2nd Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator FRASER presented a petition from the President, Vice-President, and Executive Committee of the Central Council of the Employers of Australia, praying the Senate not to pass the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
Petition received, and ordered to be read.
The Clerk reading the petition,
– I rise to a point of order. Is this a controversial speech or a petition? I do no.t think that it takes the form of a petition, and I submit that it should not be inflicted on the Senate.
– It seems to me that it is a petition. An endeavour is made in it to set forth reasons why the Senate should not pass a certain measure. That can be done in any petition.
– It has been presented to the other House.
– -I am not quite sure whether I correctly gather that the petition just read deals with debates which took place in another Chamber during this session? If that be so, I ask whether the petition is in order under standing order 82.
– The petition deals ‘ with the debates of last session.
– I do not think that the petition mentions any particular session.
– The Clerk informs me that the petition quotes the years in which the debates took place, and, therefore, it is in order. I am not prepared to say that the petition would not be in order even if it quoted debates of this session, but, at all events, it is inor der in quoting debates of last session.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General, without notice, a question relating to the business on the notice-paper. The Trade Marks Bill, a very useful measure, has reached a formal stage, and in view of the time which will probably be occupied in the discussion of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, I ask the honorable and learned gentleman . whether he will afford an early opportunity to dispose of the former?
– The Trade Marks Bill reached a stage at which’ it was allowed to remain with a view to substituting a new clause as a more intelligible way of dealing with a point involved in an amendment moved by Senator Best. I have been extremely unwilling, even in matters more or less formal, to interfere with the consideration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and I think I have the sympathy of honorable members ‘opposite in’ my desire to expedite that measure. I recognise the force of what Senator Pearce has said, and if we, as I hope, make substantial progress with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, I promise that I shall take care next week to give the Trade Marks Bill such a position on the notice-paper as will insure its being dealt with at an early date.
Report of Select Committee presented by Senator Best.
Debate resumed from 20th October (vide page 5845), on mot!ion by Senator Sir Josiah Symon -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I do not propose to detain the Senate at any length. With the Attorney-General and the leader on this side of the Chamber, I am anxious to get this Bill into Committee, where I propose to give all the assistance I can in making it such a workable measure as I believe the people desire. Honorable senators on this side have not to answer any objections to the principle of the Bill. The only objection so far has been voiced in the lengthy speech which the Clerk has just read. That speech might just as well have been made by Senator F Fraser, without his taking the trouble to put it in the form of a petition : and I suggest that, as all the matters referred to in that document deal with particular clauses, we might, instead of replying to them now, deal with them in Committee. I express the hope that when the Bill reaches the Committee stage, honorable members on the Government side will, so far from opposing those who earnestly desire this legislation, give every assistance with a view to making it a workable measure.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).I should have liked to hear a little more from the Opposition in favour of the Bill. We all unite in the desire to prevent strikes, and that is the object of the measure.
– Is the honorable senator against that principle?
– I believe in the principle of conciliation, but not in the principle of compulsion. We have had some strong petitions presented to us, including the one just read, from the President, Vice-President, and Executive Committee of the Central Council of the Federated Employers of Australia. There have also been petitions from the Congress of Chambers of Commerce; and all those important organizations unite in the wish that this Bill shall receive deliberate consideration - that there shall be no hasty legislation placed on the statute-book. One of the petitions asks that the Bill shall be referred to a Select Committee, and I do not see why that course should not be taken. This Bill is brought forward ostensibly by one class - one section of the community - and all the rest of the community, with one voice, say that they do not desire the Commonwealth to be put to the great expense which would be involved in giving effect to the provisions it contains. The Attorney-General hopes that it will not be necessary to put the measure into operation for a considerable time ; and if that be so, I think we ought to pause before incurring the expense of maintaining another Judge.
– The Bill does not provide for another Judge, because one of the present Judges can be utilized.
– But the question is whether a member of the High Court will be able to undertake the duties. It has been urged very forcibly that if the President of the Court be appointed only for a period, his decisions will not command the respect which is always paid to the decisions of a permanent Judge. Clause 2, paragraph v., provides that one of the objects is -
To enable States to refer industrial disputes to the Court, and to permit the working of the Court and of States Industrial Authorities in aid of each other.
In the opinion of the Attorney-General that provision is unconstitutional, and if that be so what is the use of the clause? It is simply an attempt to “get behind” the Constitution, in the hope that something may “ turn up “ to enable such a provision to be carried into effect. After all, this is merely experimental legislation. No AngloSaxon race - neither the United States nor Great Britain - has approved of legislation of this drastic character.
– Are New Zealanders not Anglo-Saxons?
– The legislation in New Zealand is not so drastic as this Bill. Abraham Lincoln said, “ Thank God, we live in a country where we are free to strike “ ; and that appears to be the opinion of Americans to-day. In England the Trades Union Congress, by a majority of three to one, decided against legislation of the kind.
– The honorable senator seems very anxious to consult the wishes of the trade organizations.
– The community generally have their rights, just as much as have the Labour organizations. Why force on legislation which means the rule of minorities over majorities? I understand that honorable senators opposite are not satisfied with the provision in the Bill that a majority shall rule, but wish to amend the measure so that the power may be in the hands of the minority. We have had instances of the effect ‘ of the exercise of such a power by minorities. I know of a case in Tasmania-
– Minorities rule there, al! right !
– I know of a case in which, when some extra skilled labour was required, a trade union was asked to supply a few men to assist in loading a timber ship near the timber country. The union men, however, objected to work with the local men, because the latter were not members of the union. Where is the justice and liberality of conduct such as that ? Even the men who were getting the timber were injured and prevented from earning extra pay. In the first instance, non-union men loaded the ships with great satisfaction. But exception was taken to them, and when the unionists were asked to work the ships they declined to accept employment along with men who were not also unionists. Those are the facts. The great objection I have to this Bill is, that it is an attempt to give a minority power to control the majority of the workers. The prevention of strikes by means of conciliation is an admirable principle, and I shall do all I can to help to give effect to it; but a Bill of this character - particularly that part of it which some of us regard as unconstitutional - ought to be referred to a Select Committee. Being aware that the numbers are up. it is of very little use for me to say that I shall vote against the second reading. If I saw any chance of success, I should vote against it. But if the second reading is carried, I shall feel it to be my duty to endeavour to improve the Bill in the directions which I have indicated.
– I may reiterate the statement of Senator Croft that so much has already been said in favour of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and there is so little real opposition, that it is difficult for any one to advance anything new in advocacy of it. I listened with interest to the very brilliant delivery of the Attorney-General in moving the second reading. When he had finished he had almost completed the category of arguments in favour of every general principle embodied in the Bill. True, he also used all the power of his mighty intellect arid vocabulary to impress upon the Senate the doubtful points that suggested themselves to him; but, like all wise legal practitioners, he did no more than suggest the possibility of difficulties, leaving it open for all of us to believe that they would never arise. ‘He pointed out that the measure has been the means of wrecking two Governments, and he even hinted that it may wreck a Parliament. But, while it is possible that this Parliament may be wrecked by the Bill, it is also fair to point out that without such a measure it is possible that the industries of all Australia may be wrecked. That is a consideration which is worthy of every man’s attention. There is abundant evidence to show that industries have not only been wrecked because of the absence of legislation to prevent industrial* disturbances, but that whole communities have been so affected as to wreck the lives of hundreds of individuals who were not directly connected with the disputes. The AttorneyGeneral has used powerful arguments in favour of certain suggested limitations of the scope of the Bill, but I am inclined to believe that some of the possibilities foreshadowed by Senator McGregor may be realized if it is limited as proposed. A day may come - and that at no distant date - when very large federations of every trade and calling will’ make themselves manifest in the Commonwealth. The employers have already effected an excellent federation throughout Australia. They are organized, and with one voice are ready to take steps in opposition to anything that aims at the stability of industry, especially when that stability means the conservation of the rights of the workers, and of the people generally.- Is it not likely that the example set by the employers will be closely followed by the workers? Large federations of workers have been effected in other countries. The very fact that this Bill makes it necessary for persons to organize before its benefits can be applied to them will act as an incentive to the formation of such federations. We should provide for every contingency, knowing that men will organize, and that effective organization is the only possible means of sheltering and Protecting the workers. Organization is the very basis of our industrial life, and only as organization has succeeded has the stability of industry been insured. There are large federations of labour in the old country. Senator Macfarlane has pointed out that the Trades Union Congress, which is a federation of labour, has recently passed a. resolution by a majority of something like three to one against compulsory arbitration. But if the honorable senator were acquainted with the history of that federation, he would be aware that twelve years ago they passed a resolution expressing mistrust of arbitration and conciliation, and of every attempt that was being made to bring about interference with labour matters. It is evident, therefore, that these men have made an immense advance in their ideas in ten or twelve years. They have come closer to the goal that we are endeavouring to reach. Twelve years ago they were opposed to anything in the shape- of interference with strikes and locks-out by means of legislation, but they are now willing te discuss the question in their councils. At the Trades Union Congress they succeeded in showing that the representatives of at least 300,000 of the organized workers of the old land have discovered that they need something more effective than they have at command at present, by which to regulate their disputes. Senator Walker is another honorable senator, who last night, made a speech in defence of the voluntary system for the settlement of labour disputes. The honorable senator should be the last man to cling to such an opinion, because he represents a State in which the voluntary system has been tried and has failed. I had the honour in New South Wales of conducting, on behalf of the workers, the first and only arbitration case tried in that State under the New South Wales Act, which embodied the voluntary principle ; and that case proved conclusively that the voluntary principle was ineffective. I had also the honour, as one of the managers, of conducting a case before the Board df Conciliation under that Act, and again it was proved that its conciliatory provisions were as utterly useless as were its provisions for arbitration. The consequence of the failure in the two trials to which I have referred was the omission from the following year’s Estimates of the vote necessary for the administration of that law. Senator Walker should- have remembered these facts in the history of the legislation of his own State, and he should have been prepared to recognise that the voluntary system of conciliation and arbitration is utterly worthless.
– The other system has been very unsuccessful- in New South Wales.
– On the contrary, it has been exceedingly successful. The honorable senator has sheltered himself by quoting from Holy Writ in support of his contention that he is justified in demanding freedom of contract. He has attempted to justify his position as an advocate of freedom of contract by a reference to the great Nazarene who censured a man for selfishness in complaining that lie had not received more than a penny for his day’s work, whilst another man who had worked but an hour had also received a penny. That is about one of the most unhappy illustrations which could possibly have been suggested in support of freedom of contract. What it proves is rather that Christ intended to announce the doctrine of the necessity for a minimum wage, a doctrine which he not only promulgated, but which he also practised. But even freedom- of contract as advocated by Senator Walker might have been justified in certain circumstances. If, for instance, Christ were the master, and Paul his servant, we can scarcely doubt that even slavery would be tolerable under such conditions. But let us take the other side of that picture, and imagine Caiphas as the employer and Judas Iscariot as the employ^, and will honorable senators tell me what they think would be the state of industry under those conditions ?
– Constant “ scabbing.”
– Constant “scabbing” and the Selling of Christ every day. When Senator Walker attempts to advocate freedom of contract in these days, he should recollect for a moment that the intelligence of humanity has been increasing since the dark ages, from which the workers have come out of tribulation into the broader light, and that since those days they have made efforts, not so much to aggrandize their position as to make tolerable the life they have to live. This Bill assumes the necessity for organization, and it provides a Court for the settlement of industrial disputes. I do not at this moment find any fault with the proposed constitution of the Court or its anticipated operations. I presume that in Committee there will be ample opportunity to do that. But I have a word to say with respect to the interpretation clause. It does appear strange that the people who, after all, are at the base of our industrial life a’nd national well- being - I refer to the agriculturists - should be excluded from the benefits of this measure. I grant at once that our form of civilization has for a considerable time been successful in the attempt to keep “Hodge” down. We have been able to make of him up to the present time, practically a slave. There was a gentleman named Arch who succeeded on one occasion in organizing farm labourers, and his efforts were felt and appreciated by the people whom they affected. He succeeded in raising men from being workers between the hours of 4 o’clock in the morning until 10 o’clock at night, into more civilized conditions, and he succeeded in raising men who received from 7s. 6d. to 10s. 6d. per week, to a position in which they might enjoy a fair standard of living. But his work has not nearly been completed.
– It has been undone rather.
– It has “perhaps to some extent been undone, but surelyhonorable senators do not mean to tell me that the farm labourer is going to continue in his present position? We shall not continue to make him a mere chattel ; we cannot build him that way for all time. He, too, is going to rise with the great rising tide of humanity. He is going to assert himself by his intelligence, and by the efforts in the way of self help he puts forth in his t daily life. The farm labourer is going to seek what he sees other people have obtained by means of the organizations they have devised. When he begins his organization, we may possibly realize the devastating picture which has been drawn by Senator McGregor. The honorable senator took the opportunity to point to the great calamity which might befall the nation should farm labourers organize. One of these fine days, just on the morning of our harvest-time, we might discover faim labourers in an organized condition; but being in an unregistered union, they might decide to alter their conditions by means of a strike, and, having taken that decision, and put it into execution, what a glorious position we should be in, if, by that organization, and the exercise of that power to stop the wheels of industry, the whole harvest of this great Commonwealth, with its value and potentialities of service to the people, were lost. Honorable senators must regard that as not only possible but probable, and must recognise how’ terrible such a calamity would be. It is a bad thing to have a Ministry wrecked ;’ if might be a- bad thing to have a Parliament wrecked, but honorable senators will not tell me that either of these evils could be compared to the wreck of a nation by the loss of its harvest. The exclusion of agriculturists from the benefits of this measure appears to me to be but another proof that some persons are still prepared to truckle to the tyrannies of old time, and are only getting away from them so far as they are compelled to do so by the forces surrounding them. As there will be ample opportunity in Committee to speak of those details in the measure which seem to me to be absurd, I shall close by hoping that the Senate will not only pass the second reading of the Bill, but will be prepared in Committee to make it a measure which will provide for all the exigencies of the Commonwealth.
