8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
-Iaskthe Minister for Defence, first, whether his attention has been directed to the press reports regarding the very unsatisfactory conditions which obtain on board the transport Friedrichsruhe; and, secondly, whether he will cause an inquiry to be held with the object of punishing those who are responsible for those conditions if. such reports prove true?
– My attention was directed to this matter in the first place by areport from our complaints officer at Fremantle. Subsequently, I read the press reports dealing with it. But immediately upon receiving the report of the complaints officer at Fremantle I instructed that upon the arrival of the vessel in Melbourne an inquiry should be held by a senior and reliable officer. My reason for doing this is that a Court of Inquiry usually takes such a long time to investigate complaints, and by the time it has completed . its labours it is too late to do anything effective.We have had experience of that sort of thing several times. I have, therefore, adopted the course* which I have outlined, so as to insure immediate action.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1020, No. 33, No. 34, No. 35.
Excise Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 32.
Postmaster-General’s Department: Ninth Annual Report, 1918-1919.
War Service Homes Act. - Land acquired for War Service Homes purposes at Bankstown, New South Wales (two notifications).
– I have to announce to the Senate that I have received a letter from Lady Barton, conveying the heartfelt thanks and deep appreciation of herself and family for the action of the Senate in passing a motion of condolence with them upon the occasion of the death of the late Sir Edmund Barton. The reply will be embodied in the records of the Senate.
Relief for Sufferers
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
It is regretted that the state of Federal finance makes it impossible for the Commonwealth Government to grant relief to producers suffering from the effects of cyclones. In any case, to give relief to those who suffered from cyclones without relieving those who suffered very heavily from the disastrous drought would be undesirable and inequitable.
Recount of Votes on Proportional. Representation Principle.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
In view of the possibility of further consideration being given to electoral and other reforms for the Semite, will the Government give instructions for the re-counting of the votes cast for this Chamber at the last election upon the proportional representation principle in order to furnish an object lesson for the guidance of Parliament in considering the question?
SenatorRUSSELL- The answer to the honorable senator’s question reads -
It is a legal requirement that at the conclusion of the scrutiny all ballot-papers used in’ a Senate election shall be sealed up by each Divisional Returning Officer concerned, and held by him in safe custody pending their ultimate destruction by direction of the Chief Electoral Officer, acting under the authority of the law.
The parcels containing ballot-papers cannot lawfullybe opened after the declaration of the poll except by an order of the Court of Disputed Returns in connexion with proceedings before the Court.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
SenatorRUSSELL. - The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
Fifty-two clauses and two schedules were proclaimed to come into operation from the 2nd March, 1920. It has been decided to further postpone the operation of the fifty-two clauses and two schedules. No portion of the Act is now actually in operation.
Dr. Gilruth’s Term of Office
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
What was the date of the expiration of Dr. Gilruth’s term of office as Administrator of the Northern Territory?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is - 30th November, 1919.
Application to Natives of British India
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has the Government yet considered the matter of extending to the natives of British India residing in the Commonwealth who possess the. necessary qualifications, the benefits of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Acts, by passing the amendment of existing legislation necessary to this being effected?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The matter is now under consideration.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to make provision for the repatriation of Australian soldiers and for other purposes.
Debate resumed from 3rd March (videpage 108), on motion by Senator Lynch -
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreedto : -
ToHis Excellency the Governor-General.
May it Pleaseyour Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– It is not my intention to offer any apology for making a few remarks upon the motion1 for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, although I have often noticed that the view is entertained by the press and the public that any such discussion is merely a waste of time. I hold that if honorable senators make comments upon the Government (programme before it has been crystallized into Bills, a saving of time will be effected, because, as Senator Millen remarked the other day, when once a measure has been submitted for our consideration it is very difficult to alter it. I contend, therefore, that if Ministersare previously informed of the direction which criticism of their programme is likely to take, that knowledge is calculated to expedite the transaction of public business. In addition, it is only reasonable to assume that there is some intelligence to be found, even amongst the rank and file of this Chamber, and suggestions of value to the country and the Ministry may easily be forthcoming from private members.
I congratulate you,, sir, upon your return here after a most arduous campaign, with a six-years’ tenure ahead of you. At the same time, I am very sorry that we are about to lose some of our friends opposite. Although I differ from them on political questions, I am of opinion that we have a very good Opposition here. I shall he especially sorry to part from my honorable” friend Senator Grant, who has so consistently put forward advanced’ ideas on land questions, but has done so in such a kindly way that nobody could take offence. . How the Opposition will carry on in this Chamber after 30th June next it is difficult to say.
We all recognise what a power of strength Senator ‘Gardiner is, and we have a lively recollection of the occasion upon which he spoke for some eleven hours at a stretch. The only thing to which I take exception in that honorable senator’s remarks upon the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, is the tone of his repeated references to Bolshevism. He regards Bolshevism merely as the rule of the majority. But the very first thing that the Bolshevists did when they attained power was to disband the Russian Parliament, which represented a majority of the Russian people. In my opinion, it is just as bad to -have an autocracy of the proletariat as it is to have an autocracy of the Czar and of the aristocracy. From what I have been able to gather, the atrocities which have been committed under the rule of Bolshevism, during the past few years, have been far greater than those committed under the rule of Czardom “ during centuries. In Australia we do not want that class of rule. We desire democratic rule. As bearing upon this question, I will read certain statements by Maxim Gorky, the famous Russian author. In a recent magazine article, he says -
The revolution and Bolshevik rule in Russia has not been followed by intellectual regeneration. The new rulers are as brutal as their predecessors, and Bolshevist rule means the vivisection of human beings and great workers.
– According to the cables in this morning’s newspapers, the Bolshevists are killing all the professors there.
– Yes: How they are going to educate the people I do not know. In Australia, however, we ha.ve an educated people, and, in my opinion, they will never contemplate a return to an autocracy, either of the aristocracy or of the proletariat.
I am still of opinion that it is something in the nature of an anomaly, that we should have practically the same franchise for this Senate as obtains for the other branch of the Legislature. In such circumstances it is difficult to explain to the people why there should be two Houses of this Parliament. I note that our Labour friends wish to abolish the Senate-
– And all the State Parliaments as well.
– I do not think that that idea will ever catch on with the people. I have the temerity to suggest that the franchise for the Senate ought to be somewhat different from that of the House of Representatives. Particularly is this necessary in Victoria, where two Parliaments meet, and where the feeling is growing that our parliamentary expenditure must be reduced. The suggestion I desire to make may not be favorably considered by the Conservative section of the community, but I think it is one that will be generally acceptable in a democratic country. One of- the planks in the platform of the Labour party is a reduction in the age of voters, both male and female, to eighteen, and my suggestion is that children should be allowed a vote through their parents, which, in effect, is merely carrying out the principle advocated by the Labour party. I do not suggest that every child should be entitled to a vote, but that parents supporting families should each be entitled to an extra vote. Such a provision in our electoral system would have a very steadying effect. I believe that the people of Australia generally regard the bi-cameral system favorably, and this is supported by the decision of the people in Queensland, when a referendum was taken on the abolition of the Upper House in that State.
– There is no chance of abolishing it now.
– No. I am surprised that Labour people in a democratic State such as Queensland have not taken steps in the’ direction I have suggested by providing that married people maintaining children should be entitled to extra voting power. I am indebted to Senator Keating for courteously translating from the French journal Le Petit Parisien, the report of a debate in the French Chamber on this question. When the first vote waa taken, 200 out of 419 supported the proposal, and probably the next time it is submitted it will be passed. In Belgium the principle has been recognised to some extent, and I believe that if its provisions were clearly placed before the electors of Australia it would be universally supported. M. Landry, who brought this matter forward, said -
Children electors! Is it a joke? What! The newly born to take part in the ballots! Exactly. Have they not civil rights?1 Can they not own, inherit, sell? Why have they not political rights? Why should they not take part under the same conditions as other members of the nation in the making of the laws to which they are subject?
