8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Defence if he is in a position to supply answers to the questions I put some time ago in reference to the number of war service homes completed.
– On the 19th August Senator Gardiner asked the following questions: -
The following answers have since been supplied : -
The following paper was presented : -
Wool:Report of Central Wool Committee for Season 1919-20, and Resume of its Administration since appointment in November, 1916.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
Appointment of CaptainWilliams.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Issue of Trade Directories
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Appointment of Mr. Justice Ewing to Inquire into Administration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Debate resumed from 1st September (vide (page 4033), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– In concluding the debate on the second reading, I -wish to say that there is one outstanding feature running through the whole measure, and that is the desire on the part of the Government to prevent and settle, so far as lies in our power, the industrial problems that we have confronting us to-day. No matter how perfect the drafting of a Bill such as this may be, it would be useless unless there was a general desire on the part of both the employers and the employees to come together in a spirit of conciliation. I believe there is a consensus of opinion amongst employers and employees, as well as the general public, who are not directly, but certainly indirectly, interested in disputes, that a genuine attempt should be made to settle the problems we have before us. So long as there are men who feel that they have grievances there will be industrial trouble, and so long as a man believes he can improve his position we cannot prevent him exercising that right which his freedom permits, him to enjoy. I, therefore, look upon the total abolition of strikes as a hopeless dream, and if we cannot prevent, or expeditiously settle, 100 per cent, of the disputes, there is no reason why every effort should not be made to prevent at least 97 per cent, of them, most of which are created by suspicion and distrust. It is generally understood that” suspicion is responsible for most of our industrial troubles, and we can easily understand, particularly in view of the abnormal conditions prevailing, Why a man who is receiving 10s. per day should desire to earn lis. The general community realizes the position, and if in its opinion the claims made by the men are reasonable they usually have its support. Many of the strikes during recent years have been caused by a lack of trust in the Government, and an absence of confidence between the contesting parties. It is not the desire of the Government to interfere, but to assist the employers and employees in every possible way.
Next week I hope to have the opportunity of introducing into the Senate a Bill which will widely extend the powers of the Arbitration Court. The proposals embodied in this Bill do not interfere with the working of the Arbitration Act, and I believe that, when normal times are reached, its provisions will cease to operate, and that the Arbitration Court wall be the principal factor. The powers of the Arbitration Court are being increased, and unions and organizations will still have the opportunity of having their plaints heard before that Tribunal. Whatever may be the merits or demerits associated with a strike, it is always the members of the community who suffer. During the recent coal trouble no less than 20,000 or 30,000 young girls were thrown out of employment in clothing and other factories. These employees were not concerned in any way with the coal trouble, and were not complaining about their wages and conditions; but they and many who had to depend on them for support were compelled to suffer unreasonable ‘hardship and inconvenience. I do not think for one moment that strikers lack human sympathy, but instances such as that I have quoted show that there must be a lack of organization if the Government or some other authority have not power to intervene. I do not think we can under this or any other measure prevent men from ceasing work, but we can have investigations at which both sides can be represented. Notwithstanding any legislation ‘that may be (passed, the individual will still possess the right to leave bis job, and the employer will still be free to dispense with the services of unsuitable men.
Senator Fairbairn submitted some specific questions in regard to the expenses to be incurred in connexion with the different Tribunals. The Commonwealth Council will be a paid body, created for the purpose of investigating industrial questions and preventing disputes. The District Councils will practically do all the hard work, and will endeavour to (prevent strikes by bringing the parties together in a conciliatory spirit. The members of these Councils will be .paid. The Special Tribunals will not be permanent bodies, but will be called together under special circumstances. Provision has been made in the Bill for the framing of regulations. In the event of industrial trouble at Broken Hill, it would be necessary for three representatives of the employers to come to Melbourne ; but I do not . think they would ask, neither would they accept, any payment for their services. It would be cruel to ask the representatives of a union to meet the expenses incurred by their delegates, and it may be necessary to prescribe a certain rate.
– I take -it that the regulations will prescribe for both sides.
– That is so. I have never heard of the employers’ repre-“ sentatives ou Wages Boards accepting fees, but the representatives of the workers have been paid an amount to which they are entitled. A Special Tribunal will meet, when occasion arises, but it is possible that a grievance, or an alleged grievance, will be settled in one day. I believe it would be better to have provision in the Bill concerning the payments to be made, but as we cannot determine how long a Special Tribunal will sit, we are naturally confronted with a difficulty. The regulations to be prescribed will, however, cover the position. Senator Fairbairn was of the opinion that members of a Special Tribunal were to be permanently appointed, but such is not the case. The first investigation will be made by the Industrial Council, and if that body is of the opinion that there is a possibility of trouble or of a strike actually taking place it will be referred to a Special Tribunal. In the event of trouble in the coal industry, representations of the miners and the colliery employers will be appointed as a Special Tribunal; but the moment that body has submitted its report its work will cease. ‘The District Councils will be permanent bodies to assist the Commonwealth Council. It will be possible for a Special Tribunal to appoint Local Committees to inquire into a particular question, but -they will not be permanent bodies.
I believe the measure is not as perfect as it is possible to make it ; but there has been a genuine effort on the part of the “Government to so frame it that it will be the means of preventing and settling - industrial disputes. When the measure is in Committee I trust that honorable senators will discuss it freely, as it is not of a party character; but is a genuine attempt to bring about industrial harmony in the Commonwealth, which alone will enable us to meet the great liabilities we have to face.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
In this Act unless the contrary intention appears …..’ Industrial matters “ includes all matters relating to work, pay, wages, reward, hours, privileges, profits, prices, cost of production relating to an industrial dispute or to any industry, rights, or duties of employers or employees, or the mode, terms and conditions *°(>i employment or non-employment; and in (particular, but without limiting the general scope of this definition, includes all matters pertaining to the relations of’ employers and employees, and the employment, preferential employment, dismissal, or nonemployment of any particular persons, or of persons of any particular sex or age, or being or not being members of any organization, association, or ‘body, and any claim arising under an industrial agreement, and includes all questions of what is fair and right in relation to any industrial matter having regard to the interests of the persons immediately concerned and of society as a whole…..
.- I move-
That the words “ profits, prices, cost of pro duction relating to an industrial dispute or to any industry “ be left out.
This is merely a drafting amendment; and it is intended to insert the same words at the end of the definition of ‘ ‘ industrial matters “ where their meaning will be more effective.
– I think the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) should give some reasons to the Committee why these words are being left out, because if they are deleted from the clause it is quite possible that they may. not be re-inserted.
– They are to be included in another place.
– The Minister has not explained why the words are to be omitted from this portion of the clause and re-inserted elsewhere.
– It is to cover the whole position.
– Then why are the words relating to “work, pay, wages, awards, and hours “ not being struck out? The Minister has not given reasons for altering the position in which these words are to be placed. The question of arbitration is an exceedingly important one, and not only the wages and conditions of the employees, but the profits earned in the industry should also be inquired into. I would like the Minister to explain how he intends to achieve his purpose?
– Amendments were’ made in an other place which make this alteration necessary. If the words are left as they stand they will, to some extent, be ineffective.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move-
That after the word “whole,” line 22, the following words be inserted: - “and also includes questions as to profits, prices, and cost of production relating to an industrial dispute or to an industry.”
This amendment will have precisely the effect which Senator Gardiner desires, and will cover the whole of the clause rather than a section of it.
– I regard the words which it is now proposed to insert in the clause as the keynote of the Bill. I am very glad to note that for the first time in the history of arbitration legislation the principle is being laid down that profits, prices, and the cost of production, have some relation to an industrial dispute or to an industry. In this clause in the form in which it reached us I’ notice that the words “ any industry “ appear. Under the amendment it is now proposed to substitute the word “ an “ for the word “ any.” That, I think, will improve the draftsmanship of the clause. I am most strongly in favour of the insertion of the amendment, because I believe that it will enable the Tribunals, which are to be constituted under the measure, to investigate the whole of the conditions surrounding any industry.
.- During the debate upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill a question arose as to the position which the community will occupy in regard to the Tribunals to be constituted under it, and I think that one honorable senator suggested that the public, who in reality are the consumers, should have some representation upon them. At that time I had not looked very carefully into the definition clause, but I have since found that the concluding words of the definition of “Industrial matters “ read, “and of society as a whole.” My construction of that definition is that the Tribunals which are to be created will have power to conduct their inquiries over a verywide field indeed. They will doubtless keep in view the fact that it is essential, if they are to. do the work expected of them as effectively as possible, that they shall take into consideration not merely the interests of industrial organizations, but those of society as a whole. During the last day or two something has occurred in two of our capital cities, which will have a tendency to still further increase the industrial unrest which is so marked in our midst. I refer to the fact that butter, which is regarded as an essential household commodity, has been increased in Victoria to the enormous price of 2s. lid. per lb., and in Sydney to 2s. 9id. per lb. Just at a time when the consumer might reasonably have anticipated a decrease in the price of that particular commodity there has been an enormous increase of price. We know that its ,present price has been fixed by the Butter Pool, which has had regard to the London parity. But what does the ordinary consumer care about the London parity ? He knows that we are a butter producing country, that we have enjoyed exceptionally good years in respect of butter production, and that at the beginning of the season when the cows are just coming in, there ought to be a decrease in the price of the butter that is required for local consumption.
– Half of us will be compelled to eat margarine.
– I am a supporter of the dairying industry. I come from a dairying district, and I believe in doing all that we can to make that industry a profitable one to the Commonwealth. But the tendency to-day is to establish margarine factories in order that there may be an effective substitute provided for butter.
– What about the Australian producer of butter. Where does he come in?
– He has a perfect right to have his interests protected.
– Then why not leave him alone?
– A man who has been intrusted with the confidence of a section of the people of Australia, as a member of this Senate has been, should view this matter from the stand-point of its effects upon the whole community, and not a section of it. I protest against this additional burden being placed upon the consumer at a time when he does not know how to make ends meet. We hear complaints to this effect upon every hand.
Those complaints are now extending to our primary productions. Hitherto they have related to the enormous profits which -have ‘been levied upon the community by manufacturers and distributors. Only a week or two ago, a certain firm in Sydney, which was engaged in the erection of war service bornes, found itself faced with a shortage of cement. One of its officers immediately set to work to ascertain whether it was possible to obtain supplies of that article in Sydney. Upon inquiry, he found that 1,000 barrels of cement were in the hands of a certain firm. He asked for the lowest quotation for that cement, and the reply was “ £2 15s. per barrel.” This incident occurred only a fortnight ago. We have been loud in our protests against profiteering in Australia, and that is why I have been prompted to make these remarks in regard to the increased price of butter.
– Does the honorable senator wish to penalize the farmer?
– Certainly not. I come from an agricultural district, and my interests are identical with those of our primary producers. But I am a senator representing the State of Tasmania, and in that capacity I am not going to sanction this enormous impost upon the consumer.
– The honorable senator ‘does not produce any butter.
– I help to do so. There is just one other matter to which I desire to refer, namely, the enormous and unjust levy which has been made upon the people of this country in regard to the price of leather. When hides TOM very materially in price some months ago, there was an immediate and considerable increase in the cost of leather. But some six or eight weeks ago there was a notable decrease in the price of hides, until to-day. they are realizing only one-half of what they had realized previously. But has there been any decrease in the cost of leather? Certainly not. The people are paying as much to-day for leather as they dad when hides were double their present price. When the tanners were asked for an explanation of why the prices of leather did not tumble in sympathy with the prices of hides, their reply was that it would take some months .before the cheaper hides could be converted into leather. It is surely significant that they entirely forgot that view of the question when hides suddenly rose in price.
– But this Bill will not enable the Tribunals to be created under it to go into the matters mentioned by the honorable senator unless there is an industrial dispute in those industries.
– From interjections which have fallen from certain honorable senators, it has been suggested that I am attempting to penalize those who are engaged in the dairying industry. I am doing nothing of the kind. It behoves us to do all that we possibly can to assist the primary producer. But we must ever keep in view, the fact that it is our duty to see that the people as a whole are protected as far as it is possible to protect them, especially at the present juncture, when we find it so difficult to live. Only last night the statement was made to me that the housewife of a family resident in. Melbourne found it absolutely impossible to get in the ordinary supply of butter for the week on account of the increased price of that commodity.
– Did the honorable senator notice that the Housewives’ Association is going to boycott butter ?
– Yes. If the attitude which is now being adopted towards the Australian consumer is persisted in, it must of necessity result in the consumption of a greater quantity of margarineThat will not be in the interests of the dairying industry.
– Every State has the power to fix the price of butter if it chooses to do so.
– I have been prompted to make these remarks because of my reading of the definition clause of the Bill. I am satisfied that under that clause the Tribunals to be created will be afforded an opportunity of reporting upon any matter which concerns society as a whole. The consumers represent a very important section of society, and as they are at present is such sore straits, I think that they might reasonably have anticipated some measure of relief in the direction which I have suggested.
– The remarks of Senator Payne have been very interesting, but it is desirable that the Committee should not misunderstand the effect of the particular words in the definition clause to which he has directed attention. If he will go back a little further than he did he will find that the clause provides that - “ Industrial matters “ includes….. all questions of what is fair and right in relation to any industrial matter having regard to the interests of the persons immediately concerned and of society as a whole.