– As I shall have ample opportunity in Committee to say all I wish to say on the various clauses of this Bill, I do not now propose to make a long speech ; but I think it right to state some of my views in regard to it. I do not believe that we should go the length to which we are asked to go in this Bill, in one stride. In England there is provision for conciliation in industrial disputes, and so far as I have heard, it is working very well. In no country, except one or two States in Australia, is there provision for compulsory conciliation and arbitration. I dread the result of granting compulsory power to a Court, and I am not sure that we have authority for doing so in the Constitution. The word “compulsory” is not used, and the Parliament is only empowered to legislate in respect to “conciliation and arbitration.” I do not profess to be a lawyer, but I think that the word “ compulsory “ would have been inserted’ if it had been intended that we should legislate in that direction.
– Is compulsion mentioned in any part of the Constitution ?
– No. If it is not mentioned, the power ought not to be granted in a Bill which infringes State rights more or less. I cannot conceive how any member of the community, be he employer or employe, can reconcile to his conscience a proposal that a human being must of necessity be a unionist before he can earn his daily bread. In the early days I was an employe. I have never belonged to. a union. The employers of to-day were the employes of a few years ago. Take the farmers’ in this or any other State. Nine-tenths of them were employes a few years ago. Of course, in England and other old settled countries the land has been in possession of the same families for centuries. But in Australia the selectors and other landed proprietors were in almost every case employes a few years ago. Is it intended by our legislation to compel men to remain employes? Does not the history of the world show that a man who is working to-day may rise to be an employer to-morrow?
– Then he will join the Employers Union to safeguard his rights.
– Probably he will. Thousands of men have passed through my hands as an employer of many years standing, so that I understand their feelings very well. I have often heard workmen say that the hardest task-master is the employer who has been a wage earner.
– And the honorable senator has been a wage earner?
– I have often heard that remark made by working men.
– The honorable senator has not borne out the truth of that remark.
– I cannot stand so many interjections.
– My interjection was a fair one.
– Apparently the intention of this Bill is to keep men permanently as employes. Take any section of the farmers throughout the Commonwealth, and give me their names, and I will show that in the majority of instances, their fathers were employes. Take the selectors in Riverina. Many of them own thousands of acres of land, and were shearers only a few years ago. I could name hundreds of them who were employes a few years ago. Are these men to be permanently kept down to that grade ? No ; we should rather encourage them to ascend the ladder. Clause 40 of the Bill provides that preference shall be given to unionists, “ all things being equal.” I cannot agree to that provision. Take the case of two brothers. John Smith is in a union, but his brother James, being a man with an independent turn of mind, and it _ may be some crotchets, says “ I shall earn my bread bv the sweat of mv brow. I am able to hold my own wi.h any workman, and I shall not belong to a union.” For this decision he has his own reasons, which may or may not be very sound, and which I shall not argue. Do honorable members propose to enact that that man, because he will not join a union, shall starve ?
– What, then, do honorable senators propose? Only yesterday a child brought to my house a note, which I shall read -
My wife and five children have not a bite to eat through my inability to get work, the uncertainty of the proceedings of the so-called Labour Party having prevented the expenditure which would otherwise have taken place to the benefit of thousands. I want work, and because the grey hairs are showing the managers of factories decline to employ me, the Factories Act stipulating that certain wages must be paid workers over certain ages. If I don’t get work, I am liable to be punished for having no visible means of support, and the Factories Act Inspector would not grant me a permit to work -
I think that he should, and that he went out of his way when he refused - for less than the minimum wage. The fact is, one Act will punish me for being idle, and another Act will not let me work for a living. What am I to do with my little ones?
It is a very pathetic letter; at any rate, it is to me.
– And the Labour Party will make that kind of thing impossible if they are allowed.
– Will this Bill make it impossible?
– It will help to do so.
– No. This Bill and similar legislation are driving the truth right home.
– Is the honorable senator opposed to the Factories Act?
– No; but I am opposed to that part which compels this man to write -
What am I to do with my little ones ? I would earnestly entreat you to help them to get something to eat. For myself, I care not. Another couple of days’ fasting will not kill me, but the deprivation of my children of another meal is agony to them. Have pity on them, I pray. If you can give me work, for God’s sake do so.
– We can produce thousands of letters to the same effect from unionists who have been boycotted by employers.
– Taking the case of the two brothers I mentioned, I contend that a measure which says that, because a man has sufficient independence of mind not to join a union he shall be compelled to starve, is against all common sense and against God’s commands.
– One is ready to take all the benefits which the other fights to get for him.
– I wish I could see the matter as the honorable senator does.
– Does not the honorable senator see that it is the unionists who secure for the non-unionists fair conditions of work.
-Col. Gould. - And therefore they would prevent all non-unionists from earning anything.
– I do not object to unions. But I say- that the country in which it is sought to force men into unions against their wishes, and in which the majority of the working men have to starve if they do not join unions, is not a free country. We do not want to be governed by an aristocracy of labour. There is no justification for such legislation. I intend to support the second reading of the Bill. Perhaps we cannot do better than pass the measure as it is. But if it is amended in the direction which I presume is indicated it will be still more harassing. Are the working classes worse off to-day than they were twenty years ago?
– No,, they are better off, because of the labour movement.
– As one who has employed working men off and on for the last forty-five years in Australia, I assert that they are infinitely worse off to-day than they were twenty years ago. I should not like to land in Australia to-day as a working man, even at the age of nineteen, as I did fifty-three years ago. The struggle for a living is greater now than it was in the early days. And this Bill will make it still worse. My honorable friends may pass what laws they like, but after all they cannot create a wage fund by mere legislation. The working men are only employed when there is a wage fund. If the drought of 1902 had continued for another year, there would have been no employers or employe’s.
– Why vote for the second reading of the Bill if it is going to do all this harm?
– I am going to vote for the second reading of the Bill, because
– Because the caucus has told the honorable senator to vote for it, I suppose.
– I do not belong to a caucus.
– We have no caucus of that description on this side. The shackles are on the members of the Labour Party.
– I have no shackles on me, but my honorable friends are shackled.
– Why vote for the second reading of the Bill, then?
– I took my own road many years ago. I have never done otherwise. I am not bound to any party. I like a party that will go straight, and do the best it can for the country.
– The honorable senator is going to vote for a measure in which he does not believe. Is that going straight ?
– I believe in some portions of the Bill, but I do not believe in the clause which gives a preference to one man as against another.
– That is not in the Bill.
– Yes, it is. Clause 40 says -
The Court, by its award, may . . . direct that as between members of organizations of employers or employes and other persons offering or desiring service or employment at the same time, preference shall be given to such members, other things being equal.
In 1902 there was a strike of shearers in New South Wales in defiance of the Act, and then, again, there was a strike of the coal miners. ‘It is absurd’ to attempt to deal with large- numbers of human beings by such legislation as this. No doubt it is provided that offenders under the Bill may be fined or put in gaol, but it would be impossible to defy public opinion by incarcerating whole crowds of men because they exercise what they believe to be the right of every human being - the right of striking. The way to benefit employe’s is to further the prosperity of industries.
– By borrowing ^20,000,000 or £30,000,000 ?
– The States have borrowed too much. At present Canada owes on-y £54,000,000, and the other day, when her loans were renewed, ^2,000,000 were paid off. New South Wales alone owes ^86,000,000, and Victoria ^50,000,000, the total debts of the federated States amounting to hundreds of millions. The State that “ goes a-borrowing goes asorrowing.”
– Why did the honorable senator approve of borrowing when ,he was in State politics ?
– I do not object to borrowing if it is for reproductive works. A new country has great wealth in the shape of land, and money must be borrowed for the purposes of development.
– The honorable senator who has just sat down read a very pathetic letter; but it is hardly fair to attribute any blame which may attach under the circumstances there revealed, to any action on the part of the Labour Party or to such Bills as that now before us. The instance is one which is met with in every country, whether there be labour organizations or not, and is due to the simple fact that the unfortunate man is growing old. In every country it is found that the man with grey hair finds difficulty in obtaining employment ; even amongst clerks, who are not influenced in any sense up to the present by Arbitration Bills, elderly men, unable to get work, time after time dye their hair and pose as being much younger than they are. I only allude to this in passing, because it is not desirable that any one, even Senator Fraser, should suppose there is not another side to the question. Another point raised by the honorable senator is that it is impossible to coerce large bodies of men. The honorable senator is entirely mistaken, as he will see if he reflects on what has taken place in countries where there is no such legislation as that now proposed. Only on the 28th August last, I came across a newspaper cutting, giving an account of savage fights in two French towns, where strikes were proceeding, and where the military were called out, with the -result that a considerable number of people were wounded and four killed. I hardly thought it would be necessary, in speaking to the Senate, to point out that it is for the purpose of preventing such disturbances that such Bills as that before us are framed.
– There have been worse occurrences recently in America.
– I have many other cuttings from newspapers, which I keep because I am interested in the subject ; but I never thought it would be necessary to bring them here. Those cuttings show the effect of strikes in Russia, Germany, Holland, and, as just pointed out, in America. In every case the strikes are accompanied by bloodshed, probably the loss of the bread-winners of the families, and - generally a state of affairs which I feel perfectly certain Senator Fraser would be the first to deprecate if it arose in Australia.
– There is no compulsoryarbitration in England.
- Senator Fraser,, if he looks at the records of strikes in England, will find that there have been riots without number. I cannot go into details, because I did not come down posted with data, but a little study of the history of those matters will show the honorable senator that what I say is correct. I should now like to return to the Bill, from the consideration of which I have wandered to a slight extent. After listening to the eloquent speech of Senator Symon the other day. I really thought there was nothing further to be said in defence of the Bill. I naturally supposed that honorable senators who sit behind the Attorney-General, as I do, were all prepared to indorse the view he took of the Bill, and to support his utterances. More especially was I pleased when the Attorney-General- adopted the very reasonable attitude that if any doubt should exist as to the constitutional capacity of this Parliament to pass such a measure, or certain clauses of it, the matter was one which could be fairly left to the High Court, and was not one with which we, taking up sides and being interested in parties, should concern ourselves. I thought that that was an eminently reasonable view, which would suggest itself to the New South Wales senators as a fair solution of the question. But since the AttorneyGeneral sat down numbers of honorable senators behind him have spoken, and, without exception, they oppose the Bill.
– But they are going to vote for it.
– All those honorable senators have indicated their intention to move amendments of, as I think, a very undesirable nature. I anticipated that on points on which the Labour Party were beaten in another place, labour representatives here would1 endeavour to amend the Bill ; and I am perfectly prepared to listen to them, and be guided by ray own judgment in dealing with those amendments. But I never expected to find that the party sitting behind the Attorney-General were prepared to go the length they apparently are in opposition to this measure. Under the circumstances, I feel it to be absolutely necessary, sitting where I do, to dissociate myself as much as possible from the very illiberal views I have heard expressed by those gentlemen.
-“ Illiberal” ? Query !
– In my opinion, illiberal views. I hope to convince the Senate that a most unreasoning prejudice exists amongst those honorable senators against the Bill as it stands. For instance, Senator Gould, speaking yesterday, said that the Senate should pause be- fore supporting a principle which would “ wreck States rights “ in industrial matters. Is- that not a most surprising view to take of this Bill, and of our rights tinder the Constitution? The Constitution provides for specific action on the part of the Commonwealth. I suppose Senator Gould does not deny that. The Constitution also gives us power . to legislate with a view to “ conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.” We now propose to exercise those perfectly constitutional rights so far as we legally may. Senator Gould conjures up this bogy of “ wrecked State rights.” But what rights can we possibly “ wreck” bv means of this Bill? If we legislate within our powers, what States rights can we possibly “ wreck “ ? The States, have no rights where we have constitutional power to override them. If we legislated outside our constitutional powers, then again I ask what States rights could we possibly “wreck”? As the AttorneyGeneral has pointed out, the High Court would come to the rescue of the States, and would undoubtedly hold that our legislation was ultra vires. I suppose Senator Gould will admit the accuracy of that statement of the position. Under those circumstances, what is the use of trying to besmirch this Bill by stating that we are endeavouring to “ wreck States rights’ ‘ ? Then the honorable senator went on to express his dismay at the vista opened up by Senator McGregor in that gentleman’s very able speech of yesterday. Senator McGregor pointed out that organizations registered under this Bill will be Federal organizations consisting of State associations, or even, if I understand the honorable senator rightly of individuals in separate States. I must admit that that was a new view to me. I had not, I suppose, read the Bill sufficiently carefully, and had not conceived its capabilities in that direction. Nor do I think - and I must say so clearly - that the action suggested by Senator McGregor was altogether contemplated by the framers of the Bill.
– They did not understand trade unionism.
-Col. Gould. - Such a dispute as Senator McG.regor contemplated could only be brought about by a conspiracy.
– The honorable and learned senator has no right to use the word “conspiracy” in connexion with this matter. I fail to see the least indication of conspiracy.
-Col. Gould. - I shall have an opportunity to explain more fully what I mean.
– This Bill has, more or less, been framed on Acts already in existence, and it happens that the provisions applicable to the formation of State associations are found to be equally applicable, as Senator McGregor pointed out, to the formation of Federal organizations. In that I fail to see any conspiracy.
-Col. Gould. - I did not mean there would be conspiracy in forming Federal organizations, but that those organizations could only work in a particular way by conspiracy.
– I shall deal with the honorable and learned senator’s interjection. I propose to trace the way in which an organization will work - to show that it is perfectly legal, perfectly justifiable, and perfectly in accordance with the spirit of the Bill. It may be clearly gathered from Part V. of the Bill that the original framers, did not contemplate such Federal organizations, because that part of the measure makes provision for district registries and deputy registrars. The function of a deputy registrar is to register associations in the States, and to enrol them in his district register.
– WEy are Federal organizations necessary?
