3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I beg to ask the
Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, the following questions -
– To the first two questions the answer is “ Yes.” Reports have been received, but they contain information with regard to the cost of the various classes of . vessels which might be utilized in connexion with the naval defence of the Commonwealth. The information is confidential, and it would not be wise to disclose the contents of the report at this juncture. I am not in a position to say definitely on what date the Government will announce its policy of naval defence, but its intention is to deal with the matter this session.
asked the Minister of
Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows -
The honorable member may rest assured that when the Quarantine Bill becomes law all necessary steps will be taken to insure efficient and uniform administration.
I think that in the statement which the honorable senator has attributed to me, I mentioned that the Department will be carrying out quarantine in the Commonwealth on uniform legislation and principles, and that every effort will be made to see that the regulations shall be in consonance with the interests of all the States.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow 1, 2, 3. No.
– Arising out of that question I desire to ask the Minister whether the attention of the Government has been drawn to the continual vilification of the white cane cutters of Queensland
– Order ! The question which the honorable senator desires to put must be strictly relevant to the question of Senator Chataway, and the reply thereto. If he purposes to introduce another subject or a further statement which may have been made by anybody, he will not be in order.
– My question deals with exactly the same subject as that which has been asked by Senator Chataway and answered by Senator Best.
– If the question is relevant to that inquiry, and arises out of the answer thereto, the honorable senator will be in order.
– Most certainly my question does, otherwise I would not put it to the Minister. I desire to know whether the attention of the Government has been drawn to the continual vilification of the white cane cutters of Queensland by so-called anti- Socialists, who are growing rich on the sugar bounties which they receive, and which the taxpayers have to pay-
– That is argument.
– Order ! That matter does not arise out of either the question or the answer. If the honorable senator desires to ask a question on the subject, he will be in order in giving notice of one at the proper time, but I cannot permit a further series of questions on that subject to be asked just now.
– Arising out of the question of Senator Chataway, I desire to ask the representative of the Government whether he is aware that the Government of Queensland is administering the law-
– That question does not arise out of the reply _which has been given to the question of Senator Chataway.
– I hold, sir, that, if all that is suggested in that question is occurring in Queensland, it is an indication that the law is not being administered by its Government.
– In the first three of his questions, Senator Chataway asked whether the attention of the Government had been called to certain statements which had been made, and the reply was “ No.” In his fourth question, he inquired whether the Government considered it necessary to make any inquiry, and the reply was “ No.” Senator McGregor will see that out of the answers to those questions very Tittle can arise which is strictly relevant. It is only a desire to keep honorable senators to the rule of relevancy which has caused me to intervene. I wish to say a few words with regard” to the asking of questions without notice. Lately a great number of such questions have been asked. Very many of them have not been strictly questions which should be put in the form in which they were couched. The Chair has the right - which is always exercised - to have questions on notice revised,’ and put in such form as it may consider proper and pertinent, and at the same time to fully concede to honorable senators their right to make inquiries in regard to various public matters. My attention was more particularly drawn to this matter yesterday, when I saw Senator Chataway ‘s notice of the questions which he asked to-day. It embraced the complete text of no less than six letters, which had been sent, I understand, in reply . to inquiries made by Mr. Dalrymple. It contained a very lengthy extract from another letter, and also a very lengthy extract from a debate or a speech in the Queensland Parliament. When I saw that his questions partook of that character, I intimated to him at once that, in my opinion, the notice was not in such a form that it should be placed on the paper, because the object with which a question is put is to elucidate facts appertaining to public matters which come within the cognizance of Parliament. I realized that if the text of six or seven letters embodying statements or expressions of ‘opposition by persons outside Parliament could be placed on the notice-paper, an opportunity would be afforded to honorable senators, instead of debating matters, to place on record the opinions expressed by newspaper correspondents or writers of letters. If that could be done on one side, it could be done on the other .side, and we should never reach finality. That would be an abrogation of the functions of Parliament. I did not .consider that it was a proper course to adopt, and therefore I requested Senator Chataway to condense his notice of questions, which he did. I ‘also desire to acquaint honorable senators with the practice in the House of Commons, and they will see how it applies to reading newspaper extracts, and asking a Minister if he has seen a particular report or paragraph. In the House of
Commons, on the 14th June, 1882, Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett said -
I wish to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, if his attention has been called to the following telegrams : - The correspondent of the Daily News at Alexandria says -
He then quoted the correspondent’s statement, and continued -
The very well informed correspondent of the Times says -
He quoted the statement, and thereupon -
Sir Charles W. Dilke rose to ‘order. He wished to know whether the honorable member was in order in reading a number of long telegrams from newspapers, and founding questions upon them.
– Before the’ honorable Baronet rose, I was about to rise, in order to point out to the House and the honorable member the extreme inconvenience of founding questions on every telegram in every newspaper. I am bound to say that it does appear to me that before questions of such gravity are put an honorable member should take some measures to ascertain the truth of the telegrams.
Another case occurred on the 26th January, 1886, and it was in connexion with the collective note of the European powers to Greece -
Mr.* J. Chamberlain asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if it is true that the British Minister at Athens has been instructed by Lord Salisbury to inform Itf. Delyannis that the British Government was prepared to send a fleet into Greek waters in order to prevent the possibility of an attack upon Turkey by sea.
Mr. Heaton. Before the right honorable gentleman answers that question, I wish to ask him the following on the same subject, namely, whether his attention has been called to the following statement made to-day by the correspondent of the Times -
He quoted that statement, and thereupon Mr. Speaker said -
The honorable gentleman is only reading extracts from a newspaper. The reading of such extracts is not asking a question of a Minister.
On the 25th March, 1897, the point arose in connexion with affairs in Crete -
Mr. Dillon. I desire to ask the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs a question, of which I have given him private notice - whether his attention has been called to a letter from Mr. Sandwith, late Consul in Crete, in the Times of to-day, in which the following statements are made -
After those statements were read, Mr. Speaker rose and said -
Order, order. The honorable member is not in order in reading a- letter from a newspaper, and asking whether the right honorable gentleman’s attention has been called to it. If the honorable gentleman vouches for certain facts, he can ask a question on them.
I have no desire to curtail the rights or privileges of any honorable senator. While honorable senators individually possess their rights, honorable senators collectively have their rights too. Honorable senators should, as far as possible, refrain from unduly quoting statements which appear in newspapers unless they are in a position to vouch for their accuracy. I ask’ them not to found long questions on matters which are contained in newspapers. Once or twice we have had documents quoted in notices of questions. But as far as possible I have struck out everything that was not pertinent to the subject-matter. Honorable senators may regard “this as to some extent an interference with their privileges. But the ordinary business-paper of the Senate would hardly have been large enough to contain the whole of the question already referred to which was handed to me yester. day. If it had been accepted in its original form, it would probably have been necessary to print an extra page to, embrace other business. That would really be the beginning .of what might become a serious abuse of the rights and privileges of honorable senators. I have made these remarks in good faith, and I- wish honorable senators clearly to understand that I do not want to take away from them any rights or privileges which they ought to enjoy. As the practice has grown up and been recognised in this Chamber of allowing certain quotations to be included in questions, I do not propose to interfere with it. But if the quotations and extracts should become unduly lengthy and too great an infringement of the proper practice as adopted in the House of Commons, I might feel it necessary to interfere.
– May I ask a question arising out of your statement, Mr. President? I quite agree with much that you have said, but I had no intention of quoting from letters or newspapers in the question which you prevented me from asking, without notice, but which I hope will be answered later on. It was a question arising out of things that had happened on the floor of this Chamber.
– The honorable senator is not asking a question arising out of my statement, but is expressing a hope that a certain question will be answered. If it is put on the notice-paper, and is in order, I have no doubt that the Minister to whom it is addressed will be prepared to reply to it. But the statement which I have made is not now. open to debate.
– I am not complaining about your statement, Mr. President. I wish to explain my position, as I think I am entitled to do.
-The honorable senator may, if he desires, make a personal explanation.
– I wish to ask if there has been any revision of the following statement in the questions which the Vice-President of the Executive Council has just answered -
– The words which the honorable senator has quoted are the exact words placed in the questions which it was ultimately determined to put upon the notice-paper. They are quoted from letters which the honorable senator who put the questions says were . written by the companies mentioned. That honorable senator, in placing the questions on the paper, has taken upon himself the responsibility of saying that those are the statements contained in the letters, about which he desires the Minister to make inquiries. I could not object to the statement referred to, because it is an essential part of one of the questions. If I had wished to eliminate it, it would have been necessary to refuse to allow the question to be put. But I have- allowed it in the most condensed form to which it could be reduced.
– According to the statement you have made, Mr. President, and your quotations from the House of Commons procedure, any honorable senator asking such a question would have to vouch, not only for the statements quoted being the text of the newspaper report or letter, but also for their truth. Is that what we are to gather from your reading of the decisions of the Speaker of the House of Commons ?
– I thought I put the matter plainly. I quoted the practice of the House of Commons, but I also alluded to the practice which had grown up in this Chamber, and said that I was not prepared to interfere with it, because, if I did so, honorable senators might consider that I was unduly curtailing their rights. If an honorable senator sees fit to quote from a newspaper, I consider that he is responsible for the correctness of his quotation, and not for the correctness of the statements made in it. In quoting it, the honorable senator does not vouch that the newspaper is correct, but that the quotation is correctly made. I have no objection to an honorable senator founding a question upon a quotation in that way, because that has been the practice of this Chamber.
– That was the explanation which I desired to elicit.
Motion (by Senator McColl) agreed to -
That two months’ leave of absence be granted to Senator Fraser on account of ill-health.
Motion (by Senator Keating) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South. Wales) [2.55]. - I regret that I was not able to be present last week to participate in the discussion on a Bill which, if it leaves this Chamber in its present form, can only be characterized by well-wishers of the Commonwealth as discreditable to the Commonwealth, and a serious reflection upon the Chamber which adopts it. I propose also to show in a most emphatic and authoritative manner that the Bill, which purports to be in the interests of the workers, is denounced by the society of workers which it professes to benefit. I shall use at least one official document to show that the party which is keeping the present Administration in power has been over and over againdenounced by those whose votes bring that party here. I regret that I cannot make my remarks more brief than I shall find it possible to do.
– Order ! I ask honorable senators not to interject. They will see that their interjections cause the honorable senator who is speaking to reply, and thus to get away from the subjectmatter of the debate.
– By subsection 2 of the same clause it will be seen that one of the assessors is to be a person nominated by the applicant for a certificate of exemption from Excise, and the other a person nominated in the interests of the employés - in such manner as the President may direct. .
Again, it is the President who is to be chief executioner, or, as some honorable senators might prefer to put it, the “high cockolorum of the whole affair.” What discretion, power, or liberty are the workers to preserve under such provisions as these? If we go to clause 5, we find that-
On the hearing of an application no party shall (except by consent of all the parties and by leave of the President) be represented by counsel or solicitor.
Again the President. Whoever heard of the President of a Court or the Judge of any tribunal being empowered to limit the right - I absolutely decline to go on while this noise continues.
– I ask honorable senators not to converse in loud tones.
– Is there a Court in the land in which the Judge is authorized to refuse the right of a suppliant for justice to be represented by counsel? I very much doubt that in any State in the Commonwealth a law exists under which the Judge of a Court has the right to refuse to allow one of the parties to a matter before him to be represented by. counsel or solicitor. On this point I am going to read the official protest against this clause which comes from the Victorian Agricultural Implement Machine Makers’ Society, and which bears the stamp of that society.
– How many members are there in that society?
– The honorable senator may know. I do not profess to know. What I doknow is this-
– That Nelken let the honorable senator in.
– I ask the honorable senator not to make an interjection of that character. The interjections which are being made are not pertinent to the subject under discussion, and are offensive to the honorable senator who is speaking.
– I wish briefly to refer to one or two of the other clauses of the Bill, and it is probable that I shall conclude by moving the recommittal of the measure. I should like to have honorable senators’ attention to clause 8. It may be pointed out that the Court constituted under this Bill is not a Court of justice or law as we understand it, because the President is not to be governed by the rules of evidence or by the rules which govern Courts in the ordinary acceptation of the term. Yet under clause 8, although this is an inferior tribunal, if any man, woman, or child disturbs the high executioner, there isa penalty of £100 attaching to the offence, and no lesser penalty is provided for. If we turn to clause 12 we shall find that if an employS working in one of the factories which come under this Bill chooses, by his absence, to upset the whole course of business of a large concern, though to do so may throw hundreds of men out of employment, a fine of £10 is considered enough for his offence. But if some person innocently or accidentally interferes with the high sense of decorum of the President of this secondary Court, a fine of ,£100 is the only penalty for such an outrageous offender. Let us look at clause 9, which is the most outrageous clause in the Bill, and I particularly ask the attention of my honorable and learned friend, Senator Symon, to paragraph c of the clause, under which it “ is provided that any person who shall - refuse to answer any question which he is required by the President to answer,” is to be liable to a penalty of £100
– Would it not have been far better if the honorable senator had been present last week to deal with: these matters in Committee on the Bill?
– 1 Senator Needham may not have been in good health all the session himself, and if he has been absent honorable senators have shown him as much consideration as he denies me if I am absent for one day.
– I was not absent.-
– Then the honorable senator had better have been absent.
– I ask the honorable senator to continue his speech; and I ask other honorable senators not to make interjections which are not pertinent to the question. An interjection as to whether a member of the Senate has been present or not is not pertinent to this question, as his business, his health, or some other sufficient cause may have prevented his attendance.
– Here we have a clause which absolutely compels a man to incriminate himself or his dearest friend or nearest relative, or be fined £100. I dare affirm that there is no law in any corner of the British Empire which contains a similar provision. I further assert that such a provision was never included in the instructions to the most outoftheway and extraordinary Commission appointed to deal with the most heinous matter that ever came up for consideration by any British tribunal in any part of the Empire. Clause 5 prohibits the appearance of counsel, except by leave of all the parties ; and how many parties may there not be to an inquiry in connexion with an application for exemption from Excise ? At the inquiry which is at present going on there are three parties represented, and there ought to be four.’ The fourth party ought to be the Government, whose duty it is to see that their own legislation is enforced, and to collect the Excise that is collectable under the principal Act.
– There ought to be only one party in that case.
– And that is the Government. I am happy to be in complete agreement with the honorable senator. It is in consequence of the administrative neglect - and, if I were dealing with a firm or a company, I should say the criminal neglect - of those in whose hands the responsibility lies to discharge their duty to the public, that this thing has come about at all. The Government could discharge their duties in South Australia. They could make the manufacturers of that State pay decent wages or pay Excise, but in this State they are so utterly the creatures of certain Victorian manufacturing interests that they cannot do their duty or hold their heads before the world as commonly honest.
-. Russell. - They took five months to do anything in South Australia.
– I am only too delighted to recognise that this Government were honest even at the end of five months. I am standing here to-day because, even at the end of ten months, the Government cannot be honest in the discharge of a public duty in this State.
– The workers cannot see daylight yet in regard to the relief they are to get from our legislation.
– The workers have no show at the hands of the Government or of a majority of the party to which Senator Findley unfortunately belongs.
– That is a very unfortunate statement you are making now.
– It is unfortunate, because it is true.
– Because it is not correct, and you cannot prove it.
– I am going to do so. I point out - and perhaps you, sir, may at some proper time think it expedient to direct the honorable senator’s attention to the fact - that the members of a deliberative Assembly such as this are supposed to address the Chair, and not one another.
– You should have set a good example.
– Order !
– I said that with reference to clause 5 of the Bill I intended to read the statement of the Vic- torian Agricultural Implement Machine Makers’ Society. This is a society the members of which are particularly concerned in the McKay works - that is, those’ who are left there. Because, whatever honorable senators may like to assert here by way of interjection, they cannot effectively contradict the statements that have appeared in the press that since the Government abandoned the workers in these industries, and they have had to fight for their own rights, no less than 750 of them have been discharged. There is a pretty state of affairs ! No less than 750 of the workers in these Excise-exempted industries have been discharged because they have attempted to win that which a miser: able, decrepit, and unwholesome Act has pretended to confer upon them. I propose to quote from a document which is only two days old. I am glad to say that I believe there is a quorum present, because I am in a position to assert with assurance that attempts have been made by the party who, in this chamber, arrogate to themselves the representation of the workers, to count out the Senate, even on Government business, when I have been addressing honorable senators on this subject.
– How many honorable senators are there on the honorable senator’s own side now ?
– - I am not responsible
– Only two besides the honorable senator himself.
– We are keeping a House for the honorable senator.
– If Senator Trenwith is so immature a member of Parliament that he conceives it to be the duty of the Opposition to keep a House for Government business, he does not possess the knowledge and experience for which I have hitherto given him credit.
– The honorable senator should not forget that it was he who charged-
– Order! I ask honorable senators not to interject, and to allow Senator Neild -to proceed. If they consider, honorable senators will realize that it is the interjections that have been made that have induced the honorable senator to depart from the question. I hope that they will cease their interjections, or will make only interjections which are pertinent to the question.
– I did not conclude my interjection, and it was impossible to say whether it was pertinent or not.
– I rise to order. The honorable senator charged members of the Senate with trying to count him out. That remark led up to a very proper retort.
– If that remark had been taken exception to, I should certainly have dealt with it.
– I know that it is not in order to refer to an incident which your ruling has closed, but you will permit me to say, sir, that my remarks had no kind of reference either to Senator Trenwith or to Senator Findley. Nothing was further from my thought than to connect them with the conduct to which I have referred.
– I rise to order. I should like the honorable senator to explain who are the members of the Senate who are responsible for the conduct which he alleges?
– That is not a “question of order, and I will not permit the honorable senator who is addressing the Senate to make any further statement in regard to it during this debate. There has been too much irrelevancy, and it may be necessary for me to compel honorable senators to adhere more strictly to the forms of debate. I do not wish to do so, because it may unduly hamper honorable senators, but these persistent interruptions must cease.
– I am simply proposing to read certain extracts from a document which bears the official seal of the Victorian Agricultural Implement and Machine Makers’ Society.
– What official signature does the document bear?
– It bears the seal of the society.
– Is the honorable senator sure that it is the seal of the society ?
– I have positive assurance that it is) genuine.
– Who authorized the seal to be put on the document?
– I cannot permit this cross-examination with regard to a document which the honorable’ senator who is addressing the Chamber is quoting. He has stated that he is quoting from a genuine document, which has a seal attached to it. The honorable senator, I presume, has made that statement in order to assure the Senate that he is satisfied of the genuineness of the document. It is a parliamentary rule that an honorable senator’s statement must be accepted.
– What I desired to ask was whether the document bears the signature of any officer representing the body from which Senator Neild alleges that the document emanates?
– It is disorderly, strictly speaking, to put questions to an honorable senator who is addressing the Senate. Senator Neild has stated that he is quoting from an official document. It will be open to Senator E. J. Russell to point out any error in the statement if he chooses to do so at a later period of the debate.
– This document commences with a reference to the principal Act which the present Bill proposes to amend -
The Excise Tariff Act No. 16, 1906, provides that on and after1st day of January,1907, duties of Excise shall be paid on certain manufactures of agricultural implements and machi. nery unless the employes are at that time being paid fair wages. No Victorian manufacturer has yet shown that the wages paid on the 1st January or since are fair, and yet the Government has not made any attempt to collect the Excise due, nor to test the assertion of the employers that fair wages are being paid.
