of preventing further industrial disputes.
– Could the court include other specified persons instead of making a common rule?
– Maybe, under certain conditions. That might involve the creation of another dispute. However, I do not want to become involved in the technicalities of how the roping-in of parties may be performed.
-What the AttorneyGeneral believes is that the original decision must stand?
– I would rather put it t hat the original decision may be subject to the same modification as one or two other decisions.
– That is what I meant.
– The right honorable member perhaps put it more directly. I have added a few words to proposed new section 43a to suggest that in considering this, the court might be properly held to have this power as part of its preventive jurisdiction instead of its purely arbitral jurisdiction. At any rate, for . what authority it can give, I propose to retain it.
Proposed new section agreed to.
Proposed new section 43b agreed to.
Proposed new section 43c -
In determining an industrial dispute under this Act, a Conciliation Commissioner shall provide, so far as possible, and so far as the Conciliation Commissioner thinks proper, for uniformity throughout an industry carried on by employers in relation to hours of work, holidays and general conditions in that industry.
– I move -
That, after the word “ Act,”, the following words be inserted: - “the Court or”.
It is desirable that this section should apply to the court as well as to conciliation commissioners, particularly as two of the matters referred to, namely, hour’s of work and holidays, are matters within the sole jurisdiction of the court.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That, after the word “the”, the following words be inserted: - “Court or”.
This amendment is consequential upon that to which the committee has just agreed. Its object is to bind the court as well as the conciliation commissioners in respect of the observance of uniformity in industry, because the court, too, deals with certain aspects of the matters mentioned in this proposed new section.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
.- The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has been referring to the necessity to secure uniformity in the decisions of the conciliation commissioners. I wish to move to insert a new section which has for its purpose an assurance of a more general uniformity in the operations of the conciliation commissioners - a uniformity that will spring from the pronouncement of certain principles by the court itself. I move -
That the following new section be inserted: - “43ca. - (1.) The Court may, for the purposes of ensuring as far as may he deemed desirable uniformity of conditions and awards and preserving the interests of the public enunciate from time to time such general principles as it may deem fit for the guidance of Conciliation Commissioners. “ (2.) Conciliation Commissioners shall ob serve the principles so enunciated bythe Court, and, where an award or order of a Conciliation Commissioner differs from the principles so enunciated, the Court may determine what provision shall be made in such award or order in the issue in question, and it shall be made accordingly.’”
The purpose of the amendment is clear. It is to impose upon the court the obligation to propound certain principles of uniformity for the guidance of the conciliation commissioners. If adopted, the proposed new section will meet one of the most potent criticisms that have been advanced against the measure.
– I rise to order.I seek your ruling, Mr. Chairman, as to how new clauses should be dealt with by the committee Last week, the leader of the Australian Country party (Mr.Fadden) dealt with this proposal, and he agreed that it should be deferred until new clauses are being considered at the end of the committee stage. There are three or four other proposed new sections. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the leader of the Australian Country party, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), and the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) have one each. I understand that the usual procedure in committee is to deal with proposed new clauses or sections at the end of the bill, and I think that that method would enable the committee to separate amendments from what are really new clauses or sections.
– My objection to the point raised by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is that, although it seems to be plausible - I. speak in no disrespectful sense - this debate is being conducted under the “ guillotine “, and it is highly probable that if my proposal has to wait until the time to move new clauses or sections arrives, it will not come before the committee at all, because the “ guillotine “ will fall before it has been moved. It was in anticipation of that contingency that protests were made by honorable members on this side against the “ guillotine “, but that matter has already been decided by the House. In that circumstance, I sought an appropriate place in the bill to move the proposed new section. This is the appropriate place. My proposal is related most intimately to the two amendments moved by the Attorney-General and accepted by the committee. If it was in order for the Attorney-General to move and foi- the committee to agree to those two amendments in order that there may be uniformity as between the conciliation commissioners in the operation of their jurisdiction, it is equally competent for you, Mr. Chairman, to allow me to move the insertion of the proposed new section, which has a similar purpose. If you rule to the contrary, the effect will be to debar the committee from voting on the issue at all.
– I remind you, Mi-. Chairman, that you apparently had the same view yourself that this was the appropriate place at which this matter should be discussed, because you called the honorable member for Indi when proposed new section 43d had been disposed of. I took it that you did that because von considered that the subject-matter of the proposed new section of the honorable member for Indi was in reality associated with the subject-matter of proposed new sections 43c and 43d, with which we have just dealt. Proposed new section 43c, for example, refers to a conciliation commissioner providing so far as possible and as far as he thinks proper for uniformity throughout an industry, and in proposed new section 43d there are refer ences to apprenticeship schemes that are to be taken into account. The matter proposed to be raised, though it takes the form of a proposed new section, is not in reality a proposed new clause but a new item to be written into the clause Under consideration. That is a material distinction. Therefore, the problem is merely one of convenience, and, as a matter of convenience, it should be taken when we are dealing with the problem of how far. we can ensure uniformity of treatment.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).I think the matter can be cleared at this juncture. The proposed new section has a direct reference to clause 8, which is under consideration. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) is in order in moving, at this stage, for the insertion of the proposed new section.
– My purpose is, as I was indicating, to ensure as far as one can in legislation the uniform acceptance of certain principles by the fifteen conciliation commissioners. The fear in the minds of honorable members on this side and many people outside is that this measure, which, we are told, is designed to secure expedition in the settlement of industrial disputes, will itself be provocative of new industrial disputes if the separate settlements of disputes by fifteen conciliation commissioners are not made on common principles. It is extraordinarily difficult, perhaps impossible, to write into legislation, which is to be permanent, enunciation of the principles to guide the commissioners. There can be no more competent body to guide the’ commissioners and to secure uniformity and even reserve the right to impose uniformity than the court itself. It is not suggested that the court should function in such a manner as to provide an opportunity for delay by appeals from the decisions of commissioners. On the contrary, it is a genuine attempt to ensure that there shall not be dissatisfaction in different sections of industry through one section securing an award from one commissioner and feeling that it has been dealt with less generously or with less understanding than has been another section that has enjoyed an award made by a different commissioner. The proposal of the Australian Country party is simple and understandable. It is not in conflict with any principle of the measure brought clown by the Government. Our objective is to strengthen the measure. I can only say that if this proposal should be accepted by the Government, it will, we most strongly believe, be conducive to more ready acceptance of awards by those who become the subject of awards made by conciliation commissioners. The latter part of the proposed new section provides that the court shall have authority where in its judgment some or one of the commissioners has not observed the principles enunciated by it. I urge the Government to accept the proposal.
– I support the proposed new section the aim of which is to secure a reasonable degree of uniformity of principle and avoidance of the creation of unnecessary anomalies as between industries. It must be obvious to all honorable members that if we have fifteen conciliation commissioners, or 21, according to the interpretation of some of the remarks made by the Minister, we shall have a great number of an unduly differentiating set of principles and ideas being applied to a variety of industries. We shall reach the stage where -each of the conciliation commissioners, being great in number, widely separated geographically, and handling industries or groups of industries to which they have been allotted in various States or districts, will form his own principles or form none if it seems best to him not to form any. The result will be a grave risk of serious anomalies and a high degree of chaos. There are three ways of avoiding that. We have tried two of them so far unsuccessfully. The honorable member for Indi is now trying the third. The first way of avoiding it, of course.- would have been to adopt the proposal to have a general right of appeal tr the court. That proposal was rejected. The second way of avoiding it would have been to accept the modified proposal suggested by me last week that there should be an appeal to the court by leave of the court, so that the court could control the volume and type of case that came to it, and, in so doing, of course, confine itself to matters which did involve substantial principles. That proposal was rejected. Now the honorable member for Indi, on behalf of the Leader of the Australian Country party, propounds this other amendment, in which he says to the Government, in effect, “ Very well ! You have rejected the universal appeal and the appeal by way of leave; at least you must make some attempt to secure uniformity of principle “.
Anybody who knows the history of industrial disputes in Australia knows that, if there is one thing that has produced industrial irritation, it is the sense of discrimination between industries and between classes of people who are working in the various industries. Nothing is more calculated to provoke a peaceable trade unionist to anger than the discovery that, in another industry across the street, another man who is doing exactly the same kind of work as his own has an award which gives him 5s. or 10s. more each week, or that some other standard has been applied to the conditions of that mail’s work. In these circumstances, it is of the first importance, if the court is not to have the power to take up cases on appeal, that at least it should have the power to examine broad questions of principle, to establish them from, time to time, and to propound them in such a way that they become the established background against which the conciliation commissioners work. That, as I see it, is the purport of this proposed new section. I submit that it is excellent.
– How would that be worked into the bill?
– In this way: the bill has, as its general structure, the establishment of a number of conciliation commissioners who will, broadly speaking, do the general arbitration work. In another compartment of the bill are the judges - the court - who are to deal, as a Full Court, with four specified, matters - the basic wage, standard hours, and so on -and with certain questions of interpretation and questions of law, .but who are not to deal with the ordinary arbitration work of the court. The proposal is designed to provide that the power of the court shall be extended to enable it to lay down certain general principles for the guidance of the conciliation commissioners in doing the work assigned to them under the bill. It does not provide that the Arbitration Court shall do that work. It accepts the proposition - though we are opposed to it - that the conciliation commissioners are to do the general arbitration work of the industrial jurisdiction. However, if that is to be so, it provides that the court, with its experience and its -capacity to judge, shall propound general principles and promulgate those- ‘
– The Full Court?
– The Full Court, because the court does not sit except as the Full Court under this scheme. Therefore, where the proposed new section .refers to the court the Full Court is meant. I submit that it is a very sensible proposal and that, if it were adopted, it would improve the working of the act.
– If honorable members will look carefully at this proposal they will find that all it does is to try, for a third time, to secure what would be, in substance, an appeal from the conciliation commissioners. However, it would not have the advantage of an appeal; it would establish a kind of reviewing authority, with all the defects of an appeal but none of its advantages.
– Surely the right honorable gentleman is not purporting to describe the proposed new section?
– I should like .the committee to examine it. First, it provides that the court, which has threejudges, “ may, for the purposes of ensuring, as far as may be deemed desirable uniformity of conditions and awards and preserving the interests of the public” - there is a very wide charter in that last phrase - “ enumerate from time to time such general principles as it may deem fit for the guidance of conciliation commissioners ‘’. That is the first provision. The whole -scheme of the bill is to let each conciliation commissioner -deal with an- industry, or a portion of an industry, for the purpose of determining the margins, classifications appropriate to margins, and the conditions applicable to that industry. The court will deal with standard hours, the basic wage, and other matters. Under that division of authority, each commissioner will deal with the particular problems of an industry iri relation to a dispute. There will be no appeal from his decision. The committee has rejected the proposal to provide for such an appeal. It has also rejected the proposal to grant even the right to apply for leave to appeal, which was the second attempt to alter that very important provision of the bill. I ask honorable members to examine the second part of the proposal. It states -
Conciliation Commissioners shall observe the principles so enunciated by the Court, and, where an award or order of a Conciliation Commissioner differs from the principles so enunciated, the Court may determine what provision shall be made in such award or order in the issue in question, and it shall be made accordingly.
That provides for an appeal. It provides that the court can lay down general principles, bring up an award of a conciliation commissioner, and, if it thinks that the award differs from the principles which it has laid down, determine what is to be included in the award.
– We might as well leave the whole thing to the court.
– Yes. It would be better to abandon the whole scheme altogether than to adopt the extraordinary method proposed. In the first place, what principles could be laid down? No doubt uniformity of conditions is a good thing up to a point, but it must be remembered tha t in industrial disputes, there are great differences of conditions as between industries, and even within industries. Classifications grade and shade off from one class of work to another, and a great deal of study of particular duties is involved before a fair award can be made. What principle could be laid down for that? Can anybody suggest one principle ?
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that there are no principles ?
– I suggest that the principle is : what is a reasonable and fair margin, having regard to the skills required, and, I think, to a comparison of the margin with margins throughout industry. I think -that is the only principle.
– The right honorable gentleman has stated a principle.
– “We do not need a court to lay that down. That is laid down in 50 volumes of reports on . arbitration cases. The application of the principle to a particular case is the thing that matters. The principle is clear; it is a principle of justice and’ common sense. What is the second point of the proposal ? it speaks of “ preserving the interests of the public “. “What could the court say about that which would be of guidance to a conciliation commissioner dealing with a particular dispute? It is difficult to see what principle could be laid down us binding - because this proposal if adopted would be binding upon the commissioners.
– If it be difficult for ihe court, it will be more difficult for the fifteen commissioners.
– “What is the position under the existing law? Each judge, acting as a single judge, decides questions of margins and questions of conditions. Each is the judge of what is fair and reasonable under those conditions. In the earlier days of the court, before Mr. Justice Higgins made his reduction of hours in the Timber Workers’ case, each judge determined not merely margins and conditions, but also the basic wage applicable to the industry with which he was dealing and the standard hours for that industry.
– It was found that that created intolerable anomalies.
- Mr. Justice Higgins reduced standard hours in the Timber Workers’ case by four hours a week, and then two judges were added so that such things could not be done by a single judge.
– That is an improper suggestion.
– “What is the impropriety about that?
– It created intolerable anomalies - one basic wage in one judge’s court and one set of standard hours in another judge’s court.
– I do not think that is a fair description of what happened in Mr. Justice Higgins’s court in the Timber Workers’ case. But, I repeat, a single judge, under the existing law, decides margins and conditions. When he does so, there is no appeal from his decision.
There is no superior body to overrule his decision. The Full Court does not lay down for him as something binding on him rules that he must observe at his peril - the peril being that the award will be set aside or varied if he does not apply the principles. That is an appeal. 1 almost said that it is a thinly disguised appeal, but there is no disguise about it, because sub-section 2 of the proposed new section provides -
Conciliation Commissioners shall observe the principles so enunciated by the Court, and, where an award or order of a Conciliation Commissioner differs from the principles so enunciated, the Court may determine what provision shall be made in such award or order in the issue in question, and it shall be made accordingly.
Who is to determine whether it departs from a principle? It must be the court. It will not be a conciliation commissioner. When the court determines such an issue, it is hearing an appeal from the decision of a conciliation commissioner.
– This proposal does not contemplate that the court shall review a decision upon the initiative of one of the parties.
– On whose initiative will it make the review?
– The initiative of the court.
– Without being invoked by any party?
– Exactly !
– That would place the court in an intolerable position. The court would have to examine every margin in every award made by every conciliation commissioner, and- ascertain why a particular margin of 7s., 15s., or 21s. was given to a classification.
– When this bill becomes law, the court will have plenty of time to do that.
– The, Leader of the Opposition has made a sneering observation, which is not correct. Even if it. were correct, it would not be relevant to this particular point. The court will have plenty of jurisdiction to exercise under this legislation. As a committee, we have determined first that the conciliation commissioners shall deal with margins and industrial conditions, and secondly, that there shall be no appeal from their decisions. The proposed new section is utterly impracticable, and ha3 all the defects of an appeal. The principles which the honorable member for Indi contemplates cannot be laid down. Actually, they are contained in 30 or 40 volumes of reports of cases heard before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and cannot be reduced to matters of the character to which I have referred. The problem resolves itself into what is a fair and reasonable background of the conditions in industry, and the desirability of general uniformity. That, I concede. In fixing a margin, some regard must be had to skill.
– Will every conciliation commissioner be familiar with the contents of the 30 or 40 volumes mentioned?
– Every conciliation commissioner might not be familiar with all of them, but he will be able to see what has been awarded in the past to the particular industry with which he is dealing, and the gradual increase of margins over the years. In relation to such matters, we cannot lay down principles, as the honorable member for Indi suggested, and the suggestion that the court should examine an award or order to ascertain whether the conciliation commissioner had departed from such principles would create an intolerable position. The proposed amendment is contrary to the earlier decisions of the committee and should be rejected.
– The proposed amendment is also contrary to the decision of the committee.
– It is also contrary to the general principles of the bill. The court would be placed in the position of supervising the decisions of every arbitrator or conciliation commissioner, for the purpose of ascertaining whether his decision departed from a principle which the court considered to be correct. There are other objections. Under the bill, jurisdiction is granted to one set of arbitrators, and another set of arbitrators - the court - would, under the proposal, lay down principles for the conciliation commissioners to follow, and also review their decisions. What is that but an appeal?
As that is opposed to the whole principle of the bill and to the earlier decision of the committee, I am not able to accept it.