– I do not say that they are necessary, but they are possible. I cannot help thinking that when the AttorneyGeneral, in’ discussing this matter, .alluded to the possibility that honorable senators were counting without due grounds -on the extent to which this Bill could be availed of, he himself had hardly realized the extent .to which the Bill could .be used by the formation of Federal organizations. I welcome the .suggestion of Senator McGregor. I have always felt that it was :a pity that there should be so many difficulties introduced between the coming into existence of disputes, and the bringing of the Federal Court into action. I desire to point out how easy it will be to take advantage of the Bill. First of all, under clause 55, to form a registered organization only 100 members are required from various States. There is no necessity that the members of the organization should reside in one State. They may live in various States. The next step is taken under clause 22. That clause makes provision for an industrial dispute to be submitted by the Registrar to the Court. It is submitted in one of three ways, but the two which I am at present dealing with are these: The statement of the dispute may be made either by a majority of the members of any organization or by a resolution under the hand of a majority of the committee of management of such organization. That is simplicity itself. Finally, you have the Court obliged to take cognizance of such a dispute under clause 19, sub-clause b - “ Any industrial dispute which is submitted to the Court by an organization by plaint in the prescribed manner.” What is the position? A dispute has arisen. It ‘is a dispute to which a registered organization is a party. The members of that organization live in more than one State. Those members are prepared to go on strike - at least I presume that would be the situation if the Court refused to take cognizance of their grievance.
– The organization need not necessarily have members in more than one State.
– There I differ from the honorable member. I think that to get a dispute extending beyond the confines of one State you must have an organization with members in more than one State. There seems ro be an objection on legal grounds to what is called a sympathetic strike. Not being a lawyer, I am not in a position to appreciate the difficulty, but I recognise that it exists. I am trying^ to argue the point simply upon the plainest facts in connexion with the Bill. It seems to me, as a layman, that under those circumstances we have everything that is required by the Constitution to justify the interference of the Court ; and I hope “that if the Attorney-General is going to speak in reply to the various comments made, he will address himself to a small extent to that point, because it is most interesting. It is particularly interesting, because the AttorneyGeneral spoke at some length on the phrase “likely to extend,” and pointed out that this would not justify the Court in acting - that ,the dispute must have gone outside the boundaries of one State, and encroached upon the boundaries of another, before the Court could be set in motion.
– There is a difficulty of that kind in connexion with the railway employes.
– Undoubtedly, and this would affect the railway employes more immediately than any other class of employes. The Attorney-General laid stress on the inefficiency of the word “ prevention.” I perfectly well recognise that it is dangerous for a layman to split hairs with a lawyer on a question of this sort. But surely the whole avowed object of the Bill as a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill would be lost if the Court were unable to intervene in the direction of the prevention of disputes. This is particularly shown by clause 18.
– AM that I said was that “ prevention “ did not appear to me to enable us to enter into a State before a dispute had spread beyond its borders.
– What the honorable and learned senator said was - the word “ prevention “ does not enable us to interfere with the industrial troubles of a State on the pretext that they may extend, or are likely to extend, beyond ils borders.
But surely there is virtue in clause 18, which says that the Court shall have power to “ prevent “ all industrial disputes. If the Court is not to have that jurisdiction, and cannot prevent industrial disputes, the whole substratum of the Bill falls to the ground.
– Oh, no.
– It seems so to me, and it also seems that “ prevention “ is a useless word in that connexion.
– I do not think so. The evil to be met is a dispute which extends beyond one State into another State.
– The evil to be met is what the honorable and learned senator so cleverly quoted from Mr. B. R. Wise - “ a public nuisance to be restrained by law like any other breach of the peace.”
– What is the nuisance?
– The dispute.
– No, it is a dispute extending beyond the State of origin.
– It is my contention that it would be the duty of the Court to intervene to prevent the dispute from spreading beyond the State of origin, and so to prevent the nuisance which is likely to occur. However, this is evidently a point for lawyers, and for me to discuss it would be useless. Now I come to the question of the inclusion of I’he public servants. The Attorney-General has given three considerations, which are to be taken into account in dealing with the question of whether, under this Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, we should interfere in- respect to disputes in which States servants are concerned. He says the considerations are - first, expediency ; secondly, would it be operative?; thirdly, is it constitutional? In dealing with the matter of expediency, the Attorney-General states that the reasons applicable to ordinary employers do not apply to State employment. He says that a State has no self-interest. Surely, the railways of every State are run on commercial principles. Surely the people in every State are concerned that the railways should pay their way. And surely’ under those circumstances the question of self-interest on the part of the employer arises just as much as the question of self-interest arises on the part of private employers of labour. This, however, is not exactly the point. To ray mind the point is this. Is there likely to be a dispute? A dispute of this character, as we have learnt from Mr. Wise, is a public nuisance, which this Bill is intended to prevent. If there is a dispute, and if a public nuisance is likely to arise, who are the proper people to deal with such a dispute? I say emphatically that it is very much better that the Court - an impartial body - and the President of that Court should have power to deal with any dispute even in the case of States servants, than that the Minister, who is not an impartial person, should be placed in the position of having to deal with it, seeing that he is personally . concerned. Then we come to the question of whether the provision will be operative. The consideration arises - Can- a dispute with the railway servants of a State spread beyond the limits of that State? As I have already pointed out, that is perfectly easy to accomplish through a Federal organization of States railway servants. Such an organization would proceed legally under the Act to formulate a dispute for reference. I put this view forward with all respect to the opinion _ of Mr. Higgins and Senator Symon. Then, as to the question of whether the provision is constitutional, that, as the Attorney-General has said, is a matter for the High Court.
– Assuming that it is unconstitutional, there is good reason for not putting It in the Bill.
– But that is the very point. We do not know that it is unconstitutional. There seems to be a grave doubt.
-Col. Gould. - There is no doubt in the minds of the lawyers.
– We have the opinion of Sir Edmund Barton, Mr. Justice O’Connor, and Senator Symon himself.
– But who is to settle whether the provision is unconstitutional or not - this Senate, or the High Court ?
– Who is to settle whether two and two make four?
– That does not admit of any dispute.
– This question does not admit of any dispute whatever.
– That is merely the honorable and learned senator’s ipse dixit. I would remind the Senate of what took place in connexion with the Customs Bill. In another place an amendment was inserted in that measure which made goods imported bv the States dutiable. The matter was argued at some length. Sir Edmund Barton’s party were in power. The reason given for inserting the clause in the Bill was that if it were legal it was desirable, and the power should be exercised, but if it were illegal the High Court would intervene, and the clause would become inoperative. Exactly the same argument applies with absolutely equal strength to this position. If the clause is constitutional it is most desirable that it should be left in the Bill. If it is unconstitutional on its being taken to the High Court, the High Court will decide in that direction. No harm will have been done. I cannot conceive why honorable senators on this side should have such a strong objection to the retention of this provision, unless it is that they are satisfied that its operation is constitutionally feasible.
-Col. Gould. - Does the honorable senator mean to say that if we believe a provision to be unconstitutional we should not object to its insertion in a Bill?
– Not if we are agreed that the provision is unconstitutional, but that is a point on which we are not agreed.
– I believe it ito be unconstitutional, and therefore I oppose it. I also believe it .to be undesirable, and I should oppose it, even though it were constitutional.
– That is the main question.
– That, of course, explains the whole thing.
– The railway servants, at all events in New South Wales, have their own courts to deal with these matters.
– The honorable and learned senator raises the very point which is at issue. Let us assume that we have a dispute, affecting the railway servants, spreading from New South Wales into Victoria, and affecting all equally. In New South Wales we have an impartial body to whom that dispute can be referred, and it would give a decision. In Victoria the same dispute would be dealt with by an interested party, the Minister, and an entirely different decision affecting the workers might be given.
– There is the State Parliament to look after them.
– But what becomes of the commonweal ? Surely the honorable and learned senator does not maintain that it is of advantage to the Commonwealth that there should be two differing decisions affecting the interests of people who are separated merely by an imaginary line?
– Does the honorable senator propose to directly interfere with States rights in that way ?
– I do not propose to interfere with States rights if it is illegal to do so, but I say that if it is possible to secure a decision affecting equally all railway servants throughout the Commonwealth it is eminently desirable that that should be done.
– But the States Parliaments must agree to waive their rights before that can be done?
– The honorable senator is perfectly right if the provision is unconstitutional, but if it is constitutional he is not right. With respect to banking outside the State we are given a right to intervene, and also with respect to insurance outside the State, and in the case of industrial disputes outside a State we are given an equal right to intervene. Some honorable senators maintain that, because a dispute is one affecting railway servants
– State servants; employes of a State.
S’enator MATHESON- Thev mav be, just as thev may be employes of a private firm.
– Of the Midland Railway Company
– Of the Midland Railway Company, or of any other private firm.
– That is very different.
– Why should we draw a distinction between the employes of private firms and those of a State? The honorable senator does not appear to understand that the real question is as to the dispute, and not as to the employer. The object of this Bill is to prevent disputes which may cause disturbance and injury to the commonweal. I cannot see why any distinction should be drawn between a dispute arising with State servants and one affecting the servants of a private “individual. Really, the whole question is : What are the objects and aims of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill? In answering this question I cannot do better than quote this statement -
The object of an Arbitration Bill is to establish a tribunal to do justice between the employer and the employed.
Now, do we desire that justice shall be done? Does Senator Gould desire that justice shall be done between the employer and the employed?
– We all desire that justice shall be done.
– Then why should the honorable and learned senator deny justice, or the means of securing justice, through this impartial court, to the employes of a State?
– I neither deny nor wish to deny their right to justice.
– The honorable and learned senator wishes to deny .their right to appeal to this Court, and it puzzles me to explain why.
– Because Honorable senators opposite are fighting like devils for conciliation.
Senator- MATHESON- Another point on which I wish to express my views is in relation to the extent to which this Bill should be allowed to apply. I have always been in favour of a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill applying to all classes in the community.
– A compulsory measure?
– Yes, a compulsory measure. When the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was before the Legislative Council in Western Australia I moved in that direction, but unfortunately ineffectively. I moved that the definition of “worker,” which had been left in an exceedingly unsatisfactory state, should be “every wage-earner.” I have seen no reason since that measure has come into operation to depart from the view I then expressed. If a dispute is to arise I see no reason .why any class in the community should be debarred the privilege of appealing to the Court to secure justice. It Is only by keeping this point in view that one begins to appreciate the absolute narrowmindedness of those who object to disputes being brought before this Court.
– We object to the people being compelled.
– What the honorable senator objects to is the combination of a number of people to secure justice.
– I object to their being placed in a position to punish those who do not belong to their own associations - non-unionists.
– The honorable senator now raises the question of nonunionism, on which I have not touched. I remind honorable senators’ that the object of this Bill is to promote unionism, and, that being so, surely we should use every means in our power to induce every one to belong to these unions? If we are agreed that it is desirable to have organizations on either side, it must surely be desirable to induce all to join them.
– - That we should compel people to join them?
– No ; those who please should have liberty to remain outside.
– And get no work?
– The honorable senator said a few moments ago that we were narrowminded.
– I did. and I now repeat the statement. I say that some honorable senators do not understand the fundamental principles of a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. They do not understand that such a measure is based upon the desire to get the whole community into two separate bodies, one of employed and the other of employers, and to provide a tribunal which will do justice between them.
– “ Combines ‘ ‘ on each side.
– I can see no objection whatever to that expression. That is the whole object of the Bill. Provided - and I lay very great stress upon this - that no restriction is placed upon the facilities given .to every employer and every worker to enter a union, I see no great objection myself to giving an absolute preference to unionists.
– I think that is narrowminded.
– I did not expect to convince the honorable senator. I should not have spoken to-day if I had not felt that it was absolutely necessary to define the difference between my opinions and those of honorable senators who are scoffing at them. I hope I have been to some extent successful in convincing them that the position they take up is absolutely illogical.
– I take a very great interest in this Bill, because the State of which I am a representative is perhaps more interested in legislation of this kind being passed as early as possible than is any other State of the Commonwealth. It must be within the recollection of honorable senators that only a few years ago we had a very disastrous maritime strike. Whatever may be our differences upon certain clauses in this Bill, I think that, without exception, we are agreed that it will deal with a maritime strike in the interests of the whole of the trading people of Australia. Tasmania was in a very precarious position during the time the maritime strike lasted, and if it had been prolonged verygreat hardships would have been imposed upon the people of that State. Being an island State, it has to depend entirely upon shipping for its means of communication with the rest of the Commonwealth. We depend largely upon some of the other States for some of our necessaries of life, as they in turn depend upon us for others, and we are in danger of being exposed at any time to the disastrous results that would ensue from a maritime strike. Whether this Bill will affect railway servants, States servants generally, or any other class, we are all agreed that it will deal with, and I hope effectively prevent, such a catastrophe as a maritime strike. We heard a good deal from Senator Gould as to the effect which the principle of compulsory conciliation and arbitration is having, or is likely to have, upon the investment of capital in Australia. The honorable and learned senator mentioned that an investor from the other side of the world had been here recently, and had positively stated that because of the so-called labour legislation in Australia he was not prepared to invest his capital here, and the honorable senator added that capital, which would otherwise be invested here, was being withheld. If it is competent for Senator Gould, or any other honorable senator, ,to quote an instance of that kind - a supposititious instance - because I think the honorable and learned senator could not prove it-
-Col. Gould. - I believe it is correct.
– The honorable and learned senator may believe that it is correct, but if it is fair for those who are opposed to compulsory arbitration to quote the opinions of men who say that it will have the effect of driving capital away from Australia, it is equally fair that I should quote opinions in the opposite direction from another source. I do not for a moment guarantee the correctness of the paragraph I propose to cite, or the bona fides of the gentleman who is said to have spoken the words I shall read, but it is only fair that I should place this quotation side by side with the statement which has been made by Senator Gould. The honorable senator has contended that because of Labour legislation in Australia, capital has been driven away, and I propose to allow some one else to compare the state of affairs in New Zealand, where compulsory arbitration has been in force since 1895, with that existing in the State which I represent, and in which I am sorry to say there is no Arbitration Act in force. This is the paragraph, and it is headed, “ Driving Capital from Tasmania.”