The inclusion of those words in the definition of “ Industrial matters” will not invest any .of the Tribunals to be created with authority to inquire solely into the price of butter* or of any other commodity. The Tribunal will not be justified even in inquiring into the price, except as incidental to a dispute that is being determined by it. If there is an actual, probable, or impending dispute, which under the other provisions of the Bill properly comes before one of the Tribunals, that Tribunal, in considering industrial matters in relation to that dispute, can consider them in the light of what is fair and right in relation to the interests of society as a whole. That is as far as the definition will carry us. I observed the announcement of the intended increase in the price of butter, but it was also intimated in the press that the Housewives’ Association of Victoria proposed to conduct a campaign amongst its members with the object of boycotting butter. I have no doubt that if they do something of that kind, there will very soon be a fall in the price of butter.
– No, because the oversea market will absorb our production.
– I do not think the oversea market would absorb all our available surplus. Senator Payne also referred to the cost of hides and leather. There has been a notable and steady decrease in the price of boots during the last few months in Melbourne, as any one must have observed who walks about the streets with his eyes open. That is due to the decreased demand. The prices at which suits to order are being offered now in the tailoring shops of Melbourne are also very much lower than they were a few months ago. Only yes- terei ay I was talking to some one con- nected with that trade, and mentioned certain difficulties which individuals experienced in getting tweed in the piece for the purpose of making suits. He told me there would he no difficulty about that, because there was a great slump in the tailoring trade. I said, “I suppose that is due to Ihe fact that the public have not been ordering suits in very great numbers recently?” He just winked an eye and preserved a very eloquent silence.
– Is it not also due to the fact that the Defence Department has recently sold £30,000 worth of Defence tweeds ?
– That has, no doubt, been a contributing factor to the decrease in the price of suits; but it is only an incidental circumstance, as we cannot expect the Department to release service cloth repeatedly and regularly. The Department has no constitutional authority to manufacture cloth for the purpose of supplying the public. It has authority to manufacture for Commonwealth purposes; and if in the course of that manufacture, and incidentally to it, a surplus over Commonwealth actual requirements is produced, it is constitutionally possible for the Department to dispose of it to its advantage and to the advantage of the public, who will get the commodity at a much lower rate than they would if the Department were looking for the profit that some private enterprises seek. I have spoken to-day because nothing should be said here to give the public the impression that under this Bill we are establishing Tribunals which will be able to take up the question of prices and make recommendations regarding them.
– Unless they are connected with an industrial dispute.
– That is so.
– They will soon engineer an industrial dispute if they think they can fix prices in that way.
– I think not. In the particular instance of butter, upon which Senator Payne laid great stress, it would not be competent for any of these Tribunals to enter into the consideration of the prices and profits of the butter industry in relation to the interests of society as a whole, unless there was pend ing before it the consideration of a dispute, actual, possible, or threatened, in relation to the butter industry. The Tribunal will end its functions in that regard when it makes its inquiries, and it will have no power to fix -prices, because the Commonwealth itself has not the power of price-fixing, and no Tribunal that the Commonwealth can establish by Statute can have greater power than the Commonwealth itself has.
– What would be the use of an inquiry if it led to nothing?
– I do not think the inquiry would be abortive. The publicity of the proceedings would ha.ve effect upon those responsible for overcharging the public if the circumstances clearly showed that they were overcharging. A price, although very high, may not be unfair, considering all the circumstances. The fact that the whole of the circumstances in relation to the cost of production and the selling price to the public are inquired into, will enable the public as a fair-minded body to judge whether or not they are being overcharged for the benefit of the few. In that respect alone, the proceedings will do a lot of good. Apart from that, the Tribunals will have, under this definition, the opportunity of going into these matters, and better regulating the relations between employer and employees, without infringing upon the rights and privileges of the public.
.- I suggest that the words referred to be left out altogether. I have grave doubts as to whether the Bill with them in it can ever achieve anything in the way of industrial peace. It will rather tend towards industrial unrest. The price of butter varies almost from week to week. Is the question of the wages of men engaged in dairying and in butter factories to be raised every week, so that the price of butter may be gone into, and the rates of wages of those employees varied from week to week according to the price of butter ? The ‘dried fruits industry may, by the energy of its directors, place a shipment of dried fruits in the East Indies or India at a good price, but is that to be a ground on which the grape-pickers at Mildura can go into the Court, and demand a share of the proceeds of that’ shipment? It may be that the Court could grant them an increase of wages when a specially profitable season had been experienced, but we may take it for granted that if a specially bad season occurred, and an attempt were made to reverse the process by reducing wages, there would be a strike straight away. I can understand the words “ the cost of production relating to an industrial dispute,” but I do not understand what is meant by the following words, “or to any industry.”
– The Minister has circulated an amendment to make that read, “or to an industry.”
– Does that mean the particular industry in relation to which there is an industrial dispute, or does it mean any industry at all? Once there is a dispute, can the Tribunal proceed to inquire into the cost of production generally?
– The words will apply to every industry, but not to all at the one time.
– What harm would result if they were left out? If the cost of production relates to the industrial dispute, that is already defined in pretty wide terms. I give notice of a further amendment to omit the words, “profits, prices,” as well as the words, “ or to any industry.”
– I thought when Senator Keating sat down that there was no more to be said on this clause, because he clearly dissociated the Bill from any attempt to fix prices, but apparently the misconception still prevails. The Bill has nothing to do with price-fixing. We all have in view the securing of industrial” peace, which Senator Elliott advocates, but we must remember that 90 per cent, of the trouble has been caused by the high cost of living. The ordinary working man sees that, while prices have gone up by 100 per cent, in some industries, his wages have gone un by only 25 or 30 or 40 per cent., and he wants to know what becomes of the balance. The question of the cost of living must be considered by any Tribunal which is dealing with wages. Butter was given as one case, and it is an exceptional case, but where there are fifty such cases, and the result is an increase in the cost of living by 25 per cent, or more, the Tribunal must take that increase into consideration as one of the factors in the fixing of wages. The cost of living is very largely the determining factor in industrial unrest to-day. Take the case of coal as an instance. We created a Tribunal, and an increase, I” think, of 2s. a day was given to the miners. It was then reported through the press, and in other ways, all over Australia that the mine-owners made some millions of pounds out of the increased price of coal. This report made the miners discontented, because they thought they had been ‘ ‘taken down . ‘ ‘ The agreement was that the mine-owners were to increase the price of coal to the public only by the amount of the increase in the cost of labour. I have never been able to get the full facts in this matter, but the suspicion exists that the mine-owners used the increase for the purpose of extracting many hundreds of thousands of pounds from the pockets of the. public. Suspicions and rumours of that sort naturally cause discontent. I remember the secretary of the Wharf Labourers’ Union telling me in my office before the big maritime strike took place that there was .going to be trouble. I asked him if the men were dissatisfied with their conditions. He said he had not heard that they were, but he knew they were coming out. When I asked him why, he said, “ Did 3’ou see the report in the newspaper that a Japanese shipping company has made something like £S00,000 profit? I have tried to explain that we have no control over the Japanese ships, but the men say, ‘ These fellows are making millions, and we are going to have a cut in.’ “ That is how strikes develop. We consider that if a Tribunal has power to inquire into prices and profits, it will be able to remove suspicion and create good faith and confidence on both sides. The Commonwealth has no power to fix prices, but it has power to make inquiries, and that is the only power that is taken in that regard in this Bill. If a man is producing an article at 10s. and suddenly increases his price to £1, while he increases wages by only ls., we have a right to ask him whether the proportion is fair. Honorable senators are aware that it is quite a common thing in the Arbitration Court for evidence to be given respecting the cost of the ordinary necessaries of life. A woman may give evidence to the effect that sugar is now 7d. per lb., whereas it used to be 3-Jd., or that butter is now 3s. per lb. whereas it was previously only ls. 3d. per lb. Such inquiries are necessary in order to fix wages, but the Tribunals established under this Bill will have ne power whatever to fix prices. They will have some power to fix wages in relation to the cost of living, and unless they had the power to make an inquiry into the cost of living for that purpose the Bill would be useless. Senator Elliott will see that he has been under some misconception as to the powers of these Tribunals, and I ask him, in the circumstances, not to press his amendment.
– Notwithstanding what Senator Russell has said, I am inclined to agree with Senator Elliott, that considerable danger is involved in the use of the word “ prices “ in this clause. It is true that there will be no power given under this Bill to fix prices, as that would be ruled to be unconstitutional. Senator Newland, in speaking on the second reading, reminded us that it is unwise to use words which might incite people to litigation, and so might have the effect of preventing us carrying out the objects for which the Bill has been introduced.
– If there were a bakers’ strike to-morrow, would not the first question put to an employer be, “ How much do you charge for your bread?”
– I remind the Minister that the Bill gives power to Special Tribunals to hear and determine any industrial dispute. If for the sake of argument a Special Tribunal decided that it was within its jurisdiction to fix prices, and attempted to do so, the High Court would rule its decision to be unconstitutional .
– Special Tribunals may appeal to the High Court on questions of law, but if they made any attempt to fix prices they would be prevented from doing so.
– If we. retain the word “ prices “ in the Bill there may be some danger that the Tribunals established under this measure will believe that they have the right to fix prices, and we know that prices vary from day to day.
.- I am afraid that the discussion may lead to an erroneous impression as to the purpose of the Bill. It would, perhaps, have been better if it had been entitled the “ Industrial Conciliation and Peace Bill.” There is nothing in this Bill but conciliation. It gives no power to the Tribunals proposed to fix prices or wages.
– Those Tribunals will have the power to determine industrial disputes.
– If I read the Bill correctly, the Tribunals established under the Bill may make inquiries, but they will have no effect unless both parties to the dispute agree to a determination. In that case wages can be determined. The purpose is to bring together employers and employees in Tribunals, which are given the power to inquire into the cost of commodities produced by the industry in connexion with which an industrial dispute arises, in order that an equitable adjustment of the differences between the parties may be arrived at. To prevent these bodies inquiring into the cost of commodities would prevent them ‘ from dealing with some of the principal factors which lead to industrial disputes. This is a measure, not for the adjustment of strikes, but to bring about conciliation between employer and employee. How far it will be successful in effecting that purpose it would be dangerous to prophesy.
SenatorFoll. - That will depend on the parties to the industrial dispute.
– That is so. The Bill makes provision for properly constituted Tribunals to hear sworn evidence on all matters connected with an industrial dispute, in order that, if humanly possible, a mutual understanding may be brought about between the contending parties. If an understanding is arrived at the Tribunal may make a determination, and if no determination is arrived at the matter may be reported to the Governor-General in Council, who may then take steps to bring about , a compulsory award.
– Once a case is dealt with by a Special Tribunal the parties have no further say.
-I think the honorable senator will find that that is not so. If the parties do not agree to adjust their differences there is no power under this Bill to compel a dissenting party to conform to a decision of any one of these Tribunals.
– What about clause 16?
– If the honorable senator can show that the Bill confers more powers on these Tribunals than I have suggested I shall be surprised. It is a measure to insure conciliation for the adjustment of disputes, and not to bring about compulsory awards or decisions.
, - I am afraid that the discussion will give rise to misconception as to the purpose of the Bill. Senator Earle’s speech, I think, might have a tendency in that direction. There is, first of all, the Arbitration Court, which in ordinary circumstances will be appealed to for the settlement of an industrial dispute. But the Arbitration Court delays action until an industrial trouble arises, and then endeavours to find a cure for it. Under this Bill it is proposed to establish an Industrial Council, whose business it will be to anticipate industrial difficulties and see whether something cannot be done to prevent trouble arising from them. The Industrial Council will be largely advisory. Honorable senators know that if an organization is registered under the Arbitration Act it may appeal to the Arbitration Court in the ordinary way in the case of an industrial dispute, but when we have a rebellious army qf thousands of men, in Australia, who declare that they will not go to the Arbitration Court, we cannot afford to sit like dumb dog.i and permit industrial conditions to drift into chaos without making some effort to bring about a settlement of differences. It may be said that we should bring the disputants before the Arbitration Court, but if they say they will not go to that Court we cannot drive them there. In the circumstances it is proposed under this Bill to provide for Special Tribunals to consider industrial differences. Should a special emergency arise it is necessary that a despotic power should be vested in the Governor-General in Council, and so provision is made for the appointment of Special Tribunals to which the industrial disputants must come. A Special Tribunal will not be able to travel over the whole of Australia, and may, therefore, appoint Local Boards at Broken Hill, Brisbane, or anywhere else in the Commonwealth. Should a Local Board come to a unanimous agreement upon a matter in dispute, that can be registered, and it will have all the force and effect of an award of the Arbitration Court. The parties represented ou a Local Board may agree upon nine points and differ about the tenth, and in that case the matter upon which they differ will be referred to the Special Tribunal itself. That Tribunal may refer the matter again to the Local Board with suggestions, but there is a power given to the1 Chairman of the Special Tribunal to give a casting vote, and his decision is then registered in the same way as an award of the Arbitration Court, and there is no appeal from it. It is incorrect, therefore, to suggest that there is no compulsion under this measure. There is a power to reach finality in connexion with any industrial dispute, and without such a power the Bill would be useless. I hope that honorable senators will not continue to discuss price-fixing and other side issues with which the Bill has nothing to do. Senator Fairbairn seems to be under the impression that the Special Tribunals and Local Boards which may be constituted under this Bill will be permanent institutions. They will not be permanent in the ordinary sense. A Special Tribunal appointed, for instance, in connexion with the pastoral industry, would possibly be constituted of three pastoralists and three representative shearers, or two shearers and the secretary of the organization. It might continue its work for a week or six months. We have found that employers have been willing to give their services free in connexion with such bodies, and while the workers may be quite as patriotic, it is impossible to secure their services in connexion with bodies of this kind unless they are paid for it. Special Tribunals may’ be constituted for the settlement of difficulties in connexion with any particular industry, but they will only be appointed when every other means of arriving at a settlement have been exhausted.