I may point out that ten months have gone by and the Government have done nothing -
One application only has yet been made before the President of the Arbitration Court, and during the hearing the counsel for emploves hns proved that the rates submitted by the applicant as being the fair wages paid to his employés are in fact neither fair -
Now comes a statement that is even of greater consequence - nor a true statement of the wages paid.
I say, Mr. President, that no one who has attended the sittings of the Arbitration Court recently could fail to possess the knowledge that cross-examination has proved that beggarly as were the wages alleged to have been paid, not even those, but smaller wages, were in fact paid. The document goes on -
It will be impossible for the employes to test any other applications.
They have not the means. How can men who are being paid 6s. and 7s. a day - some of them only 3s. and 4s. per day - find the money to obtain evidence that will enable the Government to do their duty and collect the Excise? There are 119 cases waiting to be heard by the Court, but how can these workers be expected to find the money to do the duty of the Government in showing that the Act is not being complied with ? These men announce their incapacity to do that. Thedocument proceeds -
If the employés had not tested this application in the way they did there would have been a miscarriage of justice and a failure of justice, and a failure of the Act.
Who can deny the truth of that statement? When it was a matter of£25 income tax due to a State, the Federal Government could rush in to the tune of thousands of pounds of expenditure to contest the case. But when it comes to a question of collecting the Excise under their own measure, they stand supinely by whilst men earning 3s. and 4s. a day have attempted to give effect to the legislation passed by the Federal Parliament. Who can deny for a moment, having read the proceedings of this precious Court, that there is every prospect of as miscarriage of justice eventuating ; I will not say for what reason - it might be indecorous to do that? But no one can read the daily newspapers, without feeling profoundly depressed with the prospect of these toilers obtaining justice, or even of the community at large obtaining the Excise due under the law. The document proceeds -
The President must necessarily have granted the certificate of exemption if it were not proved that gross sweating was being carried on.
It has been shown that rates much below standard trade- union rates paid in the other States have been paid in this factory. And let me say at this juncture that I am not depending upon newspapers or upon private information. I have taken the trouble to travel about, and to visit various works in different parts of the Commonwealth. If I was not here last week, I was not idle. I have ascertained from authoritative sources the rates of wages paid in other States of the Commonwealth.
– I thought the honorable senator was. sick in bed.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I was not in bed one day, thank God. But while I was taking a rest from the jade of weekly travel, I found time to secure reliable information that bears upon this question ; and I unhesitatingly affirm that the rates published in the Melbourne press as being paid at the McKay Harvester Works are not the rates that are paid in other works of a similar character in the Commonwealth.
– I ask the honorable senator whether he is going to connect these remarks with the Bill?
– If the statements which the honorable senator is making are not relevant, he cannot be allowed to proceed with them. I therefore hope that he will connect them with the Bill.
– I shall certainly do so. I merely wish to point out, in pursuance of what I have alreadv said, that certain rates of wages quoted as the rates paid in connexion with this very harvester case, are not the rates that are paid in similar works in other portions of Australia, arid, further, that what have been stated in evidence - as set out in this document - to be the rates paid, are not, in fact, actually paid in the McKay works. The whole of the document from which I am quoting, and the whole of my
Temarks, go to show that the Bill, the third reading of which is now moved by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, should be recommitted, in order that it may be made to provide more effectually than it does for the payment of fair and reasonable wages, or for the collection of the Excise provided for by the principal Act. The document goes on -
Other employers are prepared to fight their cases.
Of course they are, but where do the employés come in? Where does the unhappy worker at 3s. or 4s, a day come in ?
We have endeavoured to move the Government to take its responsibility in this matter as it does in connexion with ordinary Customs and Excise law.
I point out that this Bill does not pretend to give the Government any more power or authority to act on behalf of the taxpayers of Australia than does the Act which it professes to amend.
Whatever may be the duty of the employes or their union after a decision has been arrived at, it is certainly the duty of the Government to see that the law is properly complied with. We are not in a position to test any other applications.
How can they be expected to be in a position to do so?
Nor to prove whether the fair wages have in fact been paid from 1st January by metropolitan and country employers.
The question arises whether the Government will refuse to do their duty when the workers are no longer able to find the money to pursue the fight. What has become of the Excise, and how does this Bill help us? It professes to empower the President to employ a couple of assessors, who will do what he tells them to do, and there is a provision that lawyers are not to take part in the cases, though they may be behind the scenes pulling the strings all the time. Now comes a statement that I am sure will be appreciated by certain members of the Senate -
We have in fact been told by our representatives in Parliament that we are fools, that there is no necessity for the employment ofcounsel, and that any man of ordinary intelligence with a knowledge of the trade could present the employés’ case to the Court as well and as fully as a lawyer.
– Quite true.
– Very likely the honorable senator thinks so.
We unreservedly admit our incapacity. We are mechanics, not lawyers. It would be foolish to imagine that we can without training do the work of a trained advocate.
I can well understand that a man may be a first-class mechanic, but an awfully poor lawyer, and I can also imagine that a man may be an admirable lawyer but an infinitely unsatisfactory mechanic.
Yet the Labour Party admits the lawyer is more competent when it moves to exclude him altogether, under the impression that the employes shall not be at a disadvantage when they cannot afford to employ him.
These paragraphs, of course, have special reference on clause 6 of the Bill, to which I am opposed, and in respect of which I desire to see an alteration. I am reading the document because I think it is verymuch more effective and satisfactory to th Chamber to hear the views of the persons actually interested. I am not even doing one thing more than to state my agreement with the views in those words expressed.
– Is that document signed ?
– My honorable friend has been told that this matter has been decided by the Chair, and, however courteous I desire to be, I regret that I cannot answer any further question on the subject. I point out at this stage that when a few weeks ago the largest body in Australia - the Australian Workers’ Association, of whichMr. Spence is the well-known leader - wanted to fight a question in the law Courts, they did not instruct Mr. Spence, with all his ability, to plead their cause, but paid big fees to a barrister who they evidently thought was the ablest man they could engage.
– Who was their advocate?
– They employed Mr. G. H. Reid, a well known King’s Counsel, to plead their cause, and he pleaded it successfully. Is any one going to tell me that the great body of workers, comprising, some scores, if not hundreds of thousands, strong, did not know their own business, or that Mr. Spence did not know who was the best man to conduct a case of that kind? The document proceeds -
But the exclusion of lawyers would delude the employes with a false sense of security. Employers will have their counsel, if not in front as advocates, behind” as advisers and prompters; and if the employes are to be on equal footing they must do likewise. Then why not do openly what must be done by subterfuge ?
Why should clause 5 be adopted, seeing that those most closely interested recognise that to adopt it would be to play the game of the ostrich, which, hiding its head in the sand, imagines that it is out of “ Sight of the enemy ? The idea that because one does not employ a lawyer, therefore he is going to get justice - I am not, and never mean to be, a lawyer - recalls the well-known saying,. “ A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” The document proceeds -
We are more fully convinced than ever that the opposition to the present application would have been insignificant without the aid of trained advocates. As laymen and employes we could not cross-examine and break down the evidence of the employers, nor properly present our own evidence to the Court ; and we are strongly of opinion that it is detrimental to- the interests of the employes that counsel should be’ excluded, remembering that we are not compelled to employ solicitors or barristers if we choose not to do so. Further, the exclusion of lawyers is just the excuse the Government will gladly use for not taking up its responsibilities under the Excise laws. I
On that I shall say something extremely pertinent before I resume my seat, and something which may indicate the reason for the sensational disappearance of the Honorable J. C. Watson from the leadership of the Labour Party.
– Oh, that is bosh !
– The honorable gentleman may not be quite so free with his phraseology when he has heard what I have to say. To resume the quotation -
The new protection has been advocated by the Labour Party for a number of years, and was only adopted by the Liberals -
I do not quite know what the term “ Liberals “ in that connexion means.
– Woolf will be able to tell the honorable senator, as he drafted the letter.
– If the honorable gentleman says so-
– I know it.
– If the honorable gentleman gives me his assurance that the fact is within his own knowledge, I shall accept his word.
– That is why “Joe “ is so sore about knocking out the barristers and solicitors.
– If the honorable gentleman does not know it, and as he does not reply to my challenge, I suppose that he does not know it, I decline to accept his assurance. I do not know that what he says is a fact. I am reading this as an official document, and I know from whom it came.
– And so do I.
– I am sure that the honorable senator does not.
– I think so.
– Order, order!
– The document continues -
The new protection has been advocated by the Labour Party for a number of years, and was only adopted by the Liberals as a necessary evil. Without it they” could not have returned to power, if to Parliament. They are not enamoured of it, and are no doubt thankful for the opportunity and excuse which Senator Russell’s amendment gives for not moving further, in the matter. The Free-trade Party, which is opposed to the “ old protection “ because that gave one class, the manufacturers, all the benefit, is now favorable to the “ new protection “ policy -
I suppose that the action I have taken in this Chamber includes me as being favorable to the new protection policy.
– It does not do anything of the kind, because the honorable senator voted against it.
– but insist that the workers shall receive their share without being saddled with the responsibility of the administration -
Of the Act, I suppose it means - just as the employers in the past’ received the benefit of the “old protection” without the responsibility. The free-trade press (Argus, 22nd October, Daily Telegraph, 2nd October), the Liberal-Protectionist organ (Age, nth October), the Labour paper (Worker, 10th October), and the prominent f ree-traders in Parliament, including the leader of the Opposition, all insist that the Government has not done” its duty.
Without pretending that the words apply to myself, I have insisted here, on several occasions, and I insist again to-day, that the Government have not done their duty in this matter. They have not protected the revenue and the workers, and this Bill is a transparent subterfuge on their part to again dodge their responsibilities, and, if possible, by any method or means to scramble or slink into recess, and have another six months’ tenure of office without doing their duty of collecting the revenue under the Statute, the responsibility of which they have incurred. The document concludes -
It is only the acquiescence of the Labour Party which allows the Government to continue to shirk that duty. Fools or otherwise, we knew what we wanted when we organized, agitated, paid, and voted for the “new protection” which was promised us in return for our votes and influence, and now we want the contract completed, without having to shoulder the whole responsibility and ruin our organization.
Surely that is a sentient appeal to the Parliament to see that the “duty of administering the Act and collecting the revenue is discharged by Ministers, and that it should not be left to the struggling members of a trade society to put their hands in their pockets and take from their 3s. or 4s. a week the funds which are necessary. My honorable friend opposite laughs, but he ought to be ashamed of himself.
– Order !
– I am laughing at the mistake which the honorable senator made. He did not mean. 3s. or 4s. a week.
– I mean that the pay of the people who have been contesting this matter has been from 2s. 11da day. The honorable gentleman is right.
– And who ought to be ashamed?
– Order ! I have already indicated that Senator Neild ought not to have made use of that phrase, and it is equally disorderly for any other senator to repeat it.
– I merely asked a question, sir.
– The whole thing was due to my making a slip which far better speakers than myself readily make.
– I ask the honorable senator to proceed with his speech.
– I used the term “ week “ instead of the term “ day.” But if it be per day, is it right that the Senate should pass a measure which places upon workers employed at 2s. 11d. per day, the duty of collecting the revenue that Ministers receive ^12,000, plus .£400 a year apiece to collect? I do not use the term offensively, but I must -draw a comparison between the miserably underpaid and the reasonably remunerated.
-Colonel Cameron. - Oh !
– When my honorable and gallant friend has been in public life a little longer, I hope he will take his public responsibility a little more seriously. The last sentence of this document reads -
We look to our special representatives in Parliament -
And to Senator Findley they have a right to look with some degree of hope, because he has at least shown an interest in this matter - an interest which, unfortunately, has been lacking on the part of others who - to see that our organizations are not required to relieve the Government of its functions, or otherwise lose the full benefit of the protection which is due to the employes ; and in the interests of the many other bodies of employe’s who will yet be affected as well as our own, we urge that the clause which, while intended to conserve the interests of the employes, will we are sure from our experience, be harmful, should be expunged.
– Well, we are all alike in our party.
– I would not do my honorable friend the discredit of accepting the statement he has made, because “he has shown an interest in this matter which others of his party have ostentatiously refrained from showing.
We look to our special representatives in Parliament to see that our organizations are not required to relieve the Government of its functions, or otherwise lose the full benefit of the protection which is due to the employes; and, in the interests of the many other bodies of ployés who will yet be affected, as well as our own, we urge that the clause which, while intended to conserve the interests of the employes, will we are sure from our experience be harmful, should be expunged.
That is a request to members of all parties interested m the well-being of the worker or the protection of the revenue - I care not which. If Senator Cameron, who smiles so benignly over the interests of men at 2s. 11d. a day, is not interested in their well-being-
-Colonel Cameron. - I rise to order. Hasthe honorable senator any right to say that Iam smiling at such a dreadful condition of things, when he has no authority to make such a statement ?
– If the honorable senator regards the statement as offensive it should not be made, but I understood that Senator Neild was making certain allusions in consequence of an interjection, made by the honorable senator.
– It is not correct that there are men working at 2s.11d. a day.
– I am sorry for Senator Trenwith’s failure of memory, but Senator Cameron must not suppose for a moment that I meant anything discourteous to him. Had I completed the sentence, which I will now do, he would have seen that there was no pretence of offensiveness. I said, and I say again, that, if the honorable and gallant senator sees anything that induces him to smile oyer the affairs of a lad at 2s.11d. a day, I am quite sure that he has sufficient knowledge and sense of his responsibilities as a- member of the Federal Legislature to see that the law of the Commonwealth is given effect to, and that either the wages stipulated are paid or the revenue collected.I have here a newspaper cutting which I only found in my letter-box by accident to-day. It is a leader from the Argus.
– Sent along by Mr. Woolf.
– I have not the faintest idea who wrote it. I presume that that journal has a sufficiently large staff to write its own articles without seeking extraneous aid.
– We have all read it.
– I do not care if the honorable senator has read it. Hansard is a more enduring record. This is a section of the leader -
In respect to the new protection Excise the assumptions are all the other way: No duty is collected, and not till complaintshave beenfre- quently made in- Parliament is any movement of any sort made to enforce the law. When finally an employer applies before the Court for an exemption certificate, the Department treats it as a purely formal affair. It isnot represented by counsel, . and- makes no provision to. test the case presented.
Yet a little matterof £25 income tax has been made the subject of , an expenditure of thousands ofpounds by the Commonwealth.; The Commonwealth is now spending thousands ofpounds in employing special persons at bothsides of the world to contest a trumpery income tax claim in respect of the salary of a Commonwealth official in New South. Wales. But whenit comes to the collection of£9,000 of Excise allegedly due by one firm only - fifteen months output of machines at£6 apiece Excise duty - the Government sit supinely by and bring in a Bill to play the fool, not to collect the duty -
The assumption is that the employer is doing all that is legitimate, and the onus is -thrown . upon dissatisfied employes of conducting an expensive suit to prove that the Excise duty should be imposed, in order that an increase of wages may thus be obtained. Employés, who, if their case be proved, . have been underpaid since 1st January of this year, are placed in the position of tax-collectors for the Crown, which stands idly by as if it had no responsibility in the matter. If the employés be quiescent all is well, and the Excise duty is not collected. If the employes be dissatisfied, they must go to preat expense to prove that so many thousandsof pounds of Excise duty are due to the Commonwealth. A more extraordinary and , absurd state of things could not be conceived. Surely, if a large amount of revenue be at stake, the Crown should be active and vigilant in enforcing its claim. If no revenue be at stake, and the Crown has not sufficient interest in the matter to be represented by counsel, then the Act is a farce, and the guarantees it professes to afford to employés are a delusion.
This Bill is equally a farce and a painful delusion. I come now to what is perhaps the crux of the position, as showing, in the most impersonal wav possible, what has developed within the last few weeks. Inthe first instance, a resolution was adopted by the Trades Hall Council denouncing the Government for failing to collect nine months’ Excise, and pottering about with a delusive Bill instead. The next stage was that the workers concerned in this industry called a meeting of ail trades interested in the new protection - the new protection upon which, and onlv upon which, the present Administration is politically living.
– It must be very,fattening.
– It is a bundle of carrots hung out in front of my honorable friend’s nose. They would be very fattening if the honorable senator could only reach them, butthe Government take all possibleprecautions that, while the carrots hang in front of the donkey’s nose, they shall be just sufficiently out of reach not tobe consumed. They must be there for stage purposes. I propose to let loose this afternoon a few domestic animals, with rather long tails.
-thehonorable senator is as bad asMorrissey,withhis snakes.
SenatorColonelNEILD. - Itis a somewhat delusive proposition where a snake’s bodyends and histail begins, but the animalsto which I refer donot present quite thesame anatomicaldifficulty.
-theyare torats, butIhope thatthe honorable sena torwillnever occupy that position in a political sense. The third statement is that the meeting of employés interested in those trades alsodenounced the Government. They called upon the Labour members to help, and said that they had to thank certain members of the Federal Parliament who did not belong to the Labour Party for the only help they had received in the halls of the Legislature. They had to thank other members when the Labour members had deserted them. The next stage was that the meeting appointed a deputation, which interviewed members of the Labour Party. The reply they received from the gentlemen whom they approached - they may not have been members of this Chamber, but may have been of somewhere else - was that “ It was notin theirpower or their province to do anything to embarrass the Government.” Never mind the pay of the workers ! Never mind the revenue !
– That statement is. absolutely incorrect.
– The honor able senator evidently does not read the morning papers. The fact that he says the statement is incorrect does not make it so.
– So far as it is possible, according to the rules of Par- liament, I accept the honorable senator’s assurance, and have no doubt that he does not know anything about it.
SenatorPearce.- Iwaspresentat the interview.
– I come now to the fifth proposition.Iamquoting only from my own memoranda.I am not the creatureor mouthpieceofany person in the statement I am now making.
– That accounts for its reliability.
– That is exactly what it does. My notes are always cashed. Thefifthproposition is that the workers thenapproached the Political Labour Council, statedthe facts of thecase,andsoughttheirintervention. ThePolitical Labour Councilsentacomplaint to the Labour Party, and thereply theygotwas an offerto receive adeputation. Thenthedeputation took place. They waited upon Messrs.Watson, Fisher, Tudor,and, Iunderstandoneother.The interview lasted something like a couple of hours.The deputation askedthattheGovernment should do itsduty, andthat the Labour Party, acting upto its high professions of public service, should see that the Government did itsduty. The effectof the reply was, “You have got yourselves into trouble through employing lawyers. Why did you employ lawyers?” That has been followed up by a member of this Chamber moving and securing the insertion of the very clause to which so much exception . has been taken. That clause provides that no party is to be represented in a suit as to responsibility for the payment of a duty under the Excise Act unless every one else assents and the Presidentgives his blessing to the proposition. Without the blessingof the President, there can be no representation, or possibly no adequate representation of the workers, or of the interests of the whole body of the people who are concerned that all shall meet their responsibilities to the revenue. I understand that there has been a great deal of friction and trouble. I know from statements of membersof the Senate that there has been a good deal of “pull devil, pull baker” aboutthis matter. I admit that there have been those in the Labour Partywho have sought tomaintain the interests of the workers. Idonotknow that anybody has worried very much about the interests of the revenue; but I doknow that there havebeen those whose interests have been very much more concerned in the factthat the Government are not to be troubled about the matter than anything else. And with what result?Idare say that we should findthat there is morethan a suspicionof truth inthe whisper that the retirement from the head of a great political partyin the Commonwealth-
– Order!I do not think that is pertinent to the question, and I do not see how it can possibly be made pertinent. I askthe honorablesenator to confine himself as closely as he can to the Bill.