Of course there is no question of making children vote in person. For the exercise of political rights recognised in them, just as for the exercise of their civil rights, they would be represented by the father, mother, or guardian.
– But there the women have not the franchise.
– Perhaps not. My idea would be to give the mother and father of children each an extra vote.
– Not an extra vote for each child?
– No. I think it would be difficult to differentiate in that way. The report continues -
But then,- it will be asked, a single elector, such as the father of a family, will be able to use several suffrages? Undoubtedly; it is then a system of plural voting? Not at all. One may speak of plural voting when a citizen is scon casting two or several votes by reason of his fortune or his education.’ The plural vote is the negation of the principle of equality, which is at the root of our democratic institutions. The family vote, which gives the suffrage to every French person of whatever sex or age is essentially equality. It actualizes that universal suffrage which we think we have, but which we are very far from possessing.
That children represented by those who have the charge of their upbringing should participate in electoral matters is by no means an absurdity. There is nothing in it out of accord with the fundamental principles which govern the society in which we live. The family vote flows from those principles if one chooses to properly understand them. It might even be said that the rights of children in society should be, in one sense, regarded as superior to those of adults. The child having before him the whole of a long career to tra verse, is he not interested in the proper procedure of public affairs more than is the old man approaching the decline of his days, and who to-morrow will descend to the tomb? Is lie not, if one may so say it, a more important element in the nation?
It remains to regard the political problems from the point of view of the philosopher. But when one has to pronounce upon a reform, it is, above all, its practical consequences that should be regarded. The institution of the family vote, it seems, could have none but good.
The elected to-day hold their commission from an electoral body composed, for the greater part of celibates, or of men who have not given to France the number of children necessary for its endurance. It is amongst such classes of citizens that one has the least chance of seeing predominate care for the permanent interests of the homeland (patrie). Citizens, on the contrary, who have charge of a large family will be disposed to think of the future of the country, upon which depends that of their children. Can any one hold any doubt on this point? What will not be debated, at least, is that, with the family vote, questions interesting families will be treated by the public powers in a spirit quite different from that which prevails at present. In this order of ideas, what trouble has there not been, even to this day, to get from Parliament and the Administration measures only too modest, which have but feebly redressed the injustices overwhelming families.
That is the case here, even in a more pronounced degree than in France.
– I understand the honorable senator’s argument rests upon the presence and rights of children. It does not depend upon the occurrence of marriage.
– That is so. It would be difficult to arrange as to how many children should carry a vote. If the Minister for Repatriation has any suggestions to offer in this connexion, they will -be very welcome. The report goes on -
When the family vote assures them preponderance in electoral matters, they will have, without any trouble, the redress and the consideration to which they are compelled to lay claim. And a superior dignity conferred upon the heads of numerous families will do more than all else to upset detestable prejudice which exists in France against fecundity.
Let us remember that it is the stationary condition of our population which, giving our enemies numerical superiority, encouraged them to let loose war. Let us reflect that this war will have lost France, since 1914, as well by the deaths it has caused as by the decline of births, which will result, more than 3,000,000 inhabitants before the end of this year. Our country rushes to ruin and to destruction if we do not destroy the canker which eats into it. Against that canker the family vote is the most efficacious remedy, as well by its direct consequences as also in providing means of obtaining measures to which recourse is equally” necessary. Is public opinion insufficiently prepared to welcome this reform? Better enlightened, it will understand soon how it is necessary, and also how important it is to the very safety of France.
In Australia we are experiencing many of the difficulties that are -now confronting France, and more particularly in the matter of a declining birth-rate. During the war 60,000 of our best men lost their lives, and it should be our duty and desire to facilitate marriage, and thus increase the number of our native-born. We should also give more consideration to married people, who have greater responsibilities than single ones.
– Married people have all the money.
– Well, the single ones must spend it.
– Union is strength, and married couples have more resources than single people.
– The honorable senator must have “ gone the pace “ before he was married.
– If I did, I had many comrades.
– Under existing legislation, the basic wage paid to a married man is the same as that paid to a single workman, who may not have any dependants. If we are to continue asking our virile male population to marry, greater consideration in the matter of wages will have to be shown them if ‘they follow our advice. Under existing conditions, a single man is paid as much as a married mau who has to support a wife and three children, and that is certainly a most extraordinary anomaly. It has been said that if the single man is paid a lower rate than the married worker, a section of employers would engage the cheaper class of labour, to the detriment of tie married . Whether that would be the case or not, I cannot say, but such an assertion has been made. I cannot understand how married people can be more affluent than single ones, as Senator Bakhap has suggested. It should’ be the endeavour of the Government to place every facility in the way of people desiring to marry, so that we can have a large increase in our native-born population, which, after all, is our best national asset.
I have brought this matter forward for the consideration of the Government, and trust that something in the direction I have indicated will be done at an early date. It is an anomaly to have two Houses elected practically on the same franchise, and if our electoral law were amended somewhat on the lines I have indicated, it might have a steadying effect, and bo in the true interests of the welfare of the Commonwealth .
May I refer briefly to the question of finance. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has stated that the finances of the country are to be fully investigated. Very shortly we shall have a Supply Bill before us, when we trust the Government will give us every opportunity of dealing most carefully with all its provisions. The Estimates of Expenditure for the next financial year will demand close and wise consideration. In the Prime Minister’s speech to the electors, he stated -
A huge burden of debt rests upon us, and it will require all the prudence and caution of high statesmanship to deal with the problem. Until the gradual liquidation of our war indebtedness, production and industry must sustain heavy imposts. The Government stresses the great and growing importance of finance, and asks the cheerful co-operation of the people in its treatment of the problem.
It is indeed a problem when we remember that Australia with its handful of people owes now £718,322,726. Although, a great deal of that is State debt, the Commonwealth I suppose owes quite £350,000,000, and before very long, with the money required to settle our soldiers and for the gratuity, . it will be something like £400,000,000. That in itself makes one think that we ought to handle our financial affairs in ‘as economical a way as we can. A Commission appointed by the Government, and called the Economies Commission, has made a great many valuable suggestions. , Senator Lynch, said that its suggestions were too vague, but it should be remembered that its members could not possibly go into the whole of -the details at the time at their disposal. .Being business men, they selected several men from the Government Service to assist them in going into the details. These were Mr. Templeton, Mr. Lawson, Mr. Broad, and Mr. Griffiths. They have been into the various details very thoroughly, and are making various recommendations. If the Commission has not the time to carryout its suggestions, a Committee ought to be appointed for the purpose. In this report we have concrete suggestions for economy with efficiency, and I think the Government are dealing with some of them now. I should like to see the Commission given power to continue and to see that effect is given to its recommendations, because Ministers in charge of Departments have an enormous amount of work to do, and would welcome a body of that sort. I understand that the suggestions made in the Commission’s report mean a saving of about £3,000,000 a year. That is always something, although we are becoming used to talking in millions. I remember how the late Lord Forrest staggered everybody with his celebrated question, “What is a million?” Nowadays a million is nothing. We go in for a loan of forty odd million pounds. I would direct special attention to the following statement in the report regarding the record and correspondence work of the mail branch of the Sydney General Post Officer-
Paper work, involving, in many instances, voluminous reports and returns, and further reports and returns, is an absolute disease in the General Post Office, Sydney.
That I take to be a dangerous disease which needs to be checked at once. I should like the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) to appoint a small Committee, preferably of business men, to help him to go unto this matter. His is one of the great spending Departments, although fortunately of late it has produced more revenue than it has spent, but if we are going to be liberal to the country districts, as I hope we are, we shall have to spend more money in that direction, so that we shall soon have a deficit again on the operations of the Department, if care is not taken. The report continues -
If an officer had set out with the deliberate intention of creating unnecessary work and positions for employees of the Service, he could not have devised a system more in keeping with such ideas than the system now in operation. I am perfectly satisfied that no business institution could possibly maintain such a grotesquely absurd system without .having at an early date to seek refuge in the Bankruptcy Court.