.- I hope that Senator Elliott will not press his suggested amendment. It has been found necessary, in arriving at decisions in connexion with industrial disputes in the past, to regulate the rate of wages according to the price charged for the articles produced by the industry concerned. In regard to coal, the hewing rate has been fixed at various times upon a sliding scale determined by the price charged for the coal produced. Senator Elliott will see that if we hamstring the Bill in the way he suggests it will prevent a Court or a Board from arriv- ing at a determination. The Court should .be able to say that the -wages shall be determined or governed by the selling price of the article produced. If the selling price increases, the wages automatically increase, and I think that is perfectly fair. If the amendment of Senator Elliott is accepted it will be impossible for a Board to make such a determination. It is necessary that a Board should have the power to consider prices, as is done in cases before the Arbitration Court where employers cited by unions have declared that the profits of an industry would not enable an increase to be granted. That is a common plea of the employers, and it is only fair to ask that a Board should have the power to inquire into the circumstances and to determine whether the argument submitted by the employer is a perfectly sound one. A Board will want to know if the profits of an industry will carry the increased wages, and if it sees that the profits of an industry will not permit such an increase, it will not be granted. I think Senator Elliott will admit that it is absolutely necessary that a Board should have the powers embodied in the Bill, and be able to inquire into profits and to determine wages.
.- The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) has moved to insert the words “ and also includes questions as to profits, prices, and cost of production relating to an industrial dispute or to an industry.” I move -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ profits, .prices, and
– Certain words have been struck out, but they are being reinserted in another place.
– My amendment is a modification of the amendment moved by the Minister.
– I cannot follow the Minister’s reasons for asking that- the word “prices” be included, because if a Tribunal wants to be fair to both parties it should be sufficient if it has the power to investigate the profits of an industry, as ‘ that covers prices and everything else. An inquiry into profits would remove any suspicion in the mind of the public that a Tribunal was not likely io fix prices. “ Profits and cost of production “ covers everything.
– The price charged differs from the cost of production.
– A Tribunal could not inquire into the profits without investigating prices, and the omission of the word “ prices “ would remove a good deal of suspicion. A Tribunal discussing the profits on any particular article would have to arrive at the price at which it was sold.
– But supposing there were no profits? i Senator PLAIN.- The Tribunal could still arrive ‘ at the price at which an article was sold by investigating the profits. A commodity is placed on the market, and it must have a price, even if it is not sold at a profit.
– The honorable senator’s proposal would not permit prices being fixed in accordance with the selling price.
– It would cover that. If a Board inquired into the profits of production it would ascertain the price at which an article was sold.
– I intend moving an amendment to make it clear as to what prices are to be inquired into. A Board will not deal with ‘retail prices, but with selling prices.
– I fail to see why the Minister should adhere to his amendment. There is considerable doubt in the minds of people at present, and every effort is being made to bring the contesting parties together in a conciliatory spirit, but whilst there is suspicion in the minds of certain people that one section of the community is desirous, under the powers conferred in this Bill, of usurping functions Parliament never intended them to possess they will hesitate in approaching a Tribunal. Does not the Minister realize that the words “ profits and cost of production” arc sufficient to arrive at the price?
– It is difficult to arrive at profits, but not at prices.
– When you arrive at the profits you must necessarily ascertain the price.
– A Board would always be up against the case of whether there were any profits. There may be losses, in which case there would be no means of arriving at the price.
– If there is no profit the cost of production could be considered. I fail to see why the Minister will not adopt my suggestion, because it seems that’ the word “prices” is unnecessary.
.- I desire to remove a false impression that apparently exists in the minds of some honorable senators that this Bill deals with price-fixing. I hold no such contention. I realize, however, that the measure is an honest attempt on the part of the Government to create Tribunals with extensive powers fob.” dealing with industrial disputes. In the course of any investigation inquiries must necessarily be made, not only as to the price of a commodity produced in any industry, but as to how that price affects the cost of living. It is quite possible that an industrial dispute may arise in consequence of the high cost of living. Senator Keating referred to a slump in the tailoring trade, and to the general tendency to reduce prices. It is only two days ago that I had an extraordinary experience with a tailor who was anxious that I should purchase a suit of Anzac tweed at £S Ss. I do not know what this material costs the tailor, but I have a good idea of what it costs to produce. As the price of the material for a suit at 15s. per yard represents about £2 Ss. 9d., it does not look as if prices are coming down.
– The price was higher than £8 8s. some time ago.
– That only proves that excessive prices have been charged in the past. In another Melbourne establishment I was obliged to purchase an article manufactured of Australian wool, which had increased in price by 20 per .cent, during the course of two or three weeks. “When I inquired into the cost of hosiery I also found that that had increased by 20 per cent. It is no wonder that there is so much industrial unrest when people realize that articles manufactured from raw material which we produce are constantly increasing in price. Instead of the position improving it is becoming worse.
– Did you ascertain the reason for the increase?
– It is because there is no appraisement of wool just now. It seems unreasonable that the cost of articles made from raw material produced in Australia should increase in price in the course of a few weeks, and it is evident that the cost of living is rising. These are facts which the public ought to know. The object of the Government in submitting this Bill is to bring about industrial peace in Australia. If the cause of the industrial unrest which is so prevalent in our midst is to be found in the high cost of living, and if that cause can be removed without injuring any section of the community, surely we ought not to hesitate to take the necessary action. Senator Keating has stated that the prices of boots are tumbling. I* am very sorry that he can be so easily gulled by the pretty placards which appear in the shop windows of Melbourne. Only to-day I saw one of these placards announcing that 2,000 pairs of boots are being sold at less than cost price. But let me tell Senator Keating that there has been no reduction in the price of boot3. Quite recently I had to pay for the repair of a pair of boots the same price as I have paid previously.
– There has been a reduction in the price of boots. Everybody knows that.
– I cannot support the amendment of Senator Elliott. It appears to me that we ought to make this Bill as complete as possible, and with that end in view the retention of the word “ prices “ is absolutely essential. For that reason I shall support the amendment moved by the Minister.
.- If we err at all, I think that we ought to err on the side of vesting the Tribunals to be created under this Bill with power to deal with the cost of living. To my mind, so far as wages and unions are concerned, we have been living in a fool’s paradise. We have been hitting up wages without any due regard to the value obtained for the money thus expended, and the time has undoubtedly arrived when the Tribunals proposed to be constituted should be empowered to devote more attention to the question of the cost of living with a view to overcoming industrial unrest. If we strip them of adequate powers in this regard they -will he unable to get at the root of our industrial troubles, and the Bill will not be worth the paper upon -which it is printed. This Chamber,, as it is constituted to-day, contains only one direct representative of industrial organizations. I am exceedingly sorry that he is not present to assist us in framing this Bill.
– Probably there are many honorable senators present who just as faithfully represent industrial organizations as he does.
– I said “ direct “ representative.
– I claim to be a direct representative of industrial organizations.
– The honorable senator may claim to be one, but he will not be accepted as such. If there should be the slightest suspicion that we are not aiming at bettering the industrial conditions of the workers, this Bill will not succeed. One clause in it relates to the conditions of employment. To my mind wages ought to be largely assessed by the quantity of work that is done ‘by workmen. Honorable senators will doubtless be astounded to learn that within the last week or two the president of the Amalgamated Miners Association, when asked before an industrial Tribunal in Sydney, which was inquiring into the question of a six-hour day, “How much work will you then do, Mr. Kerr?” replied, “As little as I can,” or words to that effect. Evidently he will do only what circumstances compel him to do. That is a state of affairs which every decent Australian must condemn in thestrongest possible language. I do not believe that a man should be obliged to work six days a week merely for three meals day. I hold that he is entitled to some of the luxuries of life. But I recognise - as I told Senator Gardiner some time ago - that the men are being badly led. I have no hesitation, therefore, in quoting the reply of the president of the Amalgamated Miners Association in support of my statement.
– He is not a leader, but a misleader of men.
– My honorable friend has put the position accurately. I believe that the Tribunals which will be created under this Bill will be able to ac complish a great deal of useful work if the representatives of the men who are appointed to them truly desire that workmen shall give 20s. worth of work for every £ 1 that they receive in wages. I believe, too, that these Tribunals will work along the lines of common sense and fair play. We are conferring upon them power to inquire into prices, profits, etc., and I hope that those powers will be exercised in a reasonable way. Unless a Tribunal is of the opinion that a witness before it is not candid-
– It must be clothed with these powers.
– Yes. But it would never do for the police to be empowered to go into every home and search it. Yet they are empowered to enter and search any premises if they have reasonable grounds for suspecting that stolen property is concealed there, or that an offender against the law has taken refuge there. A similar principle should underlie this Bill. We do not wish to clothe these Tribunals with unnecessary powers, but we must vest in them ample power to carry out an effective investigation.For the industrial peace of Australia, I sincerely hope that employers and employees alike will be exceedingly careful in the selection of their representatives to the Tribunals. I hope that the Chairman appointed to the Tribunal conducting an inquiry will be an accountant. Such questions as prices and the cost of living require to be investigated, not by a Judge, but by a skilled accountant, and I hope that he will be carefully chosen. I do not share the faith of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) that we are likely, by means’ of industrial legislation, to get rid of 95 per cent, of our industrial troubles. If I were a workman in an industry to-morrow I would be a unionist, not merely for the purpose of bettering the conditions of unionists, but for the purpose of kicking out of the unions a lot of the persons who are in them to-day.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 -
– I listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) when he was referring to the speeches which had been made upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill. He stated, amongst other things, that a third section of the community is most vitally interested in the measure in that it will have to bear the financial burden. Consequentely, I move -
That all the words after the word “of,” first occurring, in sub-clause 2, be left out with the view’ to insert in lion thereof the words: - “ nine members, three shall represent the employers, three shall represent the employees, and three shall hu representatives of the public interest, and shall be selected by the GovernorGeneral.”
When the coal miner? in England were putting forward a Bill for the nationalization of the coal-mining industry, they proposed that a Council should be formed consisting of twenty members. They suggested that they should nominate ten of these, members, and that the remaining ten should be selected from the public. In discussing that Bill, several leading Socialists in the Old Land, particularly Cole, urged that, as the community was so vitally interested ‘ in the matter, a Council of the consumers should be appointed. I think so, too. To-day honorable senators have brought before us the fact that considerable doubt exists in the minds of the general community regarding the effect of this legislation. Further, it has been shown that the Commonwealth Council of Industrial Representatives will possess considerable powers in regard to conducting inquiries into many phases of industrial life. That being so, surely the great majority of “the persons who have to pay should be represented upon the main Council ? The public feel that some safeguards should be embodied in this Bill. It is all very well to say that we are going to have industrial peace. But are we going to secure it in the manner adopted by Mr. Justice Edmunds in regard to the coal dispute? That is by giving the men all they demanded and passing the cost on to the public. The result will be to add all the time to the high cost of living, and we shall be existing in a kind of vicious circle. It is essential that the public should have just as much say as the other people, seeing that they have, in most cases, to foot the bill.
– I have a good deal of sympathy with Senator J. D. Millen’s proposal, but he seems to suggest that all our troubles will be over once we get the consumer, the worker, and the employer to meet in conference. I feel sure that some day or other effective protection will have to be given to the public, where there is a likelihood of the two conflicting parties in an industry coming to an arrangement to exploit the third party, that is, the consumer. I am firmly of opinion, as Senator Keating has said, that some day we shall have to have a special Department to represent the public. The public, as a rule, are very indifferent at present on these questions, and I do not think we are .ready yet for the stage which Senator J. D. Millen suggests. There would be difficulty in getting the public represented. I do not believe that there has yet been collusion between employers and employees in Australia to put up prices and wages for the purpose of exploiting the community, but no doubt it may occur. I recognise that there is a tendency in that direction , particularly about parts . of Newcastle. This Bill, however, is introduced to meet an immediate crisis, and all these other questions can be considered in a slow, methodical, and judicial fashion in connexion with the arbitration law as a whole. That law will still stand. It may be even advisable later on to amend this Bill in the direction which the honorable senator indicates, but it is designed to meet a crisis here, and now, and not for some distant future. I am not speaking altogether against the principle of the honorable senator’s amendment, but we must remember that there are threats of strikes, and the next twelve months are going to be an important factor in the life of Australia. If we are not getting what is exactly perfect in this Bill, let us get the best we can at once. Even if we have to make some compromises on matters of principle, it is better to do so in order to keep Australia industrially and harmoniously employed during the next twelve months of crisis. When we get over that period, we can see what else needs to be done. I affirm the principle of the honorable senator’s amendment in theory, but I believe there would be practical difficulties in the way of putting it into operation. The spirit of this Bill is what counts, and I honestly believe that the workers would decline to attend these Councils and Tribunals if they thought they would be outvoted. We are striving to win their confidence. The beauty of the Bill is that it offers them a fair round-table conference, where both sides can meet together in a manly spirit of conciliation. We say to them, “ We are giving you equal representation with the employers, and you will have a neutral, chairman.”’ If that will not bring them in, I do not think anything on earth will. If the honorable senator could produce proof that there has been exploitation of the public by agreement between employers and employees, the case might be different. I believe that sort of exploitation will come out of big organizations, and when it does come we will have to meet it, but it would be foolish to try to put into the Bill a big world-wide reform, when all we want is a method of securing industrial peace promptly for the period just ahead. To do what the honorable senator suggests would jeopardize the measure. I hope the Committee will accept this statement from me as indicating the best that the Government can do for the present, and let the Bill pass, with its provision for equal representation of employers and employees. When the danger of combination by those two parties to rob the consumer does arise, I shall be quite willing to assist the honorable senator to meet it.