– I see, sir, that your intervention has saved me from committing a parliamentary faux -pas.
– No; parliamentary felo de se.
– I recognise at once that the retirement of the head of a political party has nothing to do with the third reading of this Bill, however important a part it may play ‘ in the matter behind the scenes. In order to put my remarks strictly in order, I shall move the recommittal of the Bill for the consideration of certain clauses. I should like to move its recommittal for the consideration of many other provisions than those which I have particularly mentioned.
– I am afraid that the honorable senator will not get a seconder for his motion.
– Then that will be the fault of those who ought to be here. I have never run away from a forlorn hope because it looked forlorn.
– Except at Chowder Bay.
– I haw not the faintest idea what the honorable senator means, and I shall not do him the injustice, or perhaps’ I should say the justice, of supposing that he knows what he means himself.
– Order !
– I object, as I. have already pointed out, to clause 5, and also to clause 8. I desire that in the latter clause there should be provided a minimum as well as a maximum penalty for a possible interference with the dignity of the President of the Court. As the clause stands, there is simply a charge of a lump sum, £100, without reference to the character of the offence.
– Because under the Acts Interpretation Act the penalty mentioned is the maximum, and not necessarily the minimum penalty.
– I have to thank Senator Pearce for reminding me of that, and I shall therefore say no more about the penalty provided under clause 8. I wish, however, that paragraph c of clause 9 should be reconsidered. It has reference to a refusal to answer any question which a witness is required by the President to answer. I think that provision should bo amended to provide that the question shall not be one the answer to which would incriminate the witness. That would be ‘a reasonable provision, such as is to be found in almost every Act of Parliament, with the exception of some of the very stringent measures which have been before the Senate lately. I may indicate the amendments which I propose to move should the Bill be recommitted as I desire. In clause 5 I propose merely to move that the words “ and by leave of the President “ be left out, in order that it may be left to the parties themselves to say whether they shall be represented by counsel. Surely the consent of all the parties should bc sufficient, without their having to go cap iri hand fo the President for permission to employ legal advice? I have indicated the amendment which I think should be made in paragraph c of clause 9. These are by no means all the defects I see in the Bill, but I recognise the uselessness of hoping for % more general amendment of the measure. I hope that it will be amended in another place, but I think it would be to the credit of the Senate and in the interests of the people that it should not leave this ‘Chamber without at least the amendments to which I have referred. I cannot imagine that the honorable and learned senators representing the Government in the Senate can take exception to the very moderate proposals I make. If the Senate is against me, all I can say is, that in- bringing this matter forward I have done that which I deem to be my duty. Let me say that this is a matter which in no shape or way, so far as I know, affects ‘any resident of the State from which I come, or has any kind of influence on my political fortunes. In taking the action I have taken I have been actuated by what I hope actuates every member of the Senate whenever he rises to address this Chamber, and that is the desire t® discharge a public duty. I move -
That the Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 5 and paragraph c of clause 9.
– I do not know that I should have risen if it were not for the charges levelled against the Labour Party, with which I am associated. Senator Neild paid me what he might think a compliment for certain action I have- taken with regard to the workers entitled to relief under certain legislation passed last session.
– The honorable senator deserves it too.
– And so does every member of the party to which I belong. I desire to say that every member of the Labour Party is as anxious as I am to better the working conditions of those engaged in protected industries. When Senator Neild said that he believed certain members of the Labour Party were responsible for a count out on a certain occasion, Ido not know whether the statement was correct or not-
– That was a protest by the whole Senate.
– If the statement was correct, then I say that there was at the time, as there would have been to-day, justification for the adoption of such a course.
– I did not refer to a count-out, but to an attempted countout on Government business.
– Members of the Labour Party have a clear recollection that when the Excise Tariff (Spirits) Bill was before the Senate last year, and I introduced the new protection principle by way of an amendment to that Bill, Senator Neild opposed it and had no sympathy with it. Yet to-day the honorable senator would make it appear that he is the only friend that the workers have in this Chamber in connexion with the new protection principle which he opposed last year, when he had an opportunity to display a practical sympathy with the policy.
SenatorColonel Neild. - I think the honorable senator is wrong.
– I know that I am not wrong, because I have taken the care and the trouble to look up the division on the amendment which I submitted, and the honorable senator voted in opposition to the new protection principle as proposed to be introduced in the Excise Tariff (Spirits) Bill last year.
– Does the honorable senator object to my conversion?
– No; butI believe that there is a lack of sincerity on the part of many of those who profess to be extremely anxious at the present time for the extension of the new protectionist principle. I believe also that we should not have heard Senator Neild on this matter to-day if he had not been so well fortified with information by a certain gentleman whose occupation will in all probability be gone as a result of the exclusion of lawyers from the Arbitration Court in future. This solicitor would appear to be extremely anxious for the welfare and betterment of those who are engaged in protected industries. But I never heard of him doing anything on be- half of the working classes unless he was paid for it.
– Does the honorable senator refer to me?
– No ; I refer to the solicitor who supplied Senator Neild with the bulk of the information which he has used to-day.
– Is it in order for a senator to make charges of this character? I gave my authority.
- Senator Findley is alluding to the conduct of some person who is not a member of the Senate, and he is perfectly in order.
– I know that I am in order;and I also know that my statement is correct. The whole of the complaint that Senator Neild has made to-day comes from a solicitor who is very sore on account of the action taken by the Senate in inserting a clause in the Bill under discussion to the effect that lawyers shall not be permitted to be employed in cases heard before the Excise Court.
– Surely that is a very good reason.
– Yes, it is; but if is not a good reason why Senator Neild, who has hitherto been an opponent of the new protection principle, should endeavour to damage the Labour Party in the eyes of the country.I am also aware that this same solicitor has been doing his best to show that the Government has not done its duty in connexion with the Excise law. Well, we do not want any solicitor to tell the Government what it ought to do, because the members of the Labour Party in this Parliament have an opportunity of telling the Ministry face to face what ought to be done. A copy of the leading article which Senator Neild quoted from the Argus has been supplied to every member of the Senate by Mr. Joseph Woolf, or by his instruction. I make that statement because. I made inquiries, and know that it is correct. Senator Neild also said that there was barely a quorum present when he called attention to the state of the Senate. The fact is that at 4 o’clock there were seventeen senators present, of whom nine were members of the Labour Party, three Government supporters, and five members of. the Opposition. If Senator Neild’s supporters were as regular in their attendance, and were as anxious to promote the betterment and welfare of the working classes, as the LabourParty are, we should not have anything to complain about.
– But Senator Neild contends that it is not the duty of the Opposition to attend.
– I am. not here to defend the Government. I am here to keep them up to the collar in regard to the administration of certain Acts. But behind this attack upon the Government in regard to the non-collection of the Excise is the old free-trade bogey. This move is made by certain people, not only in Victoria, but in other States of the Commonwealth, who have no sympathy with the application of protectionist principles to manufactures, and who have never, so far as I know, shown any disposition to give relief to those who have been working under sweating conditions in protected industries. To-day we hear for the first time, from Senator Neild himself, that he has become a convert to the new protection principle. Probably the conversion is due to the influence exercised over him by his legal adviser, Mr. Joseph Woolf.
– I have no legal adviser in the matter.
– No doubt Mr. Woolf instructed the honorable senator. There is not a member of the Labour Party who has not been actively engaged for a considerable time in inducing the Government to give the fullest relief to the men who are engaged in the protected industries, and who are entitled to relief under the law of the Commonwealth.
– With what result?
– The Government have told us that certain circumstances prevented them from giving full effect to the conditions embodied in the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act in regard to harvesters.
– They told the Senate that.
– And it is pleasant to believe it !
– Well, we have to believe statements that are made by the responsible representatives of the Government. F or my own part, I have no other object in view than to see that the Act is properly administered. We have pur own opinion in regard to the delay that has occurred, and no one regrets that delay more than do the members of the Labour Party. In regard to the provision in the Excise Tariff (Spirits) Act, for which I am, mainly responsible, little or no time has elapsed since the Act came into operation; but I can assure the Government, that, being in a measure responsible for the provision, I shall give them’ no peace until satisfaction is arrived at in respect to the .workers engaged in the industry who are entitled to protection. In concluding these remarks,I wish to congratulate Senator Neild on his conversion. If his example be ‘followed by other members of his party,, there is reason to believe that many of the measures which will be brought forward .by the Government this session will, receive not opposition, but whole-hearted support from him and some of his Opposition friends, because almost all the measures that are expected to be brought ‘forward wilt have embodied in them certain provisionsgiving additional protection and benefits toworkers throughout the Commonwealth. If. Senator Neild shows the same disposition and anxiety for the interests of the workers in other industries that will receive protection under the Tariff as he has shown in’ connexion with those engaged . in the harvester industry, the Government will have an easy task.
– I should not like this opportunity’ to pass without rising to congratulate Senator Neild upon his conversion. As it happens, the whole case which he has submitted to the Senate was laid before me yesterday. Senator Neild is the only member of the Federal Parliament, in addition, to myself, who was supplied with a copy of the circular from which he has extensively quoted. But when the circular was handed to me I was careful to inquire who had written it, and on whose authority it had been, issued. I inquired also by whose authority the stamp of the Implement Makers’ Union had. been put upon it. It was for that reason that, when Senator Neild commenced to quote from the document, I asked him who had signed it ; because I think that, when a senator quotes from a document which professes to bb issued by a great union of workers, we have a right to know whether he has satisfied himself of its genuineness. The agent who’ approached me with regard to this matter last evening requested me to try to get a certain clause in the Bill recommitted. When I inquired who had written the circular which he handed to me, he informed, me that it was ‘ written by Mr. Joseph Woolf. I have not the slightest doubt that Senator Neild obtained his copy from the. same source. The press cuttings which Senator Neild has quoted were also sent along to other senators by the same gentleman or his agent.
– I quoted no cuttings except an Argus leading article.
– That is what I mean. I can quite understand the bond of sympathy that exists between Senator Neild, as an opponent of this Bill, and Mr. Joseph Woolf, who has been receiving big fat fees from workers in receipt of such wages as 2s. nd. per day. Naturally Mr. Woolf did not like the idea of lawyers being excluded from the Excise Court. The object which Senator Neild had in view in quoting from the Argus article was to prove that the workers of Australia wanted to have the lawyers admitted into Courts concerned with industrial affairs. He tried to make it appear that “the workers regard it as. a shame to exclude the members of the legal profession. But I have in my possession certain telegrams which go to disprove the honorable senator’s statement. Prior to moving the amendment referred to by Senator Neild, I telegraphed to Sydney for the purpose of procuring information, and I received the following reply from the’ Secretary of the Trades’ Hall, Sydney -
Since arbitration established legal costs exceed thousand pounds. Unions unanimously favour exclusion iawyers Arbitration Court - Cochran.
I have also a telegram from Mr. W. Diver, the Secretary of the Trades and Labour Council of Western Australia, who says -
Strictly no legal fees before Arbitration Court lie re. Cost to unions vary according number witnesses, distance. Technically law costs formidable outside Court determining jurisdiction and proceedings for breach of Act. Figures impossible. .
I think those telegrams afford clear evidence that the workers are entirely opposed to the admission of lawyers to these Courts. We have not had an expression of opinion from the combined body of unions in Melbourne, but, nevertheless, we know that they are against the admission of the lawyer’s to the Appeal Court. Throughout Australia, wherever there is a union of workers, they are almost unanimously against admitting lawyers to these Courts. I rose principally for the purpose of showing that the document read by Senator Neild is by no means a correct expression of the opinion of the workers. What is more, that document was not written by any person officially connected with any industrial union. It was not signed by any recognised worker or any person responsible for a trade union. It does not bear the signature of any union official. In fact, it is merely an attempt on the part of one individual, who has .certainly secured a very fair amount of money out of legal proceedings, to maintain his position. I regret to see that Senator Neild has fallen into the trap. I deeply sympathize with him on having been placed in such a false position, or having such a bad legal adviser. I wish him well, but ask him in future, before he gets up-: -
– Has the honorable senator ever heard of such a creature as the cuttle fish?
– If it is anything like the honorable senator, it must be a curious sort of fish ! When Senator Neild gets up again in the Senate as an advocate of the interests of the workers, I hope that he will be a little more careful. He should see that he has reasonable authority for making such statements as he has made here to-day.
– The honorable senator is expecting too much.
– I believe that it is too much to expect Senator Neild to deal fairly with any organized body of workers, and therefore I resume my seat.
– I join in the chorus of approval of Senator Neild. I. am pleased to see a strayed politician return to the true fold at last. Such an event should not be allowed to pass by without recognition. ‘ Even at the eleventh hour, we are pleased to see the honorable senator joining the Labour Party. I dare say that his exclusion from the social function to which he. has referred so often has had a good effect. Apparently, it has been the means of bringing him into the Labour Party. Whilst we may deplore the loss of one great member as our leader, still in the person of Senator Neild we have secured a member as great as the one whom . we have lost. Remembering that he is a staunch champion of the new protection, it is very gratifying to us all to find him at last amongst us.
– Does the honorable senator think he is annoyed because we did not make him our leader ?
– No. I think he is annoyed, not so much on that score as on the spore of his exclusion from thebanquet. /Knowing that only members of the Labour Party are permitted to attend its meetings, and’ functions he determined to become a member of that party, and to. bc present at future gatherings. We can promise him an audience wherever he may go to speak, especially when he has such a popular creed as the new protection to advocate. The electors of New South Wales who have voted for him will, I am sure, stand by him. He will also have the support of a large number of labour men who hitherto have voted against him. His success at future elections is now assured, and his popularity in the Senate, which has always been great, will be much greater than it has been.
– I desire to congratulate Senator Neild, because he has said a good deal of which I can approve. At the late election, I was one of those who advocated the policy of new protection in all sincerity. At that time the people had great expectations, but, after an interval of nearly twelve months, what have they received? Personally, I do not care a rap who may be Prime Minister, so long as the law is properly administered. If Ministers neglect to administer the law, I have courage enough to express mv views. We cannot ignore the fact that the Government have not done their duty in connexion with the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act. It came into operation on the 1st of January, but until the end of May practically nothing was done, and even then what was done was not of a satisfactory nature. The case of Bagshaw and Sons was the first to be heard under the Act. The position taken up by the Government for a time was that only the masters and the men concerned should be allowed to give evidence. I can prove that statement, because the proof is in print. A member of the other House communicated with the Minister ; an alteration was made ; and the United Labour Party of South Australia had to put their hands deep into their pockets to pay for legal advice to defend their interests - really to protect the revenue. In view of the long interval which elapsed before the Act was brought into operation, I think that the Excise duty should have been collected from the very beginning. Of course, I recognise that it would necessarily take considerable time to get the machinery into working order. I do not advocate the oppression of even employers, but the law should have been brought into effective operation within a reasonable time. We have been amending not only that Act but other Acts, because it is claimed by the Government that the machinery is not complete. My impression is that the Government did not fairly try to put the machinery of the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act into motion. Last night I said I would be prepared to trust the Government in connexion with another measure because I felt sure that they would not go too far.. My greatest objection to them is that they have not gone far enough. Senator Neild has complained a great deal about the party to which I belong.
– He belongs to it now.
– No. ‘Senator Neild has said that had he been present when the consideration of the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Bill was before the Senate, he would have thrown a different light upon its provisions. I exceedingly regret that he was not present. It is for him to say whether or not he had a just cause to be absent. Surely honorable senators on the other side cannot throw stones at us ! During only one week - the week before last - since I have been a senator have I seen the other side well repre?sented, especially in the evening.
– How many are present now?
– It was the duty of Senator Neild to be present on that occasion. He has also said that lawyers should be permitted to intervene. Senator E. J. Russell put the position very well when he said that the best lawyers can be found where there is the most money ; and, as Senator Neild feelingly pointed out, the poor man has to subscribe the funds to keep the case going.
– No; to do the duty which the Government neglected to perform. - Senator W. RUSSELL.- I am quite with the -honorable senator in that respect. It was wrong to ask the men to subscribe’ for that purpose. It was the duty of the Government to carry out the law. But when men are paid at such a low rate as has been mentioned, how is it possible for them to raise the necessary funds ?
– It is not possible.
– If one side can secure the. services of the best lawyer available, where will the other side be, unless it is served by a lawyer ‘of equal capacity? I admit that lawyers are an expensive luxury. I do not know what the first fee of a lawyer is in South Australia, butI have been informed that in some cases the refresher amounts to£50 a day. I ask Senator Neild,how can the working classes afford to raise that amount?
– They ought not to be required to do so.
– The honorable senator always castigates the Labour Party when he speaks. He always says that it is we who bring about such results. We are anxious to see justice done to all, and especially to the workers. In my opinion, the Government have not done their duty in connexion with the Act which the Bill amends. They have pleaded that they are not provided with the necessary machinery.
– This Bill does not give them additional machinery.
– I differ from the honorable senator in that respect. I was in the Court in Adelaide when the case of Bagshaw and Sons was being heard. I heard the evidence of Mr. Bagshaw on the one side, and of the workmen on the other side, and almost without exception every workman said he was satisfied with the wages he was receiving.
– And in Victoria 750 persons have been “ sacked.”
– Is it not a fact that the season affects this industry? The honorable senator ought to know that.
– It is a fact.
– In Adelaide the workmen were brought into the Court to give evidence in the presence of their employers, and almost without exception they admitted that they were satisfied with their wages. It was known and proven to the Court that their wages were not at all reasonable. Some of the men who were suspected of having had to do with labour unions were dismissed, and then a number of practical men, who had been in this employment for some years, and whose work had always previously been satisfactory to the firm, were said to be too slow, and not worth a full and fair wage. As Senator Neild is taking so much notice of labour matters, I now call his attention to the fact that under this Bill if an employé who has given evidence before a Court on questions of this kind is dismissed, the employer is liable to a penalty of £50 unless he can prove that theemployé was dismissed for some other reason. That should appeal to Senator Neild as a just and fair provision.
– The Bill which Senator Neild says gives no relief provides that.
– I have not sought to amend the Bill in that direction.
– If was amended in the honorable senator’s absence. I am mentioning some of the fundamental principles which the honorable senator has not seen, but ought to have seen, in the Bill.
– I have seen them.
– The honorable senator is not so conversant with them as he generally is with the provisions of measures that come before us.
– I do not ask the Senate to recommit the Bill on every clause.
– I ask Senator Neild not to interject, and Senator W. Russell to accept Senator Neild’s assurance that he has seen the provisions referred to.