About five week’s ago there arrived in Hobart Mr. P. Y. Legge, a Maorilander, with ,£10,000 to invest in an industry. which is already flourishing and employing hundreds of operatives at high wages in the islands beyond the Tasman Sea. Reports as to the climate, natural resources, and general attractiveness of the State, published by the Tourist Association, and corroborated by Mr. A. W. Hogg, M.H.A., and other recent visitors, induced Mr. Legge to prospect Tasmania as a possible field for the investment of his surplus capital. Mr. Legge spent a full month in Tas mania, and before leaving for Maoriland gave the Clipper the following particulars in an interview : - “ I came, I saw, and I am convinced that Tasmania is no place for the investment of my capital,” said Mr. Legge. “ Your country doesn’t need manufactures; it needs an earthquake, and needs it badly.”
I do not subscribe to that sentiment. I should be very sorry indeed to see my beautiful birthplace put under the sea, or ruined by an earthquake. “ No, I won’t give you particulars of the industry I thought of starting here ; it wouldn’t do you any good, and might do my Maoriland business harm. But I will say that had conditions been favorable I would have given payable employment to at least 500 of your people within six months. I wanted no concession of any kind from the Government; I wanted nothing for which I was not prepared to pay cash. Yes, I’ll tell you some of the indispensible conditionsFirst, I wanted a site for a factory. I found several in Hobart, but the high price asked for vacant blocks was ridiculous. I also wanted intelligent operatives - that is, young people readily adaptable to an industry requiring a fair education and some technical skill. I found that the supply of fairly educated young folks was extremely limited. Also, I wanted some guarantee against sudden strikes - cessation of work for 48 hours in one of our factories would spell absolute ruin to ^5,000 worth of machinery. In Maoriland we have reduced that risk, to a minimum by an Arbitration Act. Of course wages are lower here, but what’s the use of that if the labour is neither good nor reliable? We pay high wages in Maoriland, but we get more out of the operatives than any factory owner in Tasmania can expect to get out of his employes. You can’t take out of a man what isn’t in him. I needed raw material ; it is here in abundance, but I’m not giving away trade secrets just now. But my chief want was a local market for our manufactures. It didn’t take me long to ascertain that no such market could be secured. Our goods in Maoriland are largely used by the working classes. Wages in- all occupations in Tasmania are so low that your working people couldn’t afford to buy our products ! I was warned of this before leaving M.L. by some Wellington friends, who showed me a copy of the Clipper wherein wage-rates were quoted, but I thought I’d come and see for myself. I’m satisfied now. I have made close personal inquiries, and find that the standard of living among your working people is altogether too low to make the establishment of my industry possible. It’s no use making goods if people are too poor to buy, is it?”
– Are strikes frequent in Tasmania ?
– No; we have hardly had a strike for years.
– Has there ever been a strike there?
– Does Senator Dobson say that there has never been a strike in Tasmania?
– There has hardly ever been a factory strike.
– The honorable and learned senator is one of those who have lived in the city. He has not gone into the back blocks, and, therefore, does not understand the hardships under which the miners have to toil.
– I am talking of the factory operatives only.
– I must ask honorable senators to allow the speaker to proceed without interruption.
– It is only fair to put side by side with the quotation read by Senator Gould last night that opinion expressed by another capitalist as lo the protection insured to employers in a State with, as against a State without, an Arbitration Act. I am very sorry to say that there is no Arbitration Act ‘in Tasmania. Senator Dobson has interjected that in that State we have hardly ever had a factory strike. But does he mean to tell the Senate and the people of Australia that the factory operatives are living under fair conditions?
– I should think that most of them are, or else there would have been a strike.
– If the honorable and learned senator had dived a little deeper beneath the surface as I have -done, if he knew as much about the inner lives of the working classes of Tasmania as I do, he would know that many of its factory operatives are not living under fair conditions.
– Is not that nonsense? They are not striking, but working contentedly from year to year.
– Of what use would it be for the factory operatives to strike? If an Arbitration Act were in force, they would have better conditions of life. They know very well that a strike would only add to their misery.
– Is trade worse there than it was?
– No; trade is all right, but the factory operatives do not get their fair share of the profits owing to the absence of an Arbitration Act and a Factories Act. I am met with the argument that they do not strike, and that, therefore, they are satisfied with their conditions. It is all very well for an honorable senator to use that argument; but t here has been misery there in the past.
– The honorable senator will not have rest and contentment; he wants fighting and strife. That is a plank in his platform.
– Which side wants fighting; and strife there; which side is now trying to bring it about? Only within the last few days ari announcement has gone forth from a mining company that the wages of its miners are to be lowered within the next week or two, and that if they do not like to accept the reduction they must take the consequences.
– It mav be a necessity?
– How can it be a necessity when the company is paying dividends, though not very large ones, I admit ?
– The honorable senator had better tell us now what dividends and wages it is paving.
– I would if I thought it would interest the Senate, but I prefer to discuss the broad principle that owing to the absence of an Arbitration Act in the State a company is in a position to say to its employes, “You must take less wages within a week or two, or else you must get work elsewhere.”
– Is it not fair to mention the amount which has been distributed by that company in wages ?
– I shall leave Senator Dobson to give that information. But is it not also fair to say that no matter what amount has been distributed in wages, the men are working now for, what is only a bare living wage in that district? Will it be denied that they are getting one penny more than they are entitled to receive ?
– The honorable senator must look at the wage fund before he can say what any person is entitled to receive.
– On the west coast of Tasmania instances of injustice have occurred which had made me an ardent advocate of the principle of compulsory arbitration. Although I admit that there is likely to be some difficulty in making the provisions of this Bill operate in the case of a mining dispute in my State, still, I am not without hope that the High Court may declare that a mining dispute may be brought within the scope of its provisions.
– Senator McGregor said last night that it would. I do not think there is any doubt on the point.
– That is my honorable friend’s opinion, but I take leave to differ from him to a certain extent.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– I hope that it is the case, but in my opinion a great deal of work would have to be done by mining organizations in Australia before the provisions of the Act could be applied to the settlement of a mining dispute.
– I said that under the provisions of the Bill a strike ;ould not happen unless it was of an Inter-State character.
– I hope that in those States, the Governments of which are opposed to this Bill, the miners will take such steps as will make it possible, if it be constitutional, to bring a local, mining dispute under its provisions. In the most populous mining part of Tasmania - on the west coast - we are threatened with another strike, and 1 would that this Bill had become law, and that some such steps as I have indicated had been taken, so that a strike would be made; impossible. We are now threatened with a strike which, if it takes place, will throw out of work some 200 men, simply because the chairman of the mining company rose at its annual meeting in Launceston thu other day, and read a statement of the amount which had been disbursed in wages, the amount which had been spent by the company in other directions, and the small amount which had been paid in dividends. He had the temerity to declare to the shareholders that so much money had been spent in wages, that the men must now help the capitalists to create a fund, to be used when the company got short of money. In other words, he proposed that the men should be asked to work six days a week for five days’ pay. .He made alternative suggestions, which I think were equally ridiculous. I suppose that it is owing to his statements that the company has within the last few days put up at the mine a notice that wages are to be reduced. Of course, the men know what will follow if they do not accept the reduction. Within the last few hours I have received information that the men have decided that inasmuch as their present wages are only sufficient to enable them to keep body and soul together, and to fairly clothe themselves in that climate, they cannot accept the reduction. What is the alternative they have? They will have to leave their wives and families, and look for work in other parts of Australia.
– Would the honorable senator carry on an industry if it did not pay ?
– The company does not allege that the mine is not paying, and I am inclined to think that there is something behind this movement to stop work at the mine.
– What is it?
– I am inclined to think that it is a ruse on the part of the company to get rid of a contract with a smelting company to supply so much ore every month.
– I do not think so.
– The company paid the same rate of wages for years when it was not paying any dividends. It is only within the last twelve months that it has begun to pay dividends, small ones, I admit. And when it is fairly in sight of, if not a monthly, a yearly return, its directors coolly say that if the men will not accept a lower wage work will be stopped.
– Have they had a living interest on their capital?
– It does not matter whether they have had a living interest on their capital or not. We know that men put their capital into mining ventures, in the hope of making a large fortune.
– According to the honorable senator, they put their money into mining ventures to pay wages to the miners.
– I do not say that. They invest their money in order to get a return. For some years this company went on paying a certain rate of wages.
– Without getting any dividends.
– During that time the company got no dividends, but it did not ask the men to accept a reduced wage. Why? Because its directors knew perfectly well that as between man and man it would not be a fair request to make. What the men were getting was only a living wage, as must be admitted by all who have lived in that climate.
– I do not suppose that even the chairman of the company wants to reduce the wages of the men, but if the company has either to do that or to shut up, what is he to do?
– However, this is a question affecting only one State, or part of a State, and may not be of interest to representatives from all parts of Australia.
– It opens up a very important economic question.
– Two dividends have been paid by this company in the course of ten years.
– At any rate, the company may now be regarded as within measurable distance of obtaining regular dividends. The chairman suggested that the men should work six days per week for five days’ pay, in order to help the capitalists. I have sympathy .with a man who invests his money in a mine and loses it. I have never been a great capitalist, but at one time I was fortunate enough to be able to invest money in this way, and I lost it. I did not then ask the miners to accept 8s. 4d. instead of 9s. per day. Had there been an Arbitration Act in operation in Tasmania, such a state of affairs could not have arisen. Employers and employed would have been able to brins; the dispute before the Court, and it would have been reasonably settled in the light of evidence on both sides; and from mv knowledge of the district, I am convinced that the men would have loyally abided by the award.
– Why should the men not loyally abide by an award?
– I made the remark because it has been asserted, as an argument against the Bill, that employes will not abide by an adverse decision. Only twelve months ago the North Farrell miners were asked to accept reduced was;es, and on their refusal, the mine was closed down ; and that, in my opinion, means not a strike, but a lock-out. The men were asked to accept 8s. 4d. instead of 9s. a day, and they implored the company to submit the dispute to arbitration.
– The lower sum had been adopted by the Australian Miners Association as the standard rate.
– No doubt the standard rate in Zeehan was 8s. 4d. per day, but Mount Farrell is thirty miles further inland, and the railway rates are high.
– That was the rate before the railway was constructed.
– Surely the honorable senator, from his experience, knows that it is more expensive to live at Mount Farrell on 9s. per day, than it is to live at Zeehan on 8s. 4d. per day ? All freight and passengers for Mount Farrell have to be carried thirty miles on a private railway and tramway, on which extortionate rates are charged.
– The rates would be just as high if the railway were owned by the Government, and, therefore, the honorable senator ought not to lay stress on the fact that it is at present privately owned.
– That ‘only adds strength to my argument that at Mount Farrell living is much dearer in consequence of the heavy rates charged for goods and passengers. The miners were so conscious of the advantages of arbitration, and so anxious not to stop work, that, as I say, they asked that the dispute should be settled by arbitration. It was pointed out, on behalf of the company, that there was no Arbitration Court, but the men urged that each side should appoint an arbitrator, and that the two arbitrators should select an umpire. The men expressed their willingness to accept as arbitrators and umpire any fair-minded public men who might be selected.
– That was voluntary conciliation.
– It was voluntary conciliation suggested by the men. Th« company, however, refused to accept the suggestion, declaring that they were the masters of the mine, and were of opinion that a wage of 8s. 4c!. per day was enough - that as that was the standard wage in Zeehan, the men at Mount Farrell ought to be prepared to accept it. The company locked out the men for several months, but, as events turned out, the picketing was successful, and miners from a distance were induced, purely by persuasiveness and argument - without the slightest violence - to refrain from starting work. Those miners from a distance had been induced to come to Mount Farrell, either under a misapprehension, or by means of misrepresentation, and immediately they ascertained the true state of affairs they left the district. In the end the company came to the conclusion that both they and the miners were losing money. The dispute affected only seventy or eighty miners, but heaven knows how much suffering had been caused to their wives and children in their endeavour to live on the strike pay from the union, fund, so generously contributed to by the miners throughout Australia. The employers requested that the dispute might come to an end, and, after some little haggling, the miners resumed work at the old rate, on the understanding that, if at the end of six months the company considered that they could not carryon under the circumstances, the question was to be submitted to arbitration. Had there been an Arbitration Court in (Tasmania all that loss and suffering would have been avoided. The futility of the lock-out is demonstrated by the fact that the company were ultimately compelled to approach the men. I may here say that the company . depend entirely for their returns on the production of lead and silver, and while the mine was closed down lead rose in price from, I think, ;£io per ton to ;£i2. As soon, however, as the industrial trouble was over, the price went down again, so that the company lost all the advantage of the improved market. A very striking instance of the efficiency of a Conciliation and Arbitration Act was shown in New South Wales nearly two years ago, just about the time Sir Edmund Barton introduced this Conciliation and Arbitration Bill in another place. There was then pending a dispute in the mining industry, which might have been a repetition of the great strike at Broken Hill in 1891; but that industrial war, with all its attendant miseries, was averted. Yet, there are honorable senators on the other side who cannot regard this legislation as of any value. From what Senators Walker, Gray, and Gould have said, I believe they would, if they could, wipe the Arbitration Act off the statute-book of New South Wales to-morrow.
– The honorable senator has no right to say so.
– If I am doing Senator Gray an injustice I withdraw and apologize, but, from his arguments, that is the conclusion at which I should arrive.
– The honorable senator is quite right, so far as I am concerned.
– Can those honorable senators say, in the face of the incidents I have quoted, that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act has not done great service to the people of New South Wales?
– I do not think so.