– I should like to speak more or less in support of Senator J”. D. Millen’s desire that the general public should be represented, although I do not think it is wise to force the issue at this juncture, for the reason stated by the Minister (Senator Russell), that our great desire at present is’ to secure round-table conferences. The public are very long suffering,, and it is the public that we represent. We do> not represent any section of them. One honorable senator said this afternoon that there was in this Chamber no direct representative of the worker, but I claim to represent the worker just as well as any other member of this Parliament. In pointing out the injustice that is being meted out to the public at the present time, I should like to stress the position in the clothing trade. The shops and the manufacturers in the last few weeks have increased the price of clothing. It is also unfortunately true that the Government intend to increase the price of the tweeds which they have been issuing to the returned soldiers at from 6s. 6d. to 7s. 6d. per yard. There is no justification for the rise in the price of clothing. The movement should be in the reverse direction. The excuse made by the manufacturers, and, I understand, by the Government, for the increased prices which they threaten to charge for tweeds, is that since the appraisement of wool ceased on the 30th June last the price of wool has gone higher. That is not so.
– Is it not so within Australia?
– It is dearer only for certain kinds, and is considerably cheaper for other kinds. Under the appraisement scheme Australian manufacturers were allowed to take all the wool they needed for their ordinary requirements up to the 30th June at the original appraised price.
– The question of the price of commodities is not relevant to the amendment, which deals with the constitution of the proposed Commonwealth Council. I am loath to restrict in any way the discussion on a measure of this description, but it is absolutely necessary that the deliberations of the Committee should be relevant to the question before the Chair.
– I wish to point out reasons why the long-suffering public have claims to be represented on these Tribunals. Whether there is or is not collusion between employers and employees when wages and prices are put up, there is no justification whatever for increasing the prices of clothing to-day.
– Will you state what the local price of wool is?
– Order! I ask the honorable senator not to go into the question of the price of wool.
– Am I not allowed to point out that the manufacturers and the Government can get crossbred wools suitable for the manufacture of this clothing at from 10 to 15 or 20 per cent, cheaper than they could before the appraisement scheme?
– How much a pound is that?
– Order ! I cannot permit any discussion on a matter which is not relevant to the constitution of the proposed Commonwealth Council.
– I rise to order. The principal justification for the amendment is the fact that undue prices are being charged to the public. Senator J. D. Millen proposes that the public should be represented on the Commonwealth Council, because they should have some control over the extortionate prices that may be charged.
– I did not say that.
– This clause deals strictly with the constitution of the Commonwealth Council of Industrial Representatives. Clauses have already been dealt with, in connexion with which the question of prices would have been relevant. I cannot permit any further discussion of prices on this clause.
– If I support the amendment to give the public representation on the Council with the other two sections, shall I be allowed to proceed with my speech, and to prove that the price of clothing should be going downwards instead of upwards?
– Not on this clause.
– On nearly all these bodies, the Chairman, who will have been mutually chosen by the two sides, will have the final power. He will surely be actuated by some public spirit. These bodies will have to settle mostly questions of wages. Even if there was a conspiracy between the mine-owners and the miners to increase wages and the price of coal and to rob the public, ‘ Senator J. D. Millen’s proposal would not prevent it. The general public would have three representatives, and the other sections together would have six. That would, therefore, be a hopeless position. If the honorable senator wants to protect the public, he must give the public the majority of votes on these bodies, and I submit that that is a thing which we cannot do at this stage. If we said to the workers, “You are to have three representatives, the general public three, and the employers three,” they would say, “No, thank you,” and would never enter these Tribunals. I am not opposing the principle, but this is not the way to assert it. Let us first secure the confidence of both sides in these Tribunals. Unless the three representatives of the consumers were known to be Labour men, the workers would not accept the proposal. I ask honorable senators to give the Bill a fair trial. I believe the public should be protected against exploitation, but we cannot very well do that in this Bill, the object of which is to bring about conferences between employers and employees on equal terms. It is better for us to secure harmony and conciliation by this means than to try to settle the world’s problems in one measure. The Bill has nothing to do with the factors which produce the high cost of living, except that wages will incidentally be fixed upon the cost of living generally.
– The American people decided that it was essential that something should be done to assist in preventing industrial disputes. Labour, employers, and public met together, and this is one of the resolutions unanimously agreed to : “ The National Industrial Tribunal shall have its head-quarters in Washington, and shall be composed of nine members chosen by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Three shall represent the employers of the country, and shall be appointed upon the nomination of the Secretary of Commerce; three shall represent the employees, and shall be appointed upon the nomination of the Secretary of Labour; three shall be representatives of the public interest. Not more than five of the members shall be of the same political party.” The same thing occurred in Germany. According to the Betriebsrategesetz, which came out in January of this year, the main Council in that country has representatives of the public on it. These people have gone carefully into the question. They realized that they were absolutely up against a crisis, and they did not put these provisions in in the hope that the whole thing would fail. The time has come for us to deal with this problem. The three representatives of the public will not, as the Minister suggested, necessarily be antilsbour. I take it that they will be delighted to see labour get a fair share of what it produces.
– I put the view in my secondreading speech that this Chamber should hesitate before incorporating vital amendments in any part of the Bill, owing to the circumstances of its creation and passage through another place. We have had a full and frank discussion, and, as the Minister (‘Senator Russell) has forcibly pointed out, this is an optional conciliation Bill, designed* deliberately to bring the big labour organizations, which will not at present approach the Arbitration Court, into round-table discussions and conferences that we all hope will tend towards industrial peace. This will probably be found to be only a tentative measure, and, at any rate, it was designed for a temporary purpose. While I agree in principle with the amendment, I must oppose it in the present circumstances. The Minister has mentioned that it involves a very vital reform, and this is scarcely the place in which to introduce it. I agree that there is some risk of collusion between, employers and employees.
– In the coal industry, for instance.
-Undoubtedly, there was collusion when Judge Edmunds pave his last decision in connexion with the Newcastle coal trouble. The public are paying every one connected with the coal industry more money because of that decision than theypaid before. ‘
– Does the honorable senator not think that the question involved in the amendment is big enough to be’ the subject of a special Act?
– I agree that it is, and I am. therefore, opposing the amendment. If there were a dispute in the textile trade it would be very interesting to investigate the sources of profits, in view of the high price of clothing. Senator J. F. Guthrie deliberately told us this afternoon that the price of clothing ought to come down, because of the lower price of wool.
– Crossbred wool.
– Australian tweeds are not all made out of crossbred wools.
– Yes, they are.
– The honorable senator said that the cost of clothing should come down, because of the lower cost of wool to the manufacturer.
– I ask the honorable senator not to further discuss prices. Both the clause and the amendment deal with the constitution of the Commonwealth Council.
– The amendment proposes the representation of the public on the Council, for the purpose of seeing that they get a fair deal from employers and employees. The Minister has admitted that the amendment involves a very big problem, worthy of attention in a separate Bill. I desire, only by way of illustration, to suppose that a dispute takes place in the textile industry, and to say that 1 absolutely’ disagree with the statement made by Senator J. F. Guthrie, because I see from the papers this morning that the manufacturers are to be asked to pay the world’s parity for wool, and we know that is much higher than the prices they have been paying.
– It all depends on the wool they buy.
– I regretfully oppose the amendment, and support the Bill as it stands, for the reason that the political leaders of the great industrial organizations have come to an understanding in connexion with it. In Committee on the measure in another place, vital amendments suggested by the Opposition were accepted by the Government. The measure merely provides for optional conciliation, and I do not think we could improve it by inserting amendments tbat are likely to create controversy.
– Senator Pratten has been misinformed as to the price of wool. Our fine wools are now about 60 per cent, dearer than when appraisement ceased, but Australian manufacturers, at the present time are daily and freely buying crossbred wool, from which they are making Australian tweeds, and perhaps the best tweedsin the world for that matter, at 10 and 20 per cent, below the appraisement prices. I am prepared to sell to Australian manufacturers
– The honorable senator must not pursue that matter.
– I desire to put Senator Pratten right, and I need only add that I am prepared to sell to Australian manufacturers an unlimited supply of crossbred wool at considerably below appraisement prices.
– The amendment moved by Senator J. D. Millen is in accord with the spirit of some remarks I made when addressing myself to the second reading of the Bill. I see no Teason why the Government should not accept the principle it involves and insert some . provision of the kind in this measure. Senator Pratten has stressed the point that the Bill represents something like an agreement between political parties in another place. I watched the progress of the measure through another place with a great deal of interest, and whilst at the Committee stage there was a certain’ amount of consideration, given by the Government to amendments proposed from the Opposition, even at the last stage of the measure, the third reading, there was a division upon it. I cannot, therefore, regard it as anything like a final agreement between the two political parties in another place. If we honestly believe that in some way or another the public should be represented on the Tribunals established under this Bill, now is the opportune time to see that provision is made in it for some recognition of the interests of the public in connexion with industrial disputes. If Senator J. D. Millen persists with the amendment, I shall feel compelled to support him.
Senator Russell has said that if others than employers and employees are to be represented on this Council the workers may complain that the Government are constituting a Council consisting of three Labourites’ and six anti-Labourites. On the other hand, the employers may contend that the Council is constituted of only three employers, whilst there are three representatives of the employees and three who represent the public, and who will be determined to get as much as they can out of employer and employee, and to cut down the employers’ profits.
– There would be an objection for either side.
– That is so; but that commends rather than condemns the proposal. It shows that under the amendment the representatives of one party would hold the balance of power on the Council. Reference has been made to the possibility of the Chairman of the Council representing the public, but I do not know that it can be said that he would adequately represent the public interests.
– The measure is urgently required, and while we should not at this stage await the election, of representatives of the public, the Council would be held to be a party institution if the Government appointed the representatives of the public.
– The amendment provides that they shall be appointed by the Governor-General.
– That is what we do not want - party appointments.
– The Government in office would have the appointment of the representatives of the public.
– The Government must take the responsibility of doing so, as they must accept responsibility for deciding matters of much greater importance from a party political point of view.
– Would the honorable senator suggest that the public representatives should be recommended by the Government, or should be appointed as the result of some form of election?
– No doubt the Government would take steps to see that the persons appointed were representative of the public.
– Would there be three permanent public representatives, or different representatives at different times.
– They could be appointed for the duration of the term of the Council. In view of the opinions I expressed on the second reading of the Bill, I am compelled to support the amendment if it is ‘pressed.
– We shall shortly be considering the Bill introduced to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and when that measure is dealt with the Arbitration Court will be the institution normally appealed to in connexion with industrial disputes. But, at the present time, we are faced with conditions which may be the cause of serious trouble, and it has been deemed necessary to provide special machinery to meet them. The Bill practically represents a compromise between parties, and the introduction of any amendment of a controversial character would tend to prevent its general acceptance.
– What will be the use of bringing the Council together if the result of its deliberations is only to increase the cost of living.
– I think that the cost of living cannot go very much higher than it is at present. While I am in favour of the principle involved in the amendment, it represents a very farreaching reform, which I do not think should be introduced in this Bill. There is at the present time a temporary body considering conditions in the coal industry, and if differences in connexion with that industry are not settled, the result may be chaos. I do not mean to suggest that, in that case, the Government would be afraid to stand up to their responsibility, but I am sure that no one desires that chaos should be brought about. Under the amendment, the Government would have thrown upon them the responsibility of nominating the persons to represent the consumer. While I believe that they are quite competent to do that conscientiously and well, it will be impossible for them to convince the other side that they were not biased in making the appointments, and if that feeling were created the value of these Tribunals would be gone. It is our responsibility as a Government to do all we can; but it is not our duty to make detailed inquiries. If these Tribunals should fail, the Government would then have to take the responsibility. If the public is to be specially represented in connexion with the investigations, provi sion should be made in another measure, and it is’ very undesirable to attach such a proposal to this Bill, as it would be the means of ruining it without accomplishing anything. I trust that the measure will be allowed to pass in its present form. because there is, I believe, a fairly general impression that it will be the means of preventing industrial chaos.
– I trust that Senator J. D. Millen will not insist on his amendment, as it will be the means of destroying the whole Bill. If this amendment had been moved and agreed to in another place, there might have been a fairly good reason for accepting it, but considering the position of parties, and that the measure is a contentious one, it would be a fatal mistake for the Senate to amend the Bill in the direction suggested. What would be the interpretation placed upon our attitude by those outside? It would at once be declared by the official Labour party - as it is represented by only one honorable senator in this Chamber - that the reason for the alteration in the Bill was that the Nationalist party controlled the Senate, and that the alteration had been made for a specific purpose. The Bill embodies the Government policy in regard to preventing and settling industrial disputes, and if the suggestions of every honorable senator were accepted, the Government would be surrounded with numerous difficulties. In view of the general industrial unrest prevailing, there should not be any desire to place obstacles in the way. Doubtless, the amendment has been moved with the intention of cheeking profiteering, and, although it is generally’ admitted that profiteering is rampant, it is a very difficult problem to handle. If the amendment were adopted, it might be the means of proving that profiteering exists; but I do not see how such a question can be effectively dealt with in this measure. I believe it has been ruled that a discussion on profiteering was not in order.