– I am very glad that the honorable senator has seen them. I thought that he had not. I have seen them, and they are very gratifying to me.. I was here, and helped to put them in. Most of the Conservatives were absent. They mostly are at night time. . Senator Neild objected that there was to be a penalty of £50 in the case of the employer, and of only £10 in the case of the poor workman. Not only is the principle recognised that employers must treat their men fairly and reasonably, and must not dismiss them because they give evidence before a Court, but it is also provided that if an employé absents himself from his employment for no good or satisfactory reason, he shall be subject to a fine also. That is all in the Bill. But there is a practical side to the question which the honorable senator has not looked into. I speak now not only as a representative of South Australia but as a farmer of long standing. These men would not have been dismissed if the season in New South Wales and Victoria had been different, if we had had abundant rains, and a promise of abundant crops. They would have been required in McKay’s Sunshine Works. I know for a fact that during the recent good seasons in South Australia Messrs. Bagshawand Sons had to refuse a lot of orders. I have no doubt that that has been the case here. The Government should have taken up the matter before, instead of ten months afterwards, when it- is a little too late. They are now trying to enforce the law when everything is in favour of the manufacturer and not of the workmen. It is of no use for the workmen to blame the Labour Party. We have done our best to see that the Act is carried out. . I think that in the future I shall be able to have frequent conversations with Senator Neild, and when we talk matters . over I hope that’ we shall come to a better understanding. . As the Bill is likely to become law, and will give the Government the necessary powers to carry out the Act in a proper way, I hope that they will do so. I admit that this is not a Chamber for the making or unmaking of Ministries, but, unless they carry out this and various’ other Acts that I accuse them of neglecting to carry out, they will get from me no more support than I am pledged to give. It is time we spoke as a Labour Party. Senator McGregor is our leader in most things, but on this question I speak entirely as a private individual, and want the Government to understand that they will have to toe the mark. Unless they do so, they will be simply playing with politics, making use of the Labour Party, and giving us nothing in return. I will support with pleasure the third reading of the Bill for the reasons that I have given. There is nothing inconsistent in that attitude. It is not this Bill, but the administration of the Act passed last year, that is at fault. Seeing that that Act requires a little patching to give the Government more power to carry it out, I shall be one to push them along -if they will try to do their duty. If “they do not, I shall do the opposite.
-551– This measure must result in practical consequences, which will not be in the direction of developing the fair and proper doctrine called, the new protection. It is a matter of some surprise to me that the members of the- Labour Party have not seen the’ probable effect of passing the Bill in its present incomplete state. I wish they had taken up the matters to which I am about to refer. because I am sure that some -of ‘them are far more capable of dealing with them than I am. L intend to support the recommittal of the .Bill, for reasons which I will now state, and to which I direct the attention of Ministers, and of members of the Labour Party, and particularly of its leader, Senator McGregor.
It is most undesirable that we should bediscussing and criticising what is taking: place in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court presided over by Mr. Justice Higgins. I was a little shocked’ at the outspoken way in which Senator Neild did so, but I find, as he did, that I cannot deal with this matter in a practical way unless I also comment. upon what is going on at the Court. I understand’ from the Argus reports that Mr. Justice- Higgins has already, in an informal way, made certain statements which demand the serious attention of the Labour Party. Of course, be may, in his formal judgment,, alter what he has said, but I do not think that he will, because it is in accordance with the Act which he is bound to administer, and outside of which he- cannot go. I am alluding to judicial findings which the Judge made as he went along. He is not bound by them, but still, he has made them. He has said that all that he has to do is to determine if certain wages are fair and reasonable, and: that he has not to ascertain or certify that they have been paid. He has” dis:tinctly stated that that will be the duty pf the Customs Department. Evidence has already been given in the McKay case that certain wages alleged to have been paid have not been paid. I do not know whether the facts go to show that certain rates of wages are presumed to be paid, whereas a lower rate is. paid. But the members of the Labour Party will seethat if they wish to build up and develop a proper system of newprotection, and give to the Court adequate power to carry it out, it is useless to provide that the Judge must only find that certain wages mentioned are fair and reasonable, and leave it to quite another tribunal to ascertain whether those wages are actually being paid. We ought to amend the original Act, so as to pro-‘ vide that the Judge shall certify that fair and reasonable wages have been paid. The language of .the Act is .so plain that any one can see that Mr. Justice Higgin’s interlocutory judgment on this point cannot: be altered -
Duties of Excise snail, on and from the ist day of January. 10.0.7, be imposed on the dutiable goods specified in the schedule …. provided that this Apt shall npt apply to goodsmanufactured by any .person in any part of theCommonwealth under conditions as to the remuneration of labour which . . are on anapplication made for the purpose to the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation- and Arbitration declared to be fair and reasonable by him or by a Judge of the Supreme Court…….
Therefore neither Mr. Justice Higgins nor any other President ofthe Court can do more than certify that the wages are fair and reasonable, or that they are not. That is a practical defect in the Act. We ought to alter it to provide that the Judge must also find that the wages are paid in reality in coin and not on paper. Again, although Mr. Justice O’Connor appears to have made an order having a retrospective effect, I understand from the Argus that Mr. Justice Higgins has decided that he cannot make his order retrospective.
– Then the manufacturers have practically twelve months free of Exciseduty?
– The boot is on the other foot. If Mr. Justice Higgins finds that the wages are fair and reasonable, he makes that finding from the day on which he gives the certificate, and, therefore, for all the time which elapses from 1st January last until the day of the order Mr. McKay will have to pay the Excise duty even if be has been paying fair and reasonable wages. If that is the position, why. has not some enthusiastic member of the Labour Party called attention to it? We are now patching up the Act, and let us do our work in a practical manner by rectifying the mistakes in our legislation which are brought under our notice by the admirable reports of the proceedings of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court appearing in the newspapers every morning. A third most important matter is that we should give power to the President of the Court to make his certificate retrospective. He may find that some workmen are getting wages a little below what is fair and reasonable, that others are getting fair wages, and others again a little more. But suppose that, on the whole, he thinks he must give a certificate that the wages paid are not fair and reasonable, would it not be right for us to say under this Bill that a certificate may be issued if the employer will consent topay the difference where the wages previously paid have not been up to the standard defined as fair and reasonable? A man may be paying unfair wages unintentionally. He may have peaceable workmen, or none who are intent on looking after their interests, and he might have been prepared to pay better wages if he had been asked to do so. Surely our law should be sufficiently elastic to permit such an employer to make good the difference where he has been paying wages considered less than fair and reasonable. In the debate which took place on the new protection policy in another place, I believe it was stated distinctly many times that it was not the intention under the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act that the Government should necessarily collect duty from these manufacturers, but only that it should be used as a means of inducing them to pay fair and reasonable wages to their workers.
– Hear, hear - a penalty failing the payment of fair and reasonable wages.
– Quite so. Any one may see from the evidence given in the cases now being heard that some of Mr. McKay’s workmen have been getting the standard rate of wages. It is also a little obvious that some of them, and especially the juniors, have not been getting fair and reasonable wages. And if Mr. McKay should be willing to pay up the difference between the wages he has paid, and fair and reasonable wages in those cases in which it is decided that he has not paid fair and reasonable wages, why should wenot encourage him to do so? Why, where both sides are willing to give effect to the spirit of the Act, should its letter be allowed to override its spirit and intention? I hope that the Minister will permit the recommittal of the Bill, and I urge with all the eloquence that I can command that it should be allowed to remain in Committee until Mr. Justice Higgins has given his decisionin the cases now being heard. I understand from certain expressions of his opinion that Mr. Justice Higgins believes himself to be charged with the duty of finding, not that a generous wage, or even a good wage, has been paid, but that a living wage, with a little over to go and come upon, has been paid. We know that Senator Neild has introduced a Bill to define some principle or standard by which we can find out whether the wages paid in an industry are fair and reasonable. We have heard of a minimum wage, and a living wage, and we are talking now of a fair and reasonable wage, and Mr. Justice Higgins makes a distinction between a good wage and a fair and reasonable wage. I hope that many of our workers are getting good wages. I have nothing to do with the new protection policy. I do not quite believe in it. But I hold that if the profits from an industry are generous the wages of the workers in that industry should also be on a generous scale. I do not, however, imagine that we can control human nature. I do not believe that all workers in an industry are of exactly the same value. I have always denounced the idea that there should be a minimum wage under which all workers should be paid exactly alike.
– The minimum wage does not involve that.
– No, but the wages system under which we are working in the Commonwealth involves it.
– I think it does; it is wanting in elasticity. The average worker and the inefficient worker get the minimum wage as well as the tip-top worker. I believe that in some respects the members of the Labour Party have done excellent work. But I see in much of their work fatal blunders which will bring the whole industrial system toppling about our ears, because the skilled workman who is worth £4 per week is called upon to work side by side for the same wages with a man who is worth not more than£3 or£3 10s. a week.
– All lawyers, good and bad, charge a fee of 6s. 8d. for their opinion.
– I could give honorable senators opposite some advice that would be worth a great deal more than 6s. 8d. as enabling them to correct some of the fundamental industrial blunders they make. I am pointing out one now which is about as bad as any they have ever made, but I
Suppose they will continue to follow their noses in the same old rut and we cannot drag them out of it, because they are of opinion thatout of the mouth of the Conservative or the Tory or brother Dobson no good can come.
– The honorable senator is altogether in error as to the facts. There is no such thing as a uniform wage under our Factories Act system.
– There may not be a uniform wage, but there is a system under which tip-top workmen do not get any more wages than men who are not worth nearly so much.
– That is not correct. I can give the honorable senator an instance of an industry in which the minimum wage is £2 5s. and my own son is getting £2 15s. per week. That is not at all peculiar.
– The honorable senator might mention such instances; but we know that under the socialistic doctrine of honorable senators opposite a wretched uniform wage system’ is suggested. I admit that there are some exceptions, and that a foreman may get higher wages than a journeyman. Honorable senators will forgive me if I have been wrong in other statements I have made on the subject, but I stand to this statement that hundreds of men are getting the same wage where there is a difference of 50 per cent. between the value of the work of some of them.
– The honorable senator’s argument is that some employers are robbing men of 50 per cent. of their proper wages.
– It is not a question of robbing men of their wages at all. It is a question of the adoption of a system under which skilled and efficient men can rise; honorable senators are. keeping them down, and I want to lift them up. I ask the Minister of Home Affairs to say whether it would not be well for us to keep this Bill in hand until we get the decision of Mr. Justice Higgins. I believe that that decision will throw a great deal of light on the subject, and will bring under notice two or three of the defects to which I am now directing attention. It would be well for us to wait for his Honour’s definition of fair and reasonable wages. He is at present obtaining evidence as to the cost of living, and he has already said that a fair and reasonable wage should be a living wage, with a little to go and come upon. I think he has also decided that he could not withhold his certificate if the employer were not paying good wages, so long as he paid fair and reasonable wages.
– The lowest wages he should payshould be fair and reasonable, but he can gay good wages if he likes.
– What is the difference between fair and reasonable wages and good wages, and between good wages and generous wages?
– There is a difference, and Mr. Justice Higgins pointed out the difference between good wages and fair and reasonable wages.
– He said that fair and reasonable wages meant a living wage, with a little over to go and come upon. Is that the meaning of the policy of new protection? I wish to see justice done. I think that Mr. Justice Higgins’ decision will give us light on the subject. I have confidence in his fairness and justice. I know him from practical experience to be a lawyer, with logical and a judicial mind, and I have the greatest respect for his law. In all the circumstances, I think it would be much better for us not to send this Bill on to another place until we are satisfied that it will carry out what we desire.
– The honorable senator must remember that under the Act the employer is bound as to the prices he can charge.
– That is another point, and I do not. see how any one can fairly fix a’ standard of wages without’ having regard for the fund from which the wages must be paid. Men are entitled to a living wage for their work, whether the factory in which they are engaged is making, or losing money. But they have no right to expect generous wages where the owner of the factory is getting no interest on his capital, and is getting nearer to being ruined every day. I believe that in their policy of new protection, honorable senators of the Labour Party are taking a retrograde step. They have been successful in setting up Conciliation and Arbitration Courts, and Wages Boards, but, not content with those sure and certain methods, they are now desiring to follow a speculative policy. They propose the policy of new protection to induce manufacturers to pay their employés fair and reasonable wages, when all the time they have at hand tribunals to which they can appeal to fix wages that are fair and reasonable. Would it not be better for them to take that course rather than to continue to pursue the complicated system of new protection which has been proposed?
– No; because Othello’s occupation would then be gone.
– I think that the new protection policy is a backward step on the part of the Labour Party. I prefer the Conciliation and Arbitration Court or joint committees of employers and employes, to settle what are fair and reasonable wages amongst themselves, as is done in America and in England. Where joint committees fail, the Conciliation and Arbitration Court could be referred to.
– How could workers in Tasmania refer to an Arbitration Court?
– I can inform honorable senators that in Tasmania we have peace, contentment, and prosperity. Those are three very good things. There may be low wages paid in .some instances in Tasmania, but ours is a small community, without the command of very much capital. We have peace and contentment there, and I hope honorable senators opposite will not attempt to disburb us, or we shall be bound to point out their fundamental, socialistic blunders. I again ask the Minister to permit the Bill to be recommitted, and I should like to hear what Senator Pearce has to say on the points which I have brought under notice.
– Senator Dobson said just now that he knows that we do not take any notice of his remarks. In making that statement, the honorable senator did an. injustice to us as well as to himself. I recognize that his criticism has been, entirely friendly, and that he has put his finger on weak points in this_ legislation, which I may inform him have worried others as well as himself. The honorable senator has exposed the weaknesses of this legislation in a perfectly honest fashion, and he takes a mistaken view when he thinks that we do not listen to what he says. I think we all pay a good deal of attention to what he has to say. If it had not been for the speech of the honorable senator I should not have spoken at all. I venture to say that the only useful contribution that has been made to the debate has been his speech. He has touched on the vital points. The rest of the criticisms have been so much beating the air. I should like to say a few words on some of the points that he has raised, as they are pertinent to the Bill. There is the point as to who’ is to administer the Act, after Mr. Justice Higgins has declared what are fair and reasonable wages. I am sure that Senator Dobson would not say, in the case of the Arbitration Court, that after Mr. Justice O’Connor had formulated his schedule of wages and conditions to be observed in an industry, Mr. Justice O’Connor himself should be charged with the duty of seeing that the employers - the pastoralists - paid and the shearers received the wages laid down.
– Certainly not, unless it could be done at the hearing of the case.
– The honorable senator would not say that the Arbitration “Court should be charged with the policing of the Act. It is utterly impossible.
-Isthe Collector of
Customs tohave another hearing ?
– What I take it will happen is this: Several employers have appliedto Mr. Justice Higgins as the constituted authority for a certificate of exemption from paying Excise. Before that certificate canbe granted to them Mr. Justice Higgins has to decide what are fair arid reasonablewages. He has heard the evidence. He will come to a conclusion, and will lay down a schedule of what he believes to be fair and reasonable wages. The manufacturers willthen apply to the administrative branch of the Customs Department for their certificate; and they will, Itake it, haveto makea declaration that they are payingthe wages and observing theconditions that Mr. Justice Higgins declares to be fair and reasonable. Upon theirmaking that declaration they will get their exemption certificate from theCustoms Department ; and itwillbe for the Customs Department, I take it, to see that the conditionslaid down by Mr. Justice Higgins are being observed. But it stands to reason - and I have always recognised this- that even theCustoms Department cannotpolice thiskindof legislation. It willrest very largely with the employés themselves to police it, as the policing of all industrial legislation rests with them. I venture to say that where the Wages Boards in Victoria have failed they have failed because of the laxity of the employes in not safeguarding their own interests. Every form of industrial legislation will fail if the employés will not take the trouble to safeguard their interests.
– That is, it will fail if there is collusion between the robbed and the thief.
– If there is collusion, of course it will fail. It seems to me that when Mr. Justice Higgins declares what are reasonable rates his duty ceases. He lays down a schedule to guide the Customs authorities in the collection of the Excise. The certificate of exemption is issued. But if any manufacturer of harvesters does not conform to those conditions the Customs officers can at once suspend the certificate, and collect the Excise from the date when the breach of the award occurs. That is as to the future. It seems to me that provided the Customs authorities do their part, and the men do what they have to do under any industrial legislation the administration of this law will be compara tively easy. But a greater difficulty has to befaced when we come todeal with the interregnum from the1st of January last to the present date. It seems to me that the Government areopen to fair criticism, on the ground thatthey should havecollected the Excise fromthe1st of January oneach ofthe machines manufactured, have paid the money into a trust fund, and then refunded it to suchemployersas proved that they had observed the conditionslaid down by Mr. Justice Higgins.
-That is commonsense.
-But there is another sideeven to that. Wemust be fair and honest with ourselves. The other side is that these employers, conformingtothe Act, didin theearly part of this year apply for certificates of exemption. Therefore theyshowed awillingness tocomply with the Act.
Wales man got his exemption certificate in February last.
-I believe that is so, and also that some SouthAustralian manu- facturers gottheir certificates months ago. Mr. Justice O’Connorsat in Melbourne, and both the employers and . theemployés appeared before him. The employers asked for an adjournment. Mr. Justice O’Connor heard the arguments in favour of an adjournment, and granted one. I understand - though I am not quite sure - that the employés objected to the adjournment, and were willing to go on. At any rate, Mr. Justice O’Connor considered that there was good ground for an adjournment. But he made representations to the Government that as the adjournment was to be granted the Excise should not be collected until the cases were heard.
– That is correct.
– It would be a very serious demand to make upon the capital of a manufacturer to lock up the Excise paid in a trust account for months.
– That is what I stated in moving the second reading of the Bill.
– So that there is another side to this question, and we must not deal with it as though it were simply a matter of hounding down those employers who have possibly been trying to dodge the Act. They complied with the Act early in the year, and it was simply owing to the fact that an adjournment was granted that thecases were not dealtwith by Mr. Justice O’Connor. There must have been good grounds for the adjournment, or he would not have granted it.
– I think the object was to enable the parties to agreeupon rates.
– Onestrong reason which, I have no doubt induced Mr. Justice O’Connorto agree to the adjournment was that Wages Boards were sitting in Melbourne dealing with certain brandies ofindustry connected with implement making, and it was thought that by postponingthe case the Court would be able to obtain the decisions of the Wages Boards which would be a guide to the Judge in coming to a decision as to what were fair and reasonable wages.
– The honorable senator says only “ a guide “ ?
– Yes, because Mr. Justice Higgins has pointed out that he can only take a Wages Board decision as a guide, although he would give great weight to it. I think there is very good reason for that. This is a Federal and not a State Act. It applies to the whole area of the Commonwealth. We have in theCommonwealth a number of competing factories. One of these factories may get a decision from a Wages Board, and another factory in another part of the Commonwealth may pay very much higher wages. Both factories would be receiving the same benefit from our protective system.
– Do we ever find that higher wages are paid than are awarded by a WagesBoard ?
– In Western Australia, owing to the special conditions pre-, vailing there, the wages paid are frequently higher than thewages fixed by Wages Boards in Victoria.
– That is the difficulty in which the Government were in regard to collecting the Excise from the 1st of January.But still, for my own part,I think that it would have been wiser to collect the Excise, pay the money into a trust fund, and repay itto the manufacturers if the Judge decided that they had complied with the conditions. Coming to the point as to Mr. JuiticeHiggins’ determination, and as to the rules that will guidehim in deciding what are fairand reasonable rates of wages, I point out that the Act says that he shall determine what are “ fair and reasonable” rates, but not what is a “ good “ rate. The difference is this: Mr. Justice
Higgins, as I understand, interprets ‘’ fair and. reasonable”to mean a living wage with a little to come and go on, so as to allow some possibility of making provision for old -age. If the Judge were to determine what is a “ good “ rate of wages, he would have to consider the questionof profits madeby the firm. Lookat what that would lead to.He would have to compel that firm to put in evidence its books to show what profits it was making, and then, if hefixed what he regarded as a good wageonthe existing profit, he would have to provide a sliding scale as profits decreased or increased.
– That would be profit sharing.