Mi-. ANTHONY (Richmond) [5.15].- The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is obviously determined to adhere strictly to the letter of the brief which apparently, was handed to him by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, because he has not shown the slightest disposition to accept or even consider in a reasonable manner any of the amendments proposed by the Opposition. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) emphasized the necessity to achieve some degree of uniformity in the decisions of conciliation commissioners. I direct attention to paragraph b of proposed new section 42 to which the committee has already agreed, but which has a bearing upon this proposed new section. It states -
The Court or Commissioner shall not be bound to act in a .formal manner and shall not b« bound by any rules of evidence but may inform its or his mind on any matter in such manner as it or he thinks just;
That extraordinarily wide power will be conferred on conciliation commissioners, who might not necessarily have had any legal training or any practical experience of industrial matters. ‘ We do not know who will be appointed conciliation commissioners. In the circumstances, it appears to me to be essential that there should be some degree .of uniformity in the decisions which they make dealing with a wide range of Australian industry. For example, one conciliation commissioner, when making an award relating to the building trades, might grant margins 10s. a week in excess of the rates in awards dealing with an associated trade. Immediately, employees in the associated trade will agitate for a corresponding increase of their margins. That has occurred repeatedly, when those engaged in an industry have asked for a benefit which is being received by others, who, it is claimed, are doing comparable work. For that reason, there must be a degree of uniformity in the decisions of conciliation commissioners. That necessity is emphasized by an amendment which the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) has circulated. I mention it as an indication of what is in the minds of many people, and what may be in the minds of some conciliation commissioners. It reads -
The Court or a conciliation commissioner . . shall not have regard to the probable economic effect of the award, order, agreement or any provision thereof in relation to the community in general . . .
– I ask the honorable member to direct his remarks to the proposed new section.
– I refer to it only r.o point out its effect on the powers of conciliation commissioners. The amendment, which the honorable member foBourke has circulated, is not necessary, because the conciliation commissioners already have the inherent power to disregard the economic consequences of a new award upon the community. The Government has agreed that a uniform basic wage is essential. Power to determine it will be retained by the court. The Government retains the principle of a basic wage but disregards the necessity of providing uniform margins, which amounts to much the same thing. A worker cannot have a basic wage, of say, £5 a week and allow one commissioner to award a margin of £1 a week for a particular trade or calling, and another commissioner to award a margin of £3 a week for a comparable job in another industry. If that kind of thing be permitted, there will be more disruption than ever, because every member of an aggrieved industry will be agitating for an increase. For those reasons I think it is manifest that some form of uniformity should be attained. The Attorney-General said : “ Who is going to define the margins to be awarded?” But I suggest that that is the province of the Arbitration Court. The judges of that court have sufficient experience to determine bow far the court’s powers should be exercised. If they have not, then the officers of the Department of the Attorney-General and the Department of Labour and National Service have sufficient experience to determine these matters without quibbling. If we are going to accept this bill as it stands, including the proposed new section under discussion, I foresee that unless the utmost good fortune supervenes, apart altogether from the ability of the commissioners, there is going to be the widest variation in their determinations. To safeguard the community against that I think the Government should accept the proposal of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). If it is not prepared to do that, then it should redraft this clause in the light of that proposal.
.- It is unnecessary to attempt to disguise the fact that this proposed new section represents an attempt to provide a right of appeal, a principle which had previously been rejected by the Government; In general, the right of appeal has, of course, been rejected, but this is an alternative designed to put some brake on the conciliation commissioners and to introduce some degree of uniformity. Half a loaf is always better than no- bread; and it. may be that by a process of attrition the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) may be induced to agree to some amendment of the main principle of. this bill, namely, that 15 or 21 untrained and inadequately controlled people are to be let loose upon the Australian industrial community. The AttorneyGeneral attempted to draw an analogy when he said : “ What is the position now with respect to the decision of a single judge of the court? He does not have to collaborate with the other judges, and his decisions are not subject to appeal except on matters of law “. That is true,, hut the real point of distinction’ is that the judge is a trained person. He also happens to be one of a very limited number of persons - the judges of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court - who do, in fact, collaborate, pool their information and discuss theirindividual views. Any one with any knowledge of Industrial arbitration procedure knows that the judges are constantly conferring, and that is in thebest interests of the community. To attempt to draw an analogy between thepresent position of a judge and that of any one of the proposed fifteen or 21 untrained industrial conciliation commissioners is quite misleading. It cannot be stressed too often that these gentlemen,, who are to be drawn from some mysterious source, will, apparently, not be required to possess the qualifications hitherto regarded as indispensable to the- proper performance of their duties. If there were to be only one or two, or a limited number-
– Has not that matter already been decided ?
– It has been decided in one form, but this form provides for some brake being put upon the commissioners.
– The honorable member for Parramatta is not entitled to discuss that matter at the moment; he must confine himself to the question bef ore the Chair.
– It is not only a question of agreement between employers and employees which is involved, because it may very well happen that in many industries the employers will be able to pass, on to the community the effects of any increased remuneration awarded to their employees by the commissioners. This Parliament should at least attempt to safeguard the community, irrespective of whether the decisions of the proposed commissioners are likely to be accepted by employers and employees. It is important that in the long run the community should be adequately protected. Unless uniform ruLes .are laid down, either as proposed or in some other way, there is great danger of disruption of our economic structure. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) pointed out, one of the most frequent causes of discontent in industry has been the lack of uniformity in rates and conditions awarded to men in similar industries. T have had some experience of this matter, and I recollect, particularly in this connexion, the glass industry in New South Wales. That was an industry of wide ramifications, employing many thousands of men operating under many different awards. In the past a good deal of the industrial trouble in that industry occurred because of the number of different awards operating. Very often employees performing similar, and in some cases almost identical, work received varied rates. If every one of the fifteen or 21 commissioners to be appointed is to be allowed to go his own way and make awards independently of his fellow commissioners, those awards may conflict violently in similar industries. Then discontent will be inevitable. To avoid that, it is desirable to have some co-or dinating authority, who will impose upon the commissioners the obligation of preserving uniformity in their awards. If we cannot attain that end by any other means, we should at least attempt to achieve it by accepting this amendment. I say that, not in any captious spirit, nor with the idea of injuring the working class - as honorable members opposite seem to fear - but with the sole idea of introducing machinery to benefit the community at large. For those reasons I support the proposed new section.
.- Although it has been said that this matter has been settled, we on this side of the chamber still have the right to say just how we would like the bill to leave this chamber. Therefore, I support the proposed new section most strongly. Since the bill was introduced, I have wondered where the conciliation commissioners are to receive the guidance that they should have as to how they shall discharge their functions. I have not been able to find any provision to that effect, nor have I heard the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) explain how the fifteen conciliation commissioners are to be guided in the making of their decisions. That is a matter of great importance. Men’ deputed to do legal or any other kind of work must have some guidance as to the lines that they are to pursue. Yet the conciliation commissioners are to be permitted to choose for themselves the lines that they will follow, and there is to be no appeal against their decisions. The proposal lays it down that the general principles to be followed by the conciliation commissioners shall be those that o,re determined by the court. Surely the Attorney-General has sufficient knowledge of the court to know that any guidance it gave would be in the best interests of the people of this country! The proposal, if accepted, would provide protection for not only industries and workers, but also all others who may be affected by the decisions of the conciliation commissioners. The bill lays down one principle in which I do not think that the Attorney-General would concur at the moment, namely, that as a matter of general principle the opinion of a layman is as good as that of a legal man. Were I to claim knowledge of points of law equal to that possessed by members of this chamber who have had legal training, I would quite rightly be “ poohpoohed “. Yet the bill embodies the principle that the laymen who are to be appointed as conciliation commissioners will have a knowledge of principles equal to that of legal men. They will not. Any one who considers the matter will readily concede that. Therefore, these nien should receive guidance; and that is what the proposed new section seeks to provide. The aim of the leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), on. whose behalf the proposal has been submitted, is to assist the conciliation commissioners, and on that “account it should be favorably considered by the Attorney-General. It further provides that, should a conciliation commissioner depart from a principle which is in the best interests of” Australia, the court may determine what provision shall be made in the award or order in the issue in question, and it shall be made accordingly. That does not fix the sky as the limit, of the interpretation which can be given to the principles laid down by the court. The Government appears to be afraid that there may be some right of appeal. I believe that I correctly stated at the secondreading stage that the basis of the bill is ari attempt by the Government to obtain the power which the people refused to give to the Parliament at the last referendum. We shall fight to the last ditch to’ improve the measure. I do not agree that conciliation commissioners should bp appointed according to the terms of this bill. I consider that the whole basis of the bill is wrong. The proposal, if incorporated in it, would effect an improvement of it. If Opposition members do not like the legislation that is placed before them., they must do their utmost to have it altered to suit their ideas, and if they cannot get all’ that they want they must accept the best that can be secured. The people of Australia would have everything to gain by the acceptance of the proposed new section, and for that reason I urge the AttorneyGeneral to give favorable consideration to it.
.- The question of the powers of the conciliation commissioners has already been determined by the committee. I do not believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) would concur in a radical alteration of the bill, and I doubt whether the leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), on whose behalf the proposal has been submitted, would agree that that is contemplated. I cannot see the desirability of permitting the powers of the conciliation commissioners to be restricted in a particular number of cases, as the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has suggested. The intention is to give arbitral and conciliation’ powers to the conciliation commissioners. That has been adopted as a matter of principle. The whole purpose of the bill is to have a certain number of conciliation commissioners appointed. I do not say how far I agree with the appointment of conciliation commissioners; I accept them as being the Government’s decision and the decision of this committee. I trust that they will realize the hopes of the Attorney-General and myself. Even if the decision of a majority of members of the committee was unwise - and I do not think it was - we must accept it. It is suggested that this proposal deals with only one phase of the conciliation and arbitration legislation, but in my opinion, it goes far beyond that, and is intended to strike a. deadly blow at the whole purpose of this legislation.
– Why does the honorable member think that the adoption of the proposal would strike a deadly blow at the bill ?
– I believe that it is designed to re-establish in a particular instance appeals from conciliation commissioners to judges. I haveno doubt that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) himself believes that that is so.
– I do not regard the proposed new section ais providing for an appeal.
– It would provide a right of appeal in certain cases.
– In all cases, because it could apply to any case.
– I have no difficulty in supporting the views -which the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) has expressed so well.
– From the speech of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) it is obvious that the Australian Labour party stands at the parting of the ways in relation to arbitration. The honorable member is one of the old well-known and well-tried Labour members who are gradually disappearing from the scene of Australian politics. They are being replaced by men who, obviously, are subject to pressure.
– The honorable member for Batman as a lawyer and an ex-Attorney-General knows from his training and experience that the bill as it stands is not true to Labour policy and tradition.
– Order! The honorable member is not entitled to discuss the principles of the bill in general. He must discuss the proposal before the committee.
– I am discussing the case put by the honorable member for Batman. It is clear to any one who, like myself, has had twelve years’ experience in this Parliament, that the honorable member for Batman has grave misgivings as to the bill in its present form.
– A decision to appoint conciliation commissioners with certain powers has already been made.
– That is so, but the honorable member for Batman distrusts those powers; he knows that they are too wide. He is obliged to accept the decision of the committee, wise or otherwise, but we know that he does not regard the decision as a wise one. Any one who studies the proposed new section must realize that unless there is an overriding authority there will be complete chaos once the conciliation commissioners get to work. The proposal is an attempt to ensure that whatever work may be done by the conciliation commissioners will have relation to, and be in line with, decisions made by the Arbitration Court, which should be master of the commissioners. As the bill stands,’ it is extremely doubtful whether the court will be master of the conciliation commissioners. If it were clear that the Arbitration Court would be the master, and that the conciliation commissioners would simply be carrying out the policy decided by the court and would make decisions in accordance with the decisions of the court, I am confident that the misgivings of the honorable member for Batman would be greatly allayed. The proposed new section seeks to provide that the conciliation commissioners shall observe the principles enunciated by the court. So far as I know, that is not provided for in the bill. I admit that it is difficult for a layman to. understand the intricacies of this complicated measure, to which already 54 amendments have been moved or will be moved by the Attorney-General, whilst flank attacks have been made from other places. It would take a Philadelphia lawyer to keep track of what is happening. One aim of the proposal is that the conciliation commissioners shall observe principles enunciated by the court - that any award or order which differs from those principles to any degree shall not be given effect. The proposed new section deserves careful consideration, but every honorable member knows that careful consideration will not be given to any proposal emanating from this side of the chamber. The Government has the numbers, and when the division bells ring its supporters will line up faithfully behind the Attorney-General. Other deeds will follow. I can well imagine what they will be, but when they will arise only the Attorney-General knows as he will be in charge of the administration of this legislation.
.- I did not hear .the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) but the speech of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) interested me. The proposal is designed, wholly and solely, to limit the functions of the conciliation commissioners. If agreed to, it would emasculate the bill. It would restrict the commissioners to arbitration upon principles laid down by the court. Subsection 1 of the proposed new section reads - ( 1 . ) The Court may, for the purpose of ensuring, as far as may be deemed desirable, uniformity of conditions and awards and preserving the interests of the public, enumerate from time to time such general principles as it may deem fit for the guidance of Conciliation Commissioners. (2.) Conciliation Commissioners shall observe the principles so enunciated by the Court, and, where an award or order of a Conciliation Commissioner differs from the principles so enunciated, the Court may determine what provision shall be made in such award or order in the issue in question, and it shall be made accordingly.
The proposal would apply to conciliation commissioners the limitations placed upon local coal reference boards as the result of which the chairmen of such tribunals on all coal-fields of New South Wales functioned merely as office boys, because they could not give decisions without an appeal being lodged with the court and were therefore practically limited to taking evidence. That evidence had then to be submitted to Judge Drake-Brockman as the chairman of the Central Coal Tribunal. He reviewed the evidence, and, accordingly, made all decisions. The proposal seeks to limit the functions of conciliation commissioners to the same degree. Under such conditions they would not be able to deal effectively with threatened disputes and nip them in the bud, because the court might not be . available to hear objections taken by. either of the parties to the jurisdiction of conciliation commissioners. Consequently, hold-ups would be frequent. I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta. He said that means must be evolved to avoid conflict between awards, and contended that anomalies would increase as the result of numerous decisions being given by different conciliation commissioners. But what is the position to-day? In the coalmining industry, for instance, the chairman of the Joint Coal Board, Mr. Gallagher, has just prescribed payment for coal-miners in respect of statutory holidays to commence as from this month, whilst Judge Drake-Brockman has prescribed similar payment for craft unions in the coal-mining industry to commence as from December last. There we have a conflict between awards made in respect of different unions whose members are engaged in the same industry and some who perform the same work. I hope that the Government will endeavour to evolve means to obviate conflict between awards made in respect of the one industry. I believe that such anomalies to-day are due to the existence of many trade unions in each industry. I believe in real industrial unionism, that is, one union to cover an industry completely. That would mean one award for each industry. I know that the honorable member for Parramatta represents interests whose main objective is to keep the workers divided, and, consequently, they favour having a multiplicity pf unions in each industry. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) is quite emphatic that the proposed new section will improve the bill. However, as he says that he is opposed to the bill, particularly to the appointment of conciliation commissioners, he obviously desires to emasculate the measure.
– I wish to improve it.
– The adoption of the proposal would defeat the purpose of the bill, because it would leave the powers proposed to be given to conciliation commissioners in the hands of the court entirely. The suggested new section proposes that the court should enumerate from time to time the. general principles it may deem fit for the guidance of conciliation commissioners. Obviously, that would mean a repetition of the conditions under which the local coal reference boards have been working, that is, being empowered only to take evidence and powerless to give decisions. Every decision given by the chairman of a local coal reference board in any part of New South Wales was appealed against by Mr. Gregory Forster and other coal owners. Consequently, those boards were practically useless; and, as appeals against their decisions piled up. before Judge Drake-Brockman, the delays caused many strikes. The same thing would, happen if the proposal were accepted, because the conciliation commissioners would be powerless to make any decisions and the court will again be congested with appeals. I hope that the proposed new section will be rejected.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to8 p.m.
– I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who said that honorable members opposite are in queer street over the proposed new section. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) said that it did not provide for any radical change, and with that I agree. In my opinion, it is a constructive amendment, the purpose of which is to achieve uniformity. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) agreed that uniformity is desirable so far as margins a re concerned, buthe disagreed with the second part of the amendment.
– The conciliation commissioners will confer under the Chief Judge, and also under the chief commissioner, and one of the results of these consultations will be practical uniformity.
– The idea, of course, being to achieve peace in industry by the abolition of industrial unrest. I believe that the acceptance of this proposal would be in the public interest. Unless some guiding principle is laid down there is danger that we may embark upon a vicious spiral of increasing marginal rates, and in the end, this will work more injury upon the unionists themselves than upon any one else. The other night a prominent union official, who has been much in the news lately, told me that the conciliation commissioners already appointed were not giving satisfaction to the workers. He fears that when more are appointed, and when no guiding principles are laid down for them, their varying and conflicting decisions will make for discontent in industry. In Western Australia, some years ago the engineers approached the court and obtained an increase of their marginal rate. Shortly afterwards, the shop assistants applied to the court for an increase. They complained that it was wrong that the engineers, who worked amongst grease and had to wear overalls to keep their clothes clean, should be receiving so much more than the shop assistants who worked in clean clothes. They overlooked the fact that engineers have to serve an apprenticeship of five years, and must also study hard if they are ever to become proficient. Any authority which is entrusted with the duty of fixing marginal rates must know how to draw a proper line of demarcation between such workers as engineers, blacksmiths, moulders, &c. As has been suggested, a lot of luck as well as good judgment will be needed to get men of the right type to serve as conciliation commissioners. Unless they have a fair knowledge of the industries in which they are to adjudicate there will be chaos and discontent among employees even more than among employers. The amendment seeks to prescribe limits within which the commissioners will work, and this is necessary if there is to be contentment in industry.