That is by no means the sort of refuge that we want to seek. The passage I have quoted is a tremendously strong indictment, and I should like to know from the Postmaster-General whether the gentleman who devised that system still remains in the Post Office. He should certainly have been found something else to do by now. I hope that in these directions the promises of the Government are going to bear fruit.
Naturally during the war it was impossible to look into these details, and we sympathized with Ministers. They fell into ill-health from the vast amount of work they had to do, as it was. As the Prime Minister put it, “A Democracy is not a good machine for a war,” so he had to become an autocrat, which was rather a congenial occupation for him. At any rate, he did it very well. We are proud of the way in which he carried things through in many directions; but» now we want to get back to our old parliamentary system. We’ want to scrutinize the Estimates, and I feel sure the Ministry are going to give us an opportunity to do so. I shall be glad if we could induce the Leader of the Senate (Senator Millen) to “ name the day,” although that’ is always difficult, so that we may go through our Estimates in a really intelligent way. Even though the money is spent, we may make suggestions to Ministers to prevent much of the expenditure recurring next year. I suppose Senator Millen is not yet in a position to name the actual day, but no doubt it will be before long. Last session we dealt with the Estimates for about two hours, and then the money was pretty well all spent, so that our suggestions for economy were perfectly futile. We wish to get back now to our old system. Parliament must have charge of the finances, and we must set about curtailing our expenditure so that we may carry on without undue suffering to the whole community.
– We rather want to find means to increase our income.
-That is a very difficult thing to do, with a drought upon us. Seven million sheep have actually died in New South Wales up to the end of last year, and about 3,000,000 have gone since, so that, I am sorry to say, our production is L _d to fall off.
An inquiry is now being conducted into the question of the basic wage. The Commission, as it is now formed, is not on right lines. Mr. Justice Higgins asked for a thorough and expert inquiry into the basic wage. We have now a Commission, with Mr. Piddington as chairman, appointed by the Government, three members appointed by the employers’ bodies, that is, the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Manufactures, and the Employers’ Federations all over Australia, and three members appointed by the industrial unions. We predicted, and our prediction is coming true, that it would become a debating society.
– It is a great deal worse.
– Yes ; I am afraid it is inflaming the passions of both employers and employees - the very thing which we are trying to avoid.
– It is mighty near a competition in romance.
SenatorFAIRBAIRN. - Yes. The employees are bringing forward what they would like to have; but they do not regard the possibilities of the case. I suppose all honorable senators saw that extraordinary list of necessities published in the press on the 27th of last month. It comes to £40s. 9d. per week for food alone. I understand that there is also nearly £ 1 a week for housing, and over £2 a week for clothes. We have made it up and find that the basic wage, according to our Labour friends, actually comes to nearly £10 a week. The present basic wage is, I think, between £3 and £4. An increase to £10 would be absolutely impossible for Australia to contemplate.
– What has been the basic wage of the squatter?
– We are not dealing with that question. Many of the squatters have had no basic wage at all.
– They have been in clover.
– I can assure the honorable senator that many of the squatters in New South Wales are at present in a state of insolvency. That is a very unkind remark for my honorable friend to make. I have heard many sneers from him before on this question.
– Some Queensland squatters are not very flourishing.
– No; and some of the New South Wales men are actually perishing. I have lent men bags of flour to carry on with many a time before now. I quite concur with SenatorGuthrie that if we could give our workers £10 a week, we should do so. I should be most delighted to do it. The , employers want to approach this matter in a humanitarian way, and give the employees the best possible wage and the best surroundings, so that they can rear their families in ease and comfort ; but we certainly cannot pay a wage of £10 a week. It was shown at the Commission which sat recently in New South Wales that an increase of only1s. a week meant no less than £2,500,000 a year to the workers of Australia. An increase of the basic wage from its present figure up to £10 a week would mean no less than’ £350,000,000. The total production of Australia, including manufactures and agricultural and pastoral products, is worth only £283,000,000. A proposition of that sort, therefore, reduces itself to an impossibility.
– Yet £2,250,000 of excess war-time profits were taken by the Government.
– That was for two years. Canada, which was in a fortunate position, collected no less than £15,000,000 every year; but Canada’s income tax amounts to only £2,000,000 a year, whereas the State and Federal income taxes in Australia total £13,000,000 a year. The extra war-time profits tax came from money made by some people in excess of what they made before the war. I was amazed that the amount was so small. It is plain that certain individuals made more during the war than they did before; and it was quite right that they should pay a war-time profits tax of 50 per cent. for the first year, and 75 per cent. in the second and third years. I have no objection to that. They made extra profits, and did not want to bleed the country in time of war. I do not think anybody grumbled very much about the tax, although there have been some strange cases of hardship under it.
Mr. William Brooks, M.L.C., of Sydney, who was on the Committee appointed by the New South Wales Legislative Council to inquire into the Maintenance of Children Bill, showed that the average number of children to married workers was 1.8, with an average of 1.2 for adult male workers. Forty per cent. of the workers were unmarried, and 20 per cent. of the married workers had no dependent children. Therefore, in fixing the basic wage for the needs of a family of three dependent children’, they were providing for two children who did not exist. That is our theoretical objection to the fixing of a basic wage for a man, his wife, and three children. Mr. Brooks stated further -
Every shilling increase per week on the basic wage meant £2,500,000 per annum, and that showed the necessity for full information. . . . The Chairman of the Commission (Mr. Piddington) had laid it down that he would take evidence as to the actual cost of living of any class covered by the Arbitration Act.
There is another matter we object to. The Prime Minister’s original instructions were that the Commission’ should not deal with any but the lowest class of labour. The intention was to ascertain how much would keep a man, his wife, and three children in decency and comfort, but Mr. Piddington intends to inquire into every class of labour that is represented before the Commission. This will prolong the inquiry to a very great extent, and cost an enormous sum of money. I do not know how our labour friends are standing the strain, but the employers are feeling it keenly, and it is likely the inquiry will go on for twelve months at least.
– It would not mat ter if we obtained a decent report.
-That is so, but the constitution “of the Commission, with representatives of the employees on one side making heavy demands, and employers on the other side endeavouring to keep the amounts down, seems to preclude any hope in that direction. I have no hesitation in saying that speaking generally, the employers wish to deal with employees in a humanitarian manner, and in connexion with this inquiry we want the truth, and not grotesque statements such as have been brought before the Commission.
– If the inquiry lasts for twelve months, much of the information will be out-of-date.
– That is so, because probably the prices of commodities will have risen to such an extent. My greatest objection is to the constitution: of the Commission. What was wanted was a man like the present Chair man, assisted by Mr. Knibbs and another statistician. There would not then be any friction between representatives of the employers and employees. It is the wish of the Arbitration Court that the basic wage be fixed, because this would save a lot of the time now occupied In hearing complaints. The Court could then fix a higher remuneration for skilled or dangerous employment.
– Is that not what Mr. Justice Higgins has asked for?
– Yes, I have already said so. Mr. Justice Higgins has asked for an expert committee- not a committee composed of employers and employees - to determine this important matter. And this is what the Prime Minister promised during his electioneering campaign. He said -
We have long ago adopted in Australia the principle of compulsory arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes and of the minimum wage. When I speak of the minimum wage, I speak, of course, only of a living wage - a wage’ for unskilled and light labour, upon which is to be superimposed extra remuneration for skill and the arduous nature of the work.
Mr. Piddington does not realize the trouble that is ahead of him. We were told that the Commission would last for about six weeks, but the inquiry has been proceeding for over three months now, and the Commission is not half way through theVictorian evidence, so it is quite likely that the inquiry will take fully twelve months. I hope that some good will come out of the inquiry. As employers, we are doing the best we can to carry on, but we have a lot of trouble to find the money and get the evidence together, pay counsel, and meet other expenditure not covered by the amount provided by the Government.
I trust that the Government will bring down some well-thought-out scheme to improve the procedure in the Arbitration Court, because we are pledged to the system of compulsory arbitration, though often I wonder if people understand what it means.