– It would be a system of profit sharing which would add infinitely to the difficulties of working our industrial legislation, which are serious enough at present. If we are going to ask a Judge to say what is a fair and reasonable rate, having regard to profits made, the task is still more difficult. Look at what it would lead to. There may be in the same area some firms making a profit and others enduring a loss. What is to be done then? Is one firm to pay good wages and another bad wages? Endless difficulties are opened up. Abad season may come. Are we then to say that because there is a badseason wages are to be allowed to fall below a living rate? All that we can do, it seemsto me, is to lay down a roughandready rule, not a rigid rule. A minimum wage is, not rigid. In fixing it, we say “ Thus far shalt thou go down the scale, and no farther; below that rate on the scale the wage paid would be such that outworkers would not be able to maintain that standard of living which we think they should maintain.” Even in those States where a minimum wage is fixed by law, it is not rigid. Take my own State. I have worked under a condition of things where wages were regulated by an Arbitration Court. But my own experience was that I never worked for anything so low as the minimum rate.
– Perhaps the honorable senator was a foreman?
SenatorPEARCE. - I was a foreman for part of thetime, but even as a journeyman I never worked forthe minimum rate, andI knowof dozens of others who always got more thanthe minimum. Indeed, it is a common thing.
-Itisan uncommon thingfor it to beotherwise.
– It is uncommon for employers to be so short-sighted as not to recognise ability, and in such cases it reacts upon themselves.
– But this legislation of ours does work upon a rigid system.
– The system is not rigid, although it may be worked rigidly bysome employers. When we hear Senator Dobson - who in this matter, I recognise, tries to be fair and impartial - giving vent to some of the opinions which he has expressed on industrial questions, we must be confirmed in our belief that lawyers should be kept out of our industrial Courts. It is their inability - honest inability, I admit - to grasp industrial conditions which has led us to try to exclude lawyers from Industrial Courts. In Western Australia the great mining industry, the timber industry, and the great bulk of the manufacturing industries are working under the awards of an Arbitration Court in which no lawyer has been allowed to appear. The cases affecting the mining industry, where the awards affect thousands of men, were fixed up in one-fourth of the time which the case being heard in Melbourne has occupied. On every occasion the mine manageandthe miners’ secretary have each appeared before the Judge, called his evidence, and stated his case. In some instances, where the awards affected hundreds of men, the hearing did not occupy more than two days. No technical points were raised. It was purely an industrial question, and not a legal question, which had to be settled in each case. A lawyer’s opinion on an industrial question is worth no more than my opinion on a legal question would be. For the reasons I have given, I intend to vote against the proposed recommittal.
– Before a vote is taken I desire to make a few remarks of a general character, because to my mind the debate has travelled beyond the real issue before the Senate, and that is an amendment to recommit the Bill for certain purposes, which are clearly defined. I desire to show Senator Dobson and others that this general discussion does not affect the recommittal of the Bill by one iota. We are asked to recommit the Bill to alter clause 5, with respect to the appearance of lawyers in Industrial Courts. The proposed amendment is of such an insignificant character - it relates to the permission of the President of the Court - that in my opinion it does not justify any intelligent senator in voting for a recommittal. I do not think that it matters one straw whether we retain or omit the provision requiring the permission of the President to be obtained, so long as the wishesof the parties in a case are clearly expressed and carried out.
– But I want the Bill recommitted for the reconsideration of all those questions.
– I know that the honorable senator believes that the Bill ought to be recommitted for a great many purposes. A recommittal is also desired for the purpose of altering paragraph c of clause 9 with respect to the giving of evidence. When evidence is given it ought to be “ the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Whether it incriminates the witness or not, the truth ought to be told.
– He is protected, so far as his business is concerned.
– Under this legislation both employers and employes receive protection. We ought not to have been subjected to this long debate simply because Senator Neild was not present on a previous occasion. Surely Senator Dobson must admit that the amendments which Senator Neild seeks to make are of such an insignificant character that even he should not vote for a recommittal of the Bill. I firmly believe that Senator Dobson is earnestly desirous that something should be done to establish fair conditions, and to insure a peaceful conduct of industrial pursuits. But whenever he has entered into a discussion on industrial affairs, he has laboured under the same error. He is guided by the statements in certain sections of the press, and by certain interested individuals, that the minimum wage always becomes the maximum wage.
– Not always.
– Well, as a rule. But that is really not worth considering. For over thirty years, I have been connected with the industrial life of Australia. I have always been associated with the tradeunion for whatever calling I have been following, and, like Senator Pearce, I can honestly say that I have never been asked to work for a minimum wage, and that the only time I have ever been “sacked” in South Australia was because my employer - he told me this afterwards - would not offer me lower wages than I was getting.
– Those broad shoulders of the honorable senator were always a protection.
– There was another reason. Owing to my defective sight, I could not watch the “ boss,” and I had to work all the time. Every “boss” was acquainted with that fact. If a man of my strength and good health worked constantly, I was bound to do a lot of work. Other persons with equal capacity, who had the opportunity of watching the “boss,” naturally took advantage of that opportunity sometimes, but I could not do so.
– Did the honorable senator get a lot of pay for his lot of work ?
– I have never worked unless I have received fair wages. This Bill was brought in to amend the principal Act for the purpose of making it easier for the Government, the workers, and every one else concerned to carry out the intentions of this Parliament. We may fail to achieve our purpose by this Bill, and we may have to amend the law again, and to continue to do so for many years to come. I hope that we shall always be found willing to remedy any defects which may be discovered. If Senator Dobson will refer to the Act he will find that there are laid down therein principles by which the policy of new protection is to be carried into effect. One method is by the decision of an Arbitration Court ; another method is by the decision of a Wages Board, and still another method is by an industrial agreement. In every part of the Commonwealths-whether labour or capital is organized or not - workers and employers have the privilege of meeting together and entering into an industrial agreement. If it is satisfactory to both parties, there can be no difficulty in reference to the collection or the failure to collect the Excise duty. Like Senator Pearce, I deplore the neglect or the inability of the Government to carry into effect this legislation from the very first. There may be some neglect or inability in that regard, but so far as I can see, it is of no use to “ cry over spilt milk.” If we have failed in the past to frame a satisfactory law, we must do the best we can for the future. I desire to inform Senator Dobson, because I believe he is amenable to reason, that forty years ago I worked in callings where industrial agreements existed. In some of the yards on the Clyde, a conference would be held between the workers in the different branches of the ship-building trade and the employers, and an agreement would be arrived at as to hours to be worked, conditions to be observed, wages to be paid, or prices to be given for piece work. These agreements would be kept by both parties, and wouldexist for six months if trade was fluctuating, or for twelve months or two years if trade was steady. If it was possible then to arrive at industrial agreements, surely with our advanced intelligence we ought to be able to adopt that plan, even where trade organizations may not exist. Icontend that in the Act and this Bill there is machinery to carry out the principles which Parliament is trying to lay down. I feel confident that honorable senators will not delay the passage of a measure so important to the industrial classes, merely to insert the trifling amendments which Senator Neild wishes to introduce. Let us send the Bill to another place, and if anything should transpire to show the necessity for making any amendments, they can be made there. Certainly up to the present time, no event has happened to justify a recommital of the Bill.
– While I have a great deal of sympathy with much that has been said in criticism of the Bill, and of the Government’s administration of the policy known as the new protection, I am not prepared to vote for a recommital of this. Bill for the reasons given by Senator Neild. His principal objection apparently to the Bill in its present form is that lawyers are not to be permitted to appear before a Court of Arbitration.
– But they would not be permitted to appear even if his amendments were made.
– I do not think that lawyers are necessary in these industrial cases.
– The honorable senator is a modern Jack Cade, who says, “ Let us hang all the lawyers. “
– I say nothing of the kind. I would turn their energies in some more useful direction. I would make farmers of them. Some of them might even find their way into Parliament, where their lung power would occasionally be useful. The Government is open to censure for its neglect in administering this law. The Labour Party is to a great extent responsible for the policy of the new protection. If that policy fails, or is only a partial success, the blame, rightly or wrongly, will be laid at the door of that party. For that reason, I am not inclined to give any Government which fails in administering this law any– ^
– That would probably be going too far. I . should not give them any sympathy in that direction at any rate. The Government ought to have taken steps to enforce the law at a much earlier date. For the success of this policy, three elements are essential. The first is that the protection should be sufficient to embrace the manufacturer and the operative ; the second that the Government, so far as lies in their power, should administer the Act with due vigilance; and the third that the employes themselves should form a strong and effective union. Senator Neild read this afternoon a document ostensibly prepared by a -certain union connected with the Sunshine Harvester works. That union blames the Labour Party for the present state of affairs. I have no doubt that a g-neat number of people throughout the Commonwealth will be very glad of the opportunity given to them, by the reading of that document, to point out how feeble and ineffective is the action of the Labour Party in getting its own policy carried into effect. I believe that the document read* by Senator Neild emanates from a number of the employe’s at the Sunshine Harvester works.
– There are only “twenty of them in the union altogether.
– There is really no union in connexion with those works.Only a very small percentage of the 500 operatives employed by Mr. McKay belong to any union. No matter what law is passed by Parliament, no matter how vigilant the ‘administration of the Government may be, .unless the men bland themselves together, organize, and police the administration of the law, - that law will fail. Although we appoint policemen to prevent breaches ‘of ‘the law- every citizen is himself . responsible for its maintenance. If not de facto a policeman, every man is perhaps a .policeman de jure, and the police can at any moment call- upon him for assistance in maintaining order and prevent^ . ing breaches of the law%.. There are a great number of people in the Commonwealth apparently for whom it is not sufficient that you find food for them, and ‘ place it upon the table. They expect you to bring it up to their bedrooms . for therm to enjoy without the trouble of getting out ‘of bed, dressing themselves, and coming down to- breakfast. That seems to be the position” of the men in ‘Mr. McKay’s employment. They expect Parliament to do everything; for them, and are not prepared to do anything for themselves. The sooner they realize that it is impossible for them tobenefit by such a course of conduct thebetter it will be for them. . If they are not prepared to assist the Legislature in carrying out the policy of the new protection, it is foredoomed to failure. Senator Dobson made an attack upon the minimum wage, to which his chief objection’ is that it becomes the maximum. That is the principal objection hurled at it from . capitalistic quarters. Senator Dobson himself is a member of a union which has the reputation of being one of the strongest and most solid in the world. It permits, no black-legging. It has a minimum fee of six and eightpence, but we know that there are members of it who are paid far more. Their minimum does not become the maximum. Whereas one member of the profession may go into a court for half a guinea or a guinea, you must pay fifty guineas to another member of it if you wish him to appear for you. Any man who employs those lawyers pays them according to the value which he sets upon their services.
– I want the honorable senator to adopt payment according to skill.
– The honorable senator says that two men may be working for the same employer, one of whom is worth 50 per cent, more ‘ than the other, but each is paid ^3 per week.
– Senator Dobson is wrong ; it is not so.
– It may happen occasionally1, and I believe it does. If it is the case, it only proves that the employer who pays a week each to two men, one of whom is worth 50 per cent, more than the other, is robbing that man of 30s. a week. It is a very strong condemnation of the action of certain employers.
– And the remedy proposed is to knock away the prop, and lower the minimum.
– If the minimum were taken away, heaven alone knows where the maximum would be found. I am not. at all satisfied with the action of the Government in connexion with the administration of the law,nor am I satisfied with the harvester employés. Both those bodies want shaking up. If the law is to be a success, and if the Government are sincere, they must see to its proper administration, and must see also that the men are not put to any undue expense. But if the men themselves want the benefit of it they must organize in such a way as to be able to command that benefit.
Question - That the Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 5 and paragraphc of clause 9 - resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
.- I am inrather a difficulty as to the business to be taken next. A number of honorable senators had no idea that the next Bill on the noticepaper would be called on to-day. I do not wish to be unfair to them, but at the same time I think it is my duty to proceed with the second reading of the Disputed Elections and Qualifications Bill, unless honorable senators prefer that the Quarantine Bill should be gone on with for the halfhour remaining before the suspension of the sitting.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
– The general opinion of honorable senators seems to be that we should resume the consideration of the Quarantine Billat this stage. I shall therefore make the Disputed Elections and Qualifications Bill the first business for tomorrow morning. I beg to move -
That Order of the Day No. 2, Government Business, be postponed until to-morrow.
– There is always a great danger in altering the order of business as it appears on the notice-paper.
– There is only halfanhour available. Private members’ business will be taken after dinner.
. -I have always objected to alterations of the order of business on the notice-paper. Unlike a number of other honorable senators, I was for a long time in opposition to the Government in another Parliament, and had some very sharp experiences in the matter of alterations of this kind. For that reason
I came to the conclusion that it was unfair to members to do that sort of thing. A member at the beginning of the day looks over the business-paper and may say, “ I see that such a matter is to be brought up for discussion. I am not interested in that ; I can remain away and do something else.” Or he may prepare himself for a debate on a matter only to find when he comes into the chamber that some other business is being taken, and his preparation has gone for nothing, and, further, that the matter being discussed is one for which he has not prepared himself. He is in that way placed at a double disadvantage. For these reasons I have always objected to alterations of the business-paper, and I know of no reason why I should depart from my usual practice on this occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee(Consideration resumed from 30th October, vide, page 5326) :
Clause 13 -
The Governor-General may by proclamation -
prohibit the removal of any animals, plants, or goods, or parts of animals or plants, from any State or part of the Commonwealth in which any quarantinable disease, or disease affecting animals or plants, exists, to any State or part of the Commonwealth in which the disease does not exist;
declare any part of the Commonwealth or of a State in which any quarantinable disease or any disease or pest affecting animals orplants exists to be a quarantine area ; or
declare that any persons, animals, plants, or goods in any quarantine area, or in any State or part of the Commonwealth in which any quarantinable disease, or any disease or pest affecting plants or animals, exists, shall be subject to quarantine.
The power of prohibition under this section shall extend to authorize prohibition generally or with limitations as to place and subjectmatter, and either absolutely or subject to any specified conditions or restrictions.
The powers conferred on the GovernorGeneral by this section, in relation to the matters specified in paragraphs (g), (h), and (i) of sub-section (1), shall so far as they relate to animals or plants or any disease affecting animals or plants, as regards a State or part of a State, only be exercised in cases where the Governor-General is satisfied that the exercise of those powers is necessary for the purpose of preventing the spread of a disease or pest affecting animals or plants beyond the boundaries of that State.
Upon which Senator Keating had moved, by way of amendment -
That the words “ State or.” line 5, be left out.
– I point out that if the amendment now before the Committee is carried, the object I had in moving my amendment which I temporarily withdrew will be de- feated.
– If the present amendment be carried, I think that Senator Macfarlane’s views may still be given effect to by adding at the end of the clause the words” Provided that the two parts shall not be in the same State.” That would leave internal quarantine in the hands of the States authorities.
– Perhaps the Chairman will say whether, if the present amendment is carried, it will be impossible for Senator Macfarlane to move the amendment he desires to move.
– I understand that Senator Macfarlane’s amendment is to be moved subsequently.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [6.7]. - I understand that in connexion with paragraph g it was proposed that a division should be taken to ascertain whether it was the desire of the Committee that the powers of quarantine should be extended to the internal health arrangements of a State. I think that most honorable senators have expressed the opinion that the jurisdiction of the States with respect to health quarantine, using the term in its subordinate sense, should remain unaffected by what I have referred to myself as the strictly proper quarantine powers hitherto enjoyed and exercised by the States Governments being transferred to the Commonwealth. It has been proposed to leave out the words “ State or,” because they are redundant, being covered by the expression “ part of the Commonwealth.” Senator Macfarlane is in some doubt whether, if the amendment be agreed to, he can submit an amendment which will raise the large question which has been so much debated, and which he desires to raise in connexion with paragraph g. Subject to the opinion of the Chairman, I think that if the words “ State or “ are left out, Senator Macfarlane will be able to move his amendment. He can move that the words “part of the Commonwealth” should be left out, and if that were carried it would have the effect he desired of indicating the view of the Committee to restrict the powers sought to be conferred on the Commonwealth Government by this
Bill. The effect of the amendment I have suggested would, of course, be to make the paragraph absurd.
– Why not vote against the whole clause?
– We can do that afterwards.
– I quite agree that the course suggested by Senator Symon might be followed, but the omission of the words “ part of the Commonwealth “ would not give effect to what I understand Senator Macfarlane desires. The honorable senator had moved an amendment subsequent to the words “ State or.” Senator Clemons intimated that he wished to move a prior amendment, and Senator Macfarlane’s amendment was then withdrawn. If the course now proposed is adopted, in order to give effect to what Senator Macfarlane desires some words would require to be inserted after the words “ part of the Commonwealth “ are left out.
– I wish only to prevent the Commonwealth authority having power to order the removal of animals, plants, and goods from one part of a State to another part of the same State.
– I see that Senator Macfarlane appears to be placed at a disadvantage. Senator Clemons is not present, and I do not know whether any honorable senator is authorized to ask for the withdrawal of his amendment.
– The amendment now before the Committee was moved by me at Senator Clemons’ suggestion.
– Then I am sure Senator Keatingwill temporarily withdraw his amendment.
– We cannot go back.
– If the Minister withdraws his amendment, Senator Macfarlane will not be able to submit the amendment he previously moved, or it would be impossible for the Government afterwards to move the amendment they wish to move.
– I understand that Senator Macfarlane does not wish to eliminate the words “ State or,” and I am sorry to hear it, because I thought the honorable senator was prepared to go as far as I am. The honorable senator apparently does not wish to take away the power to prohibit the removal of animals, plants, or goods from one State to another State. My honorable friend wants this power of quarantine - using that term not in the strict sense in which I think it ought to be used - to be extended, so as to enable the Commonwealth authorities to prohibit removal from one State to another, but not to give power to prohibit removal from, say, Melbourne to Ballarat. But, then, he wants to retain the words “ State or” because he desires the power conferred by those words to be given (o the Commonwealth.
– I think that the honorable senator’s right would be safeguarded if. I were to put the question that the word “State” be struck out. The honorable senator, and those who think with him, could vote against striking out that word, and if they succeeded in keeping it in the clause an amendment might then be moved to- strike out the words “any part of the Commonwealth.”
Senator Lt.-Colonel GOULD (New South Wales) [6.17]. - The proposal before the Committee is one to strike out certain words so as to make the clause read more clearly than it does ‘at present. The amendment is really not one of substance. If the Government are to have the powers they are asking for I should be prepared to strike out the- words “ State or” so as to “make the clause read better. But Senator Macfarlane’s amendment raises a point of principle. I think that the fairest plan would be for the Government to withdraw their amendment temporarily so as to allow Senator Macfarlane to submit his. If, then, Senator Macfarlane’s amendment were carried, there would be no difficulty. If it were negatived it would be necessary to recommit the clause, but there would be no difficulty about that.
– The Government cannot do their business in that way. We cannot take the risk of securing a recommittal.
.- If it were a question of substance, that objection would be reasonable But I do not wish to be driven into the position of voting to retain the word “ State” when I believe that the clause ought not to be passed in its present form.
– It seems to me that it is quite easy to decide the issue involved on the amendment submitted by the Government. Senator Macfarlane is anxious that power should te retained to prohibit the removal of diseased animals or plants from one State to another, but he wishes to strike out the power to prohibit removal from any part of a State to another part of the same State. If we strike out the words “ State or,” we clearly leave the power to prohibit removal from one part of a State to another. It therefore seems to me to be clear that a vote on a proposition to strike out the words “State or” settles the question contained in Senator Macfarlane’s amendment. What I desire, and what I think the Committee desire, is that the Commonwealth should have power to prohibit removal from infected sections of the Commonwealth to clean sections without regard to where they are. That is the point at issue. Senator Macfarlane merely wishes to prohibit removal from one part of a State to another part of the same State. If we strike out the words “ State or,” we. declare that we do not agree with Senator Macfarlane, but desire that the Commonwealth should have the -wider power. Therefore there is no necessity to alter the amendment proposed by the Government in order to settle the issue.