– The honorable senator may make a passing allusion to profiteering, but it must not be extensively discussed.
– I am merely making a passing reference, and it is not necessary for you, Mr. Chairman, to inform me that the question cannot be discussed at length. If the proposal is adopted, it will mean that the Bill will have to be abandoned, and we should not hamper the Government in the slightest degree. The amendment would’ be the means of wrecking the Bill, (because, if it were accepted, a certain section of the community would have nothing to do with it.
.- I trust that Senator J. D. Millen will not press his amendment to a division. During the discussion on the second reading I mentioned that there would be considerable difficulty in selecting persons to represent the public on the proposed Tribunals. The public is not sufficiently organized or awake to its own interests, but we have every right to keep the question before the people. This is a measure that has been drafted for a specific purpose, and I do not think we should impede its passage by loading it with unnecessary amendments. I have had considerable experience in connexion with the Labour movement, and I quite agree with the Minister (Senator Russell), that if we provided for representatives of a third party on this Council, suspicion would be aroused, and possibly the Bill would be wrecked. For that reason I intend to support the Government. The Bill is an experiment, and has been framed with the idea of bringing employer and employee, who are the parties directly affected, in closer contact by means of round-table conferences. Senator J. D. Millen will admit that there would be considerable difficulty in selecting suitable representatives of the public. If we allow the Bill to pass in its present form I believe those who are most directly interested will look upon it as a sincere attempt on the part of the Government to prevent and settle industrial unrest. I would like to support the amendment, but knowing the feeling that exists in the Labour movement today I think it would be unwise to press for its insertion.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) to the use of the word “recognised” in relation to organization of employees. The Minister will remember that I referred to the use of this word in my second-reading speech. There is no necessity for its insertion, because it means nothing, and it is misleading. What does the word mean? Recognised by whom? I drew attention to the effect of the insertion of a similar word in a Tasmanian Statute- The Judges in a case before the Supreme Court in which a particular body claimed to be “ recognised,” came to the con: elusion that in the end the organizations were recognised only by themselves. In one part of the Bill the word “organizations” is used, and in another “associations.” Is it -suggested for a moment that “recognised” means recognised by the Trades Halls in the various States ? I say it does not. I believe it has been inserted merely for placating organized labour by suggesting that “ recognised “ means recognised by the Trades Halls. If such is the contention we are merely “ selling them a pup,” because it does not mean anything of the kind. It would be better to use the word “ organization “ as it is defined in clause 4. If it were necessary to go further I would support the Government in using the word “ registered “ to bring the Bill into conformity with the Arbitration Act.
; - Senator Keating is under a misapprehension in thinking that the word “ recognised “ has been inserted as a compromise.
– It does not mean anything.
– I contend that it does. This Bill is part and parcel of our arbitration machinery, and under the Arbitration Act unions registered are given first preference. The recognised organizations of employers are the Chambers of Commerce and the_ Chambers of Manufactures, and it would be useless mentioning any other rival bodies as their representatives.
– But we are now dealing with organizations of employees.
– The organizations or associations of the different parties must be on a similar basis, and we are making it wider than a recognised organization. I intend to use the word “ associations “ so as to embrace all organizations. I do not think that we should insist upon too much rigidity in this matter. Suppose, for example, that the Newcastle coal-owners went out on strike, and that the “Victorian coal-miners desired sectional representation before these Tribunals. We all know that there is nothing more objectionable to unionism than sectional representation. If the coal-miners upon the south coast of New South Wales and those employed at Newcastle combined in one union, and the Victorian coal-miners, comprising some fifty or sixty hands, banded together in another organization, the latter should be ignored. I admit that “recognised-‘ may not be a good word. But this Bill is not intended to break up unionism. Bather is it designed to continue the system of arbitration for which provision is made under our Arbitration Act, and which is based upon collective bargaining. Our only aim is to provide better facilities for arbitration than exist to-day.
– Under the Arbitration Act only registered organizations can take action.
– It may not always be right to allow only registered organizations to have access to the Tribunals to be created under this Bill. Suppose, for example, that the seamen withdrew from the Arbitration Court, and that 150 of their number formed a separate organization and registered under the Act. They would have to be dealt with by these Tribunals, notwithstanding that the great majority of the men engaged in the seafaring industry were not members of it. A similar remark is applicable to the coal-mining industry. I am not wedded to the word “ recognised.” .
– Then strike it out.
– The clause would be of no more value if the word were omitted than it is now. The inclusion of the word may possibly create confusion, but I am satisfied that it cannot effect very much damage. I do not wish to have to return the Bill to another place-
– But it must be returned there on account of the amendments which we have made in it.
– If the legal advisers of the Government say that the word has no special significance I will agree to recommit the clause.
, - I have listened to the remarks of the Minister regarding the retention of the word “ recognised “ in paragraph 4 of this clause, and to my mind his arguments were anything but convincing. ‘This amendment has not been sprung upon him. Last week I referred to the use, or rather misuse, of this particular word. The. more I think the matter over, the more I am satisfied that the retention of the word “ recognised “ will lead to untold misunderstandings. People will say, hereafter, that they have been deluded by it. I ask honorable senators to recollect that it was only inserted in another place after the measure had been under consideration for a long time. Further, it was inserted with the obvious intention of placating a certain amount of opposition to the Bill. It will not have that effect when the measure begins to operate, and then it will be urged that something was given to the members of the Opposition in another place which was not what it was represented to be.
– They wanted something much stronger than this.
– I tell the VicePresident of the Executive Council that this word was inserted for the express purpose of placating opposition to the Bill, and that its retention will result in something which we all desire to avoid.
– What is the result that the honorable senator fears?
– The result which will flow from certain persons having been misled.
– In what direction ?
– The demand, which was made in another place was that “industrial organizations” should mean those organizations which are represented by the Trades Hall.
– The Trades Hall is not mentioned here.
– The word “ recognised “ was inserted for the purpose of giving effect to that demand.
– No. The Labour party in another place deliberately moved for the recognition of Trades Hall organizations. The insertion of the word “ recognised “ was an alternative to that.
– There is nothing in tlie Bill to indicate from whom this recognition is to come.
– Could we not recommit Clause 4 and define “ recognised organizations “ ?
– Yes. I think that the use of the word “ recognised “ in this clause is dangerous and therefore I move -
That the word “ recognised,” in sub-clause 4, be left out.
– In my remarks upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill, I called attention to the probable cost that will be involved in the election of the Commonwealth Council, District Councils, Special Tribunals, and Local Boards, which are to be constituted under its provisions. I would like to know precisely what is in the minds of the Government in regard to paying the costs of the election of candidates to the Commonwealth Council of Industrial Representatives. I take it that the representatives of the workers, for example, will be elected from the whole of the labour organizations of the Commonwealth. But the Bill contains no machinery for their election in that way. Obviously, there must be an election.
– The Government have to shoulder that responsibility.
– I am endeavouring to place the responsibility upon the Government. I can easily imagine a great campaign being indulged in by candidates for election to the Commonwealth Council - a campaign somewhat similar to that which will have to be waged in connexion with the election of a Convention to deal with the amendment of the Constitution. Thus there will be a tremendous expense connected with the election of the members of this Council. I recognise that regulations will have to be framed for the efficient working of the measure, and doubtless the Government will prescribe in those regulations precisely how an election is to be conducted.
– This Bill will force the members of both parties into organizations.
– Unquestionably. It will also compel them to incur the expenditure of very large sums of money. Whilst the Government may provide for all these things by means of regulations it would be well if ‘they would indicate the steps which they intend to take in regard to, the election of members to the Commonwealth Council of Industrial Representatives.
– Sub-clause 5 of the clause now before the Committee provides that -
The members representative of employers and of recognised organizations of employees respectively shall be recommended for appointment in the prescribed manner by the respective employers and organizations of employees.
We want perfect freedom in this matter. I see no difficulty from the labour point of view. We cannot tell the trade unions that we have no confidence in them to take a vote amongst themselves. They are practically all linked up with a central body, and will almost certainly prefer to elect their representatives by ballot. All that may be needed is a little supervision to see that the ballot is run on straight lines. The Chambers of Commerce and Manufactures work on a different basis. I have never known them to take a vote on anything. They generally elect an executive, and leave things to them. If they are willing to let their executive select their three representatives, we do not want to compel them to go to the trouble of taking a ballot all over Australia. We have power to prescribe the method of nomination, and may ask them , to give us a certain number of nominees; but if we think there is anything wrong, or if any considerable number of commercial men protest against that method, we shall be able to prescribe a ballot. There is no need to use a steam-hammer when a nutcracker will do the job. I have no doubt that under this Bill the trade unions will prefer to elect their representatives by ballot. So far as I can see, no provision is made to pay election expenses; but we have a general power to make regulations, and I should say that if any worker has to be taken away from his employment to do this work for the Government and the country, he cannot be expected to give his services for nothing. When we get experience of the kind of work required, and of the time it takes, I have no doubt that we shall make some allowance to cover the expenses incurred.
– You said that this would be a permanent body.
– Yes, but it -will not be sitting all the time. “We may prescribe an allowance of so much per day for its members. It will be a good thing for Australia if industrial relations are so harmonious that they do not need to meet at all. They are not appointed as ornaments, but are to do the work when they are wanted. The other bodies will be appointed only for particular jobs, and will end when the work ends. Whatever method of election those interested desire, we shall be glad to concede to them, so long as they do riot want to depart from the principle of adult suffrage.
.- I move -
That the following words be added to subclause (5) :- “Provided that the representatives of either party shall be bond fide employed in the industry concerned in the dispute.”
I take it from the Minister’s introductory remarks, and from the speeches of other honorable senators, that ‘the intention of the Bill is to bring those engaged in an industry, whether as employers or employees, together at a round-table conference to discuss the matters in dispute. The definition of “ organization “ in reference to employees includes “ such other persons, whether employees engaged in any industrial pursuit or not, as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof.” The Government in their wisdom have excluded legal advisers from the Court. That may be a right or wrong step to take, but I remind the Committee that Mr. Justice Higgins has from time to time complained that the lack of legal advisers in the hearing of cases in his Court has resulted in delays and difficulties through the prolix and unsystematic methods of those intrusted with- the presentation of matters to the Court. It is claimed that the exclusion of legal men from the Tribunals created under this Bill will be an advantage, and I admit that their presence is not so essential in the proceedings of bodies of this kind, as in the Arbitration Court, because to a large extent the evidence will be known, or should be known, to the members of the Tribunal before the case starts. But it seems a farce to exclude members of the legal profession and allow an organ- ization to be represented by persons who have nothing to do with the industry concerned. Apparently a solicitor can discontinue practice, get himself made a member of an organization, ‘ and be nominated to represent it on a Tribunal. If this Bill is to be of any use at all, we ought to aim at getting on the Commonwealth Council only those actually engaged in the industry.
– Practically, your amendment is to shut out the trade union secretaries.
– Not necessarily so. I admit it may have that effect, but not if the trade union secretaries are engaged in the industry concerned. I do not know that they are occupied with their secretarial duties for the whole of their time.
– If they are, they are necessarily out of touch with a great deal that is going on in the industry.
– They know more about the industry than any other man in the union.
– Your amendment will also shut out the secretary of the Steam -ship Owners Federation.
– Is he not engaged in the industry 1
– I think he attends only to the secretarial work.
– Would it not be better in a Court of this kind to have the steam-ship companies represented by their managing directors ?
– They probably do not know as much as the secretary about the whole details of the industry.
– If it is intended to allow persons not directly connected with an industry to take part in the round-table conferences, it seems to me that the Bill does not carry out the announced intention of the Government. T move the amendment with the object of restoring the principle of having roundtable conferences ‘ at which the people actually concerned may thresh out their difficulties.