– The Commonwealth Arbitration Court can only deal with inter-State disputes.
– But nearly every dispute of late has become inter state in character. It is important that we should clearly define the functions of the Commonwealth Arbitration. Court in relation to the State tribunals, and I trust that some good will come out of the proposed Convention on the amendment of the Constitution. At present there is very serious overlapping and consequent friction. When the last shearers’ award was made by Mr Justice Higgins the shearers in Queensland immediately approached the State Court, and obtained a variation of the award. This procedure is quite ridiculous. There should be but one authority. ‘ We must endeavour to get rid of all this industrial disturbance that is retarding our ‘progress. We cannot have compulsory arbitration and the strike weapon too. Any amendment of the Act should I think, provide for the adequate punishment of industrial crime, because it is a crime’ to inflict the terrible hardships of a strike upon innocent people. Senator Bakhap pointed out the other day that the recent dispute with the marine engineers was disastrous in its effects upon the people of Tasmania. We do not, of course, want to put men in gaol for striking, but in the amendment of our arbitration law we should, I think, provide a penalty for any breach of that law in just the same way as penalties are imposed for breaches of other laws.
– It should be a crime for any body of workers to strike if striking means the stoppage of our food supplies.
– One of the most hideous crimes any body of men could commit is to aim at starving people.
– Sometimes you have to starve a lot of people before you can get them to strike.
– No doubt the honorable senator is right if he has in. mind what has happened in the past, but I am sure he will agree that if we can establish our Arbitration Count on reasonable lines, there ought to be no excuse for striking, and its findings ought to be obeyed.
– I agree with you.
– Arbitration is ‘the only civilized means of settling disputes. One of the principal objections of employees to arbitration is that it takes such a long time to get to the Court. That, of course, is a valid objection, and we should endeavour to save time by determining what is a reasonable basic wage, and the Court, I think, should have power to delegate all disputes of minor importance to a board.
– How would you get over the difficulty created by increased prices following the fixing of an award.
– I cannot at present say how this movement of things in a vicious circle can be overcome. I deplore as much as anybody else in the community the continual rise in the price of commodities. I think it is due to some extent to the importation of goods from other countries where the demand is so keen, but I hope that we have reached the limit.
– Our foodstuffs are not imported, and the producers are the .poorest paid people in the community.
– In ‘the case of our foodstuffs the world’s parity operates. Prices in other countries being so high, local prices rise in sympathy; but fortunately we are better off in Australia than in any other part of the world. For the future working of our Arbitration Court I would like to see three Judges appointed with .power to delegate certain of their work to boards, with an under-standing that disputes be inquired into within a stipulated time. The worker naturally resents being, kept hanging about for a long period before he can get to the Court, as is the case to-day.
– It would pay us to appoint twenty Judges if they could keep matters going.
– The appointment of three Judges would be sufficient if the basis which I have suggested were adopted. Either party should have the right to refer a dispute to a board, which could be very rapidly created, and consist of one Judge and two experts. Thus a great deal of time could be saved. We should not take away the right to strike altogether. We know that we cannot compel an employer to keep going if to carry on will involve his ruin ; and neither can we compel a workman to give his labour if he cannot live upon the wage paid to ]lim. There must be retained the right to strike; but it should be surrounded by precautions. There should be no strike or lock-out permitted except by consent of the Registrar of the Court, and only after a secret ballot conducted by the Government.
– We cannot retain the principle of arbitration’ and the right to strike at the same time.
– You should abolish compulsory arbitration altogether if you retain the right to strike.
– I know that it is now being advocated that compulsory arbitration be done away with. Before the days of arbitration, we had not anything like as many strikes as we have had latterly.
– I am afraid the honorable senator has forgotten much of the history of this country. We were doing nothing else but strike before we had arbitration.
– Whether or not, the policy of Australia to-day is arbitration, and it is for us to make as perfect as possible the machinery of arbitration, which is undoubtedly open to much improvement. The Court should not have the power to grant preference, for that is at the bottom of many of our difficulties. I would also like to have it made law that the funds of unions should not be used for political purposes. I know of men who have been compelled to make payments into a union, and who have seen their money employed to support a political aspirant in whom they do not believe.
– Does not the Employers’ Federation do the same?
– The Employers’ Federation does not pay any of its money into any political fund.
– Then, where do you get all your money from?
– It is a strict rule, both in Great Britain and the United States, that union funds shall not be applied to political purposes.
– You seem to have any amount of money to fight with.
– What we do get is obtained by private subscription; but we are unable to secure anything like the amount of money that the honorable senator’s party evidently always has available. I might tell the honorable senator, privately, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was amazed to learn how little money we had when he came over to our side.
– Does not the honorable senator think that more could be made of the principle of conciliation before the parties enter the Arbitration Court?
– The worst thing one can do is to go into a Court at all. One can never secure conciliation there. One is fighting for one’s life in a Court.
– If we get away from compulsory arbitration we abandon every prospect of settlement.
– That is the view also held by the Labour unions of Great Britain and the United States of America. I think, personally, that compulsory arbitration is bound to break down, but we have not got to that stage yet, and we must do our best in providing suggestions Ito help the Arbitration Court to do its work in the best way possible. Arbitration has obviously come to a dead! end now; and the Labour unions, which’ were chiefly responsible for securing theprinciple of arbitration, are now entirelyantagonistic to the Arbitration Court. We must search for some method of improving it, and if it cannot be mended it must be ended.
I have ventured to place several matters before the Government, of which I trust they will take note. We have a most important session ahead of us - one of the most vital, perhaps, that Australia has ever known - and I have done my best to present a few practical ideas. Our chief objective should be the restoration of harmony between employers and employees. I know that the f ormer wish to look upon business not from a profitmaking point of view so much as from the humanitarian aspect. They desire that the conditions under which the workers live and toil shall be the best that can be provided. They want good surroundings for the working people so that Australia may produce a race of which we shall all be proud.
.- I regret that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) is not present to-day, although it had not been my intention to spend much time upon the subjects raised by the honorable senator. In his usual aggressive way he made an onslaught upon every one who happened to disagree with. him. I think it is unnecessary to take very much notice of his utterances, because I look upon the honorable senator now as a relic of a dead past. On 30th 3une next he will stand in this chamber as a monument to remind us of what is not but might have been. The Official Labour party has been found dead, and a coronial inquiry has been held. The verdict has been that the parity died through loss of brains, blown out by its own hands while suffering from overindulgence in a variety of nostrums distilled from anti-Australianism, selfishness, and cowardice. The Official Labour party has undertaken and accomplished political suicide in a most effective manner. That being the case, it is unnecessary, and, perhaps, unkind, of me to make further references to what the Leader of the party in the Senate said in the course of his address. Hence I intend to turn briefly to some of the most important items mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
One most important subject is that of the Pacific Possessions of Australia. I know that a short while ago, when our nation was at war, one had to speak guardedly concerning those matters to whian I intend now to refer, for the reason that one would be dealing with an ally to whom Australia owes a considerable debt of gratitude. I refer to Japan. Without doubt Japan played the part of an honorable ally by policing the Pacific, and undertaking the safe convoy of our : troops. But we have to recognise that there may come a time when Japan will not be so friendly towards Australia. We have to recognise also the potential powers of such a nation. We must remember that Japan within ‘the past twenty-five years or so has sprung up from a very insignificant position among the nations of the world to a foremost place, and we must not overlook that, adjacent to Japan, there is an Asiatic population of anything between 400,000,000 and 500,000,000. There is a marked similarity between the Japanese and many of the peoples of Asia. This resemblance and affinity must, sooner or later enable the Japanese to educate, consolidate, and organize the Asiatic races more effectively than any other nation could do. It is only natural’ to anticipate that Japan will exercise great power over China, and that those two nations some day will have become a united- factor in the world’s affairs. Then, what will be the outcome? There cannot be any natural feeling of fellowship between Asia and Australia. Our principle of a White Australia, by which we must stand or fall, necessarily embitters the Asiatic peoples; and, except for diplomatic reasons, there can be no real friendship between the people of Australia and the millions of Asia. A glance at the map .will force us to realize the danger to Australia, should any act of hostility be taken against us by that enormous population. Stretching from Asia to the northern part of Australia is a chain of islands which would enable an invading force, without any difficulty, to jump almost from land to land. Now, we hold, either by original possession or by conquest, very considerable areas in the Pacific, and it behoves us to do all that we can to develop those Possessions, and to settle them with white people. Whilst there are many ways in which Australia may further this policy, the easiest and most important, to my mind, is the establishment of regular steam-ship service with those islands. Prom private information, I learn that our Possessions in New Guinea - Papua and the annexed German territory - are languishing from lack of regular and reliable steam-ship service.