– The discussion on this amendment is reminiscent” of the debate which has already taken place on the bill. Last week, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) moved an amendment, he said that he would accept the vote on that amendment as a decision on the question as to whether conciliation commissioners should take the place of Arbitration Court judges in industrial matters.
– In relation to two matters - margins and conditions.
– Yes. The Leader of the Opposition has adhered to that undertaking, but some honorable members opposite seem to have adopted the attitude that as the bill has to’ pass all stages by 11 p.m. to-morrow they will fill in the time between now and then by stone-walling.
– Three Government supporters rose just now.
– Ihad not intended to speak; but when I heard some of the arguments advanced by honorable members opposite I felt that it was incumbent upon me to say something. The honorable member- for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) said that he did not like conciliation commissioners, and he would not have them if he could help it.
– He did not say that.
– He said that he did not want the bill or conciliation commissioners at all. The honorable member for Wimmera is usually quick enough with his denials if he thinks he has been misrepresented, but he has not denied what I have just said.
– I said that I did not want the bill.
– The honorable member for Wimmera said that he would fight the bill to the last ditch.
– Yes, that is what he said,’ and he went on to say that he was -opposed to the appointment of conciliation commissioners who would not be professional men. The attitude of- the honorable member appears to be that since he cannot kill the duck he will pull out all of its feathers so that it cannot fly. In the same way, he knows that he cannot kill this bill, but he is seeking to make it useless. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has stated ‘ definitely that he will not accept any amendment which seeks to vary the powers proposed to be vested in the conciliation commissioners. The right honorable gentleman has indicated plainly that, apart from questions relating to the basic wage, hours, rates of pay -of adult females and annual leave, which are still to be dealt with by the Arbitration Court, the conciliation, commissioners will be given full powers to deal with industrial matters. En moving for the insertion of the proposed new section the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) said that its purpose is to empower the court to determine the conditions under which the conciliation commissioners shall operate and to provide that, if they do not do so, the court may reconsider, amend or alter any -award made by them.
– Oh !
– The honorable member questions the accuracy of my summary of its effect. The proposed new section reads as follows : - 43ca. - ( 1 . ) The Court may, for the purposes of ensuring as far as may be deemed desirable uniformity of conditions and awards and preserving the interests of the public, enumerate from time to time such general principles as it may deem fit for the guidance of Conciliation Commissioners. (2.) Conciliation Commissioners shall observe the principles so enumerated by the Court, and, where an award or order of a Conciliation Commissioner differs from the principles so enunciated, the Court may deter mine what provision shall be made in such award or order in the issue in question, and it shall be made accordingly.
If the purpose of the proposed new section is not to give to the court the right to “ review “ or “ repeal “ awards or orders of a conciliation commissioner I do not know what is meant by those terms. This is an attempt to place a limitation on the powers of the conciliation commissioners which the Leader of the Opposition was unable to achieve in another way by his test vote. Honorable members opposite have said that conciliation commissioners may lay down different terms and conditions in respect of the same classes of employees, and that that will create unrest. To listen to them, one would have thought that all awards made by the Arbitration Court itself had been regarded by the unions as perfect and that there had been no complaints about them. We are all aware that many strikes have been caused because employees have been dissatisfied with the awards of the Arbitration Court. Honorable members opposite have also erroneously assumed that laymen merely because of their lack of legal training are likely to make awards and impose conditions which will cause strikes. -Do they contend that the ‘awards made by professional men in the past have been free from unnecessary conditions which the workers have found irksome? The more honorable members -opposite argue about the powers of the conciliation commissioners the more it becomes apparent that their sole concern is to retain for professional men, who live in an atmosphere completely divorced from that of the ordinary worker, the right to lay down industrial conditions. I agree with honorable members that there is some danger that a conciliation commissioner may make awards which are inconsistent with other awards ‘ and that industrial trouble may result. I would do everything possible to obviate that, and if the proposed new section offered a means of preventing conflict in that direction I would be prepared to go a long way to have it incorporated in the principal act. I have been involved in too many disputes and have acted for the employees in too many of them to be led astray by any idea that the mere giving to Arbitration Court judges of power to lay down conditions would be the means of getting fair and reasonable conditions for the employees. As I said in my second-reading speech, I agree with the proposal to leave to the court the determination of the basic wage, standard hours, rates of pay of adult females and annual leave, but awards for different categories of men employed in our various industries are best left to those who have been associated- with industry either as an employer or as an employee, men who know the conditions under which’ the workers have to labour. I remember an amusing illustration of how a professional man may be side-tracked in issues that arise in industrial disputes. Many years ago the Arbitration Court was hearing the claims of drivers of horsedrawn vehicles. The union advocate contended there was too big a difference between the rates of pay of one-horse and two-horse drivers. The judge asked the union advocate on what grounds he made such a claim. The union advocate said fallaciously. “ The man driving two horses is in a better position than the man driving one horse; if the single horse rnakes a plunge the driver has great difficulty in stopping it from bolting, whereas the man driving two horses can depend on the other horse to steady such a plunge and so assist the driver in stopping a bolt “. The Arbitration Court judge, one of the professional gentlemen about whom we have heard so much in this debate, said, “ I can see that now “, accepting as fair the contention of the union advocate. We are accustomed to that sort of thing from men with legal training but with no knowledge of the industry upon which they are adjudicating. It amused me to listen to honorable members opposite complaining that the Government may appoint as a conciliation commissioner a man who will not do the reasonable thing, or one whose awards will be at variance with those of bis fellow commissioners. Their ‘principal fear is that conciliation commissioners selected by the Government might grant concessions to which they did not agree. I have attended many round table conferences ; I have acted as chairman at many meetings of employers and employees. I admit that there are many reasonable and decent employers, but the great majority of them are concerned solely with the preservation of their profits and strive for their own interests, just as the advocates of the working man strive for the interests of the employees. Honorable members opposite claim that the proposed new section will assist in the preservation of industrial peace. The only way to preserve industrial peace is to establish machinery which will ensure that workers’ claims, shall be heard expeditiously and that justice shall be done to them.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I accept very gladly the interpretation of this proposed new section offered to the committee by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt’)., the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson), and certain other honorable members opposite. ] believe that it can be regarded as something in the nature of an appeal clause, and for that very reason I support it very warmly indeed. The one thing that could have made this bill acceptable to me is provision for the right of appeal. I have said on many occasions in the last few years that the great danger confronting this country to-day is the concentration of too much power in too few hands, or alternatively, the concentration of too much power in irresponsible hands. Let us examine our arbitration system as it exists to-day. What has been the reason for its success? No honorable member, I am sure, will deny tha-t it has achieved a great measure of success. The Attorney-General himself made that admission in his second -read ing speech on the Stevedoring Industry Bill. In my view, the Arbitration Court’s really great achievement has been that it has helped to develop a balanced economy. ‘ It has always stood for the principle of uniformity, and for the maintenance of comparable conditions, in comparable industries. The success of the Arbitration Court in this regard has meant that in this country there are fewer aggregations of wealth than in any other country in almost the entire civilized world. Unless we maintain that balance in our economy, we shall be doing a great disservice to the people of this country.
Think of the confusion that could very well develop through the operations of these conciliation commissioners without any right of appeal from their decisions ! The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who is generally accepted in this House as the champion of the industrial workers, has admitted that a grave disparity is likely to develop in this way; that there may be many inequalities which may give rise to considerable unrest. If there were a right of appeal, that possibility would be largely removed. Let me quote from an analysis which I think sums up very clearly in one sentence the value of the arbitration system as we have known it, and which’ is likely to be very materially affected by this bill -
Industry and the national economic life as a whole have been woven into one complete pattern with uniformity of law and working conditions, and comparability taking account of social, economic, technological, and geographical differences between industries or areas.
This measure, lacking provision for the right of appeal, cannot claim to do justice to any member of this community. It is a betrayal of the rights that the working man has fought for and maintained over the period since Australia was first founded. After all, what is the first bulwark of all political freedom throughout the British countries which, as we - all know, set a standard for political liberties throughout the whole world? It is an independent judicial system, not only in the civil sphere, but also in the industrial field. We are taking that safeguard away . by this bill, and putting into the hands of certain individuals tremendous powers that may very well operate in ways not yet foreseen. This Government may appoint conciliation commissioners who may be the very acme of perfection. They may carry out their duties in a thoroughly impartial manner, and may even preserve peace in industry. But another government in another period, when things are not moving as they are to-day, may appoint other conciliation commissioners, who may- very well take a line that is inimical to the interests of the very people whose welfare honorable members opposite seek to safeguard; and these people will have no redress whatever. They will not be able to appeal from the decisions of the conciliation commissioners. That is a very grave responsibility for this Government, which represents the working people of Australia, to take.
There is one further grave defect in the lack of provision for appeal to a court that could ensure some uniformity in the decisions of the conciliation commissioners. I refer to the danger over which the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has come within an ace of wrecking the Labour party, namely, the fear of inflation. The right honorable gentleman has stood out on the question of repealing the wagepegging regulations because he fears inflation; yet, as honorable members will admit, inflation is already with us -in some degree. The point is, however, that under this measure, inflation could come upon us rapidly under a system of irresponsible wage fixation which would send the prices of commodities sky-rocketing until the very foundation of our financial structure was swept aside. That is a danger which probably has not yet been considered.
The Attorney-General himself has given some support to the view of the Opposition that there should be greater power for Arbitration. Court judges, which, we suggest, could be achieved by the provision of the right of appeal. In his second-reading speech on the Stevedoring Industry Bill, the right honorable gentleman said that, in his opinion, the Chairman .of the Stevedoring Industry Commission should be preferably a judge of the Arbitration Court, but that, nevertheless, he believed that there might be some difficulty in obtaining a judge. I presume that the difficulty to which he referred was that there might not be sufficient judges. However, quite obviously on that occasion he was expressing the view that an Arbitration Court judge would have a better approach to a final decision on these matters than would a conciliation commissioner. .Speaking on the same measure, I, myself, said that the conciliation side of arbitration should be extended. I repeat that now. I have no objection to the appointment of conciliation commissioners, but the denial of the right of appeal from their decisions is fraught with the greatest danger and may lead in the long run to hurting .most the very people whom honorable members opposite seek to help.
Replying to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) to-day, the AttorneyGeneral said that his greatest objection to this amendment was that it did in effect constitute an appeal, and that it would impose upon the court, an absolutely impossible task, because, for the court to be able to lay down the principles, it would have to follow the operations of every commissioner throughout Australia, and that was entirely impossible. Yet this very bill provides, in proposed new section 81ac, that not all the judges, but, one man, the Chief Judge, is to make, once in each year, a report to the Parliament. The exact words of the proposed new section are -
The Chief Judge shall, once in each year, furnish to the Attorney-General, for presentation to the Parliament, a report on the working of this Act, and, in particular, the extent to which the objects of this Act have been achieved.
How in the world can the Chief Judge present a report to the Parliament on the workings of the act if he does not make a complete survey of the whole field during the year? That seems to me to be something that the Attorney-General has entirely overlooked when he says that we should impose an impossible task on the judges if we asked them to make a complete survey of the whole field. I hope I have made perfectly clear to honorable members why I support the amendment. We should support it on the general ground that it constitutes a right of appeal, not a direct right of appeal, but, at least a safeguard in a bill that would otherwise be highly dangerous.
.- The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) says that she supports the proposal of the honorable, member for indi (Mr. McEwen), because it gives something approaching a right of appeal from a conciliation commissioner and that she opposes the bill in its general principles because it does not give uniformity. That, with some irrelevant remarks on inflation, constitutes her contribution to this debate. Let us see to what degree the proposal would constitute a. right of appeal.
– May I interject that that is the interpretation of the Attorney-General himself ?
– Yes, and I ask, “ To what degree would it constitute a right of appeal ? The honorable member’s interpretation was that it did not completely constitute a right of appeal. I want to see how far the honorable member’s argument is valid that it does to some degree constitute a right of appeal. A more monumental piece of slovenly drafting I have not seen in my eighteen months of membership of the Commonwealth Parliament. It reads-
The Court may, for the purposes of ensuring as. far as may be deemed desirable-
By whom it may be deemed desirable is not stated in the amendment - uniformity of conditions and awards-
What does “uniformity of conditions and awards “ mean? Does the mover suggest that an award for timber workers should be uniform with an award- for coal-miners?
– Or shop assistants.
– Yes, or shop assistants. That has never been a principle of the arbitration system. There is no uniformity of awards as Opposition members have suggested. The proposed new section continues - and preserving the interests of the public-
We do not know what legal interpretation can be given to that piece of jargon - enumerate from time to time such general principles as it may deem fit for the guidance of Conciliation Commissioners.
I imagine that that piece of drafting would cause as many court cases to determine its meaning as there have been over some of the more obscure sections of the Australian Constitution. It proceeds -
Conciliation Commissioners shall observe the principles so enunciated by the Court, and, where an award or order of a Conciliation Commissioner differs from the principles so enunciated, the Court may determine what provision shall be made in such award or order in the issue in question, and it shall be made accordingly.
That clearly does not set up a right of appeal against an award. Therefore, to say that one supports this amendment, with all its difficulties of phraseology and meaningless expressions, because it constitutes a right of appeal, is to pervert the meaning of the words of the amendment, as it is a misrepresentation of the bill for honorable members opposite to contend constantly that the bill does not guarantee uniformity where uniformity is essential. A person who says that obviously cannot have read the bill. Look at the beginning words in Division 2. - Powers of Conciliation Commissioners -
A Conciliation Commissioner shall not be empowered to make an order or award in relation to -
the standard hours of work in an industry ;
In other words, the Arbitration Court itself lays clown standard .’hours for all industry and conciliation commissioners cannot vary them. Uniformity is guaranteed on that fundamental matter. The conciliation commissioners are not empowered to make an order or award in relation to the basic wage or the principles upon which it is computed. That is for the Arbitration Court to determine. So on another fundamental matter uniformity is guaranteed. Nor can the conciliation commissioners lay down the period which shall be granted as annual leave with pay or make an order or award in relation to the minimum rate of remuneration for adult females in an industry. Uniformity is guaranteed in basic matters. Conciliation commissioners will be appointed for different industries, and, when they make awards in industries, those awards will be directed, not at fundamental things like hours of work, the basic wage, annual leave or the relationship of the basic wagefor females to the basic wage for males, but only at matters specifically related to particular industries concerned.
Honorable members opposite have suggested the need for a professional gentleman to be appointed as a conciliation commissioner. I presume they mean a lawyer, but, as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) interjects, an undertaker is a professional gentleman in some senses. The presence of lawyers in the Arbitration Court has not been altogether the unmixed blessing that honorable gentlemen opposite have been suggesting. When the Commonwealth Constitution was drafted, the Commonwealth Parliament was given power to set up organizations for arbitration and conciliation ; but it has rarely used the power to set up an organization for conciliation. Back in the ‘nineties, when the fathers of the Constitution were drafting it-
– Order ! I ask the honorable gentleman to return to the matter before the Chair.
– I intend to relate my remarks to this matter which deals with conciliation and conciliation commissioners who will not be lawyers. When the Constitution was drafted it was recognized that arbitration was quite distinct from conciliation, but for 40 years we have had arbitration. The amendment is an attempt to get us back to the court. There is a case, which the bill meets, for uniformity on fundamental matters - standard hours, the basic wage, annual leave and minimum pay for women. The bill sets up conciliation commissioners who will obtain a good deal of expertness in the industries with which they deal. The amendment submitted by the honorable member for Indi is purely political in character. It is certainly not a piece of good legal drafting, especially in the first proposed sub-section. It would not give uniformity in any sensible degree because) to the degree to which uniformity is sensible, the bill already provides for it. As an attempt to secure uniformity in different awards for different industries, it is absurd. Its provisions do not constitute anything resembling a right of appeal, in spite of what the honorable member for Darwin has said. It would be unacceptable to any intelligent government.