– This is another of those provisions which illustrate the fact that the whole spirit of the Bill is compromise. Senator Elliott rather dragged in the question of the exclusion of members of the legal profession, and argued from that that the industrial specialist should also be excluded. The workers in some unions have not had the same opportunity of education as ordinary citizens, and I remember Keir Hardie telling me that thirty years ago he had seen hundreds of men gathered in a hall and enthusiastically cheering his motion that they should form a trade union, but that when he asked them to appoint a secretary, in spite of all the enthusiasm, there was not a man among them who would take on the duty. Conditions have since then changed for the better, but there are unions to-day - for example, the Corporation Labourers Union - which have done far better for themselves by going outside and engaging a specialist as secretary. I have had experience of trade unions, and am still a member of one. I can assure honorable senators that no man is called upon to exercise more tact or wit or ability than the trade union secretary. The handling of a body of men and keeping them united is the greatest of all arts. Whether we like it or not, the world is moving on all the time towards collective effort. The trade union secretaries are specialists, and I would be the last to say to them that they must stand on one side when matters vitally concerning their unions are being decided. I would stipulate that nobody outside the union shall vote in the election of representatives, but when the unions have deliberately selected them, we have no right to interfere. I would not object to the employer sending along a specialist to represent them. The great coal barons - as they are called - of Australia do not represent themselves in these matters. They have selected a man who studies the whole problem all the time, and they get better representation from him than they could get in any other way. He is not a coal mine-owner, but he knows more about the coal-mining industry than all the mine-owners in Australia put together. Senator Robert Guthrie is a case in point. I suppose he has not been on board ship as a sailor for over thirty years, but he lived all his early life at sea, and has devoted all his time to improving the lot of the sailors. If he were to be nominated to represent them, he would get an almost unanimous vote in spite of the little difference that occurred between him and the Labour movement in recent years. He has been at the Genoa Conference to represent the sailors of Australia, and his name will always live in Australian history for the work he has done for them. It is not too much to say that his efforts have made them the best-treated seamen in’ the world today. Would Senator Elliott exclude him from a Tribunal of this sort because he is no longer engaged in the industry? That is a matter which can safely be left to the seamen themselves. I have no hesitation in saying that if a poll were taken among the sailors, Senator Robert Guthrie would beat every other man by a majority of two to one. The position of a trade union secretary is the one job that I would not like to take on. He has to- be at the beck and call of everybody, and any man who can hold a trade union together as a solid body must be a genius in organization and tact. If a union wishes to be represented by a specialist, we have no business to dictate to it in the matter. The only condition I would make is that no outsider should be allowed to vote. I take the case of an organiation like the Municipal Corporation Labourers Union. They could not get a secretary from amongst themselves, and so they appoint some person who will be able to act for them, and pay him a salary. The object of the measure is to bring about peace and harmony Between those engaged in industries, and we cannot hope to do that if we prevent the appointment to these Tribunals of the very men who know most about the industries whose conditions will be under consideration.
– It seems to me that both the Minister and Senator Elliott have rather missed the real point. The Bill provides for four different Tribunals. We are dealing now with the Commonwealth Council of Industrial Representatives, but there is also provision made in the Bill for District Councils, for Special Tribunals, and for Local Boards. The fact appears to have been overlooked, that this Commonwealth Council will have regard to the conditions of innumerable industries, and it will be impossible tosay that each member of it shall be connected with_ a particular industry. If Senator Elliott proposed his amendment in connexion with the Special Tribunals provided for, I could understand the force of hig argument, but it is inapplicable to the Commonwealth Council, with which we are now dealing.
.- I certainly did overlook the point to which Senator Drake-Brockman has directed my attention. In the circumstances, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment, with a view to submitting it later on when we come to clause 14.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Sittings of the Commonwealth Council shall be convened by the Chairman whenever he thinks fit, or at the request of the Minister, or of a majority of members.
.- I raised a question in connexion with this clause when speaking on the second reading of the Bill. I think that the request of a majority of the members should not be necessary to call the Commonwealth Council together. One-half of the members should have the right to convene a meeting of the Council. If the Council is constituted of four representatives of the employers and four of the employees, and the representatives of one section desire that the Council should be called together, they must, under this clause, induce a member of the other section to agree with them in order to give effect to their desire. I move -
That the words “ a majority “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “half the number”.
– “What the honorable member apparently desires is that one-half of the members of the Commonwealth Council should have the right to call a conference whether it is necessary or not. The Chairman will be nominated by the Government, and will bc neutral, and if he agrees with either section desiring a meeting of the Council it will be held. If he thinks it necessary, he can call a meeting of the Council himself, or he may do so at the request of the Minister. There will be heavy work for the members of this Council to perform, and probably substantial fees will be paid to them. No restrictions will be placed on the Council that would prevent it doing good work, but the more successful it is in carrying out the objects of the Bill the fewer the occasions upon which it will be necessary for it to meet. That might be a temptation to members paid a fee for each sitting to go slow. It would not do, of course, to permit such a body, by holding unnecessary meetings, to control the expenditure of public funds. I feel sure that the persons appointed to the Commonwealth Council will regard such an appointment as an honour, and they will be men of such a high standard that will not be likely to resort to any tricks under this scheme. I am sure that the Chairman will be able to settle any differences between them, and there is no reason to anticipate a difference as to the necessity for calling the Council together.
– The thought never occurred to my mind that the members of any section represented on the Commonwealth Council would desire to hold unnecessary meetings or to continue a conference longer than was necessary in order to earn additional fees. My point is that if the representatives of the employees on the Council desired a conference, they would have to induce one of the representatives of the employees to support their request.
– No; the Chairman can call a conference together if he thinks fit.
– Or he may do so at the request of the Minister.
– If the Chairman or the Minister can call a meeting of the Council, where is the necessity for providing that a majority of the members may call a meeting ? I believe that either section represented on the Council should have the right to call a meeting. The Chairman might not see fit to call the Council together at a time when, perhaps in the best interests of an industry, a conference of the members of the Council should be held.
– Then the Minister can act.
– The Minister may not be altogether unbiased, and he may refuse to call the Council together when one section of its members desires that it should meet. I believe it would be -in the interests of the better working of the Bill if the amendment I have proposed were carried.
– If the representatives of one section on the Council desire that it should be called together, they have a right to appeal to the Chairman, and, failing his consent, they may appeal to the Minister. If there were any important reason why the Council should be called together, I cannot conceive that any Minister, whatever His personal views might be, would attempt to gag a body like this. I believe that in operation the clause will be found to work quite smoothly. I mentioned possibilities in connexion with the earning of fees in a jocular way, but at the same time, it must not be forgotten that the Government must control the finances, and no Royal Commission or body of this kind can be allowed a perfectly free hand to pile up expenses. The members of the Commonwealth Council may come from Queensland, South Australia, or Western Australia, and they will not be so eager to earn a few fees as to get back to their own businesses. I believe that the majority should rule, and no minority of the Council, instigated, it might be, by a man who likes to create a fuss, should be able to force men to attend unnecessary meetings of this body from distant States-. I hope ‘that the honorable senator will not press his amendment.
– In view of the fact that, apparently, I am the only Democrat present, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
The powers and functions of the Commonwealth Council shall include the following: -
To consider any matters, conditions, and tendencies in any part of the Commonwealth leading or likely to lead to industrial disputes, or in any way affecting or likely to affect industrial peace.
– I confess that I do not understand why paragraph a of this clause has been inserted. This clause gives to the Commonwealth Council of Industrial Representatives power additional to those possessed by the District Councils. It will enable the Council to deal with matters more or less irrelevant to industrial disputes pending or disputes in actual existence, and under paragraph a, to consider any matters, conditions, and tendencies, in any part of the Commonwealth, leading or likely to lead to industrial disputes, or in any way affecting or likely to affect industrial peace. Under paragraphs b to f there is ample power for the Council to deal with all matters likely to come before it. Paragraph a, however, gives that body authority to consider political as well as industrial questions. If political questions have a tendency to affect industrial peace, the Council, under the provisions of this clause, would have power to intervene, and I do not think we should load it in this way. I presume the Council will consist of intelligent men, and I am not afraid that they will offend in the direction I have suggested, but the danger is there. It would be possible for a member of the Council to bring forward any irrelevant matter; and if there were one or two cranks among its members a good deal of time would be lost in discussing irrelevant propositions. It might be held by some that the sectarian question was one that was likely to lead to an industrial dispute.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the Government would allow the Commonwealth Council to waste its time in discussing such matters ?
– I do not think so, but it is apparent that considerable delay and inconvenience could be caused, arid action by the Government in such a contingency might be entirely misunderstood. It would be better to give the Council only the powers provided for in paragraphs b tof, as they are similar to the powers to be exercised by the District Councils. I do not desire to move that paragraph a be deleted, but seeing that it is not vital, and is likely to cause delay and inconvenience, I hope the Government will be prepared to strike it out.
– I fail to follow the arguments of Senator Duncan, because, if there has been any fault or failure in the past, it has been due to powers having . been limited. This clause is one of the best in the Bill, because provision is made for intervening before an actual dispute exists. It will be our duty to select the most suitable men, and I believe the Commonwealth Council, with the powers it is given, will be able to do a good deal to prevent industrial disputes. I do not think there is any occasion to think that the members of the Council will abuse their powers or privileges. It has been our endeavour to give unlimited powers in order to provide effective means for the prevention and settlement of disputes, and it seems only right that the Commonwealth Council should have the authority to consider any matters, conditions, and tendencies in any part of the Commonwealth that are likely to lead to industrial disputes, or to affect industrial peace. The powers in paragraph a cannot very well be narrowed down, and I hope honorable senators will be prepared to pass the clause as it stands.
– I am not at all clear as to whether the provisions embodied in the clause are not beyond the powers given by the Constitution. I regard the words “ conditions and tendencies “ as somewhat ambiguous. I am very anxious that nothing should be included in the Bill that is likely to lead to litigation, and if the words to which I have referred are left in it is possible that the members of the Commonwealth Council may go beyond what the Constitution provides. It would be preferable if the power conferred by paragraph a were covered by a regulation. The District Councils will be State institutions and this Council a Commonwealth institution, which brings its operations within the purview of the Constitution. If it is necessary that conditions and contingencies should be investigated, that duty should be given to the District Councils rather than to the Commonwealth Council. An employer might speak harshly to a workman, and the Commonwealth Council might hold that that was a condition or a tendency likely to lead to an industrial dispute.
– The Council can only consider and report.
– As I am not at all clear as to what powers the Commonwealth Council is to possess, I shall be glad if the Minister will give the Senate further information.
Order of the Day for the resumption of the debate from 12th August (vide page 3461), on . motion by Senator Lynch, further adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration re sumed) : ‘
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clauses8 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 -
The powers and functions of a District Council shall include the following: -
to confer with any persons, employer, or recognised organization of employees as to any matters affecting the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes.
.- I move-
That the words “ employer or recognised organization of employees,” in paragraph. 6, be left out with a view to insert in lieu there- . of the words “ or associations.”
I would remind honorable senators that most bodies of employers are known as associations. The term “organization “ is more applicable to bodies of employees. Whilst there is no principle involved in the amendment it is considered by the legal advisers of the Government that the word “ associations “ is a better term to employ in respect of organizations of employers.
– Since the Vice-President of the Executive Council circulated this amendment I have been puzzling my brain as to the real reason for it. Although I followed very closely the progress of this measure through another place I have been quite unable to discover why the word “ associations” should be substituted for the “term “organizations.” The honorable gentleman has said that the former word is more distinctly applicable to organizations of employers. Surely there must be some other reason for the amendment than that. Clause 4 provides that - “ Organization,” in reference to employees, means an association of not less than 100 employees engaged in any industrial pursuit or pursuits whatever, together with such other persons, whether employees engaged in any industrial pursuit or pursuits or not, as have been appointed officers of the association and admitted as members thereof.
It will be seen, therefore, that the very word which it is now proposed to insert as a substitute for organization is employed in the definition of “organization.” I have been wondering whether the amendment is really intended to cover associations which have been formed, but which have . not been registered. Shortly before the suspension of the sitting reference was made to the inclusion in a clause of the word “ recognised,” and I urged that it should be deleted. Yet the Vice-President of the Executive Council now proposes that we shall strike out the words “ recognised organization.” I scarcely think that the reason which has been advanced by the honorable gentleman for the proposed alteration will commend itself to the Committee.
– It is quite true, as has been pointed out by Senator Keating, that there is no definition of the word “ association” in this Bill. That is rather a virtue, because a trade union is a definite organization with definite objects. It is quite possible that there may be some technical difficulty in regard to this matter, the full significance of which I do not understand. I do not suggest that our Crown Law advisers are infallible, but I prefer to accept their dictum upon a question of this character than that of laymen. Whilst I defer to Senator Keating’s knowledge of legal matters, unless some good reason can be advanced why the amendment should not be made, I must press it. I have been advised that the word “ association,” in relation to employers, will cover a much wider field than will the word “ organization.” If honorable senators will refer to paragraph c of clause 7 they will find the word “ associations “ is already used there. I prefer to accept the advice of the draftsman of the Bill in the absence of any good reason why the amendment should not be made.
– I was under the. impression that this was the first time that the word “ asso ciations “ had been used in this measure. I had overlooked its use in paragraph c of clause 7, to which reference has just been made. Only since the Bill left the other branch of the Legislature have the Government been advised to make this amendment. The reason underlying it has not yet been made quite clear. It is probably due to some legal necessity, the full significance of whicli the VicePresident of the Executive Council does not appreciate. But seeing that a new word is about to be introduced into the Bill, I ask him, before the measure finally leaves this Chamber, to invite the consideration of his legal advisers to the necessity for inserting a definition of the word “ association.” The word “ organization “ has a definite meaning. It is frequently used throughout the Bill without any qualification. We have also used the term “ recognised organization,” but now it is proposed to insert in this clause the word “ associations” in lieu of “ recognised organizations.” The Vice-President of -the Executive Council has already admitted that the Crown Law authorities are not infallible in these matters. Will he, therefore, ask them whether it is not advisable to include in the Bill a definition of the word “ association “ ?
– The word “ association “ is a little bit wider than is the term “ organization.”
– It will not be necessary to insert a specific definition of the word - an inclusive definition will suffice. By that means we shall certainly make the scope of the Bill as wide as anybody can wish it to be.
– I will consult the legal advisers of the Government upon the point, and will report the result of my inquiries . to honorable senators before the Bill leaves this Chamber.