Senator KEATING laid upon the table the following paper -
Defence Acts 1903-1904 - Provisional Regulations - Statutory Rules 1907, No. in.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 -p.m.
Debate resumed from 26th September (vide page 3838), on motion- by Senator Needham -
That, in the opinion of this Senate, the officers and all competent, operators employed on the Commonwealth linotype machines who have served a period of twelve months and over on those machines should be placed on the classified list of civil servants of-the Commonwealth.
– It will be remembered that Senator Needham, acting on information supplied to him, left the impression by his speech that there had been some exercise of bad faith on the part of the Government in connexion with the linotype operators. He even went so far as to say that the men were engaged in writing, and promised permanent employment, and that, notwithstanding that fact, a number of them had been dismissed. I am not complaining about the statement, but from an investigation of the facts of the case I am prepared to say that it is quite erroneous. The terms of the advertisement, of course, is a matter of some importance. It was not before the Chamber when he was delivering his speech. It was inserted in the newspapers in February, 1904, and reads as follows -
Wanted, thoroughly competent lino, operators who can’ average hourly at least 6,000 L. Pr., 15 ems, corrected matter. Constant employment offered.
I understand that 6,000 long primer 15 ems would be equal to 150 lines of Hansard. The operators were required to possess that qualification to obtain employment in the terms of the advertisement. The statement in the advertisement - “constant employment offered “ - could not be reasonably construed by anybody to mean that the Government were to enter into a covenant, that the operators would be permanently and constantly employed whether there was work for them to do or not. It was simply an indication as to ..hAt the prospects were. I do not wish to lay too much stress on that matter, because it is not necessary for. an impartial representation of the case’. So far as my information goes, every competent man - that is to say, every man who complied with the stipulated qualification- has been continuously employed. It so Happens that out of those who have been employed from, time to time, there are only about four at present engaged who have shown that they possess the qualification.
– Can the honorable senator tell me whether the four men whose services .have been retained have been constantly and fully employed from the time they were engaged?
– A large number of other men have been employed from time to time, but as regards .those who came in under the advertisement, only four have been continuously employed, and, mark,. neither of those four men, nor any others of those employed in the printing office, have been exclusively engaged on Commonwealth work. They have been engaged on Commonwealth work for a considerable portion of their time, but, by reason of an excellent working engagement between the Commonwealth and the State, when they are not employed on Commonwealth work they are engaged on State work. The time is taken, and the Commonwealth or the State, as the case may be,. is charged the wages earned during that period of employment. The men, when they were engaged, were informed of the standard to which they would have to work, and all the men who attained that standard have been constantly employed, as promised. When Parliament is in session a very considerable number of men are employed, but when it is prorogued about two-thirds of that number have to go. In other words, no more than one-third of the usual number employed during the session are required for the recess work. It must not be thought by honorable senators that any of these operators .are constantly and exclusively employed on Commonwealth work; they are all employed on Commonwealth and State work.
– There is no reason why they should not be’ exclusively employed on Commonwealth work, though.
– I believe that there are some very good reasons why they should not be.
– There is plenty of work for them to do.
– No; there is not sufficient work, except for a very limited number of men. I thought it was only reasonable that I should get categorical replies to some of the statements made by Senator Needham, relying as he did on information supplied to him. I propose to pick out a few of his statements and to furnish the information supplied to me in respect of them. One statement which I have more or less anticipated was -
An advertisement appeared in the daily newspapers in the various States calling for thoroughly competent linotype operators, and offering them constant employment at a weekly wage of ^4 lbs. The promise of constant employment has not been kept, despite the fact that some of the men had an understanding in writing that they would have an assurance of constant work.
First, there was no understanding in writing, and secondly, there was no statement about £4. 10s. per week in the advertisement. As regards the term “constant work,” they were promised constant employment if they could comply with the condition of the advertisement, which, as I mentioned, required them to be capable of setting about 150 lines of Hansard per hour. The assurance given to me is that the promise to give constant work was kept to all the men who fulfilled the condition laid down. It was alleged by,Senator. Needham, by way of complaint, that one man was put on the classified list, and that he was a linotype engineer. That statement is quite true. The linotype engineer was put on the list for the simple reason that he was constantly and (permanently engaged in the discharge of his duties. But the whole of the linotype operators are not’ consistently and constantly engaged on the machines. In another part of his speech Senator Needham said -
As the machines belong to the Commonwealth the men had a reasonable ground for believing that eventually they would be placed on the classified list.
So far as I can ascertain, nothing was said by the Government Printer or any authorized officer which would justify such an assumption, or indicate any promise of permanent work. Then the honorable senator said -
Other men are doing the work which these men should do. It is done by men ‘employed by the State Government.
My information is that that statement is not correct. Then the honorable senator said -
During that time it must be remembered that the Commonwealth linotype machines, for which the Federal Government paid ^30,000, are standing idle.
We- paid not .£30,000 but £14,026 for the machines. They never stand idle when there is suitable work for them to do. When not employed on Hansard and other ordinary parliamentary work they are frequently employed on State work. The honorable senator also said -
An additional fact is that these men are not paid overtime for night work.
According to the information I have the men are paid overtime. Operators doing night work receive overtime at night time for 42 hours per week. Senator Needham also mentioned that the wages (paid by leading printers in Melbourne range from £3 10s. to £5 5s. per week. My informa- tion is that all linotype work in outside offices is piece-work.
– That is not’ correct. In some of the offices the men are on what are called “ ‘stab, wages.”
– That may be so, but I >can only -give the information supplied to’ me.
– In outside offices the men are not all employed on piecework.
– I am informed that the great majority -are engaged on piece-work. Senator Needham -also said -
The majority of- the men employed on the Commonwealth linotype machines work at night.
I think that Senator Findley challenged that statement. It is -quite correct to say that they do so during the session. In other words, they have six’ months’ day work and six months’ night work. Senator Needham asked -
Are they Commonwealth employe’s who work the machines during the day?
There are no Commonwealth employes. The men are engaged on - Commonwealth and State work indifferently. Then Senator Needham went on to say -
The fact is that there is Commonwealth work done by State employes, who are learning to work these machines at the Commonwealth expense.
I believe it is true that some of the compositors are being so trained. It is considered only fair to give them a chance of learning to operate the machines. For many years a number of very reliable compositors have been engaged in the Govern* ment Printing Office, and of their competency there is no doubt. What is more natural than that the Government Printer, having full confidence in the men who would otherwise have to be dismissed as soon as the linotype machines came into operation, should seek to retain their services by allowing them an opportunity to learn how to operate those machines?I believe that within reasonable limits that is the practice. Senator Findley asked -
Does the honorable senator say that State employes are learning to work the machines, and that they are only used by learners during the day-time?
And Senator Needham replied-
State employes are learning to work the machines during the day-time, and we are paying for it. Our work is done at night.
My information is that that is not correct. Senator Needham also stated: -
Unfortunately, the men who had the agreement in writing have since been dismissed as incompetent,’, and have since that time become employed in leading printing offices in Melbourne.
My information is that that is not correct. Every man. who complied with the advertised conditions was kept on as long as he wished,
– Was the advertised test considered fair, or rather high? “ Senator BEST. - It was regarded as a fair standard’ for thoroughly competent men. Senator’ Findley’! then asked -
Does the honorable senator know how many of the men engaged under the conditions stated by him are now in the employment of the Commonwealth ?
My information is that only four of those men are now employed. Senator Needham stated -
If the Commonwealth Government like to go into the question, they can find continuous employment for the men at present engaged on the linotype machines. and I pointed out by interjection -
That is the whole point. The Government cannot find employment for them when Parliament is not in session.
I have asked the Acting Government Printer to verify that statement. He says that when Parliament is not sitting only onethird’ can be employed. °
– Does the statement of the Acting Government Printer mean that of all the men who passed through the office Only four came up to the test?
– Some have left of their own accord, but all those who were equal to the test and chose to remain had the privilege of remaining.
– How many were engaged at the commencement?
– I believe that from fourteen to sixteen are engaged during the session, and, as we have had the linotype machines for some time, no doubt a considerable number of men will have passed through the office. I am not in a position to state the exact number who entered in response to that advertisement, but my definite information is that all who did so had the privilege of remaining if they were equal to the standard prescribed by the advertisement.
– And thereby hangs a tale !
– Thereby hang the facts.
– A number would not stay under the conditions.
– The advertisement may be called the basis of the contract, but those who were not equal to the’ standard prescribed by it cannot complain that they have been unjustly treated.
– Not if it was a fair standard.
– That is altogether beside the point. Senator Needham’s case was based upon the contract, and I understood from what he said that the men had an actual written contract. Honorable senators mav construe the advertisement, which is the’ basis of the contract, against me as much as they like ; they may claim that the contract meant that the men should he permanently employed, although it is not capable of that construction.
Still, construe it against the Government as strongly as you like, and even from that stand-point I can. state that all those who came in under it, and who were equal to the standard, have had the privilege of continuing in constant employment. Only four of those men are, however, at present so engaged.
– If many others had qualified, room could not have been found for them all the year round.
– The Acting Government Printer would no doubt have only taken on as many as he could constantly employ upon Commonwealth and State work. He is the Acting Government Printer for the State.
– Competent men who came up to the standard may have left because the Acting Government Printer could not employ them permanently.
– My information is that that is not so.
– Was any statement made to the men in writing or orally as to the amount that they would receive? Was it agreed that they should have £4 1 os. a week?
– So far as my information goes, the only offer made to the men was contained within the four corners of the advertisement, which certainly indicated no promise of engagement at £4 10s. a week. Senator Findley made some important remarks, that were of interest to the Senate, and about which I am sure honorable senators will desire information. He said -
I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that the whole of the men could be fully employed year in and year out on Commonwealth work if the office was placed on a proper and business-like basis.
My information is that that is not so, unless they are willing to be employed as compositors when not required for Commonwealth work. That is important. If the linotype men who get the higher wages are prepared to fill up their time at ordinary compositor’s work - as linotypers they would be paid something like £4 5s. or £4 10s. a week, whereas their pay as compositors would be about £2 17s., and not more than £3 a week - Senator Findley’s suggestion could readily be carried out, but I am informed that it would be impossible unless some such mutual arrangement were made.
– They are three years in arrears with some of their machine work, and are giving out work to a private firm.
– The Minister of Home Affairs has given full explanations as to why the Y ear-Book has been given out to a private firm, and therefore I do not propose to go into that question, although I have certain information about it. Senator Findley, referring to a statement made by Senator Needham, also said -
Senator Needham said that a certain portion of the Government Printing Office was set apart for Commonwealth printing. That has application only to the building in which the linotype machines are placed.
That is not correct. It does not even apply to the linotype room. No portion of the building is set apart for* Commonwealth work.
– That particular building was erected for the purpose of installing the machines which are the property of the Commonwealth.
– It is not exclusively set apart for Commonwealth work.
– Why split hairs? The machines are Commonwealth property.
– I am simply stating facts. I do not think that there have been many hairs split so far. Senator Findley remarked -
In the Victorian Government Printing Office, printing and linotype machines, type, stereotyping plant, and other, property belonging to the Commonwealth Government are inextricably mixed up, according to some people who work over there, with State property.
That is a very important matter in connexion with the discussion that has taken place from time to time as to the arrangement between the Commonwealth and State Governments. I asked for special information on that subject, and am informed that the Commonwealth does not own any stereotyping plant, and that all Commonwealth plant, whenever possible, is branded distinctly. Type bought “by the Commonwealth is nearly all on the point system, whilst _the State type is on the old system, so that the Commonwealth type is easily identifiable. Senator Findley stated -
I know that the permanent staff employes are fully occupied year in and year out on State work.
That is not correct. They are employed either on Commonwealth or State work as required.
– That is a quibble. I was referring to the period before the Commonwealth was established.
– The honorable senator forgets that there was a regular staff in those days, and that temporary employe’s were taken on whilst Parliament was sitting. He also forgets that three large Departments have been withdrawn from the State, and that consequently what was only an. adequate staff at that time would be largely in excess now. The honorable senator observed -
I should like to know whether the State expenditure has been on the same basis during the time Federal work has been done at the State Government Printing Office.
The information given to me is that the State has recently bought one linotype machine, and is purchasing four more. The State owns all the lithographic plant, all the stereotyping plant, and nearly all the plant in the process branch. That plant is all very expensive. The State had sufficient plant to do its own work when the Commonwealth” was established, and it must be remembered that the three large Departments, Customs, Post and Telegraph, and Defence, have been taken away from the State, Senator Findley asked that inquiries should be made by the Government as to how many men in addition to the linotype operators and officers referred to in the motion were permanently engaged on Commonwealth work. The answer to that, as I have already indicated is, “none.” I have dealt with the main features of Senator Needham’s remarks, but there are one or two other points which I wish to emphasize. The motion states that, “ In the opinion of this Senate the officers and all competent operators employed on the Commonwealth linotype machines who have served a period of twelve months and over on those machines, should be placed on the classified list.” Who is to judge as to who are competent, and who are incompetent? According to the standard laid down, the only “ competent operators “ are the four to whom I have referred, but, in any case, it would have to be left to an expert like the Acting Government Printer ‘to say which men were competent. I had a somewhat vigorous fight during the consideration of the Estimates with regard to the common-sense arrangement which has been made between the Commonwealth and’ State as to Commonwealth printing. I pointed out then that, so far as our experience has gone, the position is eminently satisfactory. I have here a statement from Mr. Kemp, which I think is of a very significant character. He says -
During the twelve months the State used the Commonwealth printing machines for 3,543 hours, and the Commonwealth used the State printing machines for15,500 hours. As a set-off against the State occasionally using Commonwealth linotype machines, I may mention that three-fourths of the Tariff Commission’s reports, recently issued, were set up in State type. None of the employés in the office are permanently employed on Commonwealth work except clerks in the Accounts Branch and the Linotype Engineer.
In the circumstances, I submit that it would be unwise for Senator Needham to persist with his motion. He will gather that the facts which formed the basis of his claim for consideration for these men are not strictly as he understood them to be. I have referred to the terms of the advertisement, and have given the assurancesI have received from head-quarters, that every person engaged under it, and relying upon it as a contract, has had the privilege of being continued in employment. In all the circumstances, and having special regard to the fact that these men are not exclusively engaged on Commonwealth work, but on State as well as Commonwealth work, it is not, I think, unreasonable to suggest to Senator Needham the advisableness of withdrawing his motion.
– As it is evident that no other member of the Senate desires to join in the debate, it is incumbent on me, in justice to myself, to reply to the statements made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I will admit that it was difficult for me, in submitting the motion, to separate the case for these men from the question of the necessity of establishing a Commonwealth printing office. But any one who reads the speech I made when moving the motion will, I think, agree that I succeeded in doing so. My intention was to prove to the Senate that certain individuals in the employ of the Commonwealth Government were engaged upon conditions that had not been complied with. I also stated that there was a written agreement that constant employment would be given them. When cross-examined during the course of the debate as to whether I could produce any proof to substantiate my statement, I said that at the moment I could not lay my hands on the proofs, but I thought they were obtainable. I have here some information which I think will bear out to the letter the statement I made in moving the motion. Here is a telegram from the late Government Printer of Victoria to one of the men originally employed under the conditions I have specified -
Public Offices, Melbourne.
Court, 12 Blyth-street, Melbourne.
Can commence duty Monday next or soonerif desired. Wages £4 if averaging 6,000 on corrected matter. Less than that 70s. Position constant if over 7,000. - Brain, Government Printer.
– Are the terms of that telegram consistent with the test laid down ?
– I am leading up to that point. Let me remark that in introducingthe motion I said that advertisements appeared in the newspapers of the Commonwealth on two different occasions setting forth the terms referred to in that telegram; and I also said that the wages were to be £4 10s. per week. I made a mistake as to the wages, which were to be £4, but the other conditions prove up to the hilt the statement I made. I have here a letter from an employe who is at present engaged as an operator on one of the Commonwealth linotype machines in the Victorian Government Printing Office. It was written, I believe, in response to the second advertisement - 260 Newcastle-street, Perth, 2nd August, 1905.
To R. S. Brain, Esq., Government Printer.
I beg to make application for a position as linotype operator should you have any such position vacant. I have been connected with the leading Perth daily for the past twelve years, and was for some time in charge of the weekly production of the Western Mail. On the inception of the linotype I was selected for one of the machines, and my average output is from 7,000 to 8,000 corrected matter (brevier, 13 ems). I also possess a fair knowledge of the linotype. I would very much prefer to be guaranteed a permanency, as I am a married man with a family. I have much pleasure in referring you to Mr. R. White, with whom I am acquainted.
Trusting for a favorable reply, and thanking you in anticipation,
I beg to remain,
Thomas S. Barker.
This is a copy of the reply from the Government Printer to that application -
Government Printing Office,
Melbourne, 4th September, 1905.
In reply to your application for employment as linotype operator,I wish to state that the conditions of employment are as follows : - If you can set an average of 7,000 ens per hour -
Honorable senators will mark the difference in these terms as compared with those contained in the reply by telegram from the
Government Printer to Mr. D. Court, where he Refers to 6,000 ens.
– He refers to 7,000 ens alsoin the telegram.
– I find that is so, as he uses the words “ Position constant if over seven thousand.” To resume his letter inreply to Mr. Barker -
If youcan set an average of 7,000 ens per hour (L.Pr., 15 ems, corrected matter) constant employment can beoffered you while ever that speed is maintained, but I wish it to be distinctly understood that if the speed indicated is not accomplished thepromise of constant employment becomes null and void.
I am, Yours,
Robert S. Brain,
Having received the Government Printer’s letter, Mr. Barker sent the following telegram in reply -
Accept conditions; leave about twenty-fifth; reply if satisfactory.
To that he received the reply -
Late ; satisfactory.
That is to say, that Mr. Barker proposed to leave a little too late, but that his references were satisfactory. Mr. Barker came over to Melbourne, and was engaged. I find this note added to the correspondence -
I may state that in no circumstances would I have left a permanent position on the West Australian, Perth -
The West Australian is one of the leading daily newspapers in WesternAustralia - to take up a doubtful position under the Government here had I not been fully convinced that the position was permanent, as Iwas put to heavy expense in disposing of my home in the West and bringing my family over here and re-starting a home.
Thomas S. Barker
I wish now to say that some little time ago Mr. Barker was asked to take a fortnight’s holiday without any remuneration, and he refused to do so. He said that he had a promise of constant employment, and it meant, ifit meant anything, that if he was asked by the Government to take a fortnight’s holiday some remuneration should be given to him, otherwise it was tantamount to a dismissal. Some little trouble arose in connexion with the matter; Mr. Barker’s assertion that he was constantly employed was questioned by the officer in charge, and as the result of inquiry he did not get the fortnight’s holiday, and he is working in the office to-day. Now, as to the test, and whether these men are carrying out the specified amount ; of work, to use the expression employed bythe VicePresident of theExecutive Council, from information I have received I say emphatically that these men. are doing the specified amount of work, and if they are not, why are their services retained? I am now about to refer to a phase of the question which does not appear to have occurred to the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Honorable senators are aware of the practice that exists in connexion with the very undesirable system of confidential reports. That is to say, an employé may be thought by his superior officer not to be doing the full amount of work that he ought to do, or not to be conducting himself as he should. A report is sent to head-quarters without the knowledge of the employé, and without his having any chance of defending himself until judgment has been delivered. The men at present employed on the linotype machines ofthe Commonwealth are turning out the number of ens per hour required by this written agreement, the existence of which has been questioned.