.- The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) seems to have struck an all-time “ high “ in this Parliament in revealing a complete lack of any sense of humour. He referred to the amendment now under discussion as a “ slovenly piece of draftsmanship “. Insofar as that charge may be sustained, I am prepared to plead guilty. I do not profess to be able to draft, in correct legalisms, an amendment that .would be completely impeccable. If the Government would accept my constructive proposal, it has the wherewithal to iron out the minor inadequacies of legal jargon in the amendment. That would present no difficulty. The description of the amendment as “ slovenly legislation’’ was ironical in the circumstances. It was prepared by a mere layman. But the bill was prepared by the highest legal authority in the land and was presented to this Parliament under the name of the Attorney-General! Nevertheless, before it reached the secondreading stage, the right honorable gentleman himself had to give notice of his intention to make no fewer than 54 amendments to it. There may be other things in respect of which this Government has established records, but I am sure that this record will stand for many a day.
– Order ! The honorable member should return to the amendment now before the committee.
– The honorable member for Fremantle was permitted to make the observation which I have mentioned, and I consider that it warranted a reply. During the eighteen months in which the honorable, gentleman has been a member of this Parliament he has not learned a great deal; but there is one thing that he has not forgotten. He has not forgotten how to address a school class. However, he will find that this Parliament does not accept the role of a school class. ‘
The reply made by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) to my proposal can only be described as completely disappointing. The right honorable gentleman chose to rest his reply upon criticisms of certain minor aspects of the amendment, and certain statements which were completely irrelevant to it. Its purpose is to deal with a situation which has arisen after the decision of the Government, the caucus, and the Parliament to decline to provide any appeal from determinations of the 15, or 21, arbitrators. In view of the inevitable acceptance of that decision I, on behalf of the Australian Country party, seek to provide the only remaining safeguarding condition possible, a condition that will establish uniformity in the awards of the multiplicity of arbitrators, who are to be completely separate and absolutely unfettered. They will have every opportunity to operate in an entirely autocratic manner, which honorable members opposite, if they were criticizing the bill, would describe as an opportunity to act in a fascist manner. Of course, 1 believe that such a description would be completely wrong. Nevertheless, these conciliation commissioners will have every opportunity to exercise their jurisdiction in an autocratic manner, and nobody will be able to curb them. As 15, or 21, individuals they will probably have their own idiosyncrasies.
– Make it 31.
– The right honorable gentleman could clarify that issue in a moment.
– The honorable member has increased the number by six to 21.
M.r. McEWEN. - There are six commissioners now. The bill will increase the number by fifteen.
– The honorable member has increased it to 21. Make it 31.
– This bill proposes to appoint fifteen conciliation commissioners.
– It does not propose to increase the number from 15 to 21. Why not stick to the bill?
– It is a matter of fact, which the right honorable gentleman could clarify in a moment if he wanted to do so, instead of engaging in evasion and equivocation. The commissioners will be men with individual idiosyncrasies, and there is no provision whatever in the bill to ensure uniformity in the awards that they will make. The amendment which I have submitted is a constructive proposal by the Australian Country party to inject into the bill provision ,for such uniformity. If there be one virtue claimed by the Government for this measure which superficially has merit - and on this point I do not deny that superficially it has merit - it is the provision that there shall be not only prompt but also final decisions in respect of industrial disputes. We, having considered the matter, believe that it would be better if the decisions were not final. We believe that there should be provision for appeals. The Government has refused to provide for appeals, and we now seek another means of avoiding the chaos that we envisage arising from anomalies and unbalanced conditions between various industries as the result of the making of unrelated awards. Nothing could be. more provocative of discontent than anomalous awards made by different arbitrators. Enough has been said by supporters of the Government to show that they are not concerned about anomalies, as long as employees in the various industries are contented with the awards made for them by the respective arbitrators. I believe that, although employees may be contented on the day on which an award is made, they will not continue to be contented. If, for instance, after an arbitrator has given an award to the coal-miners, another arbitrator gives a better award to the gold-miners or to the base metal miners, contentment will be brief and industrial unrest will occur.
Surely, approaching this matter in a reasonable frame of mind, the Government must realize >that there are at least two parties concerned in industrial disputes. The second party consists of the men who employ and pay wages to the workers. It is becoming fashionable in Australia to accept the idea that employers have no rights whatever. On the ground of ethics alone, surely they have some rights in a country that is not yet completely socialized ! I say seriously to the Govern- ment and to the people that, if conditions are imposed which make it impossible for employers to continue paying award wages and to observe award conditions, then opportunities for employment in the industries affected will disappear. One of the reasons for ensuring uniformity lies in the fact that there are in Australia industries which provide employment for large numbers of men, but in which the employers obtain a comparatively narrow margin of profit out of which to pay wage3. Some industries, which are well known to honorable members, possess a monopoly or produce luxury articles or goods in extraordinarily short supply, and they are concerned less with the wages that they pay than with securing a full staff of employees. The AttorneyGeneral will not deny that, under this system, some employers and employees in these particular industries will ask a conciliation commissioner to make a “ consent “ award. That will be a prompt way. in which to maintain contentment among those employees. But if conciliation commissioners, when dealing with industries that are able to support those conditions, concede conditions which lead tothe “milking” of the labour market, other industries will be detrimentally affected. A reference to the public interest incurred a sneering observation by. the Attorney-General and various supporters of the’ Government. Honorable members should not discuss these matters without having a clear recognition of thefact that the fundamental consideration is the public interest, which can be greatly prejudiced by anomalous awards that attract labour from one industry to another. This Parliament should concern itself with the public interest, and endeavour to protect it.
The basic wage, to which reference hasalso been made, deals with the fundamental provision of reward for labour, and standard hours. Beyond those two matters, the whole scope for industrial dispute resides in the awards which are superimposed upon the basic wage and standard hours. That will constitute theentire field which will engage the attention of 15 or 21 ‘conciliation commissioners. If there is not some assurance of relativity in the awards imposing conditions upon the basic wageand standard hours,- widespread discontent will result from this new principle. The Attorney-General sought to defend the provision stating that the awards of conciliation commissioners shall not be subject to appeal. He declared that, in the existing act, judges of the Arbitration Court individually may make awards which are not subject to appeal. However, I remind the Attorney-General that the two situations are not comparable. Under this bill, the Government may appoint 15 or 21 conciliation commissioners who will not have a common knowledge of the law or a common experience of arbitration. How can they be compared with several judges of the Arbitration Court who sometimes act individually and on other occasions constitute the Full Bench of the court? They began with their common legal trainingand experience, and they are constantly in consultation. In that way, they areable to achieve uniformity in the awards that they make. When I contended that principles should be enunciated by the court, the Attorney-General asked, “What principles can be enunciated?”, as if no principles could be stated. Then the right honorable gentleman proceeded to declare that the principles were enunciated in 30 or 40 volumes of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. First, the Attorney-General said that there were no principles which could be enunciated, and then he admitted that there were principles, and stated where they were to be found. The judges of the Arbitration Court are familiar with those principles. I ask : “ Will 15 or 21 super laymen, who will be appointed conciliation commissioners, be familiar with 30 or 40 volumes of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court? “ Of course they will not. Because of that, we believe that only one body - the court itself - is competent to proclaim these principles. The Government should, in the public interest, and in the interests of employers and employees alike, empower the court, at its discretion, to prescribe certain principles for the guidance of the conciliation commissioners, and give to it the right to review their awards and orders. That is the purpose of the amendment.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Government introduced this bill in order to improve the arbitration system and make it work more quickly and effectively. This committee has already decided that conciliation commissioners shall be appointed, and that their decisions shall not be subject to appeal. The discussion of those two proposals occupied considerable time but eventually the committee resolved to adopt them. Not being satisfied with those decisions, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has now submitted an amendment which is a thinly disguised proposal for another form of appeal from the decisions of the conciliation commissioners. At first, the honorable member denied the accusation of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) that he was endeavouring to provide another form of appeal, but the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) and other members of the Opposition very blandly admitted it.
Honorable members should not overlook the fact that this proposed amendment would not be practicable. How can courts enunciate principles? Courts can only lay down principles in relation to facts. The honorable member for Indi proposed that the courts shall, in some way or other, prescribe principles for the guidance of conciliation commissioners. He went further, and said that if the court then decides that certain provision shall be made in regard to an award or order in the issue in question, its determination shall be made accordingly. That proposal, if adopted, would give to the court absolute control over the conciliation commissioners, and divest them of all their authority. As I stated, the purpose of the bill is to improve the arbitration system and make it function more quickly and effectively. The AttorneyGeneral, in his second-reading speech, declared that the bill would streamline the arbitration system. How are we streamlining it? By taking a great deal of ‘the power out of the hands of the judges and putting it into the hands of conciliation commissioners. Some honorable member mentioned that fifteen conciliation commissioners were to be appointed. The bill itself makes no mention of the number to be appointed, and I think the Attorney-General informed the committee that possibly only eight commissioners would be appointed in addition to the present commissioners.
– In his second-reading speech the Attorney-General said fifteen.
– A great deal of irrelevancy has been introduced into this debate. The real issue is whether the proposed new section should become part of the bill. I say that the proposal is not a practical one, arid the judges of their own motion could not evolve or establish principles as suggested. All legal principles are established as applied to facts. The proposed new section is nothing more than an ingenious attempt to overcome the fact that this committee has already decided that there shall be no appeal. Courts cannot lay down abstract principles; all the principles established by courts have been established in relation to particular matters of fact proved before them and depending for their’ decision on some question of fact. If this proposal is adopted the right of appeal, and control of the exercise of that right by the courts, will defeat the whole aim of the bill and take away all power from the conciliation commissioners. I see no value in this amendment, and I trust that it will he defeated.
– I think the sole motive for this proposal is to defeat the purpose of the bill. That is the role usually undertaken by the Australian Country party. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) suggested that the proposed new section was very loosely drawn. I go further and suggest that it must have been drawn by some farmer like myself who does not know much about these things, but I can read, and this is what I read -
The court may, for the purpose of ensuring as far as may be deemed desirable uniformity of conditions and awards and preserving the interests of the public, enumerate from time to time such general principles as it may deem fit for the guidance of conciliation commissioners.
Looking carefully at the phrase “ preserving the interests of the public, “ I can imagine the feast the lawyers would derive from its interpretation. The interpretation they would apply to that phrase would be that which suited them. The “ interests of the public “ would be interpreted to mean “ the interests of a certain section of the public,” namely, those who believe in low wages and bad conditions. The express purpose of this bill is to remove those conditions, and bring about conciliation in industrial disputes as expeditiously as possible.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) said : “ Imagine 15 or 21 untrained nien being let loose on the community. “ He views the proposed appointees as untrained men, and as indi,viduals devoid of all common sense. Just look at the honorable member for Parramatta and imagine 15 or 21 men with similar qualifications, all of whom would be eligible for appointment as judges of the High Court! Just imagine 21 of his type. being “ let loose on the community “ ! The chaos that would produce would be something worse than the explosion of an atomic bomb. Legal training may be necessary, but qualification as a barrister does not confer upon one all the virtues; in fact, very often a lawyer has a horsehair wig, a lot of privileges, and nothing more. The conciliation commissioners have been trained in industry. The only thing which the honorable member for Parramatta and his friends seek to preserve is the exclusion of any one other than Arbitration _ Court judges from appointment- as conciliation commissioners. He wants the appointees to be chosen exclusively from the bar; that is his idea of the essential qualification for these positions. He has no use for any one other than lawyers, irrespective of his qualifications. One can imagine . the feast there would be for the lawyers if an appeal were allowed by a section ‘ such as this. How long would it take to get an award? The present delay is one of the things the Government is seeking to avoid by the appointment of these commissioners. The proposed new section would destroy the whole purpose of the bill. I think it is time that we. had a little more horse sense and a little less horsehair. Under the present organization employers are represented by lawyers in the Arbitration Courts, and those lawyers are free to argue on any matter. We have, heard argument here between eminent legal men and .we certainly do not understand it. I can imagine people like the honorable member for Parramatta talking on and on in the courts. There is no closure there. There would be nothing but interminable appeals- to the Arbitration Court. Employers would naturally take every advantage of the right of appeal when awards were made against them. This is an experiment the Government is making. Honorable members on this side have been asked: “What is the Government doing about this industrial unrest?” Well, the Government is trying to do something by introducing this measure, but honorable members of the Opposition have done their utmost to prevent the necessary power being conferred on conciliation commissioners, the whole purpose of whose appointment is to remedy the present state of affairs. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) summed it up this afternoon when he said: “Enlarge the Arbitration
Court “ - he should have added, “ provided we make the appointments to the court of those who have stuck to us so well in the past “. Whom would he mean by “us”? Obviously, the class he represents. Although he poses as a radical, he, like other members of the Opposition, always retreats when a practical proposal like this is brought forward.
– I rise in reply to some remarks made by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). He pointed out that there might be lack of uniformity because of the number of commissioners it is proposed to appoint and he mentioned the figure 21. He had no authority to use that figure. The number I ‘mentioned in my second-reading speech was fifteen, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr, Holt) pointed out. I mentioned that figure then merely as an estimate of the number required to administer the whole jurisdiction of the commissioners. I made it clear that that figure was not intended to be the number of additional commissioners to be appointed. Neither the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) nor myself thought that it would be necessary to appoint anything like that number of additional commissioners. I do not want the figure, 21, to be publicized as representing an estimate by the Government of the number to be appointed. That is distinctly not so, and l’ say that particularly to clear the mind of the honorable member for Indi.
As the Government will probably reappoint the present commissioners, we rely upon the work they have done and the proof they have given of their ability in this jurisdiction. Their efforts have been hailed with laudation even by the Opposition. At present, I think there are about eight or nine conciliation commissioners, some of whom were appointed under industrial peace regulation, but almost without exception each one of them has at some time been hailed as a Daniel come to judgment. Some of the judgments they have delivered have been the subject of most eulogistic comment in this chamber. We shall have, in effect, a corps of commissioners each of whom will be experienced in administration.
The immediate question is whether they should be permitted to exercise in respect of any industry, the limited but important jurisdiction proposed to be conferred upon them under this bill. Their jurisdiction will be limited because it does not include the fixation of the basic wage or of standard hours; they will deal only with marginal rates and industrial conditions. I do not wish to repeat the argument adduced by honorable members who have sponsored this proposed new section, but with all respect to them this proposal is substantially nothing more than a circuitous attempt to have the commissioners’ decisions reviewed. The answer to that criticism is that not even one marginal rate could be fixed by a commissioner unless he were prepared to run the gauntlet of a possible review by way of appeal. .Instead of speed and industrial jus’tice, there would be interminable delays. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) was most frank. He said, “ We are fighting this bill to the last ditch. We have lost on the. open fight to secure an appeal. We have lost on the second proposal, put by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) for an’ appeal by leave, and this is the way in which we propose to get round those decisions of the committee “.
– I said that we want to get the best that we can get.
– I agree with that. I do not blame the honorable “member for his tactics. He is perfectly entitled to submit the proposal in a fourth or fifth way; but I shall not suggest to him any other way, because he might adopt it and thus initiate another long debate. This is of the very essence of the bill; not mere speed, but a limited number of important matters being dealt with industry by industry and trade by trade by experienced men, who, I believe, when the appointments have been made, will be found to include the existing commissioners, who have been so successful and have done such a good job, especially during the period of the war. They are nien of the finest quality.
Proposed new section negatived.
Proposed new section 43d agreed to.
Proposed new section 43e (Welfare and safety of children).
.- I move-
That the proposed new section be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following section: - “ 43e. In determining an industrial dispute, the Court or a Conciliation Commissioner shall take into consideration the provisions of any law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth relating to the safety, health and welfare of employees (including children) in relation to their employment. .
The new section proposed by the bill provides that, in determining an industrial dispute in which the rates of pay or the conditions of employment of children employed in an industry are in question, the court or a conciliation commissioner shall take into consideration the provisions of any State or territorial law. The proposed new section that I have now submitted extends the operation to all employees, and does not confine it to that class of employee. That means only that, in making awards, the arbitrator shall have regard to State and territorial laws; not being bound by them, but not failing to take account of them.
– Thecourt would, of course, have the right to do this under its general power. Particular attention is being directed to it, not so as to bind the court, but so as to remind it that the law must be taken into account.
– So as to remind the court of what has been done in many States for the purpose of improving* the conditions of the workers. It must not overlook those factors.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new section 43f (Representation of parties at hearing).
.- I move-
That the proposed new section be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following section : - “ 43f. - (1.) In any proceedings before the Court or a Conciliation Commissioner -
an organization may he represented by a member or officer of that organization ; and
a party (not being an organization) may be represented by -
an employee of that party; or
a member or officer of an organization of which that party is a member. “ (2.) No party shall, in any proceedings before the Court, be represented by counsel, solicitor or paid agent, except by leave of the Court and with consent of all the parties; In any proceedings before a Conciliation Commissioner, no party shall be represented by counsel, solicitor or paid agent. “ (3.) This section shall not apply to judicial proceedingsbefore the Court.”.