– And because of unsympathetic administration.
– Sympathetic administration would naturally follow the establishment of a regular and reliable steam-ship service. Australia is going in for a very effective system of national ownership of steam-ships, a policy with which I entirely agree. The success of any nation depends largely upon the possibility of securing cheap and reliable transport for its commodities. I have heard so much about constitutional law recently that I am beginning to find myself almost in a whirl of doubt. I am not at all clear whether the Government can use their nationally-owned steamers for the purpose of Inter-State trade. That they are at liberty to use them for the transport of goods beyond Australia ‘^cannot be questioned. But whether those vessels can be employed in trading to Papua and Tasmania, and to the Possessions Which are not linked up with the mainland by rail, I cannot say.
– I do not think anybody would object to them being thus engaged.
– Nor do I. I do not think that the validity of the act would ever be contested. Consequently I urge the Government - important as it is to use our steamers for the transport of goods beyond Australia - to utilize a portion of the fleet for the effective linking up of the mainland with the islands of the Pacific and with the State of Tasmania.
– Very few, if any, of those vessels are suitable for that particular trade. There is no passenger accommodation on any of them.
– The trip is not one upon which passengers would suffer any serious inconvenience, and if moderate accommodation were provided, the service would be hailed with delight. I had the pleasure recently of coming across from Tasmania by a large ocean-going boat, and I am quite sure there is not a steamer owned by the Commonwealth which could not provide accommodation equal to that enjoyed by passengers on board that big vessel. Yet there were some hundreds of passengers aboard who were very glad of an opportunity to travel by her. We could not perhaps provide accommodation on our Commonwealth steamers equal to that which is to be found on the White Star liners, but it is not luxurious apartments that are needed. We do not require to cater for wealthy tourists, but for the men who wish to settle in the Pacific Islands, who will build up Australian interests there, and protect our shores against invasion should the occasion to do so ever arise.
Because of its insular position Tasmania must necessarily suffer more or less from Federation. Even if it gets its share of the good things that are dispensed by the Commonwealth, it cannot possibly be as well off as are the States on the mainland. But our Constitution does not allow the Commonwealth to differentiate between States, and the treatment meted out to Victoria and New South Wales must also be that which is meted out to Tasmania and the northern part of Queensland. If it be possible for the Government to employ steamers for the purposes of Inter-State trade, it is only reasonable to ask that at least one or more of those vessels should be engaged to create a reliable connexion between Tasmania and the mainland.
– Under ordinary conditions, is there not a very good service between Tasmania and the mainland?
– Ordinary conditions existed so long ago that one almost forgets them. During the past four or five years we have had a continuance of traffic interruptions by reason of strikes.
– Were not the Commonwealth vessels held up as the result of those strikes equally with privatelyowned vessels?
– No doubt. I think that a system could be evolved by which the weapon of the strike might to a large extent be done away with. We do not have strikes in our Civil Service, and why should not the marine engineers, the sailors, and those who can be relied upon to devote their lives to this particular occupation, .become civil servants of Australia ?
– With the Government stroke included?
– I know that there is a Government stroke in many institutions; but it does not always exist; and I think that to a very great extent it might be eliminated from this particular service. I do hope that Ministers will give earnest consideration to the suggested extension of facilities for transport to Tasmania and to our northern Possessions in the Pacific.
Another matter which is mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech is that of silver coinage in Australia, and with it I shall connect the utilisation of all metals produced in the Commonwealth. At the present time there is a very considerable unrest among the silver and lead workers of this country, in consequence of an embargo having been placed on the export of those metals by the Government. Although that embargo has just been removed for a period of six months, I have very grave doubt whether the producers of these metals are going to obtain a fair return for their product. I have had considerable experience in the production of this class of metal, and I know that in normal times the man who produces a ton of silver-lead ore, generally known as galena, which may . be worth £ 25 pei- ton, rarely receives more than £10 or £12 for it. We always had to accept the explanation of the buyers -that the cost of treatment, loss by evaporation, loss in transit, and freight charges, absorbed the difference between the value of the ore and the amount that we received. Under the system which has hitherto prevailed, if those who are engaged in the industry get about 30 per cent, of the value of their ore, they are very lucky indeed. Now, this sort of thing cannot continue. If it be ‘important to Australia that these metals should be produced here, and that we should have more silver, more zinc, more copper, and more gold, this class of industry must be encouraged. If it should become necessary - as I anticipate it will, in consequence of the reluctance of buyers to purchase ore at its true value - to further protect the producers of ore, I venture to submit that it will be a statesmanlike act to undertake the partial purchase and the effective disposal of it. During my term of office in Tasmania at the beginning of the war, owing to the markets being immediately closed to this particular product, and the difficulty in obtaining money, the whole of the mines in Tasmania were compelled to close down. The Government, recognising the serious position confronting the industry and .the mining population, immediately took possession of all ore produced, paid 50 per cent, of its then market value, and held it until the market was re-opened. When sales had been effected the Government paid the producer the difference between the 50 per cent, already advanced and the price ait which it was eventually sold. Of course the amount involved was comparatively small, and did not represent more than £50,000, but it had the effect of keeping all the mines vigorously working, and the Treasurer was reimbursed for the advances made. The ‘Commonwealth must consider this important problem if the miners are to be subjected ,to a system that is tantamount to robbery.
– Tasmania does not treat its own ore.
– No; we were compelled to store and sell it when the market was open. Under these circumstances it will ‘be necessary for the Commonwealth Government to consider whether they cannot effect a better organization for the disposal or treatment of ores. They should encourage mining by taking over the products of the mines and advancing a sufficient percentage to allow them to continue in operation. It is of vital importance to Australia that as large a quantity as possible of these metals should be produced. Apart from the advantages of having an effective organization to enable the industry to continue and the mining section of the community to be kept in employment, raw materials essential to the welfare of Australia would be produced.
I desire to make a few brief references to the Tariff. I regret that this matter has been so long deferred, because if Australia is to become great she must be selfcontained. There are scores of industries in Australia languishing in consequence of the competition of cheaplymanufactured goods, imported from countries paying low rates of wages, and carried by subsidized ships. We can never maintain a high standard and become really prosperous unless we protect our own industries. I do not suggest that an industry should be protected to allow it to exploit the consumer by charging unreasonable prices. I have always been in favour of the principle which was once designated “the New Protection,” by which the manufacturer was protected on the understanding that he undertook to pay a reasonable wage to his employees, and to sell his products at a reasonable price. That is a satisfactory form of Protection, but under our present Constitution we know it is impracticable. I am particularly interested in this because I honestly believe, as I forecasted many years ago, that Tasmania is likely to become one of the most important industrial States in the ‘Commonwealth. Tasmania possesses enormous areas of deep water harbours, where the largest vessels afloat can berth against macadamized streets in a depth of 64 feet of water at low Aide. We have an excellent climate, and a country in which able-bodied artisans are able to produce more than in other States, where the conditions are less favorable. There is an unlimited suppy of hydraulic power, which is available at a very low cost ‘ and can be utilized for driving all machinery necessary to manufacture the requirements of the whole Commonwealth. It will therefore be seen by honorable senators that we have raw materials, natural harbour, facilities, cheap power, and ideal climatic conditions. As coal strikes and labour troubles cannot affect the supply of power, Tasmania must necessarily ‘become an important manufacturing centre.