-The honorable senator should not forget that in the dispute, to which I have referred, there were probably 3,000 miners involved, meaning possibly 10,000 souls, including wives and children. The fact that that strike was averted speaks with trumpet tongue as to the efficacy of such legislation. The AttorneyGeneral, in introducing this .Bill, dealt with one point in a most peculiar way, I. should like the honorable and learned gentleman, in his reply, to make a little clearer his attitude on the States rights question. He. said a good deal in one part of his speech about the unwisdom of bringing States public servants within the operation of the measure, and yet, in reply to an interjection by me, he said that if the Constitution allowed it, the inclusion of those public servants would? be a good thing. I do not know whether it is owing to the honorable and learned! gentleman’s association with the leader of the Government in another place, but certainly his remarks suggest a “Yes-No” attitude. The AttorneyGeneral is not present, but I should like his colleague, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, to impress upon him the desirability of making himself a little clearer on this point. The AttorneyGeneral said that he believed the Federal Convention never contemplated giving power over States servants - at least, that he had voted against the granting of that power. Then he said he believed that the High Court should settle the question of whether the provision was or was not constitutional, and, later on, as I say, in reply to an interjection from myself, he expressed the belief that such a provision would be a good thing if it were constitutional. That is a “Yes-No” attitude to which we are not accustomed from the AttorneyGeneral, who is usually most straightforward in his utterances. We have heard a good deal about States rights; and I hope I shall never assist to do anything to take away one atom of States rights. I recognise that this is the branch of the Legislature whose special duty it is to have regard to those rights; but I urge honorable senators to ask themselves whether a railway strike in one State does not alwayspresent the great danger and possibility of the trouble extending to another State? The recent railway strike of Victoria was within an ace of extending into adjoining States; and will the opponents of the proposal to include States servants say that, if that dispute had extended into South Australia and New South Wales, it could have been aseffectively dealt with by the States Governments as by the Federal Government? I do not believe that the Federal Government has any right to interfere in the proper functions of a State, but I stand strictly on the Constitution. If the High Court, which is the interpreter of the Constitution, holds that such a provision is not constitutional, then, of course, I must bow to their decision. But if a provision of the kind is not constitutional it is certainly expedient; and in the interests of the States employes, and of the people generally, it is well that the point should be settled by a Federal Court and not by the Courts of the different States. Taking the broadest view of what are properly speaking Federal rights within the Constitution, I claim that it would be a disastrous thing if a railway strike in ons State spread into an adjoining State, and if it were not within the power of the Federal Arbitration Court to deal with it. We have only to consider the vast interests that are involved in our Inter-State railways, which run across the boundaries of four mainland States, to stand aghast at the disaster that would accrue if a railway strike under such circumstances could not be effectively dealt with. When the railway strike in Victoria took place, it was almost a certainty that had it continued a little longer ther ail way men in New South Wales or South Australia, or both States, would have taken such action as would have made the dispute extend beyond the confines of the State where it commenced. As we are always liable to railway strikes, I cannot understand how such a dispute could be adequately dealt with by a single State as effectively as by the Federal Court. In holding that view I do not think that I am giving States rights away by one jot. I take my stand on the Constitution. I wish to support no provision which will impinge on what are properly speaking States rights. I know that the States have certain powers, and that certain powers have been committed to the Federal Government. The Constitution gives the Federal Parliament power to frame laws -
For the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the confines of one State ; and I cannot for the life of me see how honorable senators can take the view that a railway strike is not liable to extend beyond the limits of one State considering the nature of the geographical borders of our States. It would be a . disaster if such a strike could not be dealt with by the Federal Arbitration Court. There are a number of provisions in this Bill which I hope to see altered in Committee, but, speaking in generalterms, I may add to what Senator Matheson has said as to the effect of various labour disputes in different countries in the world involving very deplorable circumstances. There is one great strike which he did not mention, and to which I may allude. I mean the great strike which occurred within the last few months at Cripple Creek in America. Things took piace there that I hope will never occur in Australia. The struggle between the unionists and the non-unionists reached alarming proportions, and owing to the absence of an arbitration tribunal, there was no power to intervene and settle the matter. The consequences were really deplorable in their extent. I believe in making provision so that such occurrences shall not be possible in this country. For that purpose we should have not only effective State Arbitration Courts, but also an effective Federal Arbitration Court. I have already referred’ to the effects of strikes which have occurred in my own State owing to the absence of arbitration. Had there been such a tribunal, the disputes probably would not have occurred, or if they had occurred would not have led to such bitterness of feeling as was imported into them. There is one clause of the Bill which has been made the basis of considerable strife in another place, and over which, I suppose, the greatest struggle will take place in the Senate. I allude to the provision respecting preference to unionists. Much will be said about it in Committee, and, therefore, I shall not dwell upon it now. But I wish to point out that in my opinion “ preference “ is the wrong term to use. It may be’ technically correct to speak of “ preference to unionists,” but a fairer term would be “ security to unionists.” It is all very well for Senator Fraser to inveighin bitter tones against the supposed desire of unionists to starve non-unionists into joining their ranks.
– He did not mean it.
– Many things have been saidby opponents of this measure which they did not mean, but which have done incalculable harm. It is absurd to speak of the desire of unionists to starve the non-unionists. No such thought has ever occurred to any man in the Labour Party. But what the unionists do desire is that at least there shall be security for them. In my own State, unionists have, simply because they took a prominent part in connexion with trade unionism, been practically boycotted. We only desire preference under fair terms. I do not mind saying that we do not desire preference to unionists if it is known that there is a majority of those employed in a particular industry who do not wish for preference. We wish to do nothing unfair, but we do say that unless the clause is altered there will always be the danger that the men who try to make the conditions of life better for the nonunionists, as well as for themselves, will be boycotted. It is not long since several leading unionists in a mining town in Tasmania were discharged simply because they had taken an active part in forming and keeping- a trade union going. Nothing else was charged against them. When they asked why they were picked out to be discharged, they were told, “ We have our own reasons.” They were practically boycotted. There is a sort of sympathy between mining companies, and when these men were discharged by one company, they had little chance of obtaining employment from another company in. the same district. I say, without hesitation, that several of the best miners in Mount Lyell, simply because they took a leading part in unionism, lost their employment, although they had always dealt fairly by the company. That has been the case, not only in Tasmania, (but all over the world. Unionists need to be secured against interference from employers because they have taken a leading part in unions or in bringing about a dispute. I am rather surprised that there are some senators who are going round the country preaching in tones of thunder against the iniquities of the Labour Party in endeavouring to carry such legislation. One of the strongest opponents of the measure is Senator Dobson, who has taken a leading part lately at meetings of women in declaiming against the Arbitration Bill. But it is within my recollection that not very long ago Senator Dobson, speaking in Hobart, said he hoped that the principle of arbitration would have a fair trial.
– He meant voluntary arbitration.
– He was referring to the Compulsory Arbitration Bill which was about to be introduced in the House of Representatives.
– I think the honorable senator is mistaken as to that.
– Not very long ago, on the 25th April, 1902, a paragraph was published in the Agc. This Parliament was then sitting, but it was, I think, about the time of the Easter adjournment”, and Senator Dobson was in Hobart addressing his constituents on Federal politics. The Ho bart correspondent of the Age wired a report of his remarks to the effect that the honorable and learned’ senator, in giving an address to the electors, said that he hoped that the Arbitration Bill would get a fair trial. That is my authority for the statement. The honorable and learned senator will be able to deal with the mattei if he speaks on the second reading of the Bill. I may mention that I can hardly understand the silence of some of the bitter opponents of this measure. They are apparently content1 to leave the debate to honorable senators on this side, who, it is well known, are strongly in favour of its principles.
– There have been as many speeches by opponents of the measure as bv those who support it.
– I have thought it strange that we have not had more speeches from honorable senators who are opposed to the measure, as it might almost be considered a waste of the time of the Senate for honorable members who support the Bill to debate the second reading. However, we do not wish the debate to close without hearing the opinions of honorable senators opposite, who have so strongly declared themselves against the principle of the Bill.
– They have all said that they intend to vote for it.
– That is something which no one can understand. Some honorable senators are night after night addressing meetings against the principle of cormpulsory arbitration in industrial disputes, and are telling the people of Australia that this legislation will drive capital out of the country, and yet, like dumb dogs, they now sit behind the leader of the Government in this Chamber, and because this is brought forward as a Government measure, and has been introduced, in a lukewarm fashion, by the Attorney-General, they are prepared to vote for it against’ their convictions. Honorable senators on this side intend to vote for the second reading of the Bill because they believe in its principles, but thev will do their utmost to alter some of its provisions in Committee.
– May not honorable senators on this side take exactly the same view, and support the second reading of the Bill, while they do not agree with some of its details?
– I am speaking of honorable senators who are opposed to the
Bill root and branch. Senator Walker, tor instance, would sweep it out of existence if he could.
– I object1 to the compulsory principle, and to the preference clause.
– Would not the honorable senator prevent this measure from ever appearing on the statute-book if he had a chance to do so? He has frankly declared that he does not believe in compulsory arbitration.
– I hope, with the cooperation of honorable senators opposite, to be able to knock out the compulsory provisions of the measure.
– The Honorable senator is well aware that he has not the slightest chance of any assistance from honorable senators on this side in destroying the compulsory provisions of this Bill. He knows that without the compulsory provisions we should not lake the trouble to discuss it for a moment, and he must know that voluntary arbitration has been a failure wherever it has been tried.
– I beg the honorable senator’s pardon. I read extracts last night to show that in England, by three to one, the workers themselves are opposed to compulsory arbitration.
– I say that whetever a dispute has arisen, and its settlement has depended upon voluntary arbitration, the voluntary principle has proved a failure.
– Lord Penrith’s coal strike, for instance.
– That is one case of which I am reminded, but we know that the principle has been an absolute failure in practice. Honorable senators who object entirely to the principles of this measure are going to vote in favour of the second reading. That shows that the AttorneyGeneral has his forces well in hand. If he does not desire them to speak they “will not speak, and the honorable and learned senator is to be congratulated upon having so docile a following.
– The honorable senator ought not to complain when the Attorney -General is leading his forces his way.
– The difficulty ‘is that they will not come our way. They will pose before Australia as believers in compulsory arbitration, and will point to the fact that they voted for the second reading of the Bill, but they will do their best to destroy its effective provisions in Committee. In my opinion, to be politically honest, they should vote against the second reading of the Bill, ‘ if they do not believe in it. I would rather they did that, as I prefer to fight an open opponent to one who votes for a measure in which he does not believe. I cannot conclude without again referring to the cry that this legislation is driving capital out of the country, and I quote the following paragraph from the Melbourne Leader of 30th April, 1904’, in reference to the assumption of office by the Watson Government -
For a long time the conservative press has been drawing dreadful pictures of what would happen to Australia should the Labour Party ever come into power. We saw the fields devastated, the streets empty, shutters up everywhere, wharves and piers deserted of shipping, and the few remaining capitalists skulking about in disguise, having buried all their portable valuables somewhere in the hills. Ever since Mr. Watson was “ sent for “ I have kept a bright look out for the expected exodus of capital, but, so far, there is no indication that capitalists are outward bound in unusual numbers. I cannot ascertain that even one proprietor of a conservative paper has yet booked a passage for Europe, and you would have thought gentlemen of that class would have departed early to avoid the crash. One cannot contemplate unmoved the prospect of a LiberalLabour Government covering the good conservative with ridicule by making the country ever so much more attractive to capital as has happened in New Zealand. There is always one cheering and comforting feature of conservative predictions, and that is the fact that never by any chance are they verified.
I entirely subscribe to the last part of that paragraph. Never by any chance are these predictions verified. The statements which have been made by our opponents in another place, in this Senate, and in anti-Labour newspapers, that Federal legislation is driving capital out of the country, were made nine or ten years ago in New Zealand. If one were to take the articles appearing in the leading newspapers of New Zealand at that time, he. would find that they are almost word for word the same as those which have recently appeared in newspapers in Australia. The same fears, and I admit that they may be genuine fears on the part of some honorable senators opposite, were expressed then, but in New Zealand they were proved to be groundless. I am confident that the fears expressed in Australia to-day are equally groundless, and that in ten years’ time, that will have been proved by our own experience if we now pass this legislation. No member of the party to which I belong desires that any capitalist or any capital shall be driven from Australia, or that any capitalist shall be unfairly dealt with, but what we do desire is (hat, the other side shall also be fairly dealt with. We say that legislation of this kind will enable both sides to bring their disputes before an independent and unprejudiced tribunal, and will enable them to be dealt with before they bring about the bitterness which is always engendered when an industrial dispute becomes a strike. I trust that this Bill will emerge from the Chamber a better Bill than it is now, and I am not without hope that it will. I trust also that the alterations which we make in it will be considered in a fair spirit in another place. I hope that the Government will back down on “much that its members have said. I believe they will be found ready to accept many of the alterations which we shall try to make in the Bill, and indeed I should not be surprised if they accepted every amendment of the measure carried bv the Senate. I trust that it will leave the Senate a much improved Bill, and that its lasting effect will be to conserve the interests of employers as well as of employes, and, in every branch of industry, to make Australia a better place than it has been up to the present for every man, woman, and child who has to earn a living in it.
– As this very important Bill’ has come before this Parliament, initiated and supported practically by two parties, and as its second reading in the Senate is a foregone conclusion, I have no doubt that many honorable senators who are sincerely opposed to the very principle, of the measure - finding that their opposition would be of no use-
– They need not vote for it.
– They may not approve of some of its provisions, and though the position which they occupy may appear to some extent inconsistent, they are content to accept the state of affairs as they find it. Honorable senators are aware that I have but recently become a member of the Senate, and in prosecuting my campaign for the position, I made it my duty to address my constituents upon this amongst other important subjects. My colleague in the representation of Tasmania, Senator Dobson, knows well that I declared myself in favour of the principle of compulsory arbitration. I did so from honest conviction. At that time the view I took of the question was that the intention of the Federal Constitution was to provide for the prevention as well as the settlement of disputes which would be likely to assume a national magnitude. I did not think that at any time advantage would be taken of the power given under the Constitution to force upon the States a compulsory arbitration Bill, whether they desired such a measure or not. The . statement made by Senator McGregor last night was by no means new to me, because after I had gone through my election campaign, and stated that I would support the principle of compulsory arbitration as I then understood it, when I came to study the measure proposed, I found that there was in it a very evident attempt to make its provisions applicable to the individual State as well as to the Commonwealth.
– We cannot do that.
– Senator McGregor last night seemed to me to make a very good point in that way.
– Where is that stated in the Bill?
– I refer to the general application of the Bill, to which effect cannot be given unless through, organizations representing the whole Commonwealth.
– That was stated distinctly by the leader of the Opposition last night.
– I interpreted the remarks of the leader of the Opposition last night to mean that the Tailors’ Union of Victoria would cease to exist, and become part of the Tailors’ Union of Australia, and the same with the Amalgamated Miners’ Association of this State.
– That would not be a Commonwealth dispute.