-As Senator Findley - who is a practical man - interjects, they would not be employed continually unless they did the necessary amount of work. But they get no opportunity of contradicting or disputing the statements of the computer, who is also engaged by the Commonwealth Government. If the Acting Government Printer says to a man, as a result of information received from the computer, that he is not turning out the requisite number of ens per hour, he has no adequate opportunity of defending himself. That is a phase of the question upon which the. . VicePresident of the Executive Councildid not touch. The firstincrease of wages granted to these men was during the régime, of the Labour Government, with Mr. Watson at its head. Mr. Watson as Commonwealth Treasurer increased their salaries for night work from £3 10s. to £4 per week. The members of the chapel sent him a memorial, and that was the result. But no increase was granted for day work until twelve months ago. I have already referred to the fact that one of the employés who would have been discharged, on his refusal to take a fortnight’s holiday, was retained, owing to the fact that he had preserved the conditions under which he was engaged. I allude to Mr. Barker. I also know that Mr. Barker holds a reference from Dr. J. W. Hackett, the proprietor and editor of the West Australian and Western Mail, Perth, for his twelve years’ services there.
– Who is Mr. Barker?
– He is one of the employes of the Government Printing Office engaged on the Commonwealth linotype work. Another man, who was discharged because it was alleged that he was incompetent, is now working at San Francisco, on piece-work, at -£& ios. per week. I also desire to emphasize the fact that when the Commonwealth Government desired to obtain the services of suitable competent men to work these machines, they approached the Typographical Society in Melbourne. At that time - -whether owing to the briskness of trade or for some other reason - sufficient men were not obtainable. Consequently, advertisements were published’ in the leading newspapers of the States. Men left their homes and gave up good positions to take employment under the Commonwealth. But now my honorable friend, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, turns round and tells the Senate that only four of the men at present engaged in the service of the Commonwealth were amongst those originally employed. The inference which he draws from that fact is that the remainder of the men - about twelve - were not fit to meet the demands made upon them, or were dismissed. But, apparently, Senator Best has not considered the fact that when many of the men, whose names I mentioned a few weeks ago, realized that there was no possibility of securing continuous employment in the Government Printing Office, and that they could be dismissed at a moment’s notice, they took the first opportunity to better themselves, either with the view of securing more continuous employment, or of earning larger wages than they were receiving under the Government. There are people who would rather have security of tenure in a Government position, though earning a smaller weekly wage, than be casual employes in a private firm receiving a higher weekly wage. I commend that aspect of the case to the Senate. Simply because only four of the original employes are left, it ought not to be inferred that the other men were not competent. Another point which I desire’ to emphasize is that on the 14th June, of this year, the employes working the linotype machines presented a memorial to the then Commonwealth Treasurer, Sir John Forrest. He received it. I have a copy of it here. They put their case before the Treasurer, as I have endeavoured to put it before the Senate. Sir John Forrest forwarded that memorial on to the Acting Government Printer, Mr. Kemp, who afterwards stated that he had not the time to report upon it as requested. From that day. to this, no report has been supplied as requested. Surely it was possible for the Acting Government Printer to say. yes, or no, to the statements contained in that memorial? Surely it would not take from June to October to furnish a reply to the petition of employes who said that they were labouring under grievances which they desired to have redressed. That is another phase of the question to which the Vice-President of the Executive Council has not referred. Again, I contend that the wages paid to the men are not adequate for the class of work required, or the conditions under which they labour. They work principally during the night. They are not paid overtime rates. They work out a certain number of hours per week. Any, one who has had the slightest experience of night work is aware that it imposes a greater strain on the physical and mental resources than does day work. We must also consider the nature of the employment. Men employed on these linotype machines amongst lead, and oil, and gas, are engaged in occupations which are necessarily prejudicial to their health. It must also be recognised that during the session upon which we are engaged, Parliament may demand that these men shall work on from -half -past 6 in the evening until perhaps 8 or 9 o’clock the next morning. We should give some consideration to their case from that point of view. I do not desire to refer to the question of whether these men are doing State as well as Commonwealth work. That raises an issue which I desire to avoid, namely, as to whether we should constitute a Commonwealth Printing Office or should continue the conditions as at present existing. Senator Chataway, when I originally submitted my motion, asked the question what became of the State men when they became competent operators. M.v reply was, and is, that they are sometimes drafted to other spheres of Government work - for instance, to the Post Office. The honorable senator also said that it was impossible for an operator to learn the mechanism of the machine in twelve months. There is no necessity for an operator to have a direct knowledge of the mechanism, because a staff, under the supervision of a competent engineer, is engaged to deal with the mechanism. The operators are practically forbidden to touch the mechanism. Their duty is simply to set up the reports of the parliamentary speeches. If it was right for the Government to place on the classified list the man who is in charge of the machines, is it not also right that the men who work them should be similarly treated ? What would be the use of the engineer if he had no operators to work the machines ? I am not asking for any great concession. We know that recently men in the Post Office and several other Departments have been placed on the classified list. I am simply asking the Government to treat their employes in the Printing Office in the same way as they have treated those persons. It may be said that I am attempting to place the employés of the Commonwealth on a better footing than those of the State. The employés of the State - that is in thePrinting Office - have an assurance of constant employment.
– Only some of them.
– Not one of the Commonwealth employés in that office has any guarantee. Even if such were not the case, I am not attempting to place one set of servants in a better position than another set. If we admit that the men are employed by the Commonwealth, it is our duty to see that they receive at least a fair modicum of justice. Let the State Government deal with its own employes. Only the other day three of the best operators left the Printing Office to take up positions in private offices simply because they felt no sense of security, had no assurance of continuous employment or guarantee as to how they would be dealt with in the future.
– Have they a sense of security where they are?
– Where they are they were not engaged on that understanding, but where they left they had made to them a promise of continuous employment. That is the point I am trying to make. During my opening speech the honorable senator interjected that I had no guarantee that there was a written agreement, but I have produced the letter and the telegram from the Acting Government Printer.
– “ Constant employment “ is a term which is used in almost every occupation to mean not permanent employment.
– That is not the reason.
– It may be seen in the newspapers every day.
– That is only a side track.
– But is it not so?
– It ought not to be so.
– That is another question.
– Then the honorable senator would not be a party to engaging any one under a false pretence.
– It is not a false pretence.
– The question is whether or not the men were engaged under a false pretence.
– If the men were put on the classified list, would it not mean that they would be guaranteed permanent employment and pay ?
– It would mean that when absent through illness they would receive pay in return for the number of hours they worked longer than they should without receiving overtime pay. It would also mean that if it should be decided to dispense with their services at any time they would have the right to appeal against that decision. Under existing conditions the Acting Government Printer, on the advice of the computer, can say that the men are not fulfilling the condition on which they were engaged, and not one of them has the right to challenge the decision or to prove whether he is doing the work as guaranteed. That is not a position in which the men should be placed.
– But apart from the time when men were sick, would they not be guaranteed payment for overtime when no work would be provided for them ?
– That would force the question of giving the men work during recess.
– But suppose that there was no work to give them?
– The men have been constantly employed during recess. For instance, during last recess aft the men were engaged.
– On Commonwealth work and that only?
– The honorable senator is wrong.
– The men were engaged on the electoral rolls during the greater part of the time.
– That was exceptional, to begin with.
SenatorNEEDHAM. -If I desired to openupthe question of what could be done, I would refer to the advisability of establishinga Commonwealth Printing Office. The work of the Patent Office is considerably in arrears.
– Three years.
– If the Government desired to bring the work of the Patent Office up to date every one of its linotype operators could be constantly employed on Commonwealth work during the parliamentary recess. Since 1901 the work of the Commonwealth has been growing, and we have no reason to believe that its printing work will diminish in the years to come. On the contrary, we have every ground to expect that as the Commonwealth grows older the work of its Government will increase. There is not the slightest doubt that if the Government like to face the question fairly and squarely every one of their linotype operators can have constant work on every working day in the year. If the Government decline to meet me and say that the men are not constantly employed during recess, that is not an honest reply to my contention, because if they like they can find work for all the men to do. I ask honorable senators to weigh well the speeches which have been made. I remind them that my motion has had the support of Senators Findley and Chataway, who are practical men.
– I suggest that the honorable senator should withdraw the motion.
– I ask honorable senators to vote for the motion.
– Does the term “officers “ in the motion include those who are attending to the machines as well as those who are working them?
– It covers the men in charge of the machines and of employés.
Question - That the motionbe agreed to - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 26th September (vide page 3841) on motion by Senator Henderson -
That this Senate is of opinion that, in the best interests of the Commonwealth, the Government should purchase and control a fleet of mail steamers capable of maintaining a fortnightly mail service between Australia and Great Britain.
Upon which Senator de Largie had moved, by way of amendment -
That the following words be added : - “ such steamers to be constructed so as to be suitable for defence purposes as fast cruisers.”
– Honorable senators need not be alarmed that I shall detain them at any great length, but it is the duty of every honorable senator to have an opinion, and to express it, on such an important question as is raised by the motion. Although various criticisms have been levelled at the proposal, I think that the majority of the Senate will approve of it. In Australia, land services of this description are really in the hands of the people. We do all our own railway land carriage, and, the people of this country have realized that that is greatly to their advantage. In other parts of the world private enterprise has not done for the people all that the people expected, but on the contrary has given them, in many cases, inefficient services at high cost. Every business man in , the world to-day is looking to the methods adopted in Australia and New Zealand in the matter of land carriage, and various. European countries have even gonetothe extent of following our example.
– If the mail service were a Commonwealth service, would the honorable senator make Brisbane a port of call?
– That would be a question to be considered by those in whose hands the administration of the service was placed.
– It could be stipulated in the Bill that Brisbane should be the only portof call.
– I have no doubt that we could make Brisbane the terminus both ways. In that case, it would be a continuous service around Australia, calling at Brisbane first, and leaving there last, but I do not know whether that system would be adopted if notice were taken of the general cry of honorable senators opposite. They are always talking about doing our business on commercial principles. I should like to see a service of this description carried out by the Commonwealth on the principles about which we hear so much - principles that would give the greatest convenience to the public of Australia at the least possible expense to Australia. I have heard very few objections to the railway services of Australia being in the hands of thepeople, and I believe that the people would receive the same benefit if the mail service suggested by Senator Henderson were inaugurated. Where is the impossibility? Where are the greater difficulties in carrying mails, passengers, and cargo by sea than by land ? Which gives the greatest chance of success ? Undoubtedly carriage by sea, because in a system of sea carriage it is not necessary to acquire land, and there is no expense of maintenance, as the sea generally maintains itself. There are a hundred-and-one other advantages in carriage by sea which do not exist in the. case of carriage by land. Some honorable senator may point to the risks of sea carriage. There are no greater risks with an efficient mail service, well manned by Australian sailors and Australian officers, than there are in railway carriage.
– What about competition ?
– I shall deal with that question later. I wish first to make a comparison between the conditions involved in sea and land carriage. It would not be necessary to maintain an army of permanent-way men on vessels carrying goods, passengers and mails, and we should not have to pay a large amount of interest every year on money borrowed for the repurchase of the land on which to build lines. All those difficulties would be got rid of. We should have simply to invest our money in vessels that would be of service to the Commonwealth, and, if Senator de Largie’s amendment were carried, those vessels would be built with a view to conversion into cruisers for the protection of Australia if the necessity arose. They could also be used in conjunction with the railway system for the transport of troops from one part of the Commonwealth to the other. That would be a great advantage to Australia in times of difficulty. While establishing an efficient fortnightly mail service with Great Britain and other parts of. the world, we could also carry on our own mail service around the coast and between the mainland and the islands. Many of the vessels that would be required for that purpose could also be so fitted up as to make them of great service to Australia in the event of war. Senator Stewart wishes to know what would happen in the case of competition. But who would oppose a Government line of steamers trading between Australia and Great Britain? I suppose the answer would be, “ The companies already in existence.” If the day has arrived when even the greatest combination of millionaires in the world can be said to be more powerful than the nation itself, it is a very bad day for the people, not only of Australia, but of the rest of the world. No combination of that description could successfully compete with a State-owned line of steamers, and I will show why. Consider the matter first from a passenger point of view. If the State-owned steamers are properly constructed and arranged for the carriage of passengers, they will be as good as those of any other line, or ought to be if they are to be successful. Existing lines of steamers charge at present anything from £40 to£140 or£150 for a return ticket to Great Britain. If the Government line of steamers charged that amount and no more, and its vessels were as good and as safe as those of any other existing company, it would be just as likely to get passengertraffic as any other company would be. If the conditions were exactly the same, if everything was as good and not a bit better in the State-owned steamers, that wouldnecessarily be so. Suppose that opposition did spring up, and a combination of private companies said, “ We will knock this State business out altogetherby carrying passengers for nothing or for half the rate charged by the State line.” It would not matter whether the State line reduced its passage money or not. They could continue to charge the ‘ same fares, and privately.-owned steamers might carry passengers for nothing, or for half the fares charged by the State-owned boats. But who would be the gainers? Would it not be the people of Australia? Why, we would all be taking trips to the Old Country when we could get a return passage on one of these privately-owned boats for nothing, or for half the fares charged by the State-owned boats.
– And we should be destroying the greatest industry in the Empire.
– There need- be no destruction of any industry. Let all act fairly, and the competition would be fair. How can it be contended that, if a num”ber of steamers were owned by the Commonwealth, and plied backwards and forwards between Australia and Great Britain, carrying their proportion of freight and passengers, they would disorganize the greatest shipping industry in the world ? It could not do so unless some attempt were made to run them off the sea.
– Does not the honorable senator see that the Government could afford to take 2J per cent, or 3 per cent, for their money, whilst he and I would require 5 per cent.
– I first of all made the proposition that the fares and freights charged by the State-owned vessels would be the same as those charged by privately-owned vessels, and that they would enjoy a fair proportion of the trade.
– Either the scheme would fail, or it would destroy the greatest industry in the Empire.
– I do not see how it could. If we got our share of the trade for the State-owned vessels, they would pay, and that is all that we should require. If, on the other hand, there was a combination of private shipping companies against the State line of steamers, and they decided to carry passengers for nothing, or for half the fares charged by the Stateowned steamers, the result, as I have already said, would be that the people of the Commonwealth would be the gainers, and we should all be taking trips to the Old Country.
– The farmers would get their produce carried more cheaply.
– All the farmers and their wives would, if they could afford the time, make the trip to England. The State-owned . vessels would get no passengers, or only the patriotic few who would be prepared to pay from £40 to ^140 for a return passage. But the great mass of the population of the Commonwealth, getting passages by the privately-owned steamers for nothing, or at very low rates, would reap all the benefit, and they might then very well be asked to put their hands into their pockets to maintain such a State-owned service as might be necessary to continue the competition which brought that state of affairs about. But if the shipping companies, in oppositionto the State-owned steamers, acted fairly, and tried no tricks, they would still get their share of the trade to be done between Great Britain, the Continent, and other parts of the world with Australia, and would have nothing to complain about. The very ‘same may be said about freights. I suppose that, to carry on a fortnightly service, we should require eight or ten steamers, and if the private shipping companies acted fairly, the State-owned boats would get only their share of the business to be done. The freights would be the same, there would be no undercutting, and business would go on as usual, because, as every one must admit from the experience of the past, the increase in trade with Australia, in a very short time, would, certainly warrant the construction of eight or ten new steamers. If the State-owned steamers charged the same freights as were charged on privately-owned boats, they would get their fair proportion of the’ cargoes carried to and from Australia, and no more, and what, then, would private shipping companies have to complain about? But if the private companies determined to run the State-owned” line of steamers off the sea, how would they set about it? They would begin to carry the produce of the farmer, the miner, and the pastoralist from Australia to Great Britain for nothing, or for half the rates of freight charged by the State-owned steamers. What would be the. result of competition of that kind? The first result would be that the farmers, miners, and pastoralists of Australia would be the gainers? The people of Australia would benefit also. The shipping companies or combinations would very soon arrive at the conclusion that the best thing they could do would be to; act fairly and say nothing, to be content with a fair proportion of the trade, and allow the Commonwealth steamers to do their fair proportion of it. The people of Australia need not fear such competition in the reduction of passenger and goods rates, because they would themselves reap the benefit, and the greater the opposition to the State-owned line of steamers, the greater the benefit which the people owning those steamers would receive. The Australian people, getting the advantage of verylow fares and freights, could afford to put their hands into their pockets to maintain the State line of steamers that brought that condition of affairs about.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that the people should, on the one hand, get cheap fares and freights, and, on the other, subsidize Stateowned steamers?
– Certainly I do. We should have only eight or ten vessels competing against at least five or six times their number of privately-owned vessels. Our vessels would do about one-fifth of the trade, and we should, in the circumstances I have described, be getting four-fifths of it done at half rates. The honorable senator “ must see- that the greater that opposition was the greater would be the benefit reaped by the people of Australia, and the more they would save to enable them to subsidize their own vessels, if that were found to be necessary. I have pointed out also that if- the Stateowned steamers were allowed to obtain a fair proportion of the trade they would pay the Commonwealth, and the people of Australia would! reap the benefit in increased facilities of communication. With respect, then, to the fear of opposition, there is no occasion for alarm. We could beat any opposition, because we should be serving our ‘own people all the time. I think it is opportune now to ask the question : What is really wanted? Negotiations are in progress for a mail service with Great Britain. Every time the Commonwealth Government has to enter into these negotiations they will find it more difficult to carry them out unless some steps are taken in the direction indicated by this motion. On every occasion the subsidy asked for is increased, the bands are drawn tighter, and the hands closed more firmly against the interests of the people of Australia. We have to pay more, and if we are- looking for ‘a better service we must pav more still. I do not
see any reason why, in this respect, we should be always at the mercy of somebody else when we have the matter in our own hands. We have had to pay subsidies of £80,000, £120,000, and £125,000; it is probable that we shall now have to pay a subsidy of £170,000 or £180,000. Every time we renew the agreement we must pay more. But is that the way in which our business ought to be done? Are Australians to be squeezed for ever? Are they never, like the worm, to turn? Are we never to say, “ We will do something for ourselves “ ? Can we not find examples in other parts of the world? Are honorable senators not aware that the very same thing was tried in the United States of America in the early days? They had to negotiate with shipping companies for the carriage of mails and goods, and they did so until the price became so high that they considered it ruinous. Then they determined to do something on their own account. They did not ‘ start a State-owned line of steamers, as ‘ we propose in this motion. They adopted a far less effective method. They adopted the poundage system for the carriage of their mails, and for years they paid no subsidy to any line of mail steamers. Honorable senators must agree that if a country like the United States of America, which is at least as important as Australia, could get along for years without paying exorbitant mail subsidies, we could do the same thing. But we have a better proposal in this motion. We have here a proposal to do our own carrying of mails, passengers, perishable products, and products of every description. It is our duty to do it, and I hope the people of Australia will realize the position they are in. The question of the amount that would be necessary to carry out a service of this description has been inquired into, and it has been clearly proved that for between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 we could supply ourselves with a service equal to any we have had in the past, or to any we are likely to have in the near future. Why. then, should we not do it? Are we afraid that we shall be unable to pay the interest on the money, if we borrow it? I am sure that it will be admitted that if the” Commonwealth went into the money market to borrow for the construction of vessels as suggested in this motion, we should get all the capital we required as cheaply as could any private promoters in the world. What, then, is. there to be alarmed about? Our wealth is increasing so rapidly that if we do not find avenues for investment for ourselves much of it will leave the country for investment in other parts of the world. It may be said that that would not be a bad thing, because we should get a return in the way of interest. But it would be better still if the money were invested in our midst. Even the money required for the construction of these vessels or the purchase of them could, I am satisfied, be raised in Australia.