– Is the honorable member speaking of Paradise?
– No ; but it is a very good comparison, because Tasmania is as near Paradise as one is likely to get on earth.
– It must be a Garden of Eden, as you have the apples.
– Yes- “We produce apples, but not those which cause dissent.
– Is there not a valley of despondency?
– No; there is no occasion for the Tasmanian people to be despondent.
– The honorable senator is painting a rosy picture of Tasmania. Can he give any reason why they do not smelt their om ores?
– The Minister for Defence will realize that it would require the production of a considerable quantity and variety of ores to keep a smelter in Tasmania continually in operation. If a smelting plant to deal with the whole of the ores raised in the Commonwealth were erected, Tasmania would be a valuable contributor.
– Why not smelt your own ores ?
– If the honorable senator had been following me, he would have heard me explaining that it would be necessary to produce a much larger quantity than we do at present to keep a smelter of our own continually in operation.
– We produce a large quantity of ore in Australia.
– If the honorable senator suggests the establishment of a Commonwealth smelter, I am in accord with his views.
– Has the honorable senator inspected the Port Pirie smelters ?
– I have not .”had that privilege. Of course, we do not claim that Tasmania is one of ‘the richest mineral States in the Commonwealth, but in comparison with its size it is rich in minerals. It has produced £35,000,000 worth of minerals, and the whole State comprises only 16,000,000 acres of land. Tasmania possessed the richest alluvial tin mine in the world, which paid £2,500,000 in dividends. We have rich mines producing silver, copper, tin, and gold - I refer to the Mount Lyell mines. Whether the Government consider the question of the treatment of crude ore up to the ingot stage, or some system of organization to provide a market for the product, it is essential that something should be done.
I was dealing with the question of the Tasmanian industries that have been launched, and are languishing owing to the absence of reasonable protection. We have a very extensive calcium-carbide manufactory, producing an article in general use throughout the Commonwealth. For years we have been importing this illuminant from J apan, Sweden, and Norway, although we have established in Tasmania a factory which, with little alteration, would be capable of providing the whole of the requirements of the Commonwealth. The manufacturers, however, cannot compete with the imports from the countries I have mentioned. This commodity is brought into the Commonwealth from abroad as cheaply as it can be sent from North-west . Bay to Queensland.
– Has not a regulation been issued prohibiting the importation?
– Manufacturers are not prepared to invest capital merely on the security of a licence issued under the hand of the Minister for Trade and Customs. They need something permanent. Manufacturers are not prepared to rely upon a licence that may be repealed at any time. Such a licence or regulation should be embodied in an Act of Parliament to give an industry effective protection.
– If embodied in an Act it might only last through’ the life of the Parliament.
– They would be prepared to take that risk. If it became law, lt would be likely to remain in force. At the same time there would be a certain stability and a certain guarantee that the industry affected would be able to be carried on. I am also informed that over £30,000 is waiting for the establishment of a sewing machine factory in my own State, by which a machine will be supplied to the people of Australia considerably cheaper than, and equally as good as, the Singer sewing machine, provided that protection is given to the manufacturer against the cheap dumping of other machines. I have not been able to give very close investigation to that industry up to the present; but my information is as I have stated it. I have every confidence in the reliability of the people concerned in the enterprise, and it is only one of many undertakings which require consideration if we are to make Australia self-contained..
Reference is made to immigration, which is a very serious matter to our country. We have in Australia a rich continent, some 13,000 miles in circumference, capable of producing all that is required by the human race, and occupied by less than 5,000,000 people. We all recognise that we hold this country absolutely and solely owing to the protection which the British Empire gives us. If it were not for the British Empire, with its Navy and other instrumentalities for the protection of Australia, we could not hold it for three months. We must, and do, recognise that fact; but it is our duty to use every effort to relieve the Mother Country and the Empire of that responsibility by increasing our own population. We want white people. We want, if we can get them, those of our own kith and kin. We want English, Irish, Welsh, and Scotch people. We want to encourage them here by the thousands; but we must also be prepared to secure their welfare when they do come. I shall be no party to the rushing in of large numbers of persons looking for manual labour if manual labour is not offering.
– We ought to study very seriously the decline in our own birth rate, too.
– That is a question which must necessarily be dealt with by the individual. I do not see how we are to interfere unless we can encourage the family more than we are doing at the present time. Although the suggestion has often been received with smiles and witticisms, the falling birth rate is one of the serious problems facing the white race to-day.
– Our birth rate in Australia has decreased by nearly one-half in the last forty years,
– I have not looked into the figures. If the honorable senator says that is so, I will accept his assurance; but I should be sorry to learn that it was a fact. I do not know the policy of the Government with . regard to immigration; but if it is proposed to assist immigration, even to the extent of bringing out free of charge men and women from the Old Country, for whom positions are already secured, as land workers, skilled artisans, or in any other occupation in which they are required in Australia, I am with the Government right to the hilt.
Another question mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech, and causing considerable interest, is the amendment of the Constitution. In another branch of the Legislature the other evening, a very eloquent address was delivered by a member who argued that it was not necessary to amend the Constitution to deal particularly with excessive profits in trade, because the Constitution already contained the power which would enable the Government to take those steps if they so desired. I do not pose as an authority on constitutional law; but it seems strange to me that, although the party to which that honorable member belongs was in power for a number of years, and was most desirous of obtaining authority to enact laws dealing with trade and commerce, they came to the unanimous conclusion, after obtaining the fullest and best legal advice available in Australia, that they could not enact such laws unless the people amended the Constitution by referendum. They therefore submitted such a referendum to the people on three or four occasions. But. on those occasions this particular honorable and learned member did not come along to his own party to advise them that the referendum was superfluous because they had the power already. Another consideration which convinces me that he is absolutely wrong is that, although a large number of legal gentlemen opposed an affirmative vote oh those referenda-, not one of them ever opposed it on the ground that the Constitution already gave the power. Every one of them opposed it because he said that the Commonwealth should not have the power. If these legal gentlemen had opposed an affirmative vote on the referendum, knowing that the Constitution already gave the power, would they not have advised the people to vote “ No “ on that ground ? I defy any one to find in any of the reports published throughout Australia one instance of a legal man of any standing advising the people during the referendum .campaigns to vote “ No “ because it was unnecessary to vote “ Yes.”
– The Labour party must have been subsidized by . the profiteers to advocate a “ No “ vote.
– It is very hard to understand what their reason was for such an act. These gentlemen now come along with a declaration that the Constitution already gives the necessary power. I have heard honorable senators say that the honorable and learned member in question made out a good case, which shows how the power of oratory may affect even those who constitute this august Chamber. The argument now put forward, that the Constitution does not require amendment because it contains the necessary powers, is belated indeed. I suppose the most important matters in relation to the alteration of the Constitution are trade and commerce, and the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes within the States. I have had the opportunity of going into the Customs laboratory, where different articles which come into Australia are examined. The Customs Department, having ascertained the true character of imported goods, can insist on those goods being branded with a description true to name, but honorable senators know also that, as soon as those goods go into the warehouses, that brand can be removed, and any other brand placed on them, and the Commonwealth has no power to prevent it. Yet we are told that we have the power under the Constitution. Nothing is more important to the protection of the people than that this Parliament should have power to enact laws for the control of trade throughout the whole Commonwealth. I have seen in that laboratory a boot cut down the centre. As far as I could see. it was composed of about one-third leather, and the rest paper and wood. Its fellow boot was a beautifully-finished article, and nobody would know that it was not all leather. That case of boots, when it left tha Customs, was branded “ Boots made of leather, paper, and wood.” But has any honorable senator ever seen those boots marked, up in any shop under that description ?
– You do not find that out until you get home.