– That would bring into existence an organization embracing the continent and Tasmania, which would take the part of any section or branch in Tasmania, or Victoria, or any other State.
– That is the opinion of only one honorable senator.
– I think it is the right opinion. But what troubles my mind is the constitutional aspect of this proposal. Although I think that under cover of the word “prevention “ very wide legislative powers are given to this Parliament, still T. think that it would be against the real spirit of the Constitution to attempt to make this measure applicable to individual
States. However, that is a matter which, with others, must inevitably be left to the decision of the High Court. Carrying out not what. I regard as a promise or a pledge but a simple statement which I made on the platform last November, and which did not gain me any votes - for I was not one of the nominees of, nor even a persona grata with, the Labour Party - I intend to vote for the second reading of this Bill, and in Committee to assist in making its provisions as practicable and workable as possible. To my mind there will be a great many difficulties to be overcome in bringing this measure into operation. Last night Senator McGregor cited what I believed was an unhappy illustration of some of the troubles which will arise. ‘ Every student of political economy knows that there are certain matters with which we cannot effectively interfere by Act of Parliament. The honorable senator pictured a sudden strike on the part of the organized agricultural labourers of the Commonwealth, when the harvest was just ripe, and the delay of a few days might destroy the whole crop, and possibly inflict a loss of millions of pounds upon the whole of the Commonwealth. He pictured this sudden strike, which, according to the logical outcome of his reasoning, would be prevented if this legislation were to come into vogue. Would a strike be prevented? I wish we could look forward to that result accruing from this legislation. It is a result which, I think, no legislation could effectively bring about.
– But the honorable senator knows that the agricultural labourers in England organized under Mr. Joseph Arch.
– The question is, would this legislation prevent the organization of agricultural labourers from striking ?
– Make it do it.
– How can we pass an Act which would compel tens of thousands of men to go to work if they did not feel inclined?
– It can be done easily enough.
– It was done recently in Western Australia.
– Then take the case of the ‘Hercules Company’s miners, who are dissatisfied because its directors have proposed to reduce their wages. I do not think that the men are overpaid, or would be overpaid if their wages were increased by 25 per cent. But what legislation can we enact which would make the directors of this company pay its miners 10s., if they are getting only 9s., for the result of their labours. These are honest difficulties which 1 foresee. I should be glad if there were some legislative means by which they could be settled. There is one feature of the Bill which I do not like, and that is its inclusion of one section of public servants to the implied exclusion of all other sections. Why should not the Bill go through both Houses in the form in which it was originally introduced?- Why should we specifically include or exclude any one section of the community? If the Bill is good enough for the railway service, which embraces not only a large number of industrial men, but also a large number of clerks and others who do not exactly belong to the labouring element, why is it not good enough for other servants of the States? Would it not be better to pass the Bill in its original form, so as to allow all persons to take advantage of its provisions if they wished ?
– The lawyers have said that those men would not be excluded unless they were specially mentioned.
– Is it not the common boast of the members of the Labour Party, that the term “industrial “ embraces those who work with pen and mind, as well as the men who work with pick and shovel ? Why should we specifically or impliedly exclude any branch of the public service of the States?
– Does not the honorable senator think that they are included in the Bill?
– No. I do not see any necessity for specifically including any class, and by so doing, impliedly excluding every other class.
– Would the honorable senator include the Judges?
– I should exclude no one.
– But they do not follow an industrial pursuit.
– What party in this Parliament made that exclusion?
– I am discussing the Bill purely on its merits. When I was asked by the Railway Employes Association to support the in elusion of railway servants, I replied that the inclusion of one particular section of State employes necessarily implies the exclusion of every other section of State employes; because I can see no difference between clerical work in the Railway Department,’ and clerical work in any other public department.
– Does not the honorable senator admit that we have to keep within the provision in the Constitution?
– If the Bill is made general in its application, without necessarily including one section or other, it will then be merely for the High Court to say whether constitutionally it applies to civil servants. If it is constitutional to apply such legislation to civil servants, they ought not to be excluded?: their rights ought to be respected.
– Are there any words in the Bill which specifically excludes any class of servants so long as they come within the provision in the Constitution?
– I do not know, but they are excluded by reason of the fact that only one branch is included.
– The word “ industrial” in the provision in the Constitution has a bearing on that aspect of the question.
– That is, I think, the logical deduction to be drawn from the inclusion of only one class of public servants. I do not think it should be done.
– That is not our fault.
– I do not see why a clerk who has his work to do. and whose grievances might be just as great as those of any labour organization, or industrial employes in a public department, should not have an equal opportunity of taking and enjoying the full benefits of this legislation?
– The honorable senator ought to blame the members of the Convention for using in the Constitution the word which is used in this Bill.
– We hear many definitions of rhat term, .-md I am taking the broad one of my honorable friends in the Labour Party, who canot blame men who, as the result of long experience, cannot see eye to eye with them, or who may foresee some of the difficulties which must arise. So far, Tasmania has had no legislation of this kind. On two, if not three occasions, and with my help, a Bill providing for voluntary arbitration was passed by our House of Assembly ; but it has not yet reached the statute-book, as the Legislative Council being somewhat conservative, is hot too ready to adopt progressive legislation. However that is not our fault. It seems to suit the people of Tasmania.
– No it does nif. They cannot get a chance to indicate their will. The honorable senator knows that they cannot alter the franchise for the Upper House.
– My honorable friend knows that a good deal of ‘progress has been made during late years.
– A large number of the citizens have not a vote for the Legislative Council, otherwise they would alter its constitution pretty quickly.
– No doubt, in Committee, many important provisions in this Bill will be debated, and therefore, 1 do not see much advantage in discussing them at this stage. I should like to deal with one or two matters of Tasmanian importance, which have been referred to by Senator O’Keefe. I have already referred to the case of the Hercules Mine.’ I am not defending the action of the directors, or taking the part of the men. When a concrete case is cited, it is only right that the actual facts should receive close attention from honorable senators. The Hercules mine, and the North Mount Farrell mine, are two cases in point. The Hercules mine has undoubtedly declared two dividends in a period of, I think, ten or twelve years. I think that Senator O’Keefe is as well aware of that fact as I am, and when he said this morning that it was a dividendpaying mine, he was hardly fair.
– But I qualified the statement.
– It is many months since the Hercules Company paid a dividend, arid it is not in a position to pay another dividend. It has to deal with a large body of low-grade ore, and, therefore, it has to adopt economic methods. I doubt very much whether with the present price of metals and minerals it will be able to earn a profit. If it were really a dividendpaying mine, and the directors were harsh men who desired to screw out of the miners every shilling they could, no one would be found more ready than myself to strongly condemn their act. But I do not think that that is quite the case. They see the difficulty of carrying on the mine profitably under present conditions. This is an economic question which will be governed entirely by results. If no money is available from the earnings of the mine to pay the men. they cannot be paid. The same remark applies to the case of the North Mount Farrell mine.
– Suppose that the industry is over-capitalized?
– In this case it is not over-capitalized. Suppose that a member of the Labour Party owned a mine, and was paying out £i per day and receiving back only 18s., would he continue to work it ? Undoubtedly he would not. Is it right in such circumstances to declaim against any board of directors, or to taunt them with being actuated by improper motives, when they reduce the rate of wages?
– That is a matter for a Court to settle.
– No. Senator O’Keefe charged the directors of the Hercules Company with being actuated by some ulterior motive. Mount Farrell presents another case. This is a new field, discovered in the last few years. It was, when discovered, eight miles distant from a railway station, and the ore had to be carried over a difficult bush track to the railway, and all provisions and other necessaries carted back again.
– There is a tramway.
– I am speaking of the place before a tramway was constructed ; and, further, I am speaking from my knowledge as an ex- Minister of Mines. The carriage of the ore cost £2. 10s. per ton over the eight miles, and a similar charge had to be paid on the provisions brought back. Under those conditions, the company could deal only with very high grade ore, and the cost of living was then considerably higher than what it has become since. It was under those conditions that the standard rate of wage was fixed, and. later on, when a tramway was constructed, the cost of transport was reduced to 5s. or 10s. per ton, which made a considerable difference.
– Would not all those be matters for the consideration of the Arbitration Court ?
– I should’ hope those matters would be considered bv the Court.
– The honorable senator is wrong as to the charge. The freight on the tramway is pretty nearly £1 per ton for the goods of the miner, and 10s. per ton for the ore.
– At any rate, it is only 10s. per ton for the goods being carried to Mount Farrell. We all agree, considering the conditions of the occupation, that the men ought to receive even -£i per day if the profits permitted.
– The men never do receive £1 per day when the profits permit.
– We might decree by Act of Parliament, or by an award of the Arbitration Court, that the agricultural labourers should be paid a high wage, but how long would the wheat farmers be able to carry on? Just so long as the price of wheat in Mark-lane enabled them to do so, We should all like to do a great deal for our fellow-creatures, but I am afraid’ that much that we are attempting is simply impossible.
– The companies do not take the same view as does the honorable senator.
– I believe honestly that a large majority of people desire to have legislation of this kind tried, and, although I have grave doubts as to the possibility of carrying out all that the Bill attempts to achieve, I do not think it would be right for me to offer any opposition to the second reading.
– The importance of the measure before us cannot be overstated. I join with Senator McGregor in the belief that it will open a new vista to the industrial army throughout every State; and, because of that belief, I desire to see the measure all-embracing and comprehensive. I desire to see provisions embodied which will advantage the majority of the citizens of the Commonwealth. The Bill should be so amended, when it reaches the Committee stage, that it will be acceptable to unionists and non-unionists alike, and will prevent for all time in this young nation a repetition of the disastrous strike which occurred in 1890. That was known as the maritime strike, and it paralyzed shipping and other industries, threw Melbourne into darkness, caused misery and suffering to many who participated, inflicted hardships, temporary and permanent, on a number of persons who were in no way responsible, and reduced many of the States to a condition of almost civil war. In Victoria, at that time, such was the state of affairs that special proclamations were issued, special constables sworn in, and the police and the military called out. In connexion with the calling out of the military by the State Parliament of Victoria, Colonel Tom Price, lately deposed from his position in the Commonwealth service-
– What does the honor1 able senator mean by “deposed?”
– The honorable and learned senator knows what “deposed” means.
– It is hardly a fair word to use.
– Colonel Tom Price’s services were no longer required by the Commonwealth Government.
– Do justice to a man who fought for us !
– I hope I am doing Colonel Price no injustice when I say that he was deposed from his position.
– In plain English, he got the “sack.”
– There was nothing voluntary about Colonel Price’s retirement.
– He was retired on account of age.
– It was not a voluntary retirement. Colonel Price has protested, and has declared that unless he is reinstated or given compensation he intends to publish a book, on which, I believe, he is engaged at the present time. While the strike was in progress Colonel Price, whose name is familiar and notorious in the State of Victoria, addressed his troops in very sulphuric language. He said -
If you see your father, or your mother, or your sister, or your brother standing in front of you, and the order is given to fire, fire and lay them out. Give the- an ounce of lead in the guts.
Lay the disturbers of law and order out, so that the dose will not need to be repeated. If I see a man firing in the air, I will shoot him down with my revolver.
– That is the sort of conciliation !
– That is compulsory arbitration.
– It is certainly compulsory “conciliation” !
– That is the kind of treatment which is being meted out in the United States of America to-day, where there is the superior kind of system of which Senator Walker is such an ardent advocate - voluntary conciliation and arbitration. On the occasion when this language was used by Colonel Price, there was assembled on the Yarra bank an audience numbering 40,000, composed mainly of unionists and sympathizers with the unionists then on strike. That meeting was addressed by a number of persons, all of whom To the best of my recollection spoke in favour of compulsory conciliation and arbitration. Four years after that period, in 1894, I think, the then Premier of Victoria, Sir James Patterson, formally opened a voluntary arbitration tribunal, and then expressed the hope that in a short time arbitration would be made compulsory. Although we have had voluntary conciliation on the statute-book of Victoria, and also of New South Wales, for a considerable time, the. system has in both instances been of little or no avail. Since 1894, a period covering ten years, there have been many strikes in Victoria and the other States ; and the two most important - the railway strike in Victoria, and the coal miners’ strike in Gippsland - would, in all probability, have been settled had there been a Compulsory Conciliation and’ Arbitration Act.
– They would certainly have been settled.
- Senator McGregor is quite right. The railway strike was most disastrous, but I have never hesitated to express my opinion that it was a justifiable strike. The men were goaded to a state of revolt by the exasperating conduct of the then State Government. They were denied many privileges, and as a last shot their lips were padlocked - they were denied the ordinary rights of citizens, and even more humiliated than are the Chinese in our midst. The Gippsland strike lasted for a period of sixteen months, during which much misery and suffering were endured. To their everlasting credit, the men, stimulated by the influence, of the women, in many instances, remained true to their organization, and loyal to their principles. Not one man “ black-legged “ during the whole of the long period of sixteen months-. So much for voluntary conciliation in Victoria. Voluntary conciliation has proved a failure in almost every country In the world where it has been tried, notwithstanding anything that may be said to the contrary. But as soon as we seek to introduce compulsory arbitration, honorable senators opposite urge us to move with very great caution - to wait until we have ascertained the results of similar legislation in other parts of the globe. They ask us to stand still - to wait until somebody else does the pioneering work, and provides an example. Our desire in this young nation should be to start with fresh ideals, born of the experience of nineteen centuries of weal and woe. We ought to insist on placing on the Statute-book such legislation as will make for the nation’s advancement and the citizens’ prosperity, and be an object-lesson to the rest of the world. In any case, if we are to follow, we have some splendid examples before us. Compulsory arbitration has been tried in New Zealand with more than satisfactory results. Prior to the passing of that Act there were many strikes in New Zealand, some of which were of great magnitude, and caused much misery and distress. Many organizations, influential both politically and financially, were opposed to the Bill when it was before the New Zealand Parliament, but numerous members of those organizations have since become converts, and are loud in praise of its efficacy. Unless an Act of the kind is, in the first place, compulsory, and, in the second place, provides a preference to unionists, it is a farce.
-Col. Gould. - Why should it be a farce, if we omit preference, and have compulsion ?