Amendment agreed to. ‘
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 12, 13, and 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 -
A Special Tribunal shall have cognisance -
of any industrial dispute between an organization of employees on the one hand, and employers or organizations of employers on the other hand referred to it by the persons or organizations parties thereto; and
of any industrial dispute as to which a conference has been held under section18 of this Act and as to which agreement has not been reached as to the whole of the dispute, and whichhas been referred to the Special Tribunal in accordance with section 20 of this Act, and have power to inquire into all matters relevant to the dispute, and the decision of the Tribunal on the question of relevancy shall be final from the point of production to the final disposal of the commodity:
Provided that no evidence relating to any trade secret, or to the profits or financial position, of any witness or party, shall be disclosed except to the Tribunal or published without the consent of the person entitled to the trade secret or non-disclosure. Penalty - Five hundred pounds or three months’ imprisonment. All such evidence shall, if the witness or party so requests, be taken in private:
Provided that no dispute as to which the hearing has commenced in the Court shall be referred to a Special Tribunal.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That the word “ organizations,” line 4, be left out, and the word “ associations “ inserted in lieu thereof.
– I move-
That the words “ and the decision of the Tribunal on the question of relevancy shall be final,” lines 17-10, be left out.
The object is merely to remove these words to another part of the clause. There is no alteration in the principle.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) proposed
That after the word “ commodity,” line 20, the words “ by the employer “ be inserted.
– I again invite the attention of the Minister to the restrictive use of the word “ commodity.” The clause as phrased restricts the inquiry to secondary industries engaged in the production and output of a commodity. It may happen that there is no commodity to be disposed of. Yesterday, for instance, an agreement was arrived at between the whole of the bank clerks of the Commonwealth and the bankers, their employers, and that agreement has been registered and practically made an award of the Arbitration Court. A dispute between the bank clerks and the bankers would come under this Bill, but what would be the “ commodity “ involved ? If the word “ commodity “ must be used, it would be better to say “ a commodity,” or “ any commodity,” rather than “the commodity.” Why not allow the Special Tribunal to inquire into matters relevant to a dispute not only in an industry engaged in the production of a commodity, but in other occupations which have been termed industries by the decision of the Arbitration Court, such as clerical services, public services, and matters of that kind?
– We might call “ profit “ a commodity produced by the bank clerks and disposed of by their employers.
– That would be a “ notional “ conception of a commodity. I hope the Minister will . see the advisability of using some more general term than “ commodity.”
– By leave, I will add the words “(in the case of a producing industry)” after the word “employer” in my amendment.
Amendment amended accordingly.
.- Will the Minister alter his amendment to read “by or on behalf of the employer “ ? Legal difficulties may arise on the question of whether the goods were disposed of by the employer or on bis behalf. Often it is not the employer who directly disposes of them. Courts are very peculiar things, and legal judgments are just as peculiar as the Courts are. The amendment I suggest would make the provision clearer, and would not alter the principle.
.- “By the employer” includes “ on behalf of the employer.” The object of putting in the words “by the employer “ is to prevent the inquiry going beyond the point at which the goods are disposed of by the maker. If an industry is making toys, we do not want to follow them through all the retail shops. The object being to fix the wages, all we want to know is the wholesale price.
– A dispute may occur between an employer and his employee, but that employer may not be the actual man who is producing the article for disposal. He may be producing it for disposal on behalf of somebody else.
– This wording will cover that case.
.- I am not sure that the Minister has gono far enough to cover the scope of the activities of the Special Tribunals which will inquire into all the conditions of unrest, whether they occur in the establishments of manufacturers or of distributors. I am anxious to see the Bill made as perfect as possible, so that we may not find afterwards that we have omitted some important provision. I suggest that the Minister should make the sentence read somewhat in this way: “have power to inquire into all matters relevant to the dispute where commodities are concerned from the point of production to the final disposal of the same.” That would give the Tribunal an opportunity to make every necessary inquiry into the conditions of a large distributing firm.
– That would limit the inquiry to cases where commodities are concerned.
– That is not so. Under the amendment the Tribunals will have power to deal only with disputes connected with manufacturing concerns. It is not unreasonable to suggest that a dispute may arise in a large distributing firm dealing with a commodity after it has left the manufacturers’ hands, and the Tribunal might desire to ascertain the final price obtained for the commodity by the distributor.
– The Minister’s amendment will cover that.
– I do not think it will, and there are many commodities that are handled to a great extent by distributing firms.
.- The object of the Bill is to fix’ wages and conditions for men employed in -industries, and persons employed as storemen or as drivers by the distributor of a commodity will have just the same right to have their wages- and conditions considered by these Special Tribunals as the persons actually employed in the manufacture of the commodity.
.- The Minister frankly acknowledges that the object of the Bill is to prevent industrial disputes by giving power to Tribunals to follow the cost of production and the price obtained by the manufacturer for a commodity.
– Will it be less a commodity when it reaches the hands of the^ distributor?
– Then the amend- 1 ment will cover what the honorable senator desires.
– It would but for the inclusion of the words “ in the case of a producing industry.” If those words are not left out of the amendment it will be found that these Tribunals will have no power to deal with a dispute arising in a large distributing industry employing probably thousands of hands in the same way as they would be able to deal with a dispute in a manufacturing industry.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Amendments (by Senator Russell) agreed to -
That after the word “ industry “ in the last amendment agreed to the words “ and the decision’ of the Tribunal on the question of relevancy shall be final “ be inserted.
Thai the words “ Provided that no evidence relating to any trade secret or to the profits or financial position of any witness or party shall bo disclosed, except to the Tribunal, or published without the consent of the person entitled to the trade secret or non-disclosure. Penalty - Five hundred pounds or three months’ imprisonment. All such evidence shall, if the witness or party so requests, be taken in private “ be left out.
That the following new sub-clauses be added: - “ (2) No evidence relating to any trade secret, or to the profits or financial position, of any witness or party, shall be disclosed except to the Tribunal or published without the consent of the person entitled to the trade secret or non-disclosure. Penalty - Five hundred pounds or imprisonment for three months. “ (3) All such evidence shall, if the witness or party so requests, be taken in private.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 verbally amended and agreed to.
– I invite the attention of the Minister (Senator Russell) to the drafting of this clause. According to sub-clause 1 any authorized person may for the purpose- of preventing or settling an industrial dispute summon any person to attend at a time and place specified in a summons. The Minister has referred on several occasions to the relation of this Bill to the Arbitration Act. In the procedure under that Act recourse has been had to the telegraph for the purpose of summoning people. If that means is not availed of it must very often be impossible to secure a conference in time to arrest a contemplated trouble which the conference is summoned to prevent. It is desirable that we should consider whether some such provision should not be made in this clause. In the next sub-clause it is provided that “ any person “ who may be summoned includes certain persons, but it enables persons to be summoned from any State apparently in relation to disputes which are purely Intra-St,ate. We have to walk very warily in this matter in view of the decision given by the Privy Council in the sugar case in relation to the legislative powers of the Commonwealth Parliament to invest such a Tribunal as >a Royal Commission with the power to summon witnesses in connexion with matters that are not purely Federal. The decision given by the High Court recently as to the competence of this Legislature to legislate on certain matters does not, I think, touch the decision in the sugar case, in which it was held that, although we have the power to pass a Royal Commissions Act, we have not the power to invest a Royal Commission with authority to summon persons and make inquiries of persons on matters that may be incidental to Inter-State matters, but which are in themselves only Intra-State. It seems to me this is running very close to, if it does not trespass over, the border line of our authority, as laid down in that Act, and if the Minister is not prepared to give consideration to the matter now, I ask him to refer it to the Crown Law authorities before this measure is finally dealt with.
– Does the honorable senator claim that the procedure outlined is insufficient”?
– The clause purports to invest “any person “ with authority to summon any other individual, because of and in relation to some dispute which, at the time, has not extended beyond a single State, but it is questionable whether that other person need attend.
– Under clause 16 this Tribunal will have the powers of the Arbitration Court.
– the Minister has frequently alluded to the relation of the Bill to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, but I do not think that measure goes as far as is now proposed. If we purport, by this Bill, to authorize any person to summon a witness from any State because a dispute is pending in that State which has not then already become Inter-State, and because of his association with it, I think we are exceeding our legislative authority, as laid down by the Privy Council, and I am more or less inclined to think so because of the decision just given by our High Court.
– The difficulty mentioned by the honorable senator might be covered by sub-clause 2 of clause 2.
– The honorable senator is referring to a saving provision, which is as follows : -
– It is not for Parliament to anticipate what the decision of the High Court may be.
– But we have had a decision given in an analogous case. We passed a Royal Commissions Act, and appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the sugar industry. That Commission, under the Royal Commissions Act, issued summonses to certain people, notifying them that they would be expected to supply certain information. This, taking our legislation as valid and constitutional, it had the authority and jurisdiction to do, but some witnesses in Sydney declined to” give answers to certain questions, or to furnish information in regard to others, claiming that they were matters peculiarly within the legislative province of a State and not within the province of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Royal Commission sought to enforce its supposed authority, and proceedings were taken in the High Court, but the Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith, and Mr. Justice Barton held with the recalcitrant witnesses, and their decision was upheld when the matter was subsequently taken to the Privy Council. The effect of the decision was that, although we may purport to confer on a Royal Commission power to inquire into various matters which are peculiarly within the province and jurisdiction of a State legislature, all our legislation purporting to invest Royal Commissions with power to make such inquiries is not worth a snap of the finger. Therefore, if by this Bill we purport to invest “ any person “ with power and authority to summon a person from one State because he is involved in, or knows of, a dispute that has not extended beyond the boundaries of that State, we are doing something utterly purposeless.
– If a dispute is likely to extend beyond the boundaries of one State, should we not have the power to frame machinery to deal with it?
– But the Bill proposes to extend the authority of the Tribunal to within the frontiers of any State. However, my purpose is to ask the Minister to invite the consideration of the Crown Law authorities to this point before the measure is finally dealt with.
– The matter to which the honorable senator has drawn attention has been fully considered. There may be some doubt as to the power of the Commonwealth Parliament in this regard, but until a decision is ultimately given by the High Court, none of us can be sure whether our powers are exceeded or not.
– The words “whether extending beyond the limits of a State or not “ are used.
– That is so, but, as I have already pointed out, no one can say that a dispute which may break out in one State may not extend to an adjoining State, as occurred in the case of the railway strike of New South Wales. The great principle underlying this Bill is conciliation. Our desire is to prevent disputes. When it comes to the notice of the Government that men in one State are holding meetings’ and threatening to join forces with men who are engaged in an industrial dispute in another State, it is sufficient evidence that the dispute is spreading beyond the boundaries of the State in. which it has commenced, and that is the time when steps should be taken to prevent its further extension. We ought not to wait until it does actually extend to another State. When we see the fire we ought to try to prevent its spread. Our power to do so may be doubtful until a High Court decision is given, and we cannot anticipate what that may be. The worst that can happen is that the Court may hold that the portion of the measure which seeks to overstep the boundaries of States cannot operate.
– Sub-clause 1 needs amendment. The words “any person” occur twice, but refer to different individuals.
Amendment (by Senator DrakeBROCKMAN) agreed to -
That in sub-clause 2, after the word “ person,” line 1, the words “(last occurring)” be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 19 and 50 agreed to.
Clause ‘ 21 (Appointment of Local Board or Boards).
Senator J. D. MILLEN (Tasmania) [8.56 . - This is probably one of the most important clauses in the Bill. The question is well covered by paragraph 13 of the Whitley Report, which reads as follows : -
In the well-organized industries, one of the first questions to be considered should be the establishment of local and works organizations to supplement and make more effective the work of the central bodies. It is not enough to secure co-operation at the centre between the national organizations; it is equally necessary to enlist the activity and support of employers and employed in the districts and in individual establishments.
Several times we have spoken about being unable to nip a dispute in the bud and get right down to its source, and how advisable it is to do that if it can be done. When the Board for the nationalization of mines was proposed by the Miners Unions of Great Britain they provided for a national council, district councils, and pit committees, and when the Germans were considering a similar matter in January of this year they passed legislation which included a provision dealing with local committees as follows: -
There shall, if necessary, be set up Special Councils for manual and for non-manual workers, in order to guarantee special economic and social interests.
The functions of these Councils shall include -
To help to secure efficiency.
To protect the establishment from un authorized interference.
To fix and modify, in agreement with employer, the conditions of service.
To promote a good understanding between workers and employer.
To discuss measures to prevent danger to health, and accidents.
Co-operation in the administration of welfare schemes.
To have the right to. require the employer to give information as to transactions which affect the contract of service and the activity of the workers.
For giving wrong data or concealing correct data.
Persons disclosing confidential information. Penalty to be greatly increased if proven it was used to gain financial advantage.
If it were possible to establish in big industries bodies similar to the pit committees suggested by the British miners in the Nationalization of Coal Mines Bill, the local committees established by the Germans, or the organizations recommended in the Whitley Report, it would be a step in the right direction, and possibly would enable us to get at a conflagration before it became active. Once matters have come to such a head that there is an actual dispute, and the men have had the feeling of dissatisfaction implanted in them for a considerable period of time, the difficulties of administering an Industrial Peace Act will be greatly multiplied. I would prefer to see the proposed Local Boards, rather than the District Councils, made permanent, because if it is possible to get at difficulties before they actually become acute we can do a great deal to prevent trouble in the industrial world.