– You do not find it out until you strike a shower, and then you know what you have bought. .The people of Australia have been, and are being, ruthlessly robbed, simply because the Commonwealth has not the power to protect them.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 3.30 p.m.
– The honorable and learned member to whom I have referred admits that the Commonwealth has no power to deal with industrial disputes unless they extend beyond the boundaries of a State, though one State may be bordering on a condition of rebellion owing to a condition of industrial discontent. If there is anything at all in the principle of arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes, it is imperative that the Constitution should be so altered as to permit the Arbitration Court to intervene, and, where practicable, make a common rule applicable to all the States. I recognise that the tribunal should be more accessible than at present. There must be less waste of time in approaching it; and, what is more, any award made by the Court should be retrospective to the date of application. I realize, of course, that there are difficulties to be overcome in this connexion. In the case of an employer with a large number of men paid at a certain rate, a retrospective award might cause him considerable embarrassment.
– What provision could be made in- the event of an award being lower than the demand?
– Of course, there is no possibility of a refund. There are many difficulties in the way of reforming the Court procedure; but something must be done to amend the existing law. It is almost impossible for the Court to keep pace with the work before it, and so provision should be made, in cases where men are suffering an injustice, for the award to be retrospective. A great deal of trouble is due to the fact that it is difficult to enforce an award of the Court on both sides ; but I do not agree with the honorable senator who stated this morning that the workers must retain the right to strike. A man must retain his individual right to leave work - anything else would be equivalent to a condition of slavery - but wc can insist upon some action to combat any organized refusal to work under an award of the Arbitration Court. If half-a-dozen or 100 men individually decide not to work any longer under existing conditions, and if they do not interfere with any others who desire to work, no objection can be taken to their action. It is quite a different matter when an organized body of men not only refuse to work themselves, but demand that no one else shall work in their places, especially when there is proper provision for the trial of their dispute by an impartial tribunal.
– It can never be right to prevent any man from working under any circumstances.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. I have had experience of industrial troubles, when men had no opportunity of an appeal to an Arbitration Court. In such circumstances, they were legally and morally justified in doing their utmost to prevent other men working under conditions which did not insure decent living. I have known of men being brought” in. to work at wages lower than that which other men deemed sufficient, and I defy any honorable senator to say that in such circumstances the strikers were not morally and legally justified in trying to prevent others from taking their places. I am speaking, of course, of a time when there was no opportunity of an appeal to an Arbitration Court. But we have set up ‘this tribunal in Australia, and one of our chief difficulties now is to make an award of the Court binding on both sides. If we can remove this difficulty there .should then be no right to strike or lock-out.
– Are- not the awards supposed to be binding at present?
– The honorable senator knows they are not binding.
– Then, how do you propose to make them effective?
– I believe that every union should be registered as at present, and that every member of a union should likewise be registered in much the same manner as are members of friendly societies. Every union should be required to deposit in a bank a sum of money, calculated at a given rate per head of its membership, and this trust fund should be alienable by order of the Arbitration Court on proof of any infringement of an award. The unions should be required to maintain the fund at an amount decided upon, and if members of a union break an award of the Arbitration Court, say, by refusing to work under it, they should be fined some prescribed amount, and the union should be required to collect the fine to reimburse the bank trust fund.
– You are referring to action against Inter-State unions. Some unions are international in character. How could their funds be touched ?
– I know there are difficulties to be overcome, and I am referring to the position of State or Inter-State unions. Let us cleanse our own home first. If we can make a success of the system as applied to InterState unions we can then seek to extend the area of its benefits.
– The biggest union in Australia is international in character.
– I quite understand the difficulty referred to by the honorable senator. If he has a better scheme to put forward T shall be pleased to hear of it. In order to make the proposed scheme more effective I think there should ‘be provision that fines or levies necessary to recoup the trust fund should be recoverable in any Court of summary jurisdiction, and if the unions refused to collect the amount it should be the duty of the Arbitration Court to order collection. These fines or levies might be regarded as a debt under common law, and be recoverable by a garnishee order, or any other method provided for by law, so that if through an infringement of an award of the Court a unionist became liable and declined to pay a fine, the debt would be recoverable in any State of the Commonwealth.
– How could you collect from a man in San Francisco?
– Why does the honorable senator quote thoseextreme instances ? If a unionist leaves Australia, let him go, and God go with him. If he continues to live in Australia the fine could be collected. It is no use sneering at the proposition. If honorable senators cars put up some better scheme, let us have it. Under the proposal I have outlined members of a union will be responsible for industrial peace, and there will then be justification for the principle of preference to unionists in employment. It is impossible for employers to go back to the conditions of twenty years ago, as some suggest, when there was no interference at all between employer and employee. I thank God it is so, for I do. not want to see the workers of Australia under those conditions again.
– The working out of that principle would do away with nonunionism. The workers would have to belong to unions.
– Most of the workers would naturally and rightly belong to one or other of the various unions. I have the greatest sympathy with genuine industrial unionism. I am an industrial unionist myself, and always will be. It is necessary for the workers to combine for their own protection and welfare, in keeping with the combination of other sections of the community. I hope that these few practical points which I have enunciated, and to which I have given much thought and attention, will be studied by the Government, and lead ultimately to the consummation of that which we so devoutly wish for, namely, a system of arbitration for the settlement of disputes which will provide Australia with a guarantee of industrial peace and without which we can never hope to become a nation.
There are several other features of His Excellency’s speech which are worthy of consideration. One relates to the popular subject of profiteering. The word “profiteer” is being used by some people very much as a foolish mother employs the word “bogyman.” It is used to frighten folk, and it is applied to almost everything. There are very many phases of profiteering. Instances have occurred where unscrupulous traders have cornered the necessaries of life in order to enforce excess profits. That is profiteering in a bad form. Enormous profits have been made because of the shortage in the world’s transport service. There is still another system of profiteering which goes on really unconsciously among my own class, namely, the workers of Australia. I have every sympathy, especially at this time, with workers who are seeking better payment for their labour. But those who are out to do less work in shorter hours are the equal of the greatest of profiteers. Take the case of the builders’ labourers, for example, who are now advocating a fiveday week in a healthy occupation.
– Fourdays too many !
– Perhaps so, from some people’s viewpoint; but it amounts to the creation of an inflated value upon houses already erected, and is tantamount to a close co-operation between builders and landlords. A man has a dozen houses which have cost him £700 each. As an outcome of the demand of the labourers for shorter hours and less work those houses are now worth anything from £1,000 to £1,200 each. Thus the landlords reap enhanced rentals which have been won for them by the workers. Ido not mind how energetic the labouring community are in securing more pay for their labour to-day, but I have no sympathy with those who shirk the responsibility of production by either doing less work than is reasonable, or by seeking to work fewer hours than is reasonable. If we are to subdue profiteering, if we wish to reduce the cost of living, we must engage far more energetically in production. We must work with a will, for that is the key to the whole situation. Until the workers realize that it is their duty to find pleasure in production rather than in avoiding production, we shall never bring down the high cost of living. I hope the workers generally will take that fact to heart, and that we shall receive from them wholehearted cooperation towards making the lot of the people more congenial.
One other matter to which I desire to devote a few minutes has to do with the erection of the Federal Capital. Many people, in certain parts of the Commonwealth, are agitating for its completion.
I am not well informed concerning how far we are committed to the construction of the Federal .Capital at Canberra. The main idea underlying the erection of an inland or bush capital originally was that it should be placed in a position of safety from attack by sea. The fact is, of course, that the Federal Capital would be no safer to-day whether it was at Canberra or in Melbourne or Sydney. I can see no practical reason for the erection of a bush capital now that the factor of safety from sea attack has been removed.
– Has it been removed?
– The honorable senator must know that if ever our Capital is to be attacked it will be neither by sea nor land, but from the air. I do not know how far Commonwealth Governments, past and present, may be committed to the erection of the Capital City at Canberra; but, in view of the tremendous expenditure necessary, I question whether it would not be reasonable to submit to the people of New South Wales, by way of referendum, that they should release the Federal Government from their obligations in this respect.