The effect of the section proposed to be substituted is that it will operate in respect of all proceedings before the court or a conciliation commissioner, other than judicial proceedings before the court. This deals with the representation of parties at’ a hearing. The hearings are of three types : First, where a conciliation commissioner deals with the matter, it is proposed that neither counsel, solicitor nor paid agent shall appear before the commissioner.Where the court deals with an industrial dispute, and basic questions come before it, such as the basic wage, standard hours, annual leave and minimum wage for women workers, together with the principles connected with those matters, the proposal is that the existing provision, in substance, shall be retained; that is, that organizations may be represented by their members or officers, but that counsel, solicitor or paid agent shall not appear before the court except by leave of the court and with the consent of all the parties. In connexion with purely judicial or legal matters which come before the court on appeal - for example, appeals from magistrates - or the exercise of the judicial power by the court, the ordinary rule will apply, namely, that counsel will be entitled to appear. The new section that I propose to substitute for the existing proposed new section is designed to make it clear that when the phrase is used “ On the hearing of an industrial dispute by a conciliation commissioner or the court “, that is not to be limited to the first application for an award, but is to cover applications in relation to the industrial dispute that are made from time to time.
– I do not propose to take up too much time, because more far-reaching matters will have to be discussed before the guillotine falls. But I want to say a few words. I hope that I can speak with a certain degree of detachment, even though I am one who, in. the past, practised the law a great deal. The existing tendency to assume that advocacy will be better handled by persons who are not trained as advocates is, . to mc, one of the most astonishing symptoms of the times. If we were dealing with a bill to establish some medical appeal, I venture to think that we would not say that the one person to be excluded from discussion of the matter was a trained medical man. If we were dealing with the solution of some engineering problem, we would not insist that the one person, to be excluded from the matter was the trained engineer. Yet time after time, in bills and regulations, the proposition is put that at all costs the trained advocate must be excluded from the area of advocacy. That seems to me to be so stupid that it has only to be stated to answer itself.
The first comment that I make on the proposed new section is this : If we look at sub-section 2, we see that, in any proceedings before a conciliation commissioner, no party shall be . represented by counsel, solicitor or paid agent. In relation to arbitration there has been a prima facie exclusion of these people, but if both sides agree and the court approves, they can be heard. Why have the trade unions retained and instructed counsel in cases before the Arbitration Court? Is it because they think that union secretaries could have presented the case better ? Of ‘ course not. If they had thought that, they would not have secured the services of trained lawyers.
– The right honorable gentleman is speaking of the good old days.
– I am speaking of these very days in which we live and move and have our being. The 40-hours case has been before the court this very day, and the trade unions of Australia have been represented by counsel this very day. Indeed, the Government attaches so much importance to that case that the costs of counsel for one side have been met by’ the Commonwealth. It will hardly lie in the mouth of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), or of his supporters, to say that there is not competent work to be obtained from the services of trained people. I have a pro found objection to the constantly repeated theory that the one man who is incompetent to do a job is the man who has been trained to do it. This proposed new section provides that in cases brought before a conciliation commissioner no person is . to be ^represented by counsel, solicitor or paid agent, even though both sides consent and the conciliation commissioner approves. That is, I suppose, on the assumption that the conciliation commissioner will be doing a casual, informal job, and will not want to hear any argument. But under this bill a. conciliation commissioner will be a person to determine, probably, some major dispute in a major industry. The whole assumption of the bill is that he will’ have to deal with questions of law, aswell as questions of fact. Moreover, he , will have to deal with questions of jurisdiction which will be mixed questions of law and fact. Yet he will be denied the trained assistance of competent persona, even though he wants that assistance, and the parties to the dispute also want it. I notice that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) is bursting to speak. He has all the confidence in the world about this question.
– I was about to leave the chamber.
– Apparently, the honorable . member for Fremantle has nothing to learn, whereas the rest of us have much to learn. That is the distinction between us.
– Does the right honorable gentleman admit that?
– I admit it. The statement applies also to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard).
Mi-. Barnard. - The right honorable gentleman has no right to speak for me.
– Some one will have to speak for the Minister. The second point is that in any proceedings before the court or before a conciliation commissioner an organization may be represented by a member or officer of that organization. I pause to point out that the word “ organization “ does not mean an organization in the general sense, but an organization which is registered pursuant to this legislation. A registered organization may be represented by a member or an officer. Every competently conducted trade union, particularly every great federal ‘ trade union, bas its industrial advocate who devotes the whole of his time to industrial advocacy. Over a period of years such a person becomes very familiar with the problems of the organization. I have no objection to that. Indeed, I agree that it is the proper thing to do. A registered organization may be represented by such a person, but a party to a dispute not being a registered organization may not be . so represented. Let ‘us suppose that there is a body of em- ployers which is not registered under the Commonwealth act. ‘There are examples of such bodies in Queensland. Honorable members from that State are familiar with the fact that few industrial matters from Queensland come before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Organizations of employers in that State and in Western Australia, are not commonly registered in the Commonwealth court. Let us suppose that a plaint is lodged, or that a dispute occurs, and that the organization concerned is unregistered. It cannot be represented before the court by a member or an officer because it is not a registered organization. Its only hope of having competent representation before the tribunal is by engaging a paid agent. Again I turn to the Queensland legislation to ascertain, how that State has faced that problem. Queensland cannot be accused of having conservative legislation on its statutebook.’ Section 70 of the relevant Queensland act provides -
On the hearing or determination of any industrial cause, whether before the court or any industrial magistrate, a party being an industrial union may be represented by a member or officer, and any other party may be represented by his agent duly appointed in writing in that behalf.
There is a further sub-paragraph which excludes counsel or solicitors, unless the parties consent. The paid agent under the Queensland act is not to be counsel or a solicitor unless both parties consent, but in the absence of consent, -a paid agent may be engaged. This is merely a matter of fair play. Decisions by judges or conciliation commissioners will not be worth anything in producing real justice, or a sense of justice, unless each side has had an effective opportunity to put its case. What irony it is to say to an individual who is brought’ before a tribunal, “You have a perfect right to be heard when he has not the remotest idea of putting his case in court! He is left mumbling and stumbling because no one who is familiar with the atmosphere of the tribunal is there to put his case for him. It would be ironical to say that such a man had a fair chance to be heard effectively. That means that organizations which are not registered, or individuals who are dealt with as individuals, are restricted to a paid agent.
– A person accused before a court-martial has the “ prisoner’s friend “ to defend him.
– A great number of our ideas of basic justice are “ blowing down the wind”; hut I see no approximation to justice in the proposed system which excludes people from having their case competently put. Those are the two points which I rose to put to the committee. I shall not labour them. ‘ I know that the Government has the numbers, and I am also aware that there are other important matters to be discussed before the knife falls.
– If we accepted the basic premise of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) there would be a great deal in what he said. If we were putting a case in court, and if that were the purpose of appointing conciliation commissioners, we might agree with the right honorable gentleman. He, however, has missed the whole point in the system which provides for conciliation commissioners. The committee has already agreed that when a dispute threatens, or is impending in the courts, .a conference shall be called by the conciliation commissioner. Whom would he summon to the conference? According to the decision of the committee, he would summon, not the professional advocates - = -
– Of course not.
– He would summon those employers, or trade unions, which have a real interest in the dispute and can discuss the matters at issue, and be parties to negotiations.
– Hear, hear !
– The ideal stage would be reached when no matter for arbitration remained. In that event, there would be successful conciliation, resulting in an agreement and certification by the commissioner.
– But suppose it does not succeed ?
– The commissioner may, in the process of conciliation, obtain agreement between the parties, represented by those with that capacity to negotiate, on everything except a few points. There may be scores of matters in dispute, and all but two or three may be dealt with in that way. How is the situation to be dealt with then? The ideal thing would be to continue the process of conciliation. We are trying to get away from the need to bring disputes to court. The commissioner is an arbitrator, but he need not sit in court. He can go to the factory or to the establishment where the work is being done. He can say to the management, w What is the answer to this question? Let me see the work that is the subject of the dispute “. He can. approach the secretary or the organizer of the trade union in the same way. There is no real scope for advocacy in the legal sense in such a situation. However, it cannot be excluded altogether. As the Leader of the Opposition quite properly pointed out, we cannot exclude medical experts, or technical experts of various kinds. However, in general, we are not concerned with legal technicalities. It is a matter here of reaching a just decision. If we provide facilities for legal argument before the conciliation commissioner, we shall defeat one of the main objects of the bill. It is true that the right of counsel and paid agents to participate in arbitration proceedings is limited in this bill, but their right is also limited under the existing law,
– In Western Australia, a union secretary who has been particularly successful in appearing before industrial tribunals is often engaged by unions other than that to which he belongs to appear for them. Will the provision now before the committee prevent such a man from appearing for other unions?
– The bill provides that in proceedings before a conciliation commissioner a federal organization may- be represented by a member or officer of that organization, while a party which is not an organization may be represented either by an employee, or by a member or officer of an organization of which the party is a member. Therefore, I do not think that the union official mentioned by the honorable member would be able to appear before a conciliation commissioner on behalf of unions other than his own. It should be remembered, however, that the jurisdiction of the commissioners is limited, and that our purpose is to limit the appearances before a commissioner to those who are actually involved in the dispute.
– Would it be competent for an officer of an employers’ federation to appear on behalf of a number of different employers who are members of the federation, itself a registered organization ?
– A person or a company who is a member of, say, the Chamber of Manufactures, could be represented in proceedings by an officer of that organization.
– Then would not the employers be in an advantageous position in that they would probably retain the services of the best advocate available?
– This provision is not an attack on the legal profession, the members of which are alone competent to deal with certain matters in the court. It represents an attempt to apply the principle that the parties who appear before a commissioner should be capable of negotiating a settlement.
– And if their case is badly presented, they must accept the finding of the commissioner?
– That is so, but the findings -will depend on the experience and knowledge pf the commissioner.
– And also on how the. case is presented.
– We must get out of out minds that it is a matter of presenting a case in the legal sense. Such a presentation connotes the calling of witnesses and their cross-examination. Under this proposal, a conciliation commissioner may inform his mind in any way he thinks fit.
– He can do that under the present system..
– We want to lay particular emphasis on that aspect of the matter to make it the most important.
– I cannot allow the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to present a false picture of industrial proceedings under the present law. Listening to the honorable gentleman one would think that at present it is entirely a matter of arbitration, with no concilialion at all. It is not a matter of lawyers, but of having the use of those trained in advocacy as the lawyer is. It is largely a matter of being trained in the presentation of facts and. arguments. In practically all the States, and certainly in New South Wales, the trained advocate goes into conference with the advocate representing the other side. The situation which the Attorney-General has sketched as a desirable one to be achieved under the Government’s proposal, has actually existed for years, and this inspite of the presence of trained advocates. I wish to join with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in protesting against the cult of the untrained. The trained advocate is a valuable adjunct to the process of arbitration, not because he is trained as a lawyer, but because he is trained in the sorting of evidence and the presentation of argument. Under the proposed system, conciliation commissioners will continue to call evidence, and the advocates on each side will continue to ask questions and try to sift falsehood from truth and false opinion from sound opinion. That will go on as it has gone on in the past. The people who are skilled in sorting? out these difficulties to the benefit of the community are to be excluded. I refuse to believe that the Attorney-General genuinely accepts a position under which trained advocates have to be excluded. Under the Attorney-General’s amendment, a conciliation commissioner is never to have the assistance of a trained advocate. He is to have the assistance of the union secretary, or advocate, and also that of the advocate for the, em ployers’ organization. The position of those advocates, apparently, is to be safeguarded; but others who are in no different position from them except that they are more skilled are to be irrevocably excluded. And we find that these skilled advocates are to be excluded also from the court except under two conditions:First, that the court asks for them; and, secondly, that both sides consent to their appearance. Of course, we shall have the position that one party will not consent; and, therefore, these trained advocates will be excluded. However, from my own experience, I know that the court wants the trained advocate, because he shortens proceedings and gets to the point more quickly. Judges have told me that again and again. But under this provision we shall have less and less of that, with more and more chaos developing in industry.
.- The lawyers among honorable members opposite have been getting up one after another and making the strongest appeal possible that members of the legal fraternity should not be excluded from appearing as advocates before conciliation commissioners and thus be deprived of “perks” they may be able to obtain in’ that capacity. I pay tribute to those honorable members opposite who are learned in the law as the best body of unionists I have seen. They certainly stick together. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said much about lawyers and their ability as advocates; they are far better trained than the ordinary layman. That has been the gist of the arguments advanced by honorable members opposite right throughout this debate. When they speak about the skill of the trained legal man, do they forget altogether the qualifications of the man who has been trained industrially and knows an industry from A to Z far better than many lawyers have ever been capable of learning law ? Their arguments remind me of the impressions I gained of lawyers in the Arbitration Court in matters in which the union of which I have been a member all my life was interested. The lawyer was like a foreigner who, coming into a city for the first time, tried to ask for directions in a language that was not understood by the local residents. “When the lawyer asks workers in industry for directions, they cannot penetrate his grey matter.
I have listened patiently to speeches made in this debate. Some of my own remarks have been misinterpreted by honorable members opposite. For instance, the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) paid a tribute to me on the incorrect assumption that I was opposed to a certain provision in the bill. All I .can, say is that any tribute to me from the honorable member will cost me thousands of votes. Honorable members on this side of the chamber would welcome any new contribution to the debate; but honorable members opposite have failed to suggest any improvement of the measure. On the contrary, they have spent all their time trying to safeguard the interests of legal advocates in the Arbitration Court, wondering in what way they can ensure emoluments for lawyers. So far as our existing arbitration system is concerned, we must recognize that in the past delays in hearings have caused serious trouble. Nobody has been more responsible for such delays than the legal advocate, because, after one job is finished, he must look for another, and, consequently, he wants to string out hearings.
– I am afraid that the honorable member is measuring them by his own yardstick.
– No; because I have never had a job in which I have been paid to cause delay.
– What is the honorable member doing how?
– Honorable members opposite have delayed proceedings in this chamber to such a degree that the Government was obliged to declare this measure an urgent one. However, as the remarks of honorable members are broadcast, I take this opportunity to tell people who are listening in to this debate that the arguments which honorable members opposite are putting forward are wholly and solely directed towards protecting the legal fraternity. At the same time, they cast reflections upon men who have rendered great service in the past as conciliation commissioners, and as lay advocates as honorable members opposite term them. But some of those lay advocates are far more efficient and have exhibited far greater ability in discerning points at issue in hearings -than lawyers who have never been associated with industry. The Leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister, thought that he could “bulldoze” the coal-miners on the northern coal-field, and also the workers at Port Kembla, but he learned on his visits to those places, that he was- not understood by the workers. The fact is that whilst the workers have complete confidence in people who have been associated with them in industry, they have no confidence in people who are trained to represent the employer to-day and the employee to-morrow. The workers do not want that kind of arbitration. They have no confidence in legal advocates who represent whichever side they choose. The Leader of the Opposition, for instance, appeared against the Crown in the James dried fruits case in South Australia, but later accepted a brief from the Commonwealth Government when that case went to the Privy Council. It shows how members of the legal profession can turn and twist when it suits them.
– I can- only assume that the honorable member is ignorant of the facts, otherwise 1 would say, “ That is a lie”. I was always on the same side in the James case.
– The right . honorable gentleman is prepared to contravene the Standing Orders and characterize what I have said as a lie. If he says so outside I shall deal with him. He will not get away with these things.
– The honorable member should apologize for misstating the facts.
– I shall not apologize. The greatest hostility to this bill has been expressed by honorable members opposite, whose sole concern is to preserve the “ perks “ of’ the legal fraternity. It is true that the 40 hours case is being presented to a court consisting of members of the legal fraternity; but that is a’ special case. Industrial conditions and rates of pay should be determined by laymen, and that is the very purpose of the bill.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new section 43g (Form and continuance of award).
– I move -
That the proposed new section be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sections: - “ 43g. An award shall be framed in such a manner as best to express the decision of the Court or Conciliation Commissioner and to avoid unnecessary technicality. “43ga. - (1.) An award shall, subject to the next succeeding section, continue in force for a period to be specified in the award, not exceeding live years from the date upon which the award comes into force. “ (2.) After the expiration of the period so specified, the award shall, subject to the next succeeding section, and unless the Court, in the case of an award made by the Court, or a Conciliation Commissioner, in the case of an award made by a Conciliation Commissioner, otherwise orders, continue in force until a new award has been made. “ (3.) Where, in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section, an award has continued in force after the expiration of the period specified in the award, any award made by the Court or a Conciliation Commissioner for the settlement of a new industrial dispute between the parties may be made to operate from a date not earlier than the date upon which the dispute arose. “ (4.) The fact that an award has been made and is in force shall not prevent an award being made for the settlement of a further dispute between all or any of the parties to the first-mentioned award, with or without additional parties, and whether or not the subject matter of the further dispute is the same in whole or in part as the subject matter of the dispute determined by the first-mentioned award. “ 43gb. The Court may, with respect to a matter referred to in section twenty -eight of this Act, and a Conciliation Commissioner may subject to section sixteen of this Act, if for any reason it or he considers it desirable to do. so -
set aside an award or any of the terms of an award; or
vary any of the terms of an award.”.