– The principle embodied in Senator J. D. Milieu’s suggestion is that disputes should be dealt with at the outset on similar lines to the proposals recommended by the Whitley Committee, which is certainly a step in the right direction. That principle is generally recognised in this measure, as there is to be an endeavour to get the parties together in conference. There is no reason why this measure should not be extended as occasion arises, and someof the Tribunals became permanent. I do not, however, think we can adopt the honorable senator’s suggestion at present, but it will be noted for further consideration.
– It seems that the clause is wide enough to include many of the bodies mentioned by Senator J. D. Millen, as it provides that they can exercise jurisdiction as is prescribed, and I presume “ prescribed “ means as prescribed by regulation or the Minister, or as is defined by a Special Tribunal. It appears that the wording of the clause has been deliberately framed, so that either the Minister or the Chairman of a Tribunal can, when a dispute is in embryo, have power to give jurisdiction to a Local Board to overhaul an industry from top to bottom.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 22 -
– I move- ‘
That the following new sub-clause be inserted: - (la) Of the members, other than the Chairman, one-half shall be representative of employers and one-half shall be representative of recognised organizations of employees.
That is to insure an equal representation of parties on a Local Board.
– I have no objection to the amendment moved by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell), but I notice that the term “ organization of employees “ is used in places, and in other portions of the Bill amendments have been agreed to relating to “ associations.”’
– Associations -refer to associations of employers.
– Then I understand that the Bill, as amended, refers to associations of employers, and that “ organizations “ refer to organizations of employees.
– That is so.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
A Local Board shall have cognizance -
of any industrial dispute between . . . employers or organizations . . .
Amendment (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the word “ organizations “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ associations.”
– Personally, I can see no reason for altering the word from “ organizations “ to “ associations,” but there may be objections in some cases.
– The Minister has already referred to some instances.
– Undoubtedly there are some organizations of employers, but there are also many trades in which the employers are not organized, but associated.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 (Agreement made at hearing by Local Board).
– In this clause the words “ Industrial Registrar1’ occur, and similar words appear very frequently in the Arbitration. Act, to which this measure is related. I believe there is a definition of “ Industrial Registrar “ in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, and I would like to know whether it is necessary to have the definition embodied in this measure if it is not already covered by the Acts Interpretation Act. I am aware that this measure is to operate in conjunction with the Arbitration Act, although we have not incorporated any of its provisions.
– It is supplemental.
– If such is the case, will that bring in the definitions that are embodied in the Arbitration Act?
– I do not think a definition necessary.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 26 agreed to.
– I am opposed’ entirely to this clause, as it does not appear at all necessary, and is likely to cause considerable delay. We have already provided for Special Tribunals and Local Boards to deal with disputes referred to them either by employers or employees. If they consider that a dispute is threatened or impending, or probable, they are the proper bodies to decide whether a dispute is threatened.
– That is not the issue here.
– It deals with the question of whether a dispute exists or is likely to exist.
– And extends be- yond the limits of any one State.
– In clause 28 provision is made for the Chairman of a Special Tribunal or a Local Board to refer to the High Court on a point of law any matter concerning which there is doubt. I know that in practice this has not worked too well, and if a similar provision is embodied in this measure it will lead to considerable delay. When we have Special Tribunals or Local Boards on which the representatives of both employers and employees are sitting, they should know whether a dispute exists or is likely to exist. Either party can apply to the Court for a decision on the question of whether the dispute or any part thereof exists or is threatened or impending or probable, and under such circumstances there is ground for considerable’ argument before the Court. Seeing that provision is made later on for the Chairman of a Special Tribunal or Local Board to apply to the High Court on a point of law, it is not necessary to provide that before these Boards can get to work either party can apply to the High Court, which would necessarily mean delaying a. decision. As this is considered a measure for dealing with urgent cases it must be admitted that the inclusion of these words will cause a good deal of inconvenience. It should be competent for the Chairman of a Tribunal or Board to say whether a dispute does exist, and whether or not it is within the scope of the Act or the Constitution. In connexion with matters merely relating to trade the Special Tribunal or Local Board should have the power of deciding, and it should be only necessary for the Chairman to refer points of law to the High Court for decision. In view of the provisions contained in clause 28, I consider this clause unnecessary, and it is my intention to oppose it.
– Frequent reference has been made to the fact that this Bill is related or is to be worked in conjunction with the Arbitration Act. Senator Duncan must know that there is a provision in that Act (21aa) - and the numbering of it indicates that it was not in the original Act - which is substantially the same as this particular provision, and that it is questions of law that are to be decided. The moment an alleged dispute is referred to one of these Tribunals the dispute becomes subject to the , provisions of this measure. An employer may say that such a reference was interfering with him in his calling and that an Inter-State dispute did not exist. He would be empowered to go to the Court and ask for a decision as to whether an alleged dispute is threatened, impending or probable, as an industrial dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State. Those are the important words. The question is not whether a dispute exists, but whether a dispute extending beyond the limits of one State exists, or is impending, or probable. In that case, power 13 given to either party to apply to the High Court for a ruling upon the point. The application need not necessarily go before several Justices of the Court. It may be remitted to a single Justice in chambers, and the practice has been that when the matter has been dealt with by him, it has been finalized. The High Court has laid it down as a principle that where Prohibition is applied for in respect to the exercise of the powers of the President of the Arbitration Court, either upon the ground that no dispute actually exists, or that he has no jurisdiction, the applicant must first have exer cised his rights under section 21aa of the Arbitration Act.. If he has not done so, his application has been dismissed. The High Court has recognised the value of this particular provision. Section 21aa of the Arbitration Act has proved so’ valuable, and so effective, in enabling these questions to be expeditiously disposed of, that the Government were well advised when they included it in this Bill.
– In spite of the illuminating explanation of the clause given by Senator Keating, I have a great deal of sympathy with the attitude which has been taken up by Senator Duncan.
– We all sympathize with his difficulty, but that difficulty does not arise under this Bill. It arises under our Constitution.
– We all know that Senator Duncan has had considerable experience of industrial matters. We recognise, too, that this Bill has been brought forward primarily because, in some respect, arbitration legislation has failed. We realize that in respect of certain matters this measure will enable Special Tribunals and Local Boards to give final decisions quite apart from the Arbitration Court. Indeed, the Bill is specially designed to deal with industrial disputes in which the organizations concerned decline to enter the Arbitration Court and to abide by its decisions. But if it is necessary to settle quickly any large dispute in embryo, this clause will enable any recalcitrant organization which may be affected by it to move the High Court merely for purposes of delay. All the forensic ability of the barristers of this country, all the genius of legal luminaries, may be exerted to secure delay in the interests of their clients. As clause 28 provides that any question of law shall be submitted to the High Court, I hesitate to vote for this clause, which may altogether nullify the object which we have in view.
– Supposing that the clause were not in the Bill, would not a recalcitrant still have an opportunity to go to the High Court?
– He would have his legal rights, under any circumstances. But under clause 28 those rights are limited to questions of law. Expensive Tribunals will be created under this Bill, and as their decision cannot be challenged, appealed against, or reviewed, it may surely be left to their Chairmen to determine whether either party to an industrial dispute should be permitted to move the High Court, thus creating delay. Why have our arbitration laws partially broken down? Simply because there has been such great delay in industrial organizations getting to the Court. In some cases, eighteen months or two years have elapsed before they -were able to get there.
– There was greater delay before this provision was inserted in the Arbitration Act.
– Unquestionably, there are recalcitrant employers and recalcitrant employees, and under this clause it will be open to them to apply to the High Court if they wish to delay the settlement of an urgent matter. Anybody . wishing to delay matters will be able to attain his object by applying to the High Court to determine whether a dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State actually exists. Surely the Chairman of the Tribunal established under this Bill can decide that matter just as well as can a Justice of the High Court. Clause 28 limits the right of a litigant to questions of law-
– We cannot alter that. Only the people can alter it by means of a referendum.
– This is a new departure.
– It is not new.
– The creation of Special Tribunals and Local Boards is a new thing. The Bill is a very good one, because it seeks to bring the settlement of disputes under the control of men who possess special knowledge. I should like to see the clause knocked out in its entirety.
– I attended the Arbitration Court on behalf of the company with which I was associated for a great many years, and before section 21 aa of the Arbitration Act became operative everything was topsy-turvy. The clause which we are now considering I regard as a valuable one. When any person goes before a single Judge in chambers in connexion with an industrial dispute, he must be able to advance extremely good reasons to show that no such dispute actually exists, otherwise the J udge will certainly rule against him. As a matter of fact, the mere filing of a plaint, or the working up of a plaint in a district, has been held to be conclusive evidence that a dispute has existed. In the absence of this provision, an applicant for an award may go right up to the point of obtaining it, and then the other party to the dispute, merely by means of a technicality, may cause the whole matter to be thrown once more into the meltingpot, after weary months of waiting. The clause is a good one, and I shall vote for it.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 28 agreed to.
.- I move-
That the following new clause be inserted: - “28a. During the currency of any award or order made by a Special Tribunal or a Local Board under this Act, the Court shall not have jurisdiction to make any award or order inconsistent with any such award or order.” ‘
That will make it perfectly clear that no body, either of employers or employees, will be able to appeal to two Courts simultaneoiisly. It is a fair provision, which will extend an equal measure of protection to both sides.
– I take it that this new clause means that, during the currency of an award, it will be impossible for any organization to apply for an amendment of that award.
– The intention is to provide that, if an application is made to the Arbitration Court, and the Court begins to hear the case, the parties cannot abandon that Court and appeal to one of these Tribunals, and vice versa. Once the case has been heard and a decision given, the whole matter, of course, will be open to review.
-But this says, “ during the currency of an award,” which may be for three years.
– Yes ; but when the . award is given it is registered as an award of the Arbitration Court, and the arbitration laws apply to it. The Arbi- tration Bill now before another place contains a clause allowing any award to be reviewed during its currency if abnormal circumstances have arisen.
– The amendment proposed by the Minister is another illustration of how this Bill takes away power, so far -as industrial disputes are concerned, from the Arbitration Court. It means that once a decision is made it shall be final, and neither party will he able to appeal to the Arbitration Court against it during its currency. I take it that if a decision is given by a Special Tribunal to cover, say, the employment of transport workers for two years, they will not be able, if they are not satisfied with that decision, to go to tie Arbitration Court also. Clause 28 provides that the Chairman of a Special Tribunal or Local Board may, if he thinks fit, state a case in writing for the opinion of the High Court upon any question arising in the proceeding which, in his opinion, is a question of law. Will the Minister explain what is really behind that provision? I Should have thought that all matters in connexion with law points were amply covered by clause 27.
– The Judge of the Arbitration Court has frequently during the hearing of a plaint stated a case to the High Court.
– Then this power is supplementary to clause 27, so as to cover all legal possibilities that may crop up in connexion with the jurisdiction of the various Tribunals or Boards?
– To enable them to be settled as they happen, so that the hearing may not be delayed.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clause 29 (Penalties).
– Will the Minister explain what is meant by providing that “ any contravention of this Act for which no other penalty is provided shall be punishable on conviction by imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding £100, or both “I I do not think that the Bill provides any penalty for the non-observance of the decision of a Special Tribunal or Local Board. To whom and to what offences do the penalties under this clause apply?
– All the provisions of the Arbitration Act will apply to such a decision as the honorable senator mentions. This clause may apply to a hundred and one offences which are not specifically dealt with in the Bill. For instance, a man who receives a summons may disregard it. Some years ago there was a threatened strike at Mildura and Renmark, and one delegate representing the employees was sent for by the Judge of the Arbitration Court. He wired back telling the Judge in so many words to “go to hell.” He was given twenty-four hours to come down, and did not repeat the offence after getting the warning. He was forgiven, as it was the first case of the sort. No one can be allowed deliberately to flout the Arbitration Court or these Special Tribunals or Local Boards.
, - Then, this clause really means that any one who commits contempt of the machinery devised by this measure to enable these bodies to act shall be liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for not more than six months, or to a fine not exceeding £10Q, or to both? I take it that it does not apply to organizations eather of employers or employees so far as the observance of the awards or delations of the Tribunals or Boards is concerned.
– That is provided for in the Arbitration Act.
– Then, this is an incomplete measure so far as our arbitration legislation is concerned, and the Arbitration Bill, which is to come to us next week, will fill up some of the obvious gaps not provided for here!
– It will be a necessary corollary.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 30 (Regulations) :
– I made a promise to Senator Keating to consult the Crown Law Officers on the question of using the words “ associations “ instead of “ organizations “ in relation to employers. I have consulted Sir Robert Garran, who thinks that the word “ associations “ is broader and preferable, because of the difficulty of getting an exact definition of an employers’ organization, owing to the loose nature of such bodies. I suspected, when Senator Keating raised the point, that there was a special reason for the amendment, but I did not know what it was.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
– Pursuant to contingent notice of motion, I move -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders he suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
My object is to enable, the Bill to he passed to-night, so that the Senate may adjourn until Wednesday next, when we hope to have the complementary arbitrat ration measure before us. We shall then be able to deal also with any message concerning our amendments on this Bill. That will save time and obviate the necessity of calling the Senate together to-morrow to deal with the formal remaining stages of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
It is intended to ask the Senate to allow the second reading of the Arbitration Bill to be moved on Wednesday, so that we may be able to go straight on with the Bill on Thursday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 September 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200902_senate_8_93/>.