– Because I am of opinion that unless there be preference, unions will not register under the Act.
– And it is certain that non-unionists will not register.
– This Bill is intended for the prevention of strikes and locks-out - not strikes by unorganized bodies, because one never heard of unorganized bodies striking, but between organized employes and organized employers. Organized employes will not register under the Act if their rights are not safeguarded ; and they “have reason to ask for this guarantee. Men of marked ability, who are unswerving in their allegiance to the principles of unionism, and whose honesty is above suspicion, are not “infrequently appointed to fill responsible positions in connexion with trade unions. Having been appointed to these responsible positions by their fellows, they are ofttimes victimized from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. The same thing has occurred in the United States of America in consequence of the action of organized capital. It is common knowledge that in America men who have fallen foul of the employers have had to disguise themselves or leave the country of their birth. In reference to the question of preference to unionists, I wish to point out that in Victoria, prior to the passage of the Factories Act, very bad conditions indeed existed in many occupations. Agitation began. Organizations sprang into existence. The most suitable men were appointed to the posts of honour, and in many cases the men appointed to responsible positions in unions were also chosen to act as representatives of the workmen on the Wages Boards under the Factories Act. They sat side by side with their employers, ‘ and although they succeeded in most cases in securing much better working conditions than previously existed, a number of them have had to walk about the streets of Melbourne in idleness, being told that their services . were no longer required. We desire that men shall be protected when they endeavour to elevate and protect their fellow workers.’ In the butchering trade I believe that all the representatives of the workmen on the Wages Boards were dismissed from their employment with the exception of the secretary of the organization. In the tanners organization, most of the members of the board were unable to secure employment. In the jam trade the same occurred. In the fellmongering trade every one of the men on the Wages Board was unable to get employment after the determination of the board had been gazetted. Some of them have commenced a co-operative business of their own in Richmond, and I am glad to say that they have been successful. How are we to prevent strikes or locks-out unless we have these, provisions in the Bill ? I know that the same old argument will be trotted out as has been made use by the paid organizers of the Employers’ Union, and by some of their sympathizers in the Senate, who go round the country raising all sorts of bogies and frightening timid people.
– Especially women.
– Especially farmers and women. Women do not have the same opportunities to become ‘acquainted with politics and with industrial matters as men. do. Farmers who are removed from the large centres of population are liable to be carried away by the alarms sounded by the agents of the employers’ organizations. These people tell the farmers that if measures like this are carried into law, their very existence will be threatened, their lives will become a perfect hell upon earth, and all sorts of terrible things will happen to them. I agree with Senator McGregor that the best friends of the farmers, so far as concerns peace and progress, are those who desire that there shall be no limitations in respect to the operation of this measure upon agricultural labourers. When labour is scarce, men who do farming work are able to exact tribute from the farmers, and secure very high wages. Indeed, I know that in some cases they have been able to secure what would seem to be fabulous rates of wages. Unionism is growing by leaps and bounds in every country on the earth. Within a few years agricultural labourers, and all other kinds of labourers in the Commonwealth, will be organized. Then the farmers will be threatened with a very great danger if their labourers are not included under this measure. I cannot understand the attitude of some honorable senators. I think I am correct in saying that Senator Dobson has said that he does not believe in compulsory arbitration, because it will interfere with the liberty of the subject, or, in other words, will take from the workmen the right to strike.
– The honorable senator cannot put my opinions in a sentence.
– I venture to say that if there were a strike in Tasmania today, Senator Dobson’s influence would be cast against the men, even though they asserted that right which he does not desire to have taken away from them.
– Senator Dobson has never been on the side of the men in any strike.
– No working man or working woman desires that strikes or locksout shall take place. They recognise that these are barbarous methods for the settlement of industrial disputes. They desire to substitute peaceful methods by which both employers and employes can have their grievances rectified. It is said that an ounce of example is worth a ton of precept. We have the splendid example of New Zealand to guide us in making compulsory arbitration law, and also in regard to preference to unionists. I desire to quote a passage from the report of the Victorian Royal Commission on the Factories Act, dated 1902-j. It was not a Labour Commission, but was composed of representative men from the States Parliament who took evidence in all the States, and paid a visit to New Zealand. Under the heading of “Conclusion,” the report deals with the effects of compulsory arbitration, and preference to unionists in New Zealand. It says -
The New Zealand Conciliation and Arbitration Acts remain to-day the fairest, the most complete, and the most useful labour law on the statute books of Australasian States. And it is, on the whole, a wise social law, on the one hand protecting the fair-minded employer from the dishonest competition of the sweater, who keeps 9 u down the cost of production by paying miserably low wages, and, on the other, the toiling thousands, to whom a rise in wages of a few shillings a week when an industry can fairly bear it, often means the difference between griping poverty and comparative comfort. But beyond that, it has the great merit of providing effective means for preserving unimpaired the industrial relationship of employer and worker, in forbidding the miserable warfare which displays itself in strikes and locks-out, and the stern reprisals which too often accompany them, while ample opportunity is given for conciliatory methods of settling disputes before compulsion is invoked.
The law may fairly be said to have passed successfully through its period of probation. Its main principles have stood the test of time, and while employers and workers alike keenly criticise each other’s actions in connexion with its operation in certain industrial centres, in no part of that colony which we visited did we hear any general desire expressed for its repeal. Many suggestions were, indeed, made for minor alterations, but they were put forward with the view of improving the general administration of the Act, while preserving its main principles in their integrity.
Recently there have been held many important meetings in connexion with different financial and other institutions in New Zealand. At these meeting? some persons who were formerly supposed to be strongly conservative in their political views have expressed their opinions on the labour legislation. I am informed - whether correctly or otherwise I do not know - that Mr. Duthie, who is a member of the Maoriland House of Representatives, said to be a man of conservative tendencies, and marked financial ability - was formerly a strong opponent of the new legislation. He condemned it vigorously. But to-day he believes in it thoroughly. He goes further, and1 says that under it Maoriland has made for progressand peace. His opinion is shared by numbers of other gentlemen in similar walks of life. The chairman of the Chamber of Manufactures of Wellington, Mr. Nathan, and the Chamber of Manufactures of other centres of New Zealand, have spoken in loud praise of the Maoriland Act. The main argument trotted out against the pie.ference clause is, that the supporters of it desire to place an embargo on those who are outside the pale of the unions. We do nothing of the kind. We extend our hand to all. Wc open our doors to every man. All are at liberty to join our organizations. No restriction is placed in their path.. The very presence in this Chamber of numbers of labour members furnishes a direct reply to the accusation that we desire to legislate only in the interests of unionism.
I do not think there is a labour senator who has not been at some period of his life a member of a trade organization. We were selected to run in the first instance as labour candidates by bodies representing unionists, and non-unionists. We have addressed meetings at various places as pledged labour men. Non-union workmen, as well as unionists, have attended our meetings, and worked for us day and night. They did so, knowing that we would endeavour to do justice to unionists and non-unionists alike. Except for that, does any honorable senator opposite think that we should be sitting here to-day as a Labour Party? Unionism places no embargo on men outside the organizations; but there are to-day many men who would join union organizations, but for the embargoes placed upon them, and the tyranny exercised over them by their employers. To my own knowledge, there are many men to-day who are out-and-out trades unionists and political labour advocates at heart, who dare not express their opinions, and dare not join n trade union, for fear they would be boycotted. The State from which Senator Dobson comes is. to my own knowledge, the most backward in this direction, and some of the employers of labour in that State are most bitter and most hostile to labour organizations, and to any man or body of men who advocate the claims of working men and working women. However, there is a change coming over even that State, because there are now in the State Parliament of Tasmania some labour representatives : a small body of men who are making themselves felt, and who in a few shortyears, I hope, will see their forces considerably augmented.
– The handwriting is on the wall.
– The handwriting is on the wall in every country on the face of the earth. Although we have difficulties in the path, we recognise that :
It is better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe.
We find that many men in order to placate certain sections of the community will trim their sails to catch the passing breeze, but the Labour Party is the only party who tell the electors - union and non-union workers of every description, male and female - exactly what they intend to do, and what their programme is. Honorable senators may rest assured that the Labour Party having been returned to this national Par liament mainly by the votes and influence of union and non-union workers, know exactly what they want, and their representatives in this Senate are determined to vote for it in spite of any opposition with which they may be met. I do not desire to take up any more of the time of the Senate on the second reading of this measure. I trust that when it leaves this Chamber and eventually finds its way on to the statute-book it will make for industrial peace and national prosperity.
– I am glad to find that a large majority of the members of the Senate are in favour of the great principle of compulsory arbitration. I am one who believes that a compulsory Arbitration Act is calculated to be the most valuable of our industrial laws. This legislation . must do more to secure industrial stability and remove economic injustice than any other legislation we could enact. I regret that there should be any honorable senator opposed to the principle of compulsory arbitration. In my humble judgment, it must be as beneficial to the honest employer as to the employe. If, for instance, we have certain employers willing to sweat their employes, we know that the honest employer has to compete in the disposal of his commodities with those dishonest competitors. Under such a measure as that now before the Senate it would be impossible for those dishonest men, though thev might desire to do so, to reap benefit by imposing unfair conditions upon their employes. Again, it is possible that when times are not buoyant, certain firms may be paying wages which are higher than they can well afford to pay. In such a case, under this measure, we should have the highest tribunal, presided over by a Judge of the Federal High Court, deciding, on the fullest information from both sides, what in the circumstances may be a fair rate of wages to pay. Then under such a measure industrial stability is insured, and that, in my opinion, is of more value to employers than to employes. Some of our great firms may enter into contracts involving large sums of money in connexion’ with which there may be a stringent time limit. In such circumstances, under existing industrial conditions, the employes of a firm that has entered into a contract have the opportunity, if they choose to avail themselves of it, to say, “ We know you have entered into this contract, and if you do not increase our wages we shall strike, and you will be placed in such a position that you must lose a large sum of money.” But under this legislation such a thing would be impossible, and I think that honorable senators on this side should recognise that the advantages which this Bill offers to employers . are eaual to those which it offers to employés. We may differ as to some of the details of the Bill. We must remember that compulsory arbitration is a principle which has been in evidence only for a comparatively short period of time. I think that there are only three compulsory Arbitration Acts in existence in the whole world. I believe I am right in saying that New Zealand, New South Wales, and Western Australia have passed the only compulsory Conciliation and Arbitration Acts in existence.
– The French Act is compulsory, wherethe parties agree to take a dispute to court. The award in such a case has the force of law.
– That can hardly be called compulsory, and it is not the principle embodied in this Bill. We have not had a very wide experience of the effect of this compulsory legislation, but the experience we have had shows the effect to have been beneficial to the whole community. After ten years’ experience of the operation of the principle in New Zealand we can produce testimonials from both sides in that colony as to the advantages of the law. This Bill as it stands is one of the most liberal, and should be one of the most effective arbitration measures of which we know. As it appears before us, it has emanated from several Governments, but the person who is entitled to the great honour of having introduced it is the representative of Adelaide, the Right Honorable C. C. Kingston. I do not say that it is a perfect measure, because, in my opinion, it is not as perfect as it might be made. As a matter of principle, and in support of State rights, which the Senate is established to conserve, I am absolutely opposed to the Bill being extended to the public servants of the States. I do not think” it was the intention of the framers of the Constitution that a tribunal should be created by which the Federal’ authorities should be able to fix the wages, salaries, and conditions affecting civil servants under the control of the States Governments.
– Is the honorable senator’s objection to the inclusion of all States servants ; of every person in the employ of a State?
– Any person whose salary is voted by a State Parliament.
– Yes, I object to the inclusion in this measure of any one in the employ of a State. I think it is hopeless to expect that the provision to which I object will be deleted because the leader of the Government in this Chamber has stated that he is in favour of it, and we know that honorable senators of the Labour Party support it to a man. My only hope, therefore, is that, as the result of a case being stated for decision by the Federal High Court, it will be proved that the provision is ultra vires, and it will be ruled that we cannot interfere in this way with such State affairs. I believe that, should this provision be operative, it will create ill-feeling between the States and Federal authorities, and will do much to check the Federal feeling which we all wish to see generated throughout the Commonwealth. In my opinion the question which we have to consider in connexion with this Bill is one of expediency, without the sacrifice of principle. What will be the result if we make drastic alterations in this Bill? T believe that the inevitable resuit will be that the Bill will be dropped.
– Does the honorable senator think that that would be a very great loss?
– I do. I have already stated my opinion that although there are imperfections in the measure, and I have mentioned one, I am prepared to accept it as it stand’s rather than that we should not pass some legislation of this kind.
– The provision to which the honorable senator ‘refers is unconstitutional, and will do no harm.
– I hope we shall find that it is.
– Is the honorable senator aware of any organization in Western Australia that would come under the measure in its present form?
– I think that as this Bill is one which the Labour Party, when in power, were willing to accept absolutely, with the exception of one portion of one clause-
– No, no. What about the proposals for recommittal?
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.The amendments which were suggested by the Labour Party were all agreed to, with the exception of one in clause 40, and the only difference between the Bill, as it was agreed to by the Labour Party when they were in power and as it now stands, is as to the terms on which preference to unionists shall be conceded. The session is not likely to last for more than six or eight weeks longer, and if there are vital alterations made in the Bill I have no doubt that it will be dropped. That will mean that during a recess of six months, probably for a period of twelve months, and possibly for the duration of this Parliament, we shall have no Conciliation and Arbitration Act on the statutebook. If a great industrial strike should happen during that time a heavy responsibility would rest upon some members of the Senate. I was in Melbourne during the great maritime strike in the early nineties, and I sincerely trust that there will never be such another strike in Australia. The amount of money which was sacrificed, the loss which was entailed, and - what is far more important and regrettable - the enormous amount of human suffering which resulted from that strike should make us endeavour to take precautions to prevent the recurrence of so dire a calamity. If this Bill is thrown out now we may have no Conciliation and Arbitration Act during the life of this Parliament. A great responsibility will rest upon those who may be responsible for the dropping of the Bill.
– Is anybody responsible yet for dropping theBill?