This proposed new section deals with three matters - the form of awards, the duration or continuance of awards and the power to set aside or vary awards. It is considered that the provisions with respect to those matters would be more readily followed if they were contained in three sections instead of one - each section confined to one matter - and the amendment provides accordingly. Proposed new section 43g, as now redrafted, follows the wording of sub-section 1 of proposed newsection 43g, as set out in the bill so far as the form of awardsis concerned. Subsections 1, 2 and 3 of proposed new section 43ga correspond to sub-section 1 of section 43g set out in the bill so far as that sub-section relates to the continuance of awards, and to sub-sections 2 and 3 of that section. Sub-section 4 of proposed new section 43ga is, however, new and is included for the purpose of enabling an award to be made for the settlement of a dispute in relation to a matter covered by an existing award during the currency of that award. Proposed new section 43gb confers power on the court, in a matter coming within the extent of the court’s functions, and on conciliation commissioners in matters coming within the extent of their functions, to set aside and vary awards, and corresponds broadly to sub-section 4 of section 43g as contained in the bill. Sub-section 5 of section 43g as set out in the bill is unnecessary in view of the omission of paragraphsk andl of proposed new section 43, which has already been agreed to.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new sections, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new section 43h -
An award of the Court or of a Conciliation Commissioner shall be binding on -
all parties who have been summoned or notified to appear as parties to the dispute, whether they have appeared or not, unless the Court or Conciliation Commissioner is of opinion that they were improperly made parties:
– I move -
That paragraph (b) of the proposed new section be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraphs: - “(b) all parties to the industrial dispute who have been summoned or notified, either personally or as prescribed, to appear as parties to the dispute, whether they have appeared or not; (ba) all persons who, having been notified, either personally or as prescribed, of the industrial dispute and of the fact that they are alleged to be parties thereto, do not, within the time prescribed, satisfy the Court or the Conciliation Commissioner that they are not parties to the dispute; “
Proposed new section 43h sets out the persons and organizations who are bound by an award made in settlement of an industrial dispute. The alteration proposed is designed to ensure that the awards shall be binding on all persons who are properly parties to the dispute. Paragraph b of the section as set out in the bill follows substantially the corresponding provision in the existing act. The first reference, however, to “ parties “ may be read as meaning parties to the proceedings, whereas it is intended to refer to parties to the dispute. Paragraph b has been re-drafted so as to make this clear and is now limited to persons who are in fact parties to the dispute. In order to provide for the case of persons who have’ been notified of a dispute, and of the fact that they are said to be parties thereto, new paragraph ba is proposed to be included. Such persons will be bound as parties to the dispute unless they satisfy the appropriate authority within the time prescribed that they are not in fact parties to the dispute.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
– I move -
That, after proposed new section 43h, the following new section be inserted: - “43h a.-
The following lock-outs shall be unlawful:
any lock-out against the terms of an award of a Court or of a Conciliation Commissioner;
any lock-out which occurs in the course of an industrial dispute of which the Court or the Conciliation Commissioner has cognizance.
Any person including an organization of employers who does any act or thing in the nature of an unlawful lock-out, or takes part in an unlawful lock-out, or aids, incites or encourages an unlawful lock-out, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: One thousand pounds.
The following strikes shall be unlawful: .
any strike against the terms of an award of the Court or of a Conciliation Commissioner;
any strike which occurs in the course of an industrial dispute of which the Court or a Conciliation Commissioner has cognizance.
Any person who in any way incites or encourages an unlawful strike shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: One hundred pounds.
Where an organization of employees or any of the members thereof take part in an unlawful strike such organization shall be deemed to he guiltyof an offence.
Penalty: One thousand pounds.
(i) Where in the opinion of the Court an organization or any of its members is taking part in an unlawful lock-out or strike the Court may direct that a Receiver be appointed of the funds and assets of the said organization for such time and upon such terms as the Court may direct;
The Court may act under this sectionof its own motion or upon application made to it by the Attorney-General or any interested party, and in all cases before action is taken by the Court under this section notice shall be given to the organization concerned and to such other persons as the Court shall think fit.
Any offence against this section may be prosecuted cither summarily or upon indictment, but an offender shall not be liable to be punished more than once in respect of the same offence.
An offence against this section shall not bo prosecuted summarily without the written consent of the Attorney-General or a person thereto authorized in writing by the AttorneyGeneral and an offence against this section shall not be prosecuted upon indictment except in thename of the Attorney-General.
In this section ‘lock-out’ (without limiting its ordinary meaning) includes a closing of a place of employment or a suspension of work or a refusal by any employer to continue to employ any number of his employees with a view to compel his employees or to aid another employer in compelling his employees to accept terms of employment.
Strike ‘ ( without limiting its ordinary meaning) includes the cessation of work by any number of employees acting in combination or a concerted refusal or a refusal under a common understanding by any number of em ployees to continue to work for an employer with a view to compel their employer or to aid other employees in compelling their employer to accept terms of employment or with a view to enforce compliance with demands made by them or other employees on employers or with a view to influencing the decisions of the Court or of a Conciliation Commissioner in any matter.”.
The motion for the insertion of this proposed new section will probably give rise to the most important debatewe shall have in committee on this bill. The purpose of the new section is to make unlawful certain lockouts and strikes, and to provide certain remedies which may be enforced against those who participate in or encourage lockouts and strikes. Perhaps I may summarize its effect in this way: In the first place certain lookouts are made unlawful. These comprise any lockout against the terms of an award of a court or of a conciliation commissioner, and a lockout which occurs in the course of an industrial dispute of which the court or a conciliation commissioner has cognizance. .Strikes having the same character are also declared to be unlawful. In the case of a lockout a penalty of £1,000 is provided; in the case of an unlawful strike any person who incites or encourages an unlawful strike is made subject to a penalty of £100, and an organization which takes part in an unlawful strike is made liable to a penalty of £1,000. “Where an organization or any of its members is taking part in an unlawful lockout or strike, including, of course, organizations of employers and employees, the court is to be given power to appoint a receiver of the hinds and assets of, the organization for such times and upon such terms as the court may direct. The rest of the proposed new section contains definitions and certain machinery provisions. The purpose of the proposed new section is to write into the conciliation’ and arbitration legislation provisions which will enable the authority of the arbitration system to be upheld. During the second-reading stage we had a good deal of debate about this matter and many of us at that time took the opportunity to explain our view, which we hold very strongly, that if wo are to have a system of industrial law we cannot with any reason or justice to the community permit direct action to occur on the same matters at the same time. Here is the choice, which will ultimately become the classical choice, as we become more civilized’ industrially; between direct action, violence, assault upon the public by the unauthorized acts of minorities in the community, and the steady, reasonable and just upholding of the law.
As to the form of the proposed new section, if honorable members will look back to proposed new section 32c they will see how this “would fit in with the general structure of the bill, because proposed, new section 32o gives power to the court to enjoin any organization or person from committing or continuing any contravention of the act. If we write into the act this proposed new section, then a breach of that section will be a contravention of the act and an injunction may be issued against the organization or person offending. That would bring right .into the picture the matter referred to by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) earlier to-day, namely, the possibility of obtaining an injunction against some permanent law breaker in the industrial field, or against an organization that is defying the community in the industrial field. Then of course, an injunction having been issued, a breach of that injunction would enable personal remedies to be pursued, which I have no doubt is approximately the system that was employed in the case of John L. Lewis in the United States of America not long ago. It has been said repeatedly in the course of this debate, and to a rapidly tiring public in the past few months, that it is impossible to enforce the industrial law. Of course, the moment a person makes that statement, he can be confronted by the fact that there is not the slightest difficulty, nor has there been the slightest difficulty, in enforcing the industrial law against an individual. But then the ground of the argument is changed, and honorable members opposite will then say, ““We recognize that; but you cannot enforce ‘the industrial law against organized masses of men “. That has been said to the people of Australia repeatedly, either expressly or by implication, during the last few months, by many individuals from the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) down. “We are told that people cannot be made to work; that nothing can be done about a stoppage like the one that is about to create chaos in the .State of Victoria.
I wish. to test that observation by saying a few plain words about what is going on in Victoria because it is a perfect example of what this proposed new section is aimed at. The offending organization this time is the Amalgamated Engineering Union. It is a key union with a long record and, if I may say quite plainly, a good record. It is a union of men who, in my humble opinion, have a real grievance. I have believed for 25 years (hat we have concentrated so much attention on basic wage problems, that margins for skill have fallen more and more into arrears. If I were asked as an individual whether I sympathized with the desire of the skilled craftsman to be paid a higher margin, I should say that I certainly did ; hut unfortunately, the Amalgamated Engineering Union, having a grievance which for all I know may have great substance, has chosen under pressure at which I can only guess, to abandon the Arbitration Court at this moment, and, putting it quite plainly, to declare war on the community of Australia. In declaring war, it has chosen Victoria as the first battle-ground, although I have no doubt that other battle-grounds will become available after polling day in New South Wales, which is next Saturday. This union has engaged in a war in which the casualties have been housewives by the thousands - people trying to conduct their own affairs, to feed their families, people who are by progressive stages being deprived of heat, light and transport, and who, if the trouble continues for another ten days, may ultimately be deprived of food and sustenance. All that because one organization, going madly along, has chosen to make war on the community! Although the union represents only a beggarly fraction of the community, the political head_ of the State of Victoria, and the political head of the Commonwealth, either placidly or in anguish say, “ We cannot do anything about it because the industrial law cannot be enforced against masses of people “. Apparently, we must not do anything to prevent people from going on strike, or to prevent employers from locking their employees out, and so plunging the community into distress. What are we to do? Must we sit down and twiddle our thumbs? Are, we, as a community, to wait until the attacking minority presses us to our knees and ultimately to surrender ; or is there some sense of justice left in the community?
In Victoria, at this very moment, suburban rail services have gone; the government omnibus services have gone; and country rail services are about to go. If the dispute con tinues, the Yallourn power station will be out of operation in a few days. If the operations of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria are suspended, Melbourne, to say nothing of provincial centres, will be plunged into darkness, and in all probability any great city that is plunged into darkness to-day will also be plunged into crime. Road transport, one of the emergency agencies that could save the community, has been given the fia+, that for May there will not be any private petrol ration at all. These things have already happened. Immediately behind them in prospect is the withdrawal of engineering services from water and sewerage undertakings. If these people be withdrawn, and they will be withdrawn if this union means to fight and win, then a vast community will be .plunged not only into crime and famine but also probably into the most desolating pestilences. And through all this the accredited Government of the country says : “ .We are sorry. We cannot do anything”. It washes its hands of the entire affair. It is innocent of the blood of the community. That is all nonsense. When any handful of men chooses to hold a community to ransom, that community not only has the right to defend itself, but also, if it is a community of men, the duty to defend itself. To say : “ You cannot enforce the industrial law against masses of men “ is a contemptible expression of surrender. At what point, if at any point, should a government in Australia intervene to defend the community against starvation, darkness, disorder and disease? In the ultimate crisis, no government, .regardless of its political complexion, can wash its hands of a matter such as this. If there is no law against industrial and civil war, then any government must organize emergency services. It must call for volunteers to man those services, and it must protect the volunteers. In other words, it must smash the strike by direct action itself. There is -a choice which the governments must ultimately make. Direct action to the point of industrial civil war, as it was described recently in Melbourne, must be met by direct action on the- part of the Government. It would not need to be met by direct action on the part of the Government if we had in Australia enough corporate sense to say, “ Of course we are going to have a rational law against direct action. Of course we are not going to permit lockouts and strikes that amount to the defiance of industrial law.’’ If we had such a law at this moment people now posturing in the public eye-
– Order ! The right honorable member’s time has expired.
– As no other honorable member has risen, I shall take my second period now. If we had such a law in the Commonwealth of Australia, we should not have these people, these Communist rebels, these nobodies, posturing in the public eye, assuming to themselves the airs of the leaders of a popular movement, because, as the inciters of unlawful disputes, they would have been dealt with by the community, which cannot afford to have such unlawful disputes. If we had had such a law we should not have had a fine organization like the Amalgamated Engineering Union crazily going off into this form of rebellion, because it would have known that to conduct an unlawful strike it would incur not only deregistration but those proper punitive steps that are aimed at in this amendment. The choice before the Commonwealth Government and all governments in Australia at this moment is a choice that they cannot esrape except by the happy providence of & surrender in the next few days by the Amalgamated Engineering Union, or a surrender by organized government and the” community to threat and terror. They cannot drift along until the point of time comes at which they must organize the community to break the strike by force - community effort and direct action. The sooner we say, as good men said years ago - I quoted some of their words on the second reading - “ If we are going to establish in Australia a proper system of industrial justice according to industrial law, we cannot tolerate the existence, side by side, on the same field and on the same subject-matter at the same time, the law of the jungle “. I put it to the Government, I put it to every honorable member, and I should like to be able to put it to every person in Australia, that that is the choice.
There can be no escape from it. This silence, this futility and this drifting that we have witnessed in high places will never resolve that choice, but will bring this community only to bitterness, chaos and .hatreds that will last for generations.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has put before the committee, not a resolution in connexion with the Victorian industrial crisis, but an elaborate, important amendment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. He has not condescended to go into detail, but has been most vague and declamatory. No doubt with a great deal of his comment and criticism one might agree, but that is not the question before the committee. He and his supporters have the habit of criticizing the Government for not enforcing the law. This is an admission by the Leader of the Opposition in connexion with the situation in Victoria that the law does not meet his desires. In other words, he has made a positive proposal for the insertion of heavy penalties against strikes and lockouts in the law of the Commonwealth. But he has already ,re erred to that. That was one of the important speeches that he made to the electors last year. “What he said then he repeated to-night almost verbatim. He asked the people of Australia for power to re-insert the penal sections in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. There was nothing wrong in his putting that proposal before the people. Equally there was nothing wrong in a government that does not believe in coercion, but believes in conciliation, opposing it. Tho Chifley Government opposed it, and the people opposed it, as they demonstrated by returning the Chifley Government. In the campaign, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) went even further. To him it was not enough to have penalties for strikes and lockouts restored. He wanted to put in even more drastic provisions. I shallnot say any more about that, but I want the committee to be good enough to view the proposal before it in the light of the history of the Australian arbitration system. Not one word that falls from my lips will justify or condone what has been done in withdrawing supplies in Victoria. That must be condemned, but it must be remembered that the dispute in the metal trades is associated with not only a strike by the Amalgamated Engineering Union but also an extensive lockout by the employers. That matter is before the court. The status of a union is before the court. The criticism of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in this connexion can be treated, I think, with absolute contempt. The Prime Minister, day after day and night after night, ever since the dispute began, has used his best offices for a proper settlement, although the dispute might be regarded as primarily a matter for State jurisdiction.
Opposition Members. - What has he done?
– Is he to come into the chamber, hour by hour, and say what steps are being taken? Are not honorable members and the people willing to trust the Prime Minister in this matter? He has used infinite patience. It is no use saying, “ Amend the law ! Put the big stick back into the law and everything will be solved automatically “. I do not intend to say anything about matters that may be considered if the whole subject of trade union organization is to be reviewed. No doubt the trade union organization has changed very much from what it was a generation ago in the sense that technically industrial processes have developed so much that a stoppage that could not have had much effect on industry and the people as a whole years ago is- of a different character to-day. I leave it at that and return to -the amendment. 1 remind the committee that it cannot escape its knowledge that the Leader of the Opposition, who is so free with his criticism of the Prime Minister, was himself Prime Minister early in the war years and that a most disastrous and extensive dispute in the coal industry lasted for some months. Mr. Menzies. - I called for volunteers and broke the strike.
– The question is not what the right honorable gentleman did but -whether he placed any proposal of this character before the Commonwealth Parliament. He did not. He was Prime Minister. He issued what was called a prospectus for .an unlimited war effort. Included in it was a proposal for penalties for strikes and lockouts. They were never placed on the statute-book.
– Does the right honorable gentleman know why? We shall tell the story.
– The Leader of the Opposition ought to be fair and just in his comments on the Government when it is doing its utmost in this situation. The history of this matter is broadly this: Prom 1904, when the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration . Act was. passed, to 1930 the act, amendment of which the committee is now considering, contained penalty sections for organizations and members taking part in lockouts or strikes. So there is nothing new in these proposals.
– Has the Government enforced the penalties?