– I suggest that this eloquent speech ought to be listened to by a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I am much obliged to the honorable senator for the short breathing time that he has afforded me. The investment of Australian capital in a service of this kind would be greatly to the benefit of the Commonwealth at large. I should like to conclude with a word or two as to the necessity for a new line of steamers, such as is contemplated by the mover of the motion. Large numbers of our producers would begreatly benefited by the competition of eight or ten newvessels. Consider the case of our dairy farmers. We have not to look back far in the history of this country to ascertain the manner in which those unfortunate producers were treated by private enterprise. In Victoria alone they were penalized, on account of the excessive butter freights charged, to the extent of £27,000 a year. That is to say, they were robbed to that extent - it is a strong term, but I cannot think of a better one to express what I mean.
– They were overcharged.
– I am very much obliged to the honorable senator for the suggestion. They were overcharged to the extent of£27,000 a year in freight on butter alone, and then had to be very humble and submissive or they would not have been served at all. Those engaged in the dairy industry had to work long hours, and had to suffer great privations to enable them to rise above the verge of poverty. Why ? Simply because they were continuall y bled in the manner I have indicated. Other producers have been made to suffer in the same way. The growing of fruit of every description is extending all over Australia. Are not the representatives of the States bound to look after the interests of their people, who are dependent upon cheap and rapid facilities for getting their produce to market? There is another section of our producers that must be regarded as one of the most important in the community, as I am sure Senator McColl will admit. I refer to the wheat growers. Consider the way in which they have been treated, and then let us ask ourselves whether it is not our duty to do everything in our power to enable their produce to be carried cheaply and rapidly to the markets of the world. Our small stock graziers are also deeply interested, as well as those concerned in the mining industry. As long as private enterprise is allowed uncontrolled sway in connexion with the carriage of produce from Australia to the Old World our producers will always suffer. We, the members of the Socialist Party, want to do something for the benefit of the people of this country in relieving them from the tyranny which they have had to endure from private enterprise. It can be seen at once that the introduction of ten fresh vessels would have such an effect upon freights and fares in Australia thatit would be most beneficial to our industries. With all these considerations in view, I am satisfied that the Senate should have no hesitation in voting for the motion submitted by Senator Henderson.
– I should not perhaps, have risen had I not noticed the hearty approval which Senator Dobson gave this afternoon to the maxim that it is always wise to give effect to legislation which conduces to the “ greatest good of the greatest number.” Those who are favorable to the establishment of a line of steamers between Australia and’ the Mother Country are satisfied that that would be one of the best means of realizing the maxim of which Senator Dobson. approves. Of course, the motion will meet with strenuous opposition from many sections of the community, who inthe past have not only benefited from the extension of State activities, but have actually asked for their further extension, though they would resent the idea thatthey were favorable to socialistic enterprise. While they have been anxious to have the sphere of the State extended for their own benefit, they have been blind to the necessity of the extension of the sphere of the State for the benefit of the community at large. Australia is a vast continent, with a small population, and we must ever bear in mind the fact that we depend largely upon a close, swift, and cheap means of communication with Europe. This, therefore, is one of the principal questions to which we should direct attention. Australia is further removed from Europe than any other land -on this globe. We are entirely dependent for communication with the Motherland on lines of ocean craft which in the past have not done justice to Australia. It may be said : “ Is it not foolish to extend the functions of the State to the open ocean, where so much competition exists ?” Ko doubt that is an argument which will be relied upon by the opponents of this motion. It is quite true that on the broad ocean every one who has capital to invest is entitled to compete. It will be contended that that excessive competition would tend to bring about the failure of State enterprise earlier than would otherwise be the case. But I feel that we should consider not so much the direct beneficial results of this proposal as the great benefits which it would be the means of conferring upon the people of Australia. I hold that it will be a mistake if it is viewed from a purely balance-sheet stand-point. The only logical stand-point to take is to “ size up “ for ourselves the amount of good which it would confer in the form of cheaper freights and fares. .It is quite true that from a monetary stand-point the service might not be a success. But the reasons which have justified .most enterprises in the several States apply with equal force to this proposal to establish :a line of Commonwealth steamers. .1 have stated that those who are maintaining the ‘Communication ‘with the Old Country are not doing justice to the. people of Australia. The best means of proving that statement is by citing those who have :been in the past, and are to-day, inveterately opposed to any system of State expansion. For instance, we have in this city, as well as elsewhere, men who, on noticing how steam-ship and sailing-ship lines ‘have treated Australia, have placed on record their unqualified disapproval, and suggested a very effective means of coping with’ the evil. But before I refer to those authorities, “let me ask any honorable senator who is opposed to this proposal to point to a single instance where a State, after it has embarked upon -a system of State Socialism, has retraced its steps. I venture to say that not one opponent of this proposal can point to such an instance -either here or elsewhere. On the contrary, in regard to both State and muni- cipality, the tendency has been to gradually widen the sphere of influence, and to direct the collected energy and enterprise in many new directions. Who would be so vain or so foolish as to suggest a departure from the policy of State ownership of railways? The same remark applies to our telegraphic system. It also applies to our waterworks system, because in the past private enterprise was the sole means of supplying thi people in large centres with water. Where, at present, is there any inclination to revert to the old method of private enterprise to carry on and supervise such works? I venture to say that there is none. There is no such tendency exhibited in any country of which I have read or heard. I have mentioned that there is a type of citizen who, whenever he finds himself severely touched by the operations of a monopoly, instantly calls upon the State to step in and help him. In *the past we have had many such cases. For instance, when in Western Australia, the league of insurance companies oppressed the people on the gold-fields and elsewhere with heavy insurance rates, the argument of this class of men, as expressed by the Chambers of Commerce in Kalgoorlie was that the only way of coping with the situation -was for the State to establish .an insurance Department, and so relieve the people of a positive evil at the hands of a- private-enterprise ring. That is a small indication of how business men, w’ho usually are not found in a socialistic camp, or associating themselves in any aggressive way with Socialism, have been driven into the position of asking the State to come to their aid whenever they feel the pressure of the operations of private enterprise. lt is impossible to -ascertain how the shipping companies trading to Australia are -progressing. For reasons which I suppose are best known to themselves, some companies do not publish a balancesheet, and therefore we are not in a position :to (gauge accurately whether or not thev are profitable concerns. We are constantly , told by the prominent mouthpiece :of one of the companies, at least, that they are carrying on their business at a loss. Yet, in the face of that repeated declaration, which is made at every meeting of the shareholders of one of the largest steam-ship companies trading here, we find that it is continually adding to its fleet, and aiming at securing an increased ‘hold upon the trade of this country. Where they have obtained the capital up to the present time I have not discovered, but the presumption is in favour of the suspicion that it has been taken out of the profits which have been earned out of a trade which over and over again it has declared to be unprofitable. The fact remains that while the shipping companies have declared the Australian trade to be unprofitable, they have continued to add ship after ship to their fleets, and to increase their hold upon that trade, notwithstanding their declaration that it is unprofitable. Either what they say is misleading to the public, or the trade is profitable even Beyond what thev would like the pub- . lie to believe. Senator Dobson has expressed some solicitude for the great industries within the Empire. He has said that if Senator McGregor’s suggestion were adopted it would destroy the greatest industry in the Empire. I have no tenderness for an industry which has shown no regard for the” people of Australia. I certainly shall not extend any compassion or consideration to the shipping ring iri the Old Country, which has made the people of Australia practically beasts of burden. What has been happening? For a long time we have had a shipping ring connecting Australia with the Old Country, and it has been So well organized and managed that an outside competitor has not had the ghost of a show of entering into competition. What has been the result? For a. number of years a high range of freights and fares has been maintained, and the ring is now making a superhuman effort to see that the men it engages at low wages shall not form a union for the purpose of protecting themselves, although it constitutes the most perfect union of which we have heard in Australia. ‘ Brushing aside this foolish talk which is indulged in about the proposition of Senator Henderson being impracticable and socialistic, let us get clown to business, and ask ourselves what really is happening? During the last twenty years the people’ and producers of Australia have been taxed equal to 100 per cent, in fares and freights simply by reason of the existence of the shipping’ ring, and the impossibility of any shipping company entering into competition. That is a position of affairs which should be seriously considered. It should arrest the attention of every person who desires that that burden shall no longer be borne by the people of Australia. The question is : Are we likely to meet with more favorable consideration from the shipping com- panies in the future than we have received in the past? The probability, nay, the certainty, is that we shall be called upon to bear a much heavier burden than has been borne. Freights have been as low as £3 ros., and as high as £7 ios., a ton, but lately there has been a threat to raise the freight on perishable products to £5. a ton. How to grapple with this greatest of problems which present themselves to the people of Australia to-day is a very serious question. As I have said, the shipping ring has been charging extortionate freights and fares during the last twenty years. Yet during that time the cost of working the steamers and sailing ships has fallen from 25- to 50 per cent. While on the one hand we have had an increase in freights and fares, .on the other hand we have had a decrease in the working expenses of steamers and sailing ships. If the freights of twenty years ago were payable, the present freights must be payable by more than one hundred-fold. As regards working expenses, what is the position ? According to -the report of the Navigation Commission, it has been found that from 1854 to 1900 the number of men who have been engaged on steamers per 100 tons burden has been reduced from 7.69 in 1854 in varying gradations to 2.27 in 1900. In other words, while it was necessary, in 1854, to have seven and a-half men,’ so to speak, to work a steamer of 100 tons burden, that number has been reduced to two and a-quarter men in 1900. During the period with which we ‘are most concerned - that is, from 1880 to 1900, when the increase in freights and fares took place - the reduction in the working of steam-ships on this basis has been from 2.95 men per 100 tons burden to 2.27 men, being equal to 25 per cent. I have referred to that particular period in order to direct attention to what was happening in the case of freights and fares on sailing ships, which carry a lot of our produce, and the greater portion, of our wool clip, to the Old Country, and also a very great proportion of our general trade. There has been a considerable reduction effected in the cost of working that line of traffic. In sailing ships, from 1854 to 1900, the average number of men employed per 100 tons decreased from 3.97 to 1,-62. In the particular twenty years period, to which I will later refer for the purpose of making a comparison of freights and fares, the average number of men employed on sailing ships per 100 tons decreased from 2. 32 to 1.62, or equivalent to 50 per cent. Consequently, during the twenty years to which I am now going to direct attention, there was in steam-ship lines a reduction of 25 per cent, in the labour employed, and of 50 per cent, in sailing ships.- That indicates in some degree the reduction of expenditure on both classes of craft. What has happened during the same period in the matter of freights and fares so far as Australia is concerned? I shall quote no less an authority than the late Mr. Robert Reid, who was President of the Melbourne Chamber’ of Commerce for the year 1 900-1, and at that time a member of the Legislative Council of Victoria. In his inaugural address to the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, he dealt with the question of the freights and fares then and previously obtaining between Australia and other countries. He said, as reported in the annual report of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce -
With all these three great countries -
He referred to the United States, Germany, and France - regular lines of steamers have been established, and the rates of freight paid are without exception lower than those from Great Britain. So severe was the competition in freight from the United States to Australia some time ago that 8s. 6d. and 10s. per ton of 40 cubic feet was. accepted, compared with 47s. 6d. and 60s. from ports in Great Britain, and even now, although the lines of English-owned steamers trade regularly with Australia from New York, their freights are as a- rule half those from English ports, being 20s. to 30s. per ton from New York, and 40s. to 70s. from Great Britain.
Honorable senators -will remark the significant difference between the freights on goods brought from New York to Australia and on those brought from the Old Country to Australia -
So clever are the ring or “ conference “ of shipping brokers in London that for over twenty years they have obtained 20s. per ton more freight than was usual prior to twenty years ago, and in consequence they have amassed enormous wealth with which to fight opposition from any quarter whatsoever. Their power, if unchecked, is a serious menace to the trade of the Empire, for securing as they do all the British trade at higher rates, they arrange for the exclusion of competition with the foreign lines, and in consequence drive a- large portion of our legitimate trade into foreign countries.
The latter part of that quotation must give food for serious thought to those who believe in the principles of free-trade, and also to those who advocate making strongerthe connexion between Australia and the Mother Country. We have there the testimony of the late Mr. Robert Reid that through the operation of the shipping companies much of our trade is diverted from Great Britain to other countries. But that is not the worst aspect of the affair. The crushing feature of it is that, according to Mr. Reid, the (shipping ring had been charging for twenty years 20s. per ton more than was usual prior to 1880, although during that period, as I have shown from the report of the Navigation Commission, they have enjoyed a reduction of from 25 to 50 per cent, in the cost of working their steam and sailing ships.
– Did Mr. Reid recommend any course of action?
– Not that I am aware of, although I have a recollection of seeing in the press a report that he recommended State action in the matter. That, however, does not appear in the report of his inaugural address to the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce in 1900-1. He also stated -
The enormous and phenomenal growth of foreign shipping is the net result of these tactics, and it will continue to extend until some check is administered to the rapacity of our clever, but somewhat short-sighted, race of shipping brokers. Every produce in Australia is taxed by these high rates of freight, as it is much beyond what it should be on such articles of export as butter, meat, and fruit.
– Then the brokers or middlemen are really more the cause of the increased freights than the ship-owners are?
– As another very important witness will show, the brokers have been hand in glove with the ship-owners, and it is very hard to make a distinction between the two. But it is plain that the public of Australia are fleeced very substantially. I have here the testimony- of another authority^ who cannot be called a Socialist or a sympathiser with Socialism, and upon whose word I am sure that our anti-Socialist friends in this Chamber will throw no doubt. I refer to Sir Malcolm McEacharn, who was President of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce in the year 1 901-2. This question was agitating the Chamber of Commerce about that time, in consequence of a threat by Pierpont Morgan to extend the operations of his trust to Australia. That threat, coupled with the severity of the treatment of the people of Australia by the Shipping Combine, spurred Mr. Reid and Sir Malcolm McEacharn to give expression to their views. The latter, in his inaugural address, said-
The enormous capital already invested for the purpose of securing control of the British and
Continental lines of steamers indicates the grave danger in front to the carrying trade of the world.
Therefore, those who say that there is no snapping ring in the Old Country, find: themselves in opposition to Sir Malcolm McEacharn -
It may be said that under our flag of freedom these combinations -cannot exist, but at the present time the control of the shipping from Great Britain to Australia is virtually in the hands of the shipping .ring, although of much more modest pretensions, and should at any future time trusts or combinations be formed in the Australian trade it might be necessary to introduce legislation to make such schemes illegal.
– That speech was made some time ago.
– The conditions that prevailed then prevail to-day- in a worse degree-
This course has been .adopted-
He was referring to the tactics of the Shipping Combine - for many years by the’ Calcutta and Bombay Indian-native merchants for all goods shipped from Liverpool to Manchester, and average about 2 is. 6d. per ton. While twenty years ago it was considered by ship-owners that 27s. 6d. was a fair thing from Great Britain to Australia, since the conference or combination of brokers, who simply limit the number of ships placed on the berth, they have by a cunning system of rebates maintained a- freight Tate which has averaged 47s. 6d. for the past twenty years.
Therefore Mr. Reid told, us that, before 18S0, the rates to this country were 20s. per ton, and had been increased by 1900 to 40s., while in the following . year Sir Malcolm McEacharn asserted that through the ingenuity of the shipping ring in the Old Country, freights were maintained at 47s. 6d. per ton. It is the safest of all assumptions that when the shipping ring benefit by the outward trade from the Old Country to the enormous extent shown by those two witnesses, they also benefit by the homeward trade, and we can say from our own knowledge, in view of the recent increase in our exports of perishable products, that they will continue to enjoy in an increasing degree the advantages which their combination is alone capable of conferring upon them. In the meantime, the people of Australia are
Fullering, and are the prey of the London shipping ring. Sir Malcolm McEacharn also stated that - -
One- of the dominating factors in keeping up freight on our produce is the fact, that the large firms who enter upon these contracts are hand in glove with the shipping rings and conferences of Great Britain.
That shows the relations of the brokers and the shipping companies -
One great and favorable position that we occupy as against these combinations is that the railways are in the hands of the Governments - r
He acknowledges the virtues of Socialism- managed for and on behalf of the people generally, and consequently there is no possibility of pools or trusts being established to co-operate with these shipping combinations; and I trust that we shall never fall into the error of leasing our railways to capitalists who will have nointerest in carrying produce at the lowest possible freight.
The best is to come. He urges as a remedy for the whole trouble the following
If these combinations are to increase and grownothing will save us from disaster but the ownership, to a certain extent, by the Government of large lines of steamers that will act as- a bridge from Australia to the Northern Hemisphere. .
Therefore, with that tiny qualification, we find Sir Malcolm McEacharn side by side with Senator McGregor in advocating the common-sense policy of founding a States owned line of steamers between Australia and the Old Country. I am not quoting: any member of the Labour or Socialist party. I am rather directing attention te* the views expressed by those who are known to have long held fixed and inveterate opinions as to the way enterprises should be conducted, and whose opposition, if not antipathy, to every form of State enterprise is notorious. Those two gentlemen, Sir Malcolm McEacharn and Mr. Reid, said that if this intolerable condition of affairs continued, the only way out of the difficulty - the only road out of the wood - was the formation of a direct line of State-owned mail steamers between Australia and the Old World. I wish to cite, before concluding, an instance of the success of State enterprise in the open market. The manufacture of tobacco is a State monopoly in Austria,- and yet that Austrian-made article finds a profitable sale in Germany, where industrial activity is forced to its utmost limit. It crosses the border, and competes successfully in Germany with the products of private enterprise. That is a forcible example of State activity competing against, if not thrusting aside, other forms of competition. We should not believe that, if we embark upon the enterprise advocated in this motion, it will end in failure,, because, in the instance to which I have referred, it is- shown that tobacco manufactured, in Austria, by the Sta.te, though ^exposed to the full blast of competition, <San hold its own in that very active commercial centre, the German Empire. I come now to -the financing of the project. The estimate of the cost given in the report oi the Commission is ,£3,300,000 odd, which, divided between the six Federated States, would amount to something over ^500,000 each. That would not be :a great amount for each State to risk in embarking on this experiment, when we remember the way in which their people have had to suffer in the past, and that every form of enterprise, and every unit in the community in every grade and -walk of life, have had to bear their share of the extra impost due to the high freights maintained by the shipping ring controlling trade between Australia and the Old Country. I think that the experiment -would be well worth the amount it is estimated to cost, if its effect were only to bring about a reasonable degree of competition, which would place the people of Australia on a more equitable footing with others in the markets of the Old Country. I am supporting the motion in the belief that the amount the experiment is estimated to cost would be well expended when the opportune time arrives. I - admit -.that I see no prospect of our embarking upon it immediately, but there is certainly no reason why the experiment should be indefinitely postponed, or for believing that it would not be possible to finance it with loan money. We certainly have every justification for making the experiment, and there is no reason why we should continue indefinitely to submit to the enormous imposts levied by the shipping ring, under whose operations we have been enjoying for years the luxury of paying £1 per ton more in freights, than we should have been called upon to pay.
Debate (on motion by Senator Best) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10. 19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 October 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1907/19071031_senate_3_41/>.