– I am not saying that there is ; I am merely expressing my opinion without having consulted any one as to whether it will be dropped.
– Is this warning being given on behalf of the Government?
-I have not consulted a single member of the Government in regard to the Bill, andI am sure that the Attorney-General will ‘bear me out in this statement, that I have never mentioned to him this or any other Bill.
– We are all going to join in putting the Bill on the statute-book.
– Supposing that a shearing strike took place. We know the amount of ferocity which was engendered in certain parts of Australia as the result of the great shearers’ strike.
– By whom?
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.By both parties.
– No, by the authorities. ‘
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.Very well. It led to the destruction of a great deal of property, and caused a great deal of injury, loss, and suffering. These strikes are liable to occur at any time if we have no Conciliation and Arbitration Act on the statute-book. We should be willing to make certain sacrifices in order to have on the statute-book a law to prevent such a possible calamity as that. Senator Henderson, in his very able speech, said that “ without this legislation it is also possible that the whole industries of the Commonwealth may be wrecked.”. I think that in the absence of this legislation strikes could occur in certain industries, which would be most prejudicial, and in those industries which would entail the greatest amount of suffering and injury. We have the opportunity of passing the Bill,as it stands, or with minor alterations.
– And do not forget that we have also the chance of passing the Bill with important alterations.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.If any drastic alterations are made I believe that the Bill will not pass.
– But this is not . the last Parliament that is going to sit.
– The Bill as it is would be worse than useless.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.In my opinion it is better than any Act on the statute-book in New Zealand or Australia.
– It is not, in the opinion of the labour unions of Australia.
– Does it not give the labour unions greater privileges than they possess under the existing Acts?
– It gives . them absolutely no protection.
– What privileges does it give to the unions in Western Australia?
– I understand- that in the law of New Zealand and New South Wales the power on the part of the Court to give preference to unionists is merely permissive, whereas, under the provisions of this Bill it is mandatory if there is a majority approving.
Honorable Senators. -no.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.That is how I think it will be read by the Court. .
– The unions can only apply for preference if they can prove that they constitute a majority, which we say is an impossible thing for them to do.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.They do not have to prove that they con stitute a majority. If the Judge thinks that there is a majority of” that opinion he can grant a preference to unionists. What is thu vital difference between the Government and the Opposition on this Bill? Two months ago, when the Opposition were’ occupying the Treasury benches, the difference between the two parties was practically restricted to clause 40.
– That was only one part of the Opposition ; and at that time the Senate had not spoken its mind.
– I understand that from time to time the whole party met, and came to some line of policy as to what was vital, and what was not. I think that the honorable, senator will not deny that he was consulted at . the meetings as to the policy of the Government in regard to this Bill.
– The late” Government accepted many’ amendments which they thought were detrimental to the Bill.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.I dare say that they accepted some amendments when they, considered no vital principle was involved.
– And many other amendments which were distinctly vital to the Bill.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.Let us take what the present Opposition demanded two months ago, as an irreducible minimum.
– Should we not ask for any more?
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.Not if it is thought that it would wreck the Bill. If the Labour Party were willing to pass the Bill two months ago with that irreducible minimum, why should they not be willing to pass it now?
– Does not the honorable senator think that the Senate has some right to put its impress on the Bill if it thinks it can be improved?
It is a mere matter of expediency without the sacrifice of any principle. We should not put the dignity of the Senate before the interests of the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that the other’ House should have all its own way, and that the Senate should have no voice?
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.If honorable senators on the other side do not think as I do in regard to the Bill being dropped, let them put in any amendments which they like. I am of opinion that it will be dropped. We know that the session has only six or eight weeks to run.
– The Bill is not the -property of any particular Government, as the Prime Minister said.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.If the Government do not put the Bill on the- notice-paper, and- proceed with it, . it will be dropped.
– Well, let the Government do that.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.The responsibility for the dropping of the Bill will rest just as much with the Opposi tion as with the Government. If the Opposition propose certain amendments which the Government have already said that they will not accept, and as a result the Billis dropped, and a strike occurs, the responsibility will rest just as much with the Opposition as with the Government.
– Why does not the honorable senator let the Government make these threats?
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.What is the vital principle in issue between the two parties? It is contained in that part of clause 40 which reads -
No preference shall be directed to be given unless the application for such preference is, in’ the opinion of the Court, approved by the majority of those affected, by the award.
The late Prime Minister, Mr. Watson, proposed to insert this provision -
The Court, before directing that preference shall be given to the -members of - an organization, shall be satisfied that the organization substantially represents the industry affected in point of numbers and competence of its members.
– Mr. Watson did not propose that amendment.
– But he gave notice of it, though.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.Mr. Watson did not get a chance to propose the amendment; but it was his opinion that it would make the Bill effective if it were inserted. He was willing for the Bill to pass with that’ provision.
– He was proposing that amendment as a compromise.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.I am not saying that that is what he wanted or. what the present Opposition want ; but that is what they were then prepared to accept as an irreducible minimum. Only a quarter of an hour ago, SenatorO’ Keefe made use of these words -
We do not want preference to unionists if there are a majority of non-unionists who do not want preference.
That statement practically bears out the provision in the Bill.
– I do not indorse that.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.But that is what was stated by Senator O’Keefe.
– If it can be shown that there is a majority of non-unionists.
Senator STANIFORTH. SMITH.The difference between the two proposals is very much like the difference between tweedledum and tweedledee.
– Does the honorable senator agree with the principle laid down by Senator O’Keefe?
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.I am only quoting what he said.
– The honorable senator is quoting one sentence, and not the whole of my argument.
– I think I am quoting the honorable senator fairly, but if he says I am not doing so, I am prepared to admit I am mistaken.
– I said that we did not want to do anything unfair to nonunionists.
– The words I have quoted from the remarks of Senator O’Keefe practically express what is contained in the Bill. The shipping and the. shearing industries were those principally in the minds of the framers of the section in the Constitution relating to conciliation and arbitration, and those are the two industries in which the Bill is likely to be most useful in the way of frustrating strikes. In both the shipping trade and the shearing trade the great majority of the workers are unionists, so that the
Bill absolutely protects them, seeing that it is left to the opinion of the Judge as to what constitutes a majority.
– Is not what constitutes a majority a question of fact?
– According to the Bill it is not a question of fact, but a question of opinion.
– I thought it was a mathematical fact.
– No doubt a majority is a mathematical fact, but, according to the Bill, it is a matter of opinion on the part of the Judge.
– Will the Judge not form his opinion on facts?
– If the Judge is of opinion that those in favour of preference constitute a majority, he will give preference.
– How will he arrive at the opinion ?
– On the best material available.
– It is unthinkable that if a Judge ascertains the number of unionists on the various vessels, or the number of employes in the shearing industry , he will not be able to come to a conclusion on the question of a majority. Iri the case of the shearers he could obtain a very correct approximation, the union books being available, and the overwhelming majority of shearers members of the union. It is, therefore, easily seen that the industries contemplated by the Constitution “will be absolutely safeguarded.
– But there are not merely the shearers, but all who are affected by the award, to be taken into account. If a man shears only for one week, he is affected by the award, and a roll of all such men will have to be compiled.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.There might betwo or three here and there, but that would not affect the result.
– Indeed it would. Those men are affected by the award, and it would have to be proved that a majority were in favour of preference.
-Does the honorable senator agree with the opinion expressed by Senator O’Keefe in the quotation he read a short time ago? The honorable senator has not yet expressed his own opinion.
– And I am not going to express an opinion on other people’s opinions. I am here to express my own. The Opposition have an opportunity to accept a liberal measure which would remove any danger of strikes in, at any rate, the two great industries I have mentioned ; and they cannot evade responsibility if the Government decide to drop the measure rather than accept amendments which may be proposed: I cannot help thinking that some honorable senators - unconsciously, of course - are prejudiced against the Bill, not so much on account of the actual clauses, as because it is introduced by a Government to which they are opposed.
– It was introduced by a Government which we were supporting.
– And the Labour Party were then in favour of pretty well every clause.
– The Bill is not now the same.
– It is practically the same.
– The Bill introduced by the Government which Senator Pearce and his. friends were supporting excluded public servants.
– We opposed that provision.
– If we on this side accept the Bill as it is, will Senator Smith and other honorable senators on that side do the’ same? .
-I am- not speaking for any one but myself.
– Does Senator Givens make that proposition on behalf of his party ?
– I think it would be better if Senator Smith were allowed to make his speech.
– I believe that unconsciously the objections to this Bill are influenced, not by the principles enunciated, or by the methods of procedure proposed, ‘ but by the fact that honorable senators opposite are opposed to the Government now responsible for the measure. In other words, there is a combination of hostility to the Government and to certain clauses’ If that were not the case, the Oppositon, in order to get the Bill on the statute-book, would propose only such amendments as they think are absolutely necessary ; they would not endanger the whole Bill by insisting on every amendment they may desire. If they . took the former course their proposals would be similar to those submitted by Mr. Watson when Prime Minister, and possibly a fair compromise could be arranged. I understand, however, that the Labour Party intend to submit amendments of’ a much more “drastic nature titan those they contemplated when on the Ministerial benches.
– The Labour Party desire to go back to the Bill as originally introduced by the Deakin Government,or which Senator Drake and myself were members.
SenatorSTANIFORTH SMITH.What I say is that if the Labour Party submit amendments of a drastic character which they did not think absolutely necessary when they were on the Ministerial benches, they will probably wreck” the whole Bill. In my opinion, there should be no parties in the Senate.
– Then. why did the honorable senator cross the Chamber?
-I have coveted the seat which I now occupy, or the corresponding seat on the other side, ever since I have been a member of the Senate, and I took it immediately it became vacant. It has been said that’ responsible government is. on its trial, arid the evidence appears to be . going very much against the system. The only object of having parties in the House of Representatives is because the Ministry may stand or fall by their policy ; in other words, it is the House of Representatives which makes ‘ and unmakes Ministries. . In the Senate, however, Ministries are not made and unmade, and there is absolutely no reason why there should be -parties in this Chamber. We should all be- for the Commonwealth, and none of us for party.
– Is the honorable senator for party now?
– I do not, and never did, consider myself a party man.
– Has the honorable senator thrown over the Free-Trade Party?
– On the free-trade issue I voted according to’ my pledge to my constituents, but if the honorable senator will turn to the- journals of the Senate, he will find that I have voted for his party quite as often as I voted for the party, of which I was nominally a member. I was not actuated by any party feeling. I voted according to the spirit and letter of the pledges I gave to my constituents, and supported what I believed to be in the best interests of the Commonwealth. That is the policy that I adopt now, and shall continue to adopt. I do not consider myself to be a party man.
– The honorable senator is going to vote for the Bill, irrespective of whether it ought to be amended.
– I believe it to be a good” Bill, which is in the interests of ‘ the country. If we make drastic alterations’ it will not be passed. Therefore, I am willing to accept it as it stands, ls it not better to accept the Bill, knowing that we can pass an amending measure if defects are discovered, than to have no Arbitration Bill whatever ? At any rate, the measure will be operative so far as’ maritime strikes and shearing strikes are concerned. Those are the two principal industries that the Bill was intended to cover. If we desire to extend the scope of the measure, ‘and find that the slightest injustice is being done to unionists, we can amend it on a subsequent occasion. I think that the policy which I have recommended is a reasonable one. The difference between the Opposition and the Government, so far as vital matters are concerned, is very, .small. The irreducible minimum of the Opposition does not differ greatly from the provisions of the measure, and I think that a compromise should be arrived at by which the Bill could be placed on the statute-book. But if drastic amendments are to be made, I believe that the Bill will be dropped. Of course, I am merely expressing my own opinion, and I may be wrong, but if it is dropped, the responsibility will rest to a certain- extent on the Opposition. If the Bill were passed, and subsequently it was found that an injustice was being done to trade unionists, I should certainly support an amending measure. In my opinion, trade unions are one of the greatest factors in our economic life for uplifting the masses of the people. If I belonged to a trade, I should belong to a trade union. I would be no party to legislation which penalized trade unions, or those who desire to form industrial’ unions. What I would urge upon honorable members opposite is this: is it not better to place this Bill upon the statute-book as it stands ? Our legislation is not like the laws of the Medes and Persians, which altered not. We can pass an amending Bill at any time. It is better to obviate the possibility of the whole Commonwealth being convulsed by a great shipping or shearing strike, than to refuse to pass the Bill, because we may think that a few amendments are required, which the Government at the very end of the session will not have time to adopt. If the Bill is dropped, it may happen that before we meet again, some great economic convulsion will take place, which will do great injury to Australia. Honorable members opposite will secure nine-tenths of what they want by means of this Bill. Let them accept it as an instalment. The history of other legislation shows the wisdom of this policy. In connexion with the White Australia policy, we did not secure all that we desired. Some of us wished to have absolute exclusion. But instead of insisting upon that, we accepted the education test, which. Has proved to be a very fair substitute.
– But we knew that absolute exclusion could not be agreed to. :
– We had serious doubts as to whether the education test would be effective. But we accepted it as the best thing we could get. Similarly, I urge honorable senators to accept this measure as. the best law we are” likely to get at present. If it does notwork well, or if any injustice is done by it, we can rectify its faults in succeeding sessions. I regret very much that this session,which commenced on the 2nd March, and may finish about December, will otherwise be absolutely barren and useless.
– That is not the. fault of the Senate.
– I am speaking of the work of the Federal Parliament. Unless we can place a great; economic measure like this upon the statute-, book, we shall have wasted this session. If honorable senators opposite pass amend-‘ ments, and if, as a consequence, the Bill isnot blocked, I shall be proved to be a false prophet. But if the Bill is dropped, and1; if the effort to pass industrial legislation, this session is wasted, the responsibility will rest with the Opposition as well as with; the Government.
Debate (on motion by Senator Pearce) adjourned.
– In moving’
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I think I should say that we have reason to be gratified with the progress made today. I desire to express the hope that we. shall continue to make good progress, so that at least early on Wednesday we shallbe able to get into Committee, when, of course, the very vital questions which have been indicated in the debate will be dealt with more fully.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4 p.m. ;
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 October 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1904/19041021_senate_2_22/>.