– I wish the honorable member would listen. In 1930 they were repealed in somewhat unusual circumstances, which the committee should consider. The penalties were less drastic, I think, than those that the Leader of the Opposition seeks to insert, but they were the same in principle. Experience showed that a system of penalties of this character was futile, and in 1930 the provision for penalties on organizations and members was repealed without so much as a division in either House of Parliament. Parliament at that, time had a Labour majority in the House of Representatives and a very large anti-Labour majority in the Senate. The Leader of the Opposition now advocates a return to a principle which, I submit, has been discredited by the past working of this act. In 1930, so much of Part II. of the act as related to the prohibition of strikes and lockouts was repealed, and with it sections 47 and 4S. I shall state the reasons for this course, which was taken by consent of all parties, not in the words of supporters of the Scullin Government of that day, but in the words of the then Leader of the Opposition, now Sir John Latham, Chief Justice of the High Court. His words derive special significance from the fact, that he had been responsible- for the 1928 amendments of the act, which are now resurrected in a slightly different form by the Leader of the Opposition, and that he took part with the Bruce-Page Government in a vigorous effort to secure the enforcement of awards by penal sanctions. In speaking on the 1930 bill, introduced by the Scullin Government, Sir J ohn Latham said -
But, speaking generally, and subject to the exceptions I have mentioned-
He thought that sewerage supplies, water supplies and gas supplies were in a different category. He continued -
I believe that it is not sound to make either a lockout or a strike a criminal offence. 1 am, and I have always been, of the opinion that such penalties tend to bring the law into contempt. I know, and honorable members on both sides know, that frequently 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. A date is fixed, and the strike takes place: hut it cannot be proved that there is combined action under the direction of the officials . . 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. . . 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 compol 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 it has always been disappointing in the practical effect of restoring operations in industry. Nothing is gained by a 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.
So there was at that time a complete review of the penal sections of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. As honorable members know, penalties had been imposed on trade unions between 192S and that time. There was the famous case of a prosecution which was launched against John Brown, one of the proprietors involved in the northern coal-fields dispute. In order to bring the parties together, the Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, directed that that prosecution for a lockout should be withdrawn. I do not know whether there is any case in which a prosecution under the statute for a lockout or strike was pursued to a conclusion during the period before the penal sections were repealed. There were several prosecutions for strikes, and penalties were imposed, but the records of the Attorney-General’s Department show that the Attorney-General, Sir John Latham, did not believe in the system of penal sanctions for action of that kind, and, in the case of a lockout, we know that the proceedings were not continued.
Court records bear out the judgment of both the Government and the Opposition of 1930 that the penalty sections in the act were never an effective method of securing the observance of awards. I now refer to the insertion in the act itself of provisions of the character which the Leader of the Opposition proposes. Penalties were so heavy, and difficulty of proof was so great, that prosecutions were few. Consider the ease mentioned by Sir John Latham in the passage from his speech which I “have quoted. A union official might say something which is reported in the press. Investigations take place. How can it be proved that the official made the .statement which was reported? It can be assumed that the statement was probably made, but evidence of the fact must be secured. There have been cases in which pressmen have been asked to give evidence in such matters, but there has been a general practical impossibility of obtaining evidence. There are difficulties, not merely in the. actual application of the penalty but also in securing the necessary proof. Owing to the limited -nature of the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers, the prosecutions were prolific in legal arguments both as to the application and as to the validity . of the penalty sections. Consider the attitude of the employers. They should know the probable effect of prosecutions of this character, and they were seldom willing to invoke against unions and their members the penalties provided by the act. Partly for this reason - and this is a point that the Leader of the Opposition has completely overlooked - the ‘ court itself began to insert in a few of the major awards, iri cases where the matter was within the dispute - that is, where there had been a demand for continuity of work or some prohibition of stoppages - clauses which contained less severe penalties than were provided in the act for action in the nature of a strike against an award. The first instance of this was a determination made by Mr. Justice Beeby in 1928. He inserted a clause in an award making action in the nature of a strike or a lockout subject to a smaller penalty than that provided in the act for breaches of the award. Chief Judge Dethridge did likewise in the seamen’s award. Other instances may be found in several variations of the metal trades awards made by Mr. Justice O’Mara.
– What kind of penalties were provided?
– These appear in proposed section 43, which is contained in clause 8 of the bill and which reproduces the existing legislation. It states -
The Court or a Conciliation Commissioner may, in relation to an industrial dispute which comes before it or him -
fix maximum penalties for any breach or non-observance of any term of an order or award, not exceeding One hundred pounds in the case of an organization or an employer who is not a member of an organization bound by the order or award, or Ten pounds in the case of a member of an organization.
An order is made in settlement of a dispute, but in the awards that I have mentioned, provisions were inserted making strike or lockout action a breach, not of the statute, but of the awards and subject to those penalties.
– It appears that the court has been persuaded that penalties may be effective.
– In a few cases, but such provisions are scarcely to be found to-day in any award of the court. The court has had full power to insert such clauses in awards, but it has done so very infrequently. The validity of penalty clauses in awards was upheld in 1936 by a majority of the High Court, notwithstanding the repeal in 1930 of the penalty sections of the act itself.- As I have stated, although the penalty sections of the act were repealed, the court, in a few instances, did include some provision of that kind in awards in its discretion. That power will still remain in the court, and conciliation commissioners also may exercise it if they think fit. That is in accordance with the existing law; it is not affected by the present bill. As a matter of fact, prosecution under those award provisions has not, in practice, proved more efficacious as an instrument of industrial peace than prosecution under the former penalty sections of the act. Such provisions have been included in only a few of the many hundreds of awards made by the court.
The Government’s answer to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition thus can be simply stated. First, past experience negatives the value of a system of drastic penalties as a means of preventing lockouts and strikes. There is no real analogy between the industrial conflicts of to-day and the activities that can be controlled by the techniques of the criminal law. Our industrial history suggests that the amendment is wrong in principle. That was the implied agreement of all parties in this Parliament in 1930.
– How would the AttorneyGeneral deal with revolution in this country ?
– We have ways of .dealing with. action of that character. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) knows perfectly well what those ways are, but he would be of greater assistance to the committee if he discussed the effect of provisions of this kind. I believe that the honorable member himself, in the past, criticized them.
– At any rate, those provisions were not reinserted in the act during the period of eleven years, including two years of World War II., when an anti Labour government was in office. Many years ago, when Sir Charles Wade was the Premier of New South Wales, he introduced coercive or penal legislation against strikes. Years after the event, he wrote that penalties for strikes were “ illusionary protection “. An experienced author, Dr. Foenander, in a leading thesis on industrial peace in Australia, referred to the action of a former Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin, in removing the penal sections of the act in 1921, as follows : -
Perhaps the virtues of the Labour legislation are mainly negative, insofar as that legislation expunged some of the inoperative and provocative clauses from the statute-book. There is a deep-rooted feeling in the community that penalty legislation is productive of antagonism, and in the attack on the penal and inquisitorial clauses of the 1928 act there cun be little doubt that the country was squarely behind the Government. The Attorney-General accused the Bruce-Page Administration of having committed >the cardinal error of seeking to attach to a measure of conciliation and arbitration the penal sanctions of the Criminal Code . For the ‘ network of irritating contrivance ‘ he promised to substitute the ‘solvent remedies of good-will and conciliation ‘. He made the arbitration legislation more sympathetic in tone by the removal of the more severe penalties. Only those or lesser import remain.
Dr. Foenander’s conclusion is a fair judgment. If penal sanctions of this kind had prevented the evil that we desire to prevent, there would be a case for retaining them. But the fact is that all political parties represented in this Parliament, when the Government had a majority in the House of Representatives and the Opposition had a majority in the Senate, virtually said, by common consent, “ Strikes or lockouts are not proper, but’ this is not the way in which the evil must he attacked “. In the circumstances, it would be serious for a government to go back on a position of that kind. In addition, we have the fact that at the last elections, the Leader of the Opposition put these proposals, or their substance, to the people, who rejected them.
– They would not reject them now.
– An important city of Australia is facing a crisis. Is this the time to consider coolly and rationally the remedy for great evils such as strikes or lockouts? The bill has been introduced for the purpose of trying to prevent them. It is not the time, and it should not be done. As I stated, my first submission is that experience shows that we should be wrong in disregarding the lessons of the past by re-introducing the system of penalties, as the Leader of the Opposition proposes. My second contention is that those who are responsible for the actual prevention and settlement of strikes have the authority to include in their awards the necessary provisions against strikes or incitement to strikes; and against lockouts or incitement of lockouts.
– Should the Parliament or the judges make the award’s ?
– I believe that it is a matter for the judges.
– That is a new one to me.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is fully aware that this Parliament has no control over industrial relations. When we sought . that power at the last referendum, the people refused to grant it. All we can do is to set up conciliation and arbitration machinery, and I believethat, in the course of doing so, it is not unreasonable that the court or the conciliation commissioner should possess powers of this kind in dealing with- theparticular point. But for the Parliament itself to say, “Never mind the circumstances, any lockout or strike ‘ shall betreated as a crime and visited with a heavy penalty”, is indefensible in view of a. history of the matter. But the Leader of the’ Opposition would go further.
– Why does the AttorneyGeneral misstate what the amendment proposes ?
– I am not.
– The Attorney-General referred to “ any lockout or strike “. That, is not contemplated by the amendment.
– The Leader of theOpposition desires to ‘ go further, and introduce the remedy of injunction in a case, of this character. That is to say, if the proposed new law is accepted, then action such as a “strike, lockout, incitement to strike, or taking part in a strikewould be illegal; and if the court could’ issue an injunction order restraining persons concerned and the order was disobeyed, they could be deemed guilty of contempt of court for a. breach of theinjunction, and the penalty would not be limited in amount. It would be entirely in the discretion of the court. If methods of. that kind would promote industrial’ peace based on industrial justice, therewould be something to be said for the amendment. But those who in 1930 had: to consider this matter in the light of the industrial disturbances of those days - the early years of the economic and financial depression when Australia faced a period of extreme crisis - did not agree that those methods would be successful. The committee will be wise to follow their example. Honorable members opposite, examining a situation of serious import and emergency in Victoria, say, “ We have the solution. Let us reintroduce the penal sections of the act, and everything will be satisfactory”. Such a provision is a departure from the principle of the bill, which is to remodel the conciliation and arbitration system for the purpose of ascertaining whether we can remove some of the basic causes of the ills in the industrial relations of employer and employee. I do not believe that we should reject the lessons which we should have learned from experience, and I hope that the committee will not accept the amendment.
.- There is no need for me to refer to the situation in Victoria as it has relevance to this particular amendment. That has been done very clearly and compellingly by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in what I believe all honorable members will agree was one of the most powerful statements that we have heard in this chamber. Nothing that he has said in relation to the situation in Victoria has been denied by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). He has accepted as being the case the version of what is happening in Victoria and what can happen in that State as presented to the committee by the Leader of the Opposition. Therefore, we must examine the alternatives presented to the committee for a solution of these and comparable problems which arise from time to time throughout the Commonwealth. Are we to accept what is put forward by the Leader of the Opposition as the solution of this problem, or are we to accept what is put forward as the policy of the Government on this matter? Before we examine what the Government says is its view, I shall study the criticisms which the Attorney-General directed against the proposals of the Leader of the Opposition.
The Attorney-General taunted the Leader of the Opposition with the fact that, during World War II., when’ he himself had stated that he required an unlimited war prospectus and indicated that he would bring into being provisions of this kind, he did not do so. The Attorney-General’s statement is most remarkable because he knows better than any one, save a very few people, in this Parliament why that was not done, and he was a party to the decision which held up the legislation at that time. These are matters which would not normally be, disclosed, and I would not divulge them now if the Attorney-General, who was a party to these proceedings, had not wilfully taunted the Leader of the Opposition with having failed to implement the legislation he had initiated. Now, the facts are these - and I know them very well, because, at the time, I was ‘the Minister charged with the preparation of the legislation - and I brought’ before the Advisory War Council the policy of , our Government. We set out to do certain things, which- 1 have indicated in other discussions in this chamber. We set out to give a balanced industrial policy -to the Commonwealth for the period of the war. and that balanced industrial policy included certain principles. First, we had to guarantee that there would be a reform of the arbitration procedure so that, technicalities which might obstruct justice would be removed; secondly, we had to guarantee that there would be established a readily accessible and impartial tribunal to deal with any grievances which might arise. Having done those things, we had to see that the tribunals were backed by the authority of the government of the day. To implement that proposal we brought before the Advisory War Council the reforms we proposed to make in the industrial system, and these were subsequently enshrined in the Industrial Peace Regulations. Along with that scheme I advocated proposals which were virtually identical with those now before us. Those proposals were delayed at that time for this reason, and for this reason only, that we were told by the then members of the Opposition, including the late Mr. Curtin, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) and the then member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that although they were prepared to support our industrial policy, they wanted us to try out the procedural reforms. They said, in effect: “First let us see if this will produce the results we want “, and they gave * us an assurance that, if they failed, if the industrial movement was not prepared to play the game after we had swept aside the technical obstructions and ensured the creation of accessible tribunals, they would support us in regard to the penal provisions we desired to introduce. For that reason, and for that reason only, we did not implement the second part of our industrial, policy at that time. If my memory serves me correctly, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who was then Prime Minister, made a statement to Parliament when he was dealing with a bill which we had prepared to strengthen the arbitration act, that, following his discussions with the late Mr. Curtin, who was then Leader of the Opposition, and in view of an assurance he had received, he did not propose to proceed at that stage with the penal provision in the bill. .That is the first point. If we are going to be taunted with not having done our job, let ‘ all the cards be put on the table.
Now, let me deal with the second criticism. Honorable members opposite say, “ We put this policy before the people at the last elections and they gave us an overwhelming mandate But what are the facts? The Government came back with a majority, it is true, but our policy was not rejected entirely. Wc made gains, and honorable members know how small a proportion of the total votes cast was required to effect a change in the occupancy of the Treasury bench. Whatever influence - the temper of the people may have had on the election results because of the ‘industrial disturbances then occurring, I say that, confronted as they are to-day with the growth of lawlessness, of militant unionism, of obstruction of our economic life, and the inconvenience caused by wilful defiance of the decisions of our tribunals, if the Government wants to go to the people on that policy to-day, we challenge it to do so. We have no fear of the result if the issue is tested against the background of the feeling in Australia at present. We put forward our remedy for this state of affairs, but I believe that the Attorney-General is living in some clouded, cuckoo land of his own; he does not know what is going on in Australia to-day. He was reported in the .Sydney press as having told a meeting in Sydney last night,, amongst other things, that we ‘have in Australia a state of affairs which is the envy of almost every other country in the world. That is a published statement. I invite him to come to the .State of Victoria for a week and tell the people of that State that the conditions there are “the envy of almost every other country in the world”. In Victoria we are faced with an industrial crisis verging on a national calamity. Nothing that the Leader of the Opposition said earlier to-night in regard to conditions in Victoria has been denied, or could be denied, by the Attorney-General.
What is the Government’s solution of this problem? We, at least, put forward proposals which represent a determination on the part of parliamentary democracy to defend itself and to defend the people who have elected it against militant lawlessness by those who are determined to defy the Parliament, the tribunals of the land, and the people of this country. At least, we make an. endeavour to stand up to that kind of pressure. But what does the Government do? What has it brought before the Parliament to deal with the situation? I listened to every word the Attorney-General said, but he leaves theposition exactly where it is to-day - an industrial law without teeth and without any capacity for enforcement. What power has the Government got ? Under this bill the only power conferred on the court is the power to deregister unions, and to inflict penalties which can only be regarded as minor punishment, having regard to the issues at stake. Practically no other power of enforcement exists. As the result of an amendment which I moved this afternoon, the Government has taken a moeity of power which gives it the right to cancel an award. But. what other power does the Government receive under this legislation? I invite the Attorney-General to tell us clearly any other power it can exercise outside this legislation. Admittedly it has certain power under the Crimes Act, but even then it has to go through .the formality of requesting the Governor-General to -issue a proclamation, and when the Governor-General has issued the proclamation only a limited class of offence can be punished by imprisonment. Imprisonment can only be inflicted upon persons who have committed breaches against the public peace in a time of proclaimed national calamity. What other power has the Government got and what else does it’ propose to do? I say that the Government has not equipped itself, nor does it propose to equip itself, for the kind of emergency that is threatening the community life of the people of Victoria to-day. The Government is powerless because it chooses to remain powerless; it can acquire the power if it desires; and it can seize that power to-night if it chooses by accepting the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. But what does it do? It sits back, and lives in a dream world of its own. It refuses to recognize realities. Confronted with that attitude, what can the community do? Nobody in this Parliament wants any group of citizens to organize themselves for direct action against the challenge with which we are confronted at the present time. But what alternative does a parliamentary democracy give to the people ? When the people give to the Parliament the responsibility of governing, of maintaining law and order and essential” services, of providing food,’ and of preserving public health, and the Parliament gives that responsibility to a government chosen from its ranks ; if that government is so craven that it will not provide the protection that is needed, then inevitably, for their own selfprotection, there will arise people who will say, “ If the Parliament and the Government will not act, then we shall have to act for ourselves “. We do not want that, and we propose that it shall be resisted by the constitutional method provided for in the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. If the Government allows another day to pass without taking the power that is necessary to meet the situation with which we are confronted, lt will be inviting disaster for the people of Australia.