– I would like to bet on the result of the referendum.
– I am not so sure about the result. I give the people of New South Wales, as Commonwealth citizens, credit- -
– For being selfish.
– No, I will not say that; but for possessing reasonableness, and for recognising that they would have to pay their share of the bill.
– Forty-two per cent, of it.
– Yes; and if it can be shown them that no advantage could be gained by the establishment of this bush Capital, I believe they would seriously consider whether it would not be better to abandon the idea and allow the Commonwealth Capital to remain in one or other of the chief cities! -In discussing the attitude of Australia towards former enemy countries, I have noted considerable diversity of opinion, particularly with regard to the re-estab lishment of trade with Germany. We need not waste time in recalling the conditions of trade and commerce’ with that country prior to the war. Australia helped materially to build up Germany’s resources, and these were used against us when the war broke out. The question arises whether, either now or in the near future, we should assist to re-establish that trade and commerce. Some people say that since Ave have called upon Germany to pay an indemnity, in which Australia is to participate, we must have commercial dealings with Germany, otherwise she will be unable to pay. That argument appears to have the force of reason. But if it is a question whether we shall have the indemnity land reestablish our trade with Germany, or whether we shall refuse to enter into trading relationships and lose the indemnity thereby, I say that we should lose the indemnity. Rather let us lose that than that we should deal again with Germany and assist her to regain the position which she occupied before she forced war upon the world. Some people fail to realize that if we are going to enable Germany to pay her indemnity by purchasing goods from her, we shall merely be taking money out of our own pockets to pass it’ through the Exchequer. Consequently, it is better for’ us to build up our own commerce, and to wipe off what has been lost in consequence of the war, as a bad debt.
– But we cannot prevent trade with Germany.
– So far as we cannot prevent it, we must endure it. But every public man should voice the opinion that the people of Australia should focus their attention upon building up their ownindustries, refusing, as far as possible, to deal with Germany, and devoting their whole efforts to making this a selfsupporting country. By adopting that policy, we can, in the very near future, overcome many of our difficulties, and instead of being solely dependent upon the Mother Country for our protection, we shall become so strong that when the occasion arises we shall be able to take an active part in protecting the Empire.
Debate (on motion by Senator de Largie) adjourned.
Commission : Labour Dispute - CYclone in north queensland- sydney
– In moving; -
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I wish to inform honorable senators that we had hoped that the Supply Bill would reach us to-day, so as to enable us to proceed with the first stage of its consideration. Of course, that would have been only a formal stage in any case. We would not have proceeded with the motion for the first ‘reading of the Bill. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), and other Ministers, feel that it is unfair to ask the Senate to deal hurriedly with Supply Bills; but, at the same time, we are conditioned by the knowledge that the expenditure sought to be authorized under the forthcoming Supply Bill will become payable on Thursday next. However, the conditions which have led to the delay in the presentation of that measure here have not been within the control of the Government. Consequently, when we meet next week, it will be necessary to ask honorable senators to proceed at once with the consideration of the Bill.
. -I understand that the Commonwealth is spending a lot of money upon the River Murray Waters Scheme. There is in existence a River Murray Waters Commission, and I desire to know whether the Commonwealth has any control over its expenditure. I ask this question because, at the present time, there is a labour dispute on the Murray. A couple of big jobs are being held up because, on the New South Wales side of that river, the men, who are working under an Arbitration Court award, are receiving 14s. 3d. per day, whilst those working on the Victorian side, who cannot get an Arbitration Court award, are receiving only 12s. per day. I desire the Government to interest themselves in this dispute, if possible, with a view to securing its settlement. If we are spending money there, we ought to have some control over that expenditure.
– Earlier in the day I asked whether it was not possible for the Government to render some assistance to the people of North Queensland, who are suffering from the disastrous effects of a recent cyclone. In reply, I was informed that, owing to our precarious financial position, it is not possible to afford them relief, and if any such relief were afforded, it would be necessary to provide similar relief to persons suffering from the effects of drought. Probably my question was not specific enough. My desire was to direct attention to the fact that When a cyclone occurred in Queensland some time ago, a quantity of cane and raw sugar was damaged, and the Commonwealth authorities granted relief to the sufferers on the basis of £1 for £1 granted by the State Government. In view of the fact that the sugar-growers of Queensland are supplying sugar to the people at about one-fourth of the price at which it can be purchased in other countries, it is surely the duty of the Government to take same action in the direction I have suggested. Seeing the very great importance of the sugar industry to Australia, I ask Ministers to reconsider the position.
– I desire briefly to direct attention to the state of the telephone service in Sydney and its suburbs, and I hope that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) will communicate with the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) regarding this matter. The Sydney telephone service to-day is admittedly in a worse condition than it has ever been previously. I have had many experiences of it, and I must candidly say that the efficiency and speed of the service which is provided in Melbourne are very marked when contrasted with those of Sydney. Some say that there is a “go-slow” strike in progress amongst the attendants in the New South Wales capital. Others say that they are not paid sufficiently well, and that they are adopting certain tactics for the purpose of directing the attention of the Postmaster-General to their small remuneration. But the fact remains that this queen city, with a, population of 750,000 souls, owns at present the least efficient telephone service in the world. I have been told officially that it will be worse before it is better. If it is to become worse than it is now, it is going to be very bad indeed. During recent years the telephone charges have been raised more than once, and the subscribers today number nearly 20,000. I ask the Minister for Defence most seriously to bring this matter under the notice of his colleague the Postmaster-General, who, I hope, will cause inquiries to be made because the existing condition of things cannot be allowed to continue.
– In regard to the question raised by Senator Barnes, who referred to the Murray River Waters Commission!, the position is that the Commonwealth is a partner with three of the States to the extent that each of those States will contribute £1,000,000 and the Commonwealth will provide an equal amount. The Commission has been constituted of a representative of each of those States and of the Commonwealth. The latter as the Chairman of that body. The Commission does not possess plenary powers, but recommends to the Governments interested in. the scheme the works which should be undertaken. In the case mentioned by Senator Barnes, the probability is that the works in question are being carried out under the supervision of theWorks Department of New South Wales and Victoria respectively. Whether the fact that the Commonwealth is a contributor to the cost of those works gives it any right to intervene in an industrial dispute, I cannot say. But I will have his remarks brought under the notice of the Minister for Works and Railways, who will doubtless give consideration to it.
In reply to Senator Foll, I wish to say that it is quite true that on a previous occasion the Commonwealth Government did make available a certain sum of money - and Parliament subsequently indorsed their action - to recoup certain persons for a portion of the loss which they had sustained consequent upon a cyclone in North Queensland. But it was distinctly understood at the time that the act was one of grace and was not a recognition by the Commonwealth of its liability to make good losses sustained as the result of cyclones in Queensland. The action of the Government was. also partially dictated by the fact that the sugar industry in which the Commonwealth had a particular interest, had been injured, and that financial assistance would help it to effect “a quick recovery. However, I shall have the honorable member’s re marks brought under the notice of the Treasurer for his consideration.
Regarding the condition of the telephone service in Sydney, my memory is not too good, but I fancy that earlier in the day Senator Fairbairnreferred to the fact that that service was somewhat overstaffed. Of course it does not necessarily follow that, because of that fact, the staff would do more work.
– How do the operating costs in the different capitals compare ?
– The operating expenses are given on page 11 of the Economies Commission’s report, and show that the cost of earning £100 revenue is, in New South Wales, which heads the list, £18.89; and in Victoria, £15.82. The average for the whole Commonwealth is £17.15.
– What has that to do with the question I raised?
– I have given the cost of operating the telephone service in New South Wales and Victoria, and the average for the Commonwealth, which shows that the trouble is not due to the lack of expenditure. I wish to reassure honorable senators that, as the Commonwealth has made sufficient money available, there must be some other reason. I shall, however, bring the matter under the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 March 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200312_senate_8_91/>.