.- The people of Australia will be disappointed, and in Victoria will be disgusted, at the blunt rejection of the amendment that has been submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), which would place in the hands of the Government the power to avoid the crisis that is upon us. The law of the country is being flouted in the industrial world, yet the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) lives in the past, talks about the situation in 1930, and does nothing. During the last fewweeks, I have asked questions regarding what action was being taken against disrupters of industry, who were throwing good men into unemployment by calling them out on strike, who were taking skilled men from, their occupations, and were ruining businesses that had taken, a lifetime to build up. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), and the AttorneyGeneral merely look at one another, wring their hands, and say, “ We shall see what can be done We have statements such as that of the Prime Minister, “ You cannot crucify the workers “. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) was fined as a disturber of peace- in industry many years ago, and the fine has never been paid. He is reported to have said, “ The Prime Minister will not interfere between em- ployer and employee “. One of the employers in Victoria in the present dispute is the State. Transport on the railways has ceased. There is the possibility of a power black-out, and considerable disorder. We are confronted with a crisis greater than any that has been experienced in- a century. Yet the Government follows a policy which would shame Nero, or Ethelred the Unready. It is intimidated by men who have set themselves above the law.’ When the opportunity is given to it to take action against such men, the Attorney-General plays with politics, and pretends that .he is doing’ something, whereas he is allowing these social pests, these parasites on the working man, to impose a veto on the prosperity of this great country. If, shortly, there should be considerable disorder in Victoria, the blame for it will lie with the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister in particular. They now have the opportunity to arrest the present industrial disturbance. There is no need to hark back to 1930. They know what happened recently in the United States of America, when that czar of the industrial world, John L. Lewis, was haled before a court and heavily fined. If the Government does not take action immediately against, those highly paid disturbers - Cranwell, Brown, Rowe and Thornton - who, with the exception of Cranwell, owe. no fealty to this country, but lock to an alien country for their inspiration, and would wreck everything that is British, the blame will rest entirely with the Government. Prom the beginning of Australia’s history, no government has fallen to a lower level than ha.« this shameful Chifley Government. The Attorney-General has rejected bluntly the proposition submitted by the Opposition, which should be agreed to unanimously. When Lewis was fined in r,he United States of America, he tried to commence another strike, but only onethird of the men would come out. The Premier of Victoria, when tackled, claims that the matter is a federal one, and says that he will consult the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister tosses it back to Mr. Cain, and says that it is a State matter. The trouble that has come upon Victoria will affect the whole of Australia shortly unless action to prevent its spread is taken.
To-night. T heard the AttorneyGeneral make a sugary speech on the air, doubtless for electioneering purposes. In the course of it, he said, “ In New South Wales, we have full employment”. He wa« careful to particularize New South Wales. He went on to say, “ New South Wales is the envy of the world”. Yet in Victoria to-day there are people who are grievously inconvenienced by industrial turmoil. If members of the Cabinet were to try in Victoria to obtain foothold on a tram, or were to join food queues in the hope of obtaining food, they’ would realize that, as one honorable member has said, they are living in a dream world. If the Government has not the courage to take action, if it is afraid of these men, something serious may happen. If it wants the. matter to be adjusted in a parliamentary way, let it resign. It assumed office under false pretences, by means of a specious policy which deluded the people. The people are now thoroughly disillusioned. Union agitators go in to different engineeringestablishments, withdraw skilled men,, and find them unskilled labour elsewhere. Thousands of men- are employed in that way in Melbourne to-day. If the Government is incapable of dealing with the trouble, and refuses to accept a reasonable proposition which would enable action to be taken against the men. we have named, and about whom I have asked questions for some weeks, let it make way for another government which will be prepared to shoulder its responsibilities. The only penalty for which theConciliation and Arbitration Act makes provision at the moment is a fine of £20. The opportunity is here presented in the proposed new section to make strikesillegal. Let there be an election, so that the people may speak, and show that theGovernment is completely out of touch, with realities in Australia.
.- The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) went back to’ seventeen yearsB.C. - before communism - to the year 1930. In 1930 the then Opposition bad a majority in the .Senate, but the Attorney-General would be thelast man to say that that chamber, which is supposed to be a .States’ House, should reject major legislation sent on to it by a newly elected House of Representatives unless the Senate was prepared to face a double dissolution. The right honorable gentleman is not a novice in these matters, and it ill becomes him to advance specious arguments about the Senate.
The Attorney-General also said that if penalties are to be imposed they should be determined by the court which heard thecase. I have no doubt that he has read Lord Hewart’s book, The New Despotism.. It is unthinkable that this Parliament should .abrogate its powers as a legislativeauthority to the degree of saying that if penalties are to be imposed, the court, not the Parliament, should decide what they should be. I do not think that theright honorable gentleman, when a member of the High Court, would have been a party to a judgment to that effect…
– The High Court did uphold that view in 1936.
– Did the right honorable gentleman uphold it when a justice of the High Court? Did he take part in that judgment? The AttorneyGeneral is silent. Obviously, the stand that he took as a justice of the High Court in 1936 was diametrically opposed to the arguments he has advanced here to-night. According to a statement made by him a few minutes ago, his ideal is a state of affairs under which we should have law without penalties. Where would that lead us? If we are to have penalties without sanctions such penalties would be merely a matter of form. During the lifetime of the present Government we have known of penalties being imposed by a court and being remitted by the Government. Nothing is more calculated to bring the law into contempt than actions of that kind. The AttorneyGeneral offers no redress; he merely says that it is most regrettable that a certain state of affairs should exist. It is more than regrettable; it is disastrous that certain people should have the power to hold the whole community to ransom, as is now the case in Victoria. It is tragic that one man should have the hide to say in writing who shall traverse the streets of Melbourne in a. motor vehicle. When the Government concedes to any individual or group of individuals such power, it is equivalent to abandoning its functions as a government. If it continues to act in this way some one else will usurp the powers of government, and the Government will be displaced. The Chifley Government is faced with the beginnings of revolution in this country, but it is not doing anything to meet the situation by either legislation or administrative act. In the commercial columns of the Sydney Morning Herald–
– The honorable member must deal with the amendment before the Chair.
– I am dealing with it.
– The Chair rules otherwise.
– The Chair has not heard what I want to say. I was about to refer to a Commonwealth activity in Sydney, namely, Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, which has not functioned for five months. I emphasize that this is a Commonwealth activity, and that in that period not a wheel in its factory has turned, nor has it employed a man. Nevertheless, the Government .has done nothing except to say that it is sorry that the City of Melbourne is held up to ransom, or that people in hospitals may be inconvenienced to the point of death because essential services are not being provided. People are denied the right to work and the necessaries of life because certain individuals, backed by unthinking people, say that the law of the land shall not prevail, and that the functions of government shall not be carried out. Yet, when an amendment is presented by the Leader of the Opposition to meet the situation, the AttorneyGeneral rises from behind a stack of books, which is suggestive of ‘ a second-hand bookshop, and holds in his hand a pile of papers which appear to be ready for the incinerator, and says, “Nothing can be done. It is just too bad, but we have no remedy for the disabilities from which the community is suffering. We do not know how to tackle the job “. In the circumstances, the Government should do what the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) suggested ; it should say to the electors, “We cannot produce industrial peace; we have no remedy for the disturbances which are upsetting the community. It is up to you to appoint another government to take over the job that we are incapable of doing”. The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General must know that, unless something is done along the lines suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, this piece of legislation will not be worth the paper on which it i? printed. It will take its place on the statute-book with various measures designed to control the coal-mining industry and to guarantee peace on the coal-fields, but have produced neither peace nor coal. This legislation will not bring peace to industry. The people who are concerned in causing strikes, the mischief-makers of this country, those who are causing, chaos in industry, know what there is in office in the Commonwealth a government which is not prepared to use the power conferred “on it by the Constitution and could well be called “ the Government which lets things alone “. The people are tired of the administration of the present Government in industrial matters. They are looking for some indication that the Government is at last prepared to grasp the nettle firmly and deal with the hold1ups and strikes which are disrupting the life of the community. Obviously, the Attorney-General is not prepared to do that, because he is not willing to accept amendments moved by the Opposition which would enable him to deal with those who cause trouble. If things drift on as they are drifting in Victoria, I warn the right honorable gentleman that we shall have the state of affairs that I forecast about four years ago. There is only one end to this kind of thing; if people on one side use force, the people on the other side will also use force. I know what that means, but I doubt that the Government does. I should like some indication that it realizes the seriousness of the situation.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) accuses the Government of going back seventeen years. I shall go back only seven’ days, to the time when the second reading of this bill was carried. Every Opposition member who is now claiming that this legislation could deal with the situation in Victoria, clamoured last week for the bill to be rejected.
– It is not worth anything.
– Then why say. that it is the only means for saving Victoria ?
– We have not said that.
– The honorable member for Barker criticized the Government for not being prepared to do anything to meet the situation which has arisen in Victoria. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) tried to defend himself, and the government of which he was a member in 1940, for neglecting to bring in legislation to achieve the purpose which this amendment, is ostensibly designed to achieve. He tried to put the blame on certain members of the War Cabinet. I remind honorable members,, however, that the Scullin Government was defeated in 1931, and that the party which the honorable member for Fawkner supported was in power for many years. The present Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister for some years, and the honorable member for Fawkner was himself a member of the cabinet. Did they make any attempt to enact the legislation which they now claim to be necessary?
– - -Yes, we did.
– Was a division taken, and who voted against the proposal? Honorable members opposite know that many people are worried about the situation in Victoria, and they are addressing themselves to those people. No one deplores the position in Victoria more than I do. and no one is more anxious to see the dispute settled. We know that when the Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister he visited the northern coal-fields in an effort to settle the strike then in progress, and we heard much about his bravery in doing so. I do not deny his courage, but why did he not at that time take the action which he now says the present Government should take? It is not playing the game to accuse this Government of lack of courage for not taking an unpopular step. Honorable members opposite are using the trouble in Victoria as an excuse for attacking the Government, and as justification for urging the passage of legislation which they did not themselves attempt to enact when they were in power
The Leader of the Opposition himself knows that coercive measures providing for the imposition of heavy fines on industrial organizations and their members are not efficacious. Years ago, the penal’ provisions’ of the law were invoked against the waterfront workers at Port Adelaide, and heavy fines were imposed. In the end, the fines were paid by one of the big shipowners, because that was the only way in which the men could begot back to work. An agreement had been made, but it was necessary that the fines should be paid before work could be resumed. It is of no use to offer the workers conciliation with one hand whileholding in the other a bludgeon with which to hit them over the head. The situation cannot be cured with paniclegislation. Members of the Opposition ask why the Government does not do something. It is all very well for the party’ that is not in power to ask the Government why it does not do something. The Labour party has always striven to bring about peace in industry. The honorable member for Barker entertained us with a humorous concoction of his own about the meaning of the letters B.C., but he is himself much prone to delving into ancient records when addressing the House. Do honorable members opposite really believe that if the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition were accepted it would do anything to help settle the trouble in Victoria? There has been much talk of conciliation and arbitration, but what is the position to-day? Consider the matter for a moment from the point of view of the men concerned in the Victorian dispute. Their union has been deregistered, a stay of proceedings having been granted for fourteen days, but I have not heard that similar action has been taken against the employers who locked out their workmen. I know what it is like to be fighting the militant element in the union which is trying to create trouble. I know how hard it is to keep the peace when some one gets up and cites the coercive provisions of the law which are applied against the men but not against the employers. Those who are so ready to condemn union officials might take a different view if they could see them fighting to preserve industrial peace in the face of the irritation of unionists who are incensed at their conditions. Honorable members opposite have urged that a secret ballot should he taken before a strike is called. Let me remind them that all union officials are elected by secret ballot.
I appeal to honorable members opposite not to use the opportunity presented by this debate to inflame the workers further. I do not know even yet what stand the Opposition really takes in this matter. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) said that he would fight for the amendment to the last ditch. He voted against the motion for the second reading of the measure; but I ask him whether, if the amendment he carried, he will vote for the third reading of the measure. Are honorable members opposite prepared, should the amendment be accepted, to support the third reading of the measure and accept the bill with all its provisions with respect to the appointment and functions of conciliations commissioners? Are they prepared to do that? If they are consistent, they should be prepared to do so. However, I am certain that they will not do that. I admire the eloquence of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), but I have been in politics long enough to realize that whilst the people are sometimes receptive to eloquence - that is the big moment - the same eloquence, on other occasions, falls as flat as stale beer. I believe that most people will realize that the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues have made their strenuous efforts on this matter, knowing full well that the Government will not accept their proposal, and, consequently, they will not be obliged to vote for the third reading of the measure. I sincerely hope that honorable members opposite will not continue to press the amendment, because, although I desire as much as they do to see a speedy settlement of the dispute in Victoria, and the maintenance of peace in industry, the penalties proposed under the amendment would only have the effect of stirring up additional and far more serious industrial trouble.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I have received further information about the fabricated news item published in yesterday’s Sydney Daily Telegraph concerning Douglas Robson, who was described as one of the first party of 200 British builder-migrants to come to Australia. Advice from the assistant head of the shipping department of Dalgety and Company Limited, Sydney, establishes beyond all question that the man referred to by the Daily Telegraph was not a member of that or the second party of immigrants. Dalgety’s advise that Robson came to Australia as a seaman on
Largs Bay and deserted in Sydney. Had hebeen apprehended he would have been dealt with by the courts for deserting his ship. Now, he has signed on as a seaman with Themistocles, It is shameful that, without the slightest inquiry, the Daily Telegraph should accept the story of a deserting seaman and pin it on young British ex-servicemen who came to Australia and are now at work in Canberra building bouses for Australian families to occupy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Labour and National Service - W. H. McLean.
Parliamentary Reporting Staff - A. M. Leehy.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 2.1.
Forestry and Timber Bureau Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 23.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Defence purposes - Hamilton, Queensland. Department of Supply and Shipping purposes - Townsville, Queensland.
Postal purposes -
Hurstville, New South Wales.
Springwood, New South Wales.
Matrimonial Causes Act - Rules of Court -
Dated 17th March, 1947 - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 50.
Re-establishment and Employment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 39.
House adjourned at 11.24 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Compulsory Acquisition of Land.
n. - On the 23rd April the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked whether in view of the High Court decision on land resumed for the Essendon aerodrome I would see that my department reconsidered the offers made to owners of land resumed at Laverton and in various areas aroundMelbourne. I informed the honorable member that in view of the decision of the court the whole matter of valuations in connexion with the land was being reviewed. I wish to point out that the review in question is in relation to the Essendon land only. There is a distinct difference between the land acquired at Essendon and that acquired at Laverton. In regard to Essendon the values had to be based on the prospective usage of the land for suburban development which now extends to the aerodrome. The Laverton lands have been valued as broad acres because they are used for agricultural and grazing purposes. There are nofacilities or services available, which would permit the Laverton land to be used for normal suburban development. Consequently it would be impracticable to apply the court’s decision in regard to the Essendon land to the lands at Laverton.
Broadcasting : Cancelled Programmes ‘ of the Australian Broadcasting- . Commission.
– On the 18th April the honorable member for Balaclava. (Mr. . White) asked the following question
I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether two programmes of the series “the Forum of the Air”, proposed to be broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, were cancelled on . order by the Commonwealth Government as being embarrassing to the Government. If so, what were the titles of the cancelled programmes? How was the Government informed of the character of the projected programmes, and who issued the order for their cancellation!
The Postmaster-General has now sup-‘ plied the following information : -
The programmes referred to by the honorable member for Balaclava were forums which were proposed, for the only date available for the forums during the parliamentary Easter recess, i.e., Wednesday, the 9th April. They were not cancelled on the orders of the Commonwealth Government. The circumstances surrounding the postponement of these forums arc as follows: The commission first planned it debate on the subject - “ Should Asiatic immigrants be - admitted to Australia on a quota basis?” Amongst the speakers invited by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, to take part were public servants who had to seek permission from their Ministers. They were, advised that the 9th, April would he an awkward date from the- Government point of view, and that an earlier or a later date would be preferable. This information was conveyed to -the commission’s officers, who agreed that the subject could well be postponed to another date during the next recess. As an alternative, the commission then had in mind a forum on the subject - “ Australian. Trade ‘ and your Employment”. Again a member of a government department was invited to take part by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He sought, permission from his Minister, who indicated that it would not be advisable for a government servant to broadcast the Government’s point of view on this subject on the day immediately prior to the opening of the . Geneva Conference on World Trade. It was also suggested to the commission that, .rather than debate the subject without any spokesman for the Government’s’ point of view, this particular- forum might be postponed until a later dato when a government spokesman would be free to take part. This was agreed to, and the- Australian Broadcasting Commission proposes to arrange a. forum on this subject also during the next recess.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 April 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470429_reps_18_